Belles of the balls
Make way, boys! Circuit-party queens can't get enough of their beloved lesbian DJs these days.
Thu Jan 30 2003
Circuit parties—those massive, Ecstasy-fueled, nationwide club events such as the White Party, Winter Party, Fireball Festival—are the exclusive territory of gay men, right? Maybe on the dance floor. But next time you find yourself sandwiched between four shirtless beefcakes gyrating to the sounds of Narcotic Thrust, glance up at the DJ booth: You may very well see a girl behind the turntables.
"I'm just so comfortable with my own sexuality—and masculine side—that I figure since I can't actually participate in what's going on down on the floor, I can supply the soundtrack," explains Lydia Prim, 38, a native of Alabama and one of the country's premier circuit DJs. The Birmingham-based, husky-voiced tomboy has been turning out sexy beats for gay men ever since she first learned to DJ at a Montgomery, Alabama, club in 1984. "I believe that homosexuals are a species. We still embrace the whole tribal, celebratory, mating ritual more than heteros.... It's hard to explain. But I'm just fascinated with the whole scene."
She's not alone. Prim, who brings her "sleazy house with tribal and gospel flavors" to SBNY on Sunday 2 for her monthly New York gig, is just one of a grow-ing number of women—mainly lesbians—who have found their niche spinning sounds for the boys. The Miami-based Tracy Young, best known among circuit fans for playing the Winter Party in South Beach and for remixing several tracks off of Madonna's Music, played the Roxy in January. Los Angelesbased DJ Kimberly S., who's spun at SBNY as well as the infamous Ice Palace in Fire Island's Cherry Grove, is the resident DJ at L.A.'s boy club Factory. But it was NYC's own Susan Morabito, who plays SBNY's Jive & Circumstance party February 9, who was one of the true pioneers.
"It was very, very difficult in the beginning," recalls Morabito, 42, a Cleveland native and 20-year DJ veteran. "The promoters would say to me, 'What do you know about what men want?' I don't think Lydia gets that as much, because it's already been proven now that a woman can do it. I did it."
Morabito put herself on the gay-man map by spinning in the late '80s at the now-defunct Saint (where, she points out, DJ Sharon White preceded her and inspired her). She got swept into the circuit-party scene when it really took off in 1992, and today she's still playing some of its biggest events—with girlfriend Liz Liguori by her side as her lighting technician. "I'm an extremely emotional DJ, and as a woman, I think I can bring out the spiritual side of the music," Morabito offers.
The girl DJs—who have all spun for women at one point or another—claim that the men are more responsive to this almost-religious passion. "The boys view the DJ as a celebrity, like you're bringing them on some sort of spiritual journey," says Kimberly S., who is rare in that she continues to play for both gay male and lesbian events. "Girls can kind of take it or leave it. 'When are you going to play more hip-hop?' they want to know." Although she hasn't encountered any outright sexism in her deejaying experience, she does find she's taken more seriously when she switches her stylish, feminine look to a jeans-and-tank uniform when she plays the guy clubs. "Women DJs still have more to prove, and we don't have room to slack," she explains.
Prim can recall only one time—in the early '90s when she tried to get a gig in an Atlanta men's club—that she was turned away because of her gender. But that was a long time ago, and now her DJ dream is to play the Black Party, NYC's annual leather-fetish circuit bash, which features live sex acts (set to take place this year on March 22 at Roseland Ballroom)—or any male sex party, for that matter. But watching the action is not what interests her. "I'll face the wall; I don't care!" Prim says. "It's just that a night usually tends to be like sex anyway—there's a buildup—and I would like to know it's happening, and not just implied." Although Prim does have a girlfriend, a radio DJ, she prefers the company of gay men over her sapphic sisters and claims she will never again play a women's party ("too many requests for slow songs, rap, country—it's just amazing!").
As for a reason why some of the circuit's hottest DJs are lesbians and not hetero girls, Morabito has one sassy idea: "I would assume that a straight woman wouldn't think she had a chance in hell."
Lydia Prim plays SBNY Feb 2, 2003.