“It was like a dream,” Natalia says. “I never got tired.”
Asked if the work affected her relationship with Itzler, Natalia says, “Sometimes he’d say, ‘Everyone gets a chance to spend time with you except me.’ I’d say, ‘You’re the one booking me.’ ” As for Jason, he says, “If she ever did it with anyone for free, it would have broken my heart.”
Moving from 54th Street following a nasty fallout with partner Bruce Glasser (each party claimed the other had taken out a contract on his life), Itzler ran NY Confidential out of his parolee apartment in Hoboken. One visitor describes the scene: “The place was full of naked women and underwear. It was a rain forest of underwear. In the middle on the couch is Jason with all these telephones, one in either ear, the other one ringing on the coffee table.”
Seventy-nine Worth Street, with its twenty-foot ceilings and mezzanine balconies, where Jason and Natalia would move to in the summer of 2004, was a whole other thing. “Right away, we knew this was it,” says Natalia. “The loft felt like home.” As per usual, Jason would take much of the cost of the lease from Natalia’s bookings—money she would never receive. But money was never an issue with Natalia. If Cheryl, Jason’s first superstar, experienced “a rush of power when the guy handed me the envelope,” for Natalia, collecting the “donation,” while essential, had a faintly unseemly feel.
“Maybe it sounds crazy,” she says, “but I never felt I was in it for the money.”
For Jason, the loft was an opportunity to make real his most cherished theories of existence. “To me, the higher percentage of your life you are happy, the more successful you are,” says Jason, who came upon his philosophy while reading Ayn Rand. “I was really into the ‘Who is John Galt?’ Atlas Shrugged thing. I thought I could save the world if I could bring together the truly elite people, the most beautiful women with the most perfect bodies, best faces, and intelligence, and the elite men, the captains of industry, lawyers, and senators. This would bring about the most happiness, to the best people, who most deserved to be happy.”
Years before, Jason wrote out the precepts of what he called “The Happiness Movement.” Assuming his findings to be big news, Itzler packed up the manifesto, a copy of his half-finished autobiography, and a naked centerfold picture of Elisa Bridges, his girlfriend at the time, and mailed it to Bob Woodward. “I stuck it in this $3,000 Bottega Veneta briefcase so he’d notice it. He said I was a nut job and to leave him alone. I was so bummed I told him to keep the stupid briefcase.”
On Worth Street, however, Jason (who says “the best thing about bipolarity is how much you accomplish in the manic phase”) saw the chance to manifest his ideal. One of his first acts was to approach painter Hulbert Waldroup. Waldroup, a self-proclaimed “artist with attitude” who has been collected by Whoopi Goldberg and once appeared on the cover of Newsday along with his epic memorial to Amadou Diallo, was selling his work on the West Broadway sidewalk. “You’re the greatest painter I’ve ever seen,” Jason said. When Waldroup heard Itzler wanted to commission a ten-foot-by-ten-foot canvas of a “hot-looking” woman, he said the picture would never get in the door. No problem, Itzler said, Waldroup could do the painting inside the loft.
Waldroup soon had a job working the phones. “It was like I went in there and never came out,” says Waldroup, now on Rikers Island, where he resides a couple of buildings away from Jason.
Seventy-nine Worth Street became a well-oiled machine, with various calendars posted on the wall to keep track of appointments. The current day’s schedule was denoted on a separate chart called “the action board.” But what mattered most to Jason was “the vibe . . . the vibe of the NY Confidential brand” (there was franchising talk about a Philadelphia Confidential and a Vegas Confidential). To describe what he was going for, Jason quotes from a favorite book, The Art of Seduction, a creepily fascinating tome of social Machiavellianism, by Robert Greene.
Discussing “seductive place and time,” Greene notes that “certain kinds of visual stimuli signal that you are not in the real world. Avoid images that have depth, which might provoke thought, or guilt . . . The more artificial, the better . . . Luxury—the sense that money has been spent or even wasted—adds to the feeling that the real world of duty and morality has been banished. Call it the brothel effect.”