Other Events (8)
The Shopping Center That Will Never Die
This is to announce that Disc Jockey Services has been chosen to play at the Grand Opening of Dick's Sporting Goods in Willow Lawn Shopping Center. This is a 3 Part Series on the history of the "Shopping Center that Would Never Die." I have a long history with Willow Lawn and personally and professionally. Here is the story:
I want my millions of followers real and unreal and the Russians to know about a coming event at the Willow Lawn Shopping Center. For many, Willow Lawn was the shopping center that you grew up with here in Richmond. Although it technically was not the first (that honor goes to the small shopping area in Carytown) it was certainly the first large shopping center built at the same time as it’s sister, Southside Plaza.. Friends of mine bagged groceries at Giant Food. We ate at Woolworth’s and GC Murphy’s lunch counters, had ice cream at High’s. We may have gone with our parents to the S&W Cafeteria to have dinner. We got our Gants, Weejuns and Villagers at Eljos and Etons
I was there at the Grand Opening of Willow Lawn because they had brought in Captain Kangaroo or Mr.Greenjeans (can’t remember which) and the Cisco Kid. (Hey Poncho, Hey Cisco!) The first celebrities I ever met.
I don’t know how many hours I spent at the Willow Lawn Theatre when it was one screen and then two screens. Do you remember that “The Sound of Music” played there for 2 years. In elementary school, (Mary Munford for me) we use to buy a pack of 12 movies with the 3 Stooges shorts and every week during the summer we would go to the movies. Such fond memories of riding my bike up there with my dog and just hanging around but times change and you get older and that’s where I leave it for Part ONE. Until the next installment Part Two: The Fall and Rise and Fall and Rise of Willow Lawn-the shopping center that would not die.
Well here we are back with the 2nd part of the Willow Lawn Story culminating in the big news. This is like "Who Shot JR?"
Well time marched on and Malls were invincible. They got bigger and bigger (Mall of America) and they went from outdoors to indoors (Azalea Mall being the first and then Big Daddy-Regency Mall). Regency had its OBreinstein’s with their made on the spot bagels. I love that place. The Magic Pan, Brooks Brothers, Thalheimers, Greentrees and Spencers Gifts( I bought many a Woopee Cushion there, that might be why I’m still single) Willow Lawn was starting to show its age and everyone said it was pass it’s prime and BOOM, they knocked down the middle and decided to enclose it and put in a food court. That turned Willow Lawn around and breathed new life into it. They divided the theater into two and this was my first gig with the shopping center. I had started another business to add additional income from my contracting business(Bernstein’s remodeling and Repair)and it was my love of music that I decided to do DJing on the weekends (Disc Jockey Services) ellback to the gig I played in the lobby upstairs to a Disco movie( don’t even remember the movie. I did it for two days lugging my equipment up 2 flights of stairs with no landing.
The next time I was asked to play for the 40th Anniversary of Willow Lawn to help raise money for the Special Olympics. I was honored to play and be on the bill with the Dovells (Bristol Stomp, You Can’t Sit Down, Hully Gully to name a few) and the Drifters ( too many songs to list). But as time went on ominous clouds were on the horizon in shopping trends that would cut the heart out of shopping centers around the country. The INTERNET! Shoppers were moving from brick and mortar to cyberspace and one by one shopping centers were dying off like the dinosaurs of prehistoric times. Southside Plaza had been declining for years as the demographics around it gradually go worse and worse. The next to bit the dust was the slow agonizing death of Azalea Mall off of Brook Rd. and again Willow Lawn looked like it was going to head in that direction, especially when the “tragically hip” Short Pump Mall opened up with it’s stores for the ‘beautiful people.” Now they won’t have to travel up to Washington or Tyson Corners for the “in” stores like Nordstrom’s. Well there goes the neighborhood. Oh, what, oh what was going to become of Willow Lawn? Now your just going to have to wait until the next and final installment as I weave this chilling detail of the “Shopping Center That Could” or can it?
