Friday, midnight--4am at the Plumm

If only she had been around in high school. We visit with the city's most popular paddle-wielding bathroom attendant.

Rodriguez warns patrons what happens when they don't wash their hands.

Rodriguez warns patrons what happens when they don't wash their hands. Photographs: Nisha Sondhe

Gallagher has his watermelon. Michael Jackson has his glove. Sonia Rodriguez, the ladies’ bathroom attendant at the Plumm (246 W 14th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, 212-675-1567), has her paddle—a small, black leather paddle with a red heart in the center and fur on one side (for namby-pambies), which she uses to entertain patrons, but more importantly, to amuse herself.

Sonia, who is 45 years old and has teenage kids but doesn’t look a day out of her hot-to-trot 30s, has been working at the Plumm since it opened two years ago as a “semiprivate club,” where models and movie stars got bottle service from cocktail waitresses who looked like models.

The Plumm has since gone the way of all hot spots before it and cooled down considerably (Halle Berry and Kate Bosworth don’t roll through anymore), but the space still impresses, and there’s a stripper pole on the bottom floor, which has been taken over tonight by a party of 40 girls from a pole-dancing exercise class at S Factor.

Sonia arrives with a red backpack full of supplies and starts setting up around 11:30pm. She lights candles, stacks paper towels, hides rolls of toilet paper behind a chaise, fills a small vase with Blow Pops, and lines up products on a shelf beneath antique mirrors. “I used to have 14 perfumes,” she says. “But now I only have six. You know what liquor does to people.”

Back in the Plumm’s heyday, Sonia pulled in at least $300 a night (she once made $562) but since the dust settled, she hasn’t been making nearly as much money. For the past year, she’s been driving a school bus for disabled children during the day, and only works at the Plumm a few times a month.

Sonia earns her tips.

Photographs: Nisha Sondhe

When she does work, she works it. Every girl who comes in gets a sultry “Hi sexy!” and when she hands them paper towels, she is anything but subtle. “I want to go home with some money tonight, beautiful.” One of Sonia’s signature lines is: “Who wants a spanking? A sexy spanking!” She may get a few funny looks from newbies, but once the other girls see someone bending over to get the house special, even those with First Lady–like hairdos ask meekly for a little action. Sonia is unstoppable.

Her bathroom is also one of the few places in New York City where you can still smoke…but it’ll cost you. Wanna take a guy into a stall? No problem, but that’ll cost you, too. “I charge them $20 for ten minutes,” she says. What can you do in ten minutes? “You can check out the package!” she says.

“When [Sonia’s] here, the energy in this bathroom is a whole other world,” says Francis, a beautiful brunet in hot-pink jeans who promotes for the Plumm. “She’s famous. My friends are always like, ‘Where’s the girl who spanks people?’”

A tight-bodied blond in a very short pastel pleated skirt prances over to Sonia with a coquettish smile. “You want a spanking, gorgeous?” The girl bends over and lifts up her skirt. She’s not even drunk.