Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2014

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She tells it her way

Frank Sinatra liked to spoon with her, and other Rat Packers also enjoyed her company in the bedroom.

Whatever thrills came from that alleged contact with celebrities, former Las Vegas prostitute Jane "Baby Jane Harvey" McCormick is on a crusade to change laws to punish johns and pimps, and help prostitutes escape a life of sexual abuse and exploitation.

"Some of my johns were nice guys, especially Frank ... and other celebrities, but as far as I'm concerned now those guys and my pimps should all have been thrown in jail," the 66-year-old great-grandmother said.

"In Sweden they have the right idea. They help the girls with social services and arrest the guys who exploit them."

In her recently released self-published memoir, "Breaking My Silence," not only does McCormick tell tales about the famous men she claims to have slept with, she also describes how as a child she was molested and subjected to a life that in effect groomed her to be a Las Vegas hooker by age 18.

McCormick, a high school dropout with two children left behind with family, initially was brought to Las Vegas by a California car dealer boyfriend who got her a false ID and told her to walk up to men in bars and strike up conversations.

"I thought I was coming to Las Vegas to maybe become a showgirl," McCormick said. "But hours after I got here , I was turning my first trick."

Later, she had another pimp - a boyfriend who she said lounged about her North Las Vegas home, took her money and spent it lavishly on jewelry, cars and other goodies for himself until she gave him the boot.

McCormick said she was primarily a high-priced call girl working mostly in Strip hotels from 1960 to 1972 before giving up the world's oldest profession for work as a nurse's aide and electronics inspector. Today she lives in Minnesota and runs her own cleaning company, Dust Busters of Minnesota.

Despite the big money, bright lights and dates with stars, McCormick said, she was never happy as a prostitute - and met few women in the business who were.

McCormick today discourages women from following in her footsteps.

"I suppose you could call this a tell-all book, but it is not meant to titillate," she said. "If my book does anything, I hope it will stir up conversation to get lawmakers to enact tougher laws directed at men who exploit women."

The book is available at breakingmysilence.net for $19.95.

In addition to Sinatra, McCormick names Rat Packers such as Dean Martin and Peter Lawford, as well as other high-profile men who she claims were her customers. After one such encounter, McCormick wrote: "Back at my apartment, I lay on my bed and cried. Every day I ask God to help me get out of this life. But then I stopped crying, took a shower, swallowed some pills and went back to the casino."

Experts agree there is a gender bias in how prostitution laws are enforced.

"Police and city officials are most concerned with prostitution as a visible sign of disorder," Las Vegas sociologist Barbara Brents said. "But if they really wanted to solve the problem they would address victimization. Prostitutes would be empowered to tell police pimps are abusing them without fear they, too, will be put in jail."

Though McCormick declined to say how much she earned as a prostitute, she noted that in the 1960s a hooker could earn several hundred dollars on a good night. "I did better than good," she said.

The svelte, 5-foot-6 platinum blond party girl developed a good working relationship with casino bosses. Knowing she could be trusted not to steal from her dates, pit bosses would introduce her to high rollers and she would hang on their arms for luck at the craps tables.

UNLV criminologist Alexis Kennedy said McCormick's book can open a much-needed dialogue about focusing more on punishing prostitution's demand side and stopping the criminalizing of the supply side.

"I believe laws in this area can be changed because attitudes change over time," Kennedy said. "Thirty years ago drinking and driving was not thought of as a serious crime , but with heightened awareness those laws changed."

McCormick said that like many prostitutes she found it difficult to leave the profession because the money was too good.

Several studies have found that at least 80 percent of prostitutes would prefer other work that pays as well or better but lack the job skills or employment history to break the cycle, Kennedy said.

Patti Wicklund, who co-wrote "Breaking My Silence," said that while interviewing McCormick she came to understand how a teen with little education and no other work skills could get caught up in such a sordid trade.

"How else was she going to make it - working as a nurse's aide for 90 cents an hour in those days?" Wicklund said.

"I wanted to show the reader that Janie was a real person - a face on prostitution. She has a heart and feelings just like anyone else. I wanted to show how such a nice person could fall into it."

McCormick said writing her book was an unburdening.

"I was lured into that industry - I did not ask for it," she said, admitting that only now is she starting to find happiness and self-fulfillment. "On the whole, I would rather have led a normal life."

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