Hey Moomba


Rebecca Hargreaves (bartender at Moomba; fashion and interior designer)
Income: about $65,000
Health Insurance: None
Rent: $805/mo.
Utilities: $65/mo.
Phone: $60/mo.
Food: $200/mo.
Transportation: $100/mo.

It’s all about the money at Moomba,” Rebecca Hargreaves said. She was wearing sparkles on her eyelids which made her eyes look rich. She stood behind the bar in the slate-gray restaurant with the rubber floor, shaking up Moombapolitans and Moombalinis while she answered questions about the Moomba guy who tipped more moola than the others.

“He was like an international playboy. He was Italian but he had an Australian accent. He was always taking the Concorde. We have tequila that’s $42 a shot. He’d buy one for every bartender and for the guy who brings up the ice. If he had one $8 drink, he’d leave me $25. Once he said, I went to Bijan today and I bought three new suits. He’d always talk about the money he lost on a particular day, hundreds of thousands. He’d come back the next day and say, Oh, I got all that back.”

Moomba is like that club in The Shanghai Gesture about which Gene Tierney said, “Other places are like kindergarten compared to this.” Most Moomba people, except for two of the four owners who are from upstate New York, are the people who live on Page Six—Ronald Perelman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Campbell.

Before Moomba opened last Thanksgiving, 500 hopeful bartenders competed for the three bartending jobs advertised in the Times, Hargreaves said. She had to have two interviews, meet all four owners, and undergo an oral exam about fine wines and restaurant reaction situations. So what does a person do if Mickey Rourke yells at you? Do you (a) call the police, (b) tell him he’s bad, (c) take him into your arms?

“They didn’t ask me that. But, if someone is bad, whether you’re a star or just a general New York person conducting yourself in a manner not appropriate to Moomba, you will be escorted out. There are people who try to bribe the boys at the door. We just don’t accept bribes. Moomba is unlike any other restaurant.”

Hargreaves, 29, has been working in restaurants for the past three years—Monzu, Metropolis Cafe, and Circa—while she’s been building up her fashion and interior design business. She makes half her $65,000 income working five nights a week at Moomba, she said, and the rest creating custom clothes and costumes for films. Hargreaves was raised in England, where “everyone has to take sewing classes.” The child of an engineer, she immigrated with her parents and brother to Michigan in 1978. She studied fashion merchandising at Texas Christian University, designed textiles in New York at Danskin for three years, and is now working on her own clothing line called Daisygirl: “hot-babe play clothes—raw silk skirts and good-girlie pretty things.”

Six foot two and red-haired, Hargreaves modeled briefly but the thought of replacement was too much. “There was always going to be someone younger, prettier, skinnier, frecklier, redheadeder. The feeling of insecurity never stops.” At Moomba, life goes on predictably. Hargreaves stands on one side of the bar, the people with the money on the other side. Does she fall in love with any of them?

“I do get asked out quite a bit. You’re in a difficult position. You really want to work that tip. You have to keep them guessing until they pay the bill. Oh yes, it excites them more if there’s a little bit of a battle of will.”

After you get the tip? “You just say, Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t go out with any customers.”