On a bustling Saturday night in Manhattan, Ellie Shechet and Madeleine Davies—two diehard Real Housewives of New York fans—went to Beautique, a popular “pickup joint” (according to the Countess herself, LuAnn de Lesseps) and Housewives hotspot. The search for their favorite Bravolebrities sparked a journey of epic proportions.
Ellie: Beautique is situated right below Central Park, in between the Plaza Hotel and Bergdorf Goodman and across the street from the Apple Store. This is a terrible location unless you’re coming from the Genius Bar, but would probably appear totally appropriate to foreign tourists of recently acquired means, who seemed to make up the bulk of Beautique’s clientele.
Madeleine: Yes, Beautique’s crowd is very international, which might lead a person to believe that it’s also very classy. That belief would be entirely wrong.
The restaurant/nightclub is in the basement level of a building, which means there are no windows and it’s exceedingly dark. It also feels hyper-sexual without being very sexy. Lots of old men with younger women (the opposite of the Real Housewives pairings we were hoping to see), lots of intense close talking. I believe the first thing I said to Ellie (once we finally found each other in the darkness) was that the environment reminded me a lot of the mansion orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut. As we’ll reveal later, I was not entirely off.
Ellie: The first thing I saw when I walked into Beautique was a rumpled man in a dinner jacket sitting alone in a little alcove, eyes flitting back and forth. It doesn’t sound that weird now that I write it down, but it... was. Another thing Madeleine said to me was that the wallpaper looked like period blood, which was rude, and true.
Our reservation was for 9:30 p.m., because we wanted to be able to witness the “late night” scene. There was an extremely high concentration of fur vests in the room. There also appeared to be a lot of groups of friends in their 20s, which was surprising to me, although it was so dark that Jennifer Aniston could have been having a birthday dinner three tables away and I would have had no idea.
When we were being seated, there was a bit of a flare-up with the hostess, because she demanded that our coats be taken to the coatroom, but Madeleine’s was tangled up with her purse. She did not offer to take them for us, so neither of us really knew why she was standing there next to me, watching Madeleine try to rip her purse and coat apart. Finally free, Madeleine handed me her coat to take to the coatroom, while the hostess, who was still for some reason involved in this exchange, slowly pursed her lips.
Madeleine: She was clearly watching only to humiliate me. The entire host staff was strikingly beautiful, but oh-so-cruel. After telling us our table was ready, they left us to wait by the host stand for about 15 minutes while they just stood there and whispered to each other.
Once we sat down, though, I’ll say that the service was really excellent. Our waitress was attentive in an unobtrusive way and very concerned about Ellie’s newfound dairy intolerance. There was also a very friendly manager who checked in with us several times to see how things were going—something I give him extra credit for because, if I recall correctly, Ellie and I spent the first half hour of the meal talking loudly about foreplay.
Ellie: I’d just come from a date and was about two wines deep by the time I entered Beautique—and as we were there for the full nightclub experience, we kept the Sauv Blancs coming—so I have only the dimmest memories of our foreplay conversation. I do remember that the music in the restaurant was a rousing mix of 2011's worst, notably Foster the People and Gotye.
We started our meal with 6 market oysters ($21) and, because I felt that this was something annoying that Lisa Vanderpump would eat, the tuna tartare with crispy rice, pickled fennel, and cucumber ($22). The oysters were fine; the tartare, however, was completely flavorless, which is really not what you want from a glob of squishy raw tuna.
We then shared the sea scallops ($35) and a side of rosemary french fries ($8). The scallops were a little under-seasoned and very underwhelming; there were also only three of them, which I guess we should have expected. I do remember enjoying the fries and eating them so quickly and aggressively that my date did not get to have very many. We should have ordered more food.
Madeleine: I was happy that Ellie ate all the fries because I found them pretty soggy and unappealing. That, and I was much too distracted by the growing number of people heading towards the back room, a.k.a. the nightclub, where Beautique is really supposed to pop off. As Sonja Morgan once described, “It’s not a business restaurant. There’s a little back room that you have to go through the kitchen to get to. That’s where everything happens.”
