It's Their Party, and They'll Spin If They Want To
"Man, this is some disco-sounding shit," a guy complains to his buddy as they leave the second-floor men's room at the Chili Pepper nightclub in Fort Lauderdale on a recent Saturday night. Looking around while standing at a urinal isn't cool, so it's hard to say for sure, but the musically offended dude is likely one of the younger patrons on hand at the White Lust Party in progress. He obviously isn't one of the people who showed up especially to hear DJ Vaughan spin house music.
A direct descendant of disco, house is full of throbbing, deep-bass grooves, thumping drum loops, emotion-drenched diva vocals, and cascading, crescendoing synths. A mainstay of high-end dance clubs from South Beach to Europe, the style appeals to mature clubbers out for a night of high-energy dancing and drinks.
Glowstick-twirling ravers of the younger set generally prefer to roll through the night to a soundtrack of industrial-edged techno, funky breakbeats, even progressive house -- a subgenre of house music without the diva singing and dramatic dynamic shifts. No doubt plenty of people have shown up at the Chili Pepper tonight to hear resident DJ Mike Sharp spin just such a mix. But for a couple of hours at least, DJ Vaughan, a.k.a. Vaughan Lazar, will spin a house-heavy set.
Lazar and his promotions partner, Mark Vroman, are throwing the Lust party, one of the more than 16 such themed nights they've hosted at various venues over the last couple of years. The club and some of the patrons are decked out in accordance with the "glamorous white attire" suggested for party guests. Sheets of white plastic hang in hallways, and white streamers dangle from the rafters and from the railings of the second-floor catwalk and DJ booth, both of which overlook the cavernous, dungeonlike dance floor.
Lazar usually shares Lust party turntable duty with house DJ Stevan Einheit. But Einheit is absent tonight, so Lazar slides alone into the DJ booth at 11 p.m. for his two-hour set. He dons headphones, checking the tempo of the next tune in order to make sure one song flows seamlessly into the next as he takes over from Sharp. He promptly turns up the volume and picks up the pace of the music, spinning a house anthem that sets a handful of people to shaking it.
That some younger clubgoers aren't down with house music is no surprise to Lazar, age 27, and Vroman, age 23. The considerable crowds at their roving Lust parties and at a Friday residency they've held at Red Bowl Restaurant and Bar in Boca Raton since February consist largely of friends they've made over the years -- people who share their current musical tastes and upscale party style. But the promoter-DJs have grown and changed as the club scene has evolved, explains Vroman, a Boca Raton native. At one point the pair even put on ravelike warehouse parties where the offended guy in the bathroom would have been right at home.
A few days after the Chili Pepper party, Lazar and Vroman hang out along the Riverwalk, just a few blocks away from the downtown Fort Lauderdale club, and explain their meandering course through the history of local clubland as the waters of the New River wend their way by.
Rhode Island native Lazar, who now lives in Coral Springs, moved to South Florida in late 1990, transferring from Northeastern University in Boston to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. "I didn't do so hot at Northeastern," Lazar admits, blaming heavy partying. His mom thought it would be in his best interest to switch schools.
Good ol' mom, as well-intentioned as she was, had no idea her son would soon be making money throwing parties. A member of Sigma Alpha Mu from his Northeastern days, Lazar opened a chapter at his new school, and when the frat's national office recognized his new group, he threw a party at a Delray Beach club called Cymbals. "We had like 400 kids from FAU show up, and at the end of the night the manager was like, 'Do you want to do this every week? I'll pay you.' So that's kind of where it all started. I thought, This is pretty cool, you could make a living doing this."
Lazar worked at Cymbals and at Revolution, another Delray club, passing out fliers on campus and at malls to get partiers through the doors. "It wasn't like I was falling into a glamorous, 25-and-over crowd right away," he says, "so I was still relying on the college crowd and even some of the older high-school kids to come to the parties, and that's where I met Mark."
Recalls Vroman: "He gave me a stack of fliers, and I just started handing them out, and sort of ever since then "
Alternative rock music was the mainstay of the early-'90s club scene, and the duo was booking local bands and DJs who played edgy, danceable rock and early electronic "rave" music. Vroman had a bedroom full of the hottest tracks and did some last-minute spinning when DJs failed to show.
By the summer of 1994, Lazar had left college to promote full-time. He and Vroman formed Generic Soul, a production company that, at the peak of its year-and-a-half-long existence, put on seven club events per week. Electronic dance music was beginning to take over, and Generic Soul worked with a stable of local DJs and hired the occasional Orlando, Miami, or New York turntablist to spin. Things were so good at Generic Soul, in fact, that all of the company's 30-some employees eventually jumped ship, figuring they could take their own slice of the pie.
Disgusted over the mutiny, Lazar and Vroman gave up promoting. By that time Lazar was busy running his printing and advertising company, Stellar Concepts & Design. Vroman took a job as a valet, parking cars. Within six months, however, they were back at it. They quickly cemented their reputation for throwing badass bashes by promoting a show with New York track master DJ Keoki, charging only $3 per head because Keoki, a friend of a friend, agreed to spin for free.
For a while in 1997, they ran a Boca club called Asia, where Lazar was production manager and Vroman was head doorman. According to Lazar, poor location deteriorated the club's business, but the experience and contacts from Asia came in handy when he and his DJ roommate, Sean Rudnick, began promoting nights at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach. Rudnick spun, and they hired national DJs as well.
It was during this time that Lazar picked up the DJ bug. "If I was promoting a party or even working at a club, I'd walk in, and I'd be friends with the DJ, and I'd always be like, 'Let me try that before the place opens,'" he explains. He also learned while rooming with Rudnick. "He lived on his turntables," Lazar says. "When no one was looking, I'd go play with 'em."
As for Vroman, "I sort of disappeared again," he says.
"He got a girlfriend and left me," teases Lazar. "She lived in West Palm, so he spent a lot of time up there." But when Vroman and his girlfriend went to one of Lazar's nights at Respectable Street, the old partners got back in touch, and the Lust party concept was born.
The impromptu affairs began to take place whenever Lazar had extra space on a customer's printing run, which allowed him to produce glossy fliers at no cost. The advertisements allude to the generally sensual theme of the Lust parties, which often feature scantily clad dancers hired to help set the mood.
"Once I worked the door one or two times again," Vroman says, "I was calling him two weeks later, saying, 'My birthday's coming up. You want to throw another party?'"
They hired DJs, but Vaughan began taking over on the turntables more often. "And then it eventually evolved into cutting costs, and realizing, hey, I've got the DJ thing down, and I can play the same music they're playing. And we started actually realizing, too, that people were really coming to the party more to hang out with all of us and our friends, as opposed to, 'Oh, this is who's DJing.'"
The White Lust Party at Chili Pepper is a perfect example. The dance floor begins to fill as the hour grows later and people get properly lubed at the bar. Lazar spins more house stuff, including "Red Alert" by British house darlings Basement Jaxx. Around midnight he switches to some harder, progressive house like the Dronez Dub mix of Pete Heller's "Big Love," by which time the floor is a sweating mass of humanity.
"The biggest part about it is we just made sure it was for fun this time," Lazar notes of their latest party venture. Besides, Lazar is busy with his business and Vroman is going to FAU full-time for his business degree, so promoting really isn't a job anymore. "We just try to make it as fun as we can . That's why the Lust party is such a success."
Wanting to go out on a high note, Lazar and Vroman agree that their New Year's Eve Lust party will be the last. Of course, coming from veteran promoters, this could just be the setup for a "reunion" Lust party.
Contact John Ferri at his e-mail address:
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