‘Susanne Bartsch: On Top’ Explores the Humanity of a Nightlife Legend

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The hotly anticipated documentary Susanne Bartsch: On Top, from directors Anthony & Alex, explores the actual person behind one of New York nightlife’s greatest living legends, and comes to theaters next month.

The film delves into Bartsch’s legacy in the Manhattan club scene, as well as her personal life as a mother and partner. RuPaul, Amanda Lepore and Bill Cunningham are just some of the big names to make appearances.

Susanne Bartsch: On Top opens theatrically September 7 in Los Angeles at Laemmle Monica Film Center, and becomes available on demand September 11.

Take a look at a clip below.

A Brooke Candy Crush

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Last night was Brooke Candy’s ‘Opulence‘ themed video premiere, sponsored by Diesel. The ‘freaky princess’ looked ravishing as she sat front row at the screening of her Steven Klein-directed short film, styled by Nicola Formichetti. Held in the basement of the Tribeca Grand, fashion legends mingled with the Susane Bartsch crew to create a surreal party spectacle… it was like a live-action video with the stars themselves! The pictures speak on their own behalf.

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Klein Sandwich: Steven Klein, Brooke Candy, Calvin Klein 

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Nicola Formichetti

75380015Perez Hilton

75400002John Tuite, Brooke Candy, Carlos Santolalla

75400004Richard Chai, Brooke Candy, Nicola Formichetti 

75400010Donna Karan, Susanne Bartsch

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John Tuite, Alex Catarinella

75400025 Natalia Kills and Willy Moon 

75400024Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver 

75380003Greg K

75380007   75380011Amanda Lepore

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Carlos Santolalla and BlackBook’s Jacob Brown

75390013Alex Catarinella, Carlos Santolalla 

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Perez Hilton and Nicola Formichetti

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Natalia Kills and Jillian Mercado

75400003  75400007Carlos Santolalla and John Tuite

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Steven Klein, Brooke Candy, Calvin Klein

75400009John Tuite, Donna Karan, Susanne Bartsch, Carlos Santolalla

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Perez Hilton, Steven Klein

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Donna Karan, Susanne Bartsch

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Steven Klein, Brooke Candy, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan

75400021 75400022Juliana Huxtable

75400023 Jillian Mercado and Nicola Formichetti

75400026Richard Chai 

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Watch Opulence here.

Gay Club Nights, Dani Baum in The Seagull, and Matt DeMatt’s Birthday Party

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Is it a game of musical chairs or a natural expansion of the market? Gay Pride has arrived and will put the question of whether NYC nightlife can devote so many club nights to the gay crowd as major promotional figures bounce from venue to venue. XL has recently stepped away from Brandon Voss, or did he step away first? John Blair, who stepped away from XL for Brandon, is now enjoying major success with Beto Sutter at Stage 48. Brandon has, of course, landed on his feet. His Cher thing at Marquee last night was the hottest ticket in town. It will be interesting to see how Brandon’s crew mixes with the incredible Susanne Bartsch’s Catwalk crowd. When Pride is passed, will there be casualties? Can the city support so many gay club nights? I think something will have to give.

I’m very proud of club fixture Dani Baum, who is starring in The Seagull, a play she produced. It opens tonight at THEATRELAB, 357 West 36th Street, with 5 performances tonight through Tuesday. Click here for tickets and info.

I was proud of Matt DeMatt, who is keeping himself together as he navigates the always murky waters of nightlife. His birthday party last night had me rubbing shoulders with Tom Green and Playboy playmate Cathy St. George and Randy Jones of the Village People and celebrity photog Patrick McMullan. An old school crowd of hot people had a blast. There are big things happening over at Gaslight/G2 where the bash was held. It is the best location in town, but has been catering to the foot traffic of the Meatpacking.

Matt is prepared to focus his energies on upgrading to an upscale crowd. Location, location, location, location … location. He has the best location, and without distractions from previous management I expect great things.

[BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for XL, Stage 48, Marquee, Gaslight, G2; Follow Steve Lewis on Twitter]

DJing for Susanne Bartsch at the Soho Grand

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I get to DJ for Susanne Bartsch! The grande dame called me and asked and I said yes. That’s how it’s done. Her Tuesday parties at the Soho Grand feature the incomparable Joey Arias. Joey channels Billie Holiday and if you haven’t seen it why am I talking to you anyway? They lubricate the luminaries with $8 Vodka cocktails. I have no idea what to spin. I’m not sure if I’m the right guy for the job but in my long association with Susanne I have seen her make very few mistakes so I’m going to rock it. The party has a reputation for sexy elegance so if you are going to show please bring it like you mean it. Dress for success and all that. Susanne is the best I’ve ever seen in this scene that I have lived in for so long. The concept of a subdued loungey early-week party intrigues me.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was venturing from my Queens home with a few friends to St. Marks to see what we could see. We ran into Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi on the street. I had never met or seen or even imagined fellows like this. They were kind and witty and … educational. I decided to abandon Queens as I knew it for a life amongst the queens, sugar plum fairies, and denizens of the deep dark night. There was no turning back. There was no way to keep me down on the farm once I had seen Joey. Mr. Arias is a legend who changed my life. It is an honor to work and play with him and Susanne. 

