“They always ask whether my mustache is fake. I don’t like to talk about it.” Photo: Melissa Hom
When Michael Harr applied for a job at the Box, his only previous waiting experience was at a summer camp — he figures he was hired mostly for his look, cultivated in part because he’s a musician in the Scallywag Sideshow. “They had a woman doing costumes,” he remembers. “While [the other employees] were on line getting measured, she came up to me and said, ‘You can just wear whatever is in your wardrobe.’” We asked Michael about the inner workings of the city’s most popular yet enigmatic dinner cabaret — not surprisingly, he kept his answers very close to his vintage vest.
How does the average Joe reserve a table there? How selective is the process?
What they would normally do is go through the Website, e-mail one of the managers or even the owner, and tell them how big their party is. The Box would tell them the price depending on where they are [tables cost between $600 and $2,000]. They’d have a table reservation for after midnight or at midnight.
Is it possible to get a reservation the same week that you e-mail?
Most of the time. Most of the people getting reservations are ordering food. It really depends on how big the party is, how much you’re looking to spend, how many people you’re coming with, how close you want to get.
When New York first asked “What’s in the Box?,” owner Simon Hammerstein said, “If there are celebrities, they’re going to be performing.” Has that been the case?
Never. They’re there just as all the other guests are there. They’re there to eat, drink, and have a good time.
What are they eating?
We have what’s called a Kobe pierogi. We have caviar blinis, apple latkes, pastrami tea sandwiches, and veal, duck, and special desserts. The first night I served, I served Scarlett Johansson.
You hadn’t had much waiting experience before. Were you nervous?
It was a little brush of excitement. She was even prettier in person than in the movies.
What sort of things do celebs talk to you about?
They always ask whether my mustache is fake. I don’t like to talk about it actually. Someone said, “I could see you from a block away and tell that you work at the Box.”
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen onstage?
I’m not at liberty to go into details of what the show contains. The show changes every night. It’s like opening a birthday present.
During private parties, what’s the most ridiculous story someone has given at the door?
One guy came up with his little BlackBerry and said, “I’m on the guest list with my girlfriend under Simon Hammerstein.” Right after he completed his sentence he said, “Who is this Simon Hammerstein, anyway?” That was a faux pas.
Can someone get in just because they’re dressed well and in keeping with the spirit of the place — say in a tuxedo and top hat?
No. We still have to know them.
What’s the vibe like after the show is over?
When the curtains are drawn, it doesn’t mean that the carnival has ended. We keep people entertained while the stage show isn’t running.
That I can’t say. It’s mysterious, very mysterious.