Illustration by Gustavo Vargas
No matter how many times she’s made the trip, Scarlet’s stomach knots when she ventures into the Seventh Street fleabag where Monday Morning Michael schedules their sessions. The horror hotel, which stands amid homeless herds pushing shopping carts, is utterly disgusting — the pool unfilled and blackened with mildew, the patio studded with more cigarette butts than a junkie’s ashtray. The fetid stink rising from the threadbare, faded-orange hall carpet is enough to induce dry heaves. This is nowhere for a mother of two young children to be working. But then, the trip is worth an extra C-note precisely because of the setting.
Monday Morning Michael is waiting in Room 209. All the way up from the South Bay, and neatly attired he is, in thousand-dollar Armani threads that make him stand out here, in Chez Miserable, like a Klansman in Compton. But his undergarments are just as singular. Beneath his lawyer’s three-piece, Michael sports silk panties, a Victoria’s Secret bra, and a garter belt that’s tighter than a guitar string. Inside his briefcase, next to his day’s caseload, he’s got a nifty pair of 6-inch spike heels.
Scarlet doesn’t bother knocking, shoving the door open and glaring harshly at the doe-eyed shyster seated on the bed.
“Why are you wearing your suit, dog?” she asks with exaggerated contempt.
“Sorry, Miss Scarlet,” replies the attorney, who commences the rapid strip to his skivvies. His simpering tone fuels Scarlet, and as he’s strapping on pumps, she bashes him on the haunches.
“Stop wasting my time, you worm,” she sneers, and Michael nods rapidly in assent. What’s ironic to Scarlet is her knowledge that 90 minutes from now, Michael will be bullying the daylights out of a witness in civil court, not 10 blocks away. Equally ironic is that 45 minutes ago, she was the very picture of a suburban mom — if you disregard the nose ring — preparing breakfast for her kids, ages 15 and 7, and bustling them off to school.
“Walk, dog,” she commands, and into the corridor they go, she leading him on a leash. Every so often, she turns on her heels and barks a command: “On your knees” or “Shut up.” Michael complies immediately. If not, he gets a swift kick in the butt, which serves two purposes: It makes Michael excited, and it’s a release for Scarlet’s uneasiness in this crack-smokers’ den.
But enough prancing. It’s time for the grand finale. Scarlet steers Michael back into No. 209 and shoves him on the bed, face down. As if there were an invisible forklift under Michael’s crotch, his rump heads slowly ceilingward, and Scarlet pulls off his baby-blue drawers with a quick motion. From her bag, she removes a worn, flesh-toned dildo and quickly greases the implement with lube. “Anchors aweigh,” she sighs to herself.
Michael is eagerly anticipating one final, humiliating verbal barrage, and Scarlet does not disappoint. “That was the most pathetic little display I’ve ever seen, you shithead. You can’t do anything right. Prepare to get fucked, worm!”
Slam! He’s squealing like a pig, half in utter agony, half in total joy. In a moment it’s all over, and the bedcover is more rancid than ever. It’s time to settle. Gingerly making his way over to his trousers, Michael reaches for the cash. Scarlet’s already lighting up a smoke and dialing a taxi — the quicker she’s back on the 101 for Hollywood, the happier she’ll be. In the meantime, Michael’s buttoning up and avoiding eye contact as he recites the usual spiel: “Don’t tell anyone, okay? No one can ever know about this — please!”
“The funny thing is, other than the gross motel, Michael is pretty typical of most of my customers,” says Scarlet, as she sits back and grins. “He loves the crummy environment because it’s forbidden and degrading, therefore desirable.”
During our interview, Scarlet expresses puzzlement at the state in which she finds herself, where clients and employees see one person in her and she perceives another. She looks in the mirror and sees: future doctor. That’s what she’s wanted to be from the time she was a high school honors student and star athlete. But scholar/mom is not how the world pegged Scarlet. From the time that she first started taking off her clothes at Club Déjà Vu in Ontario, California, people have instantly sized her up as a cheap doyenne of sexual perversion. As long as she can remember, men have wanted her to curse them, beat them, pee on them and otherwise humiliate them into orgasm. There’s gotta be a better way to make money, but Scarlet has sure never found it.