[Follow Steve Lewis on Twitter]

Will Back in the Day Come Back?

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The other night at the Latex Ball, I had a eureka moment. It occurred to me that I was witnessing what nightlife was like back in the day; when large, mixed crowds of creative people were all getting along and enjoying each other’s company in a huge room. Out of necessity and circumstance, bottle service drove the creative types from the game. The rising costs – which include rent, insurance, DJ fees, litigation, and too many etceteras – drove the clubs that didn’t embrace the table service crowd to Brooklyn or oblivion…which isn’t another name for Jersey, Queens, or Staten Island, but could be.

Yesterday I wrote:

"Creativity on a grand scale will return to nightlife as a business decision. Creativity is hard to extinguish. It has thrived on the street and in the subways, cave walls, in prison, and in societies that have repressed it. It has reared itself at advanced ages. It has given those seemingly impaired a way to the light. It has channeled the beasts and the fears within us and brought them to survivable places. Creativity will be embraced by the bean counters because it will be useful to separate their bean machine from the others."

Many clubs seed their rooms with dressy or flamboyant people to add to the adventure. "Image" promoters are asked to bring in and babysit young model types, because that is the image that has traditionally sold bottles. Many joints have "hipster nights," where the music isn’t the same ol’, same ol’ stuff heard around the scene. These nights are usually reserved for off-nights and generate enough money to be worth opening. The theory is that it breaks up the week and, every so often, a traveling wale (big spender) wanders in and it’s a score. These nights are the more creative (as I define it) and, in a sense, acknowledge that when the crowds are smaller on early weeknights, the clubs become more creative in order to set them apart from their competition. They change their own game to emphasize that their bean machine is cooler than the next one. New music and even fashion aren’t breaking out of clubs.Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny are throwing a couple of weeklys that don’t attract the fashion-forward set, and the music is also a step ahead. Places like Home Sweet Home are pushing the envelope with great DJs and fun programming. The Box format of shock and awe still brings in a great crowd, long after the novelty has worn off. The very fact that it offers “different” delivers crowds who are bored with the top 40 sounds and condo-clone set. That club does attract the debutantes and the frat boys and black card babies who, like moths, are attracted to its flame – but its smart door monitoring understands how much of that can be let in without scaring away the core crowd. On a small scale it proves that those not starving in Bushwick can embrace a creative format, and the different mindsets can exist in the same club at the same time. The era of a large club where all types gather has passed, but is the time right again for a real monster of music and fun and new ideas?

Nearly every club for a decade or more has hitched to the "great service" wagon. The art of bottle service has been refined into a science, but the concept is wearing thin. The clueless are still all in it but the sharp set are less interested in it as an idea of fun. It just comes with the table. I can’t help but believe those spending the bucks want anything more than the same, and there is little doubt that they will demand more. They are just following their traditional leaders: the good ol’ boy owners who service them as they flit around from Vegas to AC to The Hamptons and back.

One of these smart owners will turn to creative types to set them apart. Will it be drag queens dancing on the bar?…I think not. At least not in the beginning. But nights need to be curated to keep people in their seats and spending. After all, a bottle of Goose is the same bottle of Goose at the A-list club as it is in the dive bar. Getting dollars out of the customer will, as the industry continues to expand, become harder. Every nook, every restaurant or cranny, every roof, every bar salivates over the revenue stream bottle business brings. Entertainment to attract the crowds may not be as out there as what The Box has served, but it may separate the men from the boys. Vegas slams you with the big DJ, the beautiful go-go girls, and the staged entertainment. New York rarely offers anything more than a forced smile from a waitron and a sparkler. It will happen. Managing partners will mix things up or be left behind. Eventually, a large club will be necessary. It will start with a revamping of mid-sized venues and talent bookings. Electronic dance music venues will route acts from Vegas into their NYC locations and maintain a strict door policy. Think Lavo, but on a grander scale. As soon as spectacle is embraced, the need for a larger venue will become apparent. It may not be easy or even possible for a new large venue to open in Manhattan. The existing joints that live on the "size matters" concept are set in their ways and successful at what they do. Webster Hall may not be all things to all people, but they continue to offer brilliant music programming and serve thousands of people who enjoy their version of a big club experience. Their detractors must realize that they are music-based, they do make tons of money (one of the primary reasons to be in the business), and they have been around since before your parent’s were born.

