At the meeting Sylk laid out his plans for SoHo Models. He said he already had investors and a space.
What he was looking for was qualified people to run the agency. Both Renda and Schechter heard him
out. "He talked a good game," says Schechter of the initial meeting. "Lots of money, he's got Mark Baker,
and this big space and a 15-year lease. Certain things lent him credibility." Explaining why fashion people
fell for Sylk's con so absolutely Schechter says, "When you're talking big money and offering people points
in a business, nobody's going to turn you down." A person hoodwinked by Sylk was Tim Spulches, the
owner of downtown club called Veruka. He told Spulches he was looking to invest $2 million in a new
model agency. Did Spulches know any good bookers who wanted to make a move ? Spulches did. He was
friends with J.J. Cortez, a veteran booker with a reputation for launching supermodel careers. including
those of Daniella Pestova, Eva Herzigova, and Niki Taylor. Spulches said Cortez was in Los Angeles
with his parents but that he could broker a meeting. Ecstatic, Sylk offered Spulches twelve points of the
new agency on a handshake. With such a generous profit participation offer Spulches was embarrassed to
ask for money to cover the plane ticket and hotel. He paid the expenses himself and made arrangements
for a quiet dinner meeting. Also attending the was Sarah Dixon, a booker at NMK who had worked with
Cortez and was interested in opening up a new model agency with him. The meeting was a disaster ... and
a harbinger of things to come.
"(Sylk) really showed me how gullible people can be to a great salesman" says Spuches. "And I take full
responsibility personally myself. I bought into it for a while and thought (Sylk) was a guy who had some
quirks but was bright, aggressive, and would get the deal done." "Jason was supposed to be the investor
for our new agency but it turned out that he wanted us to work for him," says Dixon indignantly. "I quickly
realized we were lured to this meeting under false pretenses. On top of that he was extremely arrogant.
He didn't want to listen to anything anybody else had to say." Spulches recalls Sylk's behavior being manic.
"He was coked up," says Spulches. Several times I told him that he had to just "shut up and let J.J. speak."
That meeting went badly. Sylk left in the middle of the dinner with one of the Wall Street investors (Kevin
Schuester from Schwab) to go to a strip club. Later that evening Sylk invited Cortez and Spulches to a
club. He arrived with an entourage of V.I.P. strippers. One of them was a girl from S. Carolina who
Spulches describes as "a little na´ve." Sylk said she had to move to New York to get into modeling and
told her to meet him downstairs for an interview. "Jason then called J.J. to come down," says Spulches.
"The girl is completely naked. J.J. is like 'Jason ! What the hell are you doing ?'" According to Spulches
Sylk was trying to impress Cortez. Realizing he had made a drastic micalculation Sylk began calling up
Cortez and leaving frantic messages of apology on his answering machine. A second meeting brokered by
Mark Baker was scheduled at Barolo. But the lunch which began civilized enough eventually ended badly,
with Cortez and Sylk almost coming to blows. "That was the first time I saw (his) psycho edge," says
Baker. "He just lost his cool."
Cortez eventually took a job at NMK working with Sarah Dixon. It only infuriated Sylk more. He "would
call up J.J. asking him to come back and work for him and then other times leave really scary, obscene
messages on his answering machine and threatening him," says Spulches. Sylk eventually made a visit to
NMK. Hoping to get both Cortez and Dixon fired he informed the owner that his two top bookers were
jumping ship to his new agency. He's "crazy" says NMK owner Ken Metz. "He came storming in here
and pulled me into the stairwell. He was trying to destroy J.J. He told me he's not to be trusted. It was
like he was smoking crack. He just went off for fifteen minutes."
ToTaLLy CoOL «
written by
Rene Chun
Model

"The

Sweat Shop"

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