Tricks of the Trade
It's midnight in Denver, and Kid Rock the pimp is checking his traps. Cruising down East Colfax Avenue, he keeps one eye on the three pagers clipped to his alligator-skin belt and the other on the sidewalk traffic scrolling past the tinted windows of his metallic-gold Lincoln Continental.
As always, his mind's on his money, and his money's on his mind.
"There we go, right there," he says, wheeling his ride to the curb of a 7-Eleven parking lot at Colfax and Steele Street. A plump platinum blonde wearing blue vinyl go-go boots glances both ways and then saunters over. Kid Rock powers down his window, and the blonde, who calls herself Dominique, leans into the car. She looks at least 35. Kid Rock is probably ten years younger.
"Hi, Daddy," she says.
"Hey, bitch," he answers, running a finger down her cheek in a gesture of affection.
Dominique arches her back to expose her cleavage. Her pimp roughly pops a button on the tight vinyl blouse that matches her boots, then reaches between her breasts and withdraws a wad of cash. Dominique's eyes lock on the money she earned the hard way. "I'm hungry, Daddy," she whines, like a child in a grocery checkout line. "Can I just have a little something to get me some fries?"
Kid Rock slaps her lightly on the same cheek he just stroked. "I told you once, bitch, I told you a million goddamn times, no French fries. They make your ass fat. We need to keep your ass lookin' real fine, now, you hear me?"
Dominique nods, chastened.
Shifting tactics, the pimp slathers his voice with butter. "Now, you just get your stroll on, break me down three or four tricks, then hit me on the hip [page me], and we'll go get you a salad and some chicken wings or some shit, all right?"
Eyes down, Dominique murmurs, "Yes."
"Watch your titties now," Kid Rock says, triggering his window switch. Dominique hops back as the Lincoln pulls away. The hooker stares after the big gold car as it arcs through the parking lot and turns east onto Colfax.
Inside, Kid Rock expertly counts his money, rubbing it between his right thumb and pointer finger. There are five tens, ten twenties and two hundreds. Four hundred and fifty dollars. The pimp's face splits into a gargoyle's grin. "She only been on the track five hours, and she got a few more to go yet," he says, pocketing the bills. "And that's just one ho. This is gonna be another fifteen-hundred-dollar night, for sure."
Kid Rock has three hookers on his string. Dominique is a "hand-me-down ho" he bought off another pimp for $5,000 in 1999. His second veteran, Twilight, he "peeled" from a competitor in Denver last summer. The pimp's third and newest recruit is Asia, a "fresh turnout" he picked up a few weeks back during a swing through Arizona. "I'm still breaking her in," he says. "She's still doing a little too much thinking for herself, you know what I'm saying?"
Take tonight, for example. Asia knows full well that each of Kid Rock's hos is supposed to check in with her pimp at least once an hour by pager. Each hooker's report is to include the following information in numeric code: where she is at that moment, either on Colfax or with a trick; which corners have been good for soliciting business; where the cops are hanging out; and always -- and most important -- how much money she's made.
Just now, as Kid Rock was collecting from Dominique, Twilight paged him to say she'd arrived with a customer at one of the plethora of cheap motels lining Colfax for a mile on either side of Yosemite Street, the city line between Denver and Aurora.
It's been three hours since Asia's last page, and at that time, she didn't have any money for her pimp. Finding her and disciplining her are high on Kid Rock's agenda right now.
While he searches, he holds forth.
"I been a motherfuckin' pimp since I was seventeen, meaning I got eight years in the game. I got a Ph.D. in pimpology," he says, biting a line from San Francisco's king of pimps, Fillmore Slim, as delivered in the popular 2000 documentary American Pimp, Kid Rock's nominee for "best movie in the motherfuckin' universe."
Aside from the gold rings on eight of his ten fingers and his ostentatious automobile, with its polished wire rims and jacked-up suspension, there's little about Kid Rock to suggest the stereotypical fur-coated, feather-in-a-velvet-fedora-sporting pimps of 1970s blaxploitation classics like The Mack. Instead, with his neatly cornrowed hair, baggy Karl Kanti designer jeans and oversized Versace black silk shirt, Kid Rock looks more like a member of NBA all-star Allen Iverson's notorious entourage of semi-reformed thugs than he does Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch.
Kid Rock brags that he's been known by many names on the streets of many cities (his car and his profession, if not his legal identity, are certainly known to Denver's vice cops). He says he's from Detroit originally and rechristened himself Kid Rock in 2000 in honor of the Motor City pop star of the same name who scored a huge radio hit with "Cowboy," a rap-rock fable about a pimp on an epic road trip.
