Gigolos, the Showtime reality show that purports to document the real lives of men in Las Vegas who sexually service women for cash, stretches credibility even by reality-show standards.
We see them move from clients as innocuous as a schoolteacher to more exotic ones like a dominatrix. Among the blur of women supposedly paying these men for sex in episode after episode, we are to believe there is a model who finds it a turn-on that she is the one paying for the man; another is a woman who—almost inconceivably—wants to audition four men to be her date at a charity ball by driving each one around in a limo asking questions. Between clients, the gigolos hang out in places like a topless bar, where they attempt awkward banter.
As The New York Times’ skeptical review noted: “It’s not unheard of for women to pay for sex, but if Internet ads are any indication, the market looks a whole lot stronger for gay male escorts. So a look at women-only gigolos in Las Vegas is a little like a cooking show devoted entirely to vegan steak recipes.” And then there are those, including male porn star Christian XXX, who flat-out think gigolos are an urban myth. “Male escorts work for guys, and the ones who claim to only do women are lying,” he told me. “I know a lot of men who do escorting, and the money is only in guys.”
Take the independent self-listing site for straight male escorts, Companions4women.com, which lists exactly one available man who services women exclusively for all Las Vegas— Mike. Yet Showtime’s Gigolos, which premiered in early April, purports to follow the lives of five male escorts who, according to promotional material, are “living and working hard in Las Vegas” for the escort website Cowboys4Angels.com.
So what is going on? How real is Gigolos, and are there really gigolos in Vegas—or anywhere? Or are they merely mythological creatures, as Christian XXX and others believe?
The Daily Beast was able to reach one woman depicted on the show, and she freely admits her appearance on Gigolos is entirely fictional. She claims she was hired by one of the show’s producers. “They came to me and said they wanted to work with me,” she says. “They found me through a website. They wanted to know what skills I had. Then they created a scenario where I would need an escort, and they hired me.”
This woman asked that her name be withheld for fear of violating a nondisclosure agreement. But she considers her job on Gigolos to be work as an actress. The sex was simulated for the camera, she says; and she claims she certainly did not pay the male escort for anything. “It’s a reality show. No one believes that shit. Everyone knows that’s all scripted. I had fun, and it was great. They were cool people to work with. I would have done a prostitute show if they paid me.” (When asked to comment for this article—and specifically asked whether the network cares about the show’s fakery—a Showtime publicist wrote in an email, “The network does not want to participate in this story.”)
“The market for male escorts is all guys,” said a straight male porn star who has tested the market.
The woman who was cast in the show does seem convinced that the man she was filmed with, who is one of its five stars, is in reality a male escort. “They aren’t from Vegas. But they are real escorts,” she says.
Another Las Vegas local involved with the production enough to have an on-screen credit in every episode—who also agreed to be interviewed only without attribution—says that yes, the men on the show are true gigolos. But he stops short of saying that the women are real customers. “I can’t vouch for how they got the women to do the show or if the women are real,” he says. “But I know Garren James, and the men are real.”
Garren James—that would be the owner of Cowboys4Angels.com (who has a bit part on Gigolos). James agreed to be interviewed by email only.
Q: Were escorts reluctant to allow their faces to be shown?
A: Obviously not.
Q: Were clients reluctant to be on television hiring escorts?
A: No comment.
In an interview with Salon, James was more direct on the issue of the women on the show. "They were compensated ... They definitely got compensated,” he said.
James says he currently has no male escorts in Las Vegas available to be interviewed. But The Daily Beast was able to reach by phone one of the men featured in Gigolos, Vin Armani, who insists everything on the show is legitimate. (Even though he thinks none of them actually live in Las Vegas.)
Armani says a busy month for him could be as many as eight appointments—quite different from a female prostitute, or a male one serving other men. “Or it could be only three really long ones,” he says.
James does admit that the situation of a full-time male escort with straight female clients is not as straightforward as it appears in Showtime’s version.
“Most of my men have other jobs,” he wrote in an email. “They see clients at night and on weekends. Most go to castings as models and actors or have personal training gigs. Women tend to book longer appointments so only seeing two clients per week for four hours at a time is $2000 per week. Lots of guys get booked at least once a month for a weekend at $5000 as the fee. Yes, most of the men can make a very good living off just doing this alone but they have so much free time to pursue other things so they usually do.”
Asked again how many men on his site pursue being gigolos full-time, James wrote, “Like I said before this job only requires small amounts of time per week so most do other things to keep themselves busy and active.”
For James’ gigolos who aren’t on Gigolos, perhaps even less time may be required—as in none. One man listed on the site claims he was willing to do the work, but never got a call about a client. He did not want his name used for fear he would be seen as the “ugly guy.”
But porn star Jordan Lane has no problem admitting to having spent, he thinks, more than a year on the site without ever receiving work. The reason Lane has no problems being upfront about striking out is that he sides with Christian XXX and believes gigolos are the Loch Ness monster of the sex trade: they simply don’t exist.
“The market for male escorts is all guys,” Lane says. “I was willing to do it for women only, because I am straight. But I never expected a call from that site, and I never got one.” (Shortly after our interview Lane’s profile was removed from the homepage, though it is still viewable via link.)
Obviously, James and Armani disagree with Lane and Christian XXX. Armani says, “I know it is like Bigfoot or something to some people and that this is hard to believe. But we are the best, and there is always a market for that.”
James claims to have discovered the need for that market by creating the first male-escort agency for women only. If he is so successful, why does he appear to have so few competitors or imitators? He says, “All that tried to follow me were out of business within months.” He claims the quality of the men he lists is the difference.
Clearly, Gigolos raises a lot of red flags when examined as documentary reality. But to the question of gigolos not existing at all, I had a female friend contact Cowboys4Angels.com to make an appointment. The unnamed person who answered the phone said she could have the man of her choice within 24 hours for the rate on the website.
That was more than enough reality for her. She hung up.
Richard Abowitz covered Las Vegas for more than a decade as a senior writer and editor at Las Vegas Weekly. For many years he wrote the Movable Buffet blog and print column for the Los Angeles Times. In addition to covering Vegas, he has been writing about music and culture for Rolling Stone since 1996. Abowitz blogs at GoldPlatedDoor.com.