Therefore, finally the culmination of all this as we go through this history of a shopping center is to welcome the newest business. Willow Lawn was able survive in an environment that saw so many fail. Obviously, it changed with the times, it brought in new businesses, it changed its overall character and now it is seeing one of the largest stores to ever open in Willow Lawn’s history, Dick’s Sporting Goods. That’s right Dick’s is having a Grand Opening on July14, 2018 and I (Disc Jockey Services) have been asked to play for this event from 11:00am to 2:00 pm. Everyone is familiar with Dick’s and the products they sell in sporting and outdoor activities. Now Dick’s is closer to you. We will have to call it the Dick’s Intown. So, come on by and participate in an old fashion Grand Opening. I going to be playing pop music with a sport’s theme and music used at various sporting events across the decades. I’ll also, take your request. I have gifts to give away when you answer correctly to totally ridiculous and irrelevant questions.
I am so looking forward to Dick’s Grand Opening, working with them, and being a part of this event. My 3rd for “For The Shopping Center That Refuses To Go Away.” I’m proud to add Dick’s Sporting to corporations like Capitol One, Greyhound Bus, US Olympics, Snap-On Tools and ITT and local businesses like Va. Eye Institute, Butler,
Disc Jockey Services plays at the Grand Opening of Dick's in Willow Lawn July 14th
It was Thursday morning when I pulled into the Greyhound Bus Terminal and started to pull my DJ equipment out of the van to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. They would be arriving at 11:00 am to put on a special show for a classroom of kids who were lucky enough to be picked from Carver Elementary School.
Let me back up a minute and explain how we got to this point. I received an e-mail from the Greyhound Bus Company out of Dallas, Texas. Disc Jockey Services two years earlier was asked to provide music for Greyhound’s 100th Anniversary which was held at the Short Pump Mall in Henrico County. After a full day of music out there and packing up, I figured that would probably be the last time I would hear from them after I submitted my invoice to get paid. Jokingly I said I enjoyed doing it, could I put them down on my calendar to do the 200th Anniversary in 3014. Fast forward (but not to 3014, but to 2016) to February 2016 I get this e-mail, would I be interested in doing an event with the Harlem Globetrotters in Richmond. Well you didn’t have to ask me twice. I think Greyhound really, really likes me.
Now back to the show. The kids arrived first and I must say they were very well behaved. They were treated to some refreshments before the show began. I had a talk with the MC that travels with the Globetrotters on the timeline for the event. We went over the songs to play and when to play them. About 11:45 am, “Globie” the Mascot came out with his act and did musical chairs with the kids and did some fun interaction with them. The MC kept the show going and then it came time to introduce the Harlem Globetrotters to (my queue) “Sweet Georgia Brown.” The team came out and went through their famous routines and then talked to the kids about “bullying” and how to deal with it in school.
As the show ended the kids got autographs and pictures taken with the team and back on the bus for the kids and back on their bus for the Globetrotters and back to the hotel and to rest up for the game that night at the Coliseum. All in all it was a great event for the kids and the Globetrotters enjoyed it, too. The staff of the Greyhound Bus station were great to work with and helped with the logistics of me setting up. I left with a nice feeling that I was able to contribute something to the event with the music. That’s why I love playing music. Hope the Globetrotters win tonight!( they did…..they always do.)
We are one of the luckiest generations to experience the birth of so many different forms of music. Being born at the end of the swing and big band era and the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chubby Checker, American Bandstand, Richmond’s own Teen Dance Party on Channel 12, Teen Tempo on Channel 6. The rise of the British Invasion, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Billy J. Kramer, Dave Clark 5 and so many others. America fought back with the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Tommy James and the Shondells. As we went off to college we saw the rise of folk music and hootenannies, Bob Dylan, Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead. With the growth of music concerts we saw Monterey Pop, Woodstock and the death nil, Altamont.
And during all this time R’n’B continued its rise from Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and the whole stable of Motown Stars.
