Live in New York City long enough, and you’re likely to hear complaints about how the storied den of iniquity has become too sanitized. Downtown clubs once dominated by the punk scene have been replaced by banks, upscale supermarkets, or pharmacies. Lamentations on the death of Bohemia and the underground art scene are all too common among those who partied in the 80s.
Well, hedonists. Susanne Bartsch heard your cries and found a cure with her weekly variety show, The Bartschland Follies. Since March, trendsetters, travelers, and transsexuals have found their way to the McKittrick Hotel’s Manderlay Bar for a night of shock and surprise. Due to popular demand, the party has moved to a larger space within the hotel where it continues to run through fall.
Each week, the line-up changes, so repeat attendance is encouraged. Popular artists including Joey Arias, Amanda Lepore, Shequida, Aquaria, Fou York, and Dirty Martini are among the many who make random appearances.
During a recent performance, downtown stalwart Murray Hill hosted the proceedings along w/Bartsch who was dressed in glittery silver lame with a bouffant of matching, silver-streaked hair.
The evening kicked off with an intentionally trashy looking drag queen. Her look may best have been described as “Cyndi Lauper rumbles with Barney the Dinosaur and Tammy Faye Bakker.” A burlesque act followed. Slowly, a feminine contortionist slinked through the audience with an enormous balloon. Within moments she was totally immersed inside the latex orb.
Other sultry scenes followed, including one by a beautiful, curvy, African American dancer who dominated the stage with sex and sass.
A fit, handsome juggler succeeded in his attempt to juggle multiple balls while performing a striptease.
Later, a large muscular man took center stage and sang an energetic Latin number. He was decked in a heavy, flowing robe full of cloth flowers, a Native American headdress. Under the robe was a matador suit. Beneath that: a silver harness and glittery silver bikini briefs. He may well have been the love child of Geronimo and Liberace.
Some numbers were just plain weird. Two dancers, dressed from head to toe in shaggy fur, gyrated furiously to techno music while occasionally intersecting with one another. Another odd but hilarious moment came from the cat “lady,” a drag artist dressed like an elderly upper east side woman who played electric guitar–with a feline plastered on the side.
The night’s hallmark (or horror depending on your point of view), came at the end of the show as another female burlesque dancer graced the stage. Wearing a blond wig and a tight pink dress, she delivered hysterical jolts of bad dances moves to George Michael‘s “Careless Whisper.” Seated in a chair and lifting her legs to the heavens, revealing her..um…lady bits. Then, with a loaf of wonder bread and a jar of Jif, she made a peanut butter sandwich on her….You know.
Talent, titillation, comedy, and crassness all converge for an outrageous night you’ll be talking about for days. This is the kind of party that John Waters‘ talks about when he speaks of the bygone Baltimore scene.
Drinks and light snacks are available for purchase, but an appetite for reckless abandon is a must.
The Bartschland Follies. Every Friday night. Tickets range from $35 for General Admission to $75 for Reserved Seating.Doors open at 10:30pm and all guests must be at least 21 to enter. The McKittrick Hotel is located at 530 West 27th Street between 10th and 11th avenues. For tickets, reservations and additional information, visit www.mckittrickhotel.com or call the Box Office at 212-904-1880.