For Sandy Rollins and Amber Myers, the new proprietors of Wall Street Night Club, their journey together as performers, entrepreneurs and lovers has come full circle. Rollins’ had her first burlesque performance at Wall Street in 2004; Myers, a drag king, appeared in her first drag show a few days before she met Rollins, six years ago. “The cool thing is I actually asked her for her number right over there,” said Myers, pointing across the room of the main floor of the night club.
The couple opened Bossy Grrl’s PinUp Joint in south Clintonville early in 2013. The successful bar and restaurant is not only a venue for Columbus’ growing burlesque scene, but additionally functions as an open and accepting environment for all people. In November, Rollins and Myers sold Bossy Grrl’s, and on the same day, purchased the downtown Wall Street Night Club.
Under new ownership, Wall Street will be just as open to all people – gay, bi, trans, or straight. “We’re a gay bar that’s accepting of the straight community,” explained Myers, during an interview in mid-November.
The building is already under renovation that is scheduled to be completed in February, while still remaining open for business.
In addition to the remodeling, there are other changes to look forward to in Wall Street’s future. Rollins and Myers have added pinball and “Ms. Pacman” to the upstairs gaming area, and are working with food truck vendors to have food available to patrons until they can adapt to something that’s on site. An area of the night club has been designated as a future kitchen. Look for new exciting additions to their expanding craft beer and wine selection as well.
As far as programming is concerned, apart from adding more burlesque and drag king shows to the schedule, the lineup is slated to stay very much the same. Wednesday night is still “Boys’ Night” and other regular events on the schedule will remain the same.
Now It’s Dark: Sandy and Amber, how did you both get started performing?
Amber: Well, I don’t do burlesque; I’m a drag king. A friend of mine talked me into trying it out. Actually my first performance was a few days before I met Sandy.
Sandy: And the first time I performed burlesque was right here [motions to Wall Street stage].
NID: Really? And how long ago was that?
Amber: Six years ago.
Sandy: The first time I performed was 2004.
NID: And what initially attracted you both to perform?
Amber: I had just broken up with somebody and I wanted attention from girls. And that’s a guaranteed way to get attention if you’re on stage, you know?
Sandy: I just had people keep asking me to be in their performances, drag kings and different groups, and it eventually evolved to me teaming up with Viva and us doing the Velvet Hearts. It just progressed. People asked me to do more stuff, and now we’re here. We used to work a lot with the Royal Renegades, which is a drag king group.
Amber: The cool thing is I actually asked Sandy for her number right over there. The stage at Wall Street is built on top of where I asked her for her phone number.
NID: That is cool. It’s like you’ve come full circle together.
Sandy: That’s funny.
Amber: It is. It’s a weird little factual, history bit.
NID: Before we really get into Wall Street, I want to back up a little bit and talk about Bossy Grrl a little bit. When did you decide that Bossy Grrl’s PinUp Joint was a place you wanted to open up and was there any particular inspiration behind the decision?
Amber: Well, we were in Las Vegas just on vacation at a rockabilly festival they have every year called the Viva. It was a cool environment. There was a lot of different things going on. It was a kind of modern circus sort of entertainment environment. And we were like, “Ah, this is so cool! There’s nothing like this in Columbus. There should be something like this.” And came back and…
Sandy: We were looking for a bar to open, even before we went to the Viva, we thought it would be cool. We had talked about it. Then we went there, and since I was in burlesque, that whole subculture was something I was very familiar with. So we went to the Viva, and that was 2011. And then, we happened to be at an event at Rendezvous, and the space next door was vacant. We decided to check it out, and it eventually evolved to Bossy Grrl’s. Bossy Grrl is my stage name, which at first I thought I didn’t want to name it that. And at first everyone compared it to Surly Girl, but later on they figured it
out, like “OK, totally different.”
NID: Doing burlesque, what do you say to people who think that burlesque dancers are basically strippers?
Sandy: Well, to me there’s no difference. I would never say that we are any different from strippers, aside from more costuming. I sing all my stuff, so that’s a difference. The biggest difference is the audience. The people who are going to burlesque shows are a totally different audience than people going to strip clubs. We are both on the stage taking our clothes off, so in my mind, it’s the same. There’s a little more theater involved, but I haven’t been to a strip club in a long time. They could be doing theater, who knows? A lot of girls don’t agree, but I don’t think it’s any different personally. If someone wants to view it that way, that’s fine. I’ve never had any issues at all doing burlesque. A lot of girls, when they are younger and they first start, they wonder “how do you deal with the guys,” but I’ve never had any issues. Because the people who are coming to see it, if they don’t know what it is, they learn very quickly that it’s not “oh, I’m going to give you a lap dance,” because that’s not going to happen.
NID: So you’re saying it’s a more respectful audience?
