Strippers, Topless Transsexuals, And Club Kids: Where To Find Them


Whoever took the life out of the nightlife should have bashed it a little harder because it’s still out there and breathing, even if it’s got a bit of a hack cough.

A parade of gussied-up wackos, a hint of attention-craving misbehavior, and a thumping beat to vamp to is all we need—and they’re all out there in some measure or another. And they’re all legal, authorities! Don’t shut anything down, OK?

Let’s start at Le Souk Harem, a crazy Moroccan restaurant/hookah bar on LaGuardia Place, where the third floor recently hosted an Omar Alexander fashion show filled with old-style yet totally new zanies. (“I’m shameless,” a club kid informed me, introducing himself. I wanted to crow “So am I,” then realized he was Shameless. That’s his name.)

Scene character Jordan Fox was also there, with a much softer look than before; she’s transitioning. Meanwhile, another transsexual kept hiking up her outfit to reveal glowing orbs, which inadvertently added luminescence to the place so you could actually see the fashion show. I guess she’s Topless.

All the above and then some were at the first “Catwalk” party thrown by that one-woman Cirque du Soleil, Susanne Bartsch, at the reopened Marquee. Like the LES burlesque haunt the Slipper Room, this place is enjoying a second chapter based on its whole new look. Clubbies will come back to a club as long as they feel it’s been as renovated as they are.

The place is now huge but somehow tight, with narrow corridors and stairways leading to a crowded dance floor with the highest ceilings (and decorators, obviously) in town. The result would be a nice-size dance space, except that people have to boogie around the tables set up for the inevitable bottle-service crowd. So actually, it’s very up-to-the-minute. Dance around the tables, bitches!

The premiere Catwalk bash (motto: “Work that pussy”) was a love ball hosted by Bartsch and Patricia Field, two women with real love balls. The romantic tableaux on the upper railings were gorgeous, and the crowd was brimming with imagination, including the guy wearing a papier-mâché heart outfit that looked like a bowl of Corn Puffs. This almost made up for the post-Sandy Halloween we were cheated out of, when Bartsch had to cancel her bash at the Copa because the few people who felt like partying couldn’t even get there. This night, by the way, she was in head-to-toe gauzy fabric, looking like the glamorous victim of a white wedding. (Or, as she would say it in her inimitable accent, “vite vedding.” Or maybe “Conrad Veidt’s vedding.”)

Poetically enough, I was thrown out of a table at around 12:30 a.m. because someone was sweeping in to seize that bit of real estate and buy bottles. But the guy turned out to be DJ Danny Tenaglia‘s manager and a reader, so he insisted that my friends and I should stay and enjoy his bounty. And suddenly the bottle-service phenomenon didn’t seem that bad—though I was actually happier when I’d been thrown out because it made for a better item. In any case, the whole incident was a small-scale reflection of the evanescence of social standing in New York; in the course of 10 minutes, I was piping hot, then evicted, then king again.

You sit and order beverages at Robin Byrd‘s Saturday night show at the Cutting Room, where “the queen of pubic access” trots out specialty acts who are much more Lili St. Cyr than Vanessa Bazoomz. Far from the woozy porn stars on her classic TV-show episodes, these are up-to-date burlesque performers who are selling their craft rather than their wares. One recent night, stripper Amanda Whip impressively licked her own feet while lying on her stomach. (Think about it. But please don’t try it, especially in public.) The Glamazons sang a suggestive number while shimmying their plus-sized body parts. The male drop-in, Go-Go Harder, performed his elaborately funny “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Hot For Teacher” numbers. (“I did children’s theater before this,” he explained to the crowd, to big applause.) Meanwhile, the Byrd was excitingly lesbianic all night. “I never met a breast I didn’t lick,” she remarked during the cast’s pre-“Bang Your Box” Q&A session. And she really put that motto to work, with lots of lip-o-suction action across the stage. But Byrd kissed Harder’s penis too, as the audience screamed “Harder! Harder!” Another highlight was the cable star telling the gussied-up dancer Calamity Chang, “What a great smell. I love the smell of latex.” Replied Chang dryly, “I’m having my period.”

For more sedate yet still vivid nightlife, try Amy Sacco‘s No. 8, which recently had a Donna D’Cruz-hosted Tommy Boy Records vinyl party on the upper level, a rec-room-style space where hundreds of albums defiantly fill the shelves. The invite said that if we brought some old vinyl, they might play it, but the DJ had no idea what to do with my 45 of the original glamazon, Divine, singing “You Think You’re a Man.” After 40 minutes of waiting, I grabbed the single back—it’s worth money—and fled. You think you’re a DJ?

Another drag-queen-deficient hangout, the NoMad Hotel’s restaurant, is so popular you have to call in three favors, blow five people, and sign a contract with a lower being to get a table. But it’s worth it for the civilized ambience and nice food. And if you order the chicken (for two), they proudly show you the whole creature before they hack it up. Like I said, civilized. I’m Shameless.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 27, 2013

Archive Highlights