Twenty-seven-year-old Sara (who asked that her last name not be used) has been a waitress at the Penthouse Executive Club since it opened in June of 2003 and has been popping Champagne bottles and serving tuna topped with quail egg in the lounge area and private rooms ever since. (The in-house restaurant, Robert’s Steakhouse, employs only male waiters.) The New Orleans native remembers how surprised she was the first time a woman came in alone and talked openly about her husband, but now she doesn’t bat an eye. “I generally know my guests by name,” she says, “and whether they have children.” We asked her to show, er, tell us a little bit more.
Does your cocktailing work spill into your work as a graduate student in philosophy?
I call it my mind-body dualism. A lot of people in academia don’t have as much access to how people might be in a social setting. I maintain an accurate balance in the social-physical world and the thought-filled world.
As a student of people, what do you think of the male bonding that goes on at gentleman’s club?
I’ve always been amazed at how much closer men can be with each other. With women it’s a little bit more high-maintenance. I like to see men having a good time. It’s a sort of Disney World.
What’s the main difference between waitressing there and at a typical restaurant?
I know a lot of people by name — what they drink or like to eat. If I see them come in, I give them a hug and say hello and have their drinks ready for them.
What are some of the tricks in your arsenal?
I happen to be a good southern woman; I lay the charm on pretty thick. I do have a great knowledge of Champagne and wine — I know pretty much every drink you could possibly make or enjoy.
Is there a drink that makes you cringe when someone orders it?
A chocolate martini or espresso martini. They’re both sticky, and we have to carry it on a tray in three- or four-inch heels.
Do customers ever fall in love with girls — or with you — and lavish gifts on them?
My opportunities aren’t as great as entertainers for that type of relationship with a guest. I’ve received Christmas gifts and birthday gifts from guests I regularly wait on.
What’s the biggest tip you’ve ever gotten?
A set of two-karat diamonds set in platinum. It was from someone who always liked to sit with me. He pretty much paid my rent through tips for a while.
How do you act as a liaison between the customer and the entertainers?
First I ask if they have a preference. I have a large variety of girls who I know better and I know whether they can have an interesting conversation, or they’re lighthearted, and so on; it depends on what type of woman the guest is asking for.
Do you have to be careful not to intrude when serving private rooms?
Generally the waitress is welcome to come as they need us, or check in and see if they have enough beverages. A lot of times they want me to sit down and be with them for a while because they’re interested in my story and who I am.
Ever walk in on anything wild?
Everything I’ve ever experienced has been no greater than PG-13. It’s like an eighties movie. You get some gratuitous breasts shots, but that’s about it.
Do customers tell you interesting stories?
There’s certain guests who I know their children’s names. Or women come in too. I know their husbands name; I’ve seen pictures. I know what their children are interested in.
How did the staff feel after the Times reviewed the steakhouse there?
I think most of us were very pleased. The critique of the service wasn’t … When you go to our restaurant, you don’t really want the male waiter to hover over your table. You’re more interested in the beautiful women.
Does that annoying strip-club-MC voice ever haunt you in your dreams?
I don’t often dream about work.
Think you’ll be there for a while?
You’ll be calling me Doctor before I leave. — Daniel Maurer