Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Delinquent DJ

In 1974 WNCI program director E. Karl informed me that a doctor in Westerville was opening a nightclub in Gahanna and had requested me to help establish the club’s entertainment venue. I agreed to meet Doctor Joe Amico at his club on Granville Street and began not only a working relationship but also a friendship that would last for several years.

Joe had previously operated a movie house on the spot and had just completed extensive renovations to change it from a Jerry Lewis Cinema Theatre to a place where young people could come and dance amid spectacular lighting, ear splitting rock and roll and… drink.

Cokes mostly, or so most of us wanted to believe. What he had envisioned was a nightclub for adults, but because of strong opposition from the Gahanna power structure he would have to endure months of quibbling for a liquor license.

So the Yellow Lion opened as a place where high school kids could congregate until curfew and get an early jump on the experience of "clubbing.” It was believed that some of these kids brought their own liquor to pour into their soft drinks when no one was looking.

It was known that many of them found ways to play around in the darkness of the club, and on numerous occasions I had to drive someone home who was either too high or too intoxicated to find their own way, either out of fear of calling their parents to pick them up or because I had to take their keys from them. I was the house DJ and at age 22 only a few years older than these kids.

A lighted marquee in front of the establishment announced that WNCI was in the house nightly and it attracted several more clubbers, some in their twenties, some even older. And each time the city of Gahanna tried to block Joe’s quest for a liquor license I thought, are these people crazy? They preferred a nightclub that was open to their teenage sons and daughters to an adult’s only venue. Way to lookout for your kids!

It was probably my first experience at watching big brother go too far and being somewhere in the middle of it all. In their zeal to keep Joe from opening another bar in their community they were in fact contributing to the delinquency of their own kids.

As time went on a liquor license was approved for the Yellow Lion and it became the classiest tavern in Gahanna. I stayed with the Amico family for several months, dividing my time between the bar and WNCI. And as the place evolved into Hollywood East we began booking nationally known recording artists to replace the records played from the DJ booth.

As I think back to those many months of watching kids grow up too fast I am reminded that sometimes a community’s best intentions to regulate other people’s behavior makes me more determined to keep my own mind clear of wanting to dictate my morals to others. Twenty years later, when my hair would be shorter and my working wardrobe would change from flowered shirts, bell-bottom blue jeans and sandals to wearing a tailored uniform and a badge I would prove it in a little town called Obetz.

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