#TBT, the 80s: 3 Turntables and a Microphone 🎤
My first long term DJ residency at Heartbreak NYC. The beginning of my accidental career as a DJ. Put the kettle on ☕️ … I’ve got a little story.
I was really young when I had my first record deal in Europe, but It fell apart and died as soon as it began, due to personal/executive changes at the wrong time at the record label. Life. But at least the record labels in Europe didn't have a problem with a woman slinging a Fender Stratocaster guitar, fronting an all guy band, & singing Rock. However, I was told it was a big problem here in the states, the labels didn’t want to know. I was fed up with hearing the same story over and over, It was a boys club, and they never were going to let me in. I was thinking perhaps I'd move to London, start fresh, see what happens. At least the vibe over there was more open minded toward women. I was waitressing at the time, trying to keep a band together, and not loose my vision as an artist. It was the toughest time in my life.
Anyway, I would fly as a courier, a cool little setup back then where you only bring your carry on luggage and transport the check in bags for various companies, hoping that what you were transporting wouldn't land you in jail. Joke. But seriously, it was through a legit situation and my friend Ronnie hooked me up. I flew for free. London for free! Done deal. Ronnie told me that there was another guy who was in the music business who also flew back and forth a few times a month doing the courier thing, and perhaps we should talk. Never know. She had no idea what he did, but she gave me his number in London.
I got to London, and through various hook-ups, met with many top executives in London. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough recorded material with me to win people over, and as my band was in NY, no way to show them what I could do on-stage live. So, I didn't wind up landing a new record deal. But oddly, every meeting I went on, I got tons of very positive encouraging advice, as well as an abundance of new vinyl, and a few test pressings of records that would soon become massive hits. I didn’t know it at the time, but those little presents would serve me well in just a few months down the road. But in the moment, all I knew was rejection. My mission wasn’t turning out as planned, and I tried not to get discouraged.
The last number I dialed (yes dialed.... there were still rotary phones back then) was this courier guy (who's name I forget). He was working with a band in London, who not long after talking to him, blew up with a huge hit record. ‘Come On Eileen’. Anyway, he tells me straight off “I need to have someone DJ two weeks a month at this private club called Joanna's in NY, and cover my shift when I'm in London”. Joanna's was an upscale private club in the Flatiron district, off 5th Avenue, and you needed a membership to go there. The membership wasn't cheap either. The kind of place where you made a hundred dollar tip to play a song. I thought to myself, well, he wants to pay me to play records….hell yeah! I had no idea about DJ life, I spent all my days hanging in clubs with live music, never gave much thought to DJs or what they did. I went back to NYC with my box of records, showed up at Joanna’s with no idea what to do…and winged it. I also had all these ‘fresh cuts’ thanks to all the record companies, so I appeared cooler than I was… I had the goods. I made more tips than salary in the few months I worked there. But the music vibe there was very Euro, and at that time, all I wanted to do was play 60’s Rock, Funk, & Soul. James Brown in particular, he was my higher power when it came to dancing, but James Brown didn’t fly at Joanna’s, so I knew my lifespan there would be short. I had a plan.
My neighbor down the road was a beautiful woman named Sharon Lee, and she looked like Marilyn Monroe. Sharon was the head DJ at this club called Heartbreak. The music there was awesome. From 50s rockabilly to Motown/Soul and 80s new cuts and the beginnings of cross-over Hip Hop. Heartbreak was a 50s diner that truckers ate at before starting their shifts at 6am. But at night it was transformed into this magical spot, in particular on Sundays and Mondays. After my shifts at Joanna’s, and pretty much every night, I went to Heartbreak and trained with Sharon, and learned the tricks of the trade. She taught me how to manipulate a room playing anything from the Blue Danube Waltz to the Stray Cats. I already was a bit of a musicologist, but through her… I learned how to make my knowledge work for me. Sharon was a genius, and taught me to be fearless, and how to mess with a packed dance floor to get the reactions I wanted. She had more tricks up her sleeve than any magician. I learned from her, and pulled out all the stops every night. Tom Finn was the other DJ there, who was a teen rockstar prior to his DJ life, playing bass for hit band The Left Banke (‘Walk Away Renee’). Tom skooled me on all the 50s music that I wasn’t familiar with. The deep cuts. As it turned out, I had a knack for shaking things up real good.
