It took a few dates for Starr to open up, but after a while Passage came to realize that he was a hustler much like her. He’d grown up in the South Bronx and entered college at 15, after which he worked his way into the city with a job at a big accounting firm. He told her an apocryphal story of how he landed his first high-net-worth client, Paul Mellon, while he was still a no-name paper-pusher. “Who’s your accountant?” the heir to one of the country’s largest banking fortunes, annoyed by his own bookkeeper, had supposedly said to his florist, who stutteringly gave him Starr’s name. The association with the Mellons had changed his life, Starr told her. Once he had them, getting the other big names was relatively easy.
Not that Starr didn’t make an effort. He was a schmoozer and made sure his calendar was packed with all the right events—charity dinners, movie premieres, restaurant openings—where wealthy and powerful people would be. Starr started bringing Passage with him to everything from movie premieres to a talk with Henry Kissinger at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t know if I have the right clothes for that,” Passage suggested. “Maybe we could go shopping?”
She barely needed to ask. Starr delighted in making her over. They went shopping for dresses at Escada and Bloomingdale’s. Passage told him she felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, and he said she reminded him more of Holly Golightly; when she said she didn’t know who that was, he rented the DVD of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Even so. “I look at old pictures of us from some of these events, and I look like he just picked me up from Scores and put me in a suit,” Passage now says. “I had the lashes and probably body glitter. It was a bold move on his part to have brought me to some of those things.” In retrospect, she suspects there was a part of Starr that wanted to show the clients who treated him like a lackey that he’d made it to their level—that, like them, he could do whatever, with whomever. He loved, for instance, telling the story of how Passage fell asleep when Kissinger was talking, joking that he was sleeping too, because Kissinger was so boring.
“The majority of women on Park Avenue are probably up to worse stuff than I ever was.”
But Starr was fun. He was smart and funny and “knew everything about everything. The more time we spent together, the more I really started to enjoy his company.” They became sort of friends-with-benefits, although at first the benefits were weighted toward Passage, who refused to sleep with him. She wasn’t a prostitute, she’d say. This went on for approximately a year, until the summer of 2006, when Starr showed up at the Hamptons house he’d rented for her and said he’d fallen in love with her and wanted to leave his wife. “After that, we decided to be in a relationship,” she says.
Starr proposed on Valentine’s Day 2007, proffering a $32,000 diamond ring. They planned a June wedding in Las Vegas at the Wynn hotel, and it was just close friends and family: Passage’s son, Jordan, served as best man, along with the basketball player Julius Erving. The maid of honor was a girl from Scores called Lydia.
Back home, Passage’s friends at Scores were shocked: “You’re not supposed to marry them,” one of them told her, aghast.
“I was pretty surprised, to be honest,” says one former dancer, whom we’ll call by her former Scores name, Heather, since she’s now married to a doctor and living in a small Christian town in the Midwest. At the same time she was dating Starr, Passage was dating other wealthy, eligible men, including a record producer and a celebrity chef. “But I guess Ken was kind of her knight in shining armor that was going to give her a better life,” Heather says. “I mean, you can’t dance forever.”
A week later, the new Mr. and Mrs. Starr hosted 100 people at a wedding reception at the Central Park Zoo. Passage wore an Alexander McQueen dress (just like Kate Middleton, she later pointed out). “It was stunning,” she says. “Stun-ning.” The day had only one flaw: When Planet Hollywood founder Keith Barish stood up to give a toast, the D.J. accidentally hit the PLAY button.
The song that came on was Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.”
After the wedding, Starr amped up the couple’s already vigorous social schedule. “It was really important to him to be visible,” says Passage. And with her he was. Who could miss the brunette bombshell with Audrey Hepburn cheekbones and breasts augmented so that each was roughly the size of a human head, accompanied by a beetle-browed accountant old enough to be her father?