FORMER ESCORT POPPED FIRST PILL IN HEAVEN
Peter Pittaros has big, sexy ears, olive skin, and talks in a slightly higher-than-usual register. Pete is the star of the 2009 documentary about his career as an escort, called Greet Pete. The film seems to simultaneously celebrate and objectify him (the very first shot is a slow motion one of Pete taking off his clothes) and pity him (in the first scene of him with his friends they say they share rape anecdotes). When I knock on the door of his central London flat, his plumbing is being repaired, so we decamp to the basement of a coffee shop on nearby Old Compton Street.
Paul: What’s changed since you made the film?
Pete: I don’t escort anymore. I packed all that up about six months ago. You see it in the film. Some of it was real. Some of it wasn’t. But the real thing was that independently of the film I did get nominated for that Escort of the Year Award in LA and I did win it. I was in New York in March of this year because they asked me to hand over the award to the next winner. I went over there, did one last client and… How honest can I be here?
More honest than the film was?
This client loved his weed. We did this massive bong and we spent two hours laughing. I didn’t have to do anything with him and I thought that that was the best way to end. Laughing. So I flew back to London and that was the last client I did.
Had you already decided that you were going to knock the escorting on the head?
Yeah. I did my first client when I was 22. In March I was 26. Four years is long enough. When I first started it was really exciting. You get to meet all these people. But I suppose it’s like any job. After a few years I just felt like I’d done it all.
Would somebody offering you a ridiculous amount of money for a job tempt you back into it?
If I ever got desperate, well… never say never. I wouldn’t say no to a ridiculously large amount.
Do you work now?
I’ve just been having a bit of time off. I did a writing course, little bits and pieces. But to be honest I worked so long and hard, did so many clients in those four years it was unbelievable. I was completely and utterly obsessed with the whole thing. How much money I could make, how many clients I could do.
How many clients did you do in a day at your peak?
That’s a lot of Viagra, I take it?
Oh god, yeah. I didn’t take Viagra all the time. Some escorts do, but I was quite good. I’ve got a really vivid imagination. A lot of the time you can get the same effect by imagining porn in your head. Or I’d imagine some of the stuff I’d done with Kai, my boyfriend at the time. We did have a really good sex life.
Was it hard to maintain that during all the clients?
It wasn’t so much that as all the drugs we were taking. It did get a little bit mad, to be quite honest with you.
What did you tell your careers officer at school that you wanted to be when you grew up?
Prime Minister. Seriously. That was the plan. So when I was 14 I went to the Houses of Parliament and did my work experience for my local MP. I met Tony Benn and all sorts of people. My local MP for Bedford was a guy called Patrick Hall. He was one of the New Labour crowd that won in the general election of 1997, when Blair first got in. I’d had this idea about working in politics. I didn’t want to work at Boots, the drugstore, you know? So I rang the office and spoke to his secretary directly and asked her, ‘If he got into office, could I come and do my work experience there?’ She said, ‘Of course you can.’ So when Labour got in, on a really big swing to the left, I went down and did my work experience.
And you were 14?
Yeah. You were supposed to be 15 to do it, but they let me go at 14. But it put me off politics, to be honest. Local MPs have no power. That was what I learnt from my time in the constituency office.
Do you support the Labour Party now?
I did when I was younger, but I don’t anymore. When they first came in and what they turned into were two completely different things. Do you remember Robin Cook talking about foreign policy in ’97? How can you go from that political standpoint to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and all that madness that came about? The Conservatives are no better.
So the original idea was to be Prime Minister?
Yeah. They gave me a tour of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I got told off for sitting down in the House of Lords, because you’re not actually meant to sit in there unless you are a Lord. That was a bit more exciting, because most of the work in the constituency office seemed to be about chasing people for their Child Support Agency payments. That was a complete disaster. You’d get little problems. Patrick’s values were about the local community, but they got warped by the whole Parliamentary party process. He was a nice man, but he always looked really tired. Politics just looked like such high stress.
So you went into escorting instead?
(Laughs) The thing with escorting is that I was just as motivated.
Who will you vote for in the general election?
