Bobby Viteritti

Bobby Viteritti in front of his rotary knob mixer and two turntables with disco 45s on the platters.

Bobby Viteritti, the world renowned Disco DJ of San Francisco's Trocadero Transfer speaks in-depth with DiscoMusic.com's Bernard Lopez. Find out what drives a DJ to create the ultimate atmosphere for his audience and at what price.

Bobby Viteritti Interview Written by Bernard Lopez of DiscoMusic.com (2002)

What follows is an in-depth interview with legendary Disco DJ Bobby Viteritti who was best known as the house DJ at Trocadero Transfer in San Francisco, California. While making a name for himself on the West Coast, Bobby's roots were in the Long Island suburbs of New York City along with the likes of fellow Disco DJ's, Howard Merritt, Wayne Scott, Roy Thode, Bob Lombardi and others. While Bobby Viteritti can come across as a tough New Yorker and almost appear inaccessible, we really hit it off during our talks and delved into many areas of his DJ career including the why, the how and even his dreams and fears. If you were privy to being a part of his audience then you'll certainly want to get inside his head and find out what makes him tick. Even if you weren't there, you'll want to read on to understand what the hoopla was all about and find out what drives a DJ to create the ultimate atmosphere for his audience.

Bobby Viteritti and the Long Island Sound

Bobby Viteritti was born January 29, 1953 in Massapequa, New York, which is a Long Island suburb of New York City. Growing up he was intrigued with audio, electronics and becoming a DJ. He always loved music and derived great joy by coming home from school and playing records on the turntable for his mother as she cooked. He always got on his mother's good side by playing Trini Lopez, Frank Sinatra and all her Jazz records. He said, "I filled the house with nice harmony."

His fondness for music continued to build and expand to other genres. When asked what got him into Disco music he tells me that it was hearing a mix of Love Unlimited on his car radio. He goes on to say, "It was the talk of the town." He knew this was something he wanted to do and pursued it by buying records and making tapes to play for himself and others. He says that there were some DJs doing this already, but they were using carts like in the radio stations so it was pretty restrictive. Turntables gave the most flexibility and room to experiment.

Viteritti's Headin' South

A colorful dance floor scene inside the Trocadero Transfer while Bobby Viteritti was playing.
A colorful dance floor scene inside the Trocadero Transfer while Bobby Viteritti was playing.

Bobby attended college for about a year and a half and contracted hepatitis A and then B. After getting his doctor's permission to travel Bobby decides to leave New York for Florida in 1973-74 by packing all his belongings into a U-Haul hitched to the back of his car. His parents had bought a condominium in Hollywood, Florida and that's where he would stay while he fixed up and furnished the place for them. Before heading south on I-95 he and his partner decide to stop at Colony Records in Times Square to buy some 45's. He figured that being from New York would give him an edge in landing a DJ spot in Florida so he bought two copies of "Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corp., "Little Bit of Love" by Brenda and the Tabulations along with "Just One Look" by Doris Troy. When he arrived he took those records and auditioned at Keith's Cruise Room in Hallandale, Florida. The club had just installed an elevated dance floor and replaced the jukebox with two QRK turntables. The turntables had no pitch controls, which made it extremely difficult to do any mixing, and he explains "I was banging 'em in and out showing off like a big shot you know. Showing them I could mix" and was hired by the owner to begin four nights a week and was making about $75.00 a week.

Bobby veers off on a tangent with the following, "There was a girl in there, a nice lesbian... and she was playing, but she sucked. You know when I dis people-when I say things like that, I do it for the love of music because if I feel I can do better than the person that's up there trying to ... If I could do it I think I should get the chance. If I'm not better than that person and that person is qualified and I try getting the job I'm going to feel like a f*cking fool. I feel bad-you know. That's how I got my job at Trocadero. I thought, I could do a lot better than this... Disco Duck? They're playing Disco Duck at 3 in the morning in an after hours club and then there's a cold ending, and the house lights come on and we all go Woo-uh. The DJ has the right to play for as long as he wants."

