- Michael de Yoanna
- Mike Jones, the man at the center of the Ted Haggard scandal, stands on the balcony of his Denver apartment.
When the elevator doors slid apart, I stepped out and looked right, then left. Finally, I spotted him, backlit by an open doorway at the end of the dim hall.
"Over here," he whispered, waving me toward him.
"Is this what it was like for Ted Haggard the first time he was here?" I thought.
Well, that is, if Mike Jones' story that Haggard came to his apartment and paid a "couple hundred dollars plus a tip" for gay sex while amped up on methamphetamine is true.
It was almost out of a sense of duty that I came to Jones' small, modestly decorated apartment in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Jones' shocking allegations about the former New Life Church leader and National Association of Evangelicals president were morphing from news into legend. And about 60 miles north of Colorado Springs, the man sat, willing to talk to practically any inquisitor.
Indeed, Jones confessed to me he took phone calls from reporters at all hours even from student journalists writing stories for class.
But maybe he'd say something to me that he hadn't said already. Maybe if I started from scratch with him, he'd admit he made the whole thing up.
Following a firm handshake, we took a few steps to a wooden table, next to the glass door to the balcony. Amid the sound of wind chimes, we chatted about Jones' marathon week.
"My head is spinning still," Jones said. "When I was in New York for the "Today' show, I opened the New York Times, and there I am."
His plan for the coming weekend, he added, was to fly back east, this time as the guest of honor for a Broadway play. He couldn't exactly recall its title; something about a gay escort.
There's a bar in Hawaii, he adds, that keeps calling to see if he'll play the "hunky Santa" at a gay Christmas party.
Jones said he was just a "John" to Haggard. But even as the scandal has ruined his high-profile client, it has transformed Jones from the "nobody" he says he used to be. It has freed him from two decades of male prostitution with "hundreds" of clients that he said include sports and movie stars, politicians and clergymen. So Jones grinned, even while surrounded by reminder notes to call people back and printed e-mails.
His phone rang. He ignored it. It was the bar from Hawaii again.
I asked him about his family in Denver. They know he's gay, he said. They didn't know about the prostitution.
"How are they handling this?"
Jones grimaced. "Everything's fine with my family. No more family talk."
Jones said many people adore him for coming forward. Others clearly hate him.
An e-mail he recently received invites him to a baseball game the writer offers to bring the bats.
Asked what he thinks of efforts by Haggard's evangelical peers to counsel him, Jones expressed doubt.
"I'd say he's a gay man," he said. "If he's never going to be honest with himself, I don't care how much therapy he has, he's never going to be true. He's always going to be a deceiver."
After 45 minutes, I shook Jones' hand and thanked him. The door shut behind me.
Nice guy, nice home. No revelations. So, what story did I get?
Here's the best I've come up with: Jones' days as a prostitute may be over, but he's slid seamlessly into the role of media whore.