It was a trial by fire, doing my first light show.
Imagine it: South Beach, 1996. My friend Drew had lost his job to me over a pool game. I'd never done lights before, and the bet I'd made was in total jest. Yet there we were, in the lighting booth at legendary circuit-party nightclub Salvation, and Drew was running me through a control board the size of Montana. His car was packed, and he was moving to North Carolina. The club that night would have 3000 seething gay men, dancing and partying the night away into the next afternoon. He gave me a tour of the facility, showed me where the electrical room was, ran me through the board, told me the "three rules of lighting," made another one up on-the-spot just for me, and took his leave. Boom. I was 21 years old, and having a full-fledged panic attack.
Strangely, as if by magic, two hours into the party something in my head just snapped. I don't know if it was because the iconic DJ Abel was such a master of his craft, or my background as a piano student in the 4th grade left me with great hand-eye coordination, but SOMETHING changed. As if a switch had been turned on (not trying to be punny). In that moment, whatever triggered it, I became a vessel through which the music came in and the lights came out.
I never looked back, and I went on to a fantastic career in intelligent lighting across the United States, Europe and South America, working with the biggest names in nightlife & music.
When I moved to Los Angeles, all that came to a crashing halt. I'd been summoned by the late, GREAT, Gilbert Stafford, to help him build a club in Hollywood. We did, and the two things about the place that were magnificent were: him in all his splendor at the door, and my light show. Everything else about the place was unbecoming: the music, the crowd, the management. Unfortunately, both Gilbert and I were treated appallingly by the owners/managers. He & I, who created so much, were constantly being kicked in the teeth by those scumbags. Gilbert's health took a swift turn for the worse, and he died. My fury and rage with the people I held responsible knew no bounds, and I blazed out of that nightmare situation, never to look back.
It's been four & 1/2 years without doing what makes my heart sing with such joy.
In March some friends of mine called with an opportunity I just couldn't refuse. We sat down during Winter Music Conference in Miami, and the offer to go to Vegas to do lights for one of the biggest DJs in the World was presented. I was in shock. Extreme shock. On the one hand, YES! YES! YES! I wanted to go to Vegas and do lights! Especially for David Guetta! On the other hand, OH SHIT... What if I can't do lights anymore. The technology has moved on, but my knowledge of it hasn't. What if my fingers don't work?!?! What if I don't have the endurance? What if I let my friends down?
After I excitedly accepted the offer, I was riddled with anxiety and terror. We booked my flights and hotel, and I was set to go to Vegas the 1st weekend in May. I was given minimal information about the controller, fixtures & space. Essentially, I was flying blind.
Here we go again, another trial by fire.
My anxiety grew like a weed all through the month of April. I called my friends at PRG & they set me up with a tiny closet & an OLD version of the controller I *thought* was in Vegas. I blankly stared at it, for quite some time. I used to use this controller like the back of my hand five years ago, then we swapped it for the newest version. I had worked on it hundreds of times, doing lights for nightlife, music videos, special events, circus... Terrifyingly, my mind blanked. I fiddled around with all the buttons, knobs, faders... Tried to remember how to clear the memory out, move programs around... Some things came back, but not much. I left and met my friend for a sake-laden sushi lunch.
The week leading up to my gig, my teeth hurt so much I went to the dentist. He asked, "have you been grinding?" "I guess so, " I replied, "I've been very stressed." He admonished me, "well STOP IT, or I'll give you head gear to wear in your sleep!" I wish he had. The night before my gig I BIT DOWN SO HARD on my tongue, the pain woke me up. I spoke with a pronounced lisp for days.
I had a full-on, crying panic attack the night before my Vegas trip. My poor husband assured me I'd be amazing, and regaled me with stories of how he used to be in awe, watching me run lights at the club in Hollywood, when we were falling in love. It's true. He used to come all the time & just watch me work. It was very sweet, and I thought nothing of it. Working the light show was second-nature to me then. I really tried to calm down, and joked "no matter WHAT happens, the sun WILL rise on Sunday."
So? I hopped on my plane to Vegas. I even ran into a not-terribly welcome face-from-the-past on the plane. "As I live and breathe," I said, "what are you going to Vegas for?" "Oh, you know....Vegas." he said. Sigh. The eloquence of club-folk.
I met up with my friend, the production manager (and also the hardest working guy in show business) at the airport. I had my combat boots on, mirrored shades, and was trying to act natural. We got all checked in to an INCREDIBLE hotel where the club is. My suite was amazing. Full five-star treatment. Our big, famous DJ friend was spinning at the pool, so I freshened up & met up with the crew there to check out his set.
He was in a fantastic mood, the crowd was massive, and every single girl was in a bikini. Welcome to Vegas. As I listened intently, I got into his particular groove very quickly; and I have to admit the thunderous sound of bass soothed my pounding heart. (see video below)
In the early evening we were finally allowed into the club to so sound/light check. I met the in-house audio/visual guys, who couldn't have been kinder to me. This was a gigantic relief, as I had tons of questions & they were accommodating and generous. As I walked into the lighting booth, my heart began to palpitate & I broke into a sweat. The controller they had was the latest version of my last one. On the bright side, I remembered a lot. On the not bright side, understanding the in-house labeling of commands was like learning a new language, but that's to be expected.
I fiddled around with the controller for hours. Also, I walked around the club, mapping in my mind where all the lights were, how they moved, what was & wasn't working... Lighting is mercifully solitary, so I was left mostly alone to get a grip on myself. There was too much daylight streaming in for me to see how the show actually looked, so when we broke for dinner I was happy to see the team order a cocktail. Whew, thank goodness & yes, please.
It was my turn to operate the set when the headlining DJ went on, but I went early to fiddle around with the show & bend the ear of the in-house Lighting Director. The laser guys and video mixer were all busy at work, making sure their sets would be ready for the headliner. No one did much in terms of visuals for the opening DJ, so I still had to wait to even see what it would look like. Essentially, I would have NO IDEA what the show looked like until it was my turn to go on. Mantra: Don't panic...Don't panic...Don't panic...Don't panic...Don't panic...
1:30am rolled around & the headliner took the stage. We blacked all the lights out, and the crowd's energy swelled in anticipation. He raised his hands and I brought some simple key lights up on him. As he dropped his first track, the video guy brought his LED walls up, and I quickly adjusted the lights to enhance his effect. BOOM! When I brought them up, the crowd went WILD, and it was GAME ON.
The next two hours were a blur of beats, emotional swells, and gorgeous lighting. The laser guys were top notch, and the video guy & I were in perfect sync. We were of ONE MIND! And, let me assure you, that is incredibly rare. By the end of the night I received two actual compliments on my light show. :-) It was all over at 4:15am, and I did the best job I could. It could have been better, but it could have been MUCH worse. Plus, having had the privilege to do lights for the incomparable David Guetta at the best club in Vegas (XS at the Wynn), AND he played his track (a favorite of mine & EVERYONE in the WORLD) with Sia called "Titanium" - I will never forget it. <3
In the end, I'm proud of what I did, and hope VERY much they invite me back. David's team is the best in the industry, and I am so humbled they thought of me. Thinking positive thoughts & hoping for the best, but whatever happens, I got through it, and the sun DID rise on Sunday.