LearJets, Hula Skirts, and Congressmen

In DJ Stuff, Party Machine Celebrities!, Weird Things at Parties by djscottshirley

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was asked to play music in an airplane hangar.

It wouldn’t be the first time, but this party was different. Hosted by Staci’s Jet Center at Meacham Field in Fort Worth, this one turned out to be a political fund-raiser.

The hangar was immense, and even with an area the size of a football field blocked off for the festivities, there was still plenty of space for several good-sized aircraft, including Ben Fortson’s LearJet.

The party had a Pacific Island theme, with Tiki bars serving tropical libations, and an impressive buffet. The “social lubricant” flowed freely in hopes that well-heeled guests would open their hearts and minds (a.k.a. “wallets”) to some area candidates for public office. It flowed so freely, that it was not long before the drinking was “fierce and hand-to-hand.” We had us a party!

An airplane hangar filled with the Movers and Shakers of North Texas politics, all of them three (or more) sheets to the wind, was a heaven-sent gift for a Party DJ. They were putty in my hands, and I could get them to do anything. Conga lines, limbo contests, and all manner of line dances and silliness ensued.

I even got several men to put on grass skirts and coconut shell bikini tops, and hula dance!

Alright, plenty of mobile entertainers have done this, I know. But, I got the Speaker of the House to do it!

People who hear this story always ask me, “State or U.S.?”

To which I answer, “Yes! And with each other.”

The Honorable Speaker Jim Wright

The Honorable Speaker Jim Wright

That’s right, I got the honorable Jim Wright, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, to dance with Gibson D. “Gib” Lewis, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. Both in Hula skirts.

It’s hard to describe this on your resumé, but you gotta admit, no one else has done that!

Everyone’s Favorite Sports Fan

In Party Machine Celebrities!, Party Machine Sports by djscottshirley

Back in the day when Dallas Cowboys stars Harvey Martin and Ed “Too Tall” Jones used to show up at our Party Machine events, they often had a friend in tow, who was not an NFL player, but still a celebrity (and a playa) in his own right.

“Crazy Ray” (whose real name was Wilford Jones, no relation to Too Tall) was the unofficial, but sort-of official mascot of the Dallas Cowboys, and certainly their biggest fan ever. From the inception of the Cowboys franchise, until his death in 2007, it was said that Crazy Ray missed only 3 Cowboys home games.

Wilford "Crazy Ray" Jones, appearing in a wheelchair for one of his final Cowboys games.

Although not officially on the payroll, the Cowboys did provide Ray with an all-access pass and parking permit for home games. He was part of Cowboy fan culture.

Perhaps Ray’s best performance as an unofficial mascot was when he would clown around and wrestle with the Washington Redskins unofficial mascot, Zema Williams.

He was known for his western-style outfits, often wearing chaps and a vest with a ten-gallon hat, and for entertaining the fans with magic tricks. He had a whistle that became a trademark, letting the fans know that “Crazy Ray is here!” and was often seen galloping on a little toy stick-horse, always a comical sight.

Ray stopped galloping after losing a leg to complications from diabetes, and ultimately lost his battle with heart disease at age 76.

Our hats are off to you, Crazy Ray! Party on!

The Doomsday Defense

In Party Machine Celebrities!, Party Machine Sports by djscottshirley

One of my long-running repeat customers in the early years of the Party Machine was a fashion college in Arlington, that was well known for its awesome dance parties.

Although most of the students studied fashion design and merchandising, just the thought of a party filled with young, single fashion models…well, lets suffice it to say that their parties always attracted lots of single men. Also single women, who knew there would be lots of men there.

Among them were two of my all-time favorite Dallas Cowboys players, Harvey Martin and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Martin was a defensive lineman, a huge man who used a ‘bear hug” style to take down the opposing team’s quarterback…and did so frequently. The “Harvey Hug” was not exactly a friendly gesture, earning him the nickname “Too Mean,” as he was Too Tall’s bookend.

Jones was drafted as a quarterback, but the sports talk all seemed to agree that he was “too tall” at 6′ 9″ to be a quarterback, and the name stuck. He ended up on the other side of the defensive line with Harvey Martin, and the two became friends, rivals for the record books, party pals…and a serious threat to the other team’s quarterback.

A rare occurence when someone else beat Harvey and Too-Tall to the quarterback.

A rare occurence when someone else beat Harvey and Too-Tall to the quarterback.

Both were among the NFL’s leading pass rushers, and loved to sack the quarterback. The two men had a famous bet: whenever one of them sacked a quarterback, the other owed him a case of beer.

