“Jack is going to fuck you,” Linda told me matter of factly with a blank, dead stare that suggested she was probably in a black out.
“Absolutely not,” I shot back, shaking my head vigorously with one eye on the traffic light, waiting for the cue that I could sprint across Third Avenue without getting hit by a taxi.
“Yes, he is,” Linda assured me, slowly blinking both eyes over her static, cartoon smiley face.
“Absolutely not,” I repeated. “I’m going to my apartment. You’re going to your apartment. Oh there’s the light! I’ll call you tomorrow.” And I was off, carelessly running through puddles in the $3,200 lizard Manolo Blahniks Linda had given me for Christmas a few weeks earlier.
“Quick follow her,” Jack slurred through a half-gnawed cigar, nearly falling on his face as he grabbed his wife’s fur-clad arm.
Oh God, I thought, I’ve got to get away from these freaks. They don’t pay me enough to deal with their drunken bullshit.
Just as I reached my building a half block away, said hi to the doorman and violently drummed the elevator’s up button, Jack and Linda strolled through the door, looking every bit like the upscale Manhattan power couple – he in a made-to-measure “007” Brioni tuxedo and John Loeb shoes, and she in a vintage Pucci beneath a Fendi mink. In unison, they called my name.
Ignoring them entirely, I channeled my mother’s selective hearing and continued to hit the up button, hoping against all reason that I could slip inside the elevator and get the door closed fast enough to escape my drunken client and his enabling wife. No such luck.
Just as the elevator car arrived, I felt the graze of a pinch on my upper thigh. I turned around and there was Jack, smiling insanely and raising his eyebrows flirtatiously, like a deranged Gomez Adams.
“We want to invite you to a party,” Linda chimed in, still looking and sounding like she was two thousand sheets to the wind.
“Oh that’s so nice of you. But I’m going to go home now. I’m tired. But maybe, if you’re free, we can have lunch tomorrow or Sunday,” I replied like this was all perfectly normal and not at all threatening to be chased home by drunken socialites.
“That’s no problem,” she assured me, “because the party is in your apartment. Come on,” she beckoned me, holding the elevator door open and trying to wave me through. “Let’s go upstairs. What floor do you live on?”
“Oh no,” I protested. “I’m not going upstairs with you. You’re going home.”
I took a seat in the lobby, refusing to budge until they left my building. “You have to go,” I pleaded quietly, hoping the doorman, who now had his head buried in the sports section of the Daily News, had no idea what was going on.
Linda entered the elevator, chose a floor and the doors slid closed. I turned to Jack and asked him, “What are you doing? You have to leave my building. Go home. Leave me alone!”
Jack said nothing. He just smiled and continued to chew on his cigar that was now mutilated to the point where loose, wet tobacco was visible below his lower lip.
“If you’re not going to leave, I am,” I threatened. “You have to go home now. Do you understand me?”
Jack said nothing. I doubt he could have. He was now as drunk as his ménage a trois stage mother/wife, who by then returned to the lobby and called from the elevator.
“It’s fine. There’s another party up here. We don’t have to go to your apartment. Come on; I’ll show you,” she explained, almost pleading.
“No, I’m not going to any party. You’re going home and I’m going to sleep. Either you leave or I will,” I told them.
No one moved an inch, except the doorman who looked up briefly from his newspaper and then returned to reading about last night’s Knicks game.
“Fine,” I whispered loudly, as I dashed to the street, hailed a cab and breathlessly begged the driver to take me around the neighborhood, promising to give him $20 if he continued to circle the block until the coast was clear.
Reluctantly the driver agreed, undoubtedly worried that he’d picked up more than he bargained for when he stopped his cab in normally boring Midtown Manhattan.
For 20 minutes, the taxi did an endless loop through the 50s, passing repeatedly the same shops: Jamba Juice, Barnes & Noble, Ray Bari Pizza, PJ Clarke’s.
After no fewer than 30 laps, I saw them, my client and his wife, stumbling and laughing across Third Avenue, undoubtedly en route to their Sutton Place pied-à-terre with the James Beard award Jack had won that night, seemingly oblivious to the insanity of their lives.