Richmond had its own music scene with the Escorts, Panics, Johnny Houston and the Charmers and the Barracudas. TJ had its bands like the Morticians and Sound By Four. And how many remember the Hullabaloo Club on W. Marshall, Huh?
Well, as your DJ for the evening, I want to bring those memories back of sock hops, dedications of songs to our friends and steadies. I want the entertainment to be the best ever done at a reunion and that other high schools would like to duplicate what we have done. Will we have the best dance music, but we have some great retro prizes for the contests we have planned After all, I have a personal stake in this because I’m a member of the class, too. So your homework assignment is to:
1. Study you pop culture and music from the 60’s for the crazy contests we’re going to have
3. Come to the Reunion
4. Talk to everyone and catch-up on the last 20 years and partake of the activities
5. Take a nap Saturday Afternoon, so you can be rested for the “muther of all dances” Saturday night
6. Practice up on your Watusi, Stroll, Shag, Locomotion, Swim, Twist and the Hully Gully and dance your feet off and have fun, fun, fun, till your daddy takes your T-bird away!
7. And after the dance go to the Clover Room for that sundae or frosty (if only it were still there) or dogwood dell to make-out (and then to the clover room.)
This article appears on the Thomas Jefferson's website for their reunion party. Written by the DJ for the class of '65.
Update to this letter to the class of 62. When I first started doing school reunions, I just came to the event and maybe talked to the person who called and hired me. I soon realized after doing a number of these reunions, from those that had money to spend to those that didn't have to nickels to rub together, there was more work involved than the committee was aware there was. Reunions be it school, college or family usually fall to a few dedicated people. Pass the initial work of getting the logistics down, the biggest concern is getting in touch with everyone in the class and tracking them down. This is an on going job. I have done a number of reunions where the party was poorly planned and executed because with all the work that had to be done the committee overlooked the the events of the evening and it was chaos. When hired I want to sit in on some of the committee's meetings dealing with the party and the flow of the evening. I offer my hands-on services because of my years of experience. If you can afford to have the DJ you hire do this, I believe it will pay off in a more professional run event. The letter below went out to the class of '62 to give the reunion a more interactive feel by being able to get their request, personally to the DJ.
To The Class Of 1962
Greetings, Class of ‘62, let me introduce myself, I’m Larry Bernstein and I’ll be the disc jockey for your class reunion in October. What we want to do is make this party so much fun by playing the music that will bring back those memories of crusin’ around Bill’s Barbeque, Shoney’s and going to the Clover Room for the Frosteds or Club Sandwiches. How about after the movies at the Capital and you would go right next door to Julian’s for the best pizza in town.
How many remember the Escorts, Johnny Houston and the Charmers, Doug Clark and the Hotnuts, The Jarmels and Tommy Edwards.
I just want to take a minute to share what happened at the Class reunions of ‘65 and ‘66. Can we taulk! I DJ’ed that party and was concerned that there would not be a lot of dancing and fun times after all we’re not 17 year olds. I figured that after a full day of activities that people would be just to Pooped To Pop. I was worried that people would start to leave early, BUT boy was I wrong! Not only did the event go the full 4 hours but an additional 2 hours. Well we showed everybody we know how to party and as a generation we are not going to go gentle into that good night! We were doing the Bop, Cha Cha, Electric Slide, Shag and the Stroll. There was so much electricity in the air that we could have powered a city block. People were dancing that told me they don’t dance and others who said they don’t like to dance.
Now this brings me to you, the Class of 1962. This is the kind of event that I want for you and just between you and me; I think your class can do better than the class of 65 and ’66. Shhhhhh, don’t mentioned it to anyone you know in the class of 65, I’ll deny I said it!
We have a great party planned with great music, great lights and effects, and prizes for some contest if we can get them in. So those of you that are coming and I expect that to be 99% of the class, you’ve got time to practice your dancing and to help you get in the spirit. We want you to send in requests for your favorite songs of that era and to make it a little more personal, send me your dedications too. Make it to your wife, old boy friend, old flame or anybody you want.
