Death becomes us?
Vegas nightlife—all too often in mourning
Thu, Sep 10, 2009 (midnight)
It felt eerily vacant, the DJ booth at Body English this past Friday night, when I suddenly remembered that DJ AM used to command these tables but is no longer with us. And I felt a pang—almost of embarrassment—driving past the Palms billboard that welcomes Vegas-bound Californians on the I-15, still touting the late DJ’s performance this Labor Day weekend. It was the same day I read that his death might have been a suicide.
Suicide or accidental overdose, AM robbed himself of a future and us of the chance to see just how bright his star could someday shine. It’s the very definition of a tragedy.
I met Adam Goldstein a handful of times at the Sundance Film Festival and its accompanying cavalcade of parties, usually through a mutual friend. He was always cordial though rarely friendly. He was serious and reserved, as if he was saving himself for his set. He was never rude, but I wouldn’t have called the guy chatty.
We first spoke during a 2005 phone interview about his move from Body English to Pure. He was driving down the PCH to Santa Monica to pick up yet another pair of sneakers and made fun of himself for already having more than 600 pair. He laughed freely and often, and through the phone I could hear him smiling. It was a very good day, I suppose.
We talked business for 15 minutes and everything but business for the next 15. When he arrived at his destination, he thanked me for the interview but more so for the pleasant conversation, and told me to seek him out at Sundance so we could catch up in person. But when I did just that, it was a very different scene.
Bitter cold on Park City’s Main Street in early 2006 I was puffing lightly on a cigarette, almost too cold to inhale. My neighbor, puffing deeply and methodically, was a tall, slender young man with a weary posture. If he wore a coat, I don’t recall it, but he was not bundled up. He smoked his cig the way bad boys do in movies, between their thumb and forefinger. He squinted like James Dean and looked right through me when I stammered, “Hi! M-m-my name is X-X-Xania! From the LV Weekly …? I interviewed you awhile back … for that article …?
- Related Stories
- Remembering DJ AM: Scenes from a life (9/10/09)
- AM in LV (9/10/09)
- A legend in his own time (9/3/09)
- DJ AM's replacement? (9/1/09)
- Investigation into DJ AM's death continues (9/1/09)
- DJ AM's death a tragedy by any measure (9/1/09)
- Rain remembers DJ AM (8/29/09)
- DJ AM found dead in NY (8/28/09)
- From the Archives
- Xania's interview with AM (11/17/05)
“Oh, yeah. How’s it going,” he more stated than asked, then flicked his butt into a snow bank and excused himself. Subsequent run-ins came with head-nods and re-introduction after re-introduction with not the slightest spark of recognition or connection, even over the common ground of Las Vegas. I mentally filed him away with the other celebs you brush elbows with in Vegas or at Sundance.
And that, as they say, was that.
Vegas’ nightlife industry seems particularly skilled at mourning. We especially excel at tributes—Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Elvis ... Each time we lose a loved one—DJ, host, musician, idol—we make altars of his or her Facebook and gather to “celebrate life,” usually more shaken by our own brushes with death, feeling guilty for the stupid chances we’ve taken. We seem to imagine them forever peering down at us from some celestial sky box, looking out for our good fortunes.
Perhaps it’s because Vegas clubs employ so many creative and emotional souls with great music at their fingertips. Or perhaps it’s because so many of our heroes and colleagues live such hard, short lives; sense must be made of it somehow if we are to keep the party going.
Hardly heartless (I cried when the Red Room Saloon closed …), I just don’t want to lose sight of the micro-view. Down here on the ground, weekend anecdotes regularly begin with, “I was so wasted!” and end with blackouts and driving. We’ve lost an alarming number of people in recent years to overdoses, car crashes and suicide.
Therefore, my eyes are on our roads; DJ AM belonged to the world, not just Vegas. So save your flower money, keep the sidewalks clear of memorials—the best way to honor AM’s memory is to look among your friends for someone who might be slipping into addiction and get them the help AM so desperately needed himself but was miraculously able to give to others.