The first night I met Frankie Sharp, I was blacked out drunk inside a Philly club. I’d heard a lot about him through the nightlife circuit and was excited-slash-nervous to meet him. His party WestGay was infamous, and even though I never made it to New York to actually attend, I knew all about it. To me, Frankie Sharp was the epitome of coolness. He embodied Downtown New York. I think my nervousness got the most of me that night, and I don’t think I made a great first impression.
That was 2013. Five years later we’re both sober, and Sharp is still producing some of the hottest events on the nightlife calendar of queer Gotham. His newest weekly rage, Magic Sunday, takes place on a rooftop terrace where guests can smoke outside in the shadow of the Empire State Building, or get bottle service on an actual merry-go-round circling next to the dance floor. Like Sharp tells us, “It’s a gay wonderland.”
In a city where nightlife is constantly evolving and a new weekly or monthly party is bound to pop up, consistency can be a challenge. But Sharp’s strong work ethic and his ability to consistently change things up ensure he’ll be around for a while. His decision to become sober a few months ago may be surprising to many others working in nightlife. A party promoter who doesn’t drink? It may seem out of place, but when it comes to Sharp, that kind of surprise is perfectly on-brand.
In a Village Voice article profiling the one-year anniversary of WestGay back in 2013, Daniel Nardicio spoke about Sharp’s prospects for survival: “The proof with promoters is whether they can do more than one thing. Let’s talk in three years.” These days Sharp oversees a weekly cabaret night at Club Cumming, Nardicio’s East Village haunt with co-owners Alan Cumming, Darren Dryden and Benjamin Maisani.
Yes, Mr. Nardicio, more than three years later we’re still talking about Sharp. And it doesn’t look like that’ll change anytime soon.
HORNET: How long have you been working in New York queer nightlife, and why do you think you’ve been able to keep at it?
FRANKIE SHARP: My first DJ gig was at a party thrown by mother drag queen of San Francisco Juanita More in 2005. My first solo “produced party” was months later at a gay dive bar called Gangway with a busted jukebox and 99-cent balloon decorations. I DJ’d off of iTunes.
The first performer I ever booked was Kelly, performing her YouTube sensation “Shoes.” It was also her first live show. I moved to New York on September 11, 2009, because of the cheap ticket. I threw my first party here in 2010. It was called “EVERYTHING.” Casey Spooner DJ’d the inaugural night. That’s the party that the owners of WestWay went to, and they gave me the opportunity to produce the now infamous WestGay.
The reason I’m able to keep at all of this is because I actually love doing it, and I love gay people.
How did your new Magic Sunday party come to be?
[The Moxy] opened in October, and they called me to check out the venue in December. I wasn’t really planning to do any big events anymore, as I was quite content selling out and DJ’ing car shows and Fabergé egg events for good money and half the work. But then I saw the space and I knew I had to.
When you make your way to the top of the building, the first sight you see is the topiary that is shaped like four giant teddy bears fucking each other. There are two rooms on each side of the rooftop venue, one that sits under the Empire State Building and the other that has an indoor carousel with adjacent mini golf course aptly named “Fore Play.” It’s a gay wonderland.
It’s seems like a venue perfect for warmer months. Any special tricks planned for summer?
The biggest trick we’re going to pull is we’ll be opening doors earlier, as well as the roof, to have the sun and sky beat down on our party. Also, every month we try to bring a big name for the children. Last month we had Charli XCX. This month Azealia Banks. But since June is Pride Month we’ll be having someone major every week.
I’m contractually obligated to keep it all on the hush for now, but i’ll just say that by the end of the year I will have probably worked with every idol and performer I’ve ever dreamed of working with. The venue and partners are very supportive of our programming and the full fantasy we give. I am so grateful to The Tao Group and Moxy Hotels.
You’ve worked with Azealia Banks in the past, and she’s about to come through Magic Hour this Sunday. She has a complicated relationship with the queer community. What’s your take on it?
