Sweet Valley High:
NY Press Nightclubbing Column #2 with Sophia Lamar

by Tony Phillips

“He’s 86-ed,” Sophia Lamar informs the doorman bundled in black against the cold night air, “ddon’t let him in.” She takes a beat, then laughs, reaching across the velvet rope to drag me inside her party herself. I can’t see anything in the chilly, black foyer, but she swings open the interior door and Happy Valley’s faux tack neon washes over me. “You see,” Sophia drinks it in, “it’s freezing!”

We make our way to the bar, nuzzled underneath two giant fishnet gams split into the ten and two o’clock position. Sophia either tells me it’s a clock or the high-heeled creature beneath theatrical curtains has a cock. It’s hard to tell as the music’s pumping. She passes me off to her Tuesday night hostess, Susanne Bartsch, for a grand tour worthy of Barbara Corcoran. Susanne could shame any realtor with her knack for finding unusual party spaces, from the locker room in her hubby David Barton’s gym to Central Park’s Wolllman Rink.

She walks me up to the second floor, her black Cleopatra ‘do bouncing as she takes the stairs, and makes a beeline past the leopard skin banquettes. “I love it,” she enthuses in her thick Swiss accent. She’s Price is Right showcasing the go-go booth hanging over the dance floor caged in neon. Then she swings me around to face the mirrored DJ booth, which also juts out over the dance floor like a disco ball Death Star.

Susanne grabs my hand and whisks me back downstairs — Couri Hay is creating a bottleneck descending in time to the music; I almost expect the steps to light up like a Freed Unit musical — I spot my favorite porn star on the dance floor. Susanne leads me back out into the foyer and her coat check girl screams, “It’s freezing, Susanne!” She agrees, shooting me a look. I suddenly understand the clubspeak for, “You’re too early!” She takes me downstairs to show me the basement lounge and by the time we make our way back upstairs, the big room is packed and Susanne turns me over to my own devices.

Joey Arias has just navigated the intensely raked stage in heels for an impromptu performance and The MisShapes are spinning their first Madonna selection of the evening: a janky remix of “Hollywood.” Before they’re done, they’ll burn through “Hung Up” and, on my way out, Musto confesses, “I’m not leaving until they play Sorry.” Don’t worry, I assure him, they will. I bump into Derek Graves, a publicist whose birthday marks tonight’s occasion, and take one look back at those fishnets. “It’s a clock,” I tell Derek, who’s smashed and doesn’t understand. 2:10am eternal: it's always peak hour at Happy Valley.