Sweaty Teddy

For this maestro, the weddings go on forever and the receptions never change

"I told our DJ if he played those songs, he wasn't getting his last payment," Kroencke says. "You know what? He didn't play those songs. Any songs other than the ones I said not to play, he could play. People kept coming up and requesting 'YMCA.' He was, like, 'I don't have it.' He had it, but he wouldn't play it. People were trying to get him to play 'Celebration,' too."

That type of direction is fine with Ted. During a pre-wedding telephone conference with the bride and groom -- dubbed the "pre-call" -- which takes place a week or so before the event, he straightens out the do's and don'ts.

"If I can hit it off with both the bride and groom during the pre-call," Ted says, snapping his fingers, "it's in the bag."

Jennifer Silverberg
Ted doesn't play "YMCA" at every wedding reception he DJs, but he comes prepared.
Jennifer Silverberg
Ted doesn't play "YMCA" at every wedding reception he DJs, but he comes prepared.

The bride and groom give Ted a list of songs they want to hear, tell him what's on the verboten list and let him know whether anything special is planned.

For Jill and Tim, the special event is Tim, then Jill, replicating the famous John Travolta's white-suited strut and dance to "Stayin' Alive," complete with a circle of spectators surrounding them, clapping.

Ted sees himself as a guide for the newlyweds: "Think of it this way: They're on a safari. I want to guide them. I'm here to guide them through it."

He also compares himself to a circus ringmaster.

"Out of the 200 guests they've got coming, no one came to see me," Ted says. "If I'm a ringmaster at a circus, no one comes to see the ringmaster. They came to see the acts, the lion-tamer and the trapeze artists -- the bride and groom."

Most of the Ted's gigs are referrals -- the couple has been told about Ted or has seen him in action. On the form, the bride and groom are asked to circle "easygoing," "moderate" or "outgoing" to indicate the style of DJ they want. Anyone who has seen Ted come out from behind his paraphernalia to dance with the crowd could hardly call him easygoing or even moderate.

"Most of them will say they want someone who will get the party going but won't be obnoxious," Ted says. "Basically, they don't want Howard Stern DJ-ing their wedding. What I like to do is to get out there and dance with the crowd, with their permission. That doesn't mean I'm going to walk up to that cute bridesmaid and ask her if she wants to dance during 'Unchained Melody.' This isn't Love, American Style."

But some people think the DJ's job is nothing but a party. Not so, says Sweaty Teddy.

"There's this misperception that I'm going to drink booze all night, I'm going to pick up women, I'm going to party all night. No, that is not what I'm here to do," says Ted. "If you want to be successful, you better lose that attitude right away. Number one, you don't drink on the job; you get fired immediately for that. It's unprofessional. After it's all over, I do have a few libations at the end of the night, but during? No.

"Here to pick up girls? No, you are not. You never, ever want to get the reputation of being a lounge lizard. The bride, her mother and those bridesmaids don't want some goofball with a couple of corny lines trying to pick somebody up. That's ridiculous. That's totally unprofessional. You don't want to get that reputation."

That kind of rep will kill referrals. It's one thing for a bridesmaid to dance with the DJ, but to wake up with a tuxedo hanging from your bedpost -- that's usually not a story anyone involved wants to spread.

So even as Ted takes to the dance floor or goes table-hopping to see what folks will dance to, he's on the job. He's working. He's doing reconnaissance.

"The only slow dancing I do is the dollar dance," says Ted, who usually slips the bride a lottery ticket instead of cash. "That's my chance to check with the bride to make sure things are going OK. I always tell the bride to feel free to say, 'Hey, the music's a little loud -- will you turn it down?' or 'Grandma really wants to hear a polka at this point.' This is supposed to be the happiest day of the bride's life, but it's the most stressful, next to being born."

Once the matron of honor and best man make their toasts to the bride and groom, the next item on the agenda is the cake-cutting. Ted has cued up "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies.

Oh honey, honey
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you

Ted makes his way to the cake table, which is across the room from where he's spinning his music. He's holding a container of Wet Ones. It's another trick of the trade he's picked up. As Tim and Jill pose, doing the hokey feeding-each-other-cake routine, Ted's ready if some of the icing gets on their hands and faces.

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