“I think there has been a stigma that gay men love to go out, like to dance all night, like to go to really nice dinners, while lesbians like to stay home,” says Kim Stolz. “I am not sure if that was ever true. But what I know is it is not true now.” She is holding court on the lower level of the Dalloway, the “lesbian-leaning” restaurant and bar she’s opening with Amanda Leigh Dunn of The Real L Word, in the Holland Tunnel–adjacent western fringe of Soho. (Samantha Ronson will D.J. at the grand opening on December 4.) Stolz met her fiancée, Lexi Ritsch, at a bar in Sag Harbor, but this place looks more soap-opera boudoir—plush banquettes, crackling fireplace, Ke$ha on the stereo. Tonight, two weeks before the official opening, it is packed with women—really gorgeous women—gathered to inaugurate the bar’s weekly Girls’ Night party.
Stolz, 29, is dressed in skinny black jeans, a drape-y white blazer, and suede heels. She went from Brearley to Wesleyan (where she wrote her thesis on the “Impact of Exit Strategies on U.S. Intervention Abroad”) to America’s Next Top Model, where she made a name for herself as a whip-smart lesbian seductress, though all she really did was kiss fellow contestant Sarah Rhoades in the back of the limo. (Okay, that and make out with her back at the house where the contestants crash.) She also won a loyal fan club by expounding on her love of beautiful women and the sartorial challenges of androgyny. After the show, despite being the “worst walker ever,” she signed on with Elite and Ford and appeared in campaigns for Nordstrom, American Eagle, and the designer Chris Benz.
Unfulfilled by modeling, Stolz landed a gig as an MTV correspondent, covering among other things the 2008 campaign by following Mike Huckabee on his quixotic tour of California. “It wasn’t my calling,” she says. Nor was a law-firm job. She decided to try finance and now trades equity derivatives as a VP at Citigroup (having to get up at five every morning makes nightspot owner a tough sideline). “I’ve never felt more accepted than I have on Wall Street,” she says. “I’m one of the guys.” Her father, a Goldman broker, was one of them, too, but modeling also runs in the family: Her mother did work for Givenchy and Ralph Lauren. Stolz came out to her parents when she was 16. She says their relationship didn’t recover until she was out of college and publicly stumping against Proposition 8.
Next June, Stolz will publish Can’t Stop, a book about social media and our obsession with it. At the Dalloway, her approach to networking is very analog. “If you ever need anything, just give me a call,” Stolz tells one guest, extracting a Dalloway business card from her pants. “Can I buy you a drink?” (A minute later, a follow-up: “Did I give you my card?”) She and Dunn took a lot of inspiration from a West Hollywood bar called the Abbey—it was Liz Taylor’s late-life haunt—and they hope their venue will similarly become a place where you can “bring your parents for dinner” and “party your face off downstairs.” Things aren’t quite that wild tonight, but it’s early. When supermodel Jessica White appears on the catwalklike staircase, descending from restaurant to bar in a floor-length white fur and trailed by a long-legged retinue, the energy perceptibly rises.
I ask Stolz to break down the clientele; the effect is a little like scoping the cafeteria on the first day of school with the popular girl. “We have models in one corner; the grungier, hipster-type people in another corner; the label-obsessed lesbians; interspersed we have the lipstick lesbians and the gay boys,” she says, pointing out each group as she goes. “And then I have a bunch of banker friends. One of the guys from my desk showed up. He’s a 35-year-old straight guy that works with me. And then there are a couple of people that were just huge Virginia Woolf fans who stayed and hung out.”
Stolz, herself an unabashed “Virginia Woolf nerd,” has taken pains to pay homage to the author in ways that patrons may not notice, but which are clearly important to her. (There’s a drink on the menu called To the Lighthouse, for instance.) “She was never really able to be comfortable in her skin. Knowing the struggles that Virginia Woolf went through, it’s an ode to her and a thank-you to her,” Stolz says, taking stock of the now rollicking scene. “But Amanda will tell you she just thought Dalloway was a cool name.”