45 rpm single of La La Peace Song by O.C. Smith which was played often by DJ Bobby Viteritti.
45 rpm single of La La Peace Song by O.C. Smith which was played often by DJ Bobby Viteritti.

Bobby almost lost a nail on his first night at Keith's by trying to slow down a record while performing a mix between "Who Is He and What is He To You" by Creative Source and "La, La Peace Song" by O. C. Smith. The crowd's eyes were firmly fixed on Bobby behind the tables. Mixing was new to them, and Bobby felt strange with all the attention, but he wanted to make the mix happen and did. He says, "They're not looking at a jukebox anymore, they were all looking at me in the face and saying, 'What is he doing up there? Listen, he's got 'em both going together.' Meanwhile, my fingernail is burning and I got the motherfucker in there! My fingernail fell off about three days later, but it was worth it." We are laughing over this story, and Bobby just says to me, "You figure that out."

Again, Bobby and I go off on a tangent by talking about the art of being a DJ, which he tells me, "A good DJ is-anybody can play records. But, if you get behind a record player, not even a mixer, not even the right speed, but if you assemble something and put it in the right consecutive order-the follow-up song... If you pick the proper follow-up song and have a direction where you can lead an audience, you are good. You're traveling, you're going in this direction, in that direction, you dip and you go up. Now that's number one-that's a good DJ. Number two is if you can mix, if you can mix those two songs together on top of it, you're an excellent DJ. You can even have pauses in it, but it's the follow-up."

DJs Bobby Viteritti with Robbie Leslie on Sixth Avenue in New York City during the 1970s.
DJs Bobby Viteritti with Robbie Leslie on Sixth Avenue in New York City during the 1970s.

Besides playing at Keith's, he used to go down to Miami and loved playing for the Cuban crowd at the Copa and then at the Marlin Hotel's Poop Deck where he stayed for about six years. His lightman at the Marlin was none other than the soon-to-be DJ Robbie Leslie whom Bobby says he taught how to spin. As for the crowd and environment he goes on to say, "They had drag shows all the time and that always blew the whole gig. It gathers and draws a lot and halfway through the night I would have to play music for the drag queens like Carol Channing and all that sh*t, and then I would get back on. I had a hard time getting them on the dance floor then, but I just showed them and got 'em up there. When other DJs spun, everyone went home after the drag shows. When I was a DJ I learned how to keep the cash registers going, flush the room out and keep a constant movement and an eye out there and you have to play good music without them knowing you're keeping an eye out there." He goes on by telling me that he likes eye to eye contact with the audience and always tried playing at clubs that afforded him this opportunity. He said he once played at the Probe in Los Angeles and Studio 54 in New York, but hated it since he was high up and behind glass and unable to see or hear the crowd.

Bobby Viteritti and a Night With Amanda Lear

He claims that at twenty-four years of age he was very innocent and easily star struck. One night that stands out for him was when his record pool took Amanda Lear out around Miami to promote her new release called "Fabulous." The DJs take her to the clubs and restaurants of Coconut Groove and during dinner that evening Bobby spills linguini on Amanda's lap. Thinking he has made a complete fool out of himself he is surprised when he is later told that Amanda wants him to spend the night at her hotel room. Bobby explains that he is gay and not interested. Some had claimed that she was a transsexual, but Bobby wasn't interested in finding out, and to this day there is still some debate as to her gender.

Full page advertisement for the Trocadero Transfer disco in San Francisco.
Full page advertisement for the Trocadero Transfer disco in San Francisco.

During the tail end of his Florida years things started to wear Bobby down such as the drag shows and Anita Bryant, an entertainer who was openly anti-gay and who brought many television cameras and attention to the clubs. This scared away many patrons since they didn't want to appear on television the next day. This along with the bad economy and rising oil prices of the late 1970s made Bobby take a look at moving to California.

