Jill Dodd was a 20-year-old model when she got swept up into a life so extravagant, it would have made James Bond jealous.
She stayed at palatial estates in Monaco and Spain; wore couture and diamonds for days; and traveled on private planes as part of an entourage—all perks of being a “pleasure wife” in the harem of billionaire Saudi Arabian arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.
Dodd’s memoir, The Currency of Love: A Courageous Journey to Finding the Love Within, details the moment she met Khashoggi at a raucous party in the south of France in 1980.
A 20-foot bonfire lit up the night sky, and Dodd, high on adrenaline, champagne, and caviar, felt drawn toward the billionaire, who’d been watching her from across the party. Khashoggi, 44 at the time, “reminded me of my friend’s dad,” Dodd tells Maxim. “He felt safe.”
Though Dodd was at the height of her modeling career, with editorials in French Vogue and Marie Claire, she was struggling to make it on her own, and when she was invited to dinner on Khashoggi’s superyacht (a behemoth that was featured in the 1983 Bond film, Never Say Never Again, and later sold to Donald Trump for $29 million), she found herself enraptured by the excess all around her: designer gowns, solid gold door handles, fur bedspreads, and hidden bookshelf-walls that spun into secret rooms.
“I was enamored of his world,” Dodd says, “and I felt a sense of security, like I had a safety net.” She found Khashoggi charismatic, intelligent, brimming with a “silly humor,” and was hopelessly charmed into a verbal contract: she would be his concubine, and in exchange, Khashoggi would lavish her with gifts, trips, and even the college tuition that later serviced her career as a founding designer of surf and swimwear line Roxy.
But after less than two years in the harem, Dodd grew disillusioned. She thought Khashoggi might propose legal marriage, but he never did. The new women he’d started seeing weren’t ambitious types like they’d been in the past; they were “cocaine addicts from lesser [modeling] agencies.” And group trips started to feel seedy, ever accompanied by Khashoggi’s pimp-in-charge; only later would she realize that the party where she met Khashoggi was a set-up—he had worked with her agency to recruit her for the harem, in exchange for a fee.
“I was starting to question everything,” Dodd says. “The facade began to crack and I started to see the truth of what [Khashoggi’s] world really was. I had been totally naive to the plot and to the fact that I was there for sex. I look back on it now and see how they manipulated me. I’m going to be 58 years old—and I’m still trying to figure out what happened.”
Dodd, now married with three kids, spent 13 years in therapy and seven years writing her book. She spoke to Maxim about her two years as the mistress of a billionaire.
In your book, you describe the party where you met Adnan—there were champagne glasses being hurled into the fire, with broken glass shards everywhere. Adnan had cut himself and scrawled, “I love you” in his blood on your arm. Many would have run the other way, but you were charmed. How do you explain the attraction?
I was raised as a thrill seeker, an adrenaline junkie. I was riding motocross and diving from cliffs when I was 10 years old. I drove speedboats and fast cars and dirt bikes. So the blood on the arm—it was risky, it was dangerous, and it spoke to my thrill-seeking side. I definitely still have that.
You go to a party in Mexico, I’ll be the first person to dance on the table. I like to have fun and I like to laugh, and that was the other part of it. Anyone who knew Adnan intimately knew how fun and funny he was, how intelligent. People couldn’t understand why he was so good with women, but that was why.
You’d been seeing Adnan for a couple months before you ever kissed him—which was also the night he asked you to join the harem. How do you remember that night?
We were in Marbella, Spain, and Dominic—that’s how I refer to Adnan’s pimp in the book, that’s not his real name—came and got me out of bed in the middle of the night and brought me to Adnan’s suite. Adnan made a bubble bath for me. That was my first experience with cocaine, during that bubble bath—he nudged me strongly. I was like, "I’m not doing that." And he rolled up a hundred dollar bill and was like, "Come on, it’s fun!"
We went into his bedroom and started talking on the bed. I had already had several times alone with him, in his Paris mansion and on his yacht in Monte Carlo, and I’d been gradually falling for him and I wanted to kiss him on his bed. He said, "No, I can’t kiss you until I make a contract with you."
He explained that he was in the process of a divorce and would never marry in the traditional way again—he’d only marry like a king of Saudi Arabia or other royalty from his country, which is to have three legal wives and 11 pleasure wives. He explained that it was similar to times in the Bible where men had to take care of more than one family because so many men were killed in war.
So he’d been traditionally married before. Do you think that experience had informed this lifestyle?
I think he’d been truly in love with his first wife, Soraya, and didn’t want to be hurt and vulnerable again. He was protecting himself emotionally and he wanted to be in control. Also, he grew up around royalty—his dad was the physician to the king—so maybe he aspired to that life as a boy.
Adnan was an arms dealer who was later involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. How much did you know about his professional affairs?
For one thing, I had never studied politics, and I wouldn’t have understood anyway. I was into fashion, I wasn’t into politics, so I didn’t understand the magnitude of the things he was involved with at all.
He was open with me about doing military deals and I pushed back and asked, "Don’t you feel bad about the fact that you’re selling war?" And he said, "Doesn’t every nation have the right to protect itself?" And I said, Yeah, I guess it does. I was 21 years old, I mean, you’re talking to a child, a very young, naive woman. And there was no Internet, so I had no real way of knowing anything about him.
And yet, he’d researched you extensively.
He knew who my parents were, where I grew up, he had access to my school records. He went as far as you could go back in that time.
