I just finished watching the first installment of A Path Appears. Woof. That's really all I can say as a response. While I knew of the reality of sex trafficking in America, it was still a punch in the gut for the darkness that continues to surround us. Then I remember my former friend. I didn't get the privilege to know her for very long as I soon transitioned out of that job, but my time with her was enough to call her friend. I call her this because she entrusted me with her story. And she not only entrusted me, she entrusted me to tell her story to others.
I haven't shared it very often, as it was originally for a class project and I never ended up pursuing it for publication. However, I think it's time it was told. I wish I knew where Gloria was today or what she was doing or if she was still walking with God and continuing to take the path she was on when I knew her.
So I ask that if you are one of the few that take the time to read this that you will also take the time to pray. I'd love it if you'd comment below and let us know if you said a prayer. How cool would it be to lift her up through whatever she is facing today!
I don't really have much more of introduction so here we go: (warning, there may be some graphic details)
Babysitter for Adults
Gloria Howl or Gloworm, as she prefers people call her, resembles Julia Roberts’s character in Pretty Woman. She owned her own prostitution service and fell in love with a rich, handsome client, who wanted to turn her into a respectable young lady. Only this guy behaved nothing like Richard Gere. He led a double life and robbed numerous banks for twelve years, making him one of the most notorious bank robbers in history, rightfully named, The Dapper Bandit.
Howl grew up in Dallas, Texas, around the Oak Cliff area. She attended Cockrell Hill Baptist Church with her mother twice a week, and the preacher baptized her at age four. She went to numerous Vacation Bible Schools and constantly helped her parents with charity contributions.
Eventually Howl dropped out of high school and ran away with a married man to Beverly Hills. He provided for her every desire: money, fancy clothes, expensive cars, and even her own business in the dinner theatre industry.
Today when Howl pulls back her straight dyed black hair; she shows her missing front teeth. “I was like Paris Hilton,” she said. “My mom raised me to be spoiled. I was into clothes and capped all my teeth. It was boob jobs or teeth, and I’m paying the price for it now. It was a great experience, but there is always a price you have to pay for all these things.”
Eventually Howl moved back to Dallas, but the desire for money never left. At age twenty-five she began working for an escort service. Called “the psychiatrist,” she catered toward men who needed a listening ear.
“They were lonely and wanted to get away from the convention they were on and just needed someone that would listen to them. Basically like being a babysitter for adults,” she said.
After two years Howl broke away and started her own service. She found a location, took out an ad in the Yellow Pages, and set up call forwarding. She even paid taxes to keep the IRS off her back.
Howl paid cash for two cars and a house, cleared all her debts, and had about $40,000 in the bank. For her, prostitution paid a lot better than any other job, but to survive she had to develop a keen sense of intuition.
“I had to be a detective, clean minded, not drunk, very articulate in reading people so I didn’t come across [as] some nut case.”
As she told of the musicians she met, her eyes widened and her voice raced as names rolled off her tongue.
“If you’re smart, you will [only] talk [with the person] and you won’t charge as much. No crime is committed if you don’t touch and no germs are involved. But sometimes the person is so cute! When you get with some of these rock stars you’re like ‘wow!’” Howl said. “I had a lot of repeat business. Guys would tell me anniversary dates of when we first met, and they seemed to like knowing you for a long time. It was like having a maid service come out when they needed someone to talk to.”
Her line of business usually involved more than talk. When Howl dropped out of high school she lived a short life of luxury, but she also lived a life of drugs and rock and roll. She followed bands around landing in a different guy’s bed every night. Realizing she could make money off her body, she worked in massage parlors and took out personal ads. Eventually a friend recommended the escort business. An agency hired her immediately, and by the end of the night she met with her first client in the Wyndham hotel. They drank champagne and ate shrimp cocktails.
After two and a half years of prostituting professionally, Howl met Mark Reeves, the infamous Dapper Bandit. At their first meeting Howl remembers him strung out on cocaine, wearing shorts with a Hawaiian shirt that displayed his toned body and golden tan. Roughly a year later, Howl ran into Reeves again. He pursued her, promising to take care of her. After struggling to stay emotionally unattached and unwilling to quit her job, she succumbed to the power of love.
“I took a break from the work because I couldn’t work and date him. He was a good-looking guy who drove Porsches, and I fell hook, line and sinker in love with him,” she said.
Howl dated Reeves for two years, while he continued to rob banks. The entire time Howl had no idea, because Reeves convinced her he drove racecars. Their relationship ended when Howl realized Reeves could not commit to one woman. While he loved her, he refused to stay monogamous. Howl, missing her escort business and tired of Reeves’s tricks, decided to leave.
A year after her break-up with Reeves, Howl discovered her ex-boyfriend led a secret life as one of the most sought-after bank robbers in Texas.
After that, she said, “I stayed with my parents and was too busy to date or be with anybody, so I developed a fear of really getting involved. After you date a famous bank robber and don’t know it, you kind of feel stupid,” she said.
Twenty-three years later Howl recounts those days like they happened yesterday. Currently, she volunteers at a local clothes closet attending to customers and organizing the inventory.
She lays down the article of clothing in her hand, leans forward and in a somber, sincere voice she says, “I miss that life. It was exciting. I was needed. It was a positive experience. It became a dump session for those people, and I was like a psychiatrist. It made me feel like I had a worthy job. But had I known he was a bank robber, I would have turned him in. That’s a kind of mental problem and needs to be treated. I guess it’s like my business and my craving for attention.”
At fifty-three years old Howl continues to search to find her place. She recently spent a year in Oklahoma City in the faith-based Bridge to Life Recovery Program. There she received educational, psychological, economic, and spiritual counsel.
“I had faith during those years,” she recounts as she reflects on her time as a prostitute. “I believe God kept me alive for a reason, and he’s not done with me yet. But going to church helps, it’s like a ‘shot’ of Jesus; it’s my daily bread.”
Gloria did an interview with Texas Monthly back in 1989. You can read the original story (and I highly recommend you do) here starting on page 98.