"Hi, we have five very pretty girls, two brunettes, a redhead and two very busty blondes. It's 95 for the hour, 75 for the half hour. That includes french and straight, coming twice in the hour, once in the half hour."
Based on the author's 9 month job as a "phone girl," the story begins as the day begins in a whorehouse on the east side of Manhattan. Girls arriving with garter belts stuffed in discount drugstore bags, cigarette packs being torn open, condoms counted, coffee shop menus studied. The phones ring and Jeannie the "head phone girl" sets up her desk with sacks of candy, stacks of books. Men enter the living room to choose from a circle of alternately sullen, stoned, or friendly girls. The rejects troop back into the scuzzy office to smoke and gossip as the phones ring and ring and Jeannie's little girl voice in the background promises . . . everything.
The whorehouse is the constant. The whorehouse doesn't change. We see glimpses into some of the lives of the "pretty girls"—Joanne lives in Queens and reads Soap Opera Digest voraciously, Cathy was abused by her stepfather, left home, and sends her five year old to a private school and buys him books and musical instruments. Jeannie the phone girl is obese, funny, smart, kind of wonderful and trapped in the underworld by her fear of life. She sits at the desk in her dirty sweatpants, in love, selflessly, with the pale-eyed prepster pimp.
The whorehouse eventually loses its lurid "Kojak-episode" glamour for us, but not for the new girl, young Amanda—miserable, privileged, out for danger. It's the employment equivalent of a black leather jacket. She gets a job there as a phone girl. Like a ball thrown into a roulette wheel, she is spun around beyond her control, and is finally thrown free, changed.
And the whorehouse goes on, there is never a shortage of whatever it takes that keeps it going. For these girls, part of them can't go home again and another part doesn't want to, paying with innocence for the wisdom of experience.
FIVE VERY PRETTY GIRLS is a first-hand account of the tragic yet comic lives, dreams, and harsh realities of life in a whorehouse.
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