Your DJ For The Evening
It was early Saturday morning as the trucks came to unload the vintage buses The newer ones came in under their own power. Everyone was busy setting up banners, displays and tents. Greyhound had their tent selling limited addition articles and an area where you could win prizes for the kids. I set up my equipment next to the traveling museum and boy what a bus that was. The history of Greyhound done to the "9's". Very impressive stories, pictures and uniforms of bus drivers through the years.
The buses themselves were impressive. They had the first vehicle Greyhound ever used the "Hupmobile" and then the 1914 bus. Then came the famous Scenicrusier and the newest one of today. That bus is too much! It has WiFi and AC outlets, comfortable black seats and you feel like your riding in your own limousine. This bus you have to make reservations. You truly are riding in style.
With a steady flow of people coming through all day, it was a stroll down memory lane. There were those who brought their kids to show them how people in this country use to travel and to see real deals parked on the lot. I don't know how the kids felt as they came up to these mobile vehicles of a bygone era, I hope they felt somewhat the way I felt as I looked upon these behemoths that as a kid I was fascinated just looking at them.
Disc Jockey Services was hired to provide music for the 8 hour event playing the sounds of Benny Goodman, the Andrew Sisters and the big band area of the 1940's all the way up to the latest in 2014 from Sam Smith, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Pharrell Williams to name a few.
As we got closer to the end of the event and the crew came in to tear everything down and the trucks came back to pick up the vintage bus it was a good day for everyone involved. Althrough we were all tired. I went to a friend's for a cookout and the others ready to go to their next stop in Raleigh, North Carolina. Thank you Greyhound for hiring Disc Jockey Services. Don't hesitate to call me for the 200th Anniversary. I'm penciling it in for 3014.
The Juliano 25th Anniversary party was one of the most unique parties that Disc Jockey Services has ever done. Their son, Mike, who I knew quite well as he is my banker and has access to all my bank accounts, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to do his parents party.
Now one thing that Disc Jockey Services tries to do, is make every party unique from every other party that we do and since Mike and I are fans of Christopher Walken and Mike does a terrific Christopher Walken impression. I came up with this crazy idea to do a phone-in from famous celebrities to wish the couple a happy anniversary. Mike had a friend Danny Markham who did a number of imitations of famous personalities, too. I wrote a loose script for the skit and Mike and Danny ran with it. I put them in a room off from the main hall and gave them a wireless microphone and they went with flow. We pretended that all these Hollywood celebrities were calling in from Hollywood and a few stars from the great beyond. Mike took Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert DeNiro, the great sports announcer for the Chicago Cubs Harry Carey, and Christopher Walken, while Danny took James Stewart, Mike Tyson, ex-president Clinton and Ernst T. Bass from the Andy Griffith Show. It was Improv at it’s best. Danny had done stand-up here in Richmond and Mike has that infectious personality that allows him to be funny with his impressions.
The Juliano’s can lay claim to having the most unusual anniversary party thanks to the talents of their son and friend Danny. After all, how many of you have had so many faux personalities call you and wish a happy anniversary?
They’re tearing down the Hyatt on Broad Street, so where a once mighty hotel stood will be an empty field. I know what you're saying, “ What does this have to do with weddings, music or djs?” Well it does. When the hotel was built in the 70’s it was the best hotel in the Richmond area and within it’s walls was the Lightfoot’s Lounge. Not the biggest but certainly the longest running next to Fanny’s at the Holiday Inn (now the Crowne Plaza). Oh, by the way how many remember the bubble dome on the side of the hotel.
