In a remarkable case of synergy, yours truly is headlining tonight’s show at The Stud in San Francisco. It’s a fun lineup in a helluva venue and I’m looking forward to it. Plus, it’s free to get in! Starts at 8pm, and here’s more info.
Also in Drew News You Can Use, the latest episode of my podcast with cohost Jim Cotter has posted, and my first three entries of Tales From The DJ Booth (from my prior life as a wedding/party DJ) are also available for time-wasting goodness. Here’s links to all that stuff:
Chucklepedia – The Podcast
Tales From The DJ Booth 1
Tales From The DJ Booth 2
Tales From The DJ Booth 3
TALES FROM THE DJ BOOTH
Note: I spent about ten years regularly working as a DJ for weddings, parties, bars and more. This happened between the ages of 16 until about age 27, when I quit doing it shortly before my own wedding and moving to California.
Karaoke and Gay Bars
Early in my Junior Year of college I’d gotten a job as a reporter at my college newspaper. It was a fantastic experience – I enjoyed the environment, I loved the fast pace and I also loved seeing my name in print, and since I was a Politics Reporter and the election of 2000 was in full swing I was seeing it frequently. I even managed to talk a professor into giving me credit for every story I printed that semester. They tried to give me a small “bonus” credit for each story, and by the end of the semester I had basically stopped attending class to go report on stories and still got a 3.5 (out of 4.0) in the class.
The only problem was, college newspapers pay terribly. Real newspapers do too, so it’s great training for those who opt to go into the lifestyle. But I needed more money, and I wanted to do less DJ’ing so I could enjoy my Saturday nights. The summer prior I’d lost a ton of weight, bought some douchey shiny shirts and some shoes with buckles on them (girls liked those around that time; it was a dumber time) and I had found myself doing pretty well with the ladies. I didn’t want to be stuck behind a DJ booth every weekend, I wanted to be on the dance floor stuck behind some poor girl’s ass in those tight black boot-cut pants that all college girls had adopted as a uniform, much like we’ve tricked women into yoga pants now.
Instead of DJ’ing, I got an overnight job as a cashier at a crappy gas station near my apartment. It seemed like a great idea – I’d work two or three nights a week from 10pm to 6am, sell a few sodas and candy bars and gas and condoms while I studied, then I’d run home and grab a quick nap before class and then head to work at the newspaper. What I didn’t expect is that the manager of the station was a drug-addicted obese man (around 400 pounds at least) who was stealing from the register, and that the person who was supposed to start at 6am everyday was a gay alcoholic man who was in a crazy relationship and he often hadn’t gone to bed until around 4am every night, thus showing up at 6am was not going to be happening regularly, and when he did finally show up it was usually with bruises, the stink of vodka all over him and lots of talk about how he was going to kick his lover’s “faggot ass out of my trailer.”
I worked there for a few months, and after realizing that the place was not exactly being run with the best business plan, I started relaxing and enjoying a chance to spend my nights screwing around. They never got me a nametag, so I wore one I found in the back that said my name was “Raul.” I would bring in a VCR and plug it into the security monitor and hold movie marathons, and friends and associates would stop by for a study break, buy some coffee and candy and watch for a while and then take off at various points in the night. My boss finally watched some security footage and saw what was happening, but since nightly sales actually ticked upwards because of it (random people would often end up staying and watching for 20 minutes and buy a snack or beverage too) he waved it off.
The problem was, the guy who was supposed to take over at 6am was never, ever on time. If he arrived to relieve me before 7am it was a miracle, and usually it was closer to 7:30 to 8am before he rolled in, unapologetic and complaining that he had to make more coffee. The overtime was nice but, as I explained to our boss, I had no ambition to be a gas station attendant my whole life and my primary focus was college and the newspaper. I told him that I couldn’t keep staying until 8am everyday, because I was then heading straight from work to class and then to my other job, grabbing an hour or two of sleep and then coming back to the station – something had to give. My boss said he’d talk to the other guy and tell him to get in on time.
Two weeks later, the guy hadn’t showed up any earlier than 6:45 for any of his shifts after mine, and most of the time he was still getting there around 7:30am. Finally, late in the week and facing both a big test and a story deadline later that day with about a collective 10 hours of sleep in me for the entire week, I called my boss around 7am on a Thursday morning and got his answering machine. I told him that the other guy hadn’t shown up again, and that made it every morning that week. I needed to be somewhere and I can’t keep covering for him, and I’m locking up the station.
The place was a 24-hour station and had a big sign that said “Always Open.” I waited until all the customers at the pumps were finished and shut them down, one-by-one. Then I turned off all the lights, including the light on the sign on the street and shut it down. It took about 30 minutes, making it about 7:45 when I was finally leaving. The other guy still hadn’t shown up. I got in my car, drove home, changed clothes and chugged a cup of coffee and went to class.
Early in the afternoon I got a call from my boss. He told me that locking up without authorization was a strict violation of company policy, and he had to fire me. By that point I couldn’t care less and I told him I’d been planning to quit anyway. He told me to return my nametag and “uniform” (they just gave me a white shirt with a company logo on it, and my nametag still said “Raul”) and he’d give me my last check. I told him to have it ready that afternoon, and I stopped on my way home to finalize my life as a gas station cashier.