Battle of the Disco DJs at Trocadero Transfer

Seeing pictures of Trocadero Transfer in a magazine is what did it for him. He turned to his partner and said, "Look at this place. Can you believe it? I hear rumors through the record industry that this is where everybody goes to party." Bobby started putting feelers out within the industry and everyone said to him; "don't you dare go to Trocadero. Gary Tighe (the house DJ) has got that club under his finger. That's HIS club." Bobby didn't care and started inquiring about what time it closed, do they serve liquor, can you do this and that... The reply from his contacts was, "No, don't you dare. Bobby, you're stepping into territory you don't want to get into to." Too late Bobby's curiosity had been piqued, and he soon drove out to California in 1977. His first stop was to see Scott Forbes who was the owner of Studio One in Los Angeles to deliver a cassette of a Donna Summer remix he had just done. He was invited to stay at Scott's home and while making his way to the backyard he sees Dick Collier, the owner of Trocadero lounging by the swimming pool. The two soon strike up a conversation while Bobby's mixes are playing in the background. Bobby recalls, "He (Dick) was having problems with his DJs and stuff. Too much drugs-whatever. Angel dust going around-nobody had a hold on that f*cking club. Trocadero was 12 West's sister club and it had a beautiful Graebar sound system. Dick asked, 'would you like to play here?' Gary was on his sh*t list-he was over him. He then asked me, 'Would you like to play Halloween night Black Party?'" Bobby was in disbelief over the offer, but promptly accepted to play the Troc.

Bobby Viteritti in the DJ booth amidst a warm yellow glow from the night lights.
Bobby Viteritti in the DJ booth amidst a warm yellow glow from the night lights.

Halloween night rolls around and there he is playing the Troc. Bobby recalls he was running out of records since he tells me, "I never played such a long shift. I started playing at 11 PM and went till about 8 and I kept on telling my lover Dennis, go down to the car and get me more records. He's bringing more, and I'm playing songs I never even heard before, but they're from the record pool and I just got them... The crowd really liked me-they liked me, but they didn't like me because they were all Gary Tighe fans."

Bobby Viteritti's Anthem: Follow Me

It was during this show that he introduced "Follow Me" by Amanda Lear. He said, "That song had never been played. Everyone got it at the record pool, but it went over everyone's head. Dennis went to my trunk and brought more records, and I threw it on and they loved it. I saw some kind of magic there. It was like designed for the interior of the Trocadero--that time and space. The next day I called Roy Thode and Robbie Leslie who was now a DJ at the Sandpiper at Fire Island and told them to PLAY IT! Play it late at night. Its high energy, but very electronic and let the whole thing play to the end and watch what happens to your room." Despite "Follow Me" being an older song it started to appear on the charts and to this day is a classic still in regular rotation.

Due to the great response to Bobby's Halloween set he was formally hired as a regular DJ at the Troc, but under Gary. They rotated and had contests among each other to see who played better, and soon Bobby replaced Gary. I questioned Bobby on how things transpired, and he replied, "I almost gave up. I swear I was going to turn around and go back to Florida. It took about two months. Every weekend there were petitions going on the dance floor because Trocadero was a membership club, which said, 'No, we don't want Bobby here...' and all that."

The Acid Trip

It's obvious Bobby is having a hard time being accepted by the Troc's regulars including the staff, which he needed to rely on. I asked how bad had it gotten, and he proceeds to say, "People were drugging me up... I remember one night I had some punch since they didn't serve any liquor... Somebody put some acid in there. We were drinking that sh*t, and about three o'clock I look over to Billy Langenheim, my lightman, and how ironic, he looked at me at the same time and said, 'I'm tripping.' Somebody spiked that punch-one of the employees. Things like that happened so I said I'm not going to freak out now cause all I need to do is have an acid trip and lose this gig." This was a week before he was finally hired to replace Gary. Bobby goes on to say, "Billy Langenheim was a really big influence on me. I could have never gotten to where I am at right now if it weren't for Billy my lightman-never. I was the first person to realize the importance of a lightman, and I even told him you would get same billing as I for special parties. 'Music by Bobby Viteritti and lights by Billy Langenheim.' He really liked that." Billy originally worked at Studio One in L. A., but, Bobby brought him up to San Francisco and the Troc. He told me Billy was making as much as $400.00 a night at the Troc.

