Kim is a 26-year-old brunette and a veteran of the bottle service. She’s served at a lot of Manhattan clubs, working her way up from third-tier places to the most exclusive ones. Kim is not her real name because she’s worried. Everybody knows bottle girls by first name and hair color. In a Nolita coffee shop by daylight, she’s got a gothic pallor to her. You can tell she’s the kind of girl who at night looks totally different.
“You’re a bottle waitress, and that means you’re half a stripper and half a pimp,” she says. “If you don’t book a client, you’re fired. Most places I worked, I had to sign a confidentiality agreement about celebrities. I have a friend who sold pictures of a celebrity. If anyone found out, she’d never work in this town again. Forget that. She’d never go out in this town again.”
Bottle girls, like VIP hosts, are expected to have client lists. Early in the evening, she will text her clients. I’m working tonight and my favorite D.J. is spinning. Come by! They come because she is pretty and she has flirted with them. Hey, baby. Hey, handsome. You lost weight. Sugar honey sexy baby handsome. They come because she’s someone whose backside they can palm, someone who will kiss them at 3 a.m. between tables.
One night, Kim had two clients come in. The owner of a major sports franchise and a Middle Eastern royal. “I couldn’t entertain them both myself, so I went and grabbed two models”—she makes a motion with both her hands as though she is plucking up two cats by the napes of their necks—“and I dropped them at the tables.”
At the tables, the bottle girls will up-sell their clients. They push Champagne because it goes faster than vodka, and they steer them away from the Veuve/Moët and toward the Krug/Cristal. Kim was making between $1,000 and $3,000 a night in tips.
“And that,” she says, “doesn’t include what’s going on behind the scenes.” She smiles, and it is not suggestive but matter-of-fact. “You’re making hooker money, right? So, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck …”
On her blog, SexDrugsandBottle Service.tumblr.com, Kim elucidates the difference between “bottle hooking” and real hooking: “Bottle Hookering … I’ve made upwards of $1,500 in a night, and I don’t have to sleep with any of my ‘clients.’ Though I do have to flirt with them, booty dance with them, call them, hang out with them, occasionally procure girls and ‘party favors’ for them, all while wearing teeny tiny outfits. So I suppose it’s a form of social prostitution.” Her counterpart, a college call girl whose blog Kim reads in her downtime, makes significantly less. “Her prices are $100 for a handy, $150 for a BJ, $200 for doin’ it,” she writes. “Mine are $400 for a bottle of Grey Goose, $300 for Veuve, $700 for Cristal.”
Kim became a bottle girl after she graduated from a very good college on the East Coast. “I figured: I’m cute, I’m young, I can make a shitload of money, so,” she says, holding up two middle fingers, “fuck it!” She had previously worked as a restaurant waitress, and she wasn’t naïve about the difference between that job and this one. “If you say you’re a bottle waitress, it’s better than saying you’re a stripper. But it’s the same thing as being a stripper,” she says. What she means by stripper is someone who is a touchable commodity. There is never money exchanged, but there are gifts the following week. Pairs of Louboutins, Louis Vuitton bags, trips. It’s not unusual for a bottle waitress to take two days off and fly to Vegas with a client. She won’t get fired for that, so long as when they return, the client will spend large at the club.
Just last week at Haze in Las Vegas, a whale left a $30,000 tip on top of the automatic 20 percent gratuity of his $182,000 bill. A girl can make up to $100,000 a year, working just three nights a week.
But it’s not just about the money, says Steve Lewis. “For most of them, it’s the thrill of calling their friends back home. Girls are getting into the hottest clubs in town, they are meeting celebrities. They call their girlfriends back home, ‘Oh my God! I was hanging out with So-and-so! He was so nice!’ ”
“At one point,” Kim says, “every single girl I knew was sleeping with a celebrity. It’s the access. Some of the girls definitely think, ‘He’s going to fly me to California and make me his wife!’ But then most of them are just like, ‘Guess who I just did in the bathroom?’ ”