Pacha serves those who want their brand of music and crowd. District 36 isn’t often on my radar, but it does offer a simple, classic, house-head purity. All of these joints are not part of the club social set scene. They don’t care much about that. Off-parties are wonderful fantastic experiences, but the jet-setters, the bon vivants, don’t consider them since they are putting on their shoes to go out. The cops and their puppeteers probably wouldn’t allow a new mega club in Manhattan, but Manhattan is not everything anymore. The high-rises of the Brooklyn waterfront, the $28 entrees at new nearby restaurants, the baby strollers on Bedford Ave., tell me that a ginormous joint could thrive in an old warehouse in Greenpoint or near there.

I have been hearing rumors and have sat in on a few meetings – I believe that this will happen. The next big thing most likely will be born outside of Manhattan and could redefine the scene to what it once was.

Fashion Week Has Taken Over NYC

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Fashion Week is all around us and I just love the way it conveniently ends at Valentine’s Day. I am a romantic and will concentrate on making next Thursday wonderful. This week, the most fabulous clubs, bars, and lounges are swelling with the most fabulous people. Fashion Week and that pesky Groundhog signify the near end of the cold, economically-incorrect winter. The top-tier patrons will jet off to exotic lands for a minute, chasing the fashion – but the thaw is coming. The spring, where every club cleans up both literally and in cash, looms. Starving stylists are flush this week and even the C-rated models that promoters exploit can be seen working.

As DJs are in high demand, even I have a busy schedule. I will be DJing tonight at Hotel Chantelle and Saturday at the Empire Hotel Fashion Week party, which I did last year as well. Tuesday I am at Toy for a fabulous Fashion Week event hosted by BlackBook, which I will detail on Monday. Wednesday I am at EVR early for an after-work soiree. Thursday I will paint the town red for Valentine’s, surely ending up at Marquee for the opening night of Susanne Bartsch’s and Patricia Fields Valentine’s Day Ball. This is the premiere of Susanne’s game-changing Catwalk Party.

Of note, long-time absent DJ/headliner Sister Dimension returns for this gala. All the unusual suspects will gather, including  that bon vivant Paul Alexander, Michael Fragoso, Marco Ovando, Jordon, Jessica Love, and all sorts of accessorized etceteras and other denizens of the night. Patricia Fields is busy. She will be celebrating her birthday at the launch of Christina Visca’s T@TOY this Sunday from 6pm to 10pm. DJ royalty Johnny Dynell, Louie Vega ,and Lady Bunny will do it up. Toy is at the Hotel Gansevoort on 9th Ave. and 13th St.

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A Nightclub In A Water Tower? Underground Clubland Alive & Well

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Somewhere along the line, people forgot that Memorial Day was a day of rememberance. It is a pause before summer fun, when we need to remember those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy ourselves. The world seems to be getting worse with only a bad end in sight, and as we cling to the things that distract us from certain realities, we must honor those who gave up so much and who are in harm’s way as we sip expensive swill. If you see a uniform this weekend, club people, push him to the front of the line; somebody buy the man or woman a drink or at least hold open a door for them. Respect is in order. 

I’m not sure where I will spend my weekend. I like it like that. I may have a DJ gig out East, but if not, it will be spent walking dogs around my beloved Williamsburg. I’ll try to take advantage of the great escape and attempt to get into St. Anselm again as the last few attempts have proven futile. Two-hour waits are the norm and I don’t do that. Unless my girlfriend is shopping for shoes.

I am constantly bombarded with talk of "the good old days." People often want to reminisce about a time more wonderful. I remember having fun and all that, but refuse to agree with the assertion that life in clubland was better back in the day. I think the perception of clubs is a perception of how you were at that time.

To a certain generation, there was nothing like the disco era. To others, the 80s were the end all. Many without knowledge of those eras or the roaring 20s for that matter loved the good ol’ days of the 90s and 2000s. 

I think there is always a scene. My memories take me back to Danceteria and Save the Robots, The World and Area, and the Paradise Garage. But today, I love The Box and the underground Brooklyn stuff and Frankie’s Westgay at Westway, and Patricia Fields’ crew and their Chicken and Diamonds party, and anything Susanne Bartsch does, and a zillion other soirees. These are the good ol’ days and dont let anyone talk you out of it.

I read in the NY Times about a water tower in Chelsea that some genius built out and made into a small illegal joint. It was up a dozen flights of stairs and a scary ladder through a small hole etc. This shit is happening, but in an age where everyone knows everything in a second, it’s harder to keep "underground."

I gotta go, but before I do, I’d like to honor my dad who at 90 and a veteran of World War 2 is still  making memories.

Follow me on Twitter here

Photo: NYT.

