“It’s half-past Hammer in the disco, Ms. Palmer,” the doorman said with visible excitement.
Rap royalty in the house? Shaking a leg? Breaking it down to booty town?
In a Moët & Chandon champagne haze, I bolt towards the Garden City Hotel nightclub. It’s been a long night of dancing at the Belmont Ball. The bathroom mirror does not lie — I am clearly on my way to “ridden hard and put away wet” status. Undaunted, I’m sure I can hear MC Hammer calling my name.
Hammer’s posse, at least 60 strong, has taken over the joint.
My horse-racing buddies, already draped over the bar, applaud my confident and colorful entrance. Oakland is most definitely in the house, and it is a sight to behold. Hammer’s posse, at least 60 strong, has taken over the joint. Each one wears a matching black leather vest, two sizes too small, but is otherwise shirtless. The tiny Long Island spot is not used to this sort of clientele or this much action.
The dance floor pulsates and the air is electric. Muscular ebony bodies — bare chests out, draped in gold chains — gyrate like sex gods. Have I died and gone to heaven?
Back I go to the bar for another flute of my signature drink. My Directors’ Room nickname isn’t “Bubbles” for nothing. A crisp tickling at the back of my throat screams out “celebration” for me. Among the horsey set, Moët really should be on tap. I raise my flute to the joy of being in the right place at the right time with the right people. Thanks to the Belmont Stakes, I was having my crowning moment on the dance floor.
I finish my bubbly and dive into the hot black leather dance circle head first. I get down, I tell you, like I never have before, ignoring my whiteness, my aching feet, and my 6 am wake-up call.
Hammer is a well-oiled dancing machine, weaving in and out of the crowd, ripping off a power spin here, titillating with a hip thrust there. In total control. I grin and giggle like a schoolgirl as he busts move after move, ringed by his matching posse.
His boys are impressed that I can keep up. The other partygoers are starting to drop like flies, but not us. Hammer reaches into his custom leather vest and pulls out a wad of cash that could choke a horse. “Moët all ‘round,” he instructs to one of his henchmen. The coolest cat in the room had me pegged. Bubbles.
“Moët all ‘round,” he instructs to one of his henchmen. The coolest cat in the room had me pegged.
Last call finally pulls the plug on our dance-a-palooza. Before I depart, I congratulate Hammer on the performance of his star filly, Lite Light, earlier in the day in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. The gallant Oaktown Stable Grade 1 stakes winner had been beaten by a dirty lip for all the glory in a thrilling performance. I can only imagine how raucous the celebration would have been had the photo finish gone Hammer’s way.
By 7 am, I’m back at Belmont Park feeling like death warmed over. The show must go on, however. As Admin Director of the American Championship Racing Series (ACRS) with a signature event on the undercard of the Belmont Stakes, I’m needed everywhere at once, solving the usual problems and glad-handing VIPs at our fancy ACRS luncheon in a private trackside dining room.
I break away from the non-stop action to take a quick trip to the betting lines. It’s my last chance to put money down.
I never make it to the windows. What I do find is Hammer standing with his posse, clearly agitated. They have traded in last night’s matching leather vests for matching full-length black leather dusters. Lite Light’s defeat the day before had cost him and his “whale” father and brother thousands and thousands of dollars. They no doubt are trying to win some of it back today. Are they having problems cashing one of their mega personal checks so they can reload at the mutuels?
No, his problems right now are social. The Turf Club manager, unimpressed by Hammer’s star power and appalled by his attire and the size of his group, is treating Hammer like a second-class citizen. She can not possibly accommodate his group with a table for lunch on such a big day, she says. All of the predominantly white eyes are on Hammer, who is understandably embarrassed.
I march into the fray just in time to hear the manager telling Hammer that he’s not welcome in the Turf Club.
His problems right now are social.
As soon as Hammer sees me, he recognizes me. “Hey, it’s that chick who danced her ass off last night with us,” My heart swells. “How are you holding up, Anne?”
“Better than you, it appears,” I say.
Ms. Sniffy is shocked. “You… you know him?” she says in a withering tone.
“I’ll handle this,” I say to Ms. Sniffy. I turn to the Hammer posse. “Listen gents, why don’t you follow me. The ACRS has a primo dining location and we would be honored to have you join us. Just give me a minute to ask the waitstaff to set up another table for you.”
Hammer doesn’t need any convincing. He smiles at me and shoots Sniffy a curled lip, along with some grade-A Oakland stink-eye. We link arms as I lead the duster posse on an intentionally circuitous route through the packed Turf Club, taking our sweet time.
Our sweet, sweet Hammer Time.