The stripper who married a Ponzi schemer

"Scores was a different kind of education."

Diane Passage was a single mom dancing at the strip club Scores when she met Ken Starr, an investment adviser who would later be charged with running a $30 million Ponzi scheme that ripped off famous celebrity clients like Uma Thurman. As the judge said after Mr. Starr was sentenced to jail:
"He seemed to have lost his moral compass partly as a result of infatuation with his young fourth wife."
This is the story of that "young fourth wife":
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.”
Read the rest: A Holly Golightly for the Stripper-Embezzlement Age. After the crash, financier Ken Starr was revealed to be one of the greatest hustlers of our time. But he had nothing on his fourth wife, Diane Passage. New York Magazine>>

Note: Holly Golightly is the name of the main character in the 1958 short novel Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. Mr. Capote explained the character in a Playboy magazine interview in 1968:
Holly Golightly was not precisely a call girl. She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and night clubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewelry or a check ... if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night. So these girls are the authentic American geishas, and they're much more prevalent now than in 1943 or 1944, which was Holly's era.
Breakfast at Tiffany's, Wikipedia>>

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