If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times before. Ya know…an American escort who’s gonna write a book…or be a rap star…or somehow prove to the world that she’s actually a creative soul trapped in an undignified profession. But the sad truth is that it just never happens unless one of the girls ends up showing her ass in a rap video…or her attitude in a reality show. But there once actually was a stripper (I know…not an escort but close) who became a big time songwriter with not one…not two…but three #1 pop hits. Her name was PAM SAWYER – and the story goes like this:
Long ago before I was even a twinkle in the eye of my mother and father, a young arranger (Woody Herman Band) and a recent Barnard College graduate met at a wedding. They got married, had two children (my brother and me), and settled into an unglamorous life on Long Island. Shortly after the marriage, my old man’s music career went south and he opened up a television sales and fix-it shop to support the family.
Mom wasn’t real happy having a blue collar/dirt-under-his-fingernails husband. She married a musician and was planning on meeting a lot of famous people, But instead, she found herself scrimping, saving and meeting nobody! After about 10 or 15 years of what had to be a cookie-cutter suburban marriage neither parent was that fond of, my father somehow found himself a crappy arranging gig – but one that required he travel to England to make the tracks. The union scales were much lower for the orchestra in the UK, and as there would be dozens of orchestral players involved, it made sense to ship Popsicle across the pond to save on the tab.
So his employer actually put dad on an ocean liner and to this day, I can remember seeing the old man off. As the ship pulled out, Pop kept running toward the stern, waving excitedly at the three of us. And that was the beginning of the end of our family. Now we get to the stripper made good part!
While away for literally months recording all this music, the old man strolled into a strip joint to entertain himself. (I knew nothing about this until much later in life when he confided the truth about his relationship with his second wife.) Back in those days, the rule in merry old England was if the girls danced, they couldn’t be fully nude. But if they stood still like statues, the “performers” could be topless. Pam was an 18 year old, 5′ 10″, 38DD statue. Pop got one look at her and the rest was history. He gamed his way into her pants and impregnated a 19 year old teenager – all while he was still married to my mother.
Well, to shorten the story, daddi-o came back for a spell, but left quickly to go live with my Aunt in Brooklyn. In the meantime, one of the tracks he recorded in England became a hit (Tracy’s Theme) under his employer’s name (Spencer Ross). And while the old man didn’t get any royalties on the deal, he did acquire a reputation! And that meant he had a revived music career! Then he had another hit with Bobby Vinton (Roses Are Red) and the next thing we knew our TV repairman father (who we almost never saw at that point) was a big executive at Columbia Records, producing records for Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin and Barbara Streisand.
Feeling left out, his new ex-stripper wife, wanted to be a part of the music business. So pop rolled her in a mud puddle (so to speak) and introduced her to a few funky Broadway songwriter types. Pam couldn’t sing. And she had no rhythm. But she figured out how to come up with lines and song concepts and thus, became useful as a co-writer. And the next thing you knew, she had a minor hit record: “I Ain’t Gonna Eat out My Heart Anymore” by The Young Rascals.
One day Holland, Dozier and Holland, who wrote almost all the early Motown hits, came to New York for a music convention. Pam knew of the event….found out where they were staying, and virtually camped out at their hotel door until she could introduce herself. Now if a guy like me tried that stunt, I’d get laughed out of the building. But when you’re a 5′ 10″ mid-twenties British blonde bombshell with a big chest…you know the rest!
Bam! Pam became a staff songwriter for Motown…hanging out with Diana Ross and sleeping with Marvin Gaye (which pop didn’t really care about as he had a stewardess girlfriend at the time). Pam went on to co-write several hit records including three number one pop tunes. Her discography includes “The Last Time I saw Him” (Diana Ross), “Love Hangover” (Diana Ross), “If I Were Your Woman” (Gladys Knight), “Love Child” (Diana Ross – about my half sister), and “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” (Average White Band/Quincy Jones). And she was also on the B side of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (Thelma Houston) and “Dancing Machine” (The Jackson 5). Add all that up and what you get is definitely A STRIPPER MADE GOOD story! It’s like a fairy tale! And to have it happen in the family makes it all that much more bizarre!
Pam and I got along pretty well when I was a child. But I was forbidden to be in her presence after she came over and beat my mother up for having my father incarcerated for non-payment of child support. But that’s another story I don’t feel the need to relate at this point. I haven’t seen or spoken to her for thirty years but I’ve heard she moved to Nashville where a good song is still a good song.
Pam’s career pretty much ended as far as I know after she left Motown, but I’m sure she lives very nicely on her airplay money. As far as her getting any mechanical royalties from the sale of cd’s etc. — not likely. Berry Gordy wasn’t the kind of guy who submitted regular accounting. In fact, my old man told me that Pamela never once got a foreign royalty statement on any of her hits. Berry Gordy wrote “Lonely Teardrops” for Jackie Wilson and never saw a dime in royalties from Brunswick Records, whose owner went to prison for cheating ALL of his artists out of their money. According to the old man, that’s why Berry started Motown – so he could fuck songwriters like Nat Tarnopol had fucked him. But the old man had an irreverent and cynical outlook. I’m sure Berry Gordy had some other motives, too.
But I digress with all this minutia about the music business. Thirteen years into the escort business, I’ve known one girl who “made good” moving on to a “legitimate” means of making a living. But she became a licensed realtor at Citi Habitats. And by me, that’s kind of like moving from one hustle to another. Hawking real estate to turn a buck is pretty much a form of prostitution. So I don’t know if she counts.
In summation, I repeat…barring rap videos and reality shows, neither of which require intellectual creativity, I’ve only known one escort/stripper who “made it” in the arts. And she was my father’s second wife. Go figure.
P.S. This was obviously written 7 years ago. I know from that “13” reference.