Bruce Vilanch Attends Star-Studded Abbey Relaunch Party

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It was a star-studded affair at the Abbey Nightclub Thursday night, as a veritable who’s who of West Hollywood showed up to kick off the gay club’s new era, including icons Cher, Ricky Martin, Jean Smart and Bianca Del Rio.

The Abbey was bought last year by Tristan Schukraft, the “CEO of Everything Gay” who’s behind the Mistr pharmacy, the Tryst Hotels and Circo nightclub in Puerto Rico, and who claims to own 75% of the commercial strip on Fire Island.

Schukraft says he plans to maintain the Abbey’s reputation as a home and flagship nightclub for the LGBTQ community in Los Angeles and beyond.

“I’m going to add my own personal touches to it. I’m going to bring in some new DJs, mix in some new talent, keep it fresh,” Schukraft says. “We’re going to do some new once-monthly events, a new night on Thursday nights at the chapel, expand the dance floor, but at its core, we’re going to keep the Abbey what it is, and that’s the most popular gay bar in the world.”

Revelers were treated to a surprise appearance by Cher, who told the crowd about her lifelong appreciation of the gay community, while servers passed out bowls of her Cher-lato gelato.

“The first gay guys I ever met, I was 9 years old … and I remember saying to my mom, ‘Where have you been hiding these guys? Who are these guys, and why aren’t the other guys as fun as these guys?’” Cher said. “I’ve had ups and downs in my career and you guys have never left me.”

The Abbey has been an important home for people across the LGBTQ spectrum, says actress and singer Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, best known as the star of the FX series “Pose.”

“I’ve always felt safe and comfortable here. That’s the reason it’s always felt special to me,” she says. “What would a world be if there wasn’t a place for us to congregate and have communal togetherness?”

Lance Bass, the former NSYNC popstar who now owns Rocco’s nightclub across the street from the Abbey, was also among the revelers Thursday night. Though the clubs are competitors, he says the Abbey is a special place to him and describes former owner David Cooley as one of his best friends.

“This is the place I came to when I wanted to come out. This has always been my safe space,” Bass says. “My favorite memory was years ago meeting Liz Taylor right there in front of the fireplace, and it was amazing.”

Other stars spotted at the party included recording artist and actor Ricky Martin, star of HBO’s “Hacks” Jean Smart, drag icons Bianca Del Rio and Manila Luzon, musician Saweetie, comedian Bruce Vilanch and “Glamorous” star Graham Parkhurst.

For Abbey founder David Cooley, the party was an opportunity to celebrate his 33 years of running the club and a handoff to a successor who will continue his legacy.

He had a few words of advice for Schukraft as he launches the Abbey’s new era.

“When people say no or you can’t make money, push forward. Follow your dreams,” Cooley says.

Schukraft, still in awe of his recent acquisition, reflects on the responsibility and opportunity ahead.

“I never thought in a million years I was going to own the Abbey. When you’re here, it’s still so surreal,” Schukraft says. “The Abbey is iconic and so important to the gay community, and Fire Island is deeply as such. These opportunities come about and you have to take advantage of them when they’re there.”