I thanked the cab driver, said good night to the doorman and walked through my unlocked apartment door, looking for any sign that Linda had been inside. I saw none.
I took a shower, pausing under the steaming water with gratitude that I’d survived another bizarre night with Jack and Linda. I put on a pair of thick crisp white sweatpants and a t-shirt. I wrapped myself in a terry cloth robe and went to sleep.
Making coffee the next morning, I remembered what had happened the night before and shook my head, knowing I really couldn’t tell anyone about Jack and his wife, what they said, what they did.
My oldest sister would be disgusted by Jack – and with me for putting up with him. My friends and colleagues couldn’t really be trusted. What if they told someone? What if Jack found out?
He’d fire me. It was my job to protect him and his image. He did not pay me nearly ten thousands dollars a month to make him sound like a lascivious pervert.
I couldn’t tell my mother. Though they’d never met. She loved Jack. She got a kick out of him and his nutty sense of humor. She told me I was lucky to have someone take me under his wing and to allow me to work in such and insidery, glamorous New York world of billionaires, celebrities, socialites and history-making entrepreneurs.
I put it out of my mind. What else could I do? I sat down at my desk and started to plow through a blizzard of emails from journalists, colleagues, friends, bloggers, gossip columnists, photographers and clients. With the avalanche of work that threatened to bury me, the last thing I had time to think about were the black out antics of a drunken Italian man and his co-dependent wife.
- CHAPTER TWO –
I never wanted to work in the Equinox. Up until that moment, every decision I had ever made was a desperate attempt to get away from someplace awful, not to get someplace I believed was good. My move to the Equinox was no different.
I hated where I was working when the job offer came through. A lowly assistant to the general manager of a mid-sized advertising agency that was owned by one of the real deal 1960′s-era Mad Men, I earned $15,500 a year. I simply did not make enough to pay my rent, student loans and to buy groceries, all at the same time.
When the owner of the Equinox offered me a job that paid $28,000 a year, I knew it was a chance to get my college bills out of deferment and to eat for free in one of Manhattan’s legendary restaurants. I readily agreed to join his team, believing that I’d never stay there for more than a year.
As much as I didn’t want to work there, I must admit I wanted to give the right first impression when I began this new chapter in life. By then I was old enough to remember all the times I started a new job with the wrong wardrobe. This time I was determined to do it right.
The weekend before my first day, I begged my sister Kate to take me to the Marshall’s near her suburban town. Somewhat reluctantly she agreed and with a sprinter’s speed I flipped through the racks and miraculously found a mix and match selection of separates that looked appropriate and could be recombined to create dozens of different looks.
Knowing I already had a nondescript pair of pumps and a decent hand bag, both purchased from consignment shops, I rushed to the register with three long solid skirts (black, grey and beige), a blazer, one wrap dress dress and five or so blouses and sweaters. I was thrilled that I’d created a variety of outfits for just short of $180.
When I arrived at work that January morning, I was scared. Not terrified. But I admit I was nervous. By then I was too old and too underpaid to quake in my sensible heels about yet another dumb job that fell well outside of my dreams of being a painter or writer.
And it’s a good thing I didn’t blow it all out of proportion in my mind. It would haven been a waste of time. When I swung the office door open, I discovered no one was there. Instead of a bustling office of judgmental colleagues, I found a dark room, illuminated only by the buttons on the switchboard that indicated some people do not realize that no Manhattan restaurant answers its phones at 8 am – regardless of the wealth and power of its clients.
Looking back on that day, I guess that even I didn’t know that. Nervously sitting there, waiting for my new boss to arrive, I picked up the ringing phone and recited a script I made up on the spot.
“Thank you for calling the Equinox. This is Hannah,” I smiled into the receiver. “May I help you?”
“You either listen to me and do as I say,” the woman on the other end threatened me, “or I’ll take my business to Le Cirque. Do you understand me?”
Alarmed by her aggressive voice and delighted because I live for eccentrics, I answered, hoping to sound cherrful and confident. “Of course, whatever you need. I’m happy to help.”
