A Soviet Defector Wooed Her at Taxpayers' Expense, Ex-Hooker Judy Chavez Claims
05/21/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT
05/21/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT
To Judy Chavez, he was just another trick, her third and last that day. Her "escort service" told her she would be spending the night with "a French diplomat" in Suite 520 of Washington's Sheraton-Park Hotel. As always, she smoked a joint, packed a sleeping pill ("There's nothing worse than lying awake all night next to some creep you can't stand") and, at the hotel, slipped past security by using an underground entrance to the elevator. Upstairs she sensed immediately that all was not as it seemed. Her date was "completely different from other men I'd met in the business," she says, "very muddled, quiet. He kept looking at the floor." Still, he agreed to her fee—$250 for the service, $500 for herself—and beyond that "I didn't care who he was. The first thing you learn in this business is not to ask a guy what he does because that turns them off."
Unwittingly, Chavez had walked into a drama of international espionage. Her date was Arkady Shevchenko, the highest-ranking Soviet official ever to defect to the U.S.—a pivotal figure in SALT talks, a senior member of the Soviet diplomatic corps and Under Secretary-General of the U.N. When Chavez first met him in May 1978, Shevchenko was being spirited through a maze of aliases and luxury apartments in the protective custody of the FBI and CIA. When he asked for companionship, his federal bodyguards picked an escort service from the Yellow Pages. Over the next five months, Shevchenko saw Chavez repeatedly and apparently fell in love with her. Then she turned against her benefactor, publicly accusing him of paying her a total of $40,000—out of taxpayers' money. He denied the charge, insisting the funds were his. Still, his cover was blown and Shevchenko was whisked underground with a new identity.
Today Shevchenko has more reason than fear of KGB retaliation to cherish his anonymity. Chavez has just published Defector's Mistress—a steamy exposé of her five months with the man she knew as "Andre Ringland." It goes well beyond both the usual kiss-and-tell genre and good taste. "There was always something about 'Andy' that brought out the absolute bitch in me," says Chavez, who describes her treatment of him as "vicious but fair."
Her own story is decidedly unpretty. Married at 17, separated at 18, she was "in business" on her own by age 19½—with an answering service and beeper system. "I was still trying to go to school," she says (a high school graduate, she eventually finished two years at a community college), "but my beeper kept going off in astronomy class. It's not hard to make a decision between $150 and astronomy." Soon "Raven" (her working name) came to specialize in sadomasochism—"English," she calls it. "You know, humiliation, bondage, torture." Off hours, she dabbled in bisexuality. "I like doing English best," she explains, "because when you do it right, you don't even have to touch them. You tell them they're not good enough to touch you."
At first Shevchenko wanted just a playmate for hire. His interest quickly deepened. Chavez, then 22, dismissed "Ringland" as just another boring 48-year-old who drank too much and was subject to bouts of impotence. But her curiosity was piqued. Why did he have two 24-hour male "secretaries"? Why couldn't he go out in public? One evening she found him sobbing. He told her his wife was dead. The next day in TIME she read about a Soviet defector whose wife, left behind, had died of an overdose of sleeping pills. Shevchenko then admitted who he was. Chavez appeared unimpressed. "I was never going to let him think I thought he was important," she says, "or even very interesting."
Captivated by her nonchalance, Chavez says, he wooed her with a monthly retainer of $5,000 for three nights a week and a 10-day Virgin Islands vacation—with, she claims, FBI or CIA agents picking up the checks. She says Shevchenko paid her $5,000 extra for the trip ("It was business for me—I was miserable the whole time"), lavished designer clothing and more than $2,000 in jewelry on her—and, before their liaison ended, gave her $9,000 toward a $13,000 Corvette.
His increasing ardor made her cooler still. "I had to play the girlfriend bit," she explains, "and it put me in a terrible mood, having to be so cuddly and nice. So I'd make him give me massages all night while I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I used to psych myself up listening to David Bowie records—anything to make me indifferent and numb." Desperate to pry her attention from a book, she says, Shevchenko confessed one night that he had indeed been (as hotly rumored at the time and never confirmed) a longtime CIA contact or "mole" within the Soviet government. She kept reading. "I knew he was upset," she says. "Here he'd blown all this precious information on a girl who didn't even care."
The people who cared were standing outside. "The FBI and CIA pumped me for information all along," she says. They enlisted her help in cutting down on his drinking, helping him forget his wife's death, controlling his behavior. "I had to cooperate to a degree," she says—the FBI was extending her probation on a marijuana conviction, keeping her vulnerable to arrest at any time. "I felt really trapped." She also had the eerie feeling that, even off duty, she was being watched. "I would get in my car," she recalls, "and the windshield wipers
would come on or I'd notice that the seat had been moved back. I was getting cut off in the middle of phone conversations. I didn't know whether it was the CIA or the KGB or what." She claims Shevchenko warned her the KGB might try to kill her to get at him—and then began threatening to kill her himself if she ever betrayed him. "I started having anxiety attacks and my nerves were shot," she says. "I couldn't take any more."
She thought of the book as "an insurance policy." Chavez found a lawyer and a literary agent, and then enticed Shevchenko to a Washington restaurant, where he was met by an NBC news camera crew. Later Chavez held a press conference, then disappeared to tell her story to a ghost writer.
Though Chavez claims to be out of "the business" these days, Shevchenko, in a sense, is still keeping her. Bankrolled by a six-figure advance for Defector's Mistress, she lives on Manhattan's East Side with her boyfriend, Ron Doescher, 34, who "knew about me all along," she says. "He's used to my craziness."
Shevchenko, she hears, met another woman last Thanksgiving and has since married her. Her own future, she is positive, contains neither marriage nor children—"even though I should have an heir to my fortune." She says it with an ironic laugh.