Sandy: I think it’s more artistic; I don’t want to say respectful…
Amber: I think you go into it with different expectations. You go to a gentleman’s club because you do want a lap dance…
Sandy: Or you want to party because it’s a bachelorette party. You know? It’s loud. It’s crazy. Let’s do shots. Typically, the people who are engaged in burlesque are there to see the show, and see each person’s number unfold. And I’m sure a lot of people have their own reasons, you know what mean? Like I love to see the different girls who are very high costume. I love seeing all that effort go into the costuming. Even if it’s classical [burlesque] which I am not a fan of – it bores me – I still like seeing their costuming.
Amber: And in a burlesque show, comedy is a big part of it. If you look up the technical definition of what burlesque is from vaudeville – it’s absurd. At a burlesque show you have sexy, you have comedy, you have dark; so there are different variations of expression. Whereas, at a strip club, a girl’s going to go up and sometimes they don’t take all their clothes off but…
Sandy: But the objective is different. With stripping, you’re there to pay your bills. I tell the girls when they start, “If you want to make money, you need to make a name for yourself, because you are not going to make money, until you’ve been doing it a while.” And that’s just how it is. Most of the time, you are spending more money than you are making across the board. If they want this as a job, they need to go back to school.
NID: Sandy, to clarify, you were a part of the Sex Kitten Purlesque?
Sandy: I was. I started it. I was in the Velvet Hearts initially with Viva. I separated from that because she wanted very classic, and she wanted things a lot more strict. So myself and two other girls started the SKP [Sex Kitten Purlesque] to have a group that had no rules basically – no strict rules. Kind of anything goes. Kind of neo-burlesque. And when we bought Wall Street, I let Mike (who is the new owner and one of my good friends) keep the Sex Kittens at Bossy Grrl’s, because the Sex Kittens kind of fit Bossy Grrl’s a little more than Wall Street. And then Viva and I, prior to us buying Wall Street or even discussing it, had teamed back up for the Velvet Hearts. Because ultimately at the end of the day, the Velvet Hearts are a queer group, and that’s where my heart was. I’m not a classic performer at all, but she does kind of let me get away with it, because I do sing there is some kind of theatrical element. I’m probably more in the middle, because I’m not that neo-punk girl like Marla is, but I’m definitely not the classic, “I’m going to show you my thigh,” kind of performer. So to get to the point, I no longer lead the Sex Kittens; my full focus is the Velvet Hearts and they are going to be the home group at Wall Street. It’s a more elite group. It’s a lot smaller than the Sex Kittens, but the productions are bigger, so it’s not like the every Monday thing that we ran with 30 girls. The Velvet Hearts, who performed at Trauma this year, have maybe nine or ten girls. It’s definitely smaller but it is the girls who have been doing it a long time. And you have to be queer or bi or pan or something other than straight. And that’s Viva and I doing that. Viva’s kind of the head of the Velvet Hearts, and she moved to Pittsburgh.
NID: When did you officially buy Wall Street?
Sandy: Last Tuesday. We bought Wall Street and sold Bossy Grrl’s in the same day.
NID: Wow, so you’ve been here a little over a week! Congratulations.
Amber: Thanks. We weren’t selling Bossy Grrl’s to buy Wall Street. We were looking at the amount of time required for this undertaking which is a lot. And at Bossy Grrl’s, we kind of had it down, but it was like keeping an old hat, just because it was your first hat. And it ends up in the back of the closet and it ends up gathering dust. But that’s still an old hat that requires attention.
Sandy: There was just no room to go bigger. So even though Bossy Grrl’s was very successful, we just couldn’t move from that. We entertained the idea of keeping both, but we just didn’t know if we were up for it. Right now, we are constantly remodeling, and hope to be done by February.
Amber: We’re just both very hands on. We’re here working all the time. We’re painting, and just learning how to make this place work.
NID: I know in the past, Wall Street Night Club hosted a lot more drag shows than burlesque shows. What changes can we expect in future programming?
Amber: We’re going to increase the number of burlesque shows definitely. And Viva is working on making contacts with regional and bigger name burlesque dancers to bring in to kind of be featured performers.
Sandy: But we are keeping the drag.
Amber: We are not getting rid of drag. Drag queens and drag kings always have a home here. It’s just that burlesque is more prominent in the gay community now, so we want to feature that too. It is something that we both have a passion for and an appreciation of, so… I really like to see boobs.
Sandy: [whispering] You’re silly.
Amber: It’s true though. I like to see boobs. I will look at anybody’s boobs, it doesn’t matter.
NID: Whether they’ll admit it, I think most people like to see boobs.
Amber: Everyone does! Gay men! Gay men love boobs! They’re just fabulous. Even the bad ones, you’re like, “Well, I still looked.”
NID: One word. Comfest.
Amber: That’s all the bad ones.
Sandy: Oh no. Pride!
