Fear & Loathing on Wall Street – By Tom Haibeck

October 31, 2011 by Dan Walsh

DJ PERCEPTION SO FUNNY, IT HURTS

If you share my belief that things often happen for a reason, then read on, my fellow wedding professionals.

As many of you know, I was one of the speakers on back-to-back legs of last summer’s Mobile Beat Tour. In between Philadelphia and Cleveland, we had a few days off, so I decided to spend some time in New York City.

Hotels in The Big Apple were, as always, at a premium. But I managed to score an amazing deal on a Four Star property in the Financial District through one of those discount online travel websites that never reveal the name of the hotel until your credit card clears.

In this case, the hotel turned out to be The Millennium Hilton, which was a steal at $156 a night. But I got the shock of my life when I checked into my room, opened the drapes and discovered that I was perched 54 stories up – and directly across the street from…the new World Trade Center construction site.

It was positively surreal, and I spent a fair bit of time contemplating both the view—and the odds of my being there.

OUTRAGEOUS VERBAL BARRAGE

But things were about to get a little weirder still. Because the next morning, I wandered into the Starbucks that adjoins the hotel and stumbled across a story that would further rock my world. It was there, in the shadows of Ground Zero, that I discovered a column in that morning’s edition of The Wall Street Journal titled “DJs: The Real Wedding Crashers.”

Now please note: I’m not a regular reader of that tony publication and, in fact, I probably would never have even seen that column had I not been in New York that very morning, sipping an overpriced latte and sifting through whatever leftover newspapers I could scavenge. But there it was, staring me in the face, a front-page rant that would be read by some 2.1 million of the planet’s wealthiest and most influential opinion leaders.

I read the column with a strange mixture of mirth, horror and glee.

Mirth because it was, actually, pretty darned funny. The columnist, Joe Queenan, is a satirist, so his “shtick” is to pick targets and make fun of them. (The title of his column is, in fact, “Moving Targets.”)

Horror because what he said was, unfortunately, too often true (a fact which would later be lost on many of those who remain in denial about the unconscionable lack of professionalism amongst many within the industry).

And glee because hey, I’ve been preaching this stuff for the past 20 years, and there it was, center stage in one of the world’s leading newspapers.

Here are a few excerpts from Mr. Queenan’s treatise on wedding DJs. But before we start, please re-holster your side arms. I’m just the messenger here, folks:

“…I’ve always worried that I’m going to end up doing life in prison for strangling the DJ at a wedding reception. You know the guy I’m talking about: the preening bozo in the Goodfellas threads, the blathering doofus who can’t stop interrupting everyone’s conversations, the clown who thinks people flew thousands of miles just to see…him.”

“I don’t remember exactly when it was that weddings turned into vulgar floor shows, when the ringmaster’s baton was officially passed to a jerk in a maroon shirt with a purple tie and Scarface hair and far too many disco records.”

“The worst part is the maddening banter: “At this particular moment in time, could you put your hands together and give it up for bridesmaid Caressa Van Riemsdyck and best man Shayenne O’Leary?” he screeches, as if every wedding were a re-enactment of an Arsenio Hall monologue, circa 1989.”

“They play music that is too loud for anyone to have an intelligent conversation, and when the groom’s father angrily complains that they’re doing too much Justin Timberlake, they switch to Eminem.”

“They mispronounce everyone’s name and forget to ask the guests to put their hands together—”at this particular moment in time”—and give it up for the groom’s parents, who flew all the way from England for the wedding. (Yes, this is a personal experience. The DJ assured me that he’d introduce the couple—close friends of mine—”later.” That was three years ago. Still waiting.)”

Again, this guy is a satirist; his goal is to provide some entertainment for readers by sounding off on various “targets.” (You should hear what he had to say about lawyers and PR guys in previous pieces.)

But sadly, the caricature he draws shows up every weekend at weddings across the nation. And whether you want to admit it or not, that “blathering doofus” manages to tarnish the reputation and professional standing of mobile entertainers, emcees and wedding DJs throughout the world (if you don’t believe me, read through the comments posted by Randy Bartlett, Elisabeth Daly, Alan Dodson and other leading wedding industry professionals at the end of the article).

SOUNDING THE ALARM

Having read his full-frontal assault on wedding DJs, I thought I should alert my industry colleagues to its existence. So I spent the next few hours posting links to it in various professional forums.

What followed was a veritable windstorm of hate and vitriol. The professionals—those that take their roles as wedding entertainers seriously and that have invested in developing their professional talents—were set to form a posse to hunt down and kill the buffoon in the maroon shirt that had so offended The Nasty Columnist.

Meanwhile, the preening bozos in the Goodfellas threads turned on their mics and began to scream for The Nasty Columnist’s head (“Ladies and gentlemen, at this particular moment in time, let’s all sharpen our knives and give up the head of this [freakin’] jerk in the newspaper!”).

And then there were the morons who accused me of making the whole thing up so I could sell more books (yup, it’s all part of the continuing 9/11 conspiracy).

But here’s the truth: As many of you know, my main gig is in the public relations business. I’ve operated my own little consulting firm (see Haibeck.com) for the past 25 years and have worked with a wide range of industries and organizations. And if one of my clients was gutted in the same way that Mr. Queenan just disemboweled wedding DJs, here’s what I would tell them:

First of all, get over yourselves. What he’s stated is a little over-the-top but grounded in reality. You need to do more within your profession to both weed out the hapless amateurs and better educate the industry as a whole about the need to “up” your collective game.

You can do that by developing a code of professional standards—and requiring participants within your industry to become professionally licensed in order to do business (in the same way that any other “skilled” body of workers has, from lawyers and accountants to carpenters, hairdressers and tattoo artists). By doing so, you will be able to power down those preening bozos and create an industry-wide set of professional standards that addresses core competencies, knowledge, accountability, ethics and regulation.

Like any other professional group, mentoring needs to be a big part of that. From I’ve seen, there are some exceptionally talented practitioners within your ranks who are more than willing to share their knowledge and help newcomers hone their craft. But rather than making that a voluntary process, it should become a requirement of certification (in the same way that lawyers and other professionals are required to lead and participate in ongoing professional development in order to retain their accreditation).

And finally, you need to become better business people. Most of you need to charge more for your services; and in order to do so, you need to better communicate the value you bring to your clients. As I’ve said many times, brides get far too fixated on the fluff around their weddings, from the dresses they wear once to the flowers that die the next day. Memories are what actually endure—and the most memorable part of any wedding is the reception itself. You, my friends, hold the power to shape that event and make it the very best it can be. But brides need to be educated on the importance of that process and the value of investing in it.

Yup, I know—it’s a seemingly impossible task to get everybody onboard. But if they can rebuild and re-brand a complex as big as the World Trade Center, then I’d say anything’s possible.

—–

Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal, online edition, used by permission. Original story found at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904007304576496314248132004.html  (Last accessed 10/15/11.)

Tom Haibeck is the author of The Wedding MC: A Complete Guide for the Master of Ceremonies and Wedding Toasts Made Easy (www.weddingtoasts.com). He is also about to launch a new program to promote and celebrate excellence within the ranks of mobile DJs and emcees.

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