Scottsdale. The horse on the city seal bucks because the town can be a wild ride.
Pool parties hosted by porn stars. Ecstasy, cocaine, cosmopolitans. BOTOX, collagen, silicone.
Home of fetish balls and K-Y jelly wrestling matches. License plate of a navy blue Corvette parked in front of the Starbucks at Scottsdale Fashion Square: "MMMEEE."
The chamber of commerce wants to sell the city as "Southwest Sophistication," but "the West’s Most Western Town" may also be one of the wildest. Mix new money with no money. Add wannabes and smalltown refugees. Toss in sex, drugs and nightlife. You’ve just mixed a Scottsdale. Be sure to take an aspirin before you pass out.
"They can’t make it in L.A., they can’t make it in New York, so they come to Scottsdale and they put on this bravado of luxury and high class," said Duane Bell, a disc jockey and promoter at nightclubs Six and Suede. "One of the reasons it’s so wild is people are trying to go above and beyond what somebody else might have done, trying to make themselves stand out, whether it’s cosmetic surgery or your antics at a nightclub."
And if a nightclub doesn’t offer enough of an audience, there’s always reality TV. Amy Barber has flown from Los Angeles to Scottsdale twice to cast shows such as "Joe Millionaire" and "Temptation Island."
"That’s the image that we have over here in reality television about Scottsdale: That’s where we’re going to find girls that are willing to do stuff like this," Barber said in a telephone interview from L.A. "That’s where we’re going to find the girl who’s so hot, (who) we can make do anything we want, or the guy who just wants to get on TV and be like, ‘Look at me with my spiky black hair and my tight shirt.’ "
And that’s not just the view from L.A.
"I’ll go to Idaho to interview people and they’ll say, ‘Oh, she’s such a Scottsdale girl,’ " Barber said. "I’ll say, ‘What’s a Scottsdale-type girl? ‘Oh, you know, fake boobs, the perfect body.’ ‘What’s a Scottsdale guy?’ ‘A $30,000 millionaire.’ Over and over again — not even from people from Scottsdale. I’m talking about people from Dodge City, Kan., knowing this."
A SUMMARY OF SCANDALS
Scottsdale has never been a sleepy bower of innocence. The first mayor, Malcom White, and Town Councilman Jim Frederick, who ran a gas station on Scottsdale Road across from the Pink Pony, were good friends. "These guys . . . vied, and laid bets, to see who could (sleep with) the most tourist ladies who came in to buy gasoline," 89-year-old Avis Read, a Scottsdale resident since 1950, said in an interview with the Tribune two years ago. "They were quite successful, I’m told."
That party ended in July 1954, when Fredericks was shot in the chest by the jealous husband of a pretty blond heiress he was having an affair with.
In the 1970s, "Hogan’s Heroes" star Bob Crane enjoyed picking up women with pal John Carpenter while working the dinner theater circuit in Scottsdale. The two mixed, matched and filmed it all until 1978, when someone — Carpenter, police theorize — bashed in Crane’s head with a camera tripod in a Chaparral Road condo. Last year’s biopic, "Auto Focus," explored Crane’s swinging life and mysterious death.
In 1999, Dakota Rae, aka Tracy Miller, and her husband, George, were fired from Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital after word of their adult Web site got around the hospital. "More photos than you could ever look at!" crows the Web site text. The free photos alone are capable of sending the fainthearted back into the now Dakota-less hospital.
"It might not be normal American family behavior, but, I mean, I think it’s something that I enjoy doing. It’s a way for me to express myself sexually. I get a charge out of it. I love doing the pictures. I love answering the e-mail," Tracy Miller told ABC’s "20/20" at the time.
"IT’S ABOUT THE HOTNESS"
"It seems on the surface that the city’s kinda tame," Scott Nickel said, citing the 1 a.m. closing time and the dearth of all-nude dancing establishments. Nickel, 34, moved to Scottsdale four years ago from San Jose. He runs sexandscottsdale.com, a Web site with advice on dating, sex and relationships.
"It’s not that easy to meet people here," he added in the tone of a man who hadn’t had a date in a while.
On the surface the city is tame. Look deeper.
"There are usually — three to four nights a week — raging after-hours parties at somebody’s house: Doing a little drugs . . . guys trying to hook up with girls," said Bell, the nightclub promoter.
Bell went to an after-hours party at the home of a local club owner. About seven guys and 20 girls were there. One enterprising individual took advantage of the odds.
"Four days later I see three or four of the girls that had been with the same guy in one night, and it was, ‘Hey, hugs and kisses, how you doing?’ No big deal, like nothing had happened," Bell said. "It was kind of weird."
