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Department: Great Escapes
If you had referred to Annie Lobert in her heyday as a prostitute, she would have set you straight post haste. "No, I am a call girl. There's a difference. I'm classy. And clean. I'm not on drugs, and I've got my life together. I want to go to college, and this is the way I'm going to do it. I'm very empowered. And I know what I'm doing."
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Men believed her, too. She had regulars with whom she had ongoing relationships and standing offers of support, even marriage, should she decide to escape this lifestyle she defended so imperiously. The offers were nice, but she was bluntly honest: "Look, I get paid by the hour. You and I have a private relationship, but falling in love with each other? That's not gonna happen. So if you want my company, you will have to pay me. And we can have a great time." She could easily pull in $10,000 in a night. Selling herself, selling her personality, was very tantalizing, even addicting. This was "Fallen" (rhymes with "talon"), her alter ego. Fallen was fearless, confident, and in charge.
Little Girl Lost
But Fallen was a far cry from the lost little girl that had been Annie only a few years prior. Annie grew up in Minneapolis, the third of four children born to a Catholic mother and an anger-prone father who abused their mother and ruled the home with a heavy hand. Even so, Annie desperately wanted his love. Sexual advances by a neighborhood girl rendered her an agonized mix of guilt, shame, and sexual confusion, and at some point in adolescence, she gave up trying to win love by being good and went the bad-girl route. A cycle of failed relationships, sexual abuse, and self-blame set in. Still, she was always crushing on someone. What she wanted most was love—the fairytale prince who would sweep her off her feet and love her forever.
Soon after high-school graduation, Annie and her friend Kimmie met two hot men at a nightclub. Kimmie took up with one of them, and a few weeks later, during a trip to Hawaii with him, she called Annie, inviting her to come check out an insanely easy money train. Kimmie was cagey over the phone, but it didn't take long for -Annie to figure out what was going on. It also didn't take her long to trade her heavy wool coat, snow boots, and $3.47/hour clerical job for sundresses, strappy sandals, and a go at some crazy money of her own. The men had been undercover pimps, but Anne didn't think too deeply about it. This would be her ticket to the finer things in life. Gradually sweet little Annie faded into the background, and Fallen emerged.
But the aching vacuum in her heart didn't go away.
Enter Julian, a few years older, charmingly attentive, and dripping with money. Something told her this man and her desire for him were dangerous, but her fantasy of being happily in love outweighed her better judgment. This man could be "the one," the love of her life.
They moved to Las Vegas, and Fallen signed on with an escort service. She quickly discovered she could command top dollar as a petite blonde who barely looked eighteen, and after her first night on the job, she returned home at sunrise giddy, eager to show Julian how much she'd made.
The celebration came to an abrupt halt, though, when Julian grabbed her purse, nearly knocking her over, and roared, "Break yourself!" It was a common phrase in the pimp game that essentially meant, Turn it all over, girl; you belong to me. When independent but naïve Fallen didn't obey right away, Julian grabbed her by the throat and dragged her outside by her hair. He threw her down on the cement patio, punched her in the face, and kicked her so hard she could hear her ribs cracking. Then he dragged her across the wet grass and shoved her face into fresh dog feces. "You're lucky to be with me, let alone be alive! I won't be tolerating any disrespectful attitude!" he bellowed. "Wipe them tears off your face and shut up before I take you out to the desert and bury you six feet under. This is pimpin'. Imma be your boss from now on!"
And indeed he was. Call girl or prostitute, she had joined in a game of power, lust, control, manipulation, and greed, and this was how it was played. Julian was her pimp now. She would live under fear of punishment from now on, and also, perversely, under fear of losing him.
Remarkably, she would stay with him for more than five years, a veritable "cash cow." There were more beatings and some very credible death threats. Three times she escaped but then returned before breaking away for good. "You see," she wrote in her memoir, Fallen: Out of the Sex Industry and into the Arms of the Savior, "this is what typically happens when a woman falls in love with her pimp—she tries to change him into a square, in hopes that one day he won't be pimping any longer and decide to settle down with his bottom girl [a euphemism for his 'senior' girlfriend or prostitute]." But a pimp changes his ways about as often as a leopard changes his spots.
The first of two major turning points came in 1994, when she was invited to Italy for a few months with a traveling theater troupe. She had a red Gideon Bible that a friend had given her in her early call-girl days. She'd never read it, but had kept it through all her moves. Curious about the Vatican, she read the entire New Testament while en route to Rome. "For the first time, I was awakened to God's Word. I had never before realized how powerful it was. The Scriptures did something to my soul. Something shifted inside. I knew I had to get out of prostitution, but I just didn't know how."
That experience with the Word of God, combined with a moving visit to the Coliseum, where the people of God had been martyred for no reason other than their professions of faith—she could relate deeply to unjust suffering—started to change her from the inside out. She returned to the States a different woman.
But her troubles weren't over. The ensuing years brought a cancer diagnosis and treatment, three deaths in her family, a business failure, and addictions to painkillers and cocaine. Finally, in late summer 2003, vexed by overwhelming feelings of failure compounded by guilt over so many bad choices, she took a massive hit of cocaine. She wasn't trying to kill herself, but she suddenly felt dizzy and couldn't breathe. A pain seized her chest, and she fell to the floor and blacked out. She saw a vision of her own funeral. Family members passed by her coffin, one by one, crying and shaking their heads. "What a waste," said one. "She was an addicted prostitute," said another.
She regained consciousness to find herself crying, too. "Jesus, help me, please," she prayed, as a paramedic stuck an IV in her arm; "I don't want to die this way." She would later learn she'd had a heart attack and more drugs in her system than even a healthy body should have been able to withstand. "There is no medical reason you should be here right now," said one of the doctors who saw her. "You are one lucky lady. God must be with you."
She took that to mean that her prayer had been heard. A peace like she had never before known settled in. She was instantly delivered from her addictions to cocaine, cigarettes, and painkillers. Fallen died that night, and Annie was on her way to a beautiful life of redemption and purpose.
She went to church, where people embraced her. She began to stand on the words of Jesus—that she was whole, that she was healed, that she was pure. Here was love. These were the finer things in life. This was clean. This was empowerment.
In 2009, she married Oz Fox, her prince, in a fairytale wedding. A virgin in Christ, she wore a white sparkling dress and a tiara.
One day, she was minding her own business, vacuuming at home, when she heard God say to her, "Annie, I want you to go back down to that Strip, and I want you to tell the girls that are in slavery that I love them." And so that is what she did.
She's been doing it ever since. "No matter where you've been, no matter what you've done, no matter how deep, how dirty you feel, there's redemption. You are white as snow when you accept him into your heart." •
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