ON PROSECUTING MADAM’S: The Arrest of Upper East Side Madam Anna Gristina

TRANSACTIONAL ROMANCE IN ERA OF CRONY CAPITALISM

Upper East Side Madam Anna Gristina is no longer at large. Aren’t you relieved? Oh wait, you did not know who she was? No the ‘Millionaire Madam’ is not Patti Stanger, the ‘Millionaire Matchmaker’. If you want to know the difference, I am not sure I can tell you. Well Patti Stanger does not run a brothel, allegedly. She really had no impact on your life, safety or security you say.?  But if you see the headlines in the papers this week you will be lead to believe that we are somehow all  so much safer now that a 44 year old woman and mother of four that was running a high end escort service  catering to the urban affluent on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is now in custody. There are frankly plenty of men on Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue who married for sex who are no longer having sex. Consider then Anna Gristina a form of marital outsourcing if you will, relieving many women of what might otherwise be a rather unpleasant marital obligation. Is it not a win win for everybody?

Manhattan law enforcement authorities see things a tad differently.   Regardless, WTF is the point of these STUPID prosecutions? Are we PURITANS? And what about the cost to taxpayers of a five year investigation surrounding this woman’s alleged enabling of powerful men to pay for a service that they sought out?  It’s not as if Gristina was showing up at the offices and homes of these men forcing them to patronize her female friends and models.  Does law enforcement really believe that they will make society more safe and secure from affluent men paying for consensual transacational romance or sex with models?  Of course not. There is something far deeper at work here. Prosecutors have a hard time cracking down on human trafficking rings so they go after high end Madams and call girls who would not exist but for the pre-existing demand for ‘transactional romance’, in an otherwise cold and lonely world.  If you are paying attention, every few years they bring someone  else down.  Rest assured,  another woman will rise up in the vaccum to serve pre-existing demand for transactional romance. Think I am wrong? Take a walk into Lavo Restaurant Lounge or the Nightclub on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on  Wednesday or Thursday night and the place is crawling with girls next door who are independent free agents, working girls without a broker,  a matchmaker of the VIP Life. Men of means pay for the convenience. While women pushed to the brink are sometimes found hanging inconveniently and rather suspiciously.

WARNING: SERVICING URBAN ELITE PRESENTS RISKS WHEN CRONY CAPITALISTS ARE IN CHARGE OF SOCIETY

Upper East Side Madam Anna Gristina was at large for all these years and nobody who did not have the coin to pay upwards of $1,000 per hour for companionship had any idea who she was, including me. And I like to think that I know about all these things. Well maybe except perhaps those who targeted for arrest probably because they could not afford her rates.  Or maybe what truly happens, is that somebody far more powerful who has a great deal to lose from his indiscretion, does not like that he is in her little black book.  So, he makes a call or has lunch with a powerful friend, makes a donation to law enforcement or someone’s campaign and voila it becomes time to put the squeeze on some woman who is basically unknown to the wider world at large. Think I am wrong? According to the New York Post:

Gristina’s “black book” included powerful politicians, top-law enforcement, influential lawyers, bankers, entertainment execs and Fortune 500 businessmen, as well as several ultra-wealthy European clients, sources said.

The Madoff Economy which came about as a result of  the sub-prime mortage crisis and Wall Street’s arrogance about being Too Big to Fail created a perception of our country as the United States of Ponzi; hence it was truly when ‘Crony Capitalism [Came] Home’.   It was a ‘Confidence Game’ that led to almost a complete meltdown during the financial crisis of 2008, otherwise known as the Great Recession or Global Financial Crisis. The Inside Job had  its own cast of curious and dubious characters who all deserve credit. Even Client 9 could not get these guys to right the ship before the collapse.  In the midst of this mess a King of Bain with a curious background entered into a Bad Romance with Wall Street to become the next U.S. President. You know there are so many scoundrels mostly male frankly who helped bring about the financial collapse with their rigged games and ponzi schemes and many are still at large, but we are arresting the woman who was probably serving all those ass clowns. How ironic is that? No, seriously think about that.  In ‘the half hooker economy’, with high unemployment  even among the educated and professional classes, fewer men buying ladies drinks but at least some willing to pay for their companionship, law  enforcement is putting yet “another mom & pop shop” out of business; one run by an animal loving entrepreneur no less? People have to eat no?  Who is going to feed the pigs? Maybe that  is why the old boys network imported Cy Vance, Jr. from outside NYC to be New York’s District Attorney so that the unrighteous remain secure.