“I’ve tried every avenue of the business you can name,” she says. “Massage, peepshows, straight sex. But wherever I worked, I always ended up with the kinkies, the guys and gals that wanted more than just a handjob or blowjob, and here I am.”
Scarlet grins and lights up another coffin nail. She is decamped on the porch of Chez Angel with the author, chain-smoking outside in the cool of a spring afternoon. The fetishist extraordinaire is 30 or so, with a mane of dyed black hair, a slew of piercings and an enormous set of 100 percent genuine breasts. It’s not hard to picture Scarlet at work in her gothic finery, charging clients $350 a session for just about every offbeat sexual peccadillo you can name and some you can’t.
From infantilism (where she dresses her customers in diapers, changes them, spanks them and allows them to mock-wean on her), to costumed role-playing (“I’ve been a schoolgirl, an SS officer, a baby sitter and a nurse. Never been a nun — that would be fun!”), to S&M: “One old man had me slapping his face and screaming ‘failed, failed, failed’ at him as he sucked on a dildo.”
The difference between Scarlet and a “legal” dominatrix is that she actually has contact with her patrons and charges them for it — hence, in the eyes of the law, she’s a common prostitute.
She’s been practicing fetishism exclusively for the last four years. “I might see four clients a week,” she says. “I have some regulars like this couple in the Valley, who always want the wife to go down on me, or have me slap her around. And I have some foot guys who’ll suck toes. I know I’m exploiting their deep-seated issues, but if I didn’t do it, someone else would. There’s thousands of us in L.A.!”
Scarlet discovered her freak magnetism at an early strip job, which she took because secretarial-pool pay wasn’t keeping her infant son in diapers or her husband in drugs. “There was a back VIP room at this place, and I’d get these guys that wanted me to dance for them, and then I’d step on their balls — the other dancers wouldn’t do that. Then it would escalate.
“It was insane — they’d come from their softball leagues or whatever, and under these sweaty uniforms, they’d be wearing bras and panties. And they carried the dildos in their gear bags and would demand ‘training’ [insertion] for an extra hundred. Hell yeah, I did it.”
Scarlet tired of the Inland Empire, where she’d grown up and married young — miserable and abused all the while. Shortly after arriving in Hollywood, she got into USC, but couldn’t afford the tab with a kid to support. So she was quickly back to dancing.
She moved on to a massage job at a Bel Air mansion. “Ten of us girls in this house, some of it actual massage. One-fifty for the massage, an extra fifty if you do the massage nude. But for an extra hundred, there was the handjob. One day it was really slow, and I’m stressing over bills and money, and this guy looks at me after I’m done . . . He told me what he wanted. I was completely grossed out; I never actually touched genitals for money at that point. Yecch, it was gross, but it was over in a minute, and I had a quick hundred!”
Scarlet moved up to a notorious spot on Santa Monica Boulevard. Nude modeling was the advertised fare, but for the right price, anything was negotiable. Straight sex was what she really hated, but it earned $500. “I’d squat on them and it was like, ‘Don’t say anything.’ If they did talk, it was about their jobs and lives, and always how their wives didn’t understand them. Like I fucking cared!”
When customers began getting kinky (bringing their wives and demanding S&M threesomes), a light went on in Scarlet’s head. Instead of splitting her take with the house, she began advertising in sex papers and weeklies, with the requisite code words: “Betty Page Look-alike,” “open-minded” and “fetishes OK.”
In an odd way, the fetish trade was a step up. “I got to hate the idea that men were touching me, so the fetish thing was the only way to go,” she says. Sometimes, though, her refinement works against her, as in her aversion to some “water sports.”
“I can’t do that on command, which is a professional drawback,” she says, sighing. “I guess I was too well toilet trained. So I’ll pee in a cup and tell them they’re not worthy of direct contact, and either dump it on them, or down the hatch!”
Scarlet draws the line at some requests, no matter what the money. No blood sports or piercing — too dangerous. With dogs? No way. But she did oblige the gent who wanted to lick dog excrement off her boots. “I brought my rottweiler’s turd in this little plastic baggie, stomped on it on his doorstep, and down he went. I was almost puking my guts out, half in disgust, half trying not to laugh. But it was another $350. Hey, no skin off my ass, just shit off my shoes, right?”
Scarlet sighs and shakes her head. “I still want to go to medical school and become a doctor,” she says. “I’d like to actually help people, rather than use them.”