Scott Cramer and his Stardust crew conjure up impeccable parties.
“Sorry we’re late,” says Scott Cramer, barreling through Berlin’s door alongside a petite Shaina Van Selus (Cramer’s “right-hand girl”), while carrying a bouquet of a couple dozen star-shaped, gold helium balloons. “There was a crisis at the Dollar Store,” he adds, clearly relieved to be out of there. An eccentric shopper, Cramer explains, had caused a stir by gluing his foot to the floor—naturally delaying their checkout. Cramer is armed with goodies to create the Super Mario Brothers theme for that night’s Stardust, a weekly gay–bi-curious dance party that Cramer and Van Selus, along with a handful of friends, curate at Berlin.
With wrapping-paper cutouts of the Super Mario landscape stapled to the walls around us—including electric-orange Piranha Plants emerging from large green pipes—we chat with Cramer, Van Selus and their Stardust collaborators: Bobby Pins, Andrew Thanos and Jenae Williams. The team, ranging in age from 23 to 30, is gearing up to celebrate Stardust’s one-year anniversary on Thursday 15.
When we ask the tight-knit fivesome about the philosophy behind Stardust, Williams, who promotes to the party’s lesbian crowd, says, “At Stardust, you never know who you’re going to see. Andy Dick has come in before, Kid Sister. And these are people partying. Coming here, you can get a little bit of whatever magic the queer community has for yourself and feel a little bit, you know, cool.”
The others chime in with their opinions: Van Selus and the coiffured Thanos both bring up the costumed staff and the decorations. “Berlin used to decorate all the walls and have huge wheel of fortunes and things on stage,” Thanos says. “We figured we’d bring that back.” A retrospective of the past year, the anniversary party will touch on toga, Halloween, luau parties, red-carpet premieres and space themes.
The most business-minded of the bunch, Cramer offers more of a mission statement, saying, “At the end of the day, [Berlin] is a gay club, but it’s one that a lot of straight people patronize. I want the heterosexual people that are uncomfortable about that to realize that many other heterosexual people come here and they’re not uncomfortable.”
Cramer, who in 2003 left his studies in psychology at Wilbur Wright College to book and promote for the Abbey Pub, has been throwing dance-club parties for more than four years. With stints at Funky Buddha Lounge, Debonair Social Club and Ohm under his belt, he points out that his events are more about the music than anything else. Since its debut, Stardust has seen guest appearances from Cut Copy, Brazilian Girls, Lady Kier of Deee-lite and even a live performance from Hedwig and the Angry Itch.
For their anniversary fete, which is part of this year’s Decibelle festival, Cramer and co. have booked French chanteuse Émilie Simon. Though her left-field mix of live instrumentation and cinematic electronics often garners comparisons to Björk, Simon bears more resemblance to trip-hoppy pop singers like Bat for Lashes, Bird and the Bee’s Inara George, and Couch Recording’s Madita from Vienna, Austria. Also on deck for the night are stripped-down indie rockers My Gold Mask and DJs Zebo, Heather Doble, CT and Chances Dances’ Lady Miss Navy Pier.
“It’s made a big change in the past year,” Cramer says of his efforts to rebrand Berlin as more than a gay club. “As far as the mix of people—no matter what their sexuality, race or whatever—it’s just not pretentious. There’re no attitudes that walk in here. You either drink or you dance. Well, you pretty much drink until you dance.” “Or make out,” Van Selus adds. “Or all of the above,” concludes Williams, sending the whole group into a fit of laughter.
Stardust celebrates its one-year anniversary at Berlin Thursday 15.