The Liberal Democrats, I think. I don’t really want a Conservative government, I don’t trust the party. We’ve had a touch of what it’d be like with Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. It seems to be a lot more about photo opportunities than actually getting anything done. Have you seen the stuff about the triathlon he’s organising? There are pictures of it littered all over the underground, and the logo they’ve got for it is almost exactly the same as the old Tory party logo. How obvious is that as a ploy?
Did you vote for Boris Johnson?
No, I didn’t. I voted for the gay one.
The former London Police chief, Brian Paddick?
Yeah. He seemed alright. I thought Ken Livingstone was quite good, actually, but he was power-mad by the end of it. I trusted Brian Paddick.
How did you feel about Greek Pete when you first saw it?
That was at the premiere at the British Film Institute. It was opening the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and it was all a bit overwhelming. It was the first time I’d seen it. I hadn’t even seen any of it while it was being made, apart from the stuff I’d filmed myself. I had no idea how it was going to come together. It was a bit intense, actually, and then I had to do a question-and-answer session with 400 people in this cinema. I’d not seen it and I’d never spoken in public before. It was a bit overwhelming. I’ve seen it once since. A couple of my friends wanted to see it, and I told them I didn’t really want to see it again. But they dragged me to a cinema in Bermondsey and actually I’m glad I did see it again. It was much easier to have a bit of distance from it and be a bit more analytical about it. I thought there were some funny bits in there.
I found it a bit depressing. Do you think it’s a sad film?
There are some sad bits in there. I’m quite a happy sort, really. But during the filming, Andrew Haigh, the director, said that he preferred the melancholy aspect, so I had an inkling of what it would be like. My sadness in it was about my relationship with Kai falling apart, because we did really care a lot for each other. But it didn’t work out.
Ironically, for a film about a job that facilitates companionship, in some way, I found a lot of the film very lonely.
I suppose that’s true of escorting in a lot of ways. You’ve got two options when you’re going to do it. You can either do it for a couple of jobs and then get on with your life, or you can do it like a career. I was determined to save money and to work hard. With anything, whenever you really stick yourself into it, then you do have to make sacrifices. What’s particularly poignant about being an escort is your work comes when it comes. Switch off time? When do you do it? I’d have the phone on all the time and if it rang in the middle of the night I’d wake up, go and do a job and come back to sleep.
Was it addictive?
In some respects it was an addiction. There were so few days that I didn’t do some form of work. It almost gets to the point where it’s a form of validation: how many phone calls I got and how many clients I did in a day. It’s quite funny, a lot of escorts — and I didn’t ever really think this – but they go round thinking: ‘Oh my god, I’m finished! I’m never going to work again!’ when the phone doesn’t ring, and it can get a bit…
Exactly. Like with any obsession, I studied the whole thing. I’d watch escorts going online, at certain key times, and then they’d give up. All of a sudden these escorts all switch off at the same time, and that’s the moment all the work comes in. It all varied according to what publications you were doing. Gay Times is a national magazine, available everywhere, so most of the people you’d get through there were business people, married, ‘straight’ guys. They’d be down in London at business events, and so you’d get them calling during the day. Some of them had been married for years, all different types. What I liked most about the job was hearing all their stories.
I didn’t even know that Gay Times did escort ads.
Oh yeah, they’re making a mint out of it. Theirs are the most expensive: £120 a month. I think if you want to go bigger you pay £150–200. They must be raking it in. QX and Boyz charge £33 a week. Gaydar charges £45 a month for an escort profile, and obviously that’s the biggest one now in terms of getting the work. It’s actually a really good service. The clientele from QX is very different from Boyz even, more of the drug-fucked queens. They can be some of the hardest to work with because they’re as high as a kite and nothing will ever satisfy them. You’ve got to be a lot more careful about the money there, too, because if they’re calling up rent boys at god knows what hour of the morning and they’ve spent all this money on drugs it can get a bit messed up. People have all sorts of arrangements going on. Sugar daddies giving them the money and dealers involved.
What was the first ad you ever placed?