"That's like my song, you know, 'cause I'm what they call an 'international pimp.' I take my bitches and my business all over the damn place. Hollywood, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Oak City [Oklahoma] -- wherever the fuckin' money is, I'm there. But I'll tell you a little somethin' about this city here. As a professor of pimpology, allow me to drop some knowledge, straight from the prophet's mouth. Right now, in all of these United States, there is no finer city for pimpin' than Denver, Colorado. And there is no richer track [an urban street where prostitution thrives] than right here, baby, Cold Facts Avenue."
This glittering nugget of wisdom is a lot more than merely one pimp's opinion.
Police say Denver has become the summer destination of choice for traveling pimps and their stables of relatively high-priced hookers, or "circuit girls," who represent a new, different breed from the badly used local crack whores who operate independently of pimps and who used to typify prostitution on Colfax. Circuit girls are younger, flashier-dressed, better organized and less likely to be drug addicts. They're drawn here by two spreading reputations: that of Colfax as a sex-for-sale marketplace in which demand far outstrips supply, and that of Denver as a city with one of the most laissez-faire prostitution laws in the country.
While other cities and states in recent years have hardened their laws against the world's oldest profession, in Denver prostitution has remained a petty offense, akin to jaywalking, punishable at most by a fine of less than $1,000 and a short stay in jail. This is true no matter how many convictions a prostitute racks up. And due to severe crowding in the Denver City Jail that leaves little room for nonviolent ladies of the evening, women arrested for prostitution in Denver rarely spend more than a few hours in a cell -- the time it takes their pimp to pay their bail.
"The word is definitely out on Denver," says Denver Police Department lieutenant Mark Leone, who works with ESCORT (Eliminate Street Crime on Residential Thoroughfares), a special patrol unit formed last August in response to the continuing increase of prostitution on Colfax. "There is a networking that goes on in the pimp profession just like in any other profession, and these pimps all talk to each other. They see where the money's good, where the cops aren't kicking butt and taking names, and where the laws are the most lax.
"These people are criminals," he adds. "They prefer the path of least resistance. And the path of least resistance is leading them to Denver."
Especially in the summer. "Jack Frost is the best cop in town when it comes to street prostitution," Leone says (except for January, during the National Western Stock Show, when "we see a big spike in out-of-towners," the cop adds. "All the cowboys are here with more money than sense, and Mom's back on the ranch.) But every year as the weather warms, young women dressed like fishing lures begin to pop up on Colfax around the same time that buds appear on the trees lining the residential streets nearby. By the time the trees are in bloom, the hookers have arrived in full force, forming nightly bouquets of leather and lace on choice corners.
It's been this way for years, but last summer, they came in never-before-seen numbers. Not coincidentally, last summer was when the State of Texas created a new law making a third conviction for prostitution an automatic felony commanding mandatory prison time. Texas pimps and prostitutes flocked to the nearest major city they deemed most hospitable: Denver.
"Most places, you know, one of your bitches busted every now and then is just a natural part of the game," says Kid Rock. "I just go down, pay the bitch's bail, go take her to get a new dress or get her nails done the next day -- you know, give her a little somethin' to make her feel better -- then put her ass right back on the track that night. That's just a cost of my doing business. I'm protecting my investments."
And his investments aren't paying off if they're sitting behind bars. "I know a good track or two in Dallas, Houston, but I'd rather make my money on Cold Facts. I don't even need to be fucking around with Texas anymore. They're changing the rules on a nigga down there."
Now the City of Denver is changing the rules as well.
Hundreds of residents of the South City Park Neighborhood, who found themselves under a perverse siege last summer, with hookers giving blow jobs on their front porches in the middle of the night, have exerted fierce pressure upon city and state officials to do something to combat prostitution on Colfax.
Though their attempts to spur state legislators to introduce a "three strikes" law similar to the one passed in Texas last year haven't been successful, their grievances have inspired action on the local level. City of Denver officials are moving quickly toward enacting a new, constitutionally questionable "area restriction" ordinance, which would ban anyone convicted of prostitution in Denver from setting foot on East Colfax. The new law has cleared a legal review by the Denver City Attorney's Office and is likely to take effect this summer.
In the meantime, the trees are budding and the game goes on.
