It started out so well, too. It brought back the lost art of vaudeville. It classed up a sad stretch of Chrystie Street where before there had been only Sammy's Roumanian Restaurant. It had all-star boardmembers and consultants like Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, and Josh Lucas. But The Box nightclub -- in an attempt to push the envelope ever further into "extreme burlesque" -- has turned into something else entirely.
A New York Magazine feature just backed up a whole new truckload of bad onto The Box, including allegations of sexual coercion, raw sewage, snot rockets, and blackface (which is considered cultural commentary over at 30 Rock or when Robert Downey, Jr. does it, but not when "Impresario of Smut" Simon Hammerstein pressures you into it).
The club's rep was already in question after former sister act The Porcelain Twinz accused Hammerstein of all kinds of illicit treatment in an endless MySpace post back in September. Alex French's NYMag article fleshes out the sleazescape with quotes from terrified former staffers (all speaking on condition of anonymity, naturally) describing an oppressive atmosphere of "constant sexual harassment" and detailing how Hammerstein's initial shyness dropped away as he worked to finetune his vision of anything-goes neo-vaudeville, ratcheting up the nightclub's shocking sexual content and pressuring performers to add unspeakable twists to their nightclub acts. (We can't describe here just how that plays out; you'll have to read the article yourself. Let's just say there's a performer named Queen Laqueefah who sings, and not with her mouth.)
How bad is it? So bad that former Box investor Moby has "rarely" seen this "level of degeneracy." (Which in a way kind of only makes us want to go there more.) Oh, Simon. What would your grandfather, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II -- he of feelgood family fare like The Sound of Music and Oklahoma!, the man responsible for "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" -- think of all this?