After pissing away my last paycheck on beer, pizza and probably more shiny shirts, I tried to live off the newspaper for a while but it became clear that my passion for buckled shoes and cheap Long Island Iced Teas was going to be too much. So I started hunting for another DJ job. After a few calls around to companies in the Yellow Pages I spoke to a nice, middle-aged guy who lived in a suburb on the other side of town. He asked me to come over to chat about it, and I went over the next day and met him.
He ran the company out of his basement and garage. He had a big wall of CD’s in the basement, and he had transferred all the songs you might need as a DJ onto a library of MiniDiscs. It was the first time I’d seen that ability, to make playlists on a digital format and it drastically reduced the amount of stuff you had to carry and totally blew my mind, whereas now I carry more music than that entire collection on my phone. The rest of his equipment was also top-notch for a mobile DJ service and he was a very pleasant man with a nice family that he introduced me to immediately. I could tell it was safe to say that we had an immediate respect for one another, and he offered me a position within about 30 minutes.
Later that week I went out with him to a wedding, where he gave me the basic rundown of his company’s style – very professional, none of the red-sneakers-and-tuxedo bullshit at weddings and always “family friendly.” That frightened me a bit, but I could see where he was going with it. He had crosses up around his house, Bibles on the coffee tables and a cross on his neck. The next week, he had me go with him to a bar to show me how to run his karaoke setup. I had never run karaoke before, and it seemed like a great gig – you don’t have to pick anything or worry about the flow of music, you just call people up in the order they submitted their request and have them sing the song they want.
In reality, running karaoke is a slow-burning hell from which there is no escape once it’s begun. At least when you’re DJ’ing you can occasionally mix in a song or two that you enjoy and haven’t heard a billion times. When you’re running karaoke, you’re at the mercy of people who enjoy doing karaoke, and they are a sappy, maudlin bunch. There will be a near-endless succession of slow, whiney country songs and they’re being sung by sad, whiney overweight women and guys in cowboy hats with sweat stains on the outside. The most fun aspects of karaoke, as created by the Japanese, is being To-The-Tits wasted and making a fool of yourself. Oftentimes I’d find the hardcore karaoke folks would sip water or tea to protect their throats, and you would see the same people over and over singing the same songs again and again. At one regular show I would work there was a mentally handicapped man who would pick early-60’s rock and he would shout all the lyrics without any melody whatsoever, and I considered him among my favorite karaoke performers.
But, this new company kept me working as frequently as I liked without forcing me to work every Friday and Saturday and the gentleman running it was easy to work for, organized and respectful of his DJ’s. After about three months of working for him he asked me over to help put together a new DJ setup and chat about some things. After we’d wired up a new mobile rig we sat in his kitchen and he got somewhat solemn, so I thought I was in for a rough conversation.
“Drew, I gotta tell you – you’re doing a great job,” he said. Uh-oh, I thought – he’s going to let me go or cut my pay or something. Instead, he had other things in mind.
“I really like my business and the way we have it working and our customers,” he said. “But, I know there’s a lot of people I haven’t done shows for because of my strict religious beliefs. I don’t book frat parties and I know that costs us money, and now one of the gay bars has called me and asked if we’d be interested in doing a regular karaoke show.”
“Oh….okay,” I said, wondering where he was going with this.
“Well…,” he stammered a bit. I could tell a question was coming. “I was wondering…if it’s not offensive to you, and doesn’t offend your own beliefs, would you be up for maybe running that show in the gay bar?”
I told him I had no problem with it at all, and we can get started right away. He was relieved and happy, and he said something about how “I’m sure they’re nice people, but other people in my church would freak out if they knew I was going there for anything.”
A few weeks later was the first night of karaoke at the gay bar that had contacted us, so I picked up the gear and went over. I’d been to a couple of the area gay bars with friends and both were more of a younger, dance-y vibe. This bar, however, was a whole different kind of gay bar – a redneck gay bar. The clientele was of the hardcore redneck variety, with lots of bad haircuts, missing teeth, acid-washed jeans paired with denim jackets like they’d passed out at a Bon Jovi concert in 1986 and just woken up. For some reason it was startling to me, since I grew up around rednecks and they were always angry and aggressive and wouldn’t talk about anything but football and hunting. Then it occurred to me – some of them just wished they could go find another dude to have sex with, and suddenly they’d care a lot less about bow hunting and average yards and probably be a lot less stressed out.
I got set up and they couldn’t wait to start singing. I had been expecting a lot of disco and pop, but there were also quite a few looking to do some of their old favorite rootin’-tootin’ country tunes. One guy who looked like he should be an enforcer for the Hell’s Angels sang a version of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” while holding a pink martini that brought the house down. Three different people requested to sing “I Will Survive” within just a few songs of each other, and after we did them all I got on the mic and said, “I know we’re in a gay bar, but let’s keep the ‘I Will Survive’ to a minimum, all right? At this rate we’ll never get to ‘It’s Raining Men.’” They laughed and applauded and were among the best crowds I’d ever worked for.
