An architect and a real estate broker walk into the Four Seasons Hotel bar. The architect is feeling indebted to the broker for hooking him up with some business and is taking the broker out for a night on the town. By the time the architect arrives, his compatriot has already thrown back a few drinks.
“As I’m ordering a drink next to him,” the architect told the Transom, “there’s a woman that comes between us and she’s wearing sort of an overcoat, and she lifts her arm up, and her coat sort of separates, and she’s wearing almost nothing.” Like nearly everyone who spoke to the Transom for this article, the architect asked to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. “We end up spending the night going out on the town with her. I pay her a few hundred dollars. We get thrown out of a restaurant, because she took him into the bathroom. We had to go to another place, the Bubble Lounge, I think it was. They had sex there.
“She also offered a freebie to me, but I declined.”
In the underbelly of New York commercial real estate–the industry responsible for constructing and filling office buildings and the storefronts on their ground floors–prostitution is not merely an industry figure of speech. It’s part of doing business.
“Guys entertain their clients in different ways, whether it’s taking them to strip clubs or getting them girls to take care of them,” said a retail broker at a major New York firm, who said this sort of behavior is generally relegated to smaller, “more entrepreneurial brokerages.”
Kristin Davis, the self-described Manhattan Madam who has served time for owning a prostitution ring, claims to have sent girls to service Eliot Spitzer. Ms. Davis, now running as a fringe candidate for governor, said that her business serviced “a pretty large contingency” of men in real estate.
“I’d find the most consistent clients were between the finance guys and the real estate guys,” Ms. Davis recalled. “These guys were my regulars, my bread-and-butters.”
Ms. Davis said her real estate clients and their demands were manifold: “I had a couple of these developers and a couple of the top agents who requested models to go with them to various functions. One gentleman asked me to book him a Ferrari and wanted to take a girl to this event, because if he shows that he has money and taste, he’ll get more business.” (Notions of taste tend to be mutable.)
Real estate’s use of prostitutes to woo clients is said to reach its apex at the annual spring rite known as the International Council of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas, where hordes of retail brokers and retailers and mall owners descend to make deals.
“The hotels make sure these women are available, for lack of any other term,” said another retail broker.
“It’s the 1,000-mile rule,” added one of his colleagues. Which is not to say that a broker can’t satisfy his client’s needs here at home.
“Around the Empire State Building, there are a bunch of Korean whorehouses they take people to,” said the broker. “For a few hundred dollars, some guy who’s in from Cleveland, who thinks he’s a much bigger dude than he really is, you set him up with a nice Asian girl. I think it’s common as the air.”