On January 31, 2006, at the opening of his pricey luxury goods store, Parker, on Madison Avenue, Andrew Parker worked the room like a pro. He glad-handed socialites Bettina Zilkha, Melissa Berkelhammer, and Cinema Society founder Andrew Saffir, making extra sure to be photographed with Vanity Fair’s Amy Fine Collins. Parties meant everything to the 40-year-old Parker. The flamboyantly dressed socialite—think fur scarves and sunglasses at night—treasured boldface names like hard currency, bragging of friendships with writer Jay McInerney, Tommy Hilfiger’s daughter Ally, and popular society hostess Ann Dexter-Jones. Then, suddenly, Andrew Parker went from party boy to inmate.
“Andrew thinks he’s a celebrity now,” one acquaintance said of Parker after his arrest. “He’s enjoying all this. He’s acting like nothing happened.”
According to the New York Department of Corrections, on September 22 Andrew Pollack (Parker is an assumed named) was arrested and incarcerated by the NYPD, which charged him with petty larceny. Then, on November 3, Parker was extradited to Connecticut where he was charged with identity theft, which is a felony. After another week in jail in New York, Parker was released on November 27 after a friend from high school helped post $20,000 in bail. According to the New York Post, when he was arrested Parker had a stolen American Express card and five forged Citibank credit cards in his pocket; he had just bought an $11,000 Hermes Birkin bag with the stolen Amex and had gone on a $4,422 shopping splurge at the boutique Scoop. The paper also reported Parker is also being sued by Amex for $200,000 in unpaid platinum-card bills. His former landlord, Chase Bank (The Parker shop is now evicted from its Madison Avenue location), has a lawsuit against him. And the fur wholesaler LeGAR is suing him for $20,000.
Parker’s attorney, Leonard Ressler, refused to discuss the charges or accusations about Parker’s business practices. “Andrew is pleading not guilty in both cases,” Ressler said. “I don't know what the evidence is. They will examine the facts and will come to a conclusion."
Before he was busted, Parker liked to exclaim, “I’m the Mayor of Madison Avenue.” But in less than five years, the barely 5’6” aspiring male socialite with a mop of unruly corkscrew curls became the retail monster of Madison Avenue. What Parker is alleged to have done was gutsy, but not hard to pull off. A former Parker employee tells me that he double- and triple-billed customers for expensive items like furs or party dresses by designer Douglas Hannant, a favorite of the ladies who lunch set, or an Alexander Ochs tie. There wasn’t even a cash register at the store. Everything was done with a credit-card machine, which Parker was adamant about being the only person to close out when the store shut its doors at 7 p.m. He hid receipts, even from his mother and business partner Beverly, who funded both the opening of the store and her son’s overly extravagant lifestyle.
“The whole store was an elaborate scam,” says the ex-employee, who managed the day to day operations of the store alongside Parker for over two years, had access to the business’ bank statements, and left on bad terms. Like many people who know Parker, the former employee asks to go unnamed, for fear of “retaliation.” “Andrew lives in an alternate universe,” the ex-employee says. “He’s self-destructive. Somebody would come in and order $10,000 in custom items and he would never make the goods. Andrew would rip people off and then avoid them. He made up fake names to deal with people who wanted money.” Parker would dupe customers into buying polyester sweaters he claimed were 100 percent cashmere, then gloat about how easy it was. “Both Andrew and his mother have the mind-set that everyone is worthless and stupid except for them,” says the ex-employee.
Emma Snowdon-Jones, an oft-photographed fixture on the party scene who worked as a salesperson only a week at Parker’s boutique before quitting, explains, “Beverly and Andrew had their own Parker label. They would mark up sweaters 500 percent. These sweaters came in one day and they bragged to me that they cost $60 each and they sold them for over $1,000.” Club owner Noel Ashman, who has known Parker since sixth grade when Parker was a student at The Dwight School, says, “He always wanted money and he didn’t have any. He has no ethics.”
Those designers whose lines Parker carried say he was often negligent about paying them. Sasha Tcherevkoff started the sportswear collection Skull & Bones with Jared Paul Stern, a former Page Six reporter. Parker bought the line, which quickly sold out in his store. “Problems started happening,” Tcherevkoff recalls. “The first couple of checks we got were on time. Then all of a sudden, the checks stopped. I sent him some nasty emails saying, ‘Pay us or I’m going to come take stuff off the floor as payment.’ A month later, he agreed to put the charge on his credit card. We charged around 1,000 bucks, then, all of a sudden, Jared gets one of these fraud warnings from Amex that says the charges were disputed as fraud. He is yucky, yucky, yucky. You always got the feeling that he was being deceptive.”
Publicist and event planner Susan Shin used to invite Parker to her events. “Nothing I know about him would lead me to think all this is true,” Shin says. “I knew his business was suffering, but I would never imagine it would lead to something like this. I am still shocked because I thought he was a good guy.”