Jones and Martin were part of the “Doomsday Defense” that took the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1978 and 1979. Martin was the co-MVP of Super Bowl XII when the Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos 27-10. The Cowboys were robbed of a victory in Super Bowl XIII by Terry frickin’ Bradshaw, but we won’t go into that. But Terry got knocked on his arse by Martin and Too Tall enough to have nightmares about it.

Every quarterback in the NFL had the same nightmare, of being rushed by #72 on one side, and #79 on the other. But when you saw them in their civvies at a Party Machine event, you knew it was time to PARTY ON, DUDES!

Flaming Bridesmaids – Who Hasn’t Done That Before?

In DJ Stuff, Weddings!, Weird Things at Parties by djscottshirley

The event was the 2008 Southwest Entertainer’s Conference, sponsored by the DFW chapter of the American DJ Association. The top mobile entertainers from 5 states were in attendance.

After an intense day of presentations on everything from DMX lighting to better blogging and bookkeeping, we were treated to an excellent sit-down dinner. My lovely wife Brenda joined us for dinner, and we were seated with Peter and Lisa Merry, Jon Stricklan, Meredith Liewehr, owner of the local Perfect Wedding Guide franchise, and her husband Jason, and two other top DJ entertainers. The dinner conversation was lively, as only a group of extroverted professional Party Animals can be.

At a lull in the conversation, I popped the question to our table: What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened at a wedding you were working?

Peter Merry, past ADJA National president and author of “The Best Wedding Reception – Ever!,” was quick to answer: “Well, I had a bridesmaid catch on fire!”

My single friends always ask if there were any hot bridesmaids at the wedding!

My single friends always ask if there were any hot bridesmaids at the wedding!

Now in any normal group of people, that would have gotten a big laugh. But this was what stand-up comics would call a “tough room.” These were experienced entertainers.

Instead of laughter, we all responded, “Well, yeah, I’ve done that, who hasn’t done that before?”

Then I shared my pulling the bride’s leg story, (read it here) and trumped them all.

Peter was our after-dinner speaker, and used this as his opening joke. A good time was had by all, and no injuries were reported.

I’m not just pulling your leg.

This Party Is A Circus!

In DJ Stuff, Weird Things at Parties by djscottshirley

You simply never know what might happen at a party.

I was contracted to play background music in a floor covering warehouse.

Cool gig, huh? Really glamorous. Needless to say, I was not as excited about this as I have been for some of my other events, but being the consummate professional that I am, I decided I would have to MAKE it be fun. After all, that’s what they pay me for.

The client was a manufacturer, who was entertaining their distributors and wholesale customers with a daytime circus theme party.

I provided circus music. Clowns strolled around performing magic tricks and gags. Jugglers and acrobats performed various stunts. There was a circus tent in the parking lot.

A trained chimpanzee did stunts and played musical instruments.

I began to think this could turn out to be a pretty cool gig after all!

Then I saw something completely different: an elephant. Not only that, but his trainer was taking party guests on elephant rides.

Haven't you always wanted to ride an elephant?

Haven't you always wanted to ride an elephant?

Well, this was one of the items on my list of Things I Need To Do Before I Die, so I had to ride the elephant.

When I got home that evening, my wife asked about my day at work, and how things went.

I told her, “Just another typical party, and I rode an elephant.”

I Say A Little Prayer For You…

In Weddings! by djscottshirley

It was a beautiful day for a garden wedding, especially at Chandor Gardens, which were in full bloom for Andrea and Kevin’s event.

They recited their vows in front of the garden pond, and as they were declared husband and wife, the fountains erupted in a dramatic display. They ran down the grassy “aisle” as I played Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be An Everlasting Love.”

Mr and Mrs Kevin Bleeker!  photo by Susan McKinney

Mr and Mrs Kevin Bleeker! photo by Susan McKinney

In a word, it was…Perfect.

The guests ambled to the reception area, and photographer Susan McKinney took some amazing pictures in the gardens as guests enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres. When the wedding party returned and it was time for dinner to be served, I went to deliver a wireless microphone for the invocation…but the minister was gone.

As Andrea’s mother began to show signs of anxiety, I assured her that this was no problem, that I would be happy to deliver the invocation. Her response was a combination of surprise and relief: “Oh could you do that? That would be great!”

So I said the prayer, and dinner was served, and all went according to plan.

Still, I felt somewhat disturbed that anyone would be surprised that a wedding MC could say a prayer! The fact is, lots of people should have been able to step up and say a prayer, but a professional entertainer should be prepared to do whatever it takes.


