CHAPTER 1: THE WHITE-HAIRED JOHN
'Are you busy? Could I come up and say hello?'
The most sensational judicial scandal in B.C. history began on a hot August
afternoon in 1978.
Plainclothes police officers watched the ground-level entrances of Governors
Place, a highrise apartment building in the West End where prostitute Wendy King
rented a two-bedroom suite.
An elite police unit waited for a judge to arrive. Officers knew one of
King's customers was coming for a "date" because they had a wiretap on King's
Police heard another prostitute tell King to expect a call from a former
customer, a judge who called himself "White-haired John."
The judge phoned King one week later, on Wednesday, August 16.
Judge: "It's John. Do you remember me? White-haired John."
Judge: "Okay. Carmen gave me your number. Are you busy? Could I come up and
Just 13 minutes after the call, two plainclothes officers see the 67-year-old
man get out of his car to visit the 29-year-old prostitute. They take note of
the Cadillac's licence plate: PGH-670.
The registered owner lives in an Angus Drive mansion in Shaughnessy. The
prostitute's "trick" is John Laughlan Farris, the chief justice of the Appeal
Court of B.C.
Three months later, on a dreary November day, Farris submitted his letter of
resignation to the federal justice minister: "Certain allegations against me
(not of a criminal nature) have been referred to the Canadian Judicial Council
for investigation. I consider the mere fact that these allegations have been
made, regardless of their substance, have so impaired my usefulness as chief
justice that it is in the public interest that I resign."
Farris was just the first B.C. judge whose name was linked to prostitutes. In
the coming months, a Provincial Court judge was seen with a prostitute and a
B.C. Supreme Court judge would be falsely accused of being one of King's
A labour-management dispute had stopped the presses at The Vancouver Sun
, but other media trumpeted what came to be known as "the judges
I followed developments like every other news junkie, unaware that I would
soon be repeatedly meeting the red-haired prostitute visited by John Farris and
many other johns.
When Farris resigned three decades ago, I was a 23-year-old cub reporter.
Like many reporters then and now, I wanted to do investigative journalism: big
stories that exposed societal problems and uncovered institutional scandals. I
was a political science major at Simon Fraser University when two Washington
reporters investigated a botched break-in by wiretappers who worked for the
White House and kept writing stories until U.S. President Richard Nixon resigned
in 1974. I was a first-year journalism student in 1976, when All The President's
Men hit the theatres.
I didn't know anything about John Farris or Wendy King when the Chief Justice
resigned. But in the spring 1980, I was learning the most intimate details of his
extra-judicial activities with King. That's because I was the first journalist
in Canada to interview King and see transcripts of police wiretaps and
investigation reports that are still locked away in police and Crown counsel
offices. I am the ghostwriter of The Wendy King Story, a book that stores yanked
from their shelves because of a libel suit launched by another judge.
My personal Wendy King story is one of the best untold stories of my 30-year
career at The Sun
, but it's not just a good yarn for the Press Club. It's a
story about male judges, female prostitutes and the way the male-dominated
justice system reacted when B.C.'s top judge fell off the bench.
The judges scandal focused public attention on the increasing number of
prostitutes on Vancouver streets, from the West End and central business
district to the Downtown Eastside. Some asked why the prostitute was punished
but not the customer. Others raised concerns that a prohibition on bawdy houses
pushed drug-addicted women on to dangerous streets, the hunting ground for
predators like Willy Pickton.
Prostitution was legal. But court rulings on soliciting, procuring and bawdy
house laws then in force affected how and where prostitutes went and how they
conducted their business. One of the cases that went to the B.C. Court of Appeal
in 1978 involved an undercover female police officer. A man approached the
constable, believing her to be a prostitute. After they negotiated a
sex-for-money deal, police arrested the customer. Prosecutors charged him with
soliciting a person in a public place for the purpose of prostitution.
