Anyone who hoped that the closure of News of the World might usher in a new era of responsible journalism is in for a big disappointment. This week, it was revealed that the producers of The Only Way Is Essex and Made In Chelsea are working on a new reality show that follows the adventures of five girls on the lookout for wealthy businessmen who can offer them 'financial assistance'. The air-quotes around 'financial assistance' are particularly telling since, by all accounts, any transactions taking place will be predominantly nightstand-based.
Maybe I'm counting my tricks before they've matched, but it certainly seems as though the producers are looking to cast their newest stars from the world's oldest profession. Leading the charge (and happy to charge for it), is Helen Wood, the escort who slept with Wayne Rooney - but not the one who looked like Ena Sharples after a heavy night on the milk stout.
There's one law for rich men - however badly they behave - and quite another for the women they sleep with.
She may only be 24, but Wood is clearly no push-over - that's an extra fifty - she even wrote an article for The Spectator earlier this year, in which she accused the law of a staggering double-standard when it comes to granting injunctions: "I've had many famous clients, so I was almost offended when an actor slapped an injunction on me. My first thought was outrage that he'd think I'd blab... I was never going to talk. When the papers started sniffing around, I applied for an injunction myself, but guess what? I was rejected. So there's one law for rich men - however badly they behave - and quite another for the women they sleep with."
Despite claiming that she'd hung up her escort gear, and was planning to write a tell-all memoir about the world she "briefly occupied", it appears that she's ready to go back on the fame game. Which is why she and four others will be trailed by cameras as they attempt to secure the benefaction of businessmen.
According to a story in The Mirror, the new series was inspired by a dating website called seekingarrangement.com which successfully partners rich men with 'sugar babies'. The site is full of cheap photo library images of silver foxes waving fans of hundred dollar bills, as well as testimonials from satisfied customers like 'Successful CEO', who boasts "I am a very busy man. After using Seeking Arrangement, I met my sugar babies who have brought joy, excitement and passion to my life. Hugh Hefner isn’t the only man who is living the Playboy dream."
Likewise, the girls seem equally happy with the set-up, with 'College Sophomore' proudly declaring "My current arrangement is wonderful. Unlike other cash strapped students, I am pampered with expensive gifts. My sugar daddy is the sweetest man I know. He is my mentor, my benefactor and my lover."
Hugh Hefner isn’t the only man who is living the Playboy dream.
And it must work, because the wily entrepreneurs behind the site have even claimed exclusive ownership of the term 'Mutually Beneficial Relationships', suggesting that anyone not paying by the hour is just kidding themselves if they think that they and their partner are happy and contented. To make matters worse, they're probably in breach of the trademark too.
As for Helen and her co-whorts, the show promises to give us an inside peek into the "exciting, lavish lifestyle" that can be provided by the right kind of arrangement, and it would appear that Channel 4 is chomping at the ball-gag to commission a full series. According to the paper's inside source, "They feel that with the headlines that Helen created from her work as an escort girl, she is perfect to be the face of the new programme." Although I doubt whether it's her face that anyone's particularly interested in.
Forget about 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' and its tabloid-friendly titillation, this is the real deal. Although I have to question who in their right mind, would consider going on camera to admit that they're paying their arm candy to laugh at their jokes and feed them those little blue pills. Then again, it didn't seem to stop people happily appearing on Showtime's recent cable hit 'Gigolos'. That show focused on the all-male Cowboys4Angels escort agency, and depicted its stars giving their female clients the full service.
Interestingly, the pilot episode explained the legal fig leaf that helps escorts negotiate the thorny issue of prostitution: "We are a companion service and clients pay a rate per hour. First thing you're gonna do is collect the money from the client and then from there, whatever happens between you two is two consenting adults. It's illegal for you to take any money after that for any sort of sexual services or whatever." To paraphrase the Bard, aye there's the rub-n-tug.
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