The Truth about DJ Pricing

In DJ Stuff, Professionalism, Weddings! by djscottshirley

(Source: American DJ Association; used with permission)

How much is a professional Disc Jockey’s service really worth?

Some brides make entertainment a low budget priority, with disastrous results.

Some brides make entertainment a low budget priority, with disastrous results.

A recent bridal survey said that before the wedding, the entertainment usually fell to the bottom of the budget priority list and was considered one of the smallest expenditures, yet after the wedding, most surveyed brides wish they had spent more and made entertainment one of their highest priorities. Why do you think that happened?

Unless you have actually experienced mediocre or even disastrous wedding entertainment, many people make the mistake of thinking that it is “just the music”, all entertainers are the same and that a cheaper priced DJ is a better value for their money. Again, this is a big mistake!

Entertainment is a talent-based service and each Disc Jockey entertainer will bring a different level of talent, quality of service, experience, and expertise to your wedding day. Some entertainers DO an outstanding job at creating a fun, memorable, and worry-free celebration…unfortunately, the reality is that many DO NOT. Using price as a major consideration for hiring your entertainer will usually lead you to the latter.

In order to find the best fit for what you are looking for in a highly skilled entertainment professional, first realize that you need more than “just the music”! For a smooth flow of events, skillful and timely announcements, an atmosphere filled with fun and unique memories with perfectly placed musical selections, there will be a much greater need than “just the music”…a considerable amount of time will be needed to pre-plan the day’s details, complete coordination with your other vendors is a must, and to act as an energetic, articulate Master of Ceremonies to fill an overall leadership role for your party will be vital.

Since the entertainment you choose will have a profound and direct effect on the successful and memorable outcome of your wedding day celebration, it would be in your best interest to dig much deeper into the quality of service you receive, opposed to simply deciding based on price alone.

Consider that if you are paying less than $1,200 for your Disc Jockey in the DFW area, you are taking a chance on a Disc Jockey who is most likely not a truly skilled professional and may very well sell your reception to an even less qualified Disc Jockey that you will meet for the very first time at your reception or special event.

Good luck and choose wisely!


In Bridezillas!, Weddings! by djscottshirley

Definition of Bridezilla (a portmanteau of bride and Godzilla) is a generic term used to describe a difficult, unpleasant, perfectionist bride who leaves aggravated family, friends and bridal vendors in her wake. A bridezilla is obsessed with her wedding as her perfect day and will disregard the feelings of the family, bridesmaids and even her groom in her quest for the perfect wedding. (source: Wikipedia.)

Bridesmaids often feel the sting of Bridezilla's rage!

Bridesmaids often feel the sting of Bridezilla's rage!

The clinical diagnosis of acquired situational narcissism may be appropriate for the condition.

The earliest use of the term was in 1995, and it has been made universally popular by the cable TV program Bridezillas.

Every time I do a Bridal Show, I am asked if I ever work with Bridezillas. And my answer is always an emphatic “NO.”

Why is this? I certainly know a lot of wedding vendors who tell Bridezilla stories. And more than a few whom I have worked with have had bad experiences with the same brides that gave me no problem at all.

So what gives?

Well, let me propose a different definition: Bridezilla is a bride who is overcome by stress because she is not getting what she really wants.

Put yourself in her painfully tight shoes. A bride is pulled in different directions by well-meaning and sometimes selfishly motivated family and friends. She is torn between the vision of her dream wedding, and the practical reality of budget limitations and parental control. She is confused by the overwhelming number of choices she must make.

In my entertainment business, we custom-tailor each event to meet that bride’s preferences. We never try to force a wedding to fit into a certain mold. This is a recent trend among wedding Emcees, but I have always done weddings this way. My latest brochure uses the phrase “Your Wedding…Your Way.”

Therein lies the secret, I believe, to Bridezilla Prevention. When the bride is getting her way, and receiving full attention and cooperation from her DJ (or planner, photographer, caterer, florist, or decorator, etc.) she is content and tantrum-free.

Don’t get me wrong, as I have worked with some mighty stubborn brides, several who were obsessive-compulsive, and one who was even bipolar manic-depressive. In a way, they are much easier to work with than one who has trouble making decisions. Give me a bride who is picky and knows just what she wants, and I will make her happy!

As for the TV show, I take issue with the whole idea of glamorizing bad behavior. Weddings should be FUN occasions…and mine always are.


In Pirate Holiday by djscottshirley

I love holidays. Holidays are time to celebrate, and I am in the celebration business.