Can a man be guilty of soliciting? In April 1978, the B.C. Court of Appeal's
answer was no: "A man who accosts a woman and seeks to gain her favours for
money cannot be said to solicit her for the purpose of prostitution. He does so
for the purpose of satisfying his own sexual desire." Farris was one of the
judges on a three-man panel who made that ruling, just months before he
satisfied his own desires at King's apartment.
Today, the law against making a money-for-sex-deal in a public place isn't
aimed solely at prostitutes, most of which are women. Now, a man who makes such
a transaction in a public place can be charged. In Canada, every "person" who
communicates with someone in public for the purposes of prostitution and gets
convicted of that offence can be sentenced to as many as six months in prison
and be forced to pay a $2,000 fine.
CHAPTER 2: THE BUST
Police seized business cards, a whip and handcuffs
The apartment tower where King once lived looks a little dated now but it's
still attractive. A sign boasts of an indoor swimming pool.
Thirty years ago this month (May 1978), police tapped the telephone line
going to King's 10th-floor home.
The Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit, a policy
agency that battled organized crime, was not targeting King. It was
investigating King's live-in lover Raymond Young, a suspected drug
Investigators with CLEU soon realized what King was selling. They had the
goods on the chief justice in mid-August, when they photographed Farris and
confirmed his identification with the licence plate of his Cadillac. On August 23,
officers were eavesdropping again when Farris phoned King once more to arrange
On September 11, the organized crime unit showed the Vancouver police department
vice squad some of the wiretap transcripts. Ten days later, the vice squad set
the bait for King's arrest. Vancouver police constable Grant Smith phoned
"Candice" and pretended to be a john. King agreed to meet Smith in her apartment
on September 21, shortly after 7:30 p.m.
Smith hid a 1970s tape recorder that police called a "body pack" under his
clothes. The constable, a tall, clean-shaven man, was greeted by a blue-eyed,
red-haired woman in a black kimono-style dress. Smith told King he worked for
the Canadian Armed Forces. He acted nervous, pretending he was a married man who
had never before bought sex. King gave him a glass of whisky and made small
talk. She assured the cop that police were not trying to catch customers. King
brought Smith into her bathroom, where she turned on water taps to muffle their
conversation in case her suite was bugged. But the tape recorder picked up
almost every word when they struck the deal.
Before King offered Smith anything more than booze, four Vancouver police
detectives were at King's door.
Smith stayed in character as a nervous customer.
King denied that she was a prostitute. Asked how she paid the rent, King said
she leased the apartment from a "Mr. Fortune." Police found a pager and more
than 100 business cards. They also seized a whip, thumbcuffs and handcuffs.
The vice squad left at midnight without arresting King. Ten days later,
police searched King's apartment again and found her "trick book" under a pillow
in a bedroom. The book listed the names and phone numbers of more than 800
King tried to disguise many of the phone numbers by using a simple code: The
sequence of the last four digits of phone numbers were in reverse order. But
police matched the real phone numbers to the calls placed by some of King's
CHAPTER 3: TOP JUDGE TUMBLES
And a second B.C. judge is investigated
Rumours about a liaison between judge and a prostitute percolated into
Vancouver newsrooms by the fall of 1978. Bit by bit, the story became
The first media reports were about vague allegations "involving judges and
members of the judiciary in B.C."
Then the Canadian Judicial Council confirmed
it was investigating an unnamed federal government-appointed judge. And on November 9, federal justice minister Otto Lang confirmed the subject of the investigation
was chief justice Farris.
Farris was only the first judge to fall. Later that same day, November 9, the
chief provincial court judge disclosed there would be a public inquiry into an
allegation that Provincial Court judge Erik Bendrodt picked up a prostitute
outside the Devonshire Hotel in downtown Vancouver. George Peden, the hotel's
security officer, blew the whistle. Peden saw the 44-year-old judge and a
19-year-old female prostitute drive away in a cab.
On radio station CJOR, Peden talked about a trick book that contained the
names of many prominent Vancouver men. Peden, who had obviously been talking to
frustrated cops, said the book was locked away in Vancouver police headquarters.
One month later, the Devonshire Hotel laid off its security officer. Said Peden:
"There was obviously some pressure placed on the hotel, pressure from the legal
establishment whom I've embarrassed."
