"I should send over some guys."
So began my interview with Garren James, the owner of the first exclusively straight male escort agency, Cowboys4Angels. His offer came after learning that I was heading to Vegas that night with 15 other girls.
James began Cowboys4Angels back in 2008. His business now employs about 60 men across the country, hand-picked from over 10,000 applicants. With two million dollars in sales last year alone, James's business is taking off. But before starting Cowboys4Angels, James escorted himself, charging up to $5,000 for a weekend.
James is a man whose full-time job is understanding women, and it shows. He interacted with me through a perfected series of intrigued and deferential glances and smiles, a non-combative establishment of power and distance. He is hyper attentive, with eyes that widen at all the right moments, showing an obsessive self-awareness I oddly respect.
Curious to learn more, I spoke with James to learn more about his beginnings in the industry, the challenges he's faced in building Cowboys4Angels, and how he figured out what women want.
VICE: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started?
James: There's a couple different ways that I got introduced to it. I had a girlfriend who owned an agency, women for men. [She] wanted me to work with somebody that was doing something for her home—a mortgage. I was in the office with her and [the mortgage broker] was like, "You're boyfriend's hot." So we worked out a deal for a discount.
But what really happened was that I looked online and there were no agencies that were men for women.
How did you figure out what women wanted in an escort?
James: I put up some profiles of some men and tried working with porn stars at first, and it didn't work. I thought it would be cool, like, "Would you want to meet Tommy Gunn?" but women didn't want that.
And I tried body builders; women didn't want them. I thought it was interesting: Would you like to touch these muscles? didn't work. I put up guys who were high fashion, Abercrombie models. I found that guys who were in their 30s and 40s, who are really handsome but don't have these super editorial, Versace-posed outfits tend to work. So it's more about very lifestyle-type, smiling photos; those are the guys that work. Rarely do I get a 21-year-old that works a lot.
How do the guys get started? How do you train them?
James: A lot of guys that have done modeling have done imaging work in other countries. Imaging is when certain clubs want you to hang out in their VIP section and mingle. It's like promoting but not really. You'll get paid a certain fee to spend four hours in the VIP room, and your job is basically to not get drunk, but to have cocktails and encourage other people to have a good time.
Some men have worked independently, some men have worked for agencies in Europe, some men have never done this before. But they've dated; it's like they've done it, but they haven't done it for a fee.
I'll say, "If you had a fantasy, one woman in the world, like an A-list celebrity or top model, who would you [want to] go on a date with?" That's what I tell them to imagine for every client. You're going to go above and beyond for that date. You're going to hold the door, you're going to push in the chair, you're going to stay focused, you're not going to be on your phone, you're not going to be looking at the girl at the bar. All of those things you would do for that fantasy first date.
Do you ever still go out yourself?
James: Oh, no. I'm married now.
Congratulations! What do you envision 10 years from now?
James: In 10 years, I wish we will be in every city. I wish I could have a couple of assistants to help me. I see a romance line novel, Cowboys4Angels. I see a matchmaking show. I see many, many, many happy faces.
Our business is very unique. There's not too many businesses out there where the ultimate goal is to make somebody smile. I've gotten so many emails. One of my favorite emails was from a client, and I'll pull it up because I have it saved and flagged. It says, "The best thing about Bradley is that he made me feel beautiful and sexy. I truly believe I am the ugliest person in the world, and he made me feel so beautiful just by his personality. Please tell him I said that. Tell him, 'Thank you for making me beautiful.'"
All of those emails are worth it to me, to [deal with] those people out there who say, "Your men are hookers and prostitutes. You guys are fucking scumbags." Whatever they want to say. They don't have any clue. It's all this moralistic judgment. They don't have any clue what our business is really about.
Do you have any tips for those using Cowboys4Angels for the first time?
James: First thing is don't be nervous. It's not a blind date. You don't have to care what he thinks about you. You can cut loose, you can be whoever you want to be. You can be a jerk, you can be rude—whatever. We don't do client reviews.
The second thing is that a lot of women will be like "So, what does Billy want to do tonight?" It's not about Billy and what Billy wants to do. What do you want to do? Please don't ask me what Billy wants to do. You're paying tonight.
And, listen, I'm serious. I've got a guy in Vegas. He's available tonight; his name is Jax. He's extremely attractive and a nice guy, very friendly.
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