Anyone with $20 can walk into a nightclub. Where the wild things are is invitation only. One easy way to be invited is to be pretty. Appearance is everything in Scottsdale, where the laws of image are as harsh as fundamental Islamic sharia.
"You have to construct this image upon yourself when you go out in Scottsdale," Barber said. "Last night (in L.A.), I went out in my bathing suit cover-up. In Scottsdale, that does not fly. You have an image, and you have to put it on. It’s like a competition."
Keeping the competition stiff are the city’s nearly 60 cosmetic surgeons — the highest number of any East Valley city. "I’ve seen more breast implants here than L.A.," Nickel said.
Last year, Axis-Radius gave a set away once a month. Dance station KNRJ (92.7/101.1 FM) gave away a pair last month at Sanctuary.
Bell said personalities change when "the twins" are delivered. "I’ve seen girls I’ve known for years, and all of a sudden they’ve gotten implants, and they’re standing at the bar licking whipped cream off each other, just so guys will notice."
A city with enough silicone to refloat the Titanic has proven fertile for Playboy. Special editions executive editor Jeff Cohen has brought his cameras to Scottsdale three times. "The last time we came here we were very successful," he said. "It’s a Playboy-friendly town."
In July, Scottsdale resident Jenna Jameson, the world’s most famous adult film star, brought fellow starlets — hatchet-faced, tattooed blondes, perched on a balcony like predatory birds — from L.A. for a sold-out pool party at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Scottsdale. In a handicapped spot by the lobby was parked a yellow Lamborghini with an Orange County Platinum Motors license plate frame.
The crowd was mostly men, mostly in their 20s, mostly toting cameras and cell phones instead of cocktails, and mostly chubby. The civilian girls at the party wore thong bikinis. The porn stars wore transparent sarongs and regular bikinis. Jameson talked up her new film, "Bellajenna" — "the most hardcore movie you’ve ever seen."
"This is more Scottsdale than either Phoenix or Tempe," said Chris Mazurk, 23, a recent Arizona State University graduate. Not many of the men at the party wanted to be interviewed, even anonymously. "It’s about the hotness, everyone looking hot. Hot girls and status."
Another license plate spotted at Scottsdale Fashion Square: "STUK UP."
AGONY AND ECSTASY
Mayor Mary Manross doesn’t think it’s a bad thing that people like to party in her city. She just wishes they wouldn’t do so many drugs.
"You’ve got to remember that the vast majority of people who come here for the nightlife have a safe and a legal good time," Manross said. "But since the beginning of time, where there are restaurants and bars and night clubs where folks go to party, you’re always going to have that negative element."
Scottsdale police and federal drug agents ran an eightmonth sting in the city’s 40 or so clubs and bars. In September, they announced 24 pounds of drugs were seized.
"Scottsdale is obviously known for its nightlife," Scottsdale police Lt. Steve Gesell said at a news conference announcing the sting. "That’s no secret. Whenever you have that type of nightlife, you’re going to have this as well."
He pointed to a table in front of the podium holding two bread loaf-sized bricks of cocaine, a gallon Ziploc bag full of methamphetamine and a bag containing a few hundred pills of the hallucinogen Ecstasy.
"Great drug," Bell said. "It just took off. Thinking back on it, within three or four months after my first experience with it, everyone was doing it. We had Halloween parties where people were dressing up as tabs. I can still see one kid who came dressed as a Rolls-Royce. He took some cardboard, cut it in the shape of a pill, put two big Rs on it, and that was his costume. Everyone loved it. The joke of the night was to go up and lick his costume."
And when Los Angelenos think your city is wild, it might be time to check into municipal rehab.
"Everyone I know, Scottsdale is becoming like their Vegas," said Barber. "They want to have a crazy weekend, they either go to Scottsdale or Vegas. I wonder if it has to do with the drugs . . . here in L.A., most of our celebrities, their encounters with drugs have always been in Scottsdale."
To Barber, it’s obvious that Ecstasy is popular in Scottsdale. "You can tell because the clubs . . . look like they were produced by someone on Ecstasy. Every club you walk in, it’s just shiny. It’s eye candy. It’s not comfortable. It’s comfortable to someone on Ecstasy, though."
Bolivian marching powder, aka cocaine, seems to be regaining the favor it enjoyed in the 1980s, possibly because it costs half of what it used to, according to a number of sources. In the February-September drug sting, police found more cocaine than anything else.