Overhead view of dancers at the Trocadero Transfer with an arc of yellowish green light cutting through.
Overhead view of dancers at the Trocadero Transfer with an double arc of yellowish green light cutting through.

So why was Billy better than all lightmen before him? He tells me of an incident before Billy's hiring. "I had so many bad nights because the DJ before me didn't like me-nobody liked me. I would tell the lightman before Billy came on board, 'Blackout.' He looked at me and gave me the eye and said, 'Listen, you play your records and I will do the lights...' We had no communication, lots of animosity and during those breaks in the songs he would turn on practically all the house lights. Strobes going a million miles an hour. Everything's lit up and everyone's dancing waiting for the beat to kick in-fully lit-on purpose. I don't know whether he did it on purpose or not or if he was just stupid. He had no feeling for music!"

It's readily apparent that Bobby had a hard time being accepted when he first arrived at Trocadero. I inquired if others thought he might have had a New York attitude, and he admitted that some found him arrogant and that his partner even said he had a "strong personality." Even his cousin Ronnie who was a Troc regular didn't like Bobby and told him, "You're not cut out for San Francisco-go back home-you're a hokey."

Looking up at Bobby Viteritti in the DJ booth.
Looking up at Bobby Viteritti in the DJ booth.

We then move onto the fact that he was getting much attention so I asked how he dealt with this. He said, "It was kind of hard because first of all nobody liked me then all of a sudden one master figure-the Godfather of the dance floor said it was okay and everything changed. Every time I would go down Castro Street I would hear, 'Oh Bobby, I heard you last night. You're fabulous, but you didn't play my song... Tonight's my birthday-play Forbidden Love... You don't play this anymore...' Anytime people do this to me it really messes my brain." I ask him why this plays havoc on his mind, and he continues, "Because every time I see 'Forbidden Love' I think of him and it's his birthday and I don't really feel like playing it. I like to go as close to my brain as I can without all that external influx of 'Oh Bobby you haven't/didn't played 'Follow Me' last night and I thought that was your house song, and I have my friend from Chicago come all the way out here and we were all upset....' I don't want to hear that sh*t. I didn't feel like playing it...So I moved to the Pacific Heights, and nobody knew who the f*ck I was."

Bobby's Signature Sound

Let's move on to his style. I asked what his trademark is and although we stray from this he replies, "Very freelance and I had the gift of mixing. If I were playing something like 'Groove Me' and I go through all those old 1960s albums, and I see Tommy James and the Shondells... I'll try to mix it in there and just f*ck with them... they don't even know it and then thirty seconds in they realized it. That's my gift, mixing. I got really good ears... they ring a lot... I pay a lot of attention to my ears. Headphones and monitor levels have to be perfect. Gotta hear the floor... gotta hear them cheering. You have to be one on one with them just like if I were on the dance floor dancing."

Lightman Billy Langenhiem and Bobby Viteritti.
Lightman Billy Langenhiem and Bobby Viteritti.

I prod him for more specifics on the actual mixing and here is what he had to say, "Usually I start from the middle of the record, usually the break. Half to three quarters of the time I would not start with your normal intro like everyone else does where they bang it in on that 16th beat, and everybody knows it." When asked to elaborate he readily steps forward with an example, "I like to pick a spot in the record-an instrumental piece and f*ck with them-their heads. They know it, but they think they know it. It's like on 'Shine On Silver Moon' where I'll start it from the break chikka, chikka, chikka... I'll start it from there... I'll even forget and ask myself what the hell is this song. You can really expand a song like that. You start it from the break or sometimes at the end of the record. Listen to it at home before it fades out and frequently there's sh*t on there that nobody knows. That's what I use for much of my edits and remixes... People were always confused, and I would go in and out and sometimes I wouldn't know what it all was about." He tells me that it was usual when he was getting sick of hearing a song that he would remix or edit them. Everything was built around his mood and frame of mind. To break his rhythm and force him to go a different route, he had a large sign made up that said, "Classics Never Die." He would put this sign out on the ledge by the DJ booth, and he loved to see and hear the visitor's reactions to it and whether they wanted to or not, they were going to hear classics. Even if he screwed up on the mixes, he always thought, it doesn't matter because classics never die.

