I’ve DJed approximately five places: the Edessa bar in Park Slope, Burn Down the Disco, Club Fuxxx, Hay Bay-bee, and my cousin’s birthday party on the front lawn of my aunt’s place in Scituate, MA. The middle three are free-floating genre specific parties I’ve thrown with friends that are either at established DJ venues or impromptu house parties. But when I first moved to Brooklyn, a young cash-strapped Jonathan Doyle needed to supplement his income as minimum wage internships and Red Bull street-team can-throwers were reducing him to eating ramen with boiled hot-dog. So I turned to the world’s second-oldest profession, a skill handed down from my father as his father did to him and has his father did to him: a disc-jockeying residency at a bar.
I replied to a Craigslist ad looking for a DJ, the email address being email@example.com, because hotmail addresses are never suspect. The venue ended up being an ‘upscale lounge’ on 5th Ave and 9th St. named Edessa, run by two Greek brothers from Bay Ridge. The interview was a short Q&A of my experience and I of course I said I had plenty of experience entertaining crowds of polite thirtysomethings with a dual-loading CD mixer. I got the job, after a few hilarious illustrations of how I could tell the younger brother was a continuous disappointment to his family and might be a little over his head (“Hey I LOVE bars, but not this much”) while the older brother was a little more straight laced and cocky but still wore heavy hesitation on his shoulder as if he has made serious mistakes but doesn’t know why they keep happening, and still not Joe Normal enough that you’d root for him in a movie.
The first night was fine, I ‘worked’ from 10pm-4am on Friday nights, and made $200 cash, which was about half my rent back then. I played the casual pop hits, attempted to flirt with the adorable Puerto Rican waitress (who I should have been rougher with, like real rough), and drank the comped drinks while chomping on Calamari, which was rather pungent and confused many a song-request giver as I hid the dish to retain the professional entertainer vibe.
But something was amiss about Edessa: it was surely in Park Slope, the interior was composed of tasteful nuances such as crushed velvet and red neon, and the establishment was very upfront of its ‘upscale’ designation. But the clientele seemed oblivious of their true social standing or somehow mentally discounted whatever signifiers of class and culture lay around them. This misunderstanding was to the locale’s detriment, as several medical professionals from the nearby hospital wishing to have a birthday party at Edessa abruptly left minutes after arriving, assuredly confused as to why the bar would misrepresent itself or even worse, if the medical industry had fallen a few notches during their shift.
It was around 11:30pm, and a man in a full neck-brace was sitting at the bar with a few other injured people. I couldn’t quite hear the conversation but the broken-neck dude leans into this woman next to him and I can only assume compliments her on her evening-wear. She is clearly taken aback by this and vows revenge by her absent boyfriend upon her return. He clearly takes the threat in good fun, and yells a few more inaudible compliments her way as she flees the scene.
Cut to two hours later: my BAC and the amount of calamari not withstanding, the scene is exactly the same. Neckbrace and his buddy are still in the same spot, easy-breezy hip-hop too pop to appeal to gang members on the PA, the 4’7” waitress smiling away the explicit sexual advances of our patrons. But alas, a new party enters! Our track-suited gentleman of valor arrives to show his appreciation of neck-brace’s evaluation of his significant other. And by ‘show his appreciation’, I mean march right up to the back of the bar, get a mean handle on the man’s neckbrace, and tip the man’s barstool over with him in it. At this point they both fell out of my line of sight, but I was able to see a fist rise and fall over the bar, as constant and expected as a ceiling fan. The bouncer tried to contain the scuffle, I mean bludgeoning, but was tossed aside as if he was not making any effort at all. It took about four or five full-grown men to end this disagreement, and our lady in distress began throwing beer bottles at her suitor’s restrainers, most of which ended up hitting the wall behind me.
I was told to kill the music (but this is El Debarge!) and I was given my 200 bucks and got to leave at 1:30am! Suckers. Further adventures of Edessa included the mandatory vetting of dogs for their inclusion in bouts of dog-fighting, and the revolving list of gang paraphernalia that was frowned upon, surprisingly, to minimal effect. My eventual dismissal came with a whimper rather than a thud, attendance was on the decline, and the Slope can only sustain so many tony venues on 5th avenue. Edessa was absorbed into a much more family-friendly Greek restaurant probably commemorated by slap to the back of the head from one brother to another. Still, sometimes I get teary-eyed and nostalgiac and I’d like to think I provided the soundtrack to many first dates, last dates, one-night stands, business meetings, drug deals, gang initiations, police bribery, and full loss of consciousness voluntary or otherwise. We own the night!