Slouched behind the wheel of his golden pimpmobile, Kid Rock prowls the Cold Facts track, driving endless laps between its rough boundaries of Yosemite to the east, Pearl Street to the west. Asia still hasn't checked in, and it's making the pimp madder by the minute. One of his pagers buzzes. He snatches it off his belt. It's Twilight. According to her code, she's stranded at the Airway Motel, at Colfax and Verbena Street. Ten minutes later, Kid Rock is knocking on the door of room 6. The door opens a crack, and a woman peers out to see who's there, then swings it open all the way. Twilight is wearing a fluorescent orange miniskirt and six-inch heels. Her long, braided hair extensions are sopping wet.
"What the fuck happened to you?" her pimp inquires.
Twilight tells her story: She brought her trick to the motel, had sex with him for her usual fee of $100, and was getting dressed when he offered another fifty bucks if she would simply take a shower while he watched. She agreed, and he presented her with a fresh bar of jasmine-scented soap he'd brought along for the occasion. They went into the bathroom, and she stood under the water while he sat on the toilet lid and smoked cocaine. He kept directing her to turn around in slow circles, and to use more lather. This went on for about ten minutes, until he abruptly stood up, walked out of the motel room and disappeared, leaving her with no way to get back to the track.
It's a weird story, but Kid Rock's heard weirder. All he wants to know is "Did you get the $50?"
Twilight says, "Yeah, I got it. I got the soap, too." She holds out the slightly used bar, wrapped in toilet paper.
Her pimp ignores it. "So you're at 350, am I correct?" He's been monitoring her night's earnings by pager.
The hooker nods, squeezing water from her hair with a towel.
"All right then, let's go get your hustle on."
They step outside, and Twilight slides into the back seat of the Continental. Kid Rock ignites the engine, pulls out of the motel, drives west through the intersection of Colfax and Colorado Boulevard, swerves into the gated driveway of a car dealership and extends a hand over his shoulder, like a waiter carrying a tray. Without a word, Twilight presses a wad of bills into his palm, then opens her door and gets out, teetering on her heels toward the corner of Colfax and Jackson Street.
Kid Rock is now up $800 on the night. He merges with the westbound traffic, scanning both sides of the street as he explains what it is to be a pimp. "To be a pimp, you have to be a burglar of psychology," he says. "You have to break into a bitch's head and steal her mind."
Outside on Cold Facts, two men exchange drunken blows in front an adult bookstore. Kid Rock flips through a folder of compact discs, chooses one and puts it in the car's player. "You talk to some of the older players, they'll tell you they wanted to be a pimp because they saw The Mack, or they read some Iceberg Slim or some shit. Me, I grew up listening to this shit right here."
He turns up the volume on "Pimp Shit," a track by Oakland pimp turned millionaire/hardcore rapper Too Short. Raising his voice to be heard, Kid Rock says, "This is my story, man."
I was born to mack, and at a young age
I knew I'd be a real pimp someday
So I practiced my walk and I studied the game
Some things never change, but I've elevated
When it comes to pimpin' hos, I been educated
Nodding to the beat, Kid Rock suddenly freezes his gaze. He sees her: Asia, huddled in a bus-stop shelter just east of St. Paul Street. She is just sitting there, crumpled, head between her knees, most definitely not out on the corner trying to get Kid Rock his money. He pulls up swiftly to the bus shelter and lays on his horn. Startled, she looks up and sees him. Her face contorts into a mask of fear. Glaring through the windshield and stabbing the air with his finger, the pimp gestures for her to walk around the corner onto a side street. He motors alongside her, menacingly, until they are half a block off Colfax, cigarette-flicking distance from a sign that says "Neighborhood Watch."
Kid Rock parks, gets out of his car, walks around to its back end and pops the trunk.
"Get in," he orders.
Asia looks about eighteen, maybe twenty. Kid Rock met her in March at an underground after-hours club in Maryvale, a gangland area of Phoenix. She told him she "belonged" to a local set of Crips. He charmed her into hitting the road with him. He told her he'd take care of her always, that he'd show her the sights, that it would be the two of them against the world.
"Bitch, I said get in that goddamn trunk before I peel your head back," Kid Rock tells her now.
Sobbing quietly, she shuffles forward, climbs in and curls into a fetal position. The pimp angrily slams the lid. There are two bullet holes in it, the only mars on the Lincoln's otherwise perfect exterior. Kid Rock put them there himself to prevent the women he punishes in this manner from suffocating.
"It's a damn shame," he says. "But sometimes you just have to trunk a bitch."
He turns the music back up. The bass line makes the world outside the windows shimmer.
