Synopses & Reviews
On December 8, 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article by "Insight" contributor Bob Armstrong titled "Zen Dolls: Confessions of a Pimp in the Pod." In the article, Bob briefly recounted his adventures running an "escort" service before being arrested on March 27, 2002, on one count of pimping and two counts of selling drugs, all the while working as a freelance journalist. He spent time in the county lock-up where fellow inmates dubbed him "Vanilla Slim," but with a clean record he got off with 19 days served and three years probation. Articulate, argumentative, engaging, and witty, Armstrong is the philosopher-pimp: a college-educated, 50-something-year-old man, hip to San Francisco's various ethnic and cultural scenes, and hip to the city's history. Beautifully described in a kind of Bukowski-esque style, Armstrong relates the stories of his Zen Dolls with compassion and insight. Charging $500 a session, he's a cultural and sex industry critic, whose need to live a life of danger led him to think there was some good money and good times to be had by running a high-end operation. Armstrong's rise and fall is a rollercoaster ride through a life lived on the edge.
"Word spreads quickly among Armstrong's co-inmates: 'You a pimp? This is not real! A white pimp. An old white pimp. How ya do that?' Armstrong (b. 1942), a 'low-end journalist' (he reviewed porn DVDs for Exotic and freelanced for the San Francisco Chronicle) who had run Zen Escort Service for only eight months before getting busted, was nicknamed Vanilla Slim (a reference to the legendary black pimp Iceberg Slim). Actually, entrance to Pimpworld was absurdly easy: Armstrong ran a classified ad for 'escorts' in SF Weekly, auditioned about 50 girls, chose six or so, charged johns $500 an hour and kept $150. The work was easy; the toughest part was getting a girl to her client on time; thereafter he'd loiter in a hotel lobby reading the New Republic and doing occasional lines of speed or cocaine until she reappeared. Aside from character studies of the girls, Armstrong passes along some nuggets: most escorts' capacity for common sense is 'zero,' lesbians make the best escorts 'since there's no conflict of interest' and gay videos are generally more erotic and tasteful than straight ones. Armstrong offers funny, pungent lines interspersed with self-examining digressions, producing a funny read for the Imus crowd." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Bob Armstrong is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco and Portland. He has written 38 stories over the past five years for the San Francisco Chronicles Insight” section. He began Zen Dolls,” his high-end prostitution outfit after meeting and writing about various escort services for sex industry magazines. He is currently an editor and regular contributor to Exotic magazine.