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Call me madam

Call me madam


Phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the "D.C. Madam," revealed that a morally righteous Republican senator had used her Washington escort service. Who's next?

When outspoken "family values" supporter David Vitter--a Republican senator from Louisiana who has voted against same-sex marriage and adoption by gays--was exposed in July as a former client of "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he became the biggest casualty to date in the ongoing Madamgate scandal. Last March, Palfrey, 50, was indicted on federal money-laundering charges for allegedly operating a prostitution business in Washington from 1993 to August 2006. She claims her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, which she ran from her home in Vallejo, Calif., was a legal high-end adult fantasy firm.

So she's been fighting fire with fire: In July she posted 46 pounds of phone bills on her Web site, the better for interested parties (like the Hustler magazine journalist who broke the Vitter news) to suss out the movers and shakers among her top secret clientele. She spoke to The Advocate at a cafe near her home.

So who's next after Vitter? There will be more names coming out, names of people below the level of Senator Vitter. These are the people who are the real power movers in D.C., who are responsible for our current state of affairs.

Were most of your clients Republicans? Of late, I would say that's more true than not. But you have to remember that my business spanned two administrations. This is a bipartisan kind of business. All of this could fall out either way.

For many gay people, the real issue is not that someone like Vitter used an escort service, but his hypocrisy. I only knew him as "David from C Street." But what bothers me now is the issue of what constitutes family. There are so many kids in need of a family, and whatever family means, it's wrong for him to deny children a home when there are gay men and lesbians who want to provide them.

Is there a bigger story here? The bigger story is, What started this? I apparently was under a Hoover-style investigation with the government gathering evidence and building up a file from March 2004 until they pulled the trigger last October. They watched me. They spied on me. They were running grand jury subpoenas to gather evidence on me. In these days of diminishing rights, this is very troubling.

What do you think they were looking for? I think they--whoever "they" are--thought I was sitting on a powder keg of information, which is starting to prove to be true. I think they wanted to use the information for some future political reason or maybe to squeeze me in some manner. It's either this, which sounds kind of extreme, or these are the most incompetent, dysfunctional people I have ever encountered in my life.

Your legal defense is centered on Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down gay sodomy laws on the basis that what two adults do in private is private. Does this make you feel more of an affinity with the gay community? Absolutely. I always thought prostitution was the next barrier after homosexuality. I always thought once gays were accepted that the next barrier would be prostitution. According to my civil attorney, the [Lawrence] case is the foundation upon which prostitution will be legalized in this country. And that is one of our main motions.

Do you ever wish you had had a different type of career? Would I like to have done other things? I'd like to think that when this is all over I'll have done one heck of a job for a lot of people exposing corruption. And that would be better than any career I could have imagined, really.

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