By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Lunchroom chat amongst grade-school kids is an anthropological goldmine. The insight into what kids find of utmost, urgent importance could provide a glimpse of the forming future of America. Imagine this conversation in the lunchroom of W.E Greiner Middle School in Oak Cliff (paraphrased, of course).
Student One: "Yeah, I spin records at a club with my best friend."
Student Two: "Nuh-uh!"
Student One: "No really, we do. It's a lot of fun."
Student Two: "Nuh-uh!"
Frustrating much? And we're not talking about the DISD-educated vernacular of Student Two. Paige Christensen and Charly Tomlinson are 11-year-old girls just now starting at Greiner and are tired of classmates second-guessing their extracurricular activities.
"Sometimes they'll say 'Yeah, right!' Sometimes they are sarcastic. Everyone believed me at [William B. Travis Talented and Gifted School]. It gets on my nerves," Charly vents.
Paige adds, "I don't care that much. I know who I am, and that's all that matters. Some friends think it's kind of cool. Some are kind of jealous and don't believe. They say they can spin better than me or that we don't really DJ."
Paige and Charly are the Goldfish Girls, a DJ collaboration between two best friends since kindergarten who play every Friday at Absinthe Lounge, an underground club in the South Side on Lamar building—not "off the radar" underground but literally, one walks down into the club from the street. The two gals play that unusual stretch of time in which happy hour is over but it's too early to head out for the night. Yet, on a recent Friday night, the bar was maybe half full of patrons partaking in alcohol, nicotine and '80s R & B such as Cameo, Prince and one of girls' favorites, Bobby Jimmy and the Critters, an obscure rap comedy team with hits like "Big Butt" and "We Like Ugly Women."
How do tweens play in a 21-and-up spot where their friends and classmates can't come to verify the girls' claims? That's easy when one of their dads is manager Kevin Christensen. At the same time, his daughter discovered "the coffin" that housed his old turntables. Sensing Paige's interest, he pulled out his old vinyl LP collection of old-school soul and rap, taught her and Charly how to work dual turntables and cue up records to mix into each other and booked them as a weekly gig.
"It took them a while to figure out how to cue a song, but they got some of the skills down and now have a tight set. They sometimes put stuffed animals on the records, though, to see them spin," he says. Christensen also explains that TABC laws will allow a youngster in a club with a parent or guardian.
Patrons don't seem to have a problem with kiddos in the club, according to manager and dad, Kelly Tomlinson. "All kinds of people come in for the girls. Even single fathers in the building will come down with their kids and have a drink." However, when they played Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," one customer expressed discomfort to Papa Tomlinson. "I realize [Charly's] going to be a woman one day. I don't shield her unnecessarily from stuff. Now, she's a kid and she's not even paying attention to the lyrics. Just having fun," Tomlinson says.
Almost three years later, the girls have a snazzy Web site (goldfishgirls.com), have met national DJ Baby Anne and hung out, VIP-style, with her at the Lizard Lounge and have played sets at the Barley House and Lee Harvey's as well as private parties. They are mini-rock stars, but that's not why they keep doing it.
"It's fun because I get to hang out with Charly. Sometimes we get in arguments like 'who's more mature.' Silly stuff," Paige admits.
Charly chimes in with, "I get to meet a lot of people who are really nice. I look forward to it. But it's Paige who brings in the stuffed animals and puts them on the turntables."