As citizens, let us not be fooled by the import of these police crackdowns on victimless crimes. They truly serve no particular purpose. You want to audit them for tax evasion, go ahead. But let us move forward as a society, as a people and stop these witch hunts that focus on women only. Frankly, its bullshit. The time has come and gone to decriminalize prostitution. Hell, lets accept the reality that in a capitalist system we are alll pimping and ho’ing to one degree or another. Don’t hate the player when the game is the oldest one in existence and will continue to go on under yet a different umbrella after prosecutors are done with Ms. Gristina.

WELCOME BACK MS. BRITNEY SPEARS

“If I said my heart was beating loud. If we could escape the crowd somehow. If I said I want your body now. Would you hold it against me?”
-Ms. Britney Spears

I do not want my bubble gum complicated.  It just needs to be something I can chew on.  Ms. Spears simply gets how and why we have come to embrace her as a woman, her act and her status as simply the Queen of Pop.  Consider the lyrics in her latest song ‘Hold it Against Me’ referenced below, wherein she expresses rather succinctly perhaps how America feels about one of its own:

Hey you might think
That I’m crazy
But you know I’m just your type
I might be ‘little hazy
But you just cannot deny
There’s a spark in between us

Her formula is the oldest one in the book; “KISS”: Keep it Simple Stupid.   So to all of the Britney Spears critics, I say chew on this because  Ms. Spears simply gets it.   America needs a Britney Spears come back if only because the state of our republic and our national psyche was so much better when she was at the top of her game, than it is now.  Britney’s struggle to find herself mirrors what has transpired in America in many ways. Her decline and absence from the top echelon of the pop music scene has coincided with a decline in our nations playful sense of optimism. Pop artists do play a role in that regard.  While you may laugh, Ms. Spears seems to have an intuitive understanding of her artistic purpose, in a way that neither Madonna or even the uber talented Lady Gaga seem to.  Hence her timing could not be any better. One can only hope, however,  that the the return of Britney is a sign that we too are turning the same corner. Without question, I will enjoy this song and hope that there is a return of Britney Spears, even if only for the nostalgia of when I once believed that anything was possible, not just in love but in every facet of life.

NIGHTLIFE PROVOCATEURS: XXXX Magazine’s Indira Cesarine HUMILIATES SCALLYWAG

Christopher Koulouris, Alexa Winner

The club scene in New York City has been completely and utterly busted for so long; it is like an aphrodisiac for necrophilliacs. Yale grad, author of The Man Time Forgot and otherwise prolific commentator Isaiah Wilner, who was both revered and feared,  cogently wrote about its demise in a New York Magazine piece entitled “The Short Drunken Life of Club Row” way back in 2007 before skipping town. It is so horribly busted that the only way cultural dilettante’s like Indira Cesarine can get press for events at clubs, is if they ridicule, embarrass, frustrate and deny access to a percentage of the population that thrives on the insecurity of gaining acceptance by the utterly vacuous so that whatever whoring goes on inside somehow seems relevant, as they stand outside patiently waiting on line begging “please let me know I am worthy”  to spend $20 per watered down cocktail and should I seek the ever exclusive ‘bottle service’, $350 for a $40 bottle of vodka.