Bobby has been a long time fan of rotary knob mixers with a 100k pot as in the Bozak and now the Rane. He prefers a pot because it brings in the midrange first whereas a fader/slider brings in the bass and the highs first. This emphasis on the midrange is a hallmark of his mixing style, and one that has to be heard.

A Bad Night at Trocadero?

One thing that I found interesting is that Bobby is preoccupied and afraid of having a bad night. He has nightmares about it and makes it a point not to let people leave saying they had a bad night. He and his lightman Billy worked in concert to salvage a night that they both felt was not going well. Bobby would run down into the floor to get a feel for the mood of the room, the temperature and the lighting and then runs back to the booth and make corrections. He tells me that they would radically change the direction of the evening if they had to by playing his private edits or using new lighting gear-whatever it took. He describes it this way, "We're going to drain them out and ease with that tempo... I'm going to start mellowing it out and will be doing something like "Follow Me." Same tempo and "Follow Me" will bring everyone together and that's when you'll hear the tambourine, the chimes and whistles... Billy's got his lights down. You can't see a f*cking thing in there except the exit lights! From there we are traveling. Its high tempo, but it's light... I'll go from Marlena Shaw to "Love's In You" by Nightlife Unlimited by f*cking with the intro... Then I wiggle my way down out of the high energy." Getting people to come down gradually was difficult to do, but a challenge that Bobby loved.

DJs Robbie Leslie and Bobby Viteritti: 1976 Disco Convention in New York City.
DJs Robbie Leslie and Bobby Viteritti: 1976 Disco Convention in New York City.

Since we've now touched on the topic of the floor and the crowd it's best to describe the kind of crowd the Troc attracted. Although the Troc was predominantly gay, a good number of straight and industry people were part of the regular mix. Bobby describes it this way, "You got people coming from all these bars; you got the queens coming from the leather bars and the straights coming from down by the pier... There's only one after-hour's bar in San Francisco so the hard core, the ones that were still up and they really appreciate dancing, they've heard all that commercial sh*t already. They've heard Donna Summer and all that bubble-gum and they come to the Troc, and the whole place would fill up-it would fill with the leftovers. I would get such a crowd there that I could play anything I want because they wanted to hear anything I wanted. They heard everything else... And no requests! Don't you dare. I had to hire somebody; Gini would be down there since I paid her to keep people out of my booth." The Troc averaged about a thousand people a night and it would swell to 1,500 on a good night. The space was a former stage set and was huge. It had an elevated wooden dance floor, which made it easy on the dancer's feet and great acoustics because of the tall ceilings with eight skylights. It also had a balcony, which ran around the building with the DJ booth at one corner. Bobby likes to say, "I felt like God up there." The interior of Trocadero was even featured in the Malcolm MacDowell movie "Time After Time."

Bobby normally started playing at around 11 PM and at around 4 a new crowd would start to appear and that's when he went into after-hours mode. His set would continue till around 8-9 AM, but frequently went up till almost noon. While he would wave his hands asking people to go home he acknowledges that those long nights were the most memorable times. The volume wasn't even that loud and he loved it when he would drop the vocals from a track to hear everyone singing along with the faint rays of sunlight pouring in from the skylights above.

Exterior night shot of Trocadero Transfer.
Exterior night shot of Trocadero Transfer.

Playing the same song twice in a night was usually a no-no with Bobby. The warm-up DJ who played before Bobby was always given a list and told not to play those songs because Bobby would be playing them later that night. Bobby candidly admits that he didn't trust anyone because he was afraid of back-stabbers, but completely trusted Steve Fabus his regular warm-up DJ. Steve loved to play a more funk and black low tempo sound and served as a great segue to Bobby's set.

