In the summer of 1980, Lisa McLish was answering the phones at a New York public relations firm when Jeffrey Epstein called.
At the time, he was an obscure finance guy who’d just been featured as Cosmopolitan’s Bachelor of the Month. The magazine personal ad described the 27-year-old trader as a “New York dynamo” seeking “a cute Texas girl.”
McLish quickly assumed her best Lone Star drawl. “I put him on hold. I came back with what I considered to be a Texas accent, and we had a conversation,” McLish told The Daily Beast. “He was someone who was kind of fun to talk to at that time.”
But by their third phone call, things took a dark turn.
“It was disturbing enough, that that was going to be it,” said McLish, who is now a clinical social worker, and who spent 17 years as a Department of Justice lawyer. “I was never going to talk to him again. I got him off the phone really quickly.”
The details of Epstein’s disturbing private history have become increasingly public in light of his recent arrest for child sex trafficking in New York.
This week, the Times reported that Epstein discussed wanting to transform his secluded New Mexico property into a “baby ranch,” where he’d inseminate 20 women at a time and stock the human race with his DNA. He started telling prominent businessmen and scientists of his sickening scheme in the early 2000s.
And, as The Daily Beast reported, Epstein spent the 1990s visiting the Clinton White House, reportedly playing wingman to President Trump at parties, lurking around a prestigious arts camp in Michigan, and allegedly engaging in a Ponzi scheme with convicted fraudster Steven Hoffenberg, who claims he was Epstein’s mentor.
Meanwhile, the 66-year-old is also accused of sexually abusing an art student named Maria Farmer and her underage sister, Annie, in 1996—about a decade before he was busted in Palm Beach, Florida, for molesting dozens of girls.
Yet, before all that, Epstein was a trader at Bear Stearns who presented himself as an eligible bachelor in the July 1980 issue of Cosmo.
Last week, The Daily Beast unearthed Epstein’s dubious plug in the women’s magazine. Now we can reveal he contacted at least one woman through the ad.
McLish, then 18 and a summer receptionist, was bored and perusing Cosmo when she landed on Epstein’s blurb. “He looked like guys I grew up with, he looked like a regular guy that I knew,” said McLish, who is from New Jersey. Plus, Epstein appeared much younger than most of the single men she’d seen advertised in Cosmopolitan.
The listing declared: “Financial strategist Jeffrey Epstein, 27, talks only to people who make over a million a year! If you’re ‘a cute Texas girl,’ write this New York dynamo at 55 Water St., 49th floor, N.Y.C. 10041.”
McLish says she never planned on meeting Epstein; she never even expected him to call. A journalism major, she’d just completed her freshman year and figured it would be fun to type a letter to this “dynamo” on her workplace letterhead.
“I pretended I was an account executive at the firm, that I was 25 or 26 and that I was from Texas,” McLish said, adding that she thought her missive was good, because Epstein phoned her soon after she dropped it in the mail.
“I think he told me he did get a lot of letters,” McLish recalled. “It wasn’t that long a time period. I only worked there from the end of May through August, so I must have written a letter in June or early July.”
“The response was fairly quick, quicker than I thought,” she said. “It’s disturbing. I’m a therapist and I work with women who’ve been assaulted, and it just disturbs me, the whole story, thinking about those girls and what they had to go through."
McLish said their first conversation involved “flirtatious banter,” as she regaled him with a phony story of growing up on a Texas ranch. (Epstein later joked that he didn’t think McLish was actually from the South. “I totally did not have a good Texas accent,” she said.)
Epstein called a second time, then a final third. “It was all at work,” McLish noted. “I was sitting at the receptionist desk. Nobody was really coming into this firm.”
“For someone who was working in finance at the time, he should have been busy,” she added, adding that their calls “weren’t short.”
“I still remember something he said in that last conversation because it was a bizarre thing… I thought it was a weird thing to say.”
According to McLish, Epstein asked her, “Do you like to suck and fuck?”
That’s when the exchange “went from enjoyable to uncomfortable,” she said. “It was uncomfortable and unwelcome. It went from, ‘Oh, this is a fun conversation’ to, ‘No, this is not something I want to be associated with.’”
They never spoke again, and the Bachelor of the Month experience was only an amusing story McLish told to friends and family over the years.
McLish’s mother, Susan Donis, remembers hearing of the “raunchy” call with the bachelor in 1980. Donis said she remembers her daughter asking if she should write to the Cosmo suitor.
"She was very creative," Donis said.
It wasn’t until this year, when Epstein’s name dominated headlines, that McLish began to think the perverted sex-offender was the bachelor she’d contacted decades before. “When I read something in the spring, his age and where he worked in New York, it just kind of just clicked. It could be that same Jeffrey Epstein.”
The Daily Beast verified McLish’s story with two of her friends, who said she discussed the possibility that Epstein was the lewd Cosmo bachelor before his latest arrest.
McLish tried to find the bachelor listing and ended up buying the June and July 1980 issues on eBay. When they arrived, she learned her hunch was correct.
“What was an amusing story for me turned out to be a terrible ordeal for the girls who got to meet him,” McLish said. “I do feel just horrified about the things that he is accused of and what seems like really did happen.”