I love a wedding because you can play everything from Frank Sinatra to the latest dance hit.
I was an absolute nerdy little kid, I loved music, I would on Saturdays listen to Casey Kasem Top 40, but I would write it down in a notebook and keep track of it… total nerd. I just loved music and old musicals. My mom, we would watch old Elvis movies and my dad, we would watch old Gene Kelly movies. I moved in with my dad when I was about 12. I grew up in Canon City, Colorado and moved in with my dad in the Riverside, California area, and walking home from school would pass a little record shop and would always go through all the records and spend all my money on records. The owner of the shop also had a mobile DJ business. I was about 13 or 14 maybe and I would always be like, “What are you doing? What’s that?” when he had his stuff set up. I came in one day and he had everything on the floor. Wires, cables, DJ equipment, and he said, “If you can put all this together, I’ll give you a job.” He was like my Mr. Miyagi. I put it all together and he’s like, “All right, you’ve got a job.” I was his assistant. I would go with him to weddings and he did a lot of stuff in Palm Springs, all the golf tournaments and everything. By the time I could drive at 16, he sold his business and gave me all his clients. So at 16 I had my own little DJ business and did high school dances and a lot of stuff like that in the Palm Springs area. I DJed old school with records, lots of college parties and places that I probably shouldn’t have been at my age. I learned very early on that you can make much more money doing an event than a club… and also I couldn’t get into any clubs because I was a little kid.
I was also doing theater at the time. There was a company, there were quite a few of them and the first one that I would tour around with was called the King’s Court Players. We started off doing schools and then we would travel to Arizona and Colorado and up north, adults performing for children. While I was on tour, I found out I was pregnant, which is hilarious because at the time we were touring Charlotte’s Web. I find out I’m pregnant and my belly’s getting bigger and bigger and I’m still performing. I was Fern, the little daughter, but now she’s got this big belly. So they bring me back and I’m like, “I’m fired, I’m fired.” My casting director’s like “We know you’re pregnant and we don’t think you can play this role anymore. Would you be ok being Wilbur the pig?” I’m like, “Hell yeah, I’ll be Wilbur!” So then I was that role but that was lots of tumbling and my belly’s getting big so I couldn’t do that. I found out I was having twins and I went from being in the show to directing and casting, and I just kind of gave up DJing. I DJed a wedding when I was like nine months pregnant and it was hilarious, I’m still lugging equipment. But I had two babies at home and the equipment just went in the garage and I didn’t even think about it.
I did theater and started directing children’s shows. So the boys grew up in the theater and then we had Willow, and we’d put her in a costume just in case she toddled up on stage during rehearsals. I worked at a theater that’s not there anymore, but it was in Upland and I taught children’s theater and I performed musical theater. Favorite role would be Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, that was probably my favorite. I went from that to living in Texas for a year and I taught children’s theater there and directed some shows and also performed a little bit in the one year we were there. It was so great, little Texas children who don’t want to be superstars, they don’t want to go to Hollywood, they just want to have fun and do theater.
I was still the music nerd and it wasn’t until Willow was six I think that I’m like, “Hm. I should get a real job.” I was going through job listings and one was, “We’re looking for DJs.” I was like, “Well, I used to be a DJ back in the day!” I went and interviewed and I was like, “Wow, this is pretty much the same, it’s just the technology is so much better now.” Because I went from records and now it’s so much easier. With the theater background and doing events, they hired me. It was a big DJ company where they have like 30 DJs that they would send out and that’s how I started doing the Disney events. I eventually quit that company and I still love them, they’re all great friends of mine but I was like, “It’s time to move on.”