Two weeks after Farris resigned without any admission that he had bought sex
from a prostitute, the justice system started its prosecution of the other half
of the sex-for-money transaction. Crown counsel in the B.C. attorney-general
ministry charged Wendy King, also known as Heather Fortune, Candice Simmons and
Wendy Buchanan. The crime: keeping a common bawdy house. The maximum sentence:
two years in jail.
Young, 45, King's live-in lover, was charged with the same
Criminal Code of Canada violation. Linda Stephens, the 31-year-old prostitute
who phoned King to alert her that White-haired John would soon call, was charged
with four counts of procuring King for the purpose of having illicit sexual
intercourse with another person.
But prosecutors didn't lay a procuring charge against the judge who had asked
King on September 23 to have "another girl" along for his next "date" with King. In
effect, Farris was trying to procure a person for the purposes of prostitution,
a crime then and now. Anyone convicted of procuring faces a maximum sentence of
10 years in prison.
John Laughlan Farris studied law at the University of B.C. and Harvard Law
School. His father was John Wallace deBeque Farris, the city of Vancouver's
first prosecutor, a B.C. attorney- general, a Liberal senator and the head of a
large law firm. John Laughlan Farris became a senior partner of Farris, Farris,
Vaughan, Wills & Murphy
ours). In 1971, Farris followed in his father's footsteps
again and became president of the Canadian Bar Association.
Farris also enjoyed lucrative connections to the corporate establishment: he
held directorships with the B.C. Telephone Company, Kelly Douglas Limited, the
Loomis Corporation, Pacific Petroleums Limited., Toronto Dominion Bank and The Sun
Publishing Company, which then owned The Vancouver Sun
He looked like a leader. A news story described him as "tall, heavy set,
thick white-haired and forceful."
In 1973, prime minister Pierre Trudeau appointed Farris the chief justice of
the Appeal Court of B.C.
Farris lost that well-paid and prestigious job when he resigned five years
later. But he never faced criminal charges and, unlike former provincial court
judge Erik Bendrodt, didn't have his sexual imbroglios exposed at a public
inquiry. Farris also didn't have to testify at King's trial, because she pleaded
guilty and no witnesses were called. In February 1979, just a few months after
Farris resigned, the B.C. Law Society allowed him to work as a lawyer again. He
didn't return to the well-respected law firm that still bears his name; he
joined another large firm.
CHAPTER 4: A LITTLE BROWN BOOK
'The publication of these names would ... embarrass some people'
King had a large clientele and charged more than street prostitutes, but
claimed she was too poor to hire a defence lawyer. So the taxpayer-funded Legal
Aid Society paid lawyer Robert Gardner's legal fees.
Almost a year passed before the bawdy house charge against King went to
trial, but a lot was happening behind closed doors. Letters that were later read
out in the B.C. legislature show the prosecution and defence discussed how the
trial would proceed. Prosecutor James Jardine promised the Crown would drop its
bawdy house charge against King's boyfriend. Gardner promised to "plead Wendy
King guilty and, of course, due to the dearth of evidence, [Young's] case would
be stayed." That deal -- Opposition critics called it "plea bargaining" -- meant
Farris and other johns wouldn't be forced to testify in court or face a wall of
news photographers and reporters.
King pleaded guilty when her trial started on October 23, 1979. Vancouver's
Chief Prosecutor Bruce Donald set aside the bawdy house charge against Yeun,
just as a colleague pledged the Crown would do.
One week later, Donald declared
"the highest level in our society" was touched by King's illegal business. He
asked for a jail term, saying a fine would only be "licence to operate." Judge
Darrell Jones ordered King's trick book sealed: "The publication of these names
would only serve to embarrass some people."
King didn't have to go to jail, although she had earlier been convicted in
1976 of soliciting. The judge imposed a $1,500 fine and ordered her to do 300
hours of community service work. He suggested that King, then 31, could work
with senior citizens. G.A. Spencer, a senior with a sense of humour, wrote one
of the many letters to the editor published in The Sun
: "I might be prepared to
put in for a couple of hours of Miss King's services -- regrettably, only in
five-minute installments, as I fear I'm not the man I was. That would leave 198
hours for others equally civic-minded."
