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Dawn Collinson: There's no such thing as a sure thing.

Byline: Dawn Collinson

THERE'S a classic line in the film Pretty Woman in which Julia Robert's hooker gives her millionaire suitor Richard Gere a piece of advice.

'I appreciate this whole seduction thing,' she tells him when he orders strawberries and Champagne, 'but let me give you a tip - I'm a sure thing...' It's an exchange which came t o mind when I found myself on the kind of disastrous assignment that only I could engineer.

With the film The Wedding Date doing the rounds, in which a woman hires a male escort, I thought it might make an interesting feature t 'road test' a real-life male escort.

So I dialled one up.

To be truthful, I didn't actually phone an escort, but the agency who told me that ' Mark' would be happy to discuss the ins and outs of his rather specialist line of work.

'How will I know him?' I asked. He was, she said, extremely popular, 5ft 8in, with grey eyes and 'normal looking'.

Great, there's nothing worse than forking out for a date with someone abnormal.

I arranged a lunchtime assignation at the Radisson hotel's White Bar.

Husband scoffed.

'5ft 8? He'll be broke if he charges by the inch,' he mocked.

Office so-called mates were no better. 'I can't believe you're having t o pay for it now,' was the general gist of the reaction.

Still, at least this was one bloke who definitely wouldn't stand me u p and was contractually obliged to be ultra-attentive.

A sure thing, surely. You pay your money, you get your perfect man.

By 1pm on the fateful day, my heart was thumping as if I was on a genuine date. That was until I realised the bar was full of business people and I didn't have a clue who I was looking for.

Would he approach me? Should I wander around to make myself obvious? If I did, would I just look like a sex-mad predator trying not to waste a lunch hour?

Of course, no-one else knew why I was there, but I couldn't help but obsess over what they were thinking. Things were made especially bad as I'd ditched my glasses and had t o peer intently at everyone who appeared through the revolving doors.

And what a selection there was: the beer-bellied bloke in electric blue shorts, a few David Brent-a-alikes and a man with sideburns who looked like a serial killer. I tried t o work out what excuse I'd make if it turned out to be any of them. It didn't.

After half an hour of fruitless staring, I was giving the distinct impression of a partially-sighted prostitute. With no clients.

I half expected to be asked discreetly to leave by the concierge.

Then the phone rang - it was the agency.

'Sorry,' she said, 'Mark's been booked by another lady...'

I was oddly crushed. Who, for God's sake, gets stood up by an escort?

I skulked back to the office to universal ridicule.

When is a sure thing, not a sure thing? When some other woman gazumps you
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 17, 2005
Words:515
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