Accentuated by the fog machine at 79 Worth Street, people seemed to come out of the shadows, float by, be gone again. “It was full of these familiar faces . . . like a soap-opera star, a politician you might have seen on NY1, a guy whose photo’s in the Times financial pages,” says one regular. In addition to Sinatra, music was supplied by the building’s super, a concert pianist in his native Russia, who appeared in a tuxedo to play on a rented Baldwin grand piano.
“It was like having my own clubhouse,” says Jason now, relishing the evenings he presided as esteemed host and pleasure master. He remembers discussing what he called a “crisis in Judaism” with a top official of a leading Jewish-American lobby group. Jewish women were often thought of as dowdy, Jason said. If the American Jew was ever going to rise above the prejudice of the goyishe mainstream, creativity would be needed. A start would be to get Madonna, the Kabbalist, to become the head of Hadassah. The official said he’d look into it.
Seventy-nine Worth Street was supposed to be Jason and Natalia’s home, where they would live happily ever after. They had their own bedroom, off-limits to everyone else. “We were actually trying to live a semi-normal life, carry on a real relationship,” says Natalia. “Jason felt abandoned after his mother died; my father left when I was very young. We sort of completed each other.”
Natalia wrote her mom that she’d moved into a beautiful new place with a highly successful businessman. Her mom, a sweet cookie-baking lady leery of her daughter’s life in New York, wrote back that she’d like to come down to visit. Natalia was going to put her off, but Jason insisted. Looking around the loft at the naked women, Natalia asked, “How am I going to have my mom come here?” Jason said he would close the place, and take the loss, for the time Natalia’s mom was in town. Family was the most important thing, he said.
“Well,” Natalia says, “Jason never closed the loft. My mom and I stayed in a little apartment uptown. Jason was supposed to come by to meet her, but it started getting late. Then the doorbell rings at 2 a.m. It’s Jason, in his knee-length coat with these two 19-year-old girls. I’m totally flipping out: Like, what the fuck are you doing? He looked like the pimp from Superfly. My mom is saying, ‘This is him?’ But then Jason sits down and starts telling my mom I’m a great young actress and my career is going to take off, how living in New York is so terrific for me. He charmed her, completely. She left saying, ‘Well, your boyfriend is kind of weird. But he’s very, very nice.’
“It was always like that.”
Few expected 79 Worth Street to last very long. There were too many, as Natalia puts it, “variables.”
For Jason, the main difficulty in running New York’s hottest escort agency while on parole was the curfew. Even though his lawyer on the Jersey Ecstasy case, Paul Bergrin, was eventually able to extend Jason’s lights-out time to 3 a.m., he still had to leave his Worth Street happiness house to sleep in his apartment in Hoboken.
“Everyone’s partying, having the best time in the world, and the Town Car is outside to take me back to goddamn New Jersey.”
“It was a big strain,” says Natalia. “I finally get home from my appointments. All I want to do is sleep in my own bed, and Jason is screaming about how we’ve got to go back to Hoboken. He hated to be alone out there. We had horrible fights. One night, I jumped out of the car right at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel and ran away. Broke my heel on a cobblestone.”
The parole situation led to other traumas. Court-mandated drug tests caused Jason to alter his intake. Always “on the Cheech-and-Chong side of things,” Itzler couldn’t smoke pot, which turned up on piss tests. Instead, Jason, who never touched coke and often launched into Jimmy Swaggart–like speeches about the evils of the drug, dipped into his personal stash of ketamine, or Special K, the slightly unpredictable anesthetic developed for use by veterinarians. “They didn’t test for it,” Jason says by way of explanation. He was also drinking a $200 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue a day. Natalia’s drug use cut into her Perfect 10 appearance. One night, she cracked her head into the six-foot-tall statue of an Indian fertility goddess Jason had purchased for their room. Knocked cold, she had to go to the emergency room.