Thoroughly Modern Madam

Behind the tawdry headlines about her Frederick escort service and its little black book, Angelika Potter is an entrepreneur who has learned 'marketing is everything.'

April 24, 2001|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,SUN STAFF

FREDERICK - It was December 1995 when Angelika Potter broke the news to her parents: She was starting her own escort service, offering attractive young females to the men of Frederick for $250 an hour.

Her dad absorbed the blow, then slowly shook his head.

"I knew that you'd end up somehow in the porn industry," he said. "I always knew that."

Then he sat down to help write the business plan.

Thus did Potter set herself on a collision course with notoriety. Now, nearly two years after a police raid put her escort service out of business, she is aswirl in a spicy small-town brew of gossip and lawsuits. Attorneys, reporters and local gadflies are fighting to get their hands on her "little black book" - a computerized list of her clients, great and small - while callers besiege her with death threats and offers to save her soul.

Potter, 39, is of two minds on this long-running game of nudge and wink.

Her sex-trade alter ego, Steffie, is laughing all the way to the bank. Salacious local headlines have attracted the attention of news media, from Hustler magazine to the BBC, bringing fan mail from overseas and boosting hit counts on her X-rated Web site, where no subject seems off limits to any adult with a valid credit card.

For the lively Steffie, whose business card proclaims her to be an "exhibitionist-slut," the uproar is a noisy validation of her credo that "marketing is everything," a slogan she has lived by whether selling used cars in Gaithersburg or stripping for GIs at a Playboy Club in Germany.

Potter's private self, on the other hand, seems to have her doubts about this mess, wishing that it would all go away. This is the Potter who arrives at her door for an interview in denim overalls and no makeup, warily on the lookout for nuts and cranks; the one who pays a mortgage, raises a family and is pre-occupied with life's more pedestrian bumps and grinds. She can sound beaten down as the lawsuits come and go, chattering with just enough of an accent to hint at her childhood in Bamberg, one of those picturesque German towns with cobbled streets, ornate clock towers and timbered medieval homes.

Plenty of subjects are off limits for the private Potter - her children, for starters. And her husband, who goes along with this regime by introducing himself as Julian Kay. It turns out to be a pseudonym, albeit with a clever twist: Julian Kay was the title role in the film "American Gigolo"

Also off limits is whose names are listed in the purported "black book." One reason is that, besides clients, the computer records also list her plumber, her veterinarian and her babysitter, who happens to be married to a policeman. Nor were all of her clients simply "johns." There was the prominent local female activist, for example, who hired a dancer as a gag for her husband's retirement party. Some of the guys were just hiring dancers for bachelor parties.

Add up the two sides and you end up with a question: How did a friendly, chatty, well-educated product of the German middle class become the so-called "Madam of Frederick," the most notorious woman for miles around in a town better known for its skyline of steeples.

You can begin looking for answers in the red light district of her old hometown, back when she was still a high school kid named Angelika Kurz.

German roots

About all a tourist sees of Bamberg are such sites as the majestic old Rathaus, or the 500-year old Schlenkerla pub specializing in a smoke-flavored brew called Rauchbier. The town's blend of gothic, renaissance and baroque architecture is so well preserved that it's on a United Nations list of world cultural landmarks.

You notice a bit more when you grow up there.

"I went to school every morning on the train, and right beside the train station was a big X-rated cinema, with all the posters outside ... and we were like, `Ah, she's nice,' and after a while you just don't even look anymore," Potter said. "The red light district was a few blocks around the corner."

She began cutting classes to hang out in grunge bars or wheel around on friends' Harleys.

"My parents would turn over every time they thought of this, because they raised me to be this moral upstanding citizen ... and here I liked hanging out with motorcycle gangs and in raunchy bars. I think it was such an attraction because my parents were middle class. We had good education, nice clothes, manners. I went to boarding school in Switzerland for a while. So it was not like I [lacked for] anything."

Her parents were entrepreneurs, often preoccupied with minding the store, a boat dealership. Potter's generation came of age during West Germany's postwar "economic miracle," a society that kept one eye on the balance sheet and another warily on the East Germans and Russians lurking behind the Iron Curtain.

By age 17, she'd met a 32-year-old stripper named Jeannie, who worked at the Playboy Club in nearby Bayreuth.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.