The first few weeks were some of the easiest regular bar shows I’d ever had as a DJ; the crowds were good and friendly and the place tipped me out every night because they were having such great sales. I did find I was occasionally getting hit on, and I became aware of the terms “top” and “bottom” and had one burly guy who never buttoned a shirt above his belly button tell me he’d switch me from a “breeder” to a “power bottom.” It was almost always in good fun and I never felt uncomfortable. Then one weekend I was preparing for the night and had arrived a little early; I was at the bar sipping a water and reorganizing some of the songbooks with new stuff when somebody walked over to me.
“What tha Hell are you doin’ here?” they asked me. I looked up, and it was my former colleague at the gas station, the alcoholic who couldn’t show up on time. He was already clearly somewhat tipsy, with a cigarette in one hand, a beer in the other and wearing a Harley t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off.
“I run the karaoke here,” I told him.
He took a swig of his beer. “Ah, I almost thought you were lyin’ when you’s said you had a girlfriend,” he smiled. “That was dumb as shit when you closed up that time!”
“I had to get to class,” I said, thinking that the only reason I did that was because he couldn’t even get to work on time. “I didn’t want to be a gas station attendant my whole life.”
I clearly had insulted him without intending to. He shut the conversation down and returned to his table with another guy, who I presumed was his boyfriend that he was constantly fighting with and regaling us with tales that started with drinking, moved to aggressive gay sex and ended in a fistfight and more gay sex. The night began as they all did; my stack of request slips to sing was high before we even began and everybody was having a good time and enjoying themselves.
Around 11pm, halfway through somebody’s song I realized somebody in the back was fighting. You learn to instantly hit Stop on the music when somebody in the bar is fighting, because often it’s like throwing cold water on two angry dogs – they chill right out. The music stopped and everybody heard the fight in the back. The bartender flipped the lights back on and I was instantly aware that it was my old friend from the station. Instead of stopping due to the silence, bright lights and attention, it seemed to just fuel he and his boyfriend’s need to complete their foreplay ritual of beating the crap out of each other.
“You fuggin’ faggot! I hate you!” my old colleague screamed as he swung at his lover’s face.
“Yer a drunk piece ‘a shit!” his boyfriend screamed as he swung as well.
The bar may have been a gay bar, but it was also a redneck gay bar, and rednecks know to work fast to squash a fight in their bar. A pair each of large guys grabbed both of the fighters by the arms and held them back. They kept shouting at each other as they were guided towards the exit. They were pushed outside and the four men who had hauled them out stood by and instructed them to get the hell out and not come back. My old associate and his boyfriend then joined forces to argue that they should be allowed back in, but nobody was willing to listen. After a few minutes they gave up and got in their car together, probably to go home, fistfight lovingly and then angrily make love in a bathtub of flat Miller Genuine Draft and cigarette butts.
The lights were quickly switched off and all eyes turned back to me at the karaoke booth. I picked up my mic and said, “fuck those bitches, right? Let’s get back to the fun.” The crowd gave a loud cheer, I started the song over for the gentleman who had been interrupted and the rest of the night went smoothly.
A few weeks later the bar owner told me that they were going to see if they could just rent the setup from my boss and keep it there all week and have some local drag queens run it. He said it wasn’t anything I had done, they just felt like it would “add” to the experience. I told him it was fine; they had been great to me and I told him I’d be happy to fill in some time if they needed help. Besides, I was spending every Saturday night in a gay bar, and there are so many other gay bars I could have been hanging out in.
The owner did ask me to DJ his “commitment ceremony party” a few months later, and I can think of no better reason to endorse gay marriage than that everybody should get to experience a gay-planned wedding reception at some point in their lives. The food was amazing, there were specialty cocktails (in the year 2000 this was still brand new), everybody was dressed in full white-tie formal gear and the toast from the Best Man referenced anal sex something like seven times while one of the groom’s mothers dabbed tears from her eyes.
As for my former gas station colleague, I never saw him again. I bumped into another guy who had worked there a year or so later and he said that he’d been coughing up a lot of dark mucus and went to the doctor and they told him his lungs were going to collapse if he didn’t quit smoking, so he had switched to chewing tobacco. I assume he’s doing great.
TALES FROM THE DJ BOOTH
Note: I spent about ten years regularly working as a DJ for weddings, parties, bars and more. This happened between the ages of 16 until about age 27, when I quit doing it shortly before my own wedding and moving to California.
Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion And A Gut Full Of Whiskey
By my senior year of college I had the wedding ritual down and had settled into working for a pretty decent company that offered regular work, decent gear and a solid music selection to work with. My Saturdays were pretty full from early May through September and most of the couples were easy to work with – young and just recently graduated from college and starting their lives. The company I worked for also had a policy that I found very helpful and would use even when I went back to working independently a few years later – the DJ meeting the bride and groom a few weeks prior to the wedding, getting to know them and talking about what they were looking for.
I found this enlightening for a variety of reasons. If a couple was easygoing and relaxed and just told me “please just make it fun,” I knew it was likely going to be a good time. They’d have close friends and family and drink just enough to keep it fun but not so much that it turned to vomit and fights. It also allowed me to ask them what kind of wardrobe they’d like me to wear. Most people who wanted a tuxedo would end up being the type who were trying too hard to make their day “special.” Once a couple told me “whatever, most of our family will be in jeans and t-shirts and shit.” They were not lying and other than the groom my shirt and tie was the fanciest clothing at the party. If a couple said, “shirt and tie or a jacket if you want; nice but comfortable” it was always a good sign.