I'm so slick I make hos turns tricks
Pimp University, class of '86
And I'm hard on a bitch, go ask my first ho
I was 17 then, now I'm 24
I'm a still be a pimp 'til the day I die
On every street corner 'til I buy a high rise
Driving up and down Colfax, listening to rap, with a terrified woman locked in his trunk, Kid Rock casually discusses the ins and outs of pricing the services of his prostitutes.
"My bitches don't get in a car for less than $100," he says. "That's the minimum charge. I ain't about to have them wearing out their knees, giving head for $20 behind a dumpster in some nasty ol' alley. My bitches are fine. They're motel hos. You take 'em to the motel, you buy one hour for $100, straight sex, and you gotta wear a jimmy hat [condom]. Half-and-half [oral sex followed by straight sex] is $150. Now, I tell a bitch, you freak a trick real good, you can make a lot more than $100, $150 at a time. You get round one out of the way, then if he wants another little taste of that honey, you make him pay for round two, round three -- you know what I'm saying?"
According to the pimp, Dominique and Twilight both work seven nights a week (he still has to force Asia to work just one). "They ask me for a night off, I tell 'em they should have been a florist." He estimates that they both turn anywhere from three to ten tricks a night, usually bringing in between $500 and $1,500 each, of which their cut is nothing. Kid Rock keeps 100 percent of the proceeds.
"I do keep control of all the money, yes, but you need to understand, I pay for everything. I pay for the nice hotel rooms we stay in. I pay for the food, for their clothes. I pay for them to get their hair done, I pay for the gasoline, I pay their bail, their fines, their lawyers' fees. I pay their medical bills, I pay for them to wire money home to their families every now and then. Shit, I pay for it all. Taking care of the money is my job. Making the money is their job. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it is."
Nearly half an hour has passed since Asia went in the trunk. Deciding she's had enough, Kid Rock eases into an alley behind the St. Paul Health Center. He kills the engine, walks back to the trunk, unlocks it, raises the lid and offers Asia his hand, like a gentleman helping a lady out of a carriage.
"Now, you gonna check in on time?"
Asia wipes her eyes and straightens her flashy red sequined top over a pair of skintight pink stretch pants, then crosses her arms over her chest. "Yes."
"Okay, now, just handle my business, get me my money, and there's not going to be no more problem."
He pulls her into a hug, then gives her a little shove toward Colfax.
"I'm going to be watching you now, so don't fuck around," he calls after her. "And remember what I told you: Don't just stand there. Move around a little."
Kid Rock backs his car into a sentry point where he can scrutinize Asia pacing in front of a liquor store. Unlike Dominique and Twlight, who wear their provocative outfits naturally, Asia looks profoundly embarrassed, as if she just walked into a black-tie party wearing a Halloween costume.
"Watch this now," the pimp says. "Fresh young thing like that, she ain't gonna be out there but five minutes."
In fact, it's only two minutes before Asia makes eye contact with a middle-aged man passing by in a maroon late-model Ford Explorer. He immediately turns the corner and idles by the curb on the other side of St. Paul. Asia crosses over and talks to the driver through the window. After a short conversation, she walks around to the passenger's side and climbs into the cabin.
Her pimp is exultant. "Ha, ha! You see that? This track is money, baby!"
Kid Rock checks his pagers. Dominique has another $150 for him.
"This city is most beneficial to my financial endeavoring," he says, shifting his luxury car from park to drive. "In Denver, there ain't no business like ho business."
Last summer and fall, Denver mayor Wellington Webb's in box was deluged with letters and e-mails from scores of mortified constituents from the South City Park neighborhood.
The following is just one, written last October by Laura Straka, a registered nurse who works at St. Anthony Central Hospital:
"Dear Mayor Webb:
This letter is in regard to the recent massive infestation of organized prostitution on Colfax Avenue.
I have lived in South City Park with my husband and two daughters (ages 8 and 6) for the past 13 years, and the situation has gotten noticeably worse: Summer of 2001, 15 prostitutes arrived from Missouri. Every night my street, the 1500 block of Jackson, turns into a parade grounds for men driving their cars around & around my block, waiting to take their pathetic turn with a hooker. At times the line of cars is six deep, with others parked further down, engines off, "waiting for a friend.' This is disgusting and I am tired of putting up with it.
The prostitutes use the driveway at John Elway Ford on Jackson Street as their personal revolving door. There, they are dropped off by their loser customers and are picked up by the next. I don't know where the term 'streetwalker' comes from -- here in our little part of Denver, all you have to do to earn $1,500 per night is stand in that John Elway driveway.
