When Page Six recently reported a spotting of Sydney Biddle Barrows at the Metropolitan Gallery, her name was a jolt from the past — one most New Yorkers hadn’t thought of in decades.
“My reaction was that I really should stay home,” Barrows told The Post with a laugh.
Back in 1984 — the year she was labeled the “Mayflower Madam” after being busted as the head of an upscale prostitution ring — the Manhattan blue blood’s business brought in $1 million a year (about $2.7 million today).
Now, almost four decades on, the reformed felon is applying the same transactional skills that she once used for hiring out call girls to teaching professionals how to build profits.
“I’m still in the ‘helping people business,’” Barrows, who calls herself “a facilitator,” told The Post. “My previous clients had dreams of being with pretty girls. Now my clients have dreams of making more money.”
A prime example of the latter, she says, is the boss of a construction company whose annual income has rocketed from $300,000 to $8 million over the last six years.
“He wrote a testimonial for the home page of my website,” added Barrows, 69, who claims to perform “clearings” of the subconscious mind so individuals can replace “negative” energies with “empowering” ones.
“Like most of my clients, he was willing to push the envelope and try something he’d never heard of before.”
Barrows, the descendant of four Pilgrims who escaped England for America aboard the Mayflower in 1620, knows all about career risks.
Her first big gamble was the 1979 launch of the personal escort agency Cachet — a bespoke service catering to influential, wealthy men including high-profile lawyers, foreign diplomats and Arab oil sheiks — who paid as much as $250 an hour (now about $660) to have sex with high-class prostitutes.
The underground venture went like gangbusters for five years, but came to a screeching halt with a sting by the NYPD vice squad. “They used to be known as the ‘p–sy posse,’” Barrows told The Post.
She claims on her website: “Unfortunately New York’s Finest shut it [the agency] down (Ok, we were busted) only to eventually concede it was the most honest and professionally-run business of its kind ever operated in New York City.”
While the source of the endorsement is unclear, the former madam fondly looks back on her time as a sex broker. “[It’s] the best job I ever had,” she recalls in her online bio.
Barrows, who was raised with her brother in Rumson, NJ, said her bloodline from the 17th-century Puritans is through her mother, Jeanette Ballantine, who developed a long friendship with Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy at the tony Miss Porter’s girls’ school.
Meanwhile, her father, Donald Byers Barrows Jr., was a business executive at the publishing company Time Life. His daughter was paraded as a debutante at a 1970 ball held by The Mayflower Society, but the patriarch poured scorn on her ambition to further her education after Barrows was expelled from Stoneleigh-Burnham boarding school in Massachusetts for playing hooky with a boyfriend.
“He said: ‘You’re a pretty girl who’ll [soon] get married, so why should I send you to college?’” Barrows recalled.
Undeterred, she completed a two-year course at the Fashion Institute of Technology and was hired as a buyer at the Brooklyn department store Abraham & Strauss. “I had a female boss who taught me what a good boss was like,” she recalled. “I learned a lot about running a business.”
Nonetheless, Barrows was fired for refusing to work Sundays. A miserable spell of unemployment led to her 1977 move into the shady world of prostitution.
It happened after she visited the apartment of a friend who was busy “unpacking a brand new stereo,” Barrows said. “She didn’t have any more money than I did, so I asked her where she got it from. She uncharacteristically wouldn’t give the answer but finally broke down and said: ‘I answer the phones for an escort service.’
“I said: ‘Oh, what’s an escort service?’ and, when she told me what it was, the first thing that popped into my head was prostitutes. My reaction was, ‘Oh my God!’ and I was horrified that someone I knew was involved in such a thing.”
But the lure of a $50-a-night salary — vastly higher than a whole week’s unemployment benefit — proved too tempting. Barrows began working as a receptionist as soon as an opening came up at the agency.
She said she quickly realized that she was smarter and had more business acumen than the guys who ran the show.
“They liked ‘hot chicks’ — girls you’d call ‘trashy-looking’ — and figured everybody else would too,” Barrows recalled. “But the men I spoke to on the phone sounded just like my male relatives and the fathers of my girlfriends. I knew they’d be horrified by some hoochie mama prancing through their door.
“I realized there was an entire market that was not being served.”
Two years later, she and her pal quit the agency and set up Cachet. Its unique selling point was supplying rich clients with beautiful, classy and well-spoken girls.