Many of the holidays we celebrate are of fairly recent origin. Most people are aware that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were created by greeting card companies. Valentine’s Day rose to its current prominence because of similar market forces.

Most folks are less conscious of the fact that the celebration of Christmas has fairly modern origins, and at one time it was illegal to observe Christmas in Merry Olde England. Really, look it up!

Birthday celebrations are a modern tradition; before we observed them, it was customary to celebrate a person’s Saint’s Day instead.

We celebrate official government holidays because most of us are off work, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Veteran’s Day, all great days for family gatherings and cooking outdoors.

Some of our holidays have evolved into excuses to have a party, such as St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween. Some of the best parties are costume events for Halloween.

But my favorite holiday is only 20 years old, and exists purely as an excuse for a party.

September 19: International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Really! Serious Party Animals have celebrated the day for years, yet I am often surprised to talk to someone who still has not yet heard of it.


WEB ADDRESS: http://www.talklikeapirate.com/

Check it out, me hearties!

The Value of The DJ

In DJ Stuff, Professionalism by djscottshirley

I receive calls every day asking. “How much does it cost for just a DJ?”


As a professional, I must resist the temptation to make a snappy comeback. But I have always imagined a conversation like this:

Me: “Just a DJ is free.”

Caller: “Free? You mean it costs nothing at all?”

Me: “Sure! Well, we expect you to feed him. Come on over and get him!”

Caller: “Huh? Don’t you deliver?”

Me: “Well, I guess we could put him in a taxi, but I have to charge you for that.”

Caller: “That’s fine. It’s for a party next month. We want you to bring, you know, speakers and amplifiers and all that.”

Me: “SPEAKERS! Well, now you’re gonna have to spend some money! We’re gonna need a truck, because the taxi won’t haul our equipment. You said you wanted just a DJ!”

Caller: “Well, I need somebody to like, you know, set it up, and play the music and all.”

Me: “MUSIC! You want music, too? We gotta charge you for that, too! Music isn’t free, you know!”

Caller: “Well, yeah, I guess there’s copyrights and all that. Oh, and do you have some cool lights to make it exciting and all?”

Me: “WOW! Speakers, music, and lights, that’s gonna add up. We have all the latest lighting: intelligent lights, color changing lights, laser light shows, we can even put your name in lights for you.”

Caller: “That’s cool! We want all of that. And could the DJ like, make some announcements, and get everybody up dancing and having a good time, maybe do some games and contests, and do our awards presentation for us?”

Me: “Well, that will require a microphone, and a really good Master of Ceremonies. He needs to have thorough knowledge of all different kinds of music, and know how to read a crowd and respond with exactly what they like. It costs more if you need somebody with that level of talent and experience.”

Caller: “Yeah, that’s what we want! Oh, and we have a lot of people who like to do the Karaoke thing. Can you do karaoke?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am, we do. That requires more microphones for the singers, and a TV monitor so they can read the words. That will cost a little bit.”

Caller: “Oh, and we have a guy at the office who is doing a really cool Powerpoint show. Do you rent projectors and screens and all that?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am, we do all of that. It sounds like what you need is more than just a DJ.”

Caller: “Yes, I guess so. And we want somebody to record the whole thing and make us a DVD of the event. Can you do that?”

Me: “Yes’Ma’am, we offer full service audio-visual support and post-production editing. We can do it all.”

Caller: “That’s great. So how much will this cost me?”

Me: “Well, that depends. Where and when is your party?”

Caller: “Why does that matter? Don’t you just have one set fee?”

Me: “No, of course not. Everybody wants the most popular dates, and we end up turning away six customers on a popular Saturday, and almost never book a Tuesday. Due to simple supply and demand, I can offer you a lower price on slow days, but must charge more on the most popular dates. Just like the airlines and popular vacation spots.”

Caller: “Wow, I never thought of that, but I guess that makes sense. I suppose it matters where it is, too?”

Me: “Right, we need to factor in travel time, and perhaps overnight lodging. We need to know if the banquet room is on the ground floor, or if it is accessible by elevator or ramps. We need to know how much time and staff will be needed to setup and break down equipment. And we need to know if the venue has special requirements, such as requiring a certificate of insurance and an MSDS.”

Caller: “Sounds complicated. All this for just a DJ?”

Me: “No, the DJ is free, remember? All the rest is what you pay for a professional job.”

So I quote a price; a pretty high price, in fact, and she books the date.

A fantasy, perhaps, but it doesn’t stray far from my daily reality. Our first job is to educate the client about what they really want…and it’s always more than just a DJ.