Then came the music – the meeting was where I would ask them what they wanted for their first dance and other typical wedding dances. Being in Michigan it was a pretty standard pool of love songs and schmaltzy ballads and slow-tempo country tunes. But the real test was the “Father-Daughter” dance, which is where most Crazy Brides would make their presence known first.
Before I go into further detail, let me say this: not all the women and brides I dealt with as a DJ were crazy or difficult. Many were wonderful, decent human beings who simply wanted to have a nice day to celebrate their wedding. The term “Bridezilla” and the showcasing of bad behavior is not what I would call typical of the modern generation of women.
However, it does happen. For whatever reason, the occasion of their wedding has been built in some women’s heads as the Most Important Day Of Their Lives and they are determined to make it that way. They use terms like “my day” and use their nuptials as an excuse to shake off all rules about polite society. They will scream, pout, throw tantrums, make threats and in some cases even storm off and lock themselves in a room or car to get the specific thing they want that they believe will make the day complete.
And when you’re a DJ, that frequently means music. And if you’re a crazy woman, you either want to dance to Celine Dion or Barbara Streisand. Both of these warbly songstresses have created a lengthy catalogue of music that appeals directly to the melodramatic, I’m-a-victim-and-everybody’s-jealous mentality that the craziest of the crazies prefer. The Streisand song “Rain On My Parade” isn’t so much a feminist ballad as the determined shouts of a woman who just ruined her sister’s birthday party because she thinks everybody doesn’t love HER enough or found out she’s pregnant after poking holes in the condoms.
So when a potential bride would tell me that she wanted to dance with her father to Celine Dion or Barbara Streisand, the first shot had been fired over the crazy bow. And in the case of one particular couple, she would almost go out of her way to make it as crazy as possible.
The pair was in their late-20’s; both good-looking and from good families. We met up at a nice lunch spot and they were initially polite, then the bride said she wanted a particular Celine Dion song that I knew we didn’t have. I said I’d be happy to get it, which at that point meant actually going to a record store and buying the CD with it on there. Nowadays a DJ can get a song on their phone in seconds if they need it, but at that point in time – oh, so many eons ago – you had to have the physical product in your hands to play it.
She made a few other oddball demands about the color of my shirt and tie and how many buttons my jacket would have on it – no double-breasted, two-button suit, white shirt, dark single-color tie – and we said goodbye. I immediately went to a Best Buy (which still sold music at that point) and picked up the CD with the particular Celine Dion song on it; it was a non-single that I had never heard of and I had to pick up a Celine Dion album for $12.99, which burnt like acid. Some people say downloading ruined the record industry, but if you’ve ever been required to pay $12.99 for a piece of shit you would rather watch burn than listen to, it’s the greatest thing in the world.
With two weeks to go before their wedding, the bride then changed her mind three times about that song. Her next choice was a Barbara Streisand song, which my company luckily had. Then she wanted another Celine Dion song, which we also had. Then she wanted a Barbara Streisand song that we didn’t have, which she called me about two days before the wedding. For whatever reason I once again went to a record store to find it, and it took three total stores before I found a place that had the album that had the particular song on it.
So, $25 in the hole after buying two albums from two of the most despicable “artists” ever known, the day of the wedding arrived and off I went – two-button suit (no double breasted), white shirt and dark blue tie. The event was at a nice country club in an affluent area, and they even had a convenient setup to pull up to the reception area and load in gear, which surprisingly few locations ever thought of. I was loaded and setup in minutes.
The hall was empty at that point but decorated; nice white China, dark burgundy cloth napkins and shiny silver silverware, great centerpieces and the chairs were real, padded and luxurious-looking; most places just threw some cheap vinyl backings on folding chairs. It looked to be around 150 guests and they had definitely dropped some serious coin on the event. As a 22-year-old scumbag my mind began whirling with thoughts of a big tip at the end. After all, I’d bought not one but TWO albums just so this woman could get the father/daughter dance of her dreams and I was always good at keeping a wedding reception going well. How could this not be a slam dunk?
After around 20 minutes of hanging out after completing my setup, the bride came in to inspect the hall. They were getting married on the grounds in just a few minutes and she wanted to see everything beforehand so she could approve. And of course, if she had that kind of attitude then she most certainly was not going to approve of anything.
Within 30 seconds of entering the room the bride was screaming at everybody in her vicinity. The plates were not all placed the same way with their markings facing the same way on every single plate. Some of the silverware wasn’t perfectly even on every napkin. Some of the chairs looked dusty. The centerpieces were “tacky” to her, so much so that she began shrieking at the person who put them all together – her grandmother. The poor little old woman was in tears by the time she was done, and the bride then shouted something to the effect of “this had BETTER be fixed when I get back!” and stormed out. Her father was there and shook his head and said something to the grandmother and tried to console her. They walked out after asking some of the hall staff to try and attend to the bride’s complaints as best they could.