“Other ads, in places like Screw magazine and Back Page, showed grainy pictures of a woman with her legs in a Y-shape with the headline: ‘See you in my valley,’” she said. “But we designed this very spare, elegant-looking ad saying, ‘New York’s Most Trusted Service.’”
The bucks rolled in as the call girls swanned into ritzy hotels like The Plaza and Pierre. To avoid detection in the lobby, Barrows said, the women “dressed in business suits from Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s and carried briefcases.”
Unlike other agencies, which did a 50/50 split of the takings, the escorts pocketed 60 percent of the profits while Cachet banked the rest. Barrows, who later ran the business alone, insists the prostitutes — who started out charging $100 an hour — were never “coerced” into the industry.
The madam, who went by the alias Sheila Devin, went on to seize another financial opportunity by meeting the increasing demand from affluent clients for “even prettier, blonder, bustier girls.” Suddenly, she could charge $250 an hour with a two-hour minimum. An overnight cost $1,000.
More than 40 years after she founded the illegal enterprise, Barrows feels no remorse. “The guy was hurting his wife, not me,” she told The Post of a typical customer. “It was all him. If he wanted to choose my agency to cheat on his wife with a lie, that was his business, not mine.”
She was collared in October 1984 after a “drop-dead gorgeous” girl “who was lacking in the brains department” made the mistake of giving a price to an undercover cop for oral sex.
“In New York, all you have to do to commit prostitution is to agree to commit a sexual act for money,” explained Barrows.
There was no trial, as her legal team negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors. Barrows — whose ancestry led The Post to crown her the “Mayflower Madam” — was fined $5,000 and received no jail time or community service. One attorney remarked that the lightweight punishment was merely a “kiss on the wrist.”
Barrows was photographed outside Manhattan Central Booking in a chic gray wool suit that played on her image as, she said, “a high-falutin’ broad,” noting, “I never went in for flashy clothes. That was never my style.”
She admits she benefited from her portrayal in the press as a cut above: “My trust fund didn’t exist and I was by no means a socialite, but it diverted people’s attention from anything [they might consider] sleazy.”
It didn’t take long for her name to became an answer on “Jeopardy.”
“I mean, let’s face it, it gave everyone something fun to talk about around the Thanksgiving table,” she said. “I guess it was fun because it wasn’t their daughter or anyone related to them.”
As for Barrows’ own family, her mother’s side was “more accommodating” than her father’s. Her paternal grandmother felt particularly “humiliated” after reading about the bust in the paper — turns out, the two share the same name.
But eventually that rift was healed. Barrows wrote her bestselling autobiography “Mayflower Madam: The Secret Life of Sydney Barrows” and, in 1987, she was portrayed by actress Candice Bergen in a made-for-TV movie.
“I had my more than 15 minutes in the sun,” Barrows said, revealing that it was “nice to get a good table at a restaurant” as a consequence of her infamy. “Was it nice to get a little extra special treatment? Hell yeah!” she added. “But, as the spotlight faded away, I was okay with that.”
The Upper West Sider, a divorcée with no children, lives in the same one-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment as she did in 1984.
The forthright way she reflects on her scandalous past appears to have endeared her to the “entrepreneurs and ‘solopreneurs’” who fork over $2,200 for four 90-minute phone sessions with the guru. She offers a 100 percent money-back guarantee if clients spot no change in their fortunes.
Barrows even claims that, beyond commercial interests, her “energy work” has performed miracles on people’s personal lives. One overweight man lost more than 200 pounds by following her “internal motivation” program.
Meanwhile, she often harks back to the business model of her escort agency as a recipe for success.
“You have to figure out what the customer wants,” Barrows said, referring to the ’80s johns who paid top dollar for their liaisons with “classy” girls. “It’s all the same. There’s nothing special about it.”
Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death
Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.
Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.
Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.
Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”
Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.
ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”
Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.
Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.
Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”
Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence
MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.
But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.
“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’
McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.
Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.
Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.
That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .
When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.
Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”
Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.
“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.
“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’
The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.
Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.
But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.
“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’
The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.
No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.
“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’
Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers
When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.
Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.
This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.
The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.
Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.
To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.
There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.
The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.
Baby steps, though.
Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.
Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.
Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.
Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.
And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.
Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.
Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.
Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.
“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.
On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.
That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.
That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.
It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.
If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.
The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.
“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’
A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.
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