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NYC’s new secret nightclub, The Stranger, offers a wacky night out

Oct 03, 2023

We accessed the hush-hush club by showing up at a newsstand.

Just before 11pm on a drizzly Saturday night, I walked across Columbus Circle and through the drab, emptying streets of midtown in glittery heels that would look more fitting on a spaceship. The only others who shared the sidewalk with me were elegant couples coming from classical concerts at Carnegie Hall or waiters taking their last smoke break for the night. Through the fog, I made a beeline for my destination: one specific newsstand on West 57th Street. I had already passed many other newsstands, metallic and grimy, already shuttered after a day of selling magazines and cigarettes. But the newsstand I was heading towards was like no other in NYC.

On weekend nights, this particular newsstand transforms into a portal to another world, glowing with rainbow-neon lights, operated by people in leather bodysuits and masks. From the outside, the newsstand is the only clue that there is a lot more going on in this unassuming corner of midtown Manhattan. A couple of doors down, full of psychedelic sculptures, karaoke booths, and burlesque dancers, is one of New York's most unique new clubs: The Stranger.

Created by the owners of The Box and known on TikTok as Joe Jonas’ favorite club, The Stranger doesn't give away too much online. On Google, it shows up labeled as a "coffee stand." Its Instagram has only one photo, and its website has little but the page to buy tickets, which go for $56.45 in advance and $86.87 night-of at the newsstand. For the crowd of people gathered around the newsstand on a Friday, the price was apparently worth it to experience this so-called "panoply of pleasures."

I wasn't so sure yet, but it was too late to change my mind. A bouncer checked my ID and stamped my wrist. The crowd around me laughed and talked loudly, speculating about what curiosities they might encounter inside. One group at a time, the doors opened, and the spectacle began.

The Stranger brings the trippy, bizarre, and scandalous to center stage—literally. After walking through a black-light-illuminated corridor lined with performers wearing everything from devil costumes to latex leggings, the view opened up to the main room. Adjusting to the bright lights, my eyes made out a stage at the front with a 15-foot-tall robot shooting lasers out of its hands. A plush llama dangled high above the stage. Through the flashes of colorful light and disco ball reflections, I took in the colossal scoreboards, stuffed animals, graffiti, buoys, fishing nets, and fake ivy around the room. They followed no apparent theme but somehow stayed cohesive. It was set design on steroids.

Loud, upbeat music played, and the crowd grew sweaty as people danced. Someone offered me a spiky flashing plastic ring, which I slipped on my finger. Someone else offered me a fake neon tongue piercing, which I declined to attach by suction to my tongue but slipped into my pocket—for what future use I’m not sure. A clown with red balloons floating over their head offered to bedazzle my cheekbones with silver glitter. Despite my intense phobia of clowns, I accepted the offer. With my new-and-improved look, I was ready to dance.

The bass boomed. A techno song came on. After a few minutes, the giant robot made its exit and burlesque dancers with glittery clouds of cotton extending from their heads and a guy in a singlet and stilettos doing a headstand took over the stage. Dancers switched from voguing to acrobatics on the balconies above. A giant high heel sculpture glittered above my head and someone in a panda costume jumped onto the raised stage in the middle of the dance floor. The 20-year-old standing next to me, who told me he was from the Midwest, said it was "a lot" for him and asked his friend to get him another $30 rum and coke. In the midst of the somewhat tacky and very trippy excess of The Stranger, it hit me that most clubs in NYC are just dark rooms with some music and flashing lights.

Upstairs, things got even *stranger.* Walking around felt like moving between different spheres. One moment I was in an elegant bar with dim lighting and a record player; the next, I was seeing thousands of reflections of myself in a hall of mirrors. A few more steps and my ears rang with a group of girls singing Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked in a karaoke room with a glittering chandelier; a few more, and I found myself in a casino-themed room where a Blackjack game was in full swing (the loser opted into a penalty spank, delivered by a croupier in drag). Farther down the stairs, the DJ in the basement played from a booth embedded into a grand piano. More (clothed) BDSM-themed activities were available for adventurous guests to partake in if they so desired.

From each moment to the next, The Stranger changes. Big inflatable balloons might suddenly be released for the crowd to bop around. The performers might suddenly be on rollerblades. Someone covered in glow sticks might emerge from a hidden room. As the night goes on, things only become more bizarre.

Back beside the now-shuttered newsstand of West 57th Street after a few hours, The Stranger seemed like a strange hallucination. The only remnant was a fake neon tongue piercing buried in my pocket and a lone performer rollerblading around during a break for fresh air. She crooned at me to come back soon, and I wondered if I would—maybe once was enough. But if I ever desired to be in that weird wacky world in the middle of midtown again, I knew that all I would have to do is show up at the newsstand and await whatever may come.

Trisha Mukherjee is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She creates writing and audio about international human rights, travel, and adventure. Find more of her work at

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