Thursday, February 2, 2006 Updated: February 4, 11:17 AM ET
For the bare Super Bowl necessities, try Windsor
By Wayne Drehs ESPN.com
WINDSOR, Ontario -- As one hand holds up her golden blond hair and the other hand lifts her cheerleader's skirt up over her stomach, 24-year-old "Brandy" -- lips covered in a shiny pink gloss, eyes draped in deep blue shadow -- kneels on a white-sheeted bed and looks straight at you. A football is tucked between her legs. A Super Bowl XL logo is draped across the front of her skirt.
One of the lures in Windsor is the aptly-named Bittersweet Justice.
In this and seven other provocatively posed cheerleader photos on her Web site, Brandy gets her message across loud and clear: "Call me."
Oh, and do it soon. As her Web site says, "Remember, to guarantee your time with me, I suggest you pre-book. Super Bowl week is going to be an especially busy week, so I highly suggest booking early."
Brandy is one of about 250 licensed, regulated professional escorts in this border town, which sits less than a mile from the hub of Super Bowl XL, Detroit's GM Renaissance Center. She, like most of her competition, expects Super Bowl fans to cross the Detroit River in droves this weekend, looking for things they just can't readily get on the American side of the Ambassador Bridge: Cuban cigars, all-nude strip clubs, a 19-year-old drinking age and legalized prostitution.
"It's all legal over here," Brandy says in a telephone interview. "They don't have to worry about it. You hear horror stories about escorts in the States: guys getting ripped off, guys given the runaround, girls not showing up. There's a bunch of bad reviews out there. Let them come over here, get their money's worth and take full advantage of what we have to offer."
Since it became a national "happening," Super Bowl weekend has always offered its share of racier diversions for those fans who walk on the wilder side. But until this year, those diversions have never been so close, so out in the open and so ... well, legal.
Not that everyone in Windsor is necessarily proud of it. Windsor has more to offer than its seamy underbelly, city leaders say. Although the city is expecting Super Bowl tourists to spend an estimated $3 million on hotel rooms while an additional $2.4 million is pumped into the city's economy, some business and civic officials were less than thrilled with a New Year's Day story in The Detroit News that pegged Windsor as "Sin City North."
Besides the clean streets and waterfront views of the Detroit skyline, Mayor Eddie Francis, and the city's convention and visitor's bureau sing the praises of Windsor's restaurants and a $24 million art museum. During Super Bowl week, there is a Fan Zone, a smaller-scale NFL Experience, along with a downtown tailgate party and a weekend ice festival.
"[Adult entertainment] is certainly not the thing we'd like to have first and foremost in people's minds," says Sandra Bradt, the city's director of tourism. "But if that's the hook that brings people over, then so be it. Then we can show them all the other entertainment options we have to offer."
But while Bradt and others try to combat the Sin City stereotype, Windsor's after-dark entertainment venues are ramping up for what they hope will be a record weekend. Most hotel rooms in Windsor are requiring a four-night stay, which means the serious merrymaking should kick in Thursday night.
Jay Henderson, the manager of La Casa Del Habano, an upscale cigar shop on Ouellette (one of the main drags through Windsor), is ready. Cuban cigars priced from $20 to $120 are stacked from the floor to the ceiling. The store's hours -- which typically range from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- will be much more flexible over the next few days, depending on the demand.
"If I have to stay here for 24 hours and have myself a bath in the sink, I'll just go with it," Henderson says. "We just don't know what to expect. We've never seen anything like this."
Just around the corner on Chatham at Jason's Executive Lounge, one of the city's five all-nude gentlemen's clubs, manager Brad McLellan has doubled his weekend staff from 15 girls to 30 and added a nightly dinner buffet. He said out-of-town dancers have been coming in by the handfuls every day in search of work.
"I have to tell them, 'No,'" said McLellan, who required any of his Super Bowl week dancers to work the week before, as well. "It's just not fair for the girls who have worked here all year long."
Inside the plush club, empty on one recent late afternoon, two dancers explain that although Canadian law allows dancers to be fully nude, absolutely no contact with customers is allowed. One newspaper report this week said Windsor police were even cracking down on handshakes and hugs between dancers and customers.
"But you don't want some girl jumping all over you after she's been jumping on a bunch of other guys," a dancer named "Alyssa" says. "Who knows what you're going to get."
Beyond the nude strip clubs and easily available Cuban cigars, the legalized prostitution is what might blow American visitors away. Lynn Evans, manager of Border City Divas, one of the city's escort agencies, says she has been taking calls from all over the U.S. for months. She has placed ads in the local newspapers and has added girls, as well as drivers, for the weekend.
According to Evans, the Canadian laws are straightforward: An escort is allowed to visit with a client as long as the client has his own apartment, home or -- more likely in this case -- hotel room.
"That's why we have short-stay hotels," she says.
Many of her customers research particular escorts on Windsor escorting message boards, which have been so busy this week that they nearly shut down, Evans says. After deciding on a girl, the customer calls her, makes his request and agrees to a time. The customer will get a room, where the two will meet at the prescribed time. Then, "Whatever happens in that room is their business. But it's legal for them to do whatever they want," Evans says.
Because of the Super Bowl, the cost for everything from an hour of companionship to an hour in a short-stay motel room is going up. Hourly escort rates typically in the $150-$250 range now are as high as $350 Canadian, with rumors that some independents are charging as much as $900 for an hour of their time.
"That's just ridiculous," Evans says. "There's going to be so much business, these girls aren't going to know what to do with themselves. I mean, what do they want to make? $50,000 a night?"
Several escorts are traveling to Windsor just to capitalize on the Super Bowl buzz. But any escort who works in the city must be licensed and must pay a $600 fee for the city's background check. That might drive some out-of-town escorts to the gentlemen's clubs or massage parlors, where sexual activities aren't permitted but, as one downtown business owner puts it, "Nobody is stupid as to what probably goes on in there."
"Sweet Shay," is an already-licensed escort who lives in London, Ontario, and will be making the two-hour trip to Windsor for the weekend. She says she normally would work six hours during a day-and-a-half trip to Windsor, and earn about $1,200 before expenses. This weekend, she hopes to double that.
"I'm not going to work morning until night," she says, "but as much as I can and still take a break between appointments."
"Brandy," the 24-year-old whose Web site features her photos in a Super Bowl XL cheerleader outfit, says she makes about $1,500 to $3,000 on a typical weekend. This weekend, she's expecting that number to be closer to $4,000.
Although the potential for extra business is appealing, Evans can't understand what the fuss is all about. On Wednesday, a Fox Sports Radio affiliate broadcast live from inside Cheetah's, another downtown Windsor gentlemen's club. On Tuesday, "Sweet Shay" was interviewed on an ESPN Radio affiliate.
"Sex for money has always been around," Evans says. "It's been legal in Canada since the 1800s. But all of the sudden, everybody goes crazy, 'Sin City, Sin City, Sin City.' When was it not Sin City? In Windsor, you're allowed to walk topless outside on the street if you want.
"I could whip out my double D's and walk around topless if I wanted to."
Says Henderson, the manager of the downtown cigar shop: "They call this place 'Tijuana North.' And what is the Super Bowl about? It's about football, but it's also about partying, drinking, gambling, doing anything in excess that is decadent. This is a pretty good party atmosphere."
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.