King, meanwhile, began telling her life story to Robert Wilson, a convicted
thief and fraud artist. Wilson, a man in his 50s, had only known how to read and
write for a decade. His manuscript ran 200 pages.
King and Wilson cut some kind of deal with Ron Langen, who was then
publishing Biline, a magazine for gays and bisexuals. Langen knew he had to hire
a writer to make Wilson's manuscript readable. I met Langen through writer Stan
Persky, whom Langen first approached. I nibbled on the lure dangled before me.
At that point, I was 26 and a permanent employee at The Sun
for less than two
years. I was thrilled when King's go-between offered me the ghost-writing
This was my Watergate. I dreamed of fame, fortune and front-page stories.
The two-page contract that Langen signed promised me $500 a week, for a total
of $2,500, which wasn't enough to buy a house in Tahiti and retire. I was also
supposed to get 10 per cent of the net profits received from the publication of
the Wendy King Story, including serialization rights. Before turning over my
manuscript to Langen, I made sure I got all of the promised $2,500, and that the
cheque didn't bounce. But I never saw a dime of the profits from sales of the
book, which were probably miniscule because it soon became the target of a libel
The contract also promised that I had to give written approval to all
deletions or additions to my completed manuscript. But promises in contracts are
only as good as the people who sign them.
CHAPTER 5: GHOST WRITER
The cub reporter meets the call girl
My first face-to-face meeting with King was in March 1980, at another West
End apartment. She wore jeans and a tight-fitting sweater. Her long red hair was
I thought she was attractive but asked myself: Is this the woman who took
down B.C.'s top judge? Was she sexy enough to woo 800 paying men?
Robert Wilson, a chain-smoking ex-con, tended to dominate that meeting and
the others which followed. He was cocky, loud and opinionated. He liked to use
big words like fornification. As I came to know Wilson, I realized he hoped the
book would make him a respected author and provide a vehicle for his
strongly-held views that prostitution laws were unjust and the justice system
corrupt and hypocritical.
King said little at the first meeting until she approached my chair. She
knelt in front of me, cuddled my knees with her breasts and put a hand on my
thigh. She looked in my eyes and smiled broadly. These were the charms and
sexuality that lightened the wallets of many men.
It was strictly business at every meeting that followed: I asked questions,
she offered answers. I took notes and still have the original audio tapes of
those interviews -- perhaps six hours on tape. When Wilson wasn't interrupting,
King was articulate and entertaining. She had a high-pitched, girlish laugh. She
wasn't shy when she talked about sex, but was far less explicit than the words
now posted on thousands of erotic websites.
Wilson's draft was half-decent for someone who had been illiterate most of
his adult life, but it wasn't a biography that explained her background, her
decision to become a prostitute and her thoughts on the pros and cons of the
I started my interviews with King's account of her upbringing, her adult
years and her first "tricks." I reasoned that King would be more forthcoming and
honest about her celebrity clients if I developed a good writer-subject
King did talk about her childhood, her teen years and the reasons she started
selling sex as an adult in her 20s. Born in Vancouver in 1948, King grew up in
the Trout Lake neighbourhood. Some milestones from adolescence: she began
smoking cigarettes at 15; had her first sexual encounter at 15; drank alcohol at
16 or 17. She said she started at the University of B.C. in 1966 as the "hippie
revolution" began. King took liberal arts courses, experimented with LSD and
left university after just one school year. She traveled south, to California
and Mexico. She enjoyed the sexually-liberal communal homes she lived in.
At about age 22, King asked female friends who were prostitutes about their
job. At one point, she told an older man she had decided to become a prostitute.
They ended up in bed. When the man left, he put $200 in King's hand. "The golden
hook was in," said Wilson, offering the cliche that would become a chapter
title. The title of the following chapter: Tricks of the Trade