It was on Gaydar. That was how I started this in the first place. I’d had a message from someone offering me money on Gaydar even before I was on as an escort. I’d been offered money in bars before and always said no. But I was a student at the time, studying History at Queen Mary and Westfield at the University of London, and I was getting seriously into debt. It’s easily done. I was based in Russell Square, so inevitably I was spending more time in the clubs than I was at college. I toyed with the idea of doing it but had always said I wouldn’t. Then this married guy offered and I went and did it and it was so easy. He gave me £100. It lasted about two minutes. So I went back on and met another guy near Tower Bridge, and he set up a profile for me and uploaded some photographs and there were so many hits on it by the following morning that I did another guy as I left. That set it off. Six months later I’d moved into Covent Garden and rented a room and that was it.
How much did you turn over a week?
The most I ever made was in New York, last November. I made $13,000 in two weeks. In August 2006 I made £5,000 in three days. If I did make a big amount like that, then I’d go on holiday with it or something. I didn’t cling onto it. Mind you, after that one we went on holiday and it was the most unglamorous affair ever. Me and Kai hired a car and went with a couple of friends camping in Cornwall for two weeks. It was lovely, actually.
How did the New York trips start?
I met a guy in St Martins Lane Hotel. He was called Fernando and he told me I’d make loads of money in New York. I was a little bit dubious, but he said he’d help me out when I got there. He found me an apartment and booked the flights. I had a one-bedroom apartment in Chelsea and I put an advert on rentboy.com. I was really surprised by how much I made. If I’d lived there I would’ve made a lot more, but I missed my friends. The first time I went I stayed for two weeks, and then I went for another two weeks and then spent the whole of January 2007 there.
Do you miss it now?
A little bit. Sometimes. I did have a thought yesterday when I was getting out of the shower that with the film out, I could probably make a fortune.
Is what you present as an escort somewhere between reality and fantasy?
Yeah, there is an illusion involved. Is it real, is it not real? It goes with the confusion of the drugs, the job and the situation. Morality is completely suspended, so you have to create a whole new idea of what is and what isn’t acceptable. What you’re doing is quite strange. I’d say that it was almost as if a part of my personality was switched off, and then when I stopped, that part was switched back on again. The client will project their fantasies onto you. You will become that fantasy. So you become very good at reading what people do and don’t want. Things become quite lost in that world. It’s a neverland.
You seem remarkably well adjusted after all that hovering in a third dimension between fantasy and reality.
But it was almost a path I chose. Within that, I had this very dark sense of humour. All these experiences fascinated me. It was like looking into a fire. You become submerged in it, but it’s quite a dangerous and harmful thing. I loved the madness involved in people’s lives. Before I became an escort I was quite rigid in my views. I had this very narrow path that I’d set down, but as I got older I started to reject that.
Was there anything else going on here?
Yes, of course. Being gay is a big part of it. Part of coming to terms with being gay is accepting that all your previous belief systems collapse. You are not accepted in normal, functioning society. So what is my function? I took that question and I ran with it. I didn’t want to be part of society any more. I really enjoyed the idea of being outside of it. I was Anglo-Greek-Cypriot, to give it a name. I was never integrated. I was always an outsider of sorts, being a second-generation immigrant or whatever you’d want to call it. That in itself is a suspended reality. My national identity is somewhere in the ether between Cyprus and the UK.
Do you think you know human nature now better than you did before you were an escort?
Well… I’ve got an interesting understanding of people, but I think the type of human nature that I was subjected to was just a part of human nature and there are many more parts of it. I know a bit more, if you like. A lot of it is quite dark. Sexual energy is the most powerful force in the universe. It gives life…
And a part of the modern gay understanding of it is also taking life?
Exactly. Yeah. So it’s one of the most powerful things and it’s something people are scared of and don’t really understand. Within that, people are working on a very primal level. People come to an escort for lots of different reasons, so it’s very interesting to observe why they do it. My conclusion on it all now is: no, you don’t have to have sex with people to understand them. But oh, we’re fascinating creatures.
Did escorting itself turn you on?
The power? Maybe. Sometimes the clients were really good looking, which obviously makes it easier. Or when there are other escorts involved, the situation can be quite horny. I had a really cool client who’d book me for the night. I’d turn up and then he’d let me choose who I wanted to come along, too. I went over to New York and there was this Colombian escort who he introduced me to who was really hot. He just wanted to watch us having sex, and we had brilliant sex.
Do you think sex is your talent?
