But most of the men Kim would never be involved with in the real world. She had one client, a “fat dude from Long Island,” whose money and status came from being the close relative of a celebrity. “He thought I was his girlfriend, it was so gross. It was pathetic.” She never touched him, like that. At dinner, she would choose the wine—“Barolo, if we needed something full-bodied”—and that was as far as it went. “There was a courtesan, geisha feel to it,” says Kim. But he was valuable to her. She would have him pick her up from staff meetings, roll up in his car so she could show off her catch. The bigger the whale you reel, the better a bottle girl you are. The more you siphon from the whales, the more you mean to the club.
For Kim, the job eventually lost its glow. One night, she was taken off her shift as punishment for not selling enough bottles. The girls are expected to be sociable on their nights off, so she came to the club anyway as a patron with a big client in tow. When his friends left, the client began to grope her. They were kissing and she hated every second and she was being mashed into the couch and when she looked up at one point she saw her manager, watching them. Smiling like he’d forgiven her, he said, “I’m going to leave you kids alone.”
“I felt pimped,” she says.
Another time, at another club, Kim slapped a whale who reached his hand up her skirt and she got fired. Now she works behind a bar. She makes a lot less money. But nobody is touching her. “There’s a whole bar between me and the men now,” she says, and she draws the width with her hands.
“Now girls come out expecting to find Tiger Woods,” says Andrew Parker. It’s a Thursday night, and we are at CV Lounge on the Lower East Side, which is not one of the big-name exclusive venues but has a certain cachet—Jay-Z and Diddy have stopped in to check out the private couple’s room. Parker is a 40-year-old dandy, dressed in a self-designed suit and an ebullient pocket square and tinted glasses. He used to own a clothing store on the Upper East Side, but mostly he is known for being at parties, a launch for a small-batch bourbon, the premiere of a Ugandan film.
“Now girls come out expecting to find Tiger Woods. The odds of even meeting an investment banker who will really take care of you are slim.”
There is a new breed of girls coming to the clubs, he is saying, wanting to hunt the big game like Tiger. But it’s harder now than ever, because the inverse is also true. Men have been warned by what happened to Woods. They are more cautious when they meet a girl. They don’t give last names or occupations.
“The odds of even meeting an investment banker who will really take care of you are slim,” says Parker.
Girls are more likely to run into guys like Parker. He “hosts tables,” which means he is a sometime promoter, and the club will give him a table and a few free bottles with the understanding that he will bring in some pretty girls. He dresses like he has money, he goes out like he has money. But he doesn’t really have the kind of money they’re looking for.
“I’ve had at least a dozen girls over the past year not call me back because I don’t have as much money as they thought I did.” His good suit shrugs. “I slept with them. I wasn’t planning on marrying them anyway.”
If you’re looking for whales, you go out on Thursday night. Bankers go to Avenue and 1Oak on Thursdays. Mainly, these guys just want a girl for a night. Possibly a long weekend in Vegas or Miami. To meet these guys, a pretty girl just needs to hang around their table or wait for a VIP host or a bottle waitress to pluck her from the bar and say, Come on over and drink at this booth. The girls who are more experienced at this game will already be at a table with other men. Possibly, they will be looking to trade up, from traders to hedge funds or from hedge funds to celebrities.
Speaking of girls looking to trade up, here at the table with Parker are two quotidian examples whom we’ll call Kelly and Rebecca. Both 24, they aren’t models and they aren’t beautiful but they’re young enough and pretty enough. Rebecca is quiet but smiling. Kelly says she’s “a freelance banker.” They get to the bottom of their drinks quickly and often.