You Can Dance. You Can Jive, Geraldine Visco.


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Geraldine Visco at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May.

Credit
Christian Hansen for The New York Times

“I’m an extrovert,” said Geraldine Visco, wearing a bell-bottom body suit, gold chains, a pink cowboy hat, neon blue lipstick and little stars painted on her face.

One isn’t likely to argue with her.

By day, Ms. Visco directs academic administration and finance for the classics department at Columbia University, where she cuts a flamboyant figure at the Ivy League institution. At night, she dresses up in even frillier outfits, as she stomps through nightclub parties with a high-decibel glee.

At 61, Ms. Visco may be one of the city’s oldest club kids.

“When I dress outrageously, people enjoy it,” Ms. Visco said on a recent Tuesday in her Upper East Side apartment, which is dotted with bags of clothes left behind by young gay men who boarded there. “They find it funny. Homeless people on the subway don’t mess with me. They like my outfits and my eyelashes.”

“Some people think I’m a drag queen,” she said, looking pleased.

Earlier this year, she was asked to be one of the hosts of a hospital-themed party at Disorder, a Saturday night dance that was held at Stage 48, a club in Hell’s Kitchen. Listed on the invitation (under patients) as Geriatric Visco, she hammed it up in hair curlers and orthopedic shoes, hobbling on a walker as she announced, “Make way for the old lady.” Inside, she greeted people, danced around on the walker and angled for free drinks.

“She’s everything I wish my mother was,” said Kayvon Zand, the party’s promoter, who wore a black robe with a hoop collar and an exaggerated Elvis hairdo. Does Ms. Visco break the mold? “She might break her hip if she doesn’t watch out,” he said, laughing.

Geraldine Winifred Visco was born in Boston to a jazz-musician-turned-bricklayer father and an opera singer mother. “I’ve never fit in, since first grade,” she said. In the 1970s, she moved to New York City to become a movie star, ending up with small roles in “Stardust Memories,” “So Fine” and even a pornographic film named “Joy.”

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Ms. Visco, dressed as an 80-year-old woman with a walker, at a party in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan.

Credit
Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Annoyed by the audition process, Ms. Visco gave up acting and, in the 1980s, got a job at Columbia University to pay for her tuition there. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in literature and writing and master’s degrees in fiction and journalism.

She was briefly married in 1993 (to an artist she calls “the poorest guy you could have ever met in the Hamptons”). It wasn’t until 2005 that she hit her stride as a clubbie. For a time she was even a freelance party reporter for The New York Press, which has since folded. “I went out a lot,” she said, “and being on the scene, you become part of it.”

Her style and spirit have attracted bevies of young gay men. “I like hanging out with younger people,” she said. “Once I hit 50, I decided, ‘Who cares?’ I don’t care about my age.” Four years ago, she became a promoter at My Chiffon Is Wet, a weekly party at Eastern Bloc, a rowdy gay bar in the East Village. She made $50 a week to draw customers and set the tone by carousing until 4 a.m.

Asked how she stays up so late and still reports to the office at 11 every morning, she said: “I’m hypomanic, so I don’t need a lot of sleep. In journalism school, my motto was, ‘You can sleep when you’re dead.’ I like to dance.”

She has other tips for those who use their day jobs as an excuse to keep from going out. “If you exercise every day, you’re almost never tired,” she said. Her unorthodox schedule includes daily yoga and swimming sessions between working and dancing.

Still, she plans to retire in September (“I hate working on a computer all day”) and will finish her memoirs and promote a documentary about her called “Visco Disco.”

Yes, there will be parties for the book and the movie.

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