NYC nightlife’s most recognizable active “door goddess” is a saber-tongued spitfire, a chic fashionista and and a cult of personality all in one. An actor, writer, and comedian here is a superstar who will likely evolve into something even more unexpected and amazing in the years to come. And now, a brief interlude behind the velvet rope with Markus Kelle!
Thotyssey: Markus! You’re currently NYC’s best known and most in-demand door personality: controlling who gets into a venue and making sure they pay the admittance fees, all while keeping the kids in line entertained with a bit of fashionable banter. Do you ever feel left out though, having to be outside while the main event rages on within?
Markus Kelle: Truth be told, I’m usually having just as good a time outside. I work with amazing people at the door, so it’s a barrel of laughs. Connie Girl, for instance–aside from being a knockout–is one of the smartest and funniest biddies I know.
How did you get involved in this biz to begin with?
Besides your dry humor and witty repartee, you’re known for your chic and sometimes outlandish fashion, often vintage. Do you have any “I can’t believe I wore that” memories, or has it all been Fabulous?
I don’t think I ever dress of the moment; so I can’t say that I have regrets as far as fashion. I fancied myself as blonde for a season, which lamentably was ill-conceived.
Can you describe your hometown of East Brunswick, NJ in 3 words?
No, thank you.
In addition to studying fashion merchandising back in the day, you are a Shakespearean-trained actor! Which role in a Bard play is best suited for you?
I’ve always played fools and fairies, so moving away from that I’d love to do a gender bending Lady Macbeth of maybe Katerina. I’ve never really been an ingenue, so I’m more interested in characters. For instance, I’d love to play Vera in the play Mame, Ouiser in Steel Magnolias, or Sylvia in The Women.
You’ve done all the doors to all the parties at all the venues, past and present! Do you have an all-time favorite door gig memory?
My favorite party of all time was Vandam; start to finish every night was magical and it really captured era, both in my life and in nightlife culture. The better part of my early twenties was spent between Greenhouse and Westgay–both geographically and metaphorically.
I missed out on Gays: The Series, a popular 2014 web series you were featured in. Was that a fun experience, and will it ever return in some capacity?
I had a blast doing Gays; it was sort of an irreverent romp for me, as it was my first time acting for the camera. There’s been whispers of a Season Two; I’d love to come on a writer and maybe bring back [my character] Cameron in a reoccurring role. I have this idea of him being estranged from the group and having given up drag; I’d so very much like to explore that as performer.
I’m obsessed with Kugie! Bianca is brilliant, and I’m thrilled to be compared to her (as long as it isn’t visually).
The Showtime reality miniseries 3AM spotlighted the beginning of your standup career, at Rockbar of all places. Where are you know with comedy?
I’m forever doing standup, but it’s hard to juggle dates with my nightlife bookings.
Comedians are generally under fire these days, for offensive material and behavior. Can standup as an art form survive if it’s held to rigid, “safe” standards of content?
People forget that comedians are artists, and in these dark (Republican) times are also some of the few people that we can trust to be honest. I won’t say that my act has changed to reflect an overly sensitive culture that runs on indigestion… I think it’s changed to spite it.
Other than occasionally plugging where you’ll be, you’re not super active on social media. There aren’t even that many pictures of you online. What gives… are you not a fan of social media, are you afraid of your cyber footprint, or do you just not give a fuck?
I’m really just not interested in people who feel the need to document their brunches.
Let’s talk about Killer Unicorn, the indie slasher comedy film from Jose Daniel Alvarez that’s been two years in the making. It stars yourself and a number of well-known Brooklyn nightlifers in a story about a unicorn-masked, hot-bodied murderer causing carnage in “Anusburg” (which looks a lot like Bushwick). You are one of the film’s main protagonists, and unlike most fellow cast members, you are playing a character and not “Markus Kelle.” How did you get involved with this movie?
Jose and I actually went to college together, and have remained friendly via nightlife. One afternoon he reached out via texted inquiring if I’d be up to playing Lady Simon in a feature. I was a bit apprehensive about doing an impersonation, so we talked about the character points he was intent on me portraying and I invented something out of that.
Was it a difficult shoot?
The shoot was actually only 10 days I believe, and I only needed to be on set for about 7 of them. The days were very long, but I was so fortunate to have such an amazing crew to work with. AJ, who produced Gays, surprised me on set as one of our executive producers, and I knew so many of the girls in the cast.
And was it easy to tap into those acting skills again?
I’m constantly acting, either on stage or the screen. I think a lot of people remember me from The Mysteries of Laura, but in the past two years I’ve done about 6 pilots and tons of shorts that are still in the can so really I never stop.
I saw an early cut of Unicorn at a Macri Park screening a few months ago, and honestly it was SO much fun. You were fantastic! I won’t give away the twist end, but you have the last scene. How do you think your fans, or the fans of these other people, will like this? And for that matter, how will audiences that don’t know who any of you are will like it?
While I can’t speak on the ending, we had such good fun filming it.
Killer Unicorn has its big, finished premiere as part of Newfest on October 29, at the SVA Theatre. This is going to be nothing short of epic, and you’re officially a movie star! Will you actually be inside the building for this one?
With bells on my toes.
As far as your weekly door gigs, You’re at Ty Sunderland’s LINDA at Gitano on Sundays, Deryck Todd’sSTRUT at Acme on Tuesdays, and Ladyfag’s Battle Hymn at the former Flash Factory in Chelsea on select Sundays. What else is coming up for you?
I’m working some really fun Halloween stuff with The Misshapes and Ladyfag; so look forward to that. Also, I’ve got some new standup shows coming up, and I’m in pre-production for my own late night talk show.
Congratulations, Markus! Keep us in the loop!