Truman Capote famously said “New York is a diamond iceberg floating in river water.” One of the town’s greatest gems is Susanne Bartsch. Dubbed “The queen of the night” for decades she has produced the most uniquely creative shindigs, not only just in New York, but around the world from Tokyo to Paris. Born in Switzerland, this patron saint of style moved to New York City in 1981 and has been there ever since.
Susanne Bartsch (Courtesy Susanne Bartsch)
Famous for her flair for bringing all kinds of people together, Bartsch is famous for providing places for men and women to escape their everyday lives and have a transformative experience, or at the very least experience a rip-roaring good time. Her latest venture was the pull-out all-the-stops cabaret extravaganza Bartschland Follies. The alluring and intimate show was held in The Club Car in the glamorous McKittrick Hotel, home of the iconic show Sleep No More. Audiences could expect a madcap night where the opera meets a high fashion burlesque circus.
You moved to New York in 1981 after living in London. What did love about New York City that inspired you to stay?
Susanne Bartsch: The mix! The energy! The ability to dream a dream and make it a reality. It was a little harder for me to navigate London and do things over there, because it's mired in its own long and epic history a bit. But New York is comparatively new and encourages new people, new ideas, new transplants. New York draws the most artistic and interesting people and you can meet many of them out at a nightclub.
What is the best advice that you have received?
Susanne Bartsch: My mother told me “Don’t let fear run your life” and "the most important thing is to play the game!" It doesn't matter if you win or lose, what matters is that you DO play.
If you are at a party and feeling shy or not so confident and don’t know anyone, what is a good way to break the ice and talk to people?
Susanne Bartsch: You don't really need to talk at a party. Because if it’s good, the music is loud. I think a smile is always a good place to start. Also it never hurts to compliment someone, even if you feel like a tongue-tied fangirl with a huge crush! Who doesn't like to be told someone thinks they are gorgeous?
Can you share a few great tips on how to throw a cool party when it is safe to do so?
Bartsch: A great space, which can mean anything from a totally posh high-end place to a wacky and wild dive. Good music. A dynamic mix of people and a little drama and star power!
Brunner: How would you describe your style?
Bartsch: Self couture! My style is ever-changing. I like to challenge my comfort level and push my own envelope to keep things interesting. It is definitely body-conscious, vintage, futuristic, whimsical and campy, but polished and chic. All at the same time. These are the elements I like and I like to play with them.
How would you describe Bartschland Follies?
Susanne Bartsch: Bartschland Follies is a modern-day Cabaret. In my humble opinion it is replete with all of the style, wit, ambiguity, sexiness and sophistication that makes the Bob Fosse film [Cabaret] such a timeless classic. There is always something outrageous and unexpected at Bartschland Follies. That is why The McKittrick Hotel is the perfect partner and home for the show. Strangely and eerily as well, the times in which we're living are beginning to feel very ominously like a parallel of Weimar culture. So "Come to The Cabaret!" Or in this case, The Follies! It’s art imitating life imitating art, on an endless loop!
In Bartschland Follies you have the most talented burlesque performers. How did you go about selecting them?
Susanne Bartsch: I have built a large network of amazingly talented artists and performers through my various events. And I have been working with most of them for many years. The Follies is my opportunity to share this special community with the community! They are the crème de le crème of the avant-garde performance art and burlesque scene. Not just in New York but in the world.