Hence my my surprise I read today that prolific blogger and social critic about town Christopher Koulouris of the blog Scallywag & Vagabond was left standing outside and denied entry to  Club Provocateur (according to NY Magazine:  the invite only club in the former Ono space created run by former Stereo partners Michael Satsky & Brian Gefter) at the Gaansevort Hotel to a party he was apparently invited to by fashion photographerIndira Cesarine of  XXXX Magazine. Far too many members of the social media in this town spend their time vying for the spotlight and lens of the camera, interjecting themselves into a story which is not about them but about the so called fashionable elite, and the following morning while they review their own photos on Patrick McMullan, GuestofaGuest.com or Wireimage (if they are lucky), they publish large sections of a post event press release as their blog and dial it in as their own original report. So while it may be all favorable, frankly, I won’t be reading it.  Love him or hate him and as he well knows,  sometimes I am inclined to both perspectives, Chris is literally the opposite of Robert Evans who was  “The Kid [that] Stays in the Picture”; for the man from the land down under is a rare breed, a quirky cat who is not entirely predictable yet moves with a jazz like flow looking  for an angle that the more sophisticated reader may appreciate, not because there is so much money in it but because like a painter he is consumed with finding and perfecting the master stroke;  he forges on regardless of whether he may ultimately truly ever be appreciated for his craft.

Getting back to ‘culturites’ cum poseurs like Indira Cesarine (Creative Director of XXXX Magazine), she should be well aware that there is literally nothing of import happening in Club Land in the City anymore, not that there ever was and if she hopes to change that perception or of her own commercial fashion artistry (i.e.,  a Herb Ritts wannabe in the frame of a hot lookinghorny female nightlife promoter), she might be well advised to allow folks like Koulouris inside to evaluate and report.   The best thing that scribes like Christopher K can do, however, is to let those over glorified ass-wipes who continue to pollute New York’s socio-cultural landscape with their own barren exploits (i.e., repetitive drivel),  in a veritable circle jerk where they cream all over themselves in bukkake like fashion and lick their own finger tips and mutter “how tasty” while holding their nose up, perhaps because it is even too tasty to share these creamy drippings with another except their fashionable elite insider friends, allow them to continue in their auto-fellatio and move on.  The infamous Al Goldstein of Midnight Blue fame would have said, “Indira Cesarine, F__k You, I have no desire to write about people masturbating and bathing in their own NARCISSISM.”

Much like I have  stated before with regards to the disintegration of New York’s socio-cultural landscape, including in inappropriately named Boom Boom Room, “The same fashionable elites who keep trying to hype the idea of ushering in a new Studio 54 era, with themselves at the forefront, are failing miserably. Andy Warhol is dead. Everyone’s 15 Minutes have been well over extended into a never ending fame game, while the same faces who perpetrate this artistic fraud, still have their hand in your wallet selling you a bad line of coke. Enough.”

Oh Ms. Cesarine, you are such a provocateur, please let me in.

SECOND HAND SMOKE IN BLOOMBERG’S NEW YORK

Reuters reported yesterday that: “New York City on Wednesday moved a step closer to ban smoking in parks, beaches and other outdoor public spaces, amid grumbling that the city government may have gone too far in its war on salt, fat and smoke. The city council voted 36 to 12 in favor of the smoking restrictions, extending an existing ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.”

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been committed to ridding the city of second hand smoke virtually since his elevation to the mayoralty from his perch atop Bloomberg LP.  In 2002, on the heals of the tragedy of 9/11 that destroyed the Twin Towers, the local economy and the lives of countless Americans and their families, Mike Bloomberg signed the Smoke Free Air Act of 2002, which banned smoking in indoor workplaces.  Not surprisingly, critics of the legislation included the local entrepreneurs and patrons in the restaurant, tavern and nightlife industries, or those hardest hit by this legislation in a crippled post 9/11 economy. Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s campaign did not end there. In 2010 Bloomberg, and the leadership of the NY City Council called for a ban smoking in New York City in public places, parks and beaches. The move was backed by the American Cancer Society.

The NYC Smoking Ban was met with shock and anger in many quarters of the city and beyond.  One might understand and suspect that  the New York City Nightlife Association and the Empire State Restaurant & Taverns Association and their respective membership may have become concerned if not consumed with how the livelihoods of their membership has been derailed more by the second hand smoke emanating from the Health Police at City Hall.

