4 Haziran 2008 Çarşamba

DJs’ ride up peaks in Vegas

Partyers packed Jet and The Bank, intoxicated not only by high-priced drinks and the frenzied nightclub atmosphere but also by loud, pounding music created by DJ Tiesto.

Tiesto, an international superstar from the Netherlands, flew into Las Vegas to perform for the Memorial Day weekend.

He’s one of the new breed of entertainers who have become a dominant force in Las Vegas in the past decade. They may not get the headlines of Cirque du Soliel, Cher or Barry Manilow, but week in and week out, DJs pack dozens of nightclubs with thousands of young revelers who add millions of dollars to the local economy.

Tiesto, named the world’s No. 1 DJ three years in a row by DJ Magazine, was brought in by Light Management Group, which runs six Vegas clubs.

Industry leaders such as Light and Pure Management tap into young people’s interest in dance music that rocks their souls and makes their party memorable.

“The DJ creates the energy and the vibe of the crowd,” says Light spokesman Alex Acuna. “These DJs create an energy the crowds remember.”

As a result many DJs, especially headliners such as Tiesto, gain fame and fortune their predecessors never dreamed possible.

DJ-ing has come a long way since the ’50s, when high schools hired popular radio announcers to come to the gymnasium on a Friday night and spin vinyl records by Little Anthony, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino while teens danced the bop, the stroll and the swing (East Coast and West Coast).

DJs graduated from sock hops to discotheques in the ’70s and kicked it up a notch. Bigger, louder speakers made the lighted floors tremble and energized the young crowds that spent the night dancing beneath the glimmering silver ball. Rock gave way to the disco beat of the Bee Gees, Donna Summer and Barry White.

And DJs became celebrities — although their fame rarely extended beyond the limits of the city where they played.

But today’s top club DJs sign million-dollar contracts, endorse products, produce records and travel around the world to get the party started from Dubai to Dallas.

“Touring club DJs, that’s probably been happening since 2000,” says David Berrie, who spins under the professional name DJ Berrie.

Talking by telephone from Mexico, he sounds a little tired, maybe because he has just flown from a gig in London to perform at a hot spot in Acapulco.

“I’ve been in six different countries in two weeks,” Berrie says. “It’s amazing, experiencing all these cultures.”

From Acapulco, he’s coming to Vegas, where he’s one of the regular DJs at the Tao nightclub in the Venetian. If you don’t find him at Tao, he may be at the Marquee in New York City or playing a party in Chicago or Washington, D.C.

Corporate affairs. Private parties. Nightclubs. DJs today jet around the world and stay at the finest hotels in the most luxurious resorts.

“Basically, the DJ game is totally different now,” says Berrie, 22. “We’re traveling all over.”

He studied piano, violin and drums but was fascinated by DJs. When he was a teen he spent hours practicing his disc-spinning techniques in his basement. At 16 he began doing parties for friends and dances at high schools, working for free until he became a hot item in the New York area.

He enrolled as a business major at Boston University but was working in three nightclubs. He dropped out of school to see how far he could go as a DJ.

Today, work looks for him. He has a management team to handle all the calls.

“If you have the reputation, the venues are calling you,” Berrie says. “A DJ might make $600 a night in New York. But I know DJs who get booked for $20,000 for a job that lasts three hours. And the international scene is even more ridiculous. To play in a huge stadium you might get 60 grand. Million-dollar contracts are being handed out routinely.”

The big bucks are worth it to the venues.

“It’s an investment for the club,” he says. “A well-known DJ can play a club in St. Louis and on opening night bring in so many people because of the name on the flier, it legitimizes the club.”

Not everyone can make the big bucks, or even the little ones.

“So many things go into making a good DJ,” Berrie says. “Music selection. Technical skills. Looks. All those things and more factor into why any particular DJ is popular. And everyone has their own preference in DJs.”

Mostly, it boils down to style.

“Every DJ has their own niche,” Berrie says. “There are millions of DJs out there. All have different ways of spinning. It’s tough, standing there and making the party jump. My style is fast-paced, hip-hop infused with house music.”

Berrie says he reads the crowd and adapts his style.

“Your ability to read the crowd is what it comes down to,” he says.

Charlie Anzalone was reading crowds before Berrie was born.

In the early ’70s, he was “Captain Disco,” a club DJ in his native Buffalo, N.Y.

“Wednesday night was oldies, the hottest night in town,” Anzalone says. “Everybody went there. Beer for a buck, DJs playing ’50s and ’60s music. It had one turntable, no mixer, just put a record on the turntable.”

In the days before “Saturday Night Fever,” club DJs were experimenting and laying the foundation for what followed.

“Everyone had to find their own niche, learn how to motivate the crowd,” Anzalone says, echoing what Berrie says of today’s DJs. “That was when DJs learned how to blend the music so people wouldn’t stop dancing between songs.

“That was when DJs started coming into prominence, taking people to places they hadn’t been yet. That’s when they started making money for the clubs.”

Those clubs weren’t charging a cover but were making money selling booze. The DJs’ goal was to get the crowd dancing and working up a thirst.

DJs played just in the city where they lived, but they became local celebrities.

“We walked into a club and everybody knew who we were,” Anzalone says. “We created a vibe for the nightclubs, just like DJs today. The only difference is now some of the DJs are making astronomical money — and the nightclubs that retain these DJs are taking in astronomical dollars.

“Back in the ’70s you could make $50, $60 a night, but a new car was only $3,500, so we were doing all right. We could make $300, $400 a week cash, plus drinks, and you got to meet a lot of chicks. What else would a 25-year-old guy want to do for a living?”

If he were just starting out DJ-ing now, he says, he would be driving a Bentley instead of a Hyundai.

Anzalone, 55, lives in Las Vegas and works as a ground-service agent at McCarran International Airport. He still takes an occasional DJ gig in New York, hangs out at Vegas nightclubs and knows many of the local DJs. He used to join Eddie McDonald, the resident DJ for Light at the Bellagio and Jet at the Mirage, on Monday nights at the Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay.

“They get a kick out of me,” Anzalone says. “I’m like the Godfather.”

Today’s top DJs spin in a different world. They have managers and booking agents. They remix songs and produce their own tracks and hit dance CDs. They are tech-savvy.

“They have a computer program now that they load into their laptop computer and it is interfaced with the mixing board,” Anzalone says. “They carry all of their records on the program in the laptop. It’s a lot easier to bring a laptop than hundreds of records.

“But if they had to do it live, without the computer, it wouldn’t sound so incredible.”

When he has a gig, he prefers vinyl on a turntable.

When Anzalone moved to Vegas in 1996, there wasn’t much of a club scene. Drink, a club at Harmon and Koval avenues, was the hot spot. It was the only place in town that catered to the younger crowds.

“The hotels’ marketing people and entertainment people were like 50, 60 years old. They didn’t understand the young people,” Anzalone says. But they understood that young adults were leaving the casinos for the club. So they hired young people to start nightclubs in the casinos.

The nightclub scene exploded and DJs provided the dynamite.

“Las Vegas became a destination for the young and hip, 21 to 35, with disposable income,” Anzalone says. “And DJs have become the stars of the Strip.”