CDs: check. JBL speakers: check. Microphone: check check. Chickenhead costume: check. Oversized sombrero for conga line: check.
These are the tools of the trade of DJ Jeff, a “#1 Awesome DJ” who tries his damnedest to be the life of your party, even if it kills him. Which, he claims, it almost did when a rival threatened to do just that in order to thin the competition. No, this ain’t no East Coast/West Coast thing. It’s the highly competitive world of the wedding and special-event DJ, a world this Antioch disc jockey aims to conquer, and by and large has.
“You must always show up at least fifteen minutes early to each event,” says Jeff, sitting in the somewhat cramped studio behind his house, where Planet Clair was greeted with a warm smile and some jasmine tea.
This is where he treats perspective clients to a video presentation of his work. It’s very well-produced, with space-age computerized effects and a pumping soundtrack. A wedding scene is highlighted, in which the crowd is having the time of its life. One elderly guy, who may be too old to swim at the YMCA, proves he can damn sure do the dance. A tipsy bridesmaid leads a snake of dancers to the strains of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.” And isn’t that the #1 Awesome DJ himself leading the entire party in the Electric Slide?
Jeff Oliver knows parties. A born entertainer, he looks bit like a buttoned-down Rip Taylor, and shares the comedian’s exuberant flamboyance. But DJ Jeff ain’t no confetti- tossing Hollywood Squares lackey. This is the real thing: giant foam “We’re Number One!” hands, a sparkly Mylar clown wig, a gigantic Mad Hatter polka-dot top hat, and a caseload of parlor games and icebreakers. If he can’t get Aunt Mabel dancing, well, maybe it’s time to check her pulse.
If there’s one piece of wisdom Jeff would like to impart before leaving this mortal coil himself, it’s that entertainment is THE MOST important aspect of your special event. “In twenty years, are you gonna remember what you ate at that wedding?” he asks. “Are you gonna even remember where it was? Probably not. You are going to remember that great time you had dancing.”
DJ Jeff’s events are wholly interactive. He doesn’t just sit behind his kit and blend one song into the other. He actually gets out there and leads the bunny hop, or he’ll teach a plucky group of senior citizens the Cabbage Patch. His crowning glory is that old wedding standard, the Chicken Dance, during which he dons his chickenhead and flaps away.
It’s real family entertainment, too: None of that Lambada stuff. Jeff recalls one high school dance he DJ’d at where he was appalled at the permissiveness of the chaperones. Hands were wandering everywhere on the dance floor. One student asked him to play a record he’d brought, and Jeff was happy to oblige, until he got a load of the disgusting lyrics. He shut his equipment down then and there and left.
The DJ’s fans like to tell the story about the time he arrived at the hall before everyone else and noticed it was on fire. Without a moment’s hesitation, Jeff took it upon himself to book the hall down the street, then passed the word along to the wedding party before they arrived. The wedding party went off without a hitch (or actually with a hitch, if you want to get literal).
Once assembled for the party, Jeff knows how to time everything: the first dance, the toast, the garter toss. Did your caterer flake out on you? Don’t worry: The DJ has a list of people to call in a pinch. Because of his reputation for professionalism and dependability, most of his business comes through word of mouth. But up until recently, business was slow. “It’s been a bad time for the entertainment industry,” he says, glancing up at his wig collection. “When the economy’s down, that’s the first thing people cut back on.” Why anyone would cut back on the most important aspect of a party is beyond him.
Still, the business has largely been good to him. Jeff has been a self-employed, full-time DJ since the late ’80s. He treats it like a science; he knows every time signature and numbers of beats per minute, and can bring the party up and then slowly bring it back down so people aren’t left mid-Bus Stop. He’s done all-polka parties and firemen’s balls, and he sure as hell can do your wedding proud. Oh, what the wow, he’s just the greatest DJ! Oh, what the wow, that I’ve ever seen!