About 30 minutes later guests arrived and began getting their first drinks and many commented on how beautiful the hall was decorated. The guests all seemed nice and a few older people came over to request old big-band songs to enjoy while they mingled and had drinks. The hall had plenty of big windows and the sun was just starting to go down and the view was of a nicely-tended golf course in the country. It was among the nicest settings I’d ever worked as a DJ.
Another 30 minutes later the wedding party arrived. I was set to announce their entrance and introduce everybody, but before we could get them organized the bride stormed into the reception area to see if her bidding had been done. Of course, it was not done to her exact specificiations.
“This is SO tacky!” she shouted at nobody in particular. “Why won’t ANYBODY LISTEN TO ME?!?!?!?” she screamed. Her bridesmaids tried to calm her down, but by then it was too late; this one was determined to be off the deep end. As I tried to get everybody lined up to introduce them the groom grabbed me by the shoulder and leaned in.
“Sorry, dude,” he whispered. “I didn’t know she was gonna be like this.”
I smiled at him, knowing that he was in for a lifetime, I was just in for a night. “Don’t worry,” I said. “we’ll get this back on track.”
The wedding party seemed like a fun group, and I went for my BIG delivery to introduce them. When I want to, I can get quite a big, booming voice and sound like I’m announcing the starting lineups for the ’95 Bulls. I gave them a big one in the hopes that it would be big and exciting and she’d start to turn around, and at that moment it seemed to work. The wedding party came in with big smiles and to great applause, and I gave the bride and groom the biggest intro, drawing out the names and the guests whooped and clapped and holler’d and gave her a big welcome back into the room that she’d just acted like a brat in.
There was peace in the valley for a brief period, until dinner was served. As soon as the meal was brought to the bride and her new husband she began complaining. She made her parents come over and examine the food as she aggressively pointed at the plate and explained what was wrong. The waiters kept serving the rest of the room and everybody seemed to enjoy what they were being served. The wedding party also dug in immediately without noticing any of the apparent problems.
Dinner progressed and the time came to begin the formal dances, starting with first dance. It went off without a hitch, and I then announced that the couple would be cutting the cake as I played some upbeat 60’s R&B to start moving into “party” mode. After the cake was cut I grabbed the bride and groom to review the next steps, which were for the bride to dance with her father, then the groom with his mother, then a wedding party dance and then it was open dancing for all guests.
The bride looked at me with her eyes sharp and mean. “Do you have that Celine Dion song?”
Since the last song she’d requested was a Streisand tune, I told her that I had all four of the songs she had requested – two Celine Dion songs and two Streisand songs, and I’d be happy to play any of the four she wanted.
“THOSE ARE NOT WHAT I WANTED,” she sternly said through gritted teeth. “I CALLED YOU ABOUT THIS TODAY. I WANTED THE SONG _________.”
She told me the title and I told her that I’d never gotten a call about it, but I’d play it if I had it on the CD I’d purchased. Of course, it was not on the disc. I returned to tell her that we’d have to go with one of the other four songs she’d requested. I would later find out that she had indeed made a call - to my boss’ answering machine in his office at 4pm that day. He was already on his way to another wedding and I had been scheduled to arrive at the country club at 4pm myself.
“THIS IS SUCH BULLSHIT,” she shouted in my face in the middle of the party. “WE SHOULDN’T EVEN FUCKING PAY YOU! WHAT ARE YOU EVEN GOOD FOR?!?!”
The groom looked at me with sad eyes. I suspected my tip was gone, but a couple of $20 bills were nothing when faced with a lifetime of this.
I apologized and said I’d be happy to play any song she wanted that I had available. She begrudgingly picked one of the Streisand songs after complaining for about 10 minutes and chugging two glasses of champagne. I got her and her father on the floor and they danced; the lights were low and the chandeliers were twinkling and the sun was just about done setting. It was a nice picture. After the dance the father came over to me, patted my shoulder and said, “sorry about that.”
The night went on and the bride continued to maintain as negative an attitude as possible. She loudly called the wedding “tacky” and “cheap,” she apologized to guests for letting her grandmother make the centerpieces and she made sure to shout that she wished she hadn’t gotten such a shitty DJ while on a full dance floor at least four or five times.
Then came the “Dollar Dance.” A dollar dance is a ritual done primarily in the Midwest, I’ve discovered, where guests at a wedding can pay a dollar or two to have the honor of dancing with the bride or groom. It’s usually how white trash puts a down payment on a trailer, but some couples do it out of family tradition. This couple was doing it out of tradition, and also because their well-to-do guests were certain to pony up another $1000 or so for their big day. The dancing started like any other – people lined up and forked over $10 and $20 bills to have a quick dance.
Then came one of the groomsmen. A large gentleman who had seemed nice enough, he’d clearly been hitting the open bar pretty hard. He handed over $50 and asked another groomsman to hold his glass, which contained a small amount of brown liquid at the bottom. He took his place with the bride and began the dance.
They stuck to the middle school slow-dance routine; his arms around her waist and hers around his shoulders, torsos about six inches apart and a simple round-and-round pattern. As they went around I could start to see the groomsman getting woozy. His face was getting white. Then they went around again and it was slightly green. Then they went around again and it was very green. Then they went around again. He couldn’t hold it anymore.
BLARRRGGGHHHHHHH. The groomsman lost control and puked over the bride’s shoulder and down her wedding dress.
