”Who would have thought that I’d be taking the nightclub to the couch?” Bartsch said of her On Top live parties, which are in its 10th year.
Knowing many DJs, hosts and others in the nightclub sector are out of work, she wanted to create something that would allow her to pay people. “At the same time, I wanted to let people know that we are united, we can see each other on the screens since we are not allowed to meet, and to give the community hope and joy,” she said.
After the first one, so many people wrote and DM’d Bartsch that she decided to make the virtual party a regular thing. “People were telling me, ‘Thank you so much for doing this. I feel so much better. I felt so isolated and hopeless. It’s giving me hope, fun and reason to dress up,’” she said.
Through ticket sales, each week’s performers are paid for their efforts and others from around the world have reached out about getting involved. The Paris-based Allanah Starr will be part of Thursday’s lineup, with Amanda Lepore hosting. Vito Fun and Dave Adventure have been helping with the technology side of things.
Making the point that everything on her calendar has been postponed or canceled, Bartsch said even Halloween events are now uncertain. Her Spiegeltent Follies at Bard College’s Fisher Center have been canned, as have events planned for MAC Cosmetics and ones in Los Angeles. “I would say this world that I’m in is toast for quite a while,” she said. “Nobody knows when it is really going to be OK. So nobody wants to spend the money, because nobody’s making any money.”
On Top revelers are really dressing up for their at-home partying, Bartsch said. “It’s very eclectic — great makeup, great outfits — homemade stuff, things that they have lying around. Somebody was in the bathtub the whole time in his bobbed blonde wig and a rubber duck. There is no nudity or anything, but it is really fun,” she said.
While paying performers was a motivator in creating the weekly virtual gathering, Bartsch said it is for the community more than anything. “I also let people come in for free, when they don’t have enough money. If they can’t afford it, I let them come anyway,” she said. “It’s an important part of people’s lives to let their hair down, to express themselves and to have a place to go. Now we won’t have that for a long time.”