Vienna’s legendary drag party celebrates 10 years of queer

A trailblazing testament to progressive fin de siécle Vienna, the Otto Wagner Pavillion on Karlsplatz is the crown jewel of Vienna’s Jugendstil subway stations. Gilded, flamboyant and long defunct with trains now routed through the adjacent modern terminus, its exterior remains a definitive landmark while its interior houses the rather soulless and disappointing Club-U.

Yet twice a month in the basement something queer is afoot. Club-U comes alive with enough character, showmanship, and innovative drag costumes to make one forget the drab interior altogether. Giving its historic setting a second life on the cutting edge, for the past decade the regular Rhinoplasty club has transformed the face of Vienna nightlife, literally redefining the city’s LGBT scene.

Hosted by the trio of fearless genderfuck performers Andy “Rhinoplasty” Reiter, Dutzi Bullard–Ijsenhower and Marius Alexis Carrington Lagerfeld–Valente, Rhinoplasty’s often shocking, pointedly politically incorrect theme nights have become the stuff of local legend for Vienna’s cutting-edge queers. But for Reiter, the prevailing spirit hasn’t changed since day one. “It started out as a small alterna-queer party for a mixed crowd with bad music, silly getups and a strict no seriousness policy,” he says. “Thankfully, it’s stayed that way. The audience grew, but it still has that private-party-with-friends feel.”

For Dutzi, Rhinoplasty has become more than just a party: “When we started Rhinoplasty, it was the only party where you had people in drag and the only one where you didn’t have the distinctive difference between people – no matter their sexuality,” he reflects. “I always think that Rhinoplasty played a little part in the evolution of Vienna.”

Rhinoplasty
Rhinoplasty is notorious for its themed parties, a perfect excuse for the drag crowd to get creative and strut their stuff. // ©Daniel Gottschling

Intensive Care

The roots of Rhinoplasty’s legend are in their specially curated themes for each party, ranging over the years from the comical to the outright offensive, always coupled with a cheerful disregard for good taste. Whether commemorating the anniversary of the Duisburg Love Parade stampede, dragged up as raver zombies with footprints on their faces, or Dutzi’s now legendary O Transenbaum Christmas tree outfit, their seemingly endless well of creativity has never ceased gushing. “Three weeks ago, we had a Lana Del Rey special where I wore a set of huge lips. I love those lips a lot,” Dutzi chuckled.

“Some things we do annually, like the White Girl/Basic Bitch theme every October for the start of the winter term – complete with Ugg boots and Starbucks cups for the pumpkin spice flavored White Russians,” adds -Reiter. “There’s also the Metal-plasty in November, where we have friends do a real little separate floor with heavy metal music. Our Anne Geddes–inspired special was probably the weirdest theme we’ve ever done, with baby dolls decked out in flower petals.”

Proper party promotion suggests expansion to bigger clubs and busier nights, yet Rhinoplasty has long taken steps to protect and preserve what made it so special in the first place. “We managed to avoid getting too big by reducing advertising to a minimum and relying mostly on word of mouth,” says Reiter. “A lot of people have told us it’s the first party where they felt at home, and that makes us very happy. That’s our goal.”

Even so, Rhinoplasty’s reputation has grown to include mentions in travel guides including Time Out and respect from some of the city’s biggest cultural institutions. “We’re now 10 years old, and if you’re 10 years old in Vienna you’re an institution,” Dutzi remarked. “We’re now working with a lot of festivals like the Wiener Festwochen, the Slash Film Festival, the Viennale, and we’ll have our own floor at the Life Ball where we’re also part of the intro performance and opening number.”

But major collaborations aside, the party remains an unwavering embrace of the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” with no plans for change on the horizon. “We hope to keep doing it more or less the same for as long as it remains this much fun. There aren’t any plans on going bigger or changing venues or anything,” Reiter says. “I think it’s pretty perfect the way it is.”