She pushed him away and began making the pre-scream face that babies make before they let it go; silent but gasping and taking in air before it happens. The groomsman doubled over and put his hand over his mouth to hold in further vomit. The room went quiet and the bride finally screamed.
It was then that I realized that slow music was still playing, so I slammed on the Stop button, because “Lady In Red” seemed wholly inappropriate at that moment. The room went totally silent. The bride was shaking with anger and in disgust. The groom was standing near her with his hands out whispering to her to try and comfort her. The wedding party was standing nearby shocked. The groomsman who had vomited stood up and looked more embarrassed than any human being I had seen at that point in my life.
The bride looked around the room at all the faces staring at her. There was no saving the night. No amount of perfectly-arranged dishes or new chairs or professionally-done centerpieces could change what had happened. She was the bride, and she was covered in whiskey-scented vomit.
She pulled her dress up over her heels and ran out of the hall. The groom followed, quickly backed up by some of the bridesmaids. A couple of groomsman collected the guilty vomiter and escorted him out, most likely to drive him home and away from the situation to contemplate his possible alcohol problem.
In the wake of that, the hall was totally silent. People had no idea what to do, and it wasn’t long before all eyes found me. I was the DJ, and if the party was going to be saved they expected me to do it. I hadn’t been told the party was over and they were paying me to play music, so I hustled and found the first song that was a popular crowd-pleaser at the time, jammed it into the CD player and grabbed the mic.
“Hey, everybody,” I squeamishly said, “let’s keep this party going – with ‘Who Let The Dogs Out!’”
I hit Play, and a few people decided to make a go of it and got on the dancefloor, avoiding the vomit that the staff would clean up a few minutes later.
Somehow the party recovered – the father of the bride walked around and told people to enjoy themselves and they ate and drank and did a lot of dancing. I did not see the bride or groom again that night.
At the end of the night as I was packing up, the father walked over to me, put his hand on my shoulder and reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a check and a $50 bill.
“You did pretty good,” he told me. “Sorry about my daughter being a bitch tonight. We probably spoiled her,” he said as he looked around the room.
He looked back at me, put the check and cash in my hand and smiled as he said the next part.
“But if you ask me, she deserved what she got.”
TALES FROM THE DJ BOOTH
Note: I spent about ten years regularly working as a DJ for weddings, parties, bars and more. This happened between the ages of 16 until about age 27, when I quit doing it shortly before my own wedding and moving to California.
Road Trips and Dead Sorority Girls
When I got to college I realized that my best bet for easy gigs and not having to put up my own money for equipment and music was to find a DJ company to work for. There were a variety of companies located around my school and after a round of phone calls from companies in the phone book I went out to interview at a few. They all had names like “Jump Up DJ’s” and “Party Right Productions” or “Jammin’ DJ’s,” and all of them had the same basic setup – a podium containing a small mixer, two CD players and a cheap sign hanging in the front of the podium with the name in a pseudo-fun font, with two speakers on tripods for either side of the DJ area. At that point you’d also need a small table to put all your CD’s on, because digital MP3/hard drive/iPod technology still wasn’t around much.
I went to Jumpin’ Up Jammin’ DJ Production Good Times Service (not their real name) and interviewed with the young guy who owned it and ran the company. He was in his late-20’s and had been DJ’ing himself since before college and he just kept it going. His company seemed pretty professional, compared to some of the alcoholic burned-out former radio guys and weirdos I’d met in other interviews, and he even had a whole packet of information about how his DJ’s were to operate.
The item that made me nervous was that his whole “philosophy” that he pitched to potential customers was that HIS DJ’s would get the party STARTED. They’d do “whatever it took” to get people “out of their seats and having a good time!” I would quickly find out that this meant hauling grandmas from their table to do a hula-hoop contest, or start a singles limbo contest at a wedding. Basically on top of your DJ gear you had to carry a tub of kid’s toys to every wedding, and if the occasion was turning out to be a dud you had to start forcing people to have fun, because nothing is MORE fun than MANUFACTURED fun.
However, they also paid more than other companies and it was becoming apparent that either I was going to need to start waiting tables or working retail, or I could take a job making 90-year-olds limbo and hula hoop for 4 hours a weekend and earn twice the money. I agreed, we shook hands and he sent me out to “train” with one of his “best guys.”
The DJ I was sent to train with was in his early-30’s, managed to be overly enthusiastic about everything and picked me up to go work a wedding. I was wearing a suit and tie with nice shoes. He was wearing a cheap tuxedo with bright red sneakers. I would encounter this many times while DJ’ing. He told me that wearing bright sneakers showed the “audience” that he was fun and easygoing. He didn’t tell me what the cheap tuxedo meant. It should also be noted that a few weeks later this same guy tried to get me involved in a pyramid scheme.
We got to the hall and set up and shortly after we were ready to go the guests arrived. There were lots of old people. My “trainer” decided that playing loud, upbeat modern pop music was the way to acclimate themselves for the amazing party they were about to have. I realized quickly that sometimes parties are just duds; you can’t take a group filled with seniors, passive-aggressive family members and large numbers of random associates and casual acquantainces from the bride and groom and mash them together and somehow get a good time – unless they all drink heavily. But in most cases like that there was simply just no way it was going to be wild and crazy, but in almost every one of those cases either the bride or groom would let you know that they wanted a fun, crazy party for their celebration. I never had the heart to tell them they should get more fun friends. The weddings that were the most fun had never been prefaced for a request to be fun; it was just a fun couple who invited their fun friends.