Within a year, I took over the legendary Monday Nights at Heartbreak, promoted by Frankie Scinlaro as well as a few other nights during the week. Every night was packed wall to wall, thousands of people walked through that door in search of a fun night. The place was so packed that most people never saw the DJ booth, and many assumed I was a guy. Once I was on a plane flying home from LA and overhead two women talking about how fantastic a DJ I was, however they had no idea what I looked like. I remained a fly in the way listening and it was hilarious. But it was all about the music, not me. I didn't promote myself as DJs do these days, I had no interest in doing so. I went to work ... and I rocked the house. That's all I cared about. When I came home, I worked on writing my own music for my own projects. I really kept it separate. Just from that job alone, I can turn on the TV at any time now, click through the channels and in no time see someone who hung at Heartbreak that I knew. Pretty crazy. From that job alone, I'm still a working DJ, it's still my 9-5 job, 9pm-5am that is! People go on and on about Studio 54, but let me tell you, that little diner downtown had quite the life. One of the main reasons celebrities, politicians and athletes loved hanging there, was that no cameras were allowed. People could just let it all hang out sans fear of seeing it on Page 6 the next day. A freedom that doesn’t exist anymore. All the gossip rags would try to bribe all of us for info and no one ever gave in. Some things in life were more important than money back then, and privacy was cherished.
On any given Monday night, my DJ booth would be filled with interesting characters. There was no VIP room, there was a kitchen in the back, or the DJ booth. That was as VIP as it got. Cher, Bruce Willis, Micky Rourke, Rob Lowe & all the Brat Pack, were regulars. The NY Giants came every week after practice to get their funk on, and I was friends with many of the Mets and the Rangers as well. If a major band was in town, they hung there. The guys from KISS, and a lot of artists who lived in NY made Heartbreak their home back then. I remember nights with Roger Taylor from Queen telling me wonderful stories, while I kept the dance floor going. Steve Jordan once brought my hero Keith Richards in and Keith asked to meet ME after hearing me spin, and then he spent a few hours spinning with me. That meeting led to his wife Patti Hansen hiring me to DJ his surprise birthday party years later. Sick! I remember hanging with Patrick Swayze, who confided in me about a dancing movie he was about to make, and how he was excited about a song he wrote that might wind up in that movie. Dirty Dancing! Oh the stories… I could go on and on (and still never betray anyone’s secrets). It was surreal what my life was like during my residency at Heartbreak. It was the most fun job, and opportunities and gigs till present themselves to me because of my time well spent there. My first private corporate gig was for Nike at the closing party at the Olympics in LA., and they scouted me at Heartbreak. It was that gig that later gave me the idea (and confidence), of starting my own private event business. I never did make it to MTV at it’s peak as a rockstar, but I did as a DJ at Heartbreak, and I was more than fine with that. But, even though I could go on and on about the celebrities & fun stories that were born at this special club, the coolest part about my residency at Heartbreak was that I developed friendships that are still going strong. People that I love and will forever love. It’s a beautiful thing. It also was the beginning of my career as a DJ, a career that I never planned on having. A career that has kept a roof over my head, and food on the table for decades. A wonderful accidental career.
Life can be funny sometimes, you make one phone call and everything changes. If the opportunity ever arises, just say yes to something off the wall, and watch magic happen. The end.
"The DJ plays my song and I feel alright" ... and that's what kinda happened last October on this night when I was guest DJ-ing at Rumpus Room NYC on the L.E.S.
While most of my time is spent DJ-ing private events, I do make it a point to DJ guest spots at different clubs from time to time. Weddings and private events fly by quickly, and the amount of time spent dancing usually amounts to only a few hours. So it's always fun to DJ a full evening to stay on top of things. This past Saturday evening I had a blast DJ-ing on the Lower East Side at a club I really adore, that I've played at in the past with my band. So it was great getting to wear a different hat in a really cool spot, and shake things up from the DJ booth instead of the stage this time. Berlin is on Avenue A and 2nd street, and it's really a funky cool joint with a great crowd. Packed till last call, and in short, a fun hang. I had a blast spinning there last weekend, and somewhere round 3:30am an impromptu limbo contest started, and let me tell you ... they got low! If you're in the city and looking for a fun hang... Berlin is a great 'go to'.
