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Learn to be the perfect lady spy


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    Students get a lesson in poker playing at the Stiletto Spy School in New York City.

    - Amy Scott / Marketplace

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    Elizabeth Harrison, a student at the Stiletto Spy School.

    - Amy Scott / Marketplace

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    Elaine Gabrielson, a student at the Stiletto Spy School.

    - Amy Scott / Marketplace

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    Participants in the hand-to-hand combat class at Stiletto Spy School in New York City.

    - Amy Scott / Marketplace

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    The burlesque class at Stiletto Spy School in New York City.

    - Amy Scott / Marketplace

Elizabeth Harrison, a student at the Stiletto Spy School.

Elaine Gabrielson, a student at the Stiletto Spy School.

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Now let's talk about a different bond -- James Bond. Our New York bureau chief Amy Scott just went to school to learn how to be a spy.


Amy Scott: It's Saturday morning, and Elaine Gabrielson and her boss, Judy Briggs, are taking turns beating the crap out of each other.

Judy Briggs: Your turn.

At least, they're pretending to.

Elaine Gabrielson: I felt I had to be gentle, hahah, because she does sign my paycheck.

The two women are in my class at the Stiletto Spy School. We're learning how to gouge eyeballs, break ankles, and slam attackers to the ground.

The school's founder is Alana Winter. She grew up idolizing Emma Peel of The Avengers and the women of James Bond movies. So last spring, she started a business to teach women how to be like them.

Alana Winter: Everything from mixing the perfect martini and dancing the tango, being able to race cars, race speedboats, ski black diamonds backwards. Hahaha. All of these things. Of course we can't deliver them all in a weekend. But this is the vision.

At the school's weekend courses in Las Vegas, women even learn to fire uzis and AK-47s. The pricetag is more than $3,600. Winter knocked that down to $350 for the one-day course in New York.

My fellow student, Elizabeth Harrison, owns a PR and events company. She's in favor of small luxuries.

Elizabeth Harrison: As somebody who still is making some money, I feel like it's sort of a responsibility to go out and still stimulate the economy I suppose. And I think that people are desperately looking for something that makes them feel good right now.

From the combat training, we move on to poker lessons. Then to round out our sexy spy portfolios, an exotic dancing class.

It's a real change of scenery for Elaine Gabrielson. As a former truck driver, she's more accustomed to wearing work boots than stilettos. But at 51 years old, she declared this her year of being bold.

Gabrielson: So I want to be able to do that, and show women that at my age that, you know, like life doesn't end when your children go off to college and you get a little bit older, that there's all sorts of exciting things to do out there.

Ladies: Mission Accomplished!

At the end of the day, we toast our "mission" with champagne. I wouldn't say I feel like a spy exactly, but there is something pretty empowering about knowing that if you mess with me, I could totally break your leg.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

Elizabeth Harrison, a student at the Stiletto Spy School.

Elaine Gabrielson, a student at the Stiletto Spy School.

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