What were the stipulations of your contract with him?
He said, "I want to provide for you for five years. Anything you need financially, I’ll give you. You’ll be able to reach me all over the world, and I promise to get back to you within 24 hours. I’ll fly you to wherever I am immediately if you want to be with me."
He said, "You’re welcome to date other men as long as they’re not from my country." He said that would be embarrassing if he was at a dinner and met somebody and they were both with the same woman. And he said, "Don’t fall in love with me. I want to introduce you to a young duke or lord." He wanted me to marry well. But I didn’t have the self-esteem to think I would be deserving of something like that. I felt like he was trying to sell me on being with him, but he didn’t need to. I was already interested.
Were you expected to have sex with him whenever he wanted?
Yeah, but it was mutual. I wanted to, and I wasn’t dating anyone else until the very end, so I looked at him as my boyfriend.
And though you were one of many, did you feel like he saw you as his girlfriend?
He always made me feel special. And most of the time I was with him, he and I were alone. I’m sure I was in a state of denial. I was in love with him so I was justifying the whole situation. He even said to me that his heart is like a cabinet of drawers, and when he’s with each woman he opens that particular drawer. There was definitely a level of me naively justifying the entire situation.
Why do you think it was so easy to justify?
It’s still becoming clear in the present day, even after writing the book. But the reason I felt so comfortable with Adnan is because he was so much like my father. My dad objectified women, he was constantly hunting women even though he was married. He was always staring at women, talking about their bodies to me as a young girl. My mom was passive in all of this.
And even though my parents displayed this inappropriate behavior, my dad and I had a very close friendship. I was like the son he never had, we went everywhere together. I knew how to be friends with men and how to deal with their boy talk, so it was familiar. It doesn’t mean it was healthy, but there’s a lot of gray area. My childhood taught me that women are valued for their beauty and their sexuality and their sex. So with Adnan it was like, Wow, he values me—because that’s what I’m good for.
Do you think you were seeking fatherly affection from him?
Yeah, I think I was. It’s been very hard for me to admit that. I’m still trying to unravel these things.
You write in the book about how you walked into Adnan’s room one day and found him looking through a book of model headshots—and that you realized you’d been plucked from the same sort of book months before. Was that a turning point?
I was so naive at the time. But I look back now and see how they manipulated me, that I was basically curated from a group of women who were attainable that he could meet, and that he chose me from a photograph and my agent brought me to the party where I met him. It was completely set up—there was even a fee that was paid to the agency.
What do you mean, attainable? What was he looking for exactly?
Not the top models—I was one of the 98 percent who weren’t at the top-top. We’re the catalog models, the product models, the lesser runway models. We’re not the stars. We’re more desperate and naive. I look at my pictures and even I can see the naive look in my eyes! You can almost pick out who’s vulnerable. I’ll bet they could see that.
You wrote that you started finally getting disillusioned by everything when Adnan gave you a gift meant for one of his other wives. What happened?
The first time he gave me a gift that was meant for someone else happened pretty early on, within the first eight months—he brought a necklace in the middle of the night and set it on my bedside [before he realized he had the wrong room]. I knew that he had just come from making love with somebody, because he would give gifts after sex sometines. So I knew the drill. And I didn’t know if I could handle it, I was starting to question it.
But then the second time he gave me a gift that pissed me off was when we had been together around a year, and I was the number-one pleasure wife—it was obvious because I had the seat across from him at dinner, and there was no one in the harem that had been there longer than me, besides his legal wife at the time. There were rumors that he was going to propose to someone, to take another legal wife, and I assumed it would be me. And he gave me this heart ring with an arrow of diamonds, and I saw the same ring on another woman. It made me realize I wasn’t special. He was giving them out, and I was no different.
So what happened when you finally decided to leave the harem?
I was getting more involved with school and I was seeing someone else. I didn’t tell Adnan instantly but he could sense a distance, and I hadn’t seen him in about four months. I just told him I met somebody. His main concern was, "Is he a good man?" He became kind of fatherly. He wanted to discuss how we would part and I knew that meant financials, but I didn’t want his money, so I never pursued that. But we talked on the phone periodically as friends over the years.
And you went on to marry other men?
I had two abusive marriages after I left Adnan. But my husband now is the most secure man I’ve ever known. I hit the jackpot.
Do you think you would have had your career in fashion design if Adnan hadn’t financed your education?
I'm not so sure. I had a lot of industry experience, but I wouldn't have had the confidence I needed. So I’ve always been grateful to him.
Adnan passed away this year—coincidentally, on the publication date of your book.
It’s eerie. Crazy. I was in shock for like a week. I cried and was confused: What does this mean? I wanted to know how he felt about the book and had been reaching out to people who were close to him, trying to get answers.
It almost makes the story feel more cinematic. Have you thought about turning it into a movie?
Almost every person who reads the book says they can’t wait to see the movie! People have reached out about making a film but nothing’s been finalized. I’d want a strong, experienced, established woman in Hollywood to be involved. And whoever played me would have to be very young, just to portray how young and naive these models were. For Adnan, I think it would have to be somebody not attractive in the typical way but very charming and funny.
What other reactions have you gotten?
The best part for me is getting letters from women who’ve never been able to tell anybody about situations that they've felt shame about, and were afraid that people would judge them. When you keep a secret, the shame grows. When you let a secret out, the shame lessens. Many have been holding it in for 20 or 30 years, so from that standpoint it’s been fabulous.
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