You Can't Do That On Stage!

The Troc routinely featured live entertainment by big name music stars and Bobby loved to mix with this as well to break things up. The artists who were scheduled to perform normally did not get along with Bobby since he had his own idea of how things should be done. Despite Bobby's heavy hand, nearly all the performers came away saying that it was one of their best shows. Bobby recalls the time Cheryl Lynn came to sing and how adamant she was about not playing her older, but more popular material and instead wanted to sing ballads and new songs that no one knew. It's because of her that Bobby decided no more ballads during live shows because they would ruin the night, Recounting the events during the afternoon sound check he says, "I had Cheryl Lynn up there. Oh she was on the rag. She gave me the sh*t about the old stuff and that this was a brand-new day and that's when I decided to put my foot down. Before that, I was very humble. She had all ballads in there and she did not sing Got to be Real." Bobby was now in a bad mood so he took the tape home and decided to change the whole theme without telling her. He admits that he had just won a Billboard DJ award so he was on a little ego trip. Cheryl goes on stage later that night only to discover that the music has been radically changed by Bobby. The change took her completely by surprise, and she was forced to sing her classics, which brought wild cheers from the crowd. She loved the outcome that she asked for a copy of the newly arranged tape so she could use it on other shows.

Making the move to San Francisco and Trocadero is where Bobby really came into being and for what he is most remembered. It took traversing the U. S. and much hard work to find the right crowd and a spot he felt at home in. His voice became very excited when he remarked with his New York accent, "It's great! The highlight of my life was San Francisco-Trocadero-1978. The right place at the right time sweetheart. I made the right choice. A lot of other people could have done the same thing. Maybe they would have been better, but I had the spotlight on me, and nobody else had the gall to take chances."

Viteritti's Move To Dreamland

Bobby was making about $75.00 a week when he began in Florida. At Trocadero, he was making about $18, 000.00 a year, which he felt wasn't enough. Trocadero's refusal to grant him a raise in 1981 is what ultimately drove him to hire a business manager. His new manager promptly walked into the Troc management office and told the owner, "Bobby is leaving and he's giving you two weeks." A new and larger club called Dreamland with DJ Howard Merritt had recently opened, but management was unhappy with Merritt so they ended up hiring Bobby at $1,000.00 a night and $1.00 a head for every person above 561 that he brought in. Bobby says, "I was cleaning up."

Dreamland was practically around the corner from Trocadero and contained an elaborate Graebar sound system with eight coffin speakers whereas the Troc had only four. The difference however was in the crowd. Dreamland attracted a crowd that was as Bobby describes, "All the leather people and butch guys that didn't know how to dance-they just wanted to be with the scene and that macho music were there. Trocadero played all that light strings and they were more serious and they had better ears." He goes on to say that Dreamland's interior was a stark white, which he offered to paint black himself. The change to Dreamland didn't agree with Bobby so after one year he left and bought a house and took off for one year. His next residency was at the Hollywood Palace in Los Angeles.

Hollywood Lights

While he considered the Hollywood Palace a challenge he wasn't thrilled with the crowd who seemed to have moved from Disco to rock and pseudo rockabilly like the Stray Cats. It attracted a broad range of people and featured live entertainment, which made it difficult to create a continuing mood. He eventually didn't care who would perform each night and found himself ill prepared because he was warming up the crowd with the wrong type of music. The most embarrassing being the night U2 played and the crowd threw napkins, and other items at him for playing "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" by Culture Club. He was able to regain control of the crowd by slipping on the David Bowie 12 inch of "TVC15."

Interior shot of the Trocadero Transfer dance floor bathed in red light.
Interior shot of the Trocadero Transfer dance floor bathed in red light.

Bobby remained at the Palace for a year and then helped open Rage in Hollywood. From Hollywood he then moved and "played for the stars" at the Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel. The Wilshire stint lasted eight months and was to become his last club in California. It would drive him crazy when the staff would come up and say that Chaka Khan or Madonna... was in the room. His reply was, "So what do you want me to do? WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? So she's here, big deal... I had a problem with these people, they were too glamorous... my music was too good."