My husband and I chase these vermin off as much as possible -- venturing outside yelling, "Get off our street." This usually works for about three minutes. Our latest plague of 19 hookers has just arrived from L.A. The sheer number of these losers is staggering!
I work from 6:45 a.m. to 7:25 p.m. as an R.N. Guess what lovely sights greet me each morning as I walk to my car and each night as I return home: vile horny men trolling for whores. It is just so gross.
It needs to be stopped."
Pamela Corvelli couldn't agree more.
"Last summer, it was like something just opened up and dumped on our neighborhood," says Corvelli, who represents South City Park on the Denver Police Department's District 2 Citizens' Advisory Board as well as on the Colfax Corridor Crime Coalition. "We had to put out notices reminding people to keep their porch lights on, because otherwise their porches would get used as motels. Every morning, there were used condoms in our front yards and along our sidewalks, where they'd been tossed out of cars. It was nauseating."
Corvelli is affectionately known among some Colfax hookers as "that crazy broom bitch" because of her peculiar vigilante tendencies. "I call it 'going on broom patrol,'" she says. "Me and this other lady, we get out our brooms, and we'll go walking around the neighborhood at night, and if we see hookers and their johns, we'll chase them away with our brooms. We throw dirt clods at them, too, especially if we catch them in the act."
Recognizing that earth bombs and broomsticks are at best a short-term solution, Corvelli helped organize a letter-writing and calling campaign at the tail end of last year's hooker high season. This motivated Denver City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, who represents South City Park, to call an emergency neighborhood meeting last November. In attendance were high-ranking officers from the DPD's vice bureau, representatives of the Denver City Attorney's Office, and Raymond Satter, Denver County Court's presiding judge, along with Wedgeworth and many angry area residents.
"It was basically an open, informal forum to have the neighbors be able to finally talk to these officials directly," says Wedgeworth. "Some of it was venting, but there was a serious discussion in terms of specific ways to alleviate this growing problem."
The people of South City Park pleaded with Judge Satter to direct the Denver County judges under his purview to begin heaping more jail time upon prostitution offenders. They wanted to see more thirty- and sixty-day sentences, and they wanted to see them right away.
"I think it was a very eye-opening experience for Judge Satter, because they told him in no uncertain terms, 'Your judges need to be giving stronger sentences,'" says Wedgeworth. "Because at least with the johns, when they're caught, their cars are impounded, so there's a real punishment there. Where with the prostitutes, especially when they're from out of state, they don't really care when they get caught, because nothing really bad happens to them -- because, frankly, there's nowhere to put all these prostitutes for a month each and every time they're arrested."
Denver's antiquated city jail is so consistently packed beyond capacity that convicted prostitutes are often released early to make room for more dangerous criminals. Denver voters last November shot down a city proposal to build a new, $325 million jail. And although the number of prostitutes on Colfax has risen, the number of arrests has stayed the same or gone down, according to police statistics, in large part because the police don't want to invest the time and effort into booking women who won't do any serious time. In 2000, there were 404 prostitues arrested in Denver, along with 291 johns; in 2001, there were only 373 prostitution arrests and 309 arrests of johns.
"It's a frustrating situation for everyone, because Judge Satter's response to the neighbors was basically, 'I know what you're saying, and I'd love to lock them up, but where?'" Wedgeworth adds.
Another idea floated at the November parley, which South City Park activists have since seized upon, was that of enacting a city ordinance making it illegal for convicted prostitutes to walk on East Colfax. Similar "prostitution free zone" laws have been passed in recent years in Portland, Oregon; Orlando, Florida; and in Aurora. These ordinances have withstood court challenges arguing that it is unconstitutional for a city to ban a specific individual from a public place. The Aurora ordinance, drafted in 1993, has been credited with drastically reducing the number of prostitutes working on Colfax between Yosemite and Peoria streets.
"Since passing this measure, the number of prostitution arrests in Aurora has dropped from an average one a day to one or two a week," says Aurora city attorney George Zierk. "We credit our area restriction in large part for that decrease." (Another factor may be that the Aurora Sentinel publishes the mug shots of johns who are arrested during stings, something Corvelli has suggested to Denver newspapers without much luck, though Mayor Webb has endorsed the idea.)
One criticism of area restriction ordinances, however, is that they don't necessarily put a halt to street prostitution so much as shift it around.
