Then, in 1999, his dad died of heart failure. “If someone came to my house, they’d think, ‘Oh, Simon’s going to be okay because he has this classy gentleman to balance him out.’ And when he died, I needed to assume those characteristics to be happy.” New York’s rave scene had started to collapse by then anyway. “The whole rave thing was getting to be kids smoking crack. I got rescued from that. I told the Youngblood Theater I was a director even though I clearly wasn’t. I got my first ten-minute play.” But even after years of doing theater he still missed a certain audience. “I wasn’t reaching the mass of people I wanted to speak to.”
Two nights after the Chanel party, Hammerstein is up in the Box’s mezzanine. The socialite Fabiola Beracasa is throwing a birthday party for her boyfriend, Jason Beckman, and at 1 a.m. the lights dim and everyone races to the railing to watch Leonid the Magnificent, a Russian-born gymnast. Euro-disco thumps from the speakers, and Leonid emerges with two blonde dancers in corsets. He is six-seven and is wearing turquoise platform boots, a red-sequined G-string with a swinging raccoon tail, and nothing else except makeup.
“We found him in Brighton Beach!” Becker exclaims. After a series of gymnastic gyrations, Leonid whips out three silver hula hoops and whirls in them simultaneously. “Simon, it was amazing. So beautiful,” says Uma Thurman, who came with her boyfriend, the hotelier André Balazs, to check out the space.
By 4 a.m., the crowd has cleared out, and Hammerstein, Elson, and Lucas are huddled in a banquette plotting. Images of revelers, taken at a digital photo booth, were projected onto the wall. “We should do it in sepia tones,” Simon says, sipping his umpteenth glass of red wine, “like a cowboy Western. But then have a dominatrix in it whipping you and everyone is compromised and humiliated. Now that’s fun.”