Coming Home

Once his contract was over he sold his house and wandered aimlessly throughout the Caribbean. He found himself lost without a job, his mother had just passed away so he called his father in New York around 1986 and asked whether he could come back. His father said yes, since his mother's wishes were for Bobby to come back home to be with the rest of the family on the east coast. Bobby came back and settled in New York City where nobody knew who he was. Bobby would walk into clubs and have to explain to people that he was the DJ at Trocadero and that he remixed Scott Allen and several other tracks for Disconet. He says he felt foolish having to explain himself and felt no desire to pursue DJing and instead got a job selling high end art and photographs for noted clients, which he does to this day.

Bobby openly admits that he didn't see the Disco renaissance occurring and thought Disco would never come back. He is now happy that it has since it sparked his interest in learning how to use his Mac computer and burn his mixes onto CD. He's managed to transfer many of his mixes onto CD and is looking to release them to fans. When asked whether he would consider doing a night in a club he said, "Yeah, as long as it is oldies. I want to be the Wolfman Jack of Disco DJs."

Why Bobby Viteritti Really Left Trocadero

I wasn't satisfied with Bobby's answer as to why he left Trocadero so I had another go at it and this time I really got to the heart of the matter. This is what he told me, "One of the reasons I wanted to leave Trocadero is, it wasn't really for the money. All I know is I couldn't keep up with myself. I said I think I'm starting to burn out. I wasn't tapping my feet anymore, and I was getting very afraid of that because every week I would go back home and remix something else because I couldn't stand putting it on the turntable anymore. It came to the point where I would tell Billy my lightman that I can't hear this one more time. I felt as though I had nothing else up my sleeve. I had no more tricks, and the music started slowing down. There was no new music out there and I felt I was letting the crowd down. I would be damned if I had to sneak out the back door of Trocadero-the highlight of my whole life and lower my head... It got to the point I wanted to get Patrick Cowley on stage with his keyboard to play along with the music live. And then, I felt like hiding my face because the praise I got out in public was always so high and to have a bad night... I'm a very sensitive person. That would scar me and that's when the whole business manager idea comes in." Bobby told me straight out that it wasn't about money. He used the money issue only as an excuse to leave, and his business manager did just that and assisted him with his move to Dreamland. Bobby continues by saying, "I still have nightmares of having a bad night. There's a couple thousand people screaming and I go to play a record-and it skips or I mess up, not having enough records, all the records I brought were the wrong type..." I asked Bobby whether these fears are what made him so good as a DJ and he said, "Working under pressure-I didn't take a break. Yes that made me so good, I was on top of everything."

Speaking with Bobby about his Disco days was truly fascinating and a wonderful trip to another time and era. I would like to thank him for taking the time to speak with me on numerous occasions about his life and career. He encourages those who know him to contact him via this site and also to order his mix CDs of classic Disco and dance music.

In Their Own Words

In wrapping up I wanted to include some memories from several Trocadero regulars who experienced Bobby's magic firsthand. The first is from "Keefe" who worked at Aloha Records as well as being a DiscoMusic.com member. Here's what he had to say:

As for my memories, let me just say that back in the Troc heyday, I used to be in awe of this man's talent in the DJ booth. His ability to manipulate the mood of the room at Trocadero was something I had never experienced before. Bobby's music combined with the incredible Graebar sound system, Bill Langenheim's creative lighting (especially on the cluster of disco balls in the center of the room), the wild set pieces (during Troc's holiday parties) and the "Trocadites," served to make some of the best memories of my life.

I could always count on him to introduce new and obscure tunes, as well as custom remixes to keep songs fresh. I recall I used to turn into a nervous wreck when I first started encountering Bobby at Aloha Records. I'm glad I eventually got over that, but that's the type of impression he made on us back then. It's to his credit that most of us that were lucky enough to experience Bobby at Troc still fondly talk about those good times.

