By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Don't take that to mean Hicks is ashamed of what he does for a living, or that he's keeping his résumé ready and scouring the want ads. It's just that this is the kind of job you stumble into. You wake up one afternoon and realize you've been doing it for 10 years. Also, you don't really want to do anything else.
A few twists and turns aside, Hicks' origin story as a strip club DJ is not all that different from most. After more than a decade working in sales and marketing at the local office of Polygram Records, Hicks was selling ad space at The Met, the now-defunct alternative weekly. A few clubs were among his clients. He became friendly with the managers and, given his background in the music business, intrigued by the DJs. One day, while picking up an ad, Hicks worked up the nerve to pop the question.
"I just said, 'What does it take to DJ in a place like this?'" Hicks says. "The guy said, 'Well, I need somebody for Saturday afternoon. Why don't you just come on in and fill in?' Well, I filled in. I sucked on the mike but walked out with a couple hundred dollars for a Saturday afternoon. I thought, well, that was kinda fun, you know. So I went ahead and just kept on doing that every Saturday. And then eventually, you know, you can make a pretty good living, so I just decided to do it full time."
It's the strictest definition of "full time" when you're on the night shift at The Fare Room, an all-nude BYOB club that's part of the Cabaret Royale building just off Walnut Hill Lane. Hicks works four or five nights a week, and his shift lasts from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. But Hicks never has to watch the clock. There's always something to keep him occupied.
As if on cue, Jessica walks in. She has a twinkle in her eye. Quite literally. Her eyelids are encrusted with fake diamonds. She strikes up a giggling conversation with Thompson and another dancer named Jade (every club in town seems to have at least one girl named Jade) that eventually sucks in Hicks.
"Were you up here when I was doing that?" she asks Hicks, as the befuddled smile returns to his face. "I was all imitating the day dancers," she says. "Let me do my impression; you can see who--you know the day dancers, right, how they dance? OK, who am I?"
She raises her arms and loses her smile, shaking her hips with a bored look on her face.
"Some drunk girl?" Hicks ventures.
As Jessica stomps away, another girl comes in and asks Hicks about the song she wants him to play the next time she's onstage. Apart from a pair of stiletto heels, she's naked.
Which brings up a question: Does Hicks ever get tired of seeing naked women?
"Oh, yeah. I mean, some girls you don't want to see naked." He laughs. "Late night, we get some really good-looking girls. I mean, it's different. When they come in to tip you or we're talking about a song she wants played, and they're standing here--like that girl that came in naked? I wasn't paying attention. You kind of get that way. You're thinking about work. But, no, I never get tired of naked women."
Then again, Hicks doesn't see as many naked women as you might expect. The DJ booth at The Fare Room is directly above the club's main stage. It used to be virtually impossible to see what was going on below. The club fixed the problem by installing a video monitor in the booth. The grainy black-and-white image that appears on it isn't exactly titillating. It's just clear enough to confirm that there is, in fact, a girl onstage.
Not having a girl onstage is death to a DJ, but dead air is even worse.
"That's when my heart stops," Hicks says. "We have a program here that sometimes it'll freeze. And I'm like, 'Oh, my God.' So I've got to reboot the computer. So luckily we have two, just in case something like that happens. I'll have to ad-lib something while I get a CD on and get some music going. That's what gets me freaked out."
Jessica is back. "Can you do 'Trick Pony' again?"
He nods and turns to the mike. "That's it, guys, c'mon, clap your hands, staying out there two times for you, that's right, Taylor!" He turns back to Jessica.
"And then 'Jackson, Mississippi?'" she asks, before hustling out the door again.
Hicks taps a few keys at his computer and clears his throat.
"A little "Trick Pony" for you right now. C'mon, first time tonight, guys, that's right, Jessica!"
Britney appears in the doorway. Every club also seems to have a girl named Britney. She catches Hicks' eye with her pink vinyl shorts. They have hearts cut out of the hips.
"I like your shorts," he says.
"Thanks, they're new," Britney says, re-examining her wardrobe choice. "Let's see how much money I make in 'em."