driving mr dj (and me)

Celebrity djs now require chauffeurs to whisk them from club to club. Decca Aitkenhead, our woman in the BMW looking for the M66, reports
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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's every starry-eyed clubber's fantasy. Sweep in with the celebrity DJ, swank about - making sure all the groupies know you're With The DJ - lap up a wave of reflected glory, then whisk him off to the next club for more. Half the clubbers in the country would pay a fortune for the privilege and you're getting paid for it.

Such is the lot of the DJ's driver. As the earnings of the DJ elite climb ever upwards (a two-hour set can cost more than pounds 1,500), and as demand drags them all over the country, a nocturnal industry of dedicated drivers is developing. Last month, the first specialist agency, Disc Drive, was set up in London to meet this growing demand for drivers willing to give up their weekend in return for a sizeable fee and a glittering cut of the kudos.

On a Saturday night in June, I set out on the ultimate driving experience; a tour of the north with one of clubland's biggest young names, Tall Paul Newman, and his new driver, Greg Spence.

"The bloody M66 is closed." On the fifth lap of Bury's one-way system the glamour of our expedition begins to ebb. The idea of ramming the cones and hoping for the best is only aborted thanks to timely directions from the local constabulary, and we arrive at Burnley's Club Expo, more by luck than judgement, in good time.

This is where you start to feel very smug. Bouncers styled like military policeman are pleasingly deferential, and usher us through a crowd of staring girls to a glass VIP bar above the dance floor. Free drinks with Jon Pleased Wimmin, superstar drag queen DJ, follow, while a sea of rapt faces gaze up at Paul. Greg, a computer consultant by day, is slightly disappointed by the arrange- ment: "This is no good for the groupie thing, stuck up here. I can hardly go down there and point up and tell the girls 'that's him I'm with', can I?"

The groupie thing is not to be underestimated. The girls have eyes only for the DJ and, in proper groupie fashion, the driver comes a happy second best. "I was chatting to these girls with a driver I had one time," says Paul, "and the next minute this girl's dragged him off to the toilet and given him a proper rogering. He was like a bloody Cheshire cat."

Our departure is delayed by a sweaty boy so excited to be shaking Paul's hand he's reluctant to let go. Greg and I bristle, all pleased self- importance, as we rescue our charge. "It is embarrassing," Paul laughs, "but you have to be nice. I can remember what it felt like, being like that, and having DJs just tell you to piss off."

At Sankey Soap, in Manchester, a young clubber is desperate to meet Paul, but also completely overcome by the prospect.

"Do you think" he blushes, "Tall might sign this for me?" He hands over a Mr Men book of Mr Tall. "Could you ask him to write 'happy birthday, Steve'?" I could, I decide, get quite into this fairy godmother role.

And then it's back in Greg's BMW, and over the Pennines for a 4-6am set at Gatecrashers in Sheffield, then a hotel. We won't be back in London until Sunday lunchtime. Greg will have earned pounds 150, plus expenses, but is it worth it?

"Are you kidding? I've driven for a fair few DJs, and it's always a really good night out. Sometimes you can feel a bit like Billy-no-mates, mind you, by yourself while they're playing, but you meet a lot of people, get to know all the promoters and the DJs, get in free everywhere, get treated like gold - and sometimes I'll even get away with saying I'm Judge Jules. Who wouldn't want to do it?"

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