I had already quit the company and I auditioned for the Mad T Party and then became an independent contractor at Disney. The Mad T Party was all Alice in Wonderland-themed. They called me and said, “We have an audition coming up but the director does not want a female DJ, just to tell you. She wants everyone in the same costume, she wants everyone to look the same., we have a band that’s Alice in Wonderland-themed and a White Rabbit DJ, but we want to bring you in, we want her to meet you.” So I went to this audition thinking, “I got nothing to lose.” And at the end of the audition, the director said, “You’re going to look good in the white suit.” It was in California Adventure and it was crazy. For 30 minutes the band would play – Mad Hatter, Alice, the Caterpillar, they were all dressed up – and they’d play cover songs. And then they’d have a specialty act like aerialists, and then we had dancers, and then they’d throw it to me and it was a dance party for 30 minutes and they would do that for four hours. It was wild. After Mad T Party it became a Frozen-themed dance party and then it became a summer dance party, but this ran for like five years. It was so much fun. I would do grad nights, the hip hop stage for grad nights, which was hilarious.
Working with Disney, I’m working on stage as a character but it also uses my music nerd-ness to its fullest. I do events outside of Disney, but they keep me so busy and I love it. I think probably 90% of my events are with Disney but the Pageant of the Masters is calling me and I’m so happy because I get to do one of their Pageant of the Monsters nights, I was only available for one of them. There’s a place in Hollywood that I used to DJ and sadly it dd not survive the pandemic but oh my god we had so much fun: everything from drag shows to private events to themed events where I got to roller skate and DJ at the same time, which was like me living my dream.
When I’m not DJing, I’m playing my little ukulele with my kids. During the pandemic when there were no jobs, a lot of my Disney friends got together and had a live stream and they were like, “What do you want to do, Wendy?” and I’m like, “Well… I’m not going to DJ on live stream.” But the boys and I started getting together and playing music again, because we used to back in the day. And I would hop on stage with them occasionally and sing some stuff, and we would do cocktail sets and fun stuff. We started putting together live streams and it was so much fun. From that, someone saw one of the videos and was like, “Hey, we have this event for you.” So now we’ve been getting out and doing live events again. It took my boys growing up and becoming musicians; they gifted me a ukelele and it sat on a shelf. But it took me going, “Ok, they could do it as children, I can do this!” So that’s my little instrument. We don’t even have a name. Each week for the livestream it would be a different theme, so we were like, “What song are we doing? Let’s learn another song!” We had a live event last week and it’s almost like an old time variety hour because there are so many different genres of music going on.
Everything’s about beats per minute so you can match the songs, so if you’re playing a disco song, that’s usually around 120 beats per minute. And we would match them just by ear and I would count, so I knew that this song was this beats per minute and it goes with this song. Even back in the day with record players you could slow down the record or speed it up to match so then you’re making a mix, but we were just doing it by ear. So when I went back into it, now we’re using our laptops and everything’s digital. Everything is on your computer but you’re still manipulating it on your board – just like two record players, but it’s one board. And you’re manipulating files instead of an actual record. Now it’s so easy, this one will say 128 bpm and this one will say 126 and you can manipulate it. That’s more when you’re doing a dance set. But for events, it’s more about vibing with the crowd. I love a wedding because you can play everything from Frank Sinatra to the latest dance hit. I love that every event is new people so I just get to play their favorite songs. Now with technology, whatever the event is, they can give me a Spotify list of all their favorite songs and I can go through those. I don’t play off of Spotify, I don’t stream music; I know a lot of DJs do and that’s fine but I sometimes don’t trust the wi-fi of places so I have everything on my hard drive and manipulate it that way. And nowadays if I don’t have something, I can have one channel on my mixing board that can connect to my phone so I’ll cheat a little bit that way. But I try not to, if it’s someone’s big day or big event, I want those songs to be loud and clear. And I’m old! So I’m used to playing actual music.
If it’s someone else’s favorite, I’ll just learn it. I did the club music – I don’t really play at clubs, I did for a short time. I love that music, it’s fine, but I don’t know if there’s a genre that I don’t like. I even did a heavy metal wedding not too long ago and they wanted Metallica and stuff. But I kind of dug deeper because they listed their favorite bands and so I kind of went into the classic rock and it was fun to play not the usual stuff that I normally play. I have a wedding next Friday and they love BTS, so next week is all K-pop. I did all Spanish music a few weeks ago and that one I needed help. That’s a genre that I have my playlist, but I could use help. And then I cheated a little bit because I made a Spotify list and then I made a QR code for it, put my iPad up with the QR code and anyone walking by – and I announced it – could take a picture of the QR code and it will lead them straight to that Spotify list, which they can add to. So I would say Latin music, I wish I knew more, I wish I spoke Spanish. I’ve done Arabic and Middle Eastern weddings that are beautiful with the traditions and the music, Indian weddings… I’m not all that familiar with the music but if they tell me what they like then I can go with it.
