Why Sisu Is Uptown’s Hottest Pool Party

What's the appeal? Anyone can be anyone, at least for one Sunday afternoon.

It began innocently enough, with an online gallery of party pictures: women with augmented breasts squeezed up against each other; men with shaggy blond hair and flat-brimmed ball caps emblazoned with the Dallas city logo; shirtless muscle men in a beach ball-strewn pool flashing their fingers in hieroglyphic configurations. Through the simplest sleight of hand—swapping a dance floor for a pool—Sisu, the self-styled “Uptown resort” where the pictures were taken, had fashioned itself as the hottest spot for young and beautiful people to spend a Sunday afternoon. In a few clicks, I saw the hyperbolic expression of a vibrant Dallas subculture. Here were the $30,000 millionaires sending the last, desperate hours of the weekend into oblivion with a booze-drenched party by the pool. I felt like I’d woken up in a city I had never really been to. I had to experience it.

The pool in the backyard of the old Craftsman-style house on Maple Avenue is surrounded by VIP cabanas, lounging couches, and bars. I take a spot on a deck area near the back of the house, where I stand with a group of men who are also content to survey the scene. Some context: Sisu is the brainchild of Wade Hampton, also known as DJ WISHFM, a DJ who came up during the 1980s and is a co-producer on Michael Cain’s Starck Club documentary. That Hampton still has his finger on the pulse of the culture is clear. By mid-afternoon, Sisu is a raucous mess of flesh, stinking of suntan lotion, body oil, sweat, and chlorine.

All the things we seek out in dark clubs in the wee hours of the morning are here at Sisu, stripped bare by the sunlight, and the communion of bacchanalian bliss is on full display.

The pool functions as a self-censoring device. Sure, anyone can pay the $20 cover to get in, but the people who come to Sisu—though not necessarily beautiful, per se—are those who consider themselves sexy enough to strip down and strut their stuff for the gathering throng. It’s one among a number of implicit rules of entry: exposed skin must be decorated with tattoos; t-shirts must be emblazoned with phrases like “Obey,” “Die Yuppie Scum,” and “Eat, Drink, Swim, Repeat”; women must have rears plump enough to peek out from under the stretched waistlines of their bikini bottoms; men must greet each other with a coordinated slapping of swollen biceps, like a butcher taking a mallet to a slab of beef. To a body-conscious 33-year-old, a trip to Sisu is to submit oneself to an exercise in voyeuristic intimidation not unlike the first day of high school, only with fewer clothes.

To be seen is one of Sisu’s primary pleasures. All the things we seek out in dark clubs in the wee hours of the morning are here, stripped bare by the sunlight, and the communion of bacchanalian bliss is on full display. Bottles of vodka are ceremoniously carried out by women in skimpy bathing suits. A guy in a tank top floats on his back, wearing sunglasses that have the words “love” and “trap” on each lens. A crew rolls in led by a woman who looks like a Hong Kong pop star, with short cropped black hair and long, flowing pants. In their walk to a VIP cabana, they have somehow grabbed everyone’s attention. They look like they could be the heirs of a Shanghai bankster. And yet, they could be anybody. 

Anyone can be anybody at Sisu, and this seems to be part of the point. What will that man reclining on the couch with the butt of a hookah pipe shoved between his lips be doing tomorrow morning? Chasing real estate leads? Filing insurance claims? I ask a young man who seems to have come by himself what he does for a living, and the answer is vague, something about traveling to Dallas from Washington, D.C. He’s more eager to let me know he hopes to be in Vegas next weekend. Sisu projects the appearance of life lived within the jet set, and despite the many ways it offers to distinguish yourself from the crowd—the strata of VIP sections, the strutting of unopened vodka bottles—there’s an equanimity to its accessible luxury. All you have to do is pay for it. 

Later on in the afternoon, the Hong Kong pop star takes to the raised platform above the center of the pool, along with a short chunky guy in a white tank top who looks like K-pop superstar Psy. They shake and pop three bottles of champagne, spraying the fizzy wine out over the pool before pouring it all over themselves. It’s more an assertion than a celebration, a spectacle of waste that feels like an expression of power. For the moment, everyone’s eyes are fixed on the crew, and they are greeted by an eruption of cheers and applause. Here is the real genius of Sisu: it creates a context for a cinematic experience of the present. To sit at the pool at Sisu is to be in a moment and to hover over it simultaneously—it’s to be cast in an MTV vignette and watch yourself playing that role. There’s a willing suspension of disbelief. There’s no Monday—no work, money, life, love. There’s only the limitless present, stretched out across the washing of synthesizers, driven on by the monotonous beat of the bass drum.

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