Letters to the Editor

From the week of May 16, 2002

It's fantasy to believe that any street hooker in Denver is earning $1,500 a night charging $100 to $150 or more per trick. These rates are comparable to what men frequenting escort services and massage parlors pay. The "johns" on East Colfax, who include lawyers, businessmen, truck drivers and the unemployed, share a common trait: a "flea market" mentality when it comes to paying for sex and companionship. Their price range is usually $20 to $30 and rarely exceeds $60 in cash or crack.

It is also a stretch of the imagination to think that a pimp would pay $5,000 for a "ho." Pimps cruise bus stations, restaurants and the streets for runaways to "befriend" before turning them out. They also approach "working girls," both freelance and those attached to other pimps, in an effort to build their stables.

Girls in the Third World are sold into prostitution, occasionally by their parents, knowingly or not, for as little as $50 to $150. Chinese, Russian, Mexican, Nigerian and other criminal networks are involved in smuggling women for prostitution into the United States and other countries.

Mr. Holthouse appears to have been strongly influenced by The Mack and American Pimp. Perhaps these films were the inspiration for the characters and dialogue found in his article.

When dealing with fringe criminals, an investigator must also be careful not to show too much enthusiasm or emotion during the interview. Doing so will encourage the source to fabricate events when they have exhausted their actual experiences.

The fact that Mr. Holthouse is allowed to concoct characters, events and quotations brings into question the journalistic ethics of Westword and the credibility of all of your articles and alleged sources -- past, present and future.

Michael Salerno

David Holthouse responds: Mr. Salerno is a careless reader.

One of my article's main themes is how a new breed of younger, out-of-town, pimp-controlled hookers on Colfax has displaced the local, freelance, $20 and $40 crack whores of yesteryear. And while I reported that these "circuit girls" charge more, the $1,500 figure Mr. Salerno waves around as evidence of my deceit was in fact presented only as the upper extreme of one night's earnings. When Kid Rock says, "This is going to be another $1,500 night for sure," it is clear from my writing that he is calculating the earnings of all three of his hookers, not just one.

Later in the article, the "$1,500 a night" figure appeared in an excerpt from a letter sent by south City Park resident Laura Straka to Mayor Wellington Webb, in which Ms. Straka complains of scores of horny men trolling for high-dollar streetwalkers in her neighborhood. Does Mr. Salerno consider her a fabricator as well? And what of the male caller to Peter Boyles's talk-radio show the morning of May 6, when I was a guest, who phoned in to report that he is a customer of Colfax hookers -- whose price had gone from $40 to about $100 in the past year?

It appears that Mr. Salerno has uncovered a vast conspiracy, one that also involves Denver Police Department lieutenant Mark Leone, whose twenty years on the force, thousands of hours patrolling Colfax and role as a john in numerous undercover operations might place him in Mr. Salerno's category of "informed vice cop." In a quote that didn't make it into the story, Lieutenant Leone had this to say: "There are definitely two groups of prostitutes on Colfax. The circuit girls, the out-of-towners, they're younger, they're better dressed, and they're motivated by accumulating profit, not to just turn around and blow it all on crack. Granted, their economics are driven by their pimp, but a good-looking girl can come out here and earn better than $1,000 at a time. They'll tell you that, and they're not exaggerating."

I've never seen The Mack, but the documentary American Pimp was most definitely an influence on this article, because, as I took care to note, it is Kid Rock's favorite movie and he quotes from it freely. As to Mr. Salerno's suspicion that Kid Rock is a concoction of my imagination: Had my accuser bothered to contact me directly to communicate his uninformed skepticism, I would have told him the story behind this story.

I'm certainly not claiming that I simply went down to Colfax one evening and caught a ride with a pimp. To score those interviews, I spent a month's worth of nights on Colfax, trying to work my way in with "fringe criminals"; I also got one huge lucky break. If anyone else has any doubts about my reporting, they should contact me. I'll gladly run down precisely when, where and how I got the story.

Mr. Salerno could have done me that courtesy before recklessly accusing me of lying to more than 200,000 readers. Were he my bitch, I'd have to trunk him.

Losers, Weepers

Club dread: I had to laugh after reading all of the letters responding to David Holthouse's April 11 "The Hot Seat," about the Club-seat fiasco at Donkey stadium.

First of all, you bleeding hearts voted this stadium in. And second, to Rob Levinson (May 2 Letters), who is afraid that the NFL will black out the games: Does anyone really care? I sure don't. I never watch these losers. Third, how are the donkeys going to win any games this season, anyway? Romo and his pills are gone.

Boo-hoo, boo-hoo. Cry, you suckers, cry.

Vincent Sandoval

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