WRR 4.4 1 AUGUST 2007
WHERE DJ T FINDS A HOME.
My favorite DJ venue might surprise you: my own family reunion.
There’s complete safety in knowing what to play and when to play it. And familiar territory means I can truly honor the audience who happen to be my relatives. For the DJ alone possesses the power to sway the mood and bring every unspoken joy to life.
Look at how Uncle Jonesy gleams with approval as I play Wes Montgomery and Miles Davis. Or the way my mother feels inside when I honor her with Nina Simone and Gladys Knight. Or the way my older cousins starts to groove with me when the mid-tempo sound of a funky David Sanborn track lets everyone know (after we’ve conversed with, and showed, our elders the proper respect) the jam fest will ensue.
Important lessons pervade the air along with the music. The young kids take in a dose of their musical heritage by getting an ear-full of the past. Because even if they don’t know it, much of what they’re hearing has informed and fed into the music of today. They’re introduced to family from all over these United States, like Georgia which, in the late fifties and early sixties just before Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, my Mom and her brothers and sisters left, making every effort to stake out new beginnings up North.
Oh, the pain of that day, and the rift it helped create between my father and mother. Even now my family reels in disgust from the killing of King and Malcolm X. Chicago is where some relatives seem to be (from another planet they’re so rarely seen). I’ve often wondered what makes family move so very far away from each other outside of job and educational opportunities. I mean, these kids grew up on a family-owned farm with acres of property, grew their own vittles and had horses, grain, and legacy. Why would they all leave that behind?
Each brother or sister embarked on a solo effort to do it for themselves with some successes and some failures. Maybe that’s what reunions are for, so we can intermingle with new generations who might see themselves included as one of the reasons we’ve come together. And you can see the admiration grow within the eyes of the children as they realize the diverse backgrounds of our family.
As for me, there’s another reason I love these get-togethers. I travel down some sweet corners of my own memory lane back to a “kissing cousin” called Brenda... I couldn’t tell you what was wrong with us, but we couldn’t be left alone anywhere, anytime!
And oh, the kissing...
When we were around ten years old, Brenda and I would kiss each other for as long as physically possible (Not even breathing was important enough to make us stop!) until someone literally pulled us apart. We would be corrected for this time and again and would promise to “knock it off.” We’d pretend we were no longer interested in each other, but forget our promises fast after we convinced our elders to leave us alone unsupervised. I guess we grew out of kissing so passionately when we found other young kids to practice on, but whenever I see Brenda, we smile knowingly.
BARBIE DOLLS, SEXY DANCERS, AND A LIMO RIDE
So, you see, I bring everything I’ve learned, every family reunion I’ve emceed, to every DJ job. I immediately sense the ladies in the corner who shy away from a dance floor at a party or wedding. At the club where I work, I see go-go dancers who freeze up before they go on stage, and sometimes while they’re on it.
How’d I develop this unique intuition? Well, growing up, understanding women was crucial to me. As the only male in my household, with my Mom and two sisters, I had to develop intuitive abilities quickly or have my shinbones kicked-in by pointy women’s dress shoes (which did nothing to diminish my foot fetish). Besides, when you share a bedroom with two girls, you’d better have a real sense of yourself when you’re playing with Barbie instead of G.I. Joe.
As I began what turned out to be a ten-year career in the go-go arena, dancers began to tell their friends and even other club owners about the DJ with the “platinum music and golden tongue.” It might sound strange, but this warm reception didn’t really surprise me. After all, I’d already satisfied the harshest of critics my family. But I was not prepared for the adventures ahead...
One thing I noticed right away was that dancers often felt they weren’t appreciated. So I tried to help. I was sure to embellish their sexy attire, their hairstyle, the way they moved, by playing music that complemented their style. If they weren’t great dancers I’d play a few songs that “carried” them, and if they were really rhythmic or had a routine, they got exactly what they requested, and actually inspired me, as I’d watch their interpretations of music.
The privacy of spinning records in a room instead of a D.J. booth allowed me to decorate it with African and Native American symbolisms, and I was inspired by revolutionaries such as Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Bob Marley, and movies such as Kevin Costner’s “Dances With Wolves,” which expanded my insight and helped me remember that coverage in American history textbooks has been denied to many of us. Adorned as it was, the DJ room appealed to the ladies who felt welcomed and intrigued.
One night a dancer came to the DJ room to speak to me about what I assumed was music. There she stood, silently watching me as I handled my business and spoke into the microphone, “Don’t forget to tip your bartenders gentlemen... They’re workin’ HARD!”
As I turned to her, she stared sweetly, “You don’t forget anything, do you”?
“I pay attention to all details,” I told her.
“Oh, do you now?” she quickly replied.
I reached back to my turntables to mix a song in, and the next thing I knew, I felt her soft breath behind my ear. I trembled and became aroused. What does she want, I wondered.