After watching Mr. Red Shoes haul an 80-something-year-old lady from her chair and act out a skit to “Elvira,” I knew I didn’t have it in me. I knew I could do as good a job as possible playing music to suit the group and help them enjoy the evening if they were into it – but there was no way I could make myself pull out hula hoops and limbo sticks and teach people to moonwalk. It would just be sad for all involved.
So I called up the owner and told him that I didn’t think I was “Jump-Up-N-Party” DJ material. He said he understood, but he also said that he didn’t have his DJ’s do that stuff when they worked bars and frat parties, so would I be up for that? At the time I was single and bars and frat parties were pretty great for DJ’s; inevitably some sorority girl would start flirting with you so you’d play her favorite shitty song, and occasionally it led to other things. I said yes and he told me he’d be in touch with some work.
A couple of weeks later he called me with a frat party located at the “other” school, about an hour away from my school. He provided the van and gas and told me that he’d sent guys to this frat before and they were pretty wild. He gave me the number of the “president” and I called him up. He was affable and as bro-dude-riffic as one would expect, and he told me if I wanted to party with them they’d find me a bed or a couch “and you’ll probably get some, our sister sorority is a bunch of sluts, dude.” I thanked him and told him that my boss didn’t let us drink on the job. “That sucks,” he said. “But those bitches are still totally ho’s, man.”
I got there on the Saturday of the party in the late afternoon. I parked in their driveway and began hauling my gear into their large living area. The president came to greet me in cargo shorts, flip-flops and no shirt. It was 6pm, he was already visibly drunk. He told me that this was their first big “Rush” party, where possible new members prove they’re worthy of paying the frat to be friends with everybody by drinking heavily. He told me that it was also rush season for the sorority that was coming over, so there’d be “lots of tight freshman ass.” Clearly a classy gentleman, he left me to finish as he went to drown in cologne before the party and consider wearing a shirt.
The party started as most do – people showing up, saying their hello’s and getting their first drinks. At that point I always played upbeat music but not the stuff that you’d consider the “big” dance-type stuff. It was music to bop your head to, sing along to once you were buzzed and then start getting you in the mood to dance. After about an hour the party picked up, because everybody was drinking very heavily. All the girls were dancing and as always, the guys followed suit after they had gotten enough beer in them. Some girl offered me a blowjob to play a Britney Spears song a 2nd time. Then one of the guys rushing the fraternity vomited all over the dance floor.
As that was getting cleaned up I became aware that there were police in the house. Because a fraternity is where the hardest of criminals hang out, soon there were about a dozen in the room. One approached me and asked for a business card. I told him I wasn’t the owner and had just been hired, but I did have cards with the owner’s name and phone number on it and handed it over. The cop then told me, “all right – pack up your shit and leave.” They were breaking up the party because of multiple noise complaints and that there were clearly underage kids drinking. I’d only been working for a couple of hours but the thought of being done and heading home for the same pay was fine with me. I packed up the gear and went to haul out the first items to the van and discovered that a bunch of cop cars were stacked up behind me, blocking my exit. I finished packing everything up and they were still “investigating” the party, so my only options were to ask the cops to move their cars or to drive the van into the yard and over the curb to leave.
Being a 19-year-old naïve sack of crap, I went back in and approached the officer who’d been so polite before and told him that their cars were preventing me from leaving.
“And that’s our fucking problem because?”
I was momentarily taken aback, because I’d never really had a cop go full-douche on me before. I considered my situation for a second and said, “all right, should I stick around, then?”
“You need to get the hell out of here,” he answered.
“Should I just drive out of the yard, then?”
“Not my job to tell you what to do,” he responded. I thought for a second that telling me what to do was exactly what he had been doing, but whatever. I went out to the van, examined my path, got in and started it up. I let it warm up for a second and then drove into the yard, over the grass and then off the curb and onto the street. One cop who was standing outside ran over waving his arms. I stopped and rolled down the window. “You can’t do that!” he shouted at me. “One of your colleagues told me to leave, and all your cars were blocking the other way. I’m the DJ and I have to drive back to East Lansing.”
He shrugged his shoulders. It must have been clear that I wasn’t drinking and he just stepped back and waved me on.
I drove home, dropped off the van and retired to my palatial dorm room, where I most likely assembled my friends to consume Icehouse beers almost to the point of blindness. My check for the show arrived a few days later, and then a couple of weeks went by and my boss never called me about another show. I called him and left a message, and another couple of weeks went by without another show. By then I was scraping the bottom of my meager bank account, so I called again and left another message.
A few days later I got a letter from him. Inside was a check for $100, with a newspaper clipping and a letter. The newspaper clipping was about a 19-year-old sorority girl at that other school who had been at the party I’d DJ’d. She’d gotten very drunk and after going home to her dorm, had opened a window to get some fresh air and fallen out and died. On top of that, multiple frat members had been taken to the hospital with possible alcohol poisoning.
