Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eight months: dance this night away

You'll forgive me if I seem a bit out of sorts today. The two hours I devoted to doing our taxes left me feeling like I'd been sideswiped by a truck.

People get all weird when you try to discuss finances. It's considered poor form to tell people how much money you make, even worse form to ask them how much they make. It's not like we can't all tell who has money and who doesn't. Putting a specific number on it isn't going to change that.

Same with Bar Mitzvahs. If you attend enough of them, you can pretty much figure out how much was spent on what. The DJs, for example; almost everyone uses the same DJ outfit, Denon and Doyle. A nice pair of Irishmen, loaning themselves out for the enjoyment of Jews.

Actually, Denon and Doyle, as far as I can tell, are a major conglomerate. And they have a monopoly over the local Bar Mitzvah scene. Save for a couple of exceptions, families who chose the mysterious "DJ High Top," almost everyone else has invested in Denon and Doyle -- us included.

From the start, we were advised to set aside a particularly large bag of money for the DJ. "It's the key to the whole party," we were told. Having heard of off-beat weddings whose entertainment consisted of an iPod docking station, I was skeptical. Sandra Bullock and I took a visit to Denon and Doyle's web page ( and learned that the DJ better be the key to the whole party, since he costs about as much as a year of parochial school.

At Denon and Doyle, a "low-key" party package will run you $2,216. Of course, nobody opts for the "low-key" package. Who wants a "low-key" Bar Mitzvah?

From there, packages run to $7,550. Yes, you read that right. Now you know how I felt doing our taxes.

For $7,550, you get two MCs and four "motivators." And if my wife is within earshot, don't call the motivators "hookers." You'll get in trouble.

There are variables -- number of lights, stage size. You could easily end up paying Denon and Doyle -- or rather, young and enthusiastic representatives of Denon and Doyle, five figures. And then turn around and drop another $20,000 on eighth grade, if you can.

Being the proper sheep we are, we nailed down our contract with Denon and Doyle early. Unfortunately, we could not procure the services of Patrick, Denon and Doyle's star MC. Like Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, our first choice to lead our service, Patrick was already booked. I can't remember the name of the guy we ended up getting, but he also comes armed with a stellar reputation.

We are resolutely middle-class, and so went for the middle package. With it you get a DJ, and MC and two hookers, I mean, motivators. I'm not sure if we're upgrading with the special haze effect and the uplit truss. I know we're not getting the lighted dance cubes.

Now that I've held Denon and Doyle up for ridicule, let me say that from what I've seen so far, they are worth every penny people spend on them. This isn't like at our wedding, where the DJ was some old guy in a vest who played "What I Like About You" even after I took time to make him a list of songs I didn't want playing at my wedding. What was on that list? You got it: "What I Like About You."

Their coverage is more comprehensive than any insurance plan. The MC starts his night out in front of the venue, welcoming guests as they arrive. He sets up in a spot about 50 feet past the scary Russian security guard from school that everyone hires to frighten the kids into staying in line. For a little bit more, you can get both of the scary Russian guys from school.

For my money, the motivators tend to rely on pretty base motivating tactics, that is, they shamelessly flirt with a room full of 13-year-old boys. But it works. Otherwise, you'd have a dance floor full of girls and parents and the boys would be running all over the place, finding fire extinguishers and shooting them off. Stuff like that.

The DJ team really takes over after dinner. And it's not like they just flip a switch and on comes the music. They start out with some intros, let the parents of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah do a few opening remarks, then dig deep into the Jewish celebration guidebook, pulling out the traditional "chair dance" and, of course, the Hora. That thing can snake around for several minutes if executed correctly.

Two weeks ago, MC Patrick even had poor Josh K. up there doing the YMCA dance. If I remember, Josh K. was just fine during the retreat, so maybe it wasn't as much of a stretch as I'm thinking. I know he had Jacob R. up there in full construction worker regalia, the main theme of the original Village People being completely lost through years of heavy airplay at sporting events and having evolved from iconic gay anthems to good-time family fun.

If I'm not mistaken, Denon and Doyle will even set up a photo booth for you, at a massive cost, of course.

Sometimes, I stop and think about the great power we've all given Denon and Doyle over these very important rites of passage. For the most part, they're determining the atmosphere of each party. Patrick gets to decide if it's going to be a completely upbeat party or if he's going to mix in a few slow songs, which means Patrick's at the wheel when a bunch of our kids put their hands on a member of the opposite sex for the first meaningful time.

The DJ decides what songs will be played. The family in charge has some input, I'm told, but so far I've heard the same songs played at each party. Every week, the Jawa comes home and heads straight to iTunes, where he downloads whichever song he's deemed most significant this week. After ten Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, a kind of "2009-2010 Bar Mitzvah Soundtrack" is developing. If Denon and Doyle were really on the ball, they rip that sucker onto CDs and sell them every Saturday for $10 a pop. I guarantee they'd do a bang-up business.

Despite what looks like certain ruin from income taxes, we are on board the Denon and Doyle express. Not only because it helps us keep up with the Joneses, but because from what I've seen at the parties, the Jawa is one enthusiastic dancer.

He gets that from his mother, of course.

No comments: