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A gigolo?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not the first one. Well, maybe the first one. What do you think?

December 21, 1889. — My dear friend, who sent the money and letter on Monday, I may never lay eyes on you again, but I ask you, for God's sake, to write me, if only one word; my heart is breaking. H.

Gentleman, highest testimonials, disengaged, offers services to any lady requiring aid as detective, escort, manager or agent; in any capacity where confidence and diplomacy are requisite. Address LOYAL, Herald.

Color me skeptical. The first one is just really sad. But I wonder what the deal is. What is the money and letter? And if the dear friend sent a letter, why does H. still need a word? I don't know if this person was actually a gigolo (or a female escort, whatever), but if not, what's the money all about? All questions, no answers, as is always the way. My heart always goes out to these poor people.

But of course it's the one right below that really intrigues me. Dude says he'll be a detective, manager, or agent, but it's the "escort" that catches the eye, isn't it? An escort back then, I think, was just that - I don't know that it had acquired the double meaning it has today. But just the whole proposition seems sketchy. And no mention either of, say, a fee? I mean, is he offering to do this for free, just out of the kindness of his heart? Why only women? Men need detectives too sometimes. And why does he sign himself "Loyal"? That's a bit odd for someone who's offering to be your manager or agent. Obviously you want your agent or whatever to be loyal to your interests...but it just doesn't seem quite right. No, my feeling is that the detective, manager, and agent is just thrown in there to create a veneer of respectability for what his real confidential service was.

Now it could be legit, and maybe I'd even buy it, but just yesterday I was looking at personals from about ten years later, just after the turn of the century, in which there were ads like these (unfortunately, no scanned copies at the moment so you'll just have to take word for it): “Attractive college man offers confidential services to lady of refinement,” and “Gentleman of discretion, education and refinement would serve wealthy maid or widow in any confidential capacity.”

Oh yeah. Just imagine how that went over back in the day!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


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