I was eager to get to that little back room, not just because I found my dinner unimpressive, but also because I had a deep suspicion that Sonja might secretly live there.
After settling the bill (again, service was great!), we approached the bouncer guarding the back door and asked to get in. He very politely asked the manager if it was okay and after giving us a once-over and noting that, yes, we were two single women, we were given the go-ahead. I was actually a little surprised that it was that easy, because Ellie and I did not exactly manage to pull together “club looks” for our big night out.
Ellie: Speaking of “club looks,” yes, neither of us could do that. In the days leading up to our Beautique journey, we chatted a lot about what we might wear. The phrase “bandage dress” was thrown around heavily, and a trip to Forever 21 was briefly on the table. When the time came, though, I wore the same black pants and sort of see-through black crop top sweater that I wear almost every weekend, although I did straighten my hair, out of respect.
Walking into the club, it immediately reminded me of an 18-and-over mini-nightclub in the storied Bahamas resort Atlantis. I think this is because the club was very small, and there seemed to be a lot of people from Eastern Europe. We went up to the bar, where a man ordering a $200 bottle of champagne asked me if I was from Ireland. I said “No” and sort of barked angrily, because, incidentally, he was not the first person to ask me that day. I ordered some drink with a gigantic cucumber in it. As I turned away from my suitor, I spotted a man in a very, very shiny white shirt with a high collar that I believe was bedazzled. I could not stop staring at this shiny shirt, which had an effect that one could only describe as “opal.”
Madeleine: We ordered two drinks and our bill, with tip, was $43. We spent the next couple minutes circling the room, trying to pick up on an “energy.” The longer we were there, the more I became convinced that my initial impression of Beautique was correct. We had indeed entered the Eyes Wide Shut orgy.
Yes, everyone was (mostly) clothed and no one was (obviously) having sex, but there were a lot of rich-looking men in their 40s and 50s, surrounded by very young, very hot women; probably half the crowd was wearing bejeweled masks. All I could think was, When is everybody going to start having sex with each other and can we get out before then?
At one point, Ellie—looking sadly at a girl who was flirting with an older gentleman in a silk tie—whispered, either to me or to herself: “Oh, noooo. She is going to get murdered.”
Ellie: The masks, which appeared to be made from Swarovski crystal, were coming from a man in the corner of the club, who was guarding a large clear box filled with them. I sauntered over. “Can I try one on?” I asked. “Try one or buy one?” He countered. “Oh, just try one,” I laughed, assuming, wrongly, that this peddler would be on my side of the 99 percent. He looked at me with pity, and slowly turned his back to us, silently fiddling with one of the masks. “Oh,” I said.
At this point, we had spent about two hours at Beautique and gotten a grand total of zero Housewives out of it. This was a disappointment and, frankly, a shock, but as it was—again—very dark, I kept making Madeleine do turns around the room with me to make sure Dorinda wasn’t hiding in a corner somewhere. It was around this time that we met Jimmy. Immediately, everything changed.
Madeleine: “Do you want to smell me?” was the first thing Jimmy said to us. Because I—like Carole Radziwill—am a professional reporter who was at Beautique to report on a full experience, I agreed to smell him. He immediately informed me that his cologne was Gucci and cost $138. I immediately informed him that $138 was actually pretty baseline for a high-end cologne. He then told us that his tie was designed by Nick Cannon and invited us over to a table where his “friends” were having a birthday party.
Jimmy’s “friends” were all women, all about our age (mid-to-late 20s), and almost exclusively Asian. Almost immediately, it became clear that he didn’t know a single one of them and that he was simply rounding up all the hot girls in the front of the room to make the party look better (it’s unclear whether or not he actually worked for Beautique). He kept dragging over older men (many of them in masks made by and bought from Ellie’s new enemy), introducing us to them, and informing us of their salaries. Any time we tried to talk to one of the other women, he would rearrange the whole group and bring in a new sweaty billionaire for us to talk to. At one point, one of the other women—who I briefly got to chat with before Jimmy steered her away—sighed, “I’ve never felt more objectified in my life.”