She is perfectly lovely and a total pro. I’ve been around her for years. True, she has a big mouth … but good intent. I think people are too sensitive and internalize way too much because of their own narcissism and need for validation and to always feel included in absolutely everything. Too many people grew up getting participation awards and consolation prizes, it bars them from seeing the entire spectrum as adults. There is too much misguided aggression in general in the world right now, as it’s a frustrating time. All in all, if you are a normal human person with a working brain, insight and intuition that protects you from harm, you can see and feel what’s actually going to hurt you. Azealia Banks isn’t hurting anyone.
She’s not a homophobe, she’s a bullshit-phobe, just like me. And some people are bullshit … gay, straight and trans alike. Especially online. Just because you’re a part of the LGBTQI community does not give you an automatic pass from being an asshole. That’s a huge misconception, and because so much of our community is making themselves appear weak and sensitive, our own community is stepping all over each other, and in turn “the right” does the same. Because of that people think we’re ridiculous, which negates most of the change we actually can accomplish. There’s a bigger issue here, and Azealia’s Twitter isn’t that.
What other weekly events are you producing?
I DJ and produce a weekly Saturday night at Metropolitan in Brooklyn. I’ve been doing that for five years. We have weekly performers, three DJs, sometimes six go-go boys and it gets nutty. We turn that reliable dive bar Metro into a sloppy mess of fun. It’s a great consistent night.
I also perform and produce a weekly cabaret at Alan Cumming’s bar, Club Cumming, which is now at our temporary home (while we get the performance license reinstated), Bedlam, and now on Thursdays. It’s a weekly variety show with a cast of eight musical misfits, a live band, drag, irreverence and a full carry set to a live jazz trio (piano, bass and drums).
A few weeks ago I sang “I Dreamed a Dream” and shaved my head and Tyler Ashley pulled an entire rose bouquet out of her butt while she sang “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy. It’s really a magnificent, all-inclusive cuckoo show. It’s very New York. It’s also the event I am most proud of.
You’ve been open recently about your experience with sobriety. What made you get on the wagon?
I was tired of hating tomorrow today. Also, I’ve achieved so much in the last five years at a C- and in a blackout, I wanted to see what I could achieve at a mindful, fully present A+. My life has already changed drastically. I recommend it to anyone who wants a sustainable career with longevity. Right now sober feels good on me. Everything I’ve ever wanted I can now just grab and take.
What’s your message to people out there working through substance abuse issues?
Try it out. You may meet your god and find your life’s purpose. When it gets tough, think about how awesome tomorrow will be if you are clear-headed and physically powerful. It’s a whole day to do whatever the fuck you want.
Is there camaraderie between promoters in the New York queer nightlife scene? Or is it more competitive?
There’s camaraderie within the nightlife community if you’re real. All the New York City DJs, hosts, queens, club kids — we build a family, a support system. Brut, Brian Rafferty, RAGGA, Carry Nation, Occupy The Disco, Susanne Bartsch. People like Ty Sunderland, who work on amazing things electrifying the youth with his Heaven On Earth party. Or Guy Smith, who is about to change the scope of Clubland with his new venture in Brooklyn, Sutherland.
We all want to build a community to benefit each other. And that’s a beautiful thing, and why we respect each other. But there are people who insist on making it difficult for others because of personal reasons, insecurity and career paranoia, to name a few.
In life do-gooders do good. But in nightlife I’ve learned you can be nasty, spiteful and even your employees can hate you behind your back but you can still be a success. It’s mind-boggling. It’s a frustrating thing to witness. These same people profit off of our queer community without actually being queer, and I find that disgusting. It’s like Trump in the office placating to his base.
But in five, 10, 20 years, when we are all still in New York and have to face one another, they will have led a life of inauthenticity and we will still have our incredible supportive community. Tomorrow is always glorious.
When people tell you New York nightlife is dead, what do you say to them?
I don’t talk to those people.
To buy tickets to Frankie Sharp’s Magic Hour with Azealia Banks, head here.
Featured image by WilsonmodelsAmanda Lepore Azealia Banks Daniel Nardicio New York City