"We recognize that this might just make them go somewhere else, but from our perspective, at least they'd be out of our neighborhood and out of their comfort zone," says Corvelli. "We just want something to happen, and we've learned that in dealing with government, it helps if you have one thing you want to push, so that when you're asked, 'Okay, but what do you want us to do about it?' You can say, 'This.'"
And Corvelli has been pushing. In January she met with Mayor Webb, and earlier this month she put together packets containing another round of complaint letters, plus a petition with 36 pages of signatures, "front and back," in support of the proposed ordinance. The packets were sent to the mayor, city council members, police officials, county judges and the city attorney's office, where the ordinance was already well on its way to being approved.
"We've completed an analysis of legality and whether we could defend [the area restriction] if it was challenged, and we have concluded that it is defensible," says Jim Thomas, manager of the city attorney's prosecution group. "The element we're looking at now is exactly how we're going to enforce it. That's the piece that still needs to fall into place before we move forward."
Last Monday, DPD vice-unit supervisor Sergeant Mark Fleecs and several of his senior officers met with Thomas to begin to formulate an enforcement strategy. "The key here is we're going to be able to involve uniformed officers in prostitution enforcement for a change," says Sergeant Fleecs. "Due to the nature of the crime, prostitution investigations usually require an undercover operation," which is costly and requires a large investment of manpower. Once an area restriction is in effect, Fleecs says, uniformed officers on routine patrol who see a woman on Colfax they suspect of engaging in prostitution activity can stop to question her, run her name, and arrest her if it turns out she is a convicted prostitute on probation. As for when he expects the city to approve the area restriction measure, Fleecs says, "As soon as possible, I hope. We're coming up on prime time."
Other cities with prostitution free zone laws, including Aurora, impose the area restriction as a condition of bail as well as probation. This means that in those cities, a person who is arrested for prostitution, pleads not guilty and is out on bail awaiting trial is banned from the same city-defined "high prostitution area" as convicted prostitutes.
"We've closely looked at that issue, but we're reluctant to make [the area restriction] a condition of bond because of the presumption of innocence," says Thomas.
What it all boils down to is this: Once the new Denver ordinance takes effect, any individual who pleads guilty to, or is convicted by a jury of, a prostitution charge will be prohibited from being on East Colfax Avenue. If they're caught on Colfax, it would constitute a violation of their probation, which could send them to jail.
Except, of course, that there's no room in the city jail for prostitutes. Corvelli, who confesses she voted against the city's proposal to build a new jail last year, says, "That's not a viable excuse. We feel the city could rent space in a state or county facility that does have room. Also, we feel that in the beginning, there will be a large influx that needs jail space, but then, as word of the area restriction spreads, the prostitutes won't be here. They'll leave, because Denver will lose its reputation as a prostitution-friendly town."
The lack of jail space might also be rendered a moot point by the passage of a harsh "three strikes" state law like the one in Texas, which incarcerates repeat offenders in state prisons rather than local jails. Corvelli says the idea received a cold reception in the State Capitol, whose gold dome on a recent sunny afternoon shone down on half-a-dozen prostitutes working the western edge of the Cold Facts track.
"We've approached our state representatives, and we didn't get much of an encouraging response," says Corvelli. "They directed us back to our city council."
State representative Rosemary Marshall, who represents residential areas on both sides of East Colfax, says, "It's important for state lawmakers to be very careful not to do anything to supersede the city's authority to deal with this on a local level." However, Marshall says she's researching the Texas law as well as other recently enacted statewide prostitution measures. "My plan is to do something legislatively next year," she adds. State senator Penfield Tate, who represents the same neighborhoods, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment for this story,
Lieutenant Mark Leone says he likes the idea of making a third prostitution conviction a felony in Colorado, but he doesn't think it will ever happen, since prostitution in Colorado is viewed as Denver's problem.
"Gunnison doesn't care about the working girls in Denver, and Gunnison doesn't want to pay to enforce state prison time for a girl who's selling her tail on East Colfax," he says. "As a practical matter, I just don't think we're going to see much of anything instituted as a statewide measure."
Arguably, the best solution to the problem of prostitution in Denver is the one with the least chance of being realized: legalize it.
"In our neighborhood, after what we've experienced, to be honest with you, I think most of us would like to see prostitution legalized, taxed and licensed, so we get the gals off the streets and into homes," says Corvelli.
