Bar Marmont’s Constance Cooper aims for higher class of party


Hidden at the back of Bar Marmont, the Chateau Marmont’s exclusive boîte, is a lavish private dining room drenched in crimson hues, with a vaulted ceiling papered with vintage ads, a large wooden table and chairs and an attractive smoking patio. Late on a recent Thursday, the drag queen Constance Cooper sits on this patio with style journalist Rose Apodaca and a few other friends, drinking a glass of white wine and playfully discussing the sorry state of the modern young party crowd.

Cooper, also known as Robert Sherman when not in drag, was the bar’s fiery and fabulous maitre d’ from the day it opened in 1995, with a celebration of Leonardo Di Caprio’s 21st birthday, until 2002, when she moved on to “see about chapter three” of her life. That chapter now includes returning to Bar Marmont every Thursday to host a party — one that her old friends from those heady early days can feel comfortable coming to without, as she says, “being surrounded by people in their 20s, screaming and puking.”

On this particular night, while DJ Rodim spins ‘70s disco, classic rock and cocktail music, Cooper is surrounded by an accomplished group of friends, including the cast members of “Sons of Anarchy”; actress Pauley Perrette from “NCIS”; clothing and jewelry designer Michael Schmidt, who designed Lady Gaga’s bubble body suit for her Rolling Stone cover shoot; and Abby Travis, the touring bass player for Eagles of Death Metal, who says of Cooper, “Connie is like my big sister.”


And like a big sister, Cooper, 54, is both nurturing and always ready to tease. It’s part of her charm, and the way she moves with ease throughout the club — always on hand with introductions, never forgetting a name, stopping on a dime to dance or pose for a picture — is a skill she’s spent the last 30 years honing. And it’s one largely missing from today’s fast and loose nightclub scene, where club nights remain popular for a flash before party people move on to the next hot room.

In the ‘80s, Cooper was a go-go dancer at some of downtown Manhattan’s hottest nightclubs, including the Pyramid, the Roxy, the Palladium and the Copacabana. By the time she migrated to L.A. to pursue acting, and was hired by Bar Marmont (she was friends with Chateau Marmont owner Andre Balazs), the club was among the hottest in town.

“We had the first bar at the Chateau Marmont, everybody in the world wanted to come here!” exclaims Cooper dramatically, flinging her arms around her former door girl, Cin Ishii, who Cooper says used to be fierce in tight latex.

“We were partners in crime, and we got invited to all the best parties,” says Ishii, a stunning Asian woman in a glamorous dress with an ornate metal belt.

Cooper giggles and places a hand with fingernails painted black over her bright red lips. That’s not to say that Cooper has left her party days behind her. For the last two years she was the host and MC for fetish night Bar Sinister at Boardner’s. It’s just that she wants to curate a night where the revelry is pure class.

“If you’re going to party, you’re going to party with a certain sense of decorum and dressiness,” says Apodaca of Cooper’s night.

Cooper sets the standard, dressed in black pants with silver studs, high heel boots and a see-through black ribbed shirt. But perhaps her most unusual feature is that she is bald and wears no wig.

Born on a naval base in New London, Conn., Cooper has alopecia and is completely without body hair. It’s a condition that drew photographer Robert Mapplethorpe to Cooper in the ‘70s, when (as Robert Sherman) she was studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. One of Mapplethorpe’s more famous photographs is of Sherman, who is as white as alabaster, beside a black man named Ken Moody, who also has alopecia.

Growing up, Cooper lived three hours by train from Manhattan and would visit regularly with his mother.

“Whenever the train would leave New York for Connecticut, I would wave goodbye to the buildings,” recalls Cooper. “As a little bald boy, even at the age of 10, I felt that I could go there and not stick out so much for being different.”

She is working on an autobiography, called “Baldy,” acting as much as possible, and bringing a hosted vibe back to the Bar Marmont.

“It’s a great vibe with good people in their 40s and 50s and even 60s and 70s, and that’s exactly what I want — artists, writers, actors, designers,” says Cooper. “It’s not the Sunset Strip or Hollywood — it’s an enclave unto itself.”