Compared to the enormity of Ponzi schemers like Bernie Madoff or Larry Salander, Parker’s alleged crimes seem small-fry. Yet to hear friends and acquaintances tell it, during his career Parker screwed over more Manhattan socialites than could fit into the dining room of his favorite restaurant, Nello. At his social peak, Parker dated Joselyn Wohl, the daughter of rich and well-connected real-estate mogul Larry Wohl and his wife Denise. “These women would come in and they would love him, even after he screwed them over,” the ex-employee reports, amazed. “He treated Joselyn like crap. He used Joselyn’s credit card for everything. He has this intense sense of entitlement. He was basically stealing from the Wohls the entire time he was with Joselyn.” Parker not only never paid back a generously large loan from the Wohls, but also used to charge to the Wohls’ house accounts at Zitomer pharmacy and Eli’s. “The Wohls really helped him a lot once Joselyn started dating him,” says a man-about-town who knows Parker well. “They sent all their rich friends to the store. And Arden, Joselyn’s sister, was very instrumental in getting people like Chiara Clemente to the store for parties. Andrew lived to go to parties. That was his whole thing.” When contacted, the Wohls chose not to comment on Andrew Parker.
Parker hosted charity events at his store. But the ex-employee says the charities, like Riverkeeper, never saw a dime. Despite an increasingly bad rep, Parker managed to lure more people into his web. One socialite says Parker went on dates to expensive restaurants with Melissa Berkelhammer and Steven Brill’s daughter Emily. Although she re-capped a night at Goldbar with Parker (“I do remember Andrew touching my leg several times,” Brill wrote) for her now-defunct social blog Essentially Emily, Brill declined to comment for this story.
An only child, Parker was born and raised in Manhattan. After his father divorced Beverly, he and his father barely spoke. At Dwight, Parker wasn’t a good student. A classmate who knew him in sixth grade says, “He was a weird kid. He never fit in, but was always desperate to be popular and have people think he was rich.” Another childhood friend remembers, “He bullied a lot of the kids at Dwight. He would come to parties that he wasn't invited to. He was always trying to impress girls. By age 17, people had caught on to him and what he was really like and no one wanted to put up with him anymore." After high school, Parker skipped college. He started out buying cheap ties in the garment district and re-selling them with his own label on a stand on Madison Avenue. With alimony from her divorce, Beverly bankrolled the first boutique, a men’s store called AS Parker. A few years later, Parker opened a bigger boutique a few blocks up Madison Avenue near 79th Street, adding women’s clothes, accessories, and lots and lots of fur. “I’ve lived and breathed fashion since I was 12 years old,” Parker told LX-TV. “If I tell a customer they’re gonna look great in it, they buy it.”
Beverly Parker is described by the ex-employee as “a neurotic, very dramatic woman who can be nasty” and very controlling of her only son. “It is all very Hitchcock’s Psycho,” says Snowdon-Jones. “Beverly is very much the matriarch. They were together every single day. She wanted to control him. Eventually Andrew will turn out exactly like her.” Despite their close relationship (they live three blocks apart), friends doubt Beverly, who often vanished from the store for “medical reasons” for months on end, knew the extent of her son’s alleged grifts. Before Parker went to jail, he told his mother he was going to rehab.
Behind the designer shades and manipulation, Parker was less Talented Mr. Ripley and more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On a night out, he would often taxi from a charity event at Bulgari to the private room of a strip club. His last girlfriend was Heather Pink, a 29-year-old porn star he cast in Trust Fund Sluts, an X-rated film that never got released. A friend remembers Parker bringing him to a party at Sir Ivan Wilzig’s infamous Watermill “castle,” which has been called the Playboy Mansion of the East Coast. “Ivan Wilzig wears a cape and has this tacky castle made out of fiberglass,” says the pal. “The castle is the worst Versace nightmare, with big horrible paintings and disco lights.” Parker attended the adult video awards last year with Pink in Las Vegas, but still tried to play the part of the Upper East Side-bred socialite in New York. Jared Paul Stern remembers meeting Pink at Parker’s store. “I was surprised to hear about the porn connection and find out his girlfriend Heather was a porn star,” Stern claims. “That somehow didn't come up when he first introduced her.” Messages to both Ivan Wilzig and Heather Pink’s MySpace page (“HeatherPinkXXX”) went unanswered.
As he awaited his court date on Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, Parker was laying very low. He didn’t respond to numerous emails and Facebook messages (his account is still open). His cellphone has been turned off. When reached for comment, his mother Beverly said in a choked-up voice, “I don’t know anything. Why are you calling me? This is unbelievable. This is really unbelievable.”
But on December 10 and 15, Andrew Parker re-appeared on the party scene. He showed up at trendy Katra Lounge on Rivington Street where his good friend, the DJ Lee Kalt was spinning. "Andrew thinks he's a celebrity now," says someone who has known Parker for years and saw him at Katra with a group of women. "He's enjoying all this. He's acting like nothing happened.”
Peter Davis is the editor at large of Paper. His articles on style and celebrities have been published in Vanity Fair, The New York Times and The New York Observer.