"A lot of people are doing coke these days, from what I’ve noticed," Bell said. "They’re doing it . . . at the bar. Here you’ve got a bartender serving them drinks, and doing a rail between drinks."
The day police announced their sting operation, local media flocked to interview club owners, who adopted the same tone the Vichy police captain did in "Casablanca." They were shocked, shocked, to discover illegal drug use in their establishments.
"They’re not doing it in front of us," said Diane Corieri, co-owner of Sanctuary.
AT YOUR SERVICE
That’s the same position Sgt. Mark Clark, a Scottsdale vice investigator for 18 years, takes on prostitution in the city: They’re not doing it front of us.
"Scottsdale does not have a problem with streetwalkers," he said. "We stack up that we have the massage parlors that are fronts for prostitution, and we have escort agencies that are a front for prostitution."
There are 156 escort agencies listed in Scottsdale: Golfer’s Escape Full Service, Yes We Do Escorts, On the Green Full Service. . . . Only four are registered with the city, according to city spokesman Mike Phillips, and two of those are Phoenix agencies that send call girls into Scottsdale, he said (a third Phoenix application is pending).
Different phone numbers sometimes lead to the same place, but the 156 numbers listed "are certainly an indicator," Clark said. "If there are escorts with a speciality for high-dollar clients or they hang out in the nightclubs, then certainly Scottsdale has its share of nightlife to accommodate them."
Christophe (not his real name), 38, is a French bodybuilder who co-owned an escort agency in the 1990s. Most of his business was in Scottsdale, but rarely at resorts. "We went to some really, really nice neighborhoods in north Scottsdale," he said. Once he peeked in a garage and saw three Ferraris plus a few other cars.
A lot of the clients just talked to the girls. "There was a lot of people, like the really rich ones from Scottsdale, I cannot believe it — all they do is talk and things like that," Christophe said. "I think the person was so intrigued with what kind of person (the girl was). They could get any woman, but they just wanted to talk to some nasty girl or something."
The true definition of an escort is someone who accompanies the client to a public function. Christophe said he never saw that.
"There was this guy who would only meet a couple of girls once a month at a resort," he said. "The girl had to dress a certain way, some of it basically being a dominatrix and walking on him with heels, you know, things like that. These girls would come out having big smiles on their faces, going, ‘I can’t believe what I just did and how I treated that guy, and I can’t believe how much money he gave me.’ "
Christophe said his business partner had a nice car and a nice apartment.
"A typical little Scottsdale girl," he said. "You never would have known."
SUCKED IN, SPIT OUT
Scottsdale is full of young people who moved here from small towns, wanting excitement.
"We have the image that Scottsdale was the new singles hub of America," said Barber, the casting agent. "The majority of the people that we have come across have left their small little towns, and come out to start a new life, and they’re the adventurous ones, the crazy ones, because they’re the ones who got up and moved because they wanted a more exciting lifestyle."
Todd Gasparik was 26 when he moved to Scottsdale from Randolph, N.J., six years ago for "the weather, the women, the environment — truly."
A friend in Scottsdale told him he should come out as quickly as possible. He found out why when he arrived. "It was heaven," said Gasparik, a 31-year-old partner in an independent music distribution company. "I’m a pretty sociable, outspoken person, so I had no problem fitting right in."
He jumped into a bartending job at Martini Ranch. "For three years straight I was the partygoer/ bartender /who’s who guy."
Gasparik knew two people when he came to town. "Within the course of six months I knew pretty much everybody — everybody I thought I wanted to know, anyway. It turns out now I don’t necessarily care whether I know them or not."
There is a cycle in this demimonde, Gasparik said. People are sucked in and spit out. "I’m not the raving lunatic I once was," he said. Now he’s more concerned with creating a successful business.
One night at an after-hours party, he saw a girl overdose and go into convulsions. Most of the people at the party were either too high or too scared to cope with the situation.
"It basically shocked everyone to the point where they ran away, leaving her sitting there," he said. "There was no proactive, ‘let’s-help-this-poor-girl.’ People (were) obviously looking out for their own interests. It’s not because that’s in their hearts, but everyone else is the same way: Engaged in the activities that prevent them from helping, and providing a solution. You can’t point the finger at any one person. It’s the scene, if you will."
You can go to Scottsdale 20 days in a row and the same thing happens, Gasparik said. It is a wheel, a mandala of human nature. It has no beginning, no end, no good, no evil. It’s just people.
"You’re always looking for the extreme, for the fun and the goodness and the hype, but what it comes down to is the party’s never changing," Gasparik said. "You know the people who have been through the mill and done it over and over again. They look a little worn."