"Where I grew up, in southern Oklahoma, the town brothel was down the street and around a corner, and you never saw the gals. The rules were on the front door: 'No smoking, no alcohol, you must be clean-shaven, and no boots in bed.' The windows were heavily draped, and it was just never a problem. I don't see why we couldn't do that here. At the very least, it would get rid of the pimps."
Leone would love to do that. "The pimps are modern-day slavers," he says. "And they're proud of it." The cop references an article in the April issue of Scientific American, "The Social Psychology of Modern Slavery."
Part of it reads:
"A commonality among different forms of modern slavery is the psychological manipulation they all involve. The widely held conception of a slave is someone in chains who would escape if they had half a chance. That view is naive. Force, violence, and coercion have convinced most slaves to accept their condition. When slaves begin to accept their role and identity with their master, constant physical bondage becomes unnecessary. They come to perceive their situation not as a deliberate action taken to harm them but as part of the normal, if regrettable, scheme of the world."
"You find a lot of the same attitudes in the pimp-to-prostitute relationship," Leone says. Which is what makes it so hard to bust pimps on a felony charge of furthering prostitution. "We've got the laws already; the only problem is proving it."
Leone uses Kid Rock as an example. "I could pull him over for the illegally altered suspension on his vehicle. And say I find him with $3,000 in cash, two women dressed like hookers and a phone book with a dozen girls' phone numbers. So what? To make a case against him, we have to prove his income comes from prostitution activity. To prove his income comes from prostitution, we need a prostitute who will testify against him," explains Leone.
"Pimps have these girls so brainwashed, that hardly ever happens. The only time I've ever known a girl to turn on her pimp is when that pimp's other girls start showing up dead. Then they come to us. Otherwise, they're loyal to the end."
There is a billboard above Colfax, just east of Monaco Parkway, offering $200 to any cocaine-addicted woman who will undergo either sterilization or a long-term surgical birth-control procedure paid for by the California-based organization C.R.A.C.K. (Children Require a Caring Kommunity).
Laticia, a Denver streetwalker, pays this billboard no mind as she marches beneath it toward Motel 9. To her way of thinking, $200 at some point in the future is nothing compared to the $20 in the pocket of her grimy blue jeans, money she just earned for performing oral sex on a man in the front seat of his car. Twenty dollars will buy Laticia three rocks of cocaine at Motel 9. Three rocks are enough to keep her high for about an hour, maybe two if she rations carefully, which she always tells herself she will and then never does.
This is Laticia's life: Suck a dick for $20, buy crack, get high, crash, repeat.
Licking her lips in anticipation, she arrives at Motel 9, at Colfax and Xanthia Street. On the sidewalk outside is another crack whore who has been less lucky finding customers this night. She senses Laticia has money and begins begging her like a subterranean Wimpy imploring Popeye: "I will gladly pay you Thursday for a hit of crack today."
Except her line is, "Help me out with one. Come on, girl, you know I'll get you back. Come on, now, come on." The crack fiend's eyes are those of a panicked horse.
Brushing the woman aside, Laticia makes her way through the milling throng of crackheads and hustlers in the Motel 9 parking lot and into a brightly lit room with an open door flanked by stony-faced men positioned like sentries outside a palace. Five minutes pass. Laticia comes out of the room in notably better spirits, tucking a blackened glass pipe into the sleeve of her blue-and-white-checked flannel shirt. She passes the motel office on her way back to Colfax. There's a weathered sign next to the office door that reads: "To serve you best we work hard because we're Motel 9."
Feeling chatty now, Laticia entertains questions. She says she's from Denver and is pretty sure she's 29. This is harsh if true, because Laticia looks older, much older.
"I've been selling my pussy for going on five years," she says. "And I've never been arrested, not once. I'm too voodoo for them police." She doesn't have a pimp, exactly, though male crackheads will steer business her way for a percentage should they chance across a Colfax john scraping for a bargain, which happens fairly often.
"A lot of the white boys who come down here, they're looking for some crack, and then they're looking to get their dick sucked, usually in that order," she says. "They just want to handle everything right there in their car. They don't want to be messing around with no motel room or any of that shit."
Laticia's painfully aware of her out-of-town competition, the circuit girls. She says that two summers ago, or maybe last summer -- she's a little hazy on the timeline -- she was getting her hustle on across the street from three circuit girls on the corner of Colfax and Steele Street. She was undercutting them on prices and taking away business until their pimp told her to beat it, then slapped her silly when she told him to go to hell, that Denver was her town. The hostile pimp threatened to rape her with a hot curling iron if he caught her whoring on "his side" of Colorado Boulevard again.
