James' tenure running the club for the past few years has featured a string of high-profile and bizarre embarrassments—from the junk-filled apartments upstairs at the club's high-end Gramercy Park mansion to his apparent involvement in the mysterious deaths of dozens of baby finches in Gramercy Park to his brother's illegal misappropriation of the club's non-profit status to pump up his jewelry business—and yesterday the club's board finally decided that he would take a "leave of absence" and "well-earned vacation" while it sorts through the mess.
According to a former club staffer we talked to, the leave has been a long time coming: "Aldon suffers from serious, serious mental problems that have gone untreated," the staffer said. "He's not just eccentric. He's certifiably crazy."
That craziness manifests itself in part through racism, according to the staffer. "We had a Japanese girl who worked here for a while," the staffer said. "Aldon hated her. He used to call her 'Tokyo Rose' and 'that Jap.' There was an African-American employee that he constantly joked about being a drug dealer—he called her a 'white powder heiress.'"
James was essentially, the staffer said, a crazy old coot given to showing up at the club's hoity-toity black-tie events "in a ragged coat, dirty shirt, smelling terribly and wearing a wool skull cap." He compulsively collected tchochkes and stuffed them into the club's unoccupied upstairs apartments, resulting in unsafe caves full of junk that twice drew the attention of New York City fire marshals. And the club's downstairs office space, which are open to staff and more likely to be seen by the public, was no better (the photo above is of the office).
James had virtually total control over the club's $2.6 million budget, and he wielded it as a crazy old coot would: "He was writing blank checks to vendors at flea markets where he'd buy all his filthy old junk," the staffer said. "There was no accountability, no receipts." According to the New York Post, the club's finances are under investigation by both the city and state of New York.
James is officially just on leave, but it's widely expected that he'll be permanently fired. Trouble is, he has no where else to go. "He's lived at the club for nearly 40 years, and been president for 20," the staffer says.
A call to James was referred to a publicist, who did not respond to an e-mail.