She asked if I knew how important it was... what I’d done for her. But just as I tried to figure out exactly what she meant, she leaned her sexiness into my back, and the needle on the record jumped a little from the pressure she was applying forcing me to turn around and face her. I said, “EASY. I’m just doing what I do, y’know?”
“I’ve always felt so alone out there... all of us,” she said, “But you make us feel so good, It’s like you know what it’s like.”
She put her arms around my neck and I gazed into her pretty hazel eyes, then down to her lovely mouth and further still to a tight view of her breasts which seemed to be uncomfortably squeezed by her brassiere. She leaned closer and I could feel the warm air from her nose teasing my lips. As we angled to kiss, someone yelled, “ANGELA! It’s time for you to go on stage!”
“I’ll be back,” she whispered with a smile.
As she swayed off, I knew I was into something good here because she was so damn fine and had the sweetest rhythm. After her next set, we came together hard and furious and I hoped she could keep a secret. Well, I was soon to find out she was the girlfriend of another club owner and she couldn’t keep a secret.
She never asked me what I wanted, but took advantage of me whenever she was in the mood. She’d grab me and slap me and choke me a little like sexual harassment set to music and I was having a ball. It didn’t seem necessary to question why she never wanted to go out after work or meet at my place or hers or even exchange phone numbers. But not being more inquisitive sure did come to be a mistake soon enough.
One night she showed up with a driver-bodyguard and wasn’t quite so friendly. In fact, she looked at me accusingly from the stage like she was identifying me in front of a jury.
One night after work, I was heading to my ride when a limo pulled up. A huge man in a black jacket got out the front passenger seat and opened the rear door. From inside, a voice said, “Get in Mr. DJ Man.”
I peered in and saw a small man with a huge diamond pinky ring that cut through the darkness like the sun. I looked to run, but the huge man put his hand (which seemed to weigh ten pounds) on my shoulder and completely cut off my option to flee. So, getting in, I decided to play Mr. Cool and find out what this was really about.
“So, what do you know about Angela?” asked the man with the pinky ring.
“Oh. Shes a great dancer and model with a great future,” I quickly replied, adding, “So you think she’s beautiful Eh? And talented.”
“What if I was to tell youse that she ain’t so beautiful and not so talented, would you have a problem wit dat?”
I begin to feel my heartbeat in my throat. The intercom crackled and the driver asked, “Where to, Mr. C.?”
“Just head toward the bridge.”
Oh @%#$, I thought. What bridge?
“I wanna show you something,” says Mr. C.
And before he can finish, I blurt out, “Hey, me and Angela are just employees who have mutual respect for each other and no romantic interest at all.”
With that the guy up front started to laugh hard and I realize the intercom was still on as Mr. C. says, “If I thought there was a problem, I wouldn’t be showing you the reception hall. We’re getting married next month, and she wants you to be the DJ. Hee-haw-haw-haw,” he laughed, and looked at me slyly.
THE SWEET SOUND OF SUCCESS
After the wedding, as the days turned into weeks and soon into months, I began to experience more pleasures (and more problems). I was the center of attraction, in a manner of speaking.
The patrons began clapping their hands and yelling out their approval as I came through the door to report for work.
I was astounded, flattered, relieved that I wasn’t at the bottom of the Delaware River, and it increased my aim to please. I was beginning to feel at home (well, sort of).
One night, before I could get to the DJ room, the club owner called me into the office.
“Listen” he said, “Things have really turned around here. Some new dancers are coming in tonight and they’re excited to meet you. So don’t screw up, ’cause I’m spending a lot of money to have them here.”
This was a young Italian-American-Dream kinda guy. At twenty, he had “connections,” and already owned the club and a house. You could tell he was used to getting his way. He was generally a nice guy, but with an image to uphold. Totally unpredictable. He always spoke quietly like you’d better be payin attention, and never dressed like he worked for a living.
Now, I guess the club owner was partially envious (but reaping the benefits) for all the attention I was getting. After all, wasn’t it his club?
I told him he could relax. “Let me take care of this, and they’ll be back with more of their friends,” I said. And I’ll be back for a raise, I thought.
Well, I’ll say the women he brought in were the most talented, beautifully prepared professionals I’d ever imagined. Like stars that outshone the light show. So, I dug deep in the crates of music to find songs that complimented their skills and appearance. Some tall, some short, but each one unique and gorgeous to behold.
I couldn’t wait to get to work every night. I had convinced the owner to install a new light show. I blasted such furious funk and rock tunes through the sound system that he had to replace them several times until we found a unit that could handle the demand. I was hot and nothing could stop me. Girls were falling for me, customers admired me, and the club was making mad money. What could go wrong?
Well, how ‘bout everything?