Wall Street Journal – Feb 2012

A Look Into the DJ Booth
WALL STREET JOURNAL (Marshall Heyman, February 15, 2012)


Do you want to know what feels like Groundhog Day? Fashion Week.

Season in and season out, the designers are pretty much the same. With the exception of Le Baron, which opened very recently in Nolita, the venues are pretty much the same.

The guests are certainly the same, and, therefore, so is the holier-than-thou, party-til-we-run-out-of-tequila vibe. Even the performing talent is the same: as of Monday, only midway through Fashion Week, the Kills had played at three separate events. What can we say about the Kills? They need to calm down.

One of the few new noticeable changes this season is rather than spring water in the fridges at the tents, there is purified Aquafina. Don’t worry, this downgrade has not gone unnoticed by the fashion community.

On Monday night, it was actually a pleasure to go to Chris Benz’s low-key after-party in the penthouse of the Standard East. It wasn’t overly crowded, and it lacked pretension. There was a short performance by singer Lily Halpern, a new artist on Warner Music. There weren’t tons of photographers, nor an overwhelmed and snotty group of ladies guarding the door, or any unnecessary celebrities. (Mr. Benz had had Deborah Harry and Jessica Szohr of “Gossip Girl” at his presentation earlier in the afternoon.) It was just the relaxing get-together you’d imagine you’d want if you had worked for several months on a fashion collection and needed to unwind.

“We never ever do an after-party,” said Mr. Benz, whose hair is dyed pink at the moment.

One of the quirkier aspects of Mr. Benz’s party was that he had asked his friend, Marjorie Gubelmann, to DJ. With friends like Tory Burch and Samantha Boardman, Ms. Gubelmann has been active on the New York social scene for years. She also runs a candle company called Vie Luxe that is popular with her set. But in the last few months, Ms. Gubelmann has started finding work spinning at parties.

At New England College, Ms. Gubelmann said, she worked as DJ on the local radio under the name “Mad Marg.” “I have a broadcasting license,” she said Monday.

She had been telling this to her friend, Mickey Boardman, who works as an editor at Paper magazine, and Mr. Boardman asked her to DJ his birthday party. That led to gigs at venues around town, like Eastern Bloc, Bedlam, the Soho Grand and the Mondrian.

“I texted her from our run-through and asked if she would DJ,” said Mr. Benz. “We didn’t talk about what she’d play. I feel like if she’s doing it, then I don’t have to worry.”

Ms. Gubelmann usually spins with Mr. Boardman’s colleague, Drew Elliott, who performs under the stage name DJ Drewpsie. “It is more fun when you have a wingman,” she said. Mr. Elliott plays mostly bubble gum pop. As Mr. Elliott played “U Smile” by Justin Bieber, Ms. Gubelmann said, “I don’t even know what song this is.”

Ms. Gubelmann said her music ranges “from Donna Summer to Flo Rida ” with a bit of ’80s New Wave mixed in, though the relatively young crowd at Mr. Benz’s party “wouldn’t even know what that was,” she reckoned.

On Monday, some of her selections included “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5, “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa and the new Madonna single. “It is pretty middle of the road,” she said. “I played a lot of Flo Rida tonight because I met him over Grammy weekend. He’s very polite and charming.”

Spinning music, Ms. Gubelmann said, is much easier now than in her college days, when she had to use turntables. To modify to the times, she has had to download and teach herself how to use a program called Scratch.

“I should probably go to DJ school,” she added. “It is all quite easy, especially if I can figure it out. I’m not a Mensa candidate or anything.”

Ms. Gubelmann explained that she’s always loved music, but so far the spinning has brought her “negative income.” “But it is funny at age 42 to find a new passion.”