The Complex Lives of Escorts
Anna David, the author of Bought, a new novel on high-priced prostitution, talks to The Daily Beast's Marty Beckerman about her fictional high-price prostitution ring.
Anna David has a résumé longer than the word limit of this article. She is the sex and relationship expert on G4’s Attack of the Show! ( view her clips), a regular on NBC’s Today and Fox News’ Red Eye, a former Sirius Satellite Radio host, a former editor of will.i.am’s political blog, a contributor to Playboy, Vanity Fair, Details, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, and the author of Party Girl, a roman à clef about her cocaine addiction that Dr. Drew Pinsky praised as “the most accurate portrayal of… recovery I’ve come across.” (Sony Television has optioned the film rights.) Her novel, Bought, about a high-price prostitution ring, is out this week.
“In L.A. there are hot girls in every café, every shop, every BMW, and they don’t all have trust funds. I would hear about girls flying around the world on various guys’ dimes. I knew I could get a lot of dramatic mileage out of that.”
She spoke to The Daily Beast about hookers in L.A., life as a sex columnist—and what Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter are like off-camera.
Bought originated with your 2004 Details article on women in Los Angeles who charge $10,000 to $100,000 per job. Why do you find that subject so fascinating?
I knew nothing about hookers, and nobody in that scene wanted to talk to me because they feared even anonymous quotes would give them away. And then I found this madam everyone hated, and they were all happy to tell me everything about her. Suddenly I had madams, girls, and FBI informants on the phone. As soon as I said this woman’s name, the floodgates would open because everyone wanted revenge against her…My editor wanted to make it “how the rich get their rocks off” instead of a deeper investigation into how this worked. The finished story almost read like an advertisement for that madam. She got clients out of it!
Did the hookers you interviewed have hearts of gold, or were they drugged-up pains?
Every girl was extremely damaged and doing a lot of drugs to numb themselves. You can see the damage in their eyes, and you can see how in denial they are. I’m not saying every hooker is like that, but I wouldn’t say they had hearts of gold.
Why did you write Bought as a novel instead of nonfiction?
I wanted to write a nonfiction book, but it worked better as a story. I lived in L.A. for a decade. There are hot girls in every café, every shop, every BMW, and they don’t all have trust funds. I would hear about girls—friends of friends—flying around the world on various guys’ dimes: One guy flies her to Aspen, another guy flies her to France, another guy flies her to Dubai. I knew I could get a lot of dramatic mileage out of that.
Is sleeping with a hooker still taboo for the average American guy, or less so than it was in previous decades?
It’s probably less. A lot of guys are honest with me about it, as long as they aren’t trying to sleep with me. Many people feel there is no difference between what hookers do and what trophy wives do.
Why didn’t your publisher get an Eliot Spitzer blurb?
Or just Ashley [Dupré] would have been great!
Is it impossible to talk about overcoming addiction without sounding like a corny antidrug advertisement or elementary-school lecture?
I know how it sounds, and I hated people who sounded like that before I got sober, but a lot of this stuff makes sense when you go through it.... I find drug addiction endlessly compelling, and I found it compelling even before I did drugs. When Sober House is on, I can’t breathe!
Not many writers come across well on television, but you seem like a natural.
It’s instinctive. I never took media training…I was scared of public speaking before I got sober, but facing a group of people in recovery—having to be articulate and succinct—was really helpful. In a way I learned public speaking from quitting drugs.
Attack of the Show represents in many ways the cultural bonding of geekiness and masculinity. Since when do alpha males play videogames and watch Star Trek?
Being into words and books, I always liked smart, geeky guys. The Jewish nebbish became my type. I’ve never felt more intimidated or self-conscious than when I was with a perfect-looking guy. The so-called hot guy football player is still drinking beer with his buddies 10 years after college, and it isn’t cool anymore.
You are a sex-advice expert, not a moral crusader. Do you ever feel out of place at Fox News?
I’m a liberal but I’m not super political and I’m not going to castigate a whole group of people for their beliefs. I did a column for FoxNews.com, and my friends wouldn’t read it because they refused to give the Web site any traffic. There are some really sweet conservatives out there. Sean Hannity is the biggest sweetheart in person. Ann Coulter is very, very nice and warm in person. People cultivate these evil images—I wouldn’t want that personally—but it’s a different story when they’re not on camera.
Are your G4 fans likable as a whole, or too intense?
For the most part, the fans are so sweet. Our viewers are scared and confused because there is so much shame out there. What I try to tell them is that sex is nothing to be ashamed about, and you won’t go blind from masturbating. People actually ask me that!
Did you give advice to friends before you did it professionally?
Before I got sober, nobody wanted my opinion about anything. In my program, we discuss easier ways to live, and I can apply that to what I do for a living.
Sometimes you wear the journalist hat, and sometimes you wear the expert hat. Which side of the microphone do you prefer to be on?
I find this side nerve-racking because I know all the pitfalls… I’m very careful, and I can’t relax.
It’s easier when you’re drunk… but I guess you don’t do that anymore.
No, but there are pitfalls on the other side of the microphone, too. I am seduced so easily by the idea that just because I’m interviewing someone, suddenly we’re friends. I watched 24 with Kate Hudson—she baked me a pie—and then I saw her at a party and she walked right past me.
Are you as famous as you want to be?
I get extremely nice emails, but I’m under no illusions that everyone knows who I am… I used to have fame as more of a goal, and now I’m doing what I want.
You’ve written about some very personal topics such as reviewing vibrators for Playboy. Are you an exhibitionist?
I do have an exhibitionist streak. Before I got sober, my favorite thing to do was take my shirt off at parties. The game with my friends was never “truth or dare”; it was “dare Anna to do anything.” I needed attention, but I need it less and less.
Is that part of having an addictive personality?
I definitely have a sugar addiction and an exercise addiction. They work in conjunction.
Marty Beckerman is the author of Generation S.L.U.T. (MTV Books) and Dumbocracy (Disinformation). He has written for Playboy, Discover, Radar, and Huffington Post. His Web site is www.MartyBeckerman.com.