On Call

Mike Jones wasn't the only one to get regular visits from "Art."

I got fucked by a male escort.

Was it good for you?

At 5:05 a.m. last Wednesday, Peter Boyles was telling his KHOW-Denver audience about an e-mail he'd gotten from a man who would be on the air that morning, talking about a prominent religious figure who'd gone to him for gay sex. The man sounded very familiar. Could this be Mike Jones? My Mike Jones?

I'd met Jones five weeks earlier — not through rentboy.com, the website where he'd advertised his services as a gay escort, but after I'd responded to an e-mail similar to the one Boyles had received, promising a tale involving "gay sex and a national high profile religious man." The 49-year-old Jones came to my office early one Friday morning and slowly spilled his story. He talked about growing up in Denver (his family has lived here for generations), about his work as a personal trainer and a model and a male escort. He talked generally of a client list — 80 percent married men, he estimated — that included sports figures and businessmen and politicians and one man, "Art," whom he'd been seeing about once a month for three years but had only recently realized was a prominent Colorado Springs minister. A minister who preached that homosexuality was a sin. A hypocrite.

Jones discovered Art's identity while he was working out — as he did every day at 5 a.m. until recently to keep his rentboy physique — and caught a special on The Da Vinci Code that included an interview with Ted Haggard. That would be Pastor Ted Haggard, founder and senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, as well as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents thirty million people. Ted Haggard, who'd made Time's list of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America. "No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted," said Harper's — a quote included on www.tedhaggard.com, the official site of Pastor Ted Haggard (until late last week; the site is now "in transition"). A man who was part of a ministerial conference call with the White House every Monday morning — until this past Monday morning.

Pastor Ted Haggard was Art.

Jones normally would never expose a client, he told me, but with both Amendment 43 and Referendum 1 on the ballot, he thought people had a right to know who wasn't practicing what he preached. He'd already shared his story with a local TV station, providing the same materials he now gave me: voice-mail tapes of "Art" calling to arrange to get some meth — meth! — which he'd told Jones made sex so much better, and a Xerox of an envelope in which "Art" had mailed cash from Colorado Springs. If the station didn't go with the story, Jones asked, would we be interested? The Lord will provide, I thought, and started collecting very public quotes from Haggard that contradicted this account of his private behavior. In the recent release Jesus Camp, for example, Haggard tells his congregation, "We don't have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It's written in the Bible." And then he looks straight into the camera and says, "I think I know what you did last night. If you send me a thousand dollars, I won't tell your wife."

But then in mid-October, Jones called and left a message that he'd decided not to go public. No Jones, no story.

Which is why at 5:06 a.m. last Wednesday, I called Jones and asked why he'd changed his mind. He told me that he'd been listening to Boyles's show a couple days before, heard callers talk about the sin of homosexuality, and just couldn't take the hypocrisy any longer. "Here Pastor Ted and his wife were able to enjoy the benefits of marriage but would deny it to two consenting adults," he said. And an hour later, Jones was on the air sharing much the same story he'd told in my office — but Haggard's name was never mentioned, leading to one of the town's most intense, and short-lived, guessing games.

Because at 10 p.m. that night, the name was revealed on 9News, the station that had been working the story since August. A reporter had caught up with Haggard at his home in Colorado Springs that afternoon, and he'd denied knowing any Mike Jones, denied having had a "homosexual relationship," insisted he was "steady" with his wife.

Haggard didn't mention getting a call from Jones earlier that day; Jones had called the church, said he was an "old friend" of Pastor Ted's, gotten a private number and left a message that the media was interested in his story. But the next day, Haggard resigned as president of the evangelical group. On Friday, again confronted by Channel 9, Haggard admitted that he'd asked Jones to get him meth — because he was curious, he said, but he'd thrown it away without using it. He also admitted that he'd gone to Mike Jones for "a massage" — at the recommendation of a Denver hotel concierge.

That was too much for James Dobson, the focus of some of Wednesday's guesswork. Colorado Springs's other most powerful religious figure issued a statement saying that "all of us at Focus on the Family are heartsick over the allegation, not yet confirmed, that Ted has had a private life with a homosexual for several years."

On Saturday, the New Life Church Board of Overseers removed Haggard from his leadership position, and the next day read Haggard's letter of apology to thousands of worshipers gathered at the church he had founded. He was "guilty of sexual immorality," Haggard had written. "I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it all of my adult life."

And with that, Haggard went silent. But the spotlight's still on Jones. On Saturday he was in New York City for an early appearance on Today, flying back to Denver just in time to get the news that Haggard had been relieved of his pulpit. "I burst out crying when I heard," he says. He was still wearing his TV makeup when he landed, and he stopped by King Soopers to buy some more. Inside Edition was calling, and one of Larry King's producers was meeting with him Monday. After this past week, Jones says, "I have stuff to hide."

But not the truth. "I knew it was going to be a story," he continues, "but I'm so naive about this." If he'd known how big the story would get, he would have packed a suitcase. (He's going back to New York on Monday.) He would have prepared his family. He would have prepared himself for the attention — good and bad. "I always realized I was gay — since I was a kid. I didn't know what it was then, but knew I was attracted to men," he says. "My whole life, I've always been a loner."

And he made the decision to go public on his own, without prodding from anyone or anything but his own conscience. Which keeps talking. "I have cried because of Haggard's family," Jones says. "But he was the one who came to me. People need to keep that in perspective. I could have ruined a lot of lives, but there was a reason for this one. He touched a lot of people's lives."

Haggard's life is now in the hands of several senior ministers — showing rare wisdom, Dobson backed out of the job — who are charged with determining just how dark his life has gotten. They might find it illuminating to stop by the Crypt, the adult store on Broadway where "Art" was a regular customer, spending a couple hundred dollars a month on sex toys, according to a former clerk. He bought "mass quantities" of cock rings, the clerk remembers, as well as an electrical unit designed to stimulate the urethra. One time he wanted some "very graphic and gay" videos, but the store was out of the titles, so "Art" left a number where the clerk could reach him. The number is the same one that Jones called last Wednesday to warn Haggard that they needed to talk.

"Art" — who was willing to confess to buying meth, but not to touching a man — didn't return Jones's call. And he didn't return mine.

"I feel bad for both parties," says the former Crypt clerk. "But they kind of brought it on themselves."

I got fucked by a male escort, but was it good for you?

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