I try to keep up with the new music. I’m not a huge fan of the new hip-hop, some of it I love and some of it, eh. There was a time a few years ago when I would never play it at my events because the language was really bad. When I was at grad nights, they play some crazy music and I’m at Disneyland so I’m playing the clean version. But they’re shouting the real lyrics. I have subscription pools where I get my music and it’ll say “clean version” or it’ll say “squeaky clean version,” so I know that they’re really scrubbed. If it’s a private event, then sure, whatever. But when it’s a public event I have to be so careful. I had a little boy at a wedding – and it’s so funny because they don’t know – and he’s tiny and he comes up and he’s like, “Can you play the song ‘to the window, to the wall’?” It’s a really naughty dirty hip hop song. And I said, “Ok, I like your style, kid.” They don’t know what it’s about! Yep, I have the clean version of that!
I am not the DJ that knows what they are going to play next. It will be ten seconds before the next song and I’ll change my mind, and then I’ll change my mind again. I’m constantly going, “That guy wants this!” or, “She’ll love this!” There are songs that we all know as DJs that go together, that are best friends, that work and mix well and the crowd loves them, so there are songs that I do love to play. I love the song from the Barbie movie, the Dua Lipa song, that’s a great song to dance to. Some of the new pop music is so good. But I’m constantly changing my mind. Or by the end of the night, you’re like, “Ok, we’re going to hit them with this, we’re going to switch it up.” I have an idea of where the night’s going to go, where I want it to go, and I just want everyone to have a great time. And some events, people just want to chill, too, and that’s ok. I don’t want to be in everyone’s face. As much as I have the theater background, I’m not, “Hey, I’m the DJ, let’s play a game,” I just want to play music and I want them to have fun.
I never realized that there were no other girl DJs at the time, it just never crossed my mind. It wasn’t pushback so much when I was young, but I learned at a very young age, do not do clubs, even if they ask me to, because I’m alone and I’m a girl and it’s 2 a.m. and people are drunk. I learned at an early age you gotta ask someone to walk you to your car. You have very expensive equipment, also you’re alone and you’re a girl. I got made fun of a little bit, but it never even crossed my mind that I was the only one. I was just so young and, “Of course I’m a DJ.”
As I got older and got back into it, then it became very apparent… the company that I worked for, as much as I love them now, they had like 30 DJs and I was the only one that was a girl, and they made it a point that was the whole schtick. They didn’t know they were being condescending, but they would be like, “Well, a bride would never want a female DJ, but Wendy’s really great.” And I was like, “Actually, I was a bride, and I am a wife, and I got this.” There was a sales guy, and I can say this because he no longer works for this company, I walked by and I heard him say, “We do have someone available for that day but I need to inform you that it’s a woman.” “It’s” a woman? That was when I finally made the decision that this can’t go on. This was probably like 12 years ago. And of course now this company has other female DJs, they don’t treat people like that, those people are long gone. But it was like, “Here’s a female DJ!” They would introduce me as that so then I would have to be like, “It’s true! I am female, behold! A girl who knows how to play a record!” It was this weird thing. When I quit that company, the owner really was sad and I think he realized what he had lost. I worked at that company for like six years, and so I kind of became that token girl, like, “Oh, it’s such a novelty that I’m a woman in a man’s world.” I never fought back, I just joked. I had guys who really didn’t get it. They would literally say, “Wendy doesn’t need to work, she has a husband.” I’m like, “This is not the 1950s, guys!” Also, what? Are you joking? It was the biggest reason I went on my own.