I felt so bad that she was actually stuck in this place with friends on a real night out, as opposed to being there for the purpose of this article.
Ellie: Jimmy—who looked like a Batman villain and appeared to have a long scratch across his cheek—introduced us to the group as “the new girls,” really making it clear that we were now members of an exclusive Upper East Side harem. “Have you been here before?” I asked him. “I don’t count how many times I go places, I’m too busy,” he responded proudly. One of the girls in our new family lurched towards Madeleine, looking as if she were about to burst into tears. “Ohhh my god,” she screeched. “I love your necklace! Is that the Mockingjay?!” Before Madeleine could answer, Jimmy pulled our new friend away. “Jimmyyyyy!” she cried with great affection, as though they had not met 30 minutes earlier. [Note from Madeleine: It was not the Mockingjay.]
Normally, having an aggressive Dutch man in a Nick Cannon tie grab my shoulder multiple times to rearrange me around a table at a club would be cause for me to exit the room, but in this very unique case, Madeleine and I were thrilled to be entangled in such a thoroughly bizarre situation. Jimmy was bopping between us with an odd mixture of compliments, put-downs, and random facts that I assume were meant to make him appear enticing and mysterious. “I’d take your number but my battery’s dying,” Jimmy kept telling me, unprompted, waving what appeared to be a Motorola L7 SLVR phone in my face. The battery was full. “I could see you two in bikinis in the Hamptons,” he said to us in a later exchange. “You’ve got the body for it!”
Jimmy also kept telling me I would be great if I were just a little more confident, which I think was entirely in reference to the fact that I was wearing glasses.
Madeleine: His moves were straight from Pick-up Artistry 101, only instead of trying to get one of us to go home with him, it appeared that he was probably trying to induct us into a high-end sex ring.
And you know what? For a moment—after he offered to invite us to the “next party” and set us up with new high heels and DVF dresses—I kind of started to consider it. Like, Could I live as an Upper East Side call girl if it meant all the free stuff and Hamptons weekends that I’m being promised? The answer is, uh, yeah, I probably could get used to that. Maybe Jimmy was my stepping stone into a new life where I marry a dying rich man, become very busy with my “philanthropy,” and live out my days in a Park Avenue apartment, deeply embroiled in an inheritance lawsuit with my dead husband’s adult children. Maybe I could be a future Real Housewife of New York. Maybe this WAS the dream.
But then our new friend made some comments about how girls make bad DJs (something he learned from his “good pal Charlie Sheen”) and how he needed to get more “fat girls” over to our group because “that’s what the hip hop guys like” and the spell was broken. It was time to make our escape or else—as Ellie predicted earlier—we’d probably end up getting murdered. (But, hey, with Jimmy’s help, we’d at least get murdered on a yacht.)
Ellie: Yes, what a beautiful way to die. But ultimately, we chose life, half-sprinting out of Beautique around 12:30 a.m.; had I known Madeleine was having these kinds of dangerous thoughts, we might have left even earlier.
Beautique represented everything the New York Housewives stand for—gaudiness, expensive bad food, plump billionaires, flattering lighting, and above all, a false sense of exclusivity. The venue was both fun and terribly sad; literally and figuratively shrouded in darkness. And although no actual housewives were located on this particular evening, we could feel their spirits emanating from the period-stained walls. And as we walked out into the bright lights of 5th Avenue, filled with white wine, oysters, and the harsh feeling of having been objectified for a full hour, I could sense the wide, frantic eyes of Ramona Singer looking down on us from on high, filled with approval.
Madeleine: “Where’s Dorinda,” we spent the rest of the night muttering to ourselves. “Where’s Dorinda.”
Illustration by Jim Cooke, photo via Getty.