Many other native crack whores have been similarly beaten and threatened, according to Laticia, and with no pimps to defend them, they've had to accept the terms of an uneasy truce. The circuit girls work wherever they want, and the crack whores stay east of Colorado Boulevard. Laticia says the pimps use "tudge boys," street slang for hired enforcers, not only to rough up circuit girls who get out of line, but also to patrol Colfax, looking for crack whores out of bounds.
"Those nasty pimp motherfuckers -- they don't want to do their dirty work themselves, so if they catch you slipping, they'll sic a tudge boy on your ass," she explains.
Laticia's derision is not reserved solely for pimps. She has no love for their circuit girls, either.
"They show up here thinking they're all that, looking down on me like they're better because they're wearing some damn miniskirt and a fake necklace their man bought them, when you know he's wearing the real gold," she says with a snort. "I don't need a man, don't want one. My pimp is Mr. Crack."
Motel 9 was only twenty minutes ago, but Laticia is already getting jittery, not as interested in talking. She's walking west on the south side of Colfax, passing a succession of pager and cell-phone stores owned by Salvadorans where Kid Rock rotates out his four phones and six pagers every other week. She stops to check out the window display in one of the three clothing boutiques in the stretch between Colorado and Monaco that specialize in the hip-hop "hoochie mama" look: hot pants, miniskirts, glitter tops. Kid Rock is a regular customer here.
"The way they dress, they're targets," Laticia says.
She looks down at her own casual garb -- denim and flannel -- outstretches her arms for a moment, then shakes her head and keeps on, blending in with the other creatures of the Colfax night.
Half an hour later and five miles west, Kid Rock is munching a plate of French fries -- Dominique's favorite forbidden snack -- in a booth at Tom's Diner. It's a little after 1 a.m., and he's made $1,300 in the last six hours. It's been five nights since he "trunked" Asia. "She's coming along," he says, swabbing a fry through a pool of ketchup.
The pimp wipes his hands with a napkin, stands up, peels a ten-dollar bill off a fat money roll, drops it on the table, and nonchalantly struts out to his Lincoln. A little bit later, he passes Dominique at her usual post outside the 7-Eleven and taps his horn twice, just to let her know he's there.
A pager rattles on his belt. He picks it up, looks at it and says, "Aw, shit, what now?" It's an emergency page from Asia. She's at the Lazy-C Motor Lodge, next door to Motel 9, and she's in trouble. The pimp punches the accelerator and rockets through the Colorado intersection at sixty miles per hour. He gets to the motel, runs up to a room and starts pounding on the door. No one answers, and the pimp steps back to kick in the door. But just then, Asia calls to him through the open window of the room three doors down. Inside, Kid Rock finds her in bad shape. Her neck's scratched, one of her cheeks is puffy and crimson, and her bottom lip is ruptured and leaking blood, which has been smeared all over her face like war paint.
The pimp is livid. He storms around the room, chanting, "Motherfucker! Motherfucker! Motherfucker!" Then he catches his breath, calms himself and kneels beside Asia, who's sitting on the bed, tears cutting streaks through the blood.
"What happened, baby?"
"I didn't want to do what he wanted me to do, and he started to hit me."
Kid Rock gently questions her, and the story unfolds: Asia picked up a date, a white man driving a new blue Cadillac DeVille (Kid Rock trains his girls to pay close attention to the kind of cars they get in, believing undercover cops favor certain makes and models). She brought the trick to the motel room, whereupon he told her he wanted "Greek," meaning anal sex. She refused and he choked her, then waved a $100 bill in her face -- he'd already given her one "Benjamin" in the car -- and repeated his request. She again refused, and he began to backhand her across the face, rubbing his crotch while he did so. Then he left, and she paged.
"I'm sorry he did this to you," says Kid Rock when she's finished. "We'll find him, and then he'll be sorry, too." The pimp leaves the room to get some ice and make a few phone calls to other pimps, alerting them to the "bad date" in the blue Cadillac. Kid Rock believes the man who attacked Asia is likely to go right back to Colfax to pick up another hooker, and if his whereabouts can be known, Kid Rock would very much like to meet him.
Asia washes off her face in the bathroom, then sits back down on the bed. With Kid Rock out of the room, she recalls aloud going to several "Pimp 'n' Ho" theme parties at all-ages clubs when she was in her middle teens, how she dressed up like a hooker and dangled on the arm of a high school friend who acted like her pimp. She remembers this and laughs, but there is no joy in it. She stares at the ceiling and asks it a question.
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