In the letter my boss told me that he’d been called by the cops about that night, and that the girl’s parents were considering a lawsuit to everybody involved – the frat, the school, the city, the police and even the DJ company, because apparently I had gotten them too excited and “created an environment where excessive partying and drinking was acceptable.” He told me that he had to fire me as a safety measure to cover his bases, so he could tell the cops that he’d not only reprimanded me but that I’d lost my job over it. He thanked me for my brief service and asked me not to call again, and that the $100 was severance pay.
Needless to say, I quickly turned that $100 into a case of Icehouse beer and a pack of cigarettes. After about a week I started calling other DJ companies, starting with one that I knew handled mostly frats and bars. I told him that I’d been fired from my last job for creating an environment where excessive partying and drinking were acceptable. He had me DJ a frat party that weekend.
Last night I did a set at the Layover in Oakland, and boy, did I suck. I’d had a shitty day and for some reason felt lousy, but I went up anyway and didn’t put my usual effort into it and I ate shit. I then quickly left, caught the next train into San Francisco, walked home as fast I could, where I then proceeded to vomit several times, drink a couple of cold glasses of water and then passed out. I woke up today feeling a lot better. I’ll get you next time, Layover!
In the meantime, both my latest entry at the world-famous “6th Best Burger Blog On The Web” went up a few days ago to the usual acclaim, and for whatever reason the latest episode of Chucklepedia has been getting downloaded at a pretty steady clip. If you’re looking for some entertainment, I’ve got you covered! Unless you were at the Layover last night, in which case I’m very sorry.
The San Francisco Burger Blog
The time for a new podcast has arrived - featuring a discussion of the most perilous war of the 20th Century - The Emu War! The podcast is also available on iTunes if you are so inclined. Enjoy!
This Thursday night I join a slew of funny folks at Cafe Royale. It’s FREE to get in and this venue is one of the most underrated and fun spots to see/perform comedy in. Plus they have booze and food! Be there and I’ll tell you which of the local taquerias rules supreme (I live a block away).
I’m quoted in this rundown of comedy open mics. As always, I sound either witty and smart or like a pretentious asshole, depending on your opinion of me.
Throw Me The Rock
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but once upon a time in high school I was very much into basketball. I loved playing it and watching it and was on the school team starting from the first year I could try out.
But as you would know by looking at me, I’ve never been the most physically fit or fastest physical specimen. I had the advantage of bursting up to 6’2” pretty early and could be placed in the Center position to get beaten up by other Centers, maybe score a rebound or two and on rare occasions, toss in an easy basket. I was not a prolific scorer and was pretty much relegated to 2nd or 3rd string.
But when you’re a high school basketball player who plays center everybody wants to see you do one thing: dunk the ball. And as a 15-year-old 6’2” hormone who had no way of impressing girls otherwise, my goal became to dunk the ball.
I began running a lot, did a lot of jumping exercises, did the same types of workouts that other guys who were dunking already were doing and was constantly just running at the hoop and leaping, in the hopes that suddenly my Dunking Powers would kick in.
My freshman year of high school I never got close. I continued playing and trying throughout the summer, and towards the beginning of fall I started to get to the point where I could grab the rim…and then I could do it easily. So I started trying to bring the ball with me and get that extra few inches so I could throw it into the hoop and attain the glory I so desired.
At a weekly open gym one night that fall a group of local basketball players shot off to create teams. I got set up on a team against a local player who could already dunk, was fast as hell and generally a far superior player who was a year older than me. We were both typically in the Center position. He proceeded to run all over me, scoring baskets and pushing me around.
Finally on one play, I could see a rebound going to a teammate under our opponent’s basket. My guy went for the rebound and I took off down the court as fast as my fat legs could carry me. My teammate got the rebound and saw me going for it and tossed me the ball. I was about 30 feet ahead of my closest opponent as I hit half-court.
My heart raced and images of “Rudy” and “Rocky” and every other sports story I’d ever heard raced through my head; this was the moment where I could show everybody what I could do, that I was an actual player to be respected and feared. The adrenaline was going. I was going to dunk the ball.
As I got to the typical distance away where I’d leapt before I felt confident. My steps were solid, and I took off towards the sky and the basket.
As I took off, in my head I had to choose between a two-handed, straight-in respectful dunk, or a crazy Tomahawk Jam like they do on posters.
My right hand went back with the ball. It was gonna be a Tomahawk.
My arm swung at the basket with the ball. Everything felt right. This was it. I was gonna be the king.
The ball hit the rim, and with a loud CLANG went bouncing back into the sky and all the way out of bounds.
My right hand grabbed the rim and my body then swung from the momentum until I was perpendicular to the ground, when I let go for some reason.
I fell to the ground and hit with a Thud! I immediately knew what had happened and could hear some of the other people on the court trying to stifle their laughter.
Sheepishly taking my feet, I looked around and saw their faces. My humiliation evident, I feigned injury. “I…uhhh…I gotta go.”
I left the gym and didn’t come back for about a month. I did go out for the team that year and barely made it. I played in about 5 of the 20 games and then quit playing basketball altogether. And I also never, ever tried to dunk again. I stuck to lay-ups.
I also sucked at those.