Yeah, definitely. I think so. I do think I’m particularly good at it. I just think some people are. I’ve had sex with enough people to know that now. Even amongst friends. It’s almost like we go into this very primal predatory state. It’s cool. To be honest, I’m glad I had all that sex.
How much sex have you had since you stopped?
Do you know what? I haven’t had sex since August fifth. How long is that?
That’s a miracle for me. The longest ever.
Do you want a relationship?
I wouldn’t say no, but you don’t want to be one of those men going around in a bride’s dress looking for the next victim.
How many times have you been in love?
Once. Properly. With Kai.
How do you spell his name, Pete?
K, as in… K (explodes laughing). A. I.
K as in K! There’s a mark of modern habits. G as in G? M as in MDMA?
(Laughs) Oh, shut up. I thought I was in love with my ex Ian before that. I suppose we were.
Do you like the feeling of being in love?
Yeah, I suppose so.
It does get complicated quite soon, doesn’t it? I like doing stuff together. I like that level of intimacy you get. I haven’t seen Kai for over five months now, but I know that if I did see him, that level of intimacy would still be there.
How important are drugs in your life?
During the film I decided to stop taking drugs. So I went into recovery, NA. You can’t mention the name in the press so that’s why it’s ‘recovery’. You go to meetings. They’re quite cool. I was taking an unhealthy amount of drugs a day.
What do you call unhealthy?
I was taking loads of K. A couple of grams a day? Maybe more. When I got my own flat, my feelings were, ‘Oh, I can do whatever I want now.’ Within six months I was in recovery. I just had parties constantly. Being in the West End, hanging out with escorts, all that stuff compounded. I was completely abstinent for five months, then I relapsed for four months, then abstinent for three months, relapsed for four months and now I’m six months abstinent. I’m very much all or nothing.
Do you drink?
No. Not at all. I tried speed once when I was 17, then when I was 18 I was smoking weed all the time. Then at 19 I tried coke for the first time and then it all went downhill when I took my first pill in Heaven, just before my 20th birthday. I didn’t want that feeling to stop. It was absolutely amazing. From 19 until 25, when I first went into recovery, it was six years of madness, really.
Were you high when you were escorting?
Sometimes I’d do a big bump of K before. Or after. By the time I moved into my flat I was doing a ridiculous amount of K. But until the first months I had of K I was escorting pretty much completely sober.
I’ve only done it a couple of times. Four or five maybe. It’s vile. Vile. It’s the most destructive drug there is out there. Though they all are, to varying degrees. Two of my friends who were escorting died from G. I know crystal meth sends people mad. With K you just start going a bit doolally. I don’t think I was firing on all cylinders throughout that whole process. I did like the K hole, though. But if you put the K and the escorting into the mix the whole thing gets a bit weird, really. I’d think to myself, ‘God, what was all that about?’
Were there famous people involved?
Oh yeah, quite a few. Obviously I couldn’t and wouldn’t say who. But there were much more interesting people than that, too. But there are some things that I’ve seen that I could never talk about. The weirdest is when you think you recognise a client from somewhere. Like this one guy that came in and he said he worked in marketing. I put the TV on after he’d gone and there he was. He’s quite a big political figure.
Bringing us neatly back to the House of Commons and your old dreams.
Are there any of your old clients that you still see now?
Yeah, as friends.
How does that work?
You don’t really talk about it.
Do you want to finish off your degree?
I’d quite like to do another degree, actually. Psychology. I’ve been reading a lot of Freud and I’m reading Plato’s Republic at the moment. It’s quite funny and interesting that I’m reading about morality after I was escorting, rather than before.
It makes a lot of sense. What has Plato taught you?
I thought that morality was the enemy, that what morality stood for was authority, a societal construct that confined us on a personal level and a greater level. Whereas now I’ve started looking at morality as a choice. I think when you’re young you hit on ideologies and ride with them. I’d read something and that would be my truth for that moment. Whereas now when I read something I think this is that person’s theory.
What’s your favourite book?
I’ll tell you one that was really important to me. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee. That distance from the norm, search for the individual self and total disregard for the norms of society… that always appeals to me.
Do you still have that disregard for society?
I still have a rebellious streak, yes.
Originally published in BUTT 28