Sorry, Ashley: Your 15 Minutes Are Almost Up

Prostitute at Center of Spitzer Scandal Must Act Quickly if She Hopes to Capitalize on Her Instant Notoriety; She's Already Lost $1 Million

By Published on .

Most Popular
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Eliot Spitzer liked what he saw of Ashley Alexandra Dupré, the call girl at the center of his disgrace, but will America make her a media star? Probably not. Despite her willingness to sell sex, she's likely missed the opportunity to cash in on her ill-gotten fame.
Deja vu: 'Girls Gone Wild' offered Dupré seven figures before discovering she'd been in a video. Credit: Richard Graulich

Scandalites before her have certainly leveraged their notoriety into Jenny Craig endorsement deals; their own reality series; handbag lines; jeans commercials; guest turns on shows from "The View" to "Judge Judy"; and, in the case of Paris Hilton, renown for nothing other than being famous.

But extending Ms. Dupré's moment into a real run in the spotlight is getting tougher with every passing day. Even the $1 million payout offered by Hustler could evaporate if "Girls Gone Wild" and others keep turning up pre-existing nude images of Ms. Dupré.

"She can actually do really well," said Ian Drew, an editor at large at Us Weekly, which gave "Spitzer's Call Girl" a box on the cover last week. "But she has to strike when the iron's hot. The amount she can earn goes down quickly."

Been around
That's exactly what happened last week when one offer went from seven figures to none. "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis was prepared to pay her $1 million to appear in the company's new magazine, but then rescinded the offer when it was discovered she was already in one of the company's videotapes from 2003. Even the Orlando Sentinel discovered it had a topless image of her from a story that year on the "Girls Gone Wild" series. Us Weekly posted more than 50 photos of her from a "modeling" shoot on its website last week.

But by the end of the week, most websites and blogs had let stories about her slip to the bottoms or back pages of their news sites. The Spitzer scandal began and essentially ended within days, said Rita Tateel, president of the Celebrity Source, which matches stars with corporate events and campaigns. "Unlike Monica Lewinsky, who had a little bit more of 15 minutes because Bill Clinton did not resign, here Ashley has more like eight minutes." And even that may be too generous given the speed of media cycles today.

An aspiring singer, Ms. Dupré's only move after the scandal broke was to upload her second song to the Amie Street online music store around 2 a.m. on March 13; she managed to get some radio airplay in New York on Z100 on March 14. But improper gubernatorial gusto isn't the same springboard as winning "American Idol."

"If she was in the studio with a producer, her voice is not that much worse than Britney Spears'. ... It's not inconceivable that she could have a song as good as the stuff on the charts," said Andy Greene, assistant editor at Rolling Stone.

"It's a really tough road for her to have a music career because she's a prostitute," he added. "She had sex with Gov. Spitzer, and that's fascinating to a lot of people. But people ultimately want to read her book or see her interviewed by Oprah or Barbara Walters. They don't want to listen to her third or fourth song."

Hazy future
At least a book deal, which some optimistically think could be worth $1 million, or a teary Barbara Walters segment could help Ms. Dupré reposition herself for a longer turn in the public eye. Unless she does some serious repackaging, it isn't clear just which brands will be interested.

That's not to say everyone was turned off. Georgi vodka last week was pursuing Ms. Dupré as the next "butt girl" for its provocative ads. Star Industries CEO Martin Silver, who owns U.S. rights to the brand, told Ad Age his firm was making headway in talks to pay Ms. Dupré a low-six-figure amount to be the annual pinup the brand posts on the backs of city buses and the tops of taxis.

Ms. Dupré's attorney, Don D. Buchwald, partner at Kelley Drye & Warren, said he was "not aware of any endorsement or any deals."

GoDaddy.com seemed like a possibility, or else a test case, given its propensity for scandalous advertising featuring oversexed "Go Daddy Girls" and puns on the word "beaver." No such luck.

The Go Daddy Girls, such as IndyCar racer Danica Patrick, represent pinnacles of achievement, said Elizabeth Driscoll, VP-public relations at Go Daddy Group. "Each of them has done very well professionally. They like to have fun, they're good at what they do and they're edgy. They reflect our company in a way that's a pretty good match."

'Lot of work to do'
And Ms. Dupré? "We're aware of who she is," Ms. Driscoll said. "But she's not really putting herself out there. She's probably got a lot of work to do if she's serious about this."

There may be some upside, however, in Ms. Dupré's apparent ability to reject requests for unprotected sex. "I have a way of dealing with that," she told her boss at the Emperor's Club VIP, according to court papers. "I'd be like, 'Listen, dude, you really want the sex?'"

There you see a woman clearly taking responsibility, said Jared Fennelly, marketing manager for One condoms, whose endorsers include Real World alumna Parisa Montazaran, herself famous for not much. "We'd like to be able to go out there and say everyone takes this kind of response and not to have to latch on to some kind of salacious story," he said. "But the reality is people aren't focused on this right now. So yeah, absolutely we would talk about something like that."

But getting book deals or even condom commercials takes a team, and so far no agent, manager or PR rep has surfaced. The lone professional known to represent Ms. Dupré is Mr. Buchwald, who said he has forwarded all inquiries to his client; Ad Age's interview requests went unanswered.

Ironically, by opting not to cash in, Ms. Dupré might prove herself classier than the common "celebrity."

~ ~ ~
Contributing: Michael Bush, Jeremy Mullman

How scandalous celebs have fared

Ashley "Kristen" Dupre: Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's call girl has received many lucrative offers following the sex scandal. Her next move will be crucial in determining whether she will join a dynasty of women who have parlayed sex scandals into greater fortunes and careers -- or flame out like some others.

Paris Hilton: The self-proclaimed "iconic blonde of the decade" rose to celebrity prominence in 2003-2004 with Nicole Richie in their TV show, "The Simple Life." Whether it was mere coincidence that a private sex tape known as "One Night in Paris" was circulated just prior to this meteoric rise is beside the point. It certainly added to her notoriety, captured the public's imagination, and also earned her a nice profit from its proceeds. She went on to do endorsements for Carl's Jr.

Kim Kardashian: The daughter of famed O.J. Simpson defense attorney Robert Kardashian, found herself in the media spotlight battling for the legal rights to a private sex tape made with then-boyfriend singer Ray J. in 2001. She settled with Vivid Entertainment for $5 million and was soon offered endorsements and modeling gigs. She has appeared on several shows, including "The View" and "The Tyra Banks Show," and stars in the E! reality show "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

Monica Lewinsky: One of the most famous women in America because of her affair with ex-President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Ms. Lewinsky subsequently signed a book deal with St. Martin's Press; did a Barbara Walters interview; the "Tom Green Show" and two "Saturday Night Live" appearances; signed a deal for an HBO special; started a line of eponymous handbags; became a spokeswoman for diet program Jenny Craig and even hosted a (short-lived) reality TV dating program called Mr. Personality. Not bad for an intern.

Anna Nicole Smith: She had already been named Playboy's Playmate of the Year when she married 89-year-old billionaire J. Howard Marshall. The late Ms. Smith parlayed her fame into a career of cameo appearances and her own reality show.

Divine Brown: The prostitute was arrested for "servicing" actor Hugh Grant in a parked car, which led to interviews with Jerry Springer and Howard Stern and even an appearance on "Judge Judy," earning Ms. Brown more than $1.6 million in publicity alone. Today she is a millionaire working as producer and executive at Fettucini Records.
-- Johnathan Lemonnier
In this article: