Spinning for well over 30 years, DJ Reenie Kane has helped shape what we know now as gay nightlife. An out lesbian with a partner (the beautiful and widely-loved Adele) of just as many years, Reenie has been making both gay and straight people dance with an eclectic mix and a music catalog that rivals just about anyone in the world. Having been a Billboard Dance Music reporter for years, Reenie has helped define what the rest of the world is hearing in nightclubs, and has also been afforded the opportunity to spin some of the hottest new tracks before the rest of the world has the chance to hear them. Her repertoire ranges from progressive/circuit house music to disco classics and well beyond, and she is one of the most humble, friendly DJs that a clubgoer or fellow DJ. She enjoys the social interaction of being a DJ – not just hiding behind the music, but really getting excited about what other people think and hearing what crowds have to say about what she is doing. Let’s get to the meat of our interview with the South Philly native so we can see what makes her tick, so many years after blessing the world with her positive outlook, passion and her unmatched skills behind the turntables.
How long have you been spinning?
Where was your first gig?
It was in South Philly at Broad and Federal Streets – The R.A.R. – I called it the "Rough and Ready" dyke bar. Not that it was an actual dyke bar, but the girls were rough and ready. A nice mix of people, I went there about four times a week. My girlfriend at the time knew the DJ. He came up to me on the dance floor, pulled me off, took me to the booth and asked me to start Djing! I looked at him like he was crazy. I said "why me?" and he said "You can dance, and every time you request a song, I have to go buy it." So I played, and that was it – I was hooked!
When do you think was the most exciting time in Philadelphia’s club scene?
The Philly club scene has had its ups and downs. When I came out, it was hot. There were so many clubs to choose from (mostly men’s bar, which were my favorite) and they were all crowded every night. The music was fantastic. Before the so-called "disco era" it was so wonderful. In my opinion, the best music came out between 1973 and 1977. A lot of today’s artists so much of that time, its incredible. For example, Rob Base’s "It Takes Two" samples "Think About It" by Lyn Collins from 1973. So all of that said, I would say the most exciting time in the Philly club scene was from ’73 to ’79.
What do you think is the current state of our club scene?
The scene today puzzles me. Where are the people? I know we have so many gay people in the area, why aren’t the clubs full? Even weekdays should be more crowded than they are. With so few clubs in the gayborhood, they should be easy to fill. I know people are worried about the economy, but this has been going on much longer than the economic crisis. I have asked quite a few people for their take on this and the most popular answer is the "internet." Why would you rather sit in front of a monitor typing to people instead of talking to them in person? I prefer to be with people having fun, enjoying the interaction. The clubs, for the most part, have been giving their customers something to come out for (ie; top djs from across the country, giveaways, benefits for good causes, and drink specials. Back in the day, there weren’t too many promotions but just good music and a good mix of fun people, dancing and carrying on.
What is your favorite style of music to spin? Why?
I like to spin anything that moves my body and touches my soul. I like a challenge when it comes to mixing. The classics are always a treat for me. I call it the "live musician effect." The human touch is so stimulating to me. The beat of the music fluctuates, making it interesting. Now, with all of the technology involved, there is no fluctuation. The beat never goes off BPMs. I’ll take the human over machine any day.
What’s your take on requests? Yay, nay or sometimes?
I do listen to requests, it gives me an insight to the mindset of the room. Whether I play it depends on what it is. When I’m playing new music, ask for something new, not overplayed radio tracks. If I’m playing classics, don’t ask me for Beyonce or Britney, please!
Are there one or two DJ gigs that you could classify as the BEST of your career?
My favorite gig was at the Chez in Atlantic City from 1978-1990 – about 3,000 people in front of me at one time – a constant flow of people on the dance floor all night long, into the afternoon most weekends. I started at 10pm and it was packed by 10:30, and at 4am it would start all over again when the casinos closed and the Philly people arrived. The music, thousands of dancing bodies sweating, and some of the best music ever recorded, and me in the booth in ecstasy playing, floating on air. To this day, I remember those days and start floating again.
Tell me about Rap-A-Reenie!
It all started with my friend Charlie – I got a call from him at work one night. He said "I smoked a joint with pen in hand and put on a 17-minute song, and listen to this." What he read to me that night later became a record. I used to play Rapture at the time, and when Blondie stopped her rap I would start mine. One night a man came in the booth and asked who the artist was. I asked him to give me a minute and I continued rapping – he realized it was me and said "we’re going to record that." To my surprise, we did start recording that very next day – the man was Vince Montana Jr who was "conductor" of the legendary Salsoul Orchestra, and was my favorite producer at the time. With Charlie’s words and Vince’s music, Rap-A-Reenie by the Reen-Machine on Dir-Tee Records was born.
Throughout your many years spinning, you have met a lot of famous people. Which one or two were the most exciting?
My exciting moment was with Vince Montana that I talked about above. And also Gloria Estefan – my favorite female artist. I love everything about her – she cares about people, giving back as much as she takes in. From "Doctor Beat" to today, she blows me away. I was lucky enough to meet and spend time with Gloria a couple of times – she has a warm and giving heart. She takes my breath away.
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