Jamie Close: male escort.
Jamie Close opens the door in St Kilda, Melbourne, as if he were greeting a client, giving me a warm handshake and a kiss on the cheek. He's friendly, not sleazy, and is smartly dressed in a suit.
He's not wearing a tie; two necklaces hang around his neck instead, adorned with crystals, "to ward off negative energy".
It makes sense. The 42-year-old former stripper and ex-member of male erotic dance troupe the Chippendales has long been interested in holistic therapies and esoteric practices.
Secret lives: Jamie Close is a male escort.
His latest project, as a male escort, is for a business with the slogan: 'Intimate male companions for the woman who knows what she wants'.
"Listening" and "communicating" are essential elements of the service, says Jamie, which is less wham-bam-thankyou ma'am and more dinner, dancing, talking - the whole package.
"It's not just, like, come to room 216 and let's get it on," he says.
But ladies who'd rather get straight down to business will find their needs met too. Jamie's practised tantric sex for years and runs workshops on how to achieve the full body orgasm.
He also dabbles in raw food catering and describes himself on his personal website as a "holistic lifestyle trainer, healer and transformational speaker".
He considers these skills transferable when it comes to working as an escort, and plans to help train new recruits in the same proficiencies.
"Imagine a woman who can hire this beautiful, good-looking guy who can communicate with her on any level, make her this food, massage her," he says. "It's not just sex, it's like, spend a day with Jamie or Marcus or whoever."
The website outlines the charges: $350 per hour, $3200 for the day or $17 000 for a whole week.
Making new clients feel comfortable is all about creating a happy, friendly vibe, using courtesy and humour to put the women at ease.
Jamie can only recall one incident in which he was unable to perform, citing a "failure to connect".
Generally, he's able to experience attraction with most clients, saying that "soul or essence" outweighs physicality or personality. "You let go of those outer layers and look straight into the heart and everything else flows after that."
Working as an escort is something that Jamie used to do regularly while stripping, mostly for fun and money.
"But I felt to a large degree, I was selling my soul," he says. "I was already into meditation and energy healing so I was already a man very much in touch with himself... it felt really empty, so I stopped."
What this new business offers - sex, counselling, romance - is something Jamie feels more "aligned with".
Clients pay for time spent with escorts, not for sexual acts. While sex is an implicit component of the service, it occurs at the client’s discretion.
Clients are usually either time-poor corporate high-flyers or lonely housewives.
Kinky requests are not the norm, but Jamie's idea of a strange request might be different to most people's. "After being a male stripper for 12 years I've sort of seen and done it all."
He's worked with plenty of couples (but doesn't engage in sex with the men) and though he has not yet had a disabled client, is open to it. "We're all looking for something," he says.
It's easy to imagine some clients might become smitten. The type of service he provides creates a connection that extends beyond the sexual - and encourages repeat business. But Jamie says it's up to the escort to enforce clear boundaries.
"We're not a relationship and dating service, we're just a companionship service. So it can get delicate, but we've got a set of guidelines that the guy must adhere to."
Jamie doesn't believe in marriage, preferring a polyamorous lifestyle, and his most recent relationship ended last year.
"I'd rather focus on this business and my own business, I don't have the time or energy to focus on a relationship," he says.
Jamie says he has experienced judgment over the years for what he does, to a point where it stopped him stripping for a period. “But I got to the point where I was like, I don’t care what anyone thinks, I’m a gifted entertainer and I’m also a gifted healer, and that’s when my business took off, because I let go of that self judgment.” To date he’s only told his closest friends about his escorting, but understands with this article it will become public knowledge, and says that he’s OK with that. “If you don’t like it that’s your own fear and judgment that you’re projecting onto me.”
He's excited about a return to the escort business, on his terms. "I just see it as a great way to meet more women, to connect with them on a deeper level and to make a lot of money. It's a win-win, really, for everyone."