Some women might have gone straight to human resources. But Passage is a person who considers all offers. “Really?” she said. “I’ve never even been to a strip club.”
She decided to go on a research trip. Sitting alone at the bar at Scores, she was fascinated by the women working the room in G-strings and heels. “They hustled like no one’s business,” she explains. “They were their own little CEOs, basically.” She auditioned that day and started working that night. Her first dance was to Madonna’s “Material Girl.”
It soon became clear that her nine-to-five was no longer worth getting out of bed for. “During the day, I’d watch these salespeople talk and jump through hoops,” she says. “And at night I’d go to work and watch these girls making $400 an hour to get people to go to rooms where nothing happens.” She widens her eyes. “Like, these girls are better than people who went to school and got master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees.”
Scores was a different kind of education. On the floor, Passage learned how to read customers, “to figure out who was real” and what they were willing to give. “Even if they’re not wealthy, sometimes it’s a priority for them to spend $2,000 a week,” she explains. In the dressing room, she learned little tricks for getting something extra, to help pay your rent, perhaps, or your student loans, or buy you the new Gucci shoes. It all really boiled down to one thing: “There’s a great line in The Other Boleyn Girl,” she says, in which Anne Boleyn’s mother gives her advice: “You have to allow the men to believe they are in charge,” Passage intones dramatically. “ That is the art of being a woman. ”
This advice didn’t work out for Anne Boleyn, but it did for Passage, who started using Scores tactics outside the club, too. “Let’s go on a hustle,” she and her friends would say before heading out to a bar. One of her friends from that time got so good she installed a credit-card swiper on her iPhone in order to take immediate donations. “She doesn’t even need to get them wasted,” Passage says admiringly.
But what all the girls talked about, while they were coating themselves in body spray and covering up their tattoos, was their “arrangements”—the longer-term sugar daddies. And eventually, between the dressing-room talk, the abject behavior of men on the Scores floor, and her own disappointments, Passage started to rethink her approach to dating. “I used to believe in love and romance,” she says. “But I felt like in a lot of cases I was contributing too much to my relationships. It was time,” she says, laughing, “to let someone else contribute.”
It took a year before the perfect prospect fell into her lap. Or, more accurately, she fell into his.
Ken Starr was in the market for a somewhat unusual arrangement, as evidenced by the fact that he came to Scores with his wife, Marisa. It was a busy night at the club: The billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban was there, and the band Korn. But the Starrs were on a mission, and they had cash to burn. They herded several girls into the Champagne room and, at the end of the night, offered Passage and another dancer $1,000 each to come to dinner at their Park Avenue penthouse. It was a little weird, the women thought, but hey, $1,000 was a night’s work, and the Starrs promised they wouldn’t even have to take off their clothes.
After some nervous chitchat over Chinese, Ken spoke. “I bet you’re wondering why we invited you here.” The couple had an open marriage, he told them, and Marisa was looking for someone or someones to occupy her husband while she spent time with her boyfriend. They’d pay $1,000 a date. The women shrugged, and agreed to go out a few more times as a foursome, though Passage’s friend never made it past the second date, after she arrived at The Four Seasons in jeans. Later, Passage says, Marisa cornered her. “Don’t try to steal him from me,” she hissed. But after that, it was just her and Ken.
The Starrs bragged a lot about their properties and their relationships with celebrities, but even with the skills she’d honed at Scores, Passage couldn’t get a read on how big a fish she’d caught. She asked a public-relations guy at the club how to find out if Ken Starr was for real.
“Ask him to take you to Per Se on short notice,” he told her.
When Starr called to set up a follow-up date, she was ready. “There’s this restaurant I really want to go to?” she began sweetly. Starr secured a reservation for that week.