Girls on film
How one man takes the city's prostitutes and gives them their 15 minutes of fame
Published: July 3, 2012
There are two houses standing alone on this side street, surrounded by waist-high grass. Both are whorehouses.
John Juan is here for a photo session. A woman greets him at the door of the blue house on the corner. Her pimp watches from the porch of the white house next door. "He's like the house dad," she explains. "He's a sweetheart."
Two hookers are here today. There's Michelle, 41, the woman at the door. She smokes crack. And Sarah, who's 24. She likes heroin. Both offer the same, simple reason for their occupation. "Drugs," they say in tandem, then giggle. A little mirror with wisps of white powder on it sits on a table.
Several women live here rent-free, in a neighborhood that's become the city's most popular spot for street hookers. All they have to do is pay their landlord, the man on the neighbor's porch, $10 for every "date" they bring home, and they can stay there between johns.
Their house is old and battered inside after years without house cleaning or basic repairs. It's sparsely furnished, with dingy old couches, a nicked-up dining room table, an old stove and fridge in the kitchen, yellowed curtains torn on their edges, and well-used mattresses in the bedrooms. "This is as ghetto as it gets," Michelle says.
She's blond, too thin and has scabbed sores covering her chest and stomach. She was a mom from Oakland County before her addiction sent her tumbling down to the John R hooker strip five years ago. She matter-of-factly talks about her 19-year-old son in college, and another who's a senior in high school. She doesn't see them much.
Sarah is 24, brunet, not at all skinny, and she's worked the streets for eight years. She's the one who invited John Juan here. Michelle never met him but didn't have any qualms about the photo session. "I don't care what it's for," she says. "No problem, honey." Neither ask him for money in return.
Their workplace is just feet from their front steps, along John R, where they stand and wait until someone stops, which doesn't take long because the road is swarming with single men cruising back and forth.
Peak hours, the women say, are midnight to 4 a.m., when the drunks pass through; from 3-5 p.m., when everyone's on their way home from their jobs; and 5-7 a.m., when guys are heading into work. "That's the best time too," Michelle notes, "because they gotta be at work, so you can get quick blow jobs for $20 and you can turn them over really fast."
They've taken all their clothes off and stand before a dirty plaster wall, bending over, touching each other and themselves, pouting for the camera, giggling. John Juan shoots dozens of photos and a few videos; some on a camera, some on his phone. When he's done, after about 15 minutes, the two women come over for a look. "Aww, them are cute," Michelle says of the stark photos. Sarah smiles. Both thank him in sing-song voices. And John Juan packs up to go.
Outside, their landlord still watches suspiciously from the porch next door, and there's a tall, thin hooker in a black dress standing with him. As John Juan heads to the sidewalk, she follows him, and the two of them walk off together on a private adventure that, tomorrow, everyone can see for themselves.
Detroitblogger John is John Carlisle. He scours the Motor City for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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