“I’m planning my Christmas party. I want to book a room for 100 next December,” she barked.
“Not a problem,” I assured her, without any idea why someone would reserve tables eleven months before they were needed. “Lunch or dinner?”
“This is Judy Feller,” she barked back. “It’s always lunch. December 15th. Have Jack call me. Do you understand me?”
If I didn’t hear as she fumbled to hang up the call, I would have said I did and called her back, knowing the call had been disconnected by accident. But I just knew it had not. I knew Judy Feller had deliberately hung up. I wondered if she just hated me or if she was a known handful, who often called early in the morning to threaten the Equinox’s underlings.
After that reception, the rest of the day was a blur. What I remember is that Andrew eventually arrived to welcome me and to introduce me to my office colleague. Jack followed, strutting through the door with a theatrical “Morning,” an “Oh my!” and devilish raise of the eyebrow in my direction.
The highlight of my first day in the Equinox was having lunch with Antonia. The sister, niece or aunt to many other employees, “Toni,” as everyone called her, escorted me upstairs to the restaurant’s enormous kitchen to meet the chefs.
Just as Toni was explaining that the proper protocol was to ask the chef for “fish” or “meat,” Andrew swooped in to let Toni know that rules did not apply to me. I would instead be assigned a kitchen staffer, Frank Manza, who would prepare a dish especially for me.
Finally, I thought. Just days ago I was trying to calculate the number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I could get out of a couple of jars and now I’d have my own dedicated chef, tasked to satisfy my lunchtime whims.
Well, it only took me a couple of days to discover that my preferences played no role whatsoever in what I’d eat. Every day, for months on end, my lunch was the same: grilled salmon and steamed vegetables.
At the end of my first day at the Equinox, I didn’t know that. I was just feeling excited that I’d survived it all in my hyper conservative outfit and that I’d be letting my hair down and meeting a friend and her boyfriend who were visiting from California.
At that point I’d known Karen for a couple of years. I had no idea who her boyfriend was and, truthfully, I didn’t really care. He was just some guy who’d invited me to Bice, to sip Champagne with my best friend and to watch a blizzard of snow blanket Midtown, where they were both visiting on one of his business trips.
Within the time it took us to have a few flutes each, Karen’s boyfriend Will was incoherently wasted. Looking back on it all now, though I didn’t really understand this at the time, there is no question Will had been drinking long before he had his first glass of Champagne with us. Through a slurred alphabet soup of apologies, he told us he wanted to go back to the Plaza Hotel, where he was staying, for quick nap.
No sooner did Karen and I get him tucked into his suite, before we went back downstairs, looking for fun and adventure in Manhattan’s streets. We made it no further than into the lobby of Plaza before we found Giovanni, a six-foot tall, 75 year old Italian man in a very expensive camel haired coat.
Giovanni came out of nowhere, wedged his way between us and looped his arms between ours. As we walked with him, confused by what he wanted, he escorted us into a cab outside and instructed the driver to take us to the Trump Towers, mere blocks away. When we arrived, Karen and I were completely oblivious to what was really happening when Giovanni opened the cab’s door and tried to escort us out. He took one look at a woman who was standing outside of his apartment building, threw $500 inside the cab and told the driver to pull away.
Karen and I, dressed in the most conservative clothing you can imagine, bee-lined for Smith & Wollensky where we blew every last dollar, scarfing down a couple of steaks and a bottle Jordan Cabernet, while laughing ourselves sick about Giovanni, whether or not he thought we were prostitutes . All the while I was terribly worried he’d eventually cross my path back at my new job, where European billionaires, in $25,000 camelhair overcoats were far more common than silly, tipsy 20-something women, enjoying a Manhattan stow storm.
Category: Strange but True
About the Author (Author Profile)
I am a New York City publicist who specializes in promoting luxury products and experiences and occasionally moonlight as a journalist.
Relatively new to the world of blogging, I have watched and enjoyed Bravo’s Housewives shows since the first season of the Real Housewives of Orange County. I created this blog over the 4th of July holiday of 2011 because I enjoy writing and love to figure out how to blend images and words to create something that is both visually compelling and interesting to read.