PEORIA, Illinois - George Somerset is a man who has lost everything for love, and after his latest try, may now have lost even hope. This once prosperous businessman and homeowner is now at the local homeless shelter, trying to find out where it all went wrong in his epic search for the fabled "Hooker With The Heart Of Gold".
His riches-to-rags odyssey started with an incurable romantic streak, that and coming across a video tape in the dollar bin at his grocery store, a tape that would change his life. The tape, "Pretty Woman", starred Julia Roberts, and the beautiful actress caught George's eye the moment he saw the cover.
He bought the tape, and watched it that night, and many nights since. It struck a chord in him, and let him realize that like the billionaire in the movie, he did not have to stay lonely, but could loosen up, if only he found the right woman. The right pretty woman, that is.
"I realized that the movie makers were clearly on to something. Who better to help an uptight wealthy man unwind then a girl from the streets who can bring a refreshingly naive perspective into his life?", said George, "And then, I'll admit it, there was the whole 'gratitude' thing. Obviously lifting someone out of the gutter is going to make them love you more, just out of gratitude if nothing else."
George, the former owner of Somerset Jewelry, was not one given to just idle speculation and dreaming, but decided to put his ideas in motion. "I knew that I was lacking something in my life," said George, "and was eager to start correcting that." So thus did George embark on his search for true love.
"I went down to Adams street, a well known high crime area where dealers and hookers ply their crafts", related George, "And at first I was a bit alarmed and disappointed. They were all black."
Returning the next evening, his patience was rewarded with the finding of Candy, a white sex worker who flagged him down when she observed from a friend's porch that he'd gone down the street four times. "Candy was actually the prettiest I ever found", said George. "But it was also one of the shortest relationships I had. She asked for fifty, and I gave her a $100 bill and asked if she had change. She said she'd have to run inside to get it, but something must have happened, as she never came back. I waited for three hours, till a police car pulled up and asked me to move on. A part of me is still waiting...".
But an incident like that, or the nine other incidents just like it in rapid succession, did not deter George from looking for love. And on the 11th time he got lucky. "Well, I admit I tried to put the odds more in my favor. Not only did I have the exact change, like I'd been careful to have the last few times, but I told her we'd have to go someplace first. I suggested Jumers, an upscale hotel, and one that I'd rented the suite of for the past several weeks, for just in case I met someone special." Now still only a few thousand dollars out in his quest for love, George took Amber back to his suite. Ordering strawberries and champagne, he settled into a chair with some paperwork, after putting "The Best of 'I Love Lucy'" in the DVD player.
This did not seem to please Amber, which was expected. "I knew I'd have to win her trust. I was already eager to see what her face would look like when I would offer her $3,000 to spend the week with me, like Richard Gere did to Julia Roberts when she was in the hot tub.", said George. "But frankly, and the movie hadn't prepared me for this, I was also eager for Amber to be in that hot tub in general, as she smelled quite...well, it just wasn't very nice smelling."
It is believed by this reporter that George is refering to the blend of dried sweat, old semen, urine, stained underwear, dirt, grime and stale crack smoke that is so normal to smell on a Peoria sex-worker's clothes and body.
That's when she lit up her crack pipe, frankly surprising George. George reports that he was astounded, as he had assumed that she was only working the streets due to some life's tragedy or failed dream. It hadn't occurred to him that it might be to support a drug habit, though he did admit that he should have realized that possibility. "I forgot about Julia Robert's friend and roommate 'Kit' in that movie", he said. "Kit had had a drug problem, and stole some of Julia's rent money. Clearly, I had got the roommate - but at least then I was on the right track!"
George's reflection was to be short lived, though. The Hotel Manager had recognized Amber's type at once, and had wasted no time in calling the local authorities. Amber had hardly had three hits when the manager let the police into the suite and both Amber and George were arrested. "That's when I lost my car, as she had left her purse in it, and there was more crack in that. It has something to do with RICO, my attorney said."
Bailing himself out, he tried to do so for Amber, but a Tyrone Johnson had already done so. George never saw her again, which made the DA the more eager to prosecute him. Several thousand more dollars spent on detectives and attorneys was unable to produce the woman, and George had to cut a deal in which he plead guilty, but received probation and a suspended sentence. And a ten thousand dollar fine, which his attorney said was cheap given the amount in the hotel room and car found.
With no savings and only his Toyota Tercel, but still owning a nice home and business, George was undettered. He was back on Adams street the next night, where he met with even worse luck. It seemed like life was against him, he related. He took several girls back to his home in the course of the next week, but each one robbed him, and after the first two claims, his insurance dropped coverage on him. He did say that the only reason the second one was able to rob him was because (and here George blushed a bit) "she" was a man. "But she - I mean, he - hadn't looked like one. Actually, 'he' was prettier then most of the others. Strange."
When he met Trixie and had her over, she ended up inviting her boyfriend over while he slept (after having had a nice talk with her, but no sex, as "he wanted it to be special when it happened") and robbed him of all electronics and furnishings - the boyfriend had tied him to the bed and used a moving van. The claims adjuster denied the claim, and it was then that he lost coverage.
The fifteenth girl seemed different. She listened to his sad story, and really seemed to express an interest in George's job, prompting him to take her to his store to show it off. But as it happened, this girl was a friend of Trixie, and no sooner had George de-alarmed the place when Trixie and her boyriend showed up, and robbed the whole store. As he had been self-insured, and as he had been the one to de-alarm, it was a total loss. "I didn't even bother calling the police, they had been increasingly rude to me lately, anyway."
Having lost his house due to failing to make his monthly payments, George had to live out of his car. He still had money in his business account, though, and was still determined to find love. "I figured that I had to be getting close, and that with the right woman, we could rebuild." Regrettably though, the 16th girl pulled a knife on him, taking his money, and then the seventeenth girl - and last - had her boyfriend rob him of his car at gunpoint, just after his pants were down around his ankles.
"That's when I came here", said George, referring to the St. Ignatius Homeless Shelter. "I have to say, this whole experience has made me a bit bitter. I was looking for the Hooker With The Heart Of Gold, and all I found was pain. It was odd, as I'd done so much research on this."
George refers to the fact that after he had watched "Pretty Woman", he had read countless novels and seen countless movies, all in which the theme of the "Hooker With The Heart Of Gold" was prominent. "Where was my Belle Watley? Where was my Vivian Ward? Heck, I'd even have settled for V, played by that overaged has-been Melanie Griffith!", whined George. "But hey, I have to cut this short. The line for getting a free shirt and pair of pants is forming up, and I need to get something nice. I've a job interview tomorrow at McDonalds, my PO arranged it for me. Say, have you met Angie over in the Women's Section? I met her last night and told her my story, and she said that if I get the job, she'll let me take her out to dinner when I get my first paycheck! Now there's a sweet woman, I think she really does have a heart of gold!"