There were guys who worked for that company who were amazing and supportive because when someone would complain about a job, they’d be like, “Yeah? Well, Wendy lifted equipment when she was nine months pregnant with twins, so what are you complaining about?” So I did have support but I also kind of got to a point where I was like, “Nah, I can’t do this.” When I went out on my own, I slowly went back to that mind frame of when I was younger, “Of course I’m a DJ, that’s who I am.” The great thing about Disney, when I went to that audition and they were like, “The director does not want a female DJ, just so you know, nothing against you,” and that was ok, it was more about the character… but I got the job. And they hired another female DJ to be this character. It was so great and it was welcomed, like, “We have a great DJ,” not, “We have a girl DJ.”
Now I’m kind of back to when I was clueless, I guess, I don’t think about it and I’m just like, “Yeah, this is what I do.” Yes, I’m lifting the speakers and no I don’t need help, but thank you, I got this. There was a website that was called imafemaleDJ or something and they only hired female DJs, but I didn’t want to be that either. I just want to play music, I just want to have fun. Just leave me alone. I just want to do my job and smile and have fun and jump around.
It’s still a huge thing, getting older. I’ve been doing this for 15 years since I’ve been back at it. I’m in the entertainment industry, so it’s rough. The Mad T Party show, we did have another girl DJ but she was much much younger than me. So that plays into it, too. Being a woman and knowing that I’m beyond dressing in the little sexy outfits… yeah, I did that, I did DJ parties dressed all cute and sexy. But it’s ok for a man to be old and still be a DJ and out there with a big belly and a microphone, and grow older and be “more distinguished” as he growing older, but I can’t? I never thought that I would get that job on stage, I was like, “Oh my god, they’re all 10 years younger than me.” But here I am so many years later. I’m going to ride this train! I’m still having fun.
I get nervous when people e-mail me like, “We have an event two years from now.” I don’t know what I’m doing six months from now, but sure, let’s do it. I know a bunch of male, dude DJs who bring a bunch of assistants to lift their equipment. But I’m like, “I can do it myself, look at me go!” And I have to do my makeup and hair and not be a sweaty gross mess on stage. I still love it. That’s my lifting weights, I don’t go to the gym. I’m jumping up and down on stage, running around having fun and 20,000 steps later, I’m like, “That’s good!”
Technology has made my job almost obsolete. Everyone’s a DJ now. With digital DJing, with everything streaming. That’s why I learned at an early age that you make more money doing special events. Club DJs make fun of event DJs, but these days there’s five DJs on the book for one night and you’re splitting all that money. Unless you’re doing the big festivals… because everybody’s a DJ.
If I have two events in a week, that’s great. If I have four, that’s even better, but I know that’s the entertainment industry: there’s going to be times when no one is having a party. There’s going to be times when everyone is having parties. And right now, it’s almost Halloween and I’m booked, booked, booked. And then maybe in January I’ll have time off. I never say no to an event, unless… I say no to people I don’t know. And maybe that’s just being the woman alone. I try to get referrals from people. But sometimes I forget: I own my own business, dammit! I’m doing the thing.
I was at Trader Joes and the checker and the bagger were talking and he’s got a new job as a mechanic for Toyota, and he was like, “They’ll pay me hourly, but if I have my own equipment, I’ll make more money.” And I was like, “Yes, do it. I also have to buy my own equipment and it’s expensive and you have to maintain it. But then you’re free and you can charge what you want and you can say no.” I get to set my own hours and have fun. I used to drive to Temecula, San Diego, north LA. Now I’ll do it if I think it’s fun. Or if it’s a slow month, yes, I’ll take that job.
It’s word of mouth at this point; I have a website – djwendy.com – and that has a little bit of information, but I’m so fortunate that this is my job. Every event, I stop and I look around and say “I get to do this.” I’m exhausted by the end of the day because I’m lugging equipment but now with technology the equipment is getting smaller and smaller. But I don’t know how long I’ll be lifting speakers. What do I want to be when I grow up? I started doing wedding coordinating with Disney, very very very part-time on the side because I was just helping them out when they were needing people when there was no coordinator. And it was fun seeing the other side. They work really hard and they do so much and it gave me such an appreciation for them. But I don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up. Maybe I’ll be Casey Kasem, maybe I’ll go into radio, who knows!