Another Troc regular and former Aloha Records employee as well as a DiscoMusic.com member who goes by the name "Markydefad" had this to say about Bobby:

Trocadero was a magical dance space that brought out a cultish dancing-family feeling in the people lucky enough to have partied there. The leader of that cult was Bobby Viteritti. His ability to read the crowd and take them on a musical journey night after night was nonpareil. His ability to create "Drama" by placing records to tell stories, create feelings and moods, and ultimately, make you wanna keep on dancing ...was amazing. There were the upbeat traditional disco "feeling good" sets, the space sets, the dark, twisted 'popper" sets, the R & B sets, Latin sounds, Jazzy sounds, Rockish sets and then, ultimately, what we came for.... Bobby's incredible morning music, wherein he continually impressed, amazed, astounded and had everybody asking "what was that?" Usually, we timed our arrival for around 3:00am to get in the mood for the morning sets.

I have to admit I took a lot of this for granted at the time. I thought lots of DJ's were probably capable of creating vivid memories of dancing--so much so, that now, 20 some years later...hearing certain records, I instantly recall dancing to them at Trocadero. Certain songs, I never heard anywhere else. When I moved to LA in early 1984...I learned the sad truth...it was NEVER the same. There was NO morning music at Probe...they just stopped playing. F*ck you. Go home. It's over. Go to Greg's Blue Dot (down the street) The era had truly ended. Whereas, the party at Trocadero was still in full gear when the morning sun was peeking through the cracks in the doors.

DJ Bobby Viteritti behind glass in the DJ booth at a disco in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1976.
DJ Bobby Viteritti behind glass in the DJ booth at a disco in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1976.

I then realized how lucky I was to have lived through the great communal spirit that was dancing at Trocadero. I didn't know any of the people who ran the place. I never met Bobby. By the time I came to work at Aloha Records, he had moved to LA, I think. And by the time, I moved to LA, he wasn't playing anywhere I danced. BUT, I revere what he created during his reign at Trocadero.

Bobby Viteriiti was truly a man of impeccable taste in music and someone who knew how to convey his love of music to his dancers. I'm sure other top DJ's had similar skills, but he was the one I was lucky enough to have influenced me in San Francisco. Therefore, he'll always be the one I point to as an example of the DJ-as an artist in his own right.

Lastly DJ Robbie Leslie sent me the following comment about Bobby Viteritti after reading this interview:

From: "Robbie Leslie"
Date: Sun Dec 15, 2002 11:46:35 AM US/Eastern
To: Bernard Lopez
Subject: Re: Bobby Viteritti Interview

Hi Bernie,
I'm here in NYC and played the Holiday Party at the Gay/Lesbian Center last night (Saturday). On more than one occasion, my mind went back to the wonderful Bobby Viteritti Interview and how much I owe to the man who helped form my music style and character in my "formative years". Working lights with Bobby those many years ago allowed me to follow my mentor from the beginning of his sets to the end without interruption. And how much Bobby was always willing to share in regard to technique and the varied aspects of "disco as entertainment" vs. just "playing records." Those are not only treasured memories from my youth, but invaluable instruction that has allowed me to keep at the top of my game these many years.

More than 25 years after my first association with B.V., I can still hear characteristics in my performance that go straight back to what I learned from 'the master'. A master not only of the mix, but of the entire environment of a dancers experience.

Thank you, Bobby.
DJ ROBBIE LESLIE

Bobby Viteritti in 2006.
Bobby Viteritti in 2006.

In closing this interview I would like to thank Bobby Viteritti, Keefe, Markydefad and lastly Steve Sukman for their assistance in contributing their memories and photographs for use in this article.

If you have any memories of Bobby Viteritti / Trocadero or comments about this interview please feel free to post them in the form below. Thanks for reading.

–The End

Written by Bernard F. Lopez (November 20, 2002)
https://www.discomusic.com
Copyright © 2002 by Bernard F. Lopez
All rights reserved

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