Like the best of life’s journeys, it started when Alberto was watching TV. Showtime’s Gigolos, specifically.
The glamour, the excitement, and of course, the stories being a gigolo was no 9 to 5. It was an enticing prospect. He wouldn’t be grousing about his unreasonable boss, his unmanageable hours or the daily grind (sparing the double-entendres). Fluorescent tubes and idle chit-chat would give way to neon lights, dapper evenings and that ever-elusive “human connection”.
It never occurred to him that only a year later, he’d be abound in those same stories; the impromptu Romeo to her Juliet, the Clyde to her Bonnie – whoever she needed that night tonight, this he would be. It never occurred to him that, as he made his way out of a failed modelling audition, the woman who slid him her card for escort work had given him the first push on a journey that would take him to Lisbon, Paris and Berlin.
The guys on Gigolos didn’t even leave Vegas.
“It’s actually very hard to make a living modelling,” Alberto explains. He’s not sorry things didn’t work out. “There’s a lot of rejection, a lot of auditioning and most of it is boring.” Escorting, he explains, is much more lucrative and fun as far as he’s concerned.
On the surface, the “fun” seems obvious. Wherever polite society has shifted over the years, both sex and payment have largely remained “thumbs up” events in most cases. Coupled with the thrill of adopting a new persona every night, it’s not hard to see why Alberto won’t be leaving his night job any time soon.
His main gig is with Gentlemen4Hire (G4H), the longest-running and most prolific male escort service in the UK. In G4H’s service, Alberto extends the longest-standing, most necessary service in human history: No, not that one. Companionship.
“Clients can be women coming out of relationships and looking for a confidence boost, or aren’t ready for a proper relationship yet, or just want to ease themselves back into the dating scene,” says Alberto, noting often they’ve got an upcoming event they’d rather not attend alone. His clients, typically women within the 30 – 50 age range, want men willing to understand their circumstances and needs. “Sometimes they’re people who’ve come out of difficult or abusive relationships, and are looking to rebuild.” He adds that often, they’re just women looking for some fun through a safe, controlled channel.
Once a date’s been set, Alberto awaits instruction from the client: where he’s heading (often a wedding or upper-echelon social event), how he’s going to dress, and most importantly, who he’s going to be.
“Usually it’s just to pretending to be their new boyfriend,” he says. That fresh new love can take many forms, however. One night he’s a businessman or “accomplished stock broker”, the next he’s pretending to be a West End actor. He doesn’t usually prepare much for these roles, as he rarely has to. “I try not to get involved in any conversations about me or the client when talking with their peers. Most people are happy talking about themselves anyway,” he says, relieved. “I had a client who wanted me to dress up as her dead husband, and another who wanted me to dance like Channing Tatum in Magic Mike.” Those required some research, Alberto admits.
It’s not all dancing and roleplaying, of course… though G4H is careful not to advertise sex as part of the service, there’s a wink/nudge clause among escorts that allow for “extras” once both client and contractor have established a base level of comfort with one another, usually after a couple of dates. “They start off as non-sexual bookings, with things like dinner, drinks, theatre and so on,” explains Alberto. “However, as some clients become regulars or clients I get from other advertising I do offer ‘extras’.” While intimacy is an unspoken part of the package, he prioritizes companionship and connection as integral elements when making that happen. “Generally, women want to have a couple of bookings before we take things further.”
When all feels right, Alberto says there’s little left off the table. “In regards to what I offer, it’s pretty much anything. I’m happy to fulfill women’s fantasies.” While requests for the “normal” outweigh the adventurous, he says some clients enjoy features like toys or roleplay – though he’s living more of the “Showtime” life, he’s entertained clients fond of HBO’s Game of Thrones as the Khal Drogo to his partner’s Khaleesi. “One even bought the costumes and wigs. We took many photos, and for the rest of the hour she laid in my arms and we just talked about the show.”
But even if it’s just for an evening, Alberto says you don’t get to play Khal without looking the part; to keep up with client expectations, the muscles are a deal-breaker. “People are in much better shape than they were 20 years ago,” he says. “A six-pack is a must, and you’ve got to be well-groomed, with white teeth, nice hair and the like.” A sting to the regular Joe Six-pack, he adds that “If you have trouble getting with women in ‘real life’, you won’t be able to charge them for it.” He goes to the gym most days, keeping up with cardio and weight exercises while eating healthy and drinking little. He also keeps his tan at presentation level via sunbed whenever possible.
Social expectations can weigh heavy too. While he’s not concerned with the opinions of strangers (most of the time, they don’t know he’s at work), Alberto admits that peers and loved ones don’t hold his profession in high esteem. “I’m more concerned about the disapproval of family and friends,” he laments, warning that escort work isn’t something you put on your resume, however elite your service. “It could make it difficult for anyone to get a normal office job after something like this. There’s less stigma for me than there is for female escorts, but it’s still not the kind of thing you broadcast.”
Societal cock-blockery aside, Alberto champions the connections he makes as being the best part of his job. “Getting paid to do something I’d happily do anyway is great,” saying he finds many of his clients as interesting as they are challenging.
One such challenge came early in Alberto’s career, in the form of a divorcee in her late 30s. She was a successful business professional who’d requested he join her at a bachelorette party she wasn’t apt to attend alone. “She was tough as nails,” he recalls. But found re-entering the dating world particularly difficult, and he could see within five minutes why. Be it politics, sports, pop culture or – of course – business, she could out-talk and outwit his standard-issue charm at every turn. “I knew I was losing ground fast. Each manoeuvre went to waste.” He could see the disappointment mounting on her face, quietly reconsidering her choice as the night meandered on.
Then, hanging on a single sentence, he caught his break.
“She complained about the music,” Alberto says. From there, the inner “gentleman” overtook him. He approached the DJ, politely invited him to step it up a notch and asked her to join him on the dance floor. Swinging and swooning, the hours spent honing his Tatum-level performance quickly made him the man she paid for. “We became the stars of the dance floor. Everyone was watching as I took her into my arms.”
“She’s now my biggest and most generous client,” he says. She’s since taken him across the world as her companion, and looks after him as much as he does for her.
Alberto tells this story and others like it to enlighten the casual commenter, who might deride his profession as solely sex work while ignoring the nuances of his relationships. “I love meeting these people. I love the flexibility of it. I love that I only see repeat clients if I actually enjoy spending time with them.”
“It’s 100 times better than sitting behind a computer in an office.”
And surely, the Gigolos boys would agree.