Critics including civil libertarians and other ‘fringe radicals’ (i.e., citizens) questioned the wisdom of sweeping totalitarianism of City Hall and the NY City Council. The administration’s unusual focus on nanny issues while a large percentage of the local population remains out of work or underemployed in a stagnant economy; one where local entrepreneurs and businesses struggle to remain afloat and barely turn a profit, is somewhat mind boggling. It is a veritable illusion of governance. Then I thought to myself what if the Mayor and exalted members of the New York City Council were to hold a straight forward and honest press conference(s)  or otherwise level with the citizens of the metropolis with earnest statements. Might it go something like this:

In a press conference at City Hall today celebrating passage of his PPC Initiative ( Progressive Programs for Citizens who can’t think or do for themselves),  the  mayor derided his critics for not looking at the ‘totality’ of his totalitarian tactics.  Bloomberg stated further, that in terms of his critics:  “they will live longer and being out of work they will  thus have more time to espouse their utterly irrelevant and inconsequential dissent.”  Besides which he continued, “anyone unemployed should not be spending $11 for a pack of cigarettes.”  As reporter Azi Paybarah of the WNYC Public Radio raised his hand to ask Mayor Bloomberg a follow up question about Bloomberg Beach, the Mayor said “you’re a disgrace .”

The Mayor, however, does have his supporters. Standing outside Gray’s Papaya (not Papaya King) on the Upper West Side, I recognized a homeless banker who used to workout at Equinox. Asked what he thought about all the recent legislation, he stated:

You know, on a cold winter day it is truly refreshing that I can enjoy the “Recession Special” without having to inhale the second hand smoke from the homeless guy standing next to me;  although we have been pals since our days together at Bear Stearns and then later when he was the lawyer who documented some of my transactions, before his law firm folded.  Now we are roommates in  a box over on Tenth Avenue.  The absence of second hand smoke makes me feel like when I bite into a York Peppermint Pattie, I get the sensation of sitting on a mountain top with cool breeze running down my spine.

The homeless banker acknowledged that the first time he felt that cool breeze, it was actually more a tingling sensation when he woke to being tasered after falling asleep on a bench in Central Park one night when he could not find his way back to his box.

We then had a brief discussion which resulted in our agreement that it was good to see that the Mayor and City Council have really kept their eye on the ball focusing first and foremost on issues most critical to New Yorkers, my homeless friend offered an interesting anecdote:

The Mayor is a good guy.  Bloomberg drove up in his SUV one day, the window opened, he asked me if that was a trans fat free hot dog I was about to eat. I said yes. He smiled and then offered me  some Grey Poupon for my remaining “Recession Special” hot dog. You know something? I never had a hot dog that tasted that good.  Gray’s Papaya only has  Gulden’s Mustard. The Mayor deserves a fourth term.

Critics of NYC Smoking ban who have been vocal caught the attention of  NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. In an effort to quell the growing civil unrest over the pending legislation and other PPC Initiatives, Ms. Quinn issued the following statement:

In these times, passionate dissent among the citizenry can lead to heated rhetoric that results in motivating others to challenge existing authority and thus undermining our ability to govern the people, maintain order and continuity pursuant to the mandates manufactured by we the duly elected representatives of the people. Given the riots in the streets of Egypt, the recent shooting in Tucson and Sarah Palin’s big mouth, the City Council believes it is imperative that we take up the measure to ban contentious and uncivil discourse, in public and private spaces. Mayor Bloomberg has agreed to sign any such legislation passed by this body.

In subservience,

the Emperor’s duly own owned subjects in the New York City Council.

