From the VIPs to the wannabes, it's a weird old world behind the tinted windows and velvet ropes. We asked some industry gatekeepers for the inside scoop.
The Dream-MakerSteve Sims is the CEO of luxury concierge company Bluefish.
"People will tell you that money can't buy everything. It's not true. In my world, everything can be bought. Sometimes the price tag could send your average bloke into cardiac arrest, but, what I do isn't really for the average bloke. I run Bluefish, a luxury concierge company designed for the rich and famous. When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I make dreams come true. If that makes me sound like an ass, then I'm an ass. We've worked with plenty of bold-faced names - Donald Trump, the Hiltons, the cast of Ocean's Eleven and Pamela Anderson. But the most extravagant things I do are for people you've never heard of, whose money comes from overseas - places like Russia, the Middle East and North Africa. I've taken people down to see the Titanic. I've gotten them into every awards show you can imagine, from the Oscars to the Adult Video [News] Awards. I once had a guy call me to tell me he wanted to throw a party at the castle from Harry Potter. I told him that particular castle was animated, but that I could do him one better.
"I learnt a long time ago that the guys with money almost never actually look rich. The guy who comes into my office looking like he's just been surfing, he's got real cash. If he comes in wearing some slick silver tie, I'm worried. Too much artifice. It's like, if you go to a Ferrari dealership on a Saturday. The guy who got dressed up to go car shopping, who is in a suit and tie, he' have to sell his house to buy that car. The guy who is there in jeans and a polo shirt could probably buy the dealership 10 times over.
"For celebrity clients, mostly they pay for privacy. If Matt Damon wants to catch up with a friend at a pub, without the entire room staring at him and asking him for autographs, I can make that happen. It's insane how much coordination something that simple takes for a guy like Matt. I've been asked to do a reality show about my business before and I said 'no way'. I've seen what fame is like, and it's a pain in the ass. Mostly, though, the celebrities are pretty nice. I fixed up another Ocean's cast member – one whose last name rhymes with Mooney – with the Ferrari paddock at the Monaco Grand Prix. When I went to pick him up, he offered me coffee and a Nutella sandwich. Now, I don't even like Nutella, but I'm not going to refuse anything from that guy, you know?
"Of course, I get asked to do illegal stuff. There're the usual late night texts asking for girls. Or from some guy who has had a few and is looking for something to stuff up his nose to keep the night going. I have a one-strike policy. You ask me to break the law once, we remind you that's not what you pay us for. You ask us twice, you're out of the club. We actually do provide girls, but not for the reason you think. If I've got a guy who wants to get into the hottest club in New York, there's no way he's getting past the velvet ropes on his own. So when I book a bottle-service table for him, I am also going to arrange for a collection of gorgeous women to be on his arm. These women aren't prostitutes. Mostly, we use promotional models. I'm talking about women who make millions of dollars a year travelling around to different yacht and watch shows, modelling the wares. They are used to talking to clients and buyers and, as such, are well-mannered and good conversationalists.
"In all my years, I can't think of one request I haven't been able to fulfil. Some people are easier to crack than others. If you want to meet a politician, that's easier than opening a McDonald's front door. A politician has a temporary position. The second they get into office, they're planning their escape to some board position for a Fortune 500 company. As long as I can offer them something that gets them closer to the front door, I'm golden. If you wanted to have a slumber party at the White House with the Obama girls? I could do that. I'm not saying it would be easy, just that it would be possible."
The Door Guy"I work the front door at one of the busiest, most exclusive restaurants in Manhattan. The industry term for what I do is called '‘the feeler'. Everybody who comes to see me wants to get in, but not everybody gets to. I decide who does, and doesn't, make the cut. "People go to ridiculous lengths to get tables. There's the usual stuff. Lots of offers of cash, usually hundreds, but once more than $1000. The 'tit flash' is also a nightly thing. Women come up and present their 'wares' saying, 'If you don't let this in, you must be crazy'.
"With the cash, it's almost always the same: It's a group of seven or 10 guys who you know are going to be loud and rowdy and hitting on women who don't want to be hit on. We always turn that down; it's not the kind of scene you want in the bar. I once had a kid – he couldn't have been older than 22 – come in who had some sort of Asian gang affliction. When I told him he was going to have to wait, he said he was going to have to go get his boys. And then he sped off in some souped up Toyota – all threatening, like he was going to come 'get me'. I’ve never been less scared in my life.
"Gifts work better than cash. If someone gives you a gift, they're relationship building, working to become regulars. I've gotten some great stuff, and I've met some cool people. Ralph Lauren suits, third-base-line Yankees tickets, you name it. It's different than some guy palming you a $50 because you know they are going to come back, and you know they will spend money when they do. If you don't let somebody in, they always think I'm making an example of them. Like, I had a transsexual couple – a female-to-male transsexual and his male-to-female boyfriend. When I told them they'd have to wait they accused me of being prejudiced. Dude, we're just busy. This is New York, after all; I've seen my fair share of transsexuals."
The Flight Attendant"There are no average days when you're cabin crew; each flight is unpredictable in its own way, thanks to the passengers. I remember one couple flying back from a music festival in Germany twitching and shivering like wrecks. I thought they were having panic attacks until I realised they must have swallowed all their leftover drugs before they got on board. The flight was delayed, so by the time we took off, they were a mess. I was concerned, but all they could say was, 'You're amazing, I love you, mate.'
You can usually tell from someone's job how they will behave. Businessmen are like small boys – lost if you don't take their jackets, but happy to settle down with their toys. Media and actors are the best, they drink the most and they're more likely to be famous – the best combination in terms of funny conversations.
"Some celebrities won't communicate with you directly. I make a point of addressing them to their faces and saying, 'Do you want anything else?' but often they'll blank you and their friend will say, 'No thanks, that's fine.' Usually, you can tell what passengers will be like from their destination. Flights from Nice at the end of the summer holidays are always predictable. The wealthy mums will fly business class and read magazines; their children and nannies will be in economy. I also see quite a lot of husbands in business and their wives in economy.
"The straight crew probably have the best job – they work with the female staff, rather than being confined to the cockpit, so they get off with more girls. It can be a great social life – wild parties in hotels; skinny-dipping, smoking dope and getting drunk. There have been times when I've thought, 'Thank God the passengers can't see us now', like the time I was sitting by a pool in Cyprus at 5am, drinking martinis and watching our drunken flight captain flirting with a girl and thinking, 'He's got to fly a plane in less than four hours.' Still, he was flying Airbus, which means they hardly have to do a thing – the computer almost lands it for them."
The Chauffeur"As a chauffeur for one of the more respected limo companies in the country, I get everyone in the back of my car. My clients range from the average guy to executives and company directors and, of course, celebrities. "I’ve seen everything from bikie gangs snorting coke to huge domestic disputes to married executives 'entertaining' escorts in the back of my Hummer. The escorts these guys use are impossible to differentiate from normal women. They dress well, their make-up isn't overdone. That's for the ones who are top dollar. No matter what price, though, the girls are always in their 20s and the men are always over 50.
"The escorts have their back-seat deals down to a science. I pick them up when the men are waiting in the back. I go for a little walk and they do their business and he calls me and says, 'Right, I'm finished – come and get me.' Last month, I had someone ask me to stop and pick up a stripper. Not three minutes later, the car started to rock; she only had 30 minutes off work, so I guess he wasn't wasting any time. If I'm still in the car while that's happening, I have a privacy screen I put up. There's a camera, too, but I usually turn that off. I don't need to see that while I'm driving. The men have said to me, 'If anyone ever finds out, I'll know it's you and I won't be using your services again.' They've got nothing to worry about."