In an exclusive for People, RuPaul was featured in a clip from the upcoming documentary Susanne Bartsch: On Top. The documentary plans to honor Susanne Bartsch, who was known as a party icon in the 1980s and a champion of LGBTQ+ rights. The documentary is set to open in Los Angeles on September 7 with video on demand being released on iTunes and other platforms on September 11.
The clip features a young RuPaul walking around New York City and smoking a cigarette in a car all while providing some insight into the background of the documentary in a modern-day voiceover.
RuPaul discussed Bartsch by saying her icon status is somewhat tied to Andy Warhol. “All the kids my age who moved to New York, we all wanted to experience Andy Warhol.” From far and wide, people would move to New York just for a chance to become one of Warhol’s muses (which was practically a guarantee for fame). Unfortunately, Warhol passed away in 1987, which left the New York art scene looking for a new ringleader. Susanne Bartsch took on the role with grace, and according to RuPaul, “Susanne Bartsch picked up where Warhol left off.”
Bartsch was known for extravagant parties which were seen as a “safe haven” for those in New York City who were being marginalized for being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. The now 50-year-old was famous for her monthly Copacabana parties and was the mother figure for a lot of “Club Kids.” Club Kids was the name for a group of New York City personalities in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Club Kids were defined by their outrageous costumes and over-the-top behavior. The influence of Club Kids can still be seen in the world today in both the fashion industry and drag community.
The clip’s narration goes on to call Bartsch a “role model” and “monarch.” Clearly, her impact was impressive considering the intensity of the New York art and party scene during the 1980s.
Bartsch is still active in the nightlife. She performs in the Bartschland Follies which is described on her website as “an eclectic and eccentric cabaret extravaganza where a night at the opera collides with a burlesque circus for a high fashion madcap unforgettable entertainment experience.” She keeps an active social media presence as well, with over 50,000 Instagram followers.
Her interview with RuPaul (separate from the documentary) aired on World of Wonder’s YouTube channel to promote the film.