Here’s what we can reveal about The Las Vegas Courtesan: She is about to turn 29, but looks a few years younger. She is almost five-foot-nine, and her shoulder-length blond hair frames an unlined, oval face. She wears little makeup, her eyebrows are groomed, and her bust has not been cosmetically enhanced. Above all, she does not stand out—a strategic decision when much of Vegas would like to figure out who you are.
As the anonymous author of The Las Vegas Courtesan, “Cali,” as she’s told me I can call her, has chronicled the sex-for-cash scene in America’s prostitution capital since November 2006. For years, she blogged to a core audience of cult followers. But recently, her profile has been elevated by an active Twitter account, and requests from producers from brand-name media outlets are beginning to show up in her inbox.
“I read her blog to find out what escorts are up to with trying to trick security,” says one casino security manager, though he admits, “I also think her Tweets are funny.”
“Twitter turned out to be perfect for me,” she says, eating low-carb cheesecake at a restaurant across from the Green Valley Ranch Resort. “The notable snippets of my life catch people’s attention. I find out what they are interested in knowing about and then do a blog item if something on Twitter gets a lot of response.”
In Las Vegas, Cali’s blog is unique. No other prostitute in the city details the daily minutia of her life in such direct terms. She’s like the Washingtonienne of Sin City, revealing Vegas’s sexual proclivities from the shadows, one lay at a time. And much like the Washingtonienne, the level of attention she’s starting to receive is unnerving. She was recently contacted out of the blue for an interview by NPR, which she’s considering, and by Fox News, which she’s not. “I hate Fox News,” she says. “And, hello? I am not going to be on camera! They offered to disguise my face but I am not a fan and don’t trust their message.”
Her readers, some of whom she calls obsessive, comb her blog and her Tweets for clues. “People go to great lengths to figure out my identity,” she says. Three customers have called her for appointments and, when she arrived, asked her if she was the Courtesan. (She denied it each time.)
Her identity has also become a subject of speculation to people with a professional interest in her activities. Casino security teams are constantly refining their tactics for recognizing and banning individual escorts from their properties, as well as making it more difficult for hookers to gain access to hotel rooms. “I read her blog to find out what they [escorts] are up to with trying to trick security,” says one casino security manager, though he admits, “I also think her Tweets are funny.” And he warns that “if she ever Tweets that she is on my property, we will catch her.”
Cali can’t even find reprieve from fellow sex workers. One high-end independent escort objects to her taking the mystery out of an occupation that relies on mystique. “I think what she is doing is an abuse of the word ‘courtesan,’” the escort says. “If she knew anything about the word she would know to be discreet.”
The sudden notice from so many directions has profoundly raised Cali’s concern about her anonymity. “I don’t like that attention. I’m also worried about police. I am literally outing myself on the Internet about my occupation. I am doing a misdemeanor.” Prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, an exemption that often confuses tourists who expected to find brothels within the city limits. The high-end escort notes that this confusion can be a good thing. “It helps if the customers don’t know we are illegal,” she says. “Why does she always emphasize that?”
Partly because of this hostility, Cali’s friends, who know her actual name, don’t know what she does for a living, and her coworkers, who know what she does, don’t know her real name. Nor do they know that she’s the voice behind the blog so many of them consider an irritant. “I don’t tell them because they would think I am writing about their business and violating their privacy,” says says, “or they would be upset for bringing us unwanted attention.”
It’s a particularly touchy subject these days, when many of the city’s hookers are willing to do more for less. “You have to negotiate more,” Cali says. She also says that since the recession began she’s seeing more clients in their twenties—guys who came to Vegas and want a sure thing, not a girl in a nightclub who’s going to refuse to put out after he buys her fifty dollars worth of drinks. “I prefer the older clients,” she laments. “Young guys say stupid things like, ‘I should get a discount because I’m good looking.’”
She says this is precisely why she writes her blog—as a tip sheet for people who want to hire an escort, and as a guide for people curious about the industry. Some of her posts are starkly pragmatic. She has blogged the dos-and-don’ts for interacting with an escort in Las Vegas, and for beginners, she’s written a novice’s guide to how it works. She’s also shed light on a sector of the city every prostitute experiences eventually: the criminal justice system. She blogged her two arrests (at Bellagio and at Caesars), both in police stings. “I got a good lawyer, they avoided trial by getting me 20 hours of community service, having to complete an expensive sexual education class of sorts that you do online, and stay out of trouble ... My charges were dismissed once everything was completed and was really just a waste of time in the court system for nothing.”
For the best-known unknown hooker in Vegas, Cali’s life is almost shockingly prosaic. Today, a Sunday afternoon, is the day she runs errands. At Smith’s grocery store she buys the ingredients for beef stew. She likes to make food in bulk to eat across a week. Another product she prefers in bulk is condoms—at Costco, she loads up her cart with five boxes, and later blogs her disappointment that Trojan seems to have redesigned the latex to be thinner than it used to be.
She’s always been a pragmatic person. When she arrived in Las Vegas about six years ago to be a stripper, she soon decided that being a hooker was easier and paid better. “I think a lot of girls make that decision,” she says. “In stripping there is a lot of rejection. A guy calls an agency, he wants someone.” Like a doctor, today she is on call. Sunday is her favorite day to work.
“For a lot of people, it’s their last day in Vegas,” she says. “They are going to blow the rest of their money on something.” She keeps a pair of heels in her car for when the call comes, and shows up to meet her clients in her regular clothes. “The first time I was nervous, but guys like the girl-next-door look.” When officially “on the clock,” she dresses more like a call girl, which she claims is still less slutty than the tourists she sees in the nightclub lines. On these nights, she sits in her car waiting for calls from an escort agency.
She does not date. Asked if she has a pimp, she fixes me with a look that illustrates her contempt for people who only know hookers via Hollywood—another reason she blogs, she says. “I started because I felt I really needed to educate people. I was tired of people not understanding how things work. I figured it would be a good public service. And, I like to be entertaining.”
But overall, for members of the world’s oldest profession, this is a good time to work Sin City, according to The Las Vegas Courtesan.
“During the boom years, Vegas became a place that was too expensive and where you needed a credit card for everything. Now there are bargains again for middle-class people. For my work, the move back to the traditional Vegas customer is good.”
Richard Abowitz has chronicled the rise and continuing fall of Las Vegas for over a decade. He is the author of hundreds of articles for Las Vegas Weekly. Abowitz is perhaps best known for writing the Movable Buffet blog and continuing print column for Los Angeles Times. In addition to covering Vegas, Abowitz has been writing about music and culture for Rolling Stone since 1996. In December 2009, Abowitz launched GoldPlatedDoor.com to be an honest broker reporting on all things Vegas.