During the Disco era you had to wait in lines to get in. Richmond’s answer to Studio 54. Lightfoot’s saw great bands like Leggs and Casper play and a number of DJs play in Lightfoot’s exclusive dj booth. Steve “The Beach” Leonard use to do beach music on Sunday nights to the sweet sounds of soul and Carolina shag. Lightfoot’s was a DJ’s delight as it was one of the few clubs that had a dj booth made just for the disc jockey to use. It had a piece of granite which the dj turntable sat on to help isolate any vibrations from dancing on the floor. There was the built in soundboard and controller to work the lights on the floor. A lot of thought went into that dj booth. Why is it important to me? It was my first commercial job as a dj. I loved that little club. Many a celebrity stayed there when in Richmond. I ran into the Carter family and June Carter one Saturday night as I took a break from playing music. If you ran into any celebrities at the Hyatt please comment below.
The hotel had too many weddings and events to mention and Disc Jockey Services was fortunate to do one of the last wedding receptions in their big ballroom and one of the last events before it closed in the restaurant. Ironically it was Tucker High School Class Reunion of 1966. How many remember the group of people who did the annual Christmas dance under the name, ‘The Party Of The First Part.” That party has been going on for over 30 plus years and it was held for several years at the Hyatt sans Sheraton, sans Ramada Plaza. You remember a place for the good memories that it holds for you.
Does this make the Hyatt a landmark, not if you compare it to the John Marshall, Jefferson or the William Byrd (now a retirement home) it doesn’t have the architecture or the long history of these hotels but it had it’s first as a high-end suburban hotel. It was the place to stay in it’s hey day. A place to go for Sunday brunch with fresh squeezed orange juice and the Sunday New York Times given to you. I shall miss its ballroom, its banquet rooms, the weddings and events I played there as I honed my skills as a disc jockey. I think it is sad whenever you see an old friend go.
The 60thAnniversary of the Italian Kitchen has come and gone, but not without the great success of that night. The restaurant was packed. The Thompson family went all out to decorate the place in an Italian theme. They paid attention to every detail. As people came in they were given a plastic bag of a variety of pasta and they were to find the table that matched that name of pasta on their bag, how creative. The staff was dressed impeccably and the food was great. Disc Jockey Services provided John Smallie to perform his close-up magic during the cocktail hour. He was a big hit that evening. He is professional and a great guy to work with for a full evening of entertainment.
Brian Thompson lead the MC duties for the program of events as he gave a history of the 60 years of the Italian Kitchen, then he let family and loyal customers tell their personal stories about the restaurant. There were people there who have been coming to the Italian Kitchen from the very beginning. Some of the stories were funny, others touching as they talked of those who had passed away and told of fond memories of them and their experiences.with the Montecalvo and Thompson family. I personally have never seen that kind of loyalty, especially in this day in time. The Italian Kitchen has outlasted Ukrops, Circuit City, Clover Room and other Icons in this city. In this day in time with the likes of Cheesecake Factories, Applebee’s, TGIF and The Olive Garden, it is refreshing to see the family run restaurant flourish like the Italian Kitchen.
In their way to recognize their family and customers, the Thompsons did not overlook their staff that helps make this restaurant great. Brian’s brother Jon who runs the front called all the staff out to be recognized, many who have been with them for years. The Thompson family knows how to treat their employees with respect that makes them enjoy working at the Italian Kitchen.
After the program, the event was turned over to me to get the party going. I have to admit I was a little worried about how that was going to go over, after all it was a Monday night, people have to work the next day and let’s face it Monday night has never been known as party night. I was pleasantly surprised as the guests got into it and danced the rest of the night away until I had to call it quits. A half an hour over the allotted time and they were still going strong when I closed it down. What a night.
I just wanted to add this at the end. I want to thank the Thompsons and Montecalvos for not only hiring Disc Jockey Services, but also treating me as one of the family during the course of the day. Many times I come in do my job and leave, but not the case here. During the course of the day we had as much fun setting up the place laughing and carrying on as we did during the event. Thank you for making my job so enjoyable. A special shout to my friend Jerry Huddleston for the use of his Bose system and his help that evening. It’s always great when I get a chance to work with him doing a gig.