This world was splayed open when Woods crashed his SUV last Thanksgiving weekend. And it does not close because Tiger Woods has (for now) left it, returning to public life this week to play in the Masters, a chastened man. There are still rich VIPs in the premium corners of clubs from New York to Miami to Las Vegas, being “introduced” to girls who are not Woods’s girls but who are exactly like most of Woods’s girls. In most cases, there is an exchange, gifts or help for sex—though with celebrities, what the girls receive is often just the privilege of being with a storied name. The Woods scandal has upset the rhythm of this world, upping the stakes and rattling the locals. But you can’t keep wealthy men and pretty girls apart for long.
Rachel Uchitel is long and skinny and buoyantly breasted. Her lips are a fat heart. On television and on the Internet, she is the aviatored one moving serenely through airports as camera-headed men coo, Rachel, how does it feel to be a home-wrecker? Rachel?
She has not “gone out” since the National Enquirer broke the story about her alleged affair with Woods. That Thanksgiving weekend, there were 50 people with cameras banging on the windows of her Manhattan brownstone. She’s since been staying in Las Vegas, in the condo she owns at Turnberry Place, where the security is state-of-the-art.
“This new persona is the opposite of who I am,” she says. “I was alone every night. My life was my work. But people took my job and made it a scandalous, negative thing.”
Before nightlife, Uchitel was a segment producer at Bloomberg News and engaged to a man who died in the 9/11 attacks. In 2005, she drove across the country to Las Vegas, not knowing what she was going to do. Before she’d even arrived, a friend got her a hosting gig at Tao.
“When you lose your whole future,” she says, “it’s something that changes you.”
On one of the online memorial guest books for her deceased fiancé, several people have lately written in, consoling his parents that the woman their son loved is not the same Rachel Uchitel in the media—she doesn’t even look like the same person. They’re talking about an AP shot from Bellevue Hospital in the days following 9/11. In the picture, she is crying and blonde and holding his image. Comparing it with recent pictures, one can’t help but notice a Jessica Rabbit effect.
“I have big breasts,” she says, “yes. But I’m really offended by the notion that I used my sexuality.”
“There are mosquitoes, rats, gnats, leeches, agents, and then promoters. A promoter is a glorified pimp. But then everyone is a pimp.”
It’s a cool Las Vegas night in March at the new tapas place in the Aria hotel. Uchitel is wearing an orange cardigan and black leather pants, her thin legs balancing on top of high heels with some girlish platform to them. She’s picking at her tuna tartare but mainly she is out of cigarettes. She bums a few from the waiter and stands outside the place, a giraffe on stilts. She’s 35 years old, too old for being a VIP host anymore, she says.
“People say, ‘Oh, Rachel, she’s such a starfucker,’ that I hang out with only celebs. No. I hang out with successful people. I hang out with people who matter, and”—she says the next in the way an assistant might speak about a boss she deeply admires—“I’m honored to.”
A source in the business estimates that she made more than any other VIP host. “At my best,” Uchitel says, “I made $250,000 base, plus a guaranteed $250,000 from the tip pool.” Half a million a year, paid by a single club—probably Tao, though Uchitel will not confirm it. (She also says she has never been kept on retainer or paid by a client directly.) This does not include the extracurricular trips, on yachts in Saint-Tropez and to Monte Carlo. What she did on those trips, she says, was protect her clients and get them what they needed.
But she really hates the accusation that she set up sex for any of her clients. She is not a pimp or a madam, she says. “It’s not our job to get anybody laid.”
What the hosts do is more like placement. They are puzzle-doers, wielding a table chart and making sure the room looks good, depositing models beside Wall Street bankers in a Rubik’s Cube of dovetailing desire. They are also Realtors, selling tables, sometimes auctioning them off to the highest bidder. At the door, a host will procure a man’s credit card and his I.D. and quote him what the minimum will be at a certain table. Table minimums are usually around $1,500 at clubs in Manhattan, but a prime spot can go for as much as $30,000. And Uchitel has seen bills of $245,000 and higher for patrons who are buying huge Methuselahs of Champagne—the equivalent of eight standard bottles in one—or, in their schnockered magnanimity, have decided to treat other tables to rounds of Cristal.