Back in the 90s, I DJ-ed Psychedelic Thursdays in the Marlin Room at Webster Hall for many years. Week after week, thousands of people came to dance away all their problems of the world, and have a fantastic time. The room would get so hot and steamy, my vinyl would actually sweat to the point of getting warped! Hard to put into words the vibe we experienced every week, you just had to be there. Magical.
For years, regulars came back week after week, and I knew all their favorite songs. I learned how to turn hundreds of people dancing in a room into an intimate party, where everyone made friends with each other. It was a beautiful thing. At 4am, the dance floor would still be packed wall to wall, and I'd have to get on the mic and tell people that it was time to go home. But no matter what I said, they continued to dance till the lights came on. The staff at Webster Hall was one huge family, and they kept the energy over the top every night. I'm happy to say, many of us still keep in touch. It was a sad day for me, and all of NYC when the club closed, but I will always have my memories. Gerard brought me into Webster Hall to DJ back in the day, and he is the one who closed the door for the final time. The End. This five minute documentary is his story. Have a look. It's great!
Thrilled to share some really cool news today. As some of you know, I've been working on a few side projects when not DJ-ing, and I'll be sharing them as they come into fruition. Bruce Sudano is a fabulous singer-songwriter and has penned many a hit song in the past for Michael Jackson, his wife Donna Summer, Brooklyn Dreams, etc. He is also executive producer on the Broadway Play 'Summer'. He wrote a gorgeous song called 'Forbidden Fruit' and asked me to sing on it a few months back, and it came out beautiful. Last month we made the video. Here's the article and video debut today in Billboard.
In a time in history when everyone is 'like' crazy on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., it's important to think about this. If you truly love something you see or hear ... share it with others. Let the world know it! Most musicians make very little returns on their investments when they make an independent album, and usually they loose a lot of money in the end. Painters paint, photographers take photos sans the thought of becoming rich. But the most fulfilling thing an artist of any medium can experience is the joy of their work being loved, and fans taking the time to turn their friends on to the work. Show some love to those who make art and music you like, and tell your friends about it. Pay it forward.
As some of you know, when I'm not spinning other musician's jams, I'm writing my own music, making records, and performing live. Four years ago, I released my last album 'Right On, Alright', and it made a nice amount of noise thanks to the help of Steven Van Zandt, who placed my song 'Gotta Tell You' in his fantastic TV series Lilyhammer. Shortly after, the song was picked as 'Coolest Song In The World' on Little Stevie's Underground Garage on Sirius XM Radio. It's pretty cool when your work is finally heard worldwide, and fan letters come in from as far away as Brazil, Peru, and the UK! Even cooler when I found out local bands were covering my songs! So here we are a few years later, and I'm still loving friends and fans posting photos of my tunes popping up on their radios. I woke to this posting this morning on Facebook from a friend's car. Gotta tell you ... it still makes me smile (and I couldn't help but think of the title of Ian Dury's song 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' for this blog) . If you've not heard my song 'Gotta Tell You' yet, below is the lyric video with the track. Have a listen🎶
A lot of couples fear the first dance at a wedding. Not because they want to avoid a romantic moment, but because of being in focus in front of a room full of guests for 3-5 minutes. Some love being center-stage and in the spotlight, others shy away from it. There are a few tricks to make this part of the evening easy on the nerves.
For all you shy lovers out there, I would suggest picking a song that you both physically feel comfy with. It doesn’t have to be a ballad, it could be upbeat and fun. But it should be a groove you both feel good about moving to, and one that doesn’t make you feel self conscious. If you don’t want to be in focus for the whole song, work out a cue with your DJ (or band) ahead of time to invite guests to join you after a minute and a half or so into the song (make sure your photographer has had a chance to catch some good shots), and suddenly, it’s all easy peasy.
For those of you who want to work that spotlight moment of the evening, the ideas are endless. Many years ago, I DJ-ed a wedding at the gorgeous, 1940s vibed Laura Belle’s in NYC (now gone), where most of the guests were actors, dancers, and performers. Many of the guests were Broadway artists as well. The bride and groom both changed clothes after cocktails into two vintage tuxedos w/ walking sticks, and slid down the banisters on each side of the room that led to the dance floor and did a whole performance of Tea for Two. It was awesome!!! There are no ‘rules’ as to what you should or shouldn’t do for a first dance. Think outside the box, be creative, and most important…. have fun!
