Most of the businesses listed in Ivan Monet's mid-Atlantic guide welcome the free publicity. Not Paige Barnes. She's suing him for defamation.
That's because Monet's monthly newspaper reviews "adult services"--prostitution and sexual massage--and Barnes says her Fairfax County-based Premiere Referral is a "non-sexual escort service . . . providing legitimate social services to professional men in need of companionship."
Barnes's business got only a four-line listing under "Incall and Massage" in the October 1998 issue of the Mid-Atlantic Adult Guide.
But a six-page federal court complaint argues that Premiere's inclusion "casts plaintiff Paige Barnes in the false light of being a pimp or madam and thus a woman of the lowest moral standards rather than the legitimate and reputable businesswoman that she is."
Monet, whose company, FTS Inc., also publishes such guides for Pennsylvania and New York, begged to differ. "I don't know any guy who is going to pay $150 an hour to be alone with a pretty girl and not have something happen," he said. "The suit is groundless and without merit."
Barnes's complaint, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, said that her business has been the subject of several police stings but that her employees have never been charged with prostitution. Two female employees were charged in July 1998 with obtaining money by false pretenses, according to Fairfax court records, but the charges were dismissed. Those charges, according to Barnes's lawyers, stemmed from the fact that the women did not provide sex, rather than the reverse.
Barnes said she has complained before about her escort service being included in sex guides. "They do it all the time, and no one has called them on it," she said. "They did something wrong, and now they're going to pay for it."
Premiere has been in business seven years, has a business license from Fairfax County and requires escorts to sign agreements in which they promise not to engage in physical contact with their clients, according to one of Barnes's attorneys and the lawsuit. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
FTS has been rating adult establishments for 22 years, Monet said. "We've been in business so long that the girls call us when they open a new place," he said.
Usually the reviewers visit the sites they include, but in Premiere's case, a reviewer simply called up and asked what services were available, Monet said. According to the guide, Premiere charged $165 an hour for "incall"--when the client comes to the business. For "outcall," the price was $185.
Monet has offered to publish a retraction. He called Barnes's lawsuit "a money grab."
Staff writer Peter Pae contributed to this report.