King David

DJ Padilla reigns over South Beach from his Warsaw throne

If the nightcrawlers of South Beach were to appoint a DJ King, they would most likely crown David Padilla. Sure, some spinners may be better off the cuff, in other modes, and others may be more famous, by virtue of seniority and hustle. But it's Padilla who's got just the right regal ingredients: He's strong and on the silent side, courtly if not downright imposing, and he inspires absolute faith in his subjects. Oh, and when it comes to solid, in-the-pocket, record-breaking consistency of venue, Padilla is unparalleled.

Unless you're related to Rumplestiltskin, you know that Padilla occupies the throne that is the DJ booth at Warsaw Ballroom, the longest-running show on the Beach. It's a crazy place to preside, what with its special blend of drag and butch, madness and debauchery, beauty and implied violence, a sanctuary of pure unadulterated sweat and beat where the pumped get pumped, the moved are moved. To say that Warsaw's merely a gay club misses the point -- you can't stamp a label on the wildness witnessed in its hallowed halls. That it's one of the most successful clubs -- gay or straight -- in the entire nation proves that somebody's doin' something right. For while the competition cracks and crumbles, Warsaw -- alone but not lonely -- remains, packed to the rafters, weekend in and weekend out.

Needless to say it takes a novel talent to kick the ballistics, captain the frenzy, bottle the magic that keeps them coming back for more, and Padilla's that man. Three years ago, when Wire duo Renee and Andrew Delaplaine were leaving Scratch to take over the space, they brought in Padilla to master the mix. The landlord demanded some "key money" to secure a long-term lease -- essentially first, last, and security, but for higher stakes than your typical apartment rental. When the two couldn't meet the property owner's belated demands, Leo Nunez and his gang stepped in, grabbed the reins and, recognizing a gift horse, kept Padilla in the saddle. He's been there ever since.

Padilla didn't just waltz in without portfolio to the biggest action in South Beach; he worked up the ranks the hard way, through tough knocks and with perseverance. Like many operators in what is unofficially known as the "sixth borough," Padilla springs from the Big Bad Apple, money-makin' Manhattan. He wasn't born with a silver Park Avenue spoon in his mouth; rather, he earned the scratch to outfit his dream as a bike messenger, went mobile, then took to the dance floor his fast-learned familiarity with risk and danger.

Soon followed privileged positions in legendary discos such as Xenon and Le Mouche, and a spot as sidekick to the then massively popular radio personality, Animal, of New York's 92-KTU. Armed with a distinct stripe, jilted by a girl, and looking for a change of pace, Padilla hit South Florida.

His first stop was at Trax up in Hollywood, where he'd slip some house on the Top 40-fed crowd. Then came a stint in the Grove at the late Biscayne Baby, serving up classics to the raucous rollers, and, its logical successor, the China Club, in the sacred spot where Warsaw now stands. Still, despite the fact that Padilla was working constantly, something was amiss -- he just wasn't spinning what he felt, and, through his connections at For the Record, Rockpool, Florida Record Pool, and Flamingo Record Pool (industry record services of which, at one time or another, he's been a member), he let slip the fact that he was available for a more adventurous program. Padilla never guessed that the wave he'd eventually latch onto would hit tidal proportions.

These days Padilla's something of a quiet legend in South Beach, one of 100 of America's most powerful DJs who report to Billboard's wildly influential "Club Chart." He's been granted the seal of approval by the scene's best and brightest, and his fan base is loyal to the core.

There's a remake of Chic's classic "Do You Love What You Feel?" under the banner Jamma, due from Warner Bros. France in the very near future, and some discreet iniquiries about his remixing availability have been made by the big boys in New York. Top this activity off with frequent offers from other clubs to defect, and you get the picture. But Warsaw's phenomenal success shows no signs of abating, and anyway, Padilla's happy there. Plus, one is never supposed to bet against a sure thing.

 
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