This is one of my favorite entrances, and first dance moments, at this Indian meets Caribbean vibed wedding, with the music ranging from contemporary pop to Indian Music, reggae, swing, and everything in between! Carlton and Soham were fantastic dancers, (as were most of their guests), and they worked their first dance like rockstars! Check this out!
#TBT. A couple of years ago I flew down to Charlotte NC to DJ a good friend of mine's birthday Party. Keri Clavin is a fantastic event planner that I used to work with in NY, with both her own company, and when she and I were with FETE. Needless to say, her party was one of those that they're still talking about down south. Seriously. Chiara was one of the awesome guests at the party, and she said to me the next morning at brunch...YOU ARE SPINNING MY BIRTHDAY IN MIAMI! Capital letters are the only way I can get you to feel her determination to have me DJ her birthday!!! I said, "I'm there!". She decided to recreate the decadent vibe of the movie Scarface, and have a 70s-80s musical soundtrack to compliment the decor, food theme, & 'moments' planned through out the evening.
The party was held at Temple House in Miami ( www.thetemplehouse.com/), and I have to say it is one of the coolest venues I've ever worked. Besides being beautiful, 'as is', they have this incredible 360 surround video mapping/lighting setup that allows guests to feel totally immersed in whatever they are streaming. You could be swimming underwater or flying through space. It's pretty incredible. The evening started with cocktails, complete with gorgeous male and female models swimming in a pool, passed Hors d'Oeuvres, Chiara's signature cocktail, and me spinning a mix of world music from the 70s leaning heavy on Cuban, French & contemporary upbeat lounge. When cocktails were over we did a dramatic countdown as guests came down the stairs, using a mix of Janet Jackson's 'Rhythm Nation'. Once the door was opened to reveal the main room where the dinner buffet and dancing would be held, the whole room was video streamed in roses. I mean it was gorgeous, and there were a lot of gasps and sighs all round the room. I played Grace Jones 'La Vie En Rose' as they entered, and if ever there was a perfect song....that was it. Thankfully I had the 12" version and it ran a nice 8 minutes till everyone was in the room. There was a fantastic Cuban performance just after dinner, that led into an hour of fun Disco music from the 70s. The last hour of the evening, I brought the tunes up to present contemporary hits, and rocked out till closing. It was a perfect journey of musical vibes from beginning to end, and from all the feedback at the pool party the next day... the evening was a total home run! Here's a few photos of the 'rose room' during dinner, me with the staff from Temple house, Keri and friends, and my super-sized bell bottoms, and a little video snippet of the 'Disco Inferno' dancing part of the evening, complete with a Studio 54 vibed streaming light show.
A few years back I found a box of cassettes that were recorded live at various clubs I've DJ-ed over the years (recorded on an old Sony Walkman no less!!! Talk about old skool!!!). I've digitized and uploaded a few mixes to my Soundcloud page, and they are a nice memory of a point in time...a really fun time. If you plan on partying today for the 4th, here's a little mix of British Rock to groove to from that magic box. All tracks are late 80s-early 90s. Happy Independence Day everyone!
Here's a little throwback photo of the fireworks at Coney Island on the 4th of July several years ago
Greetings everyone, and Happy Summer! The sunsets in my neighborhood have been pretty spectacular the past few weeks (as you can see in this photo from my phone). This year, in between DJ-ing events, weddings, and recording my new album ... I promised myself I will spend every minute possible at the beach. There's nothing like hanging out by the ocean, and watching the waves roll in. It's a beautiful thing. I hope you all get a chance to do the same.
So anyway, this is the first post in my new DJ blog. I had a blog for several years, but one day last year, thanks to a server not serving things up as they should ... poof, and years of writings were gone gone gone! C'est la vie. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, and move on. So, now the server is gone gone gone 😉 and I have a new home to hang out! In the months to come, I will be re-sharing a few old stories, and of course keeping you in the loop on all the cool things that are going on as they happen. Seeyou soon (maybe at the beach!!!), and Ciao for now.
Welcome to my virtual loft party, make yourself at home. I'll put on the kettle, pour a few, and order a pizza. I've many tales to tell, some fun stories, and lots of helpful hints to share to help ignite your imagination when planning a party, grand event or wedding. Stay tuned!