They say you can't keep a good woman down and that's certainly true of NYC's queen of nightlife, Susanne Bartsch.
The Swiss Miss has been throwing our city's wildest soirees for decades and one of her most celebrated shindigs, On Top, is making its triumphant post-pandemic return this Saturday at Le Bain The Standard Hotel. After this special Gay Pride Weekend edition, On Top will go back to its regular Tuesday night slot at Le Bain.
I've gone to Bartsch parties since the early '90s — she was on PAPER's cover dressed as the Statue of Liberty when she was pregnant. She's a true ringmaster and over the years has employed every club kid and promoter with wild style, from Richie Rich and Zaldy to On Top hosts Aquaria, CT, Amanda Lepore, Joey Arias and Milk.
In fact, I've even been a guest host myself at On Top. Through it all Bartsch looks younger and younger, dressing wilder and wilder, dancing, carrying on and yelling "Work that pussy!" with her adorable Swiss accent. Below, more On Top regulars recall their wildest memories at the party.
Oh my God, where to start... 10 seasons of On Top leaves one with so many memories, yet also so little... the champagne doesn't help! I would say my favorite memory is every time I see all of you in your fabulous outfits and smiles dancing with me. However, my absolute favorite is when everyone jumps into the hot tub in their looks at the end of the night. It makes the night feel so special.
I'll say my first memory: I remember Susanne booking me to host On Top for the first time over the phone back in 2016. I was so nervous! On my first night working I ran up to her to introduce myself. I remember she had all these toothpicks glued to her face and my cheap ass wig got stuck on one of the toothpicks. When I pulled away from our hug, I accidentally ripped them all off her face. I was so fucking embarrassed and scared she was gonna fire me right then and there. She was super cool about it and her makeup artist quickly glued them back on, but I hid in the bathroom for the rest of the night. Luckily, she didn't fire me and we've been the best of friends for over 5 years now. I love you, Susanne!
Every night at On Top is fab and unexpected. There's such a variety of situations and people you run into, from the bathroom to the roof. It's chaos mixed with glam. Some of my favorite nights are those where I could get some friends to strip down and jump in the hot tub at the end of the night. My looks tend to get deconstructed through the night, anyway. I've entered Le Bain many times with a full headpiece and gown, but left wearing just a towel.
One night I was wearing a vest with tons of fabric flowers glued to it. Late into the night, one of the flowers fell off and without batting an eyelash Amanda Lepore pulled a tube of Krazy Glue out of her clutch and explained to me how to use it: "You just have to press and hold it for a second." Iconic.
Whenever you initially come sit with me at my table and the bottle service arrives, I always have everyone take a shot. One time I had a friend take their shot and immediately fall backwards into the hot tub. We had some false eyelashes floating in the water that night.
There are so many things that make On Top special, be it the looks, the gags or the community. My most wild moment has to be two years ago. It was just one of those nights where the music was taking people to another realm. Outside perched on the roof was an image I can never forget: CT Hedden, in all her sparkles and jewelry, scaling a wall that had to be 20 feet up in front of an audience of cameras and shocked faces. For what you ask? All to get the perfect Instagram pic. Those are the moments that give On Top its namesake.
My first night at On Top I went up to Susanne and said, " I'm Radical Pom and I would love to host for you." Ended my night dancing along with a snif and a sip, and the rest was history
I remember the very first time I played On Top; there were two topless women with pigtails making out in the pool, the disco ball was casting beautiful snowflake lights all over the cutest crowded dance floor and the skyline view was so sparkly. I felt like I was in a gayer, more glamorous version of Boogie Nights! I love DJing On Top!
Lola Von Rox
A wild night at LeBain always includes sweaty bodies, champagne bubbles and the hot tub. Every week, I'd bring these enormous pool floats, turn an incredible look, and instigate festivities and engage the crowd. We're talking unicorns floats, bananas floats, cell phones floats and jet skis. They're perfect for obscuring a night's causal sexcapades. You know the perks of a giant pool float? Keeps all the goodies out of sight. One night, these three very handsome dudes decided to sex things up. Long story short, but not too short, just as one of the guys is about to shoot his rainbow, they all get very excited and top us all over. Thus leaving me in a pool that wasn't only water. I love that hot tub, no matter what I'm swimming in.
Photography: Ben Chab