I’m at a table smack in the middle of The Box, a New York nightclub known for surrealist burlesque shows so risqué that its Vegas expansion got shut down after running afoul of obscenity laws. In front of me is a cascade of gratis Champagne and tequila. Next to me is my rent-a-friend for the evening, an effervescent blonde named Laura provided by a how-can-this-be-a-real-thing new service called Zoola Fix. She's mine for $150 per night and it's not what it sounds like.
Some background: For a fee, Zoola Fix sets clients up with “nightlife fixers," plugged-in midnight-to-sixers with the door connections and nothing but disdain for Yelp, who can serve as navigators on wild nights. Think of it as an Airbnb that lets you rent cool kids instead of spare rooms. Or Uber with pre-rehab Downey Jr. behind the wheel. The service is available in 36 cities across the globe, including Las Vegas, New York, Miami, Ibiza, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, and Berlin
I went into my evening expecting little more than a silly story. After all, this is the kind of thing that begs to be made fun of—a service seemingly built to take advantage of people with more money than sense, and who can't bother to pull up OpenTable. Thing is, it works. Well, Laura works anyway.
Earlier in the day, Laura emailed me a bunch of basic questions that she said would help her plan our evening. It was my friend’s birthday, and I told Laura to surprise us with something special—the weirder the better. She suggested a show I’d been meaning to check out, and even offered to wait in line for us to grab deeply discounted same-day rush tickets. Afterwards, we meet and figure out our next moves.
Laura turns out to be quite the character. A 20-something with a permasmile and a curiously vague European accent (it turned out to come from spending years in both the Czech Republic and London). Her Zoola Fix profile lists her as an “actress by day, performance-artist-come-cat-lady by night.” We met at the members-only Soho House, where we broke the ice over Scotch and rapid-fire questions. And boy did I have a lot.
Meeting a fixer for the first time is a singular experience that falls somewhere between a blind date and a business meeting. She wanted to know what sort of things we wanted to do and places we wanted to go. I wanted to know positively everything about this line of work. Who were her clients? Mostly European tourists—I was her first local. What happens when her clients harass her? Hasn’t happened. How many people do you typically take out? Small groups mostly, but she had a pack of more than a dozen French guys once. Who usually buys the drinks? The clients.
She suggests we go to The Box. After a few quick words, the doorman hustles us in past a throng of guys waiting outside (in what, it must be noted, was freezing weather). We grab a drink, and wait for the 1:15 AM show to begin. Within minutes, she runs into a friend of hers. It’s loud, so I don’t quite catch what he did for the club, but it was something that allows him to bring us into the roped-off section and to an empty table near the stage. A bunch of bottles are brought out and we get ready to leave because it’s obvious whoever paid for this stuff was going to claim their bounty. Until he signals for us to sit. A waiter brings out buckets of popcorn and beer to accompany the bottles of Champagne and tequila, and the stage curtains open.
It was a night to remember.