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DJ Horror Stories

 

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 An Angel and the AAA

 Sharon Elias

 

Every Mobile Disc Jockey must have reliable transportation.  By definition, we have to get ourselves and our gear to an event.  We need to be mobile first, before we can even start the "Disc Jockey" part of every one of our performances.

That fact was hammered home to me on Saturday, August 23rd.

The day began innocently enough.  I did some phone work, gathered equipment for that evening's gig by the door and then took a leisurely shower.  While loading my gear into my vehicle of choice, a 1986 Honda Civic, I felt secure knowing that it had never let me down. 

So I left my home in Hollywood and set a coarse due south, for the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a good hour away (with no traffic) on the distant horizon.  I had to meet with a client to book their October Wedding before proceeding to my job for the night, 50 miles East of there in Corona.  I must have been driving the 405 freeway in a blur, (thinking about the "failing to come to a complete stop" citation I'd earned the previous night for a "California Roll"), because I missed the right exit.  By the time I realized my mistake, I was 5 miles beyond the turnoff.  After correcting my error I arrived at the customer's house well past the appointed hour and then had to explain why I could only spend 10 minutes with them. Despite the short amount of time, they signed the Booking Agreement and gave me a check and wished me well as I went on my merry way.  I felt smug thinking how good a salesperson I was.  Then I glanced at my watch...;

"I'M GOING TO BE LATE!!!"  Anyone that's a Mobile DJ for any length of time has experienced this tragedy to some degree. 

It's that burning sensation, deep in the pit of your stomach that gets orse and worse as precious seconds tick away. So now I was faced with a serious challenge.  To get to the 7:00pm gig, I must navigate a crowded road over the usual hurdles and past all the 'new construction' hazards that the 91 freeway has to offer.  The time was 6:00pm and it's an hour's drive from Palos Verdes to Corona (again with no traffic).  I need at least a half-hour of set-up time before I can start playing music.  Simple calculations confirmed my worst fears. I was convinced things couldn't be much worse.  My mind's eye could see the future crystal clear.  I'd show-up at the Country Club after the start time, the customer would be pissed and I would have no possible chance of a tip. I'm going to be late. It was happening now.  It was happening to me.   It was my turn to be fate's victim.

Then the car broke down!  

As I approached the 91 and 57 freeway interchange, I heard a snake-like hissing noise from under the hood and experienced no acceleration when I hit the gas pedal.  My engine sputtered, gasped and then quit, as the car rolled to a stop in the center lane.  Horns honked, people hit their brakes and cars swerved wildly to each side of me to avoid a collision.  Within minutes, traffic had backed up for miles.   Besides causing gridlock and becoming a notorious 'Sig. Alert' on the radio traffic update, my life was now in danger!  I was a sitting duck.  Stalled in my little Honda with my DJ equipment and a mirror ball left me feeling angry, alone and defenseless.  Some brave souls held-up the cars in the slow lane so that they could push my car off of the road into temporary safety.

Then complete panic set in.  Being merely a few minutes late was inconsequential.  I was now without transportation, 40 miles from home and nobody knew it.  Not the customer, not the venue and certainly not the person that had sub-contracted me to do the 25th Wedding Anniversary in the first place.  Lucky for me I had my trusty cellular phone.  So, I quickly called Ken Knotts at All Occasion Entertainment to let him know that he should get another DJ to cover the gig.  I got his answering service and they relayed the message.  He returned the call promptly and after I explained what happened, he outlined a possible coarse of action for me. 

He suggested that I have a tow truck take me to the Green River Country Club, which was 15 miles away.  "Just do the gig, 'cause you're really going to need the money to fix your car" he said.

It was now 6:30pm.  After calling the emergency number listed on my triple A card, I immediately phoned the Country Club to tell them what's up.  "I 'LL BE THERE" I promised, "please tell the client that their party is in no danger of the DJ not showing up. My car broke down and I'm on the way with my gear in tow.  Please play some piped in music until I get there."

The AAA truck finally arrived, and as the driver got out of the cab, he eyed me with a cold stare.  He said that he would tow me to the nearest surface street because he needed to leave my car there for another driver.  At that point, I was happy I was born a female.  I decided to use the charm factor.  "But I have a party that starts in a half hour" I pleaded, "you JUST can't leave me stranded here for 45 minutes!" He glared, then coughed  "Okay" he reluctantly replied.  During the course of my anxiety-filled journey, the driver asked me where I was from.  "L.A.," I said.  But, I knew what he was getting at.  He quickly shot back, "I'm from Palestine, do you know where that is?" I had to give into his query.  "Yes of course I know where it is, my relatives live in Israel."  So, there I was a Jewish DJ engaged a conversation about the Middle East peace rocess with this Arab tow truck driver. He began to argue with me as if I was Benjamin Netanyahu and he was Yassar Arafat.  Here I was stressed out enough thinking about my sick car, being late to DJ the party and now I had to defend my people too!  Oh well, at least he didn't kick me out of his truck.  Thank God it wasn't the  'Hezbollah Towing Service' or else I never would have gotten to where I needed to go.

Twenty bickering minutes later, we pulled-up in front of the Green River Golf Coarse. I handed over my Visa card for the $105.00 service charge.  It must have been quite a sight for the guests to see as they entered the party.  Me in my Tux, with my little Honda hitched-up behind his truck as I tried to negotiate a better rate with the driver.  After working feverishly, straining and sweating to get everything into the room, I proudly had music up by 7:30pm.  Only a half hour behind schedule!   Apparently, most of the guests knew of my ordeal.  I got the "you poor thing" pity line several times from them throughout the night.  This, however, didn't stop a few drunken women from being rude and obnoxious towards me when to their shock and horror I played a requested song, "Proud Mary".

At midnight, Ken's Roadie Adam, who had just driven 30 miles from the Irvine Marriott, arrived to pick me and my gear.  As we left my non-functional car at the country club, I asked myself how in the world am I going to get it all the way home without it costing me a bundle?   My mind was working overtime when I suddenly remembered an incident that happened a year ago...;

Flashback: Lisa Capitanelli and I were driving in my convertible VW Rabbit to an ADJA meeting at the Golden Sails Hotel in Long Beach.  We were having fun with the top down on a beautiful day.  All of a sudden, my clutch broke.   Luckily, Lisa had a 100-mile free towing option with her AAA membership.  So, we towed the car from Long Beach to Hollywood and it didn't cost me a cent.

Now, that towing Angel crossed my mind.  So, the next day my brother picked up Lisa's AAA card and met me at Green River CC.  A car mechanic by trade, he immediately discovered that the timing belt had broken and he was completely petrified that the possible damage was much more extensive.  Wonderful news!

I held my breath and prayed that the driver would not ask for my I.D. (I had a story prepared if he did).  For reasons unknown, he didn't and I jumped in the truck for a very long ride back home. I was time to fix my car and put the "Mobile" back into my DJ Co. What happened to my car and I could very easily happen to you.

I'm fortunate that when my car died, there wasn't an accident and I didn't get injured or killed.  Having that cell phone next to me was worth every penny spent on it.  Incidentally, I've added the 100-mile towing package to my AAA membership for only $43.25 a year.  No professional Mobile DJ should leave home without it.

 


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