There are different levels of being alive. There is the level of being lucky to be alive, to be living. Adam Goldstein, who was nearly killed in a plane crash with his friend Travis Barker back on Sept. 19, is luckily alive.
But Goldstein’s alter-ego, the ceaselessly bobbing DJ AM who spins dance music from such throbbing hotspots as LAX and Pure in Las Vegas, this guy is alive.
And it was last night and early this morning that I swept into Pure at Caesars Palace to see just what all the fuss is about with the wildly popular DJ AM, who is a partner in LAX at the Luxor. It is his third post-crash appearance since the fiery Learjet crash near Columbia, S.C., which left Goldstein and Barker seriously burned and claimed the lives of four other passengers, including a longtime assistant to Barker, Chris Baker. (According to an Associated Press report Friday, Barker has sued companies linked the plane that crashed, including the plane's owners, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and an airplane maintenance company. He is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.)
Goldstein and Barker, frequent performing partners in Vegas clubs, skirted death by clambering down one of the flaming jet’s wings, then shed their clothing while flames raced over their bodies. Barker, a tireless drummer who was once a member of Blink-182, was burned over much of his lower body; Goldstein on his hands and the right side of his head.
To understand what DJ AM’s appearance can mean to a nightclub, check out the crowd building up to 90 minutes before Pure opens at midnight. As Pure exec Keith Leavitt, who is the club’s director of customer development/VIP services (and hey, tonight I am a VIP to be served), says, as we knife through the crowd pouring into the club, on a busy night 5,000 to 6,000 partygoers are allowed into the nightspot. This is one of those nights, as I’m led to the white-curtained staging area to the left of the DJ booth.
I’ve been up here before, a couple of years ago to watch DJ AM and Barker whale away for three hours during one of their overnight appearances. Tonight, it’s just AM, and from my perch I see a sea of sweaty, bounding club-goers who paid $30 (guys), $20 (women) or nothing (local people) for the chance to rejoice in DJ AM’s mashups.
Soon after I take the first of my four positions looking down across the crowd (I keep getting moved farther from the DJ booth as for-real VIPs take their curtained-off spaces), I’m joined, kind of, by Tracy Morgan of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame, who has just finished his "Laffapalooza" performance at The Comedy Festival. Tracy, who is a good spot shorter than I and a bit soft in the middle, is dressed darkly but for a necklace and gleaming wristlet or watch. He lords over the crowd in an impressive Obama-in-Berlin manner, grinning for photos and shouting “hey-ooooh!” to the crowd while waving his arms to the bass-heavy dance beat.
At about 12:40 a.m., DJ AM is announced to a roar that would be deafening if I weren’t already sort of deaf, and the party ascends to an ear-piercing octave. The guy to my right, sipping from a reddish drink in a sticky glass, tries to ask me a question, but I can’t hear him, and we both lean forward for an attempt at conversation. Whack! We head-butt, and the person -- who says his name is J.D., backward of DJ -- says, “That is going to hurt in the morning,” as I feel my forehead for blood. No idea what he wanted to ask, but one of the ominously sized security guys asks me if I would like something to drink. “Fiji?” I say, and at regular increments I am offered a bottle of Fiji. I will be offered about $200, retail, in Fiji water over the span of 2½ hours.
AM is playing some happily familiar artists -- now it’s the Jackson 5 and “Give Me One More Chance,” and a new person, a woman in a short/tight purple mini number, backs into me like a glittery little forklift. She grabs me by my notepad and seems to ask what I do for a living -- but only silence emanates from her shiny mouth as a pre-teen Michael Jackson wails for one more chance.
I start to say, “My title is senior editor for Greenspun Interactive, which is owned by the Greenspun family, who own the Las Vegas Sun and Greenspun Media Group, which is the parent company of many magazine and online titles, including Vegas Magazine and Las Vegas Weekly and LasVegasWeekly.com. My job is editor of Robin Leach’s Web site, Vegas DeLuxe, and I also create a lot of multimedia projects -- online stories with photo galleries and sometimes video clips we produce in-house. I do some TV on Fox 5, and for our weekly sports show, All In, I have a weekly radio show on KUNV, a local NPR affiliate, and, of course, a lot of editing and Web site content management for Robin, who is my new best friend forever, my BFF, if you will.”
But none of that comes out. This damsel simply cannot hear me. So instead, I stab my pad and I mouth the word, “writer!” She nods and smiles and spins back around, imprudently sliding down my left leg as the song shifts into a mash that includes Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll.” She then opens her arms triumphantly to the crowd, channeling Evita Peron or Sarah Palin or some other famous female inspirer of throngs. Now it’s the Who’s “Teenage Wasteland,” and I am asked again to move, and if I would like some Fiji.
I turn to my right, to see if Tracy is OK, and standing next to me is a woman who also asks what I am doing taking notes in a nightclub. I do the pen-pad thing and am noticing this woman looks really, really familiar to me. Then she shouts, “Seinfeld bus!” Yes! It is Pamela Brown, the PR rep I met yesterday at the Seinfeld Bus and who told me all about the bus because, hey, that’s her job. So there we are, dancing (well, she is; what I’m doing can be called “rhythmic note-taking”). Before ambling away she shouts, “Did you get my photos?!” and a couple of people nearby hear her and their faces take on a look of, “Wha-a-a?” I say, “I used the big one, the angled one in front of the hotel!” and we knock fists as she leaves.
Now AM dials up The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me,” which slides seamlessly into Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” I love AM’s imagination and would someday like to work with him on my own ideas for mashups -- which include ZZ Top’s “Tube Snake Boogie," blended with Earth Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire” and a couple of Rush classics (“Freewill” and “The Spirit of Radio”). These are mere ideas; he’s the artist, and I would give him total control of the final product.
As it is, I keep getting pushed farther and farther away from the booth and can’t get a good look at the man of the night. I do see him swaying over there, and as I crane to get an unobstructed view I meet up with yet another familiar face -- Adam Steck, whose SPI Entertainment productions include “Thunder From Down Under,” “Louie -- Larger Than Life” and “The Ronn Lucas Comedy Puppet Show.” For someone who doesn’t “club” much, I know many people at Pure! I shout to Adam, asking if he makes it to Pure very often. “Too old!” he shouts. I laugh and remember Chris Rock’s line about getting older, “You never want to be the oldest guy in the club!”
I look out in the crush of humans and there are lots of ages represented -- far older than Rock and Adam and me. Adam takes off, the crowd in the curtains is thinning, and I finally get a clear look at AM. He happens to glance in my direction, and I spin my pen in my fingers and shrug my shoulders. He smiles and gives a little nod as Bob Marley’s “Jamming” shakes the club.
Bob Marley, who knew all the best uses for fire, was an ideal way to end this night. Good stuff, Adam.