Amber: Pride gets pretty bad too! I guess, it’s those Goodale Park festivals.
NID: [laughing] Goodale Park is the home of terrible boobs. OK. Back to programming.
Sandy: I really don’t think much other than adding more burlesque. Well, and we’ll add more drag king shows. I mean, Wall Street used to be the place for drag king shows. And they actually, never really do well most other places. The group, the Royal Renegades, they kind of went on hiatus for a little while, but now they’re starting to get back into it. We’re hoping to get them back here doing regular shows. Because they usually do a huge Pride show and it is just awesome and it is the show. It’s always on a Friday, so then by Saturday I’m feeling like death.
Amber: I mean, the Renegades, the Glamazons, Carpenter Productions…
Sandy: The Kings of Columbus, Imagine…
Amber: Illusion. Well, I’m talking about all the drag. Imagine Productions is a Broadway troupe that will be putting on six productions next year, as well as cabaret shows.
NID: These groups are all based in Columbus?
Sandy: They practice here. They’ve been here every night that we’ve been in here painting.
Amber: They’re getting ready to cast “Dreamgirls.” It’s their next big show.
Sandy: Yeah, I didn’t have any idea either until we talked to Scott (the previous owner of Wall Street) and we come to see “Little Shop of Horrors.” They had that plant and it was the size of a car – it was huge! They had to move it through the back door. It was awesome.
NID: What other changes can we expect? I know at Bossy Grrl you had a kitchen. Do you have any plans to offer food at Wall Street?
Amber: Yeah, so right now we’re working with food truck vendors until we adapt the space to do something on-site. But it’s in our long term plans.
Sandy: But we want to see who fits the most before we just bring someone in. Because there’s space up there for it, but it needs work done.
NID: So is the second floor still open?
Sandy: It’s open. There’s a bar up there, and there’s a little room that we’re talking about turning into a karaoke room.
Amber: Not while a show is going on, but while we have dancing and night club stuff is going on there will be other entertainment in that room.
Sandy: We’ll have the Red Light Girly shows up there, which are like small burlesque shows.
Amber: And we’ve turned part of the upstairs into a lounge area, with a pool table, pinball machine, Ms. Pacman.
Sandy: And we want Centipede too.
NID: Is Wednesday night still Boys’ Night?
Amber: It’s Boys’ Night, yeah, and we’re trying to revive that. It had fallen off a little bit. It just needs some fresh ideas and some new excitement behind it. So we’re working with a lot of local promoters to try to figure out what works.
Sandy: They do a lot of different things on Wednesdays too.
Amber: Well, Wednesdays are Boys’ Night always. Thursdays are country line dancing earlier and then hip hop. And then Friday and Saturday are shows. We have matinee shows on Sundays for whatever production we have going on. So this Sunday isn’t a regular show, but it’s “Mr. and Mrs. Wall Street” – a drag pageant.
NID: How cool. I can’t wait for you to get the kitchen going so I can come to brunch during a Sunday matinee show!
Amber: Right now, the food trucks are going to be handling all of that. We’ll eventually have food during shows, but not all of them. Tonight, the food truck is Chef Mo and her food truck Chef Mo On the Go – she was the first female executive chef under Cameron Mitchell. She has a cool history and background too.
NID: Are you planning changing any of the beer, wine or liquor selection?
Sandy: We both really like craft beer, so we are actively expanding the craft beer and wine selection that we offer. So look for those changes. In the New Year, we are going to introduce a happy hour as well.
NID: So what about your bar staff. Did you bring your staff with you from Bossy Grrl’s or is the Wall Street staff pretty much the same?
Amber: We kept the Wall Street staff. We did have a couple of employees from Bossy Grrl’s who’ve come and they’re picking up shifts, but for the most part it’s the same staff.
Sandy: From what I can tell so far, Wall Street has five or six regular people on staff, and then they have around 20 others who just work once or twice a month. So it was kind of easy to bring our people over, because some people only work here and there. Personally, I think you run a better business when you have consistent faces. Some of the staff from Bossy still wants to work both places.
NID: So what is ultimately your vision for Wall Street and this space?
Amber: Well, it’s called Wall Street Night Club and it really has multiple identities. It’s a show bar. It has great shows that people need to find out about, so that’s going to be a big part of our job connecting the Columbus public with what’s going on here. We have talent here. I just hope that we can bring people in to see what we have.
Sandy: One thing that I think is important – at Bossy Grrl’s, we didn’t say it was a gay bar we said it was a “friendly” bar, so it was very welcoming of the trans community – and we want that still at Wall Street.
Amber: We’re a gay bar that’s accepting of the straight community.New Wall Street owners speak For Sandy Rollins and Amber Myers, the new proprietors of Wall Street Night Club, their journey together as performers, entrepreneurs and lovers has come full circle.