A Queer Icon
In the last few decades of New York City nightlife, countless stars have passed through its glittering terrain. When it comes to those who shape it, however, the list is a short one with just a handful of people making an impact felt beyond the city. Susanne Bartsch, otherwise known as, "Queen of the Night" is undoubtedly the name at the tip of the tongue for all things extravagant in nightlife.
As a promoter, she's been creating wild parties for the young creative class. As a fashion influencer, she's been curating designers and introducing cultures across oceans. As an activist, she's raised millions for AIDS research and made history with her 1989 star-studded "Love Ball." When I started the Love Ball things were very scary and nobody knew what to do, " she says.
Hitting New York City in the early 1980's, the Swiss-born artist has always had a love for the unconventional. When she opened up a store selling London's punk fashions and designers from the world over, she introduced a fresh glance on the downtown scene. From the famous cast of characters she assembled for her parties over the years, she hired a young RuPaul and launched him into downtown stardom long before he was an Emmy-winnerwith a hit Television show and several more in production.
The 'Real' Susanne
While the nightlife diva exists in an ultra-glamorous world of creating dreamscapes of her events, the filmmaking duo behind the documentary, Anthony & Alex, aimed to present a new side of the icon. Together they created a stylish, cinema vérité account of Bartsch working on an exhibition of her famous looks for the Fashion Institute of Technology's museum in 2015.
"It came out more personal than I was expecting it to be," she says. In the film, the subject appears like never before: out of her fabulously abstract drag looks and maintaining her family life, where she takes up residence in the famous Chelsea Hotel. While the angle the filmmakers took was a pleasant surprise, it was as spontaneous and organically evolving as anything else Bartsch has ever been a part of. "I was a pioneer, I did what I felt like doing. I never planned, I never calculated I just do what I feel is right," she says.
Maintaining her Legacy
With nightlife fixtures like Amanda Lepore, Michael Musto and RuPaulsinging the “Queen of The Night” her praises, the film is as much a who’s who of gay icons as it is a profile of the esteemed promoter. For co-executive producers and the masterminds behind World of Wonder Productions, Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, the intimate look at the woman behind the parties is a long overdue recognition. "Susanne is a legendary figure who for years has been the queen of this underground creative culture," Bailey says. He adds," it's a very powerful documentary, it tells you lots of things I didn't know about her."
While the documentary covers a small part of Bartsch's life in 2015, the nightlife queen has kept up her racing pace, throwing parties and nurturing young talent around the city. It's these experiences that endure well beyond the last call at any one of her parties and grow her legend in the hearts of anyone in attendance. "I am very grateful that whatever I did I enjoyed every minute of it- that’s the gift. I actually did this and I'm having a fun time. I’m expressing myself and creating art," she says.
Susanne Bartsch: On Top
Named after of one Bartsch's weekly parties at the Standard Hotel, the film's title describes her position in nightlife as well as in culture at large. The film is now available on iTunes.