A Big Mess at GoldBar Last Night, Big Parties at the Soho Grand, Le Bain Tonight

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I had the most fun at GoldBar last night. The Monday night party "BIG Mess" was actually not. Mino Habib is the host with the most at this chic soiree. Momus, Frank Olivo and Michael Christopher provide the music. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from Ken & Cook, which looked wonderful last night as I passed it in a cab. The two adult sexy hot spots so near makes for a reason to be cheerful on a summer Monday night. I’ll be at Susanne Bartsch’s party tonight DJing for the in crowd at the Soho Grand. It’s early, 9pm, and then everyone swarms over to her On Top weekly (pictured) at Le Bain.

There is so much going on these days. One of the best (most fun) parties I have been to in recent years is Wednesdays at DL (Ludlow and Delancey). The second floor Dorian Gray weekly stars Kayvon Zand and his fellow creatures of the night. Kayvon DJ’s with Anna Evans and Xris SMack and it is insanely beautiful, eclectic fun. This week Icona Pop is casting for their new video. The roof is headed up by DJ Prince Terrance and The House of Fields crew. This group is a younger, more mixed version of the fashion, gay/straight, hip crowd. The two scenes mingle and flirt and out dress each other and it’s all grand. I can’t recommend a more brilliant evening.

For me it’s deja vu all over again. As one door opens up to the fabulous, alas another must close, as in Max Fish actually, really, I swear closing. The usual reasons … rent going sky-high in a neighborhood that got its cool from places like Max Fish and St. Jerome’s and Motor City, which soared with cool while the streets were deserted. Nowadays a fratboy and gal nightlife mall scares the rats and the cool kids away.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for GoldBar, Ken & Cook, Soho Grand, Le Bain, DL; Susanne Bartsch’s On Top party; Follow Steve Lewis on Twitter]

It’s Been Said Before: Greenhouse & W.i.P. Have Reopened

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The news that Greenhouse/W.i.P. has reopened for booziness is welcomed. Although there will be future legal back and forths, for now it can serve its adoring public which includes the fabulous Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s Sunday night soiree. Last Sunday it was emails and Facebook messages and texts proclaiming it "on" and "off"… "on" and "off" until that game of musical chairs ended with…"off." I’m not a big fan of Greenhouse; I never go there, but I firmly believe that a club should not be held responsible for the bad behavior of its patrons unless management is either ignoring or complacent. Humans often behave badly… drunk humans more so. Bad behavior is to be expected on occasion. Accountability is important, but it is impossible to expect multi-million dollar investments in tax-generating, job-creating enterprises if a sword of closure hangs over operators’ heads for actions they may not reasonably be able to control. As much as I don’t listen to hip-hop or enjoy hip-hop-heavy parties, I surely recognize its impact on club culture and life in America in general. It is enjoyed by all demographics. The 800-pound gorilla that isn’t really spoken about is whether or not Greenhouse is being persecuted because this is an “urban thing.” A prince gets into a brawl at a chic meatpacking joint and closure isn’t an issue. Hey, this has been said before.

The city is scheduled to rule on a controversial plan to expand NYU’s village campus. According to many residents, this expansion will destroy the character of the neighborhood which has, of course, been a creative cauldron for NYC life as we know it for eons. We’re talking two million square feet in tall buildings with apparent loss of green areas and such. Worse than all that will be the expansion of the population of frat boys and frat girls and the changes their needs will bring. Mom and pop restaurants and quaint coffee shops will be gentrified out to accommodate student-friendly shops like 16 Handles and chain stores.

NYU is a dark force that should be pushed to areas like Wall Street or Brooklyn or Queens. The city has lost so much of its core character and can’t afford to be further compromised. Why do I care? Every few days I walk past the NYU Palladium Housing on 14th Street which once was this incredible theatre that I attended and then operated during my club years. I knew it as The Academy of Music where I saw The Clash, U2, The Cramps, and a long list of etceteras. I hung out there when it was the Palladium – the club – and saw early rock and dance. I operated it for Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager and came back to fill it a few other times for other moguls.

Once, when I was remodeling this beautiful 108,000-square-foot facility, I was prevented from nailing things into most walls or ceilings. I can’t find any official landmark references, but I was told at the time that it was one. It was protected because of its ancient and significant beauty…its recognized importance in design and architecture. I got married to my first wife there. I think it was its only wedding.

NYU came along…needed it …tore it down. The ultimate indignity is that when they built the Palladium Housing, they used the same logo or similar font as the legendary club. It’s fucking Mordor. This too has been said before.

Tonight I’ll be at White Rabbit DJing with a host of wonderful folks at the Tattoos & Art show at White Rabbit around 9 or 10pm or 10 to 11pm…you know how these things go… and, of course, this has been said before.