The Mayor,  addressing the declining tax revenue from all the restaurants and taverns closing due to a lack of patrons who actually have money in their pockets to spend, issued the following statement:

The City Council’s continuing capitulation (support) has been critical not just to my third term and keeping alive the illusion of my own Presidential aspirations but given me the opportunity to foster the illusion of governance on issues of import to New Yorkers. The ban on smoking, trans fats and the ban on uncivil discourse, do not, however, go far enough. As smoking as declined among New Yorkers so has the tax revenue on cigarettes, so we must consider alternative sources of revenue to fund the PPC Initiative . Under consideration is an Oxygen Tax. The Oxygen Tax will attach a levy to anyone over 200 pounds. Those over 200 pounds or in general ‘fat people’ who consume more than is necessary to sustain themselves and who have not followed the ban on trans fats are not paying their fair share of taxes. We should not be penalizing the skinny people, vegetarians and vegans who consume less air while rewarding the consumers of trans fats, meat eaters, and others who have a larger carbon footprint, consume more air and let loose more gaseous emissions into the atmosphere.  Fact is upon leaving Smith & Wollensky or Club Macanudo, men have been known to fart, sometimes rather prolifically. We as a society bear the brunt of these noxious fumes. Taxing farts is a societal imperative.”

CONCLUSION

I am a non-smoker who has also steadily reduced my consumption of alcohol and unhealthy foods, but did so of my own free will and volition and under the guidance of Dr. Fred Vagnini, listening to folks at Health Corps and some lessons absorbed from Dr. Mehmet Oz.  As a native New Yorker who personally benefits from the Mayor’s health based initiatives, specifically a smoke free environment,  I nevertheless  found myself wondering about life  in Bloomberg’s Urban Utopia or Animal Farm of stressed out underemployed and unemployed citizens regularly fed NYC Media’s NYC Life cable programming. This programming professes to “bring New Yorkers interesting, entertaining and educational content that embraces the energy and diversity of the City that never sleeps” –from our resident leader and Citizen Kane (who already owns Bloomberg TV) and his minions, rather than the views of a diversity of citizens or diversity of media who may offer a diversity of perspective; the operative phrase being diversity.  Included in this definition is not the governing elite controlling the levers of media.  In the end of this Orwellian fantasy or nightmare, depending on your perspective,  I simply wonder whether will it be the Mayor or actually some of our engaged citizens uttering our own versions of ‘Rosebud’ as we reminisce of a time before; before we closed our eyes and choked on the smoke.

The End of Social Life?

Approximately two weeks ago I made the following comment or shall I say rant on social networking site aSmallWorld.net in connection with a story about FameGame.com’s ranking system of the top New York social scenesters.

Andy Warhol is dead and everyone’s 15 minutes will soon be up. Make no mistake about that. As the economy unravels further and we head into a global worldwide “Depression” the relative significance of who and what is important on New York’s party circuit will matter far less. As far more folks find themselves living less glamorous lives, our willingness to celebrate the petulant indulgences of others will dissipate. Perhaps then fame will become based more on some substantive and real set of values and accomplishments rather than doing coke at Bungalow 8 or merely staying out too late at parties at high end boutiques. A change is coming. Our patience for focusing incessantly on such drivel will be eclipsed as family fortunes, savings and the social standing are wiped out from New York to Palm Beach and Europe by scumbags like Bernie Madoff and kin. The lives of many have taken a hit. Painful times are ahead for even those who once thought that they were shielded from reality for life.

My comment subsequently got picked up and “interpreted” by Cityfile and edited by NY Post’s Page Six. A friend asked me what it felt like to be in the spotlight. For some reason it felt more like I was in the mainstream media’s crosshairs with Cityfile’s diss of my work as “the man who hovers at benefits and other social gatherings” and “posts photos to his quirky website”. Despite having some devoted fans and stylish admirers, being quoted in the pages of Forbes Magazine, the New York Times, New York Magazine, Absolute Magazine, having my photos appear in nearly every society publication from New York to Palm Beach, including Town & Country, and appearing as a commentator on E! Entertainment Television in a profile of Forbes The 20 Most Intriguing Billionaire Heiresses as a commentator, Cityfile’s implication was that I am somehow “less” or perhaps even that we “crash” when the exact opposite is the case. We do not cover anything where our presence is not requested. The existing social order will not go down without a fight but you would think that they could be a tad more creative then recycling the same formula week after week, month after month and year after year and then knocking someone a tad more independent minded who has a slightly different take on things in his hometown, and who frankly has a reputation for taking the right photos and the ability to occasionally provide some insightful perspective. Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan are where I have spent my entire life but for stints in college at Boston University followed by three years at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a several years practicing law in Boston for the former Bingham Dana, now Bingham McCutcheon after spending nearly the first two years after law school at Weil Gotshal & Manges.

