by Mike Walter
This past Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Unless you are old enough to remember Pearl Harbor (not exactly Stacy Zemon’s target readership), September 11th, 2001 is probably the worst day you have ever experienced as a citizen of the United States.
And while everyone in America (and probably most people in the world) can tell you where they were and what they were doing when those planes hit the buildings, I find it just as intriguing when I speak to Mobile Disc Jockeys and the topic turns to the parties that we did immediately following that day. They were, for most of us, the toughest and yet most rewarding parties we have ever thrown.
I know because I entertained at many of these events myself. I actually did a Networking event on September 12th. (I was shocked when they didn’t cancel it.) I remember clearly the challenges that went along with them. How those painful “Moments of Silence” would bring the entire room’s mood down and then, as the entertainment, we were expected to pick it back up. How clients inevitably wanted us to play Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” which would fill the room with a mix of defiance and depression. And how, especially here in the North East, clients and guests would always want to talk to us about someone they knew who perished on that day, when all the while we were trying to maintain a positive attitude so we could get the party started.
As I said, they were tough events, but they were also the most rewarding. I often think about those brides and grooms who got married on that following weekend. Both the Major Leagues and the NFL had suspended their schedules and yet these family events, for the most part, went on. I had a wedding on that Saturday (September 15th) where the Bride’s Dad had to drive up from Florida because the airlines still weren’t flying full schedules. He made it, and that Father-Daughter dance is one I will never forget.
As a Multi-Op Owner, I had a pretty good idea, in the days that followed September 11th, that my staff might need a good pep talk. And as I thought about writing this article, I remembered a memo that I had sent to everyone on my staff on September 13th, just 2 days after the tragedy but in time for that weekend. I reprint it here because I think the topics are important for all of use to remember, especially when the zeitgeist leans towards anxiety and uncertainty:
To the Elite Staff,
After the events of this past week, I want to touch base with everyone on staff before this weekend. Please, take a few minutes to read the following and absorb it. I believe it is very important.
You have an important task this weekend. I mean, you have an important task every weekend but this weekend is especially important for two reasons:
1- It’s going to be more difficult than ever for you to remain upbeat.
2 -It’s more important than ever that you remain upbeat.
Your clients will look to you to provide a diversion and escape and that’s why it’s more important than ever that you suck it up and stay upbeat and positive. And “go for it.” Your bride and groom or your guest of honor will rely on you to do that. They didn’t throw this party so everyone could sit around and discuss the week’s events. They didn’t get their family and friends together so everyone could talk about what they’d do to this bin Laden guy if they bumped into him in a dark alley. And it’s all gonna fall onto you to do it. More than any time in your whole career, you are going to have to make something out of nothing this weekend. You are going to have to climb a very steep hill.
Are you up for this? Are you ready? Here are a few suggestions I’d like to make to help you:
* Try to block the negatives out. We’ve all spent the whole week watching footage of burning buildings and planes and all that. We’ve overdosed on it. So please, an hour or so before you have to leave for your gig this weekend, shut off Wolf Blitzer and turn on your favorite music. For me it’ll be Prince. I’ll crank up “Get Off” and sing along while I shower and change and in my head I’ll try to make this just any old Saturday. I will stiff-arm any thoughts from the week that creep in because I can’t afford them and I don’t want them. And if my mixer starts talking about it, I’ll change the subject very quickly.
* Remind yourself often how important your job is today. I find when I do an important task, it becomes easier when I allow myself to feel proud of what I am doing. Be proud. Every person you get on the dance floor is one more person who can escape from this horrific week. Work hard to do it (’cause it may take hard work) but when you succeed and pack the dance floor, pat yourself on the back. You’ve done a wonderful thing!
* Try to stay positive with your music. This is something I do normally anyway but I will be more aware of it this weekend. Look for “positive message” songs as opposed to “negative messages” songs. For example, if you’re in a new dance set, avoid songs like “Better Off Alone” or “Things Just Ain’t The Same” and go with “Unspeakable Joy” or “We Like to Party.” As a writer I think I over analyze lyrics sometimes (I would never play “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” at a wedding unless the bride or groom asked for it themselves) but I think this weekend it’ll be very important to watch what you play. I think we can all assume that any group of 100 or more is going to contain at least one person who lost a loved one in this tragedy. Be thoughtful of that person. (Obviously this all goes out the window if your clients have asked for something. I don’t care if my Bride and Groom ask for something totally distasteful like “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” If they want it, they get it!)
* If you want to do a “tribute” ask your clients. I have 2 weddings this weekend and before I play something like “America The Beautiful” or “God Bless the USA”, I am going to say to my Bride and Groom, “I thought it would be nice to play a patriotic song as a tribute to what has happened this past week. Would you like me to do that or do you want me to avoid the whole thing all together?” This way I don’t remind them of something they were hoping to avoid but I also won’t miss out if they’d like to pay tribute. I strongly suggest you do the same.
There’s something I say to my mixers all the time right before intros. I knock fists with them and I say “Let’s be awesome.” I try to pump them up and get them to focus on their task at hand but I also say it for myself. My standard is “awesome.” I won’t accept anything less from myself. Well this weekend, we all need to have that standard. You better be ready to go out and be awesome this weekend. It’s what your clients need. It’s what all those guests need. Go do it as your little way of helping out the war effort!
Anyone that’s been in the business for over ten years can probably recall their own stories of those immediate days and weeks following September 11th. In my opinion, the Mobile DJ Business just like the entire special events business, did itself proud by “partying” and allowing our fellow citizens to celebrate. It’s what we do every weekend, but in troubling times, it’s what we do the best!