Susanne Bartsch is known as the queen of New York City nightlife for a reason: she throws the best, most elaborate parties.
With her hit show Bartschland Follies, playing at Chelsea’s McKittrick Hotel (home to Sleep No More), the 67-year-old event producer has set up residency to offer everyone a chance to experience her world.
Playing Fridays at the intimate space, Bartschland Follies features a rotating cast of performers from all around the world, often including Burlesque icon Amanda Lepore and Bartsch as host. The only unifier that strings the eclectic acts together: they’re all the best at what they do.
What separates your show from what is playing in New York?
It is very relaxed. You can get up, it’s not a Broadway show, everything is very undirected. Part of the charm of the show is that I am not directing it; I pick a talent that I like and I want them to be what they want to be, rather than, ‘Oh do this right, do that.’
I have total freedom at the The McKittrick Hotel. The space is magical because you feel like you are not in New York and you’re almost somewhere illegal.
This show seems tailor-made for a New York audience but it first began showing in Miami. Did you know Manhattan would go for it?
I did it in Miami for a year the Elton Carl. They were planning to close the club, and make it more of a disco thing and not theater. I was afraid New York wouldn’t be into it. But then I thought, ‘Don’t let fear run your life — I’m just gonna go do it myself.’ I went to the Public Hotel, asked them for the space, that was like this coming November two years ago, and the Public Hotel gave me the space, and I put on the show and it was sold out. All these really cool people came and everybody loved it. It just took off from there.
Follies has been playing now for almost two years in New York. Why do you think it’s struck a chord?
I think it’s the eclecticness of it. It’s not a Burlesque show, it’s not a performance art, it’s not a circus — it’s just a mix of everything. I am very involved in mixing things. My style, the way I dress, it’s always about mixing it up and I think I’ve managed with the show to bring that mix.
And the mix of it all doesn’t happen anywhere else. There always seems to be a certain type of scene, when you go to see shows, and I don’t know of any other show that has such an eclectic cast and an actual mix of performances.
Some of the acts are really out there. Have you ever had walkouts?
No, it never happened. People are actually giving standing ovations. I think people are not offended because it’s done with love. This show is about love and giving. It’s not about, ‘Let me take your money and run off and not care.’ The motivation in my life has never ever been money. That might be bad for a business person, but it’s just that I am motivated by love and giving and sharing and uniting.
How do you go about selecting your show’s acts?
One of the things that is important to me is that the person loves what they do. The people I work with have the same mantra: they’re doing this not to make money, but because they love what they do.
I never look for a beautiful girl that does Burlesque. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a good thing too, but I’m not looking for a gorgeous girl taking off her clothes or doing a Burlesque show. I find that a little bit uninteresting. I always like a little something with a twist, that’s my personality.
You’re famous for being a night owl. What about the night inspires you?
I love the night, I have always loved the night. I’m not sure what it is. Morning to me is like, ‘Ugh, the morning.’ I get up in the morning for work, but I can’t go to the gym in the morning; I have to go to the gym at night. My motors don’t run until… my most crazy time is like midnight, in the middle of the night I get all of these ideas.
I am motivated in the night, I was born late at night so maybe that’s something to do with it. My father was a night owl and my son is a night owl.
Maybe I look better in the night.
Bartschland Follies runs every Friday night at The Club Car at the McKittrick Hotel. Get tickets HERE.