The thing is that I never claimed that social life per se was dead or over or that parties would come to an end and/or that nobody would pay attention. Nor am I am naive enough to think that poverty or a decline in the relative wealth of some in The Madoff Economy will make us all more sincere or spiritually inclined. In fact, its quite possible that the opposite will occur and that tough times will make us all a bit more scavenger like, especially if the current economic crisis deepens and leads to martial law. My point was simply that our tolerance or patience for continuing to read about the same 20 people we have thrust down our throats on a regular basis by PMC, Vogue Magazine and certain society publications, as being the most important New Yorkers on the social scene, will come to an end. David Patrick Columbia of New York Social Diary stated in the same piece that I was quoted in that “People will always care about the party circuit. In fact, they’ll probably care even more now, because the whole scene is . . . a diversion from reality. It’s always been about escape, and it’s gonna be even more about escape.” Agreed, people do want an escape, but does David understand that what we want is an escape from the over publicized bland nothingness that passes for meaningful social interaction in the greatest city in the world? The overly scripted New York social scene seems to exist to promote the celebrity of certain people whose sole claim to fame is their claim to fame. The escape we need is to turn a page on this diversion or at least modify it somewhat.

My prediction is that in more serious times, folks will focus on their basic needs, networking and survival. Hence readers of these publications and patrons of social events may in fact develop higher standards before they are willing to part with their hard earned and somewhat more scarce cash. Bernie Madoff and his kin/accomplices did not take money from poor people after all, but the scam has made some individuals relatively poor, impacted many other families in a profound way and will continue to create ripples among some of the most affluent in society, including those who usually are unaffected by economic downturns. Likewise, readers will simply turn away rather than read about the same over exposed society’s reality celebutantes. I certainly do not cheer or desire the demise of social interaction or the fortunes of those who make a living in and off of New York Nightlife, even if its not lost on me that there are increasing number of gold parties being held around Manhattan, where attendees sell their gold assets for some much needed cash. Increased social interaction, networking and promoting the common good are all things which may in fact sustain us in a more meaningful and necessary way.

A cultural re-awakening and re-enlightenment is what is needed in New York City. Andy Warhol is dead and the Studio 54 crowd that continues to have a lock on New York Nightlife and whom or what gets promoted and written about, needs to go the same route and step aside or get more creative for our culture to evolve.  ”Every aspect of Western culture needs a new code of ethics – a rational ethics – as a precondition of rebirth.”–Ayn Rand

Everyone’s 15 minutes of fame have turned into an hour, an overnight and now a Weekend at Bernie’s. While the formula worked for a while, its now a bit much if you ask me. This is New York City, the center of the Universe. Can we not do better than dragging around the same socialite carcasses on a nightly or weekly basis? Can we do better than importing LA’s culture of distraction embodied best perhaps on the pages of PerezHilton.com and now his east coast counterpart MicahJesse.com? Can we do better than those in publishing merely publicizing the every move of their BFF’s? Can we not find an alternate perspective and focus? In this reality based culture, can we instead focus just a little more on people who have actually accomplished something or are at least actually doing something with their celebrity or fame? Fame for the sake of fame only goes so far after all and is of limited interest, especially when you are trying to sell me a magazine for $5.95 or more and I have to look at the same faces doing the same irrelevant things week after week. I am no longer interested in reading about people who spend more money on a publicist to spread the word about their social significance and philanthropic deeds than their actual philanthropic deeds. There are some genuine New York stories out there that never get covered. But then again, we are living in curious times and the culture of distraction perhaps serves the purpose of shielding the general population from understanding what is happening to our country.