First Person Singular: Joseph Dejesus
Growing up, my mom called me the Sammy Davis Jr. of Spanish people. You have to be a people person. The minute the guests walk in, it's showtime. You hit that switch, you become someone else. I need a separate persona. Julian Ross is my stage name. He's this high-energy, wild and crazy guy. If you look bored, and you're the guy in charge of the DJ and the dancers and the lights, how can you expect the guests to feel like partying? It is a big show; the guests are the stars.
There is so much pressure. Kids' parties have become a "keeping up with the Joneses" thing. Three years ago, I did an MTV Sweet 16 party in Gaithersburg, and the guest of honor came in on a Harley. When she entered the room, flames shot up into the air.
We've gone from $9,000 shows to $3,000 shows because of the economy, but people still want their kids to have the best. There are Momzillas who are just trying to outdo the last mom. "My son has to be carried in on a diamond-encrusted chair, there has to be fireworks when we enter the room, your dancers have to do back flips" -- there's always going to be that. But, you can tell when families do it for the right reasons. That's when I step it up, put on the extra charm. We did a bar mitzvah, and the boy's brother had died of an asthma attack at camp a month earlier. The family walked in somber, like they were coming to a funeral. But they let themselves go. The party was a huge release for them.
I'd rather put the money toward a house, my kid's college, anything that really matters other than a one-night, big-shebang party for a 13-year-old. My birthday parties as a kid were my mom, my stepdad and a Big Bird cake. We were lower middle class, and it was just great for all of us to be together.
[I] just got married three weeks ago. The wedding was phenomenal. I did everything I said not to. I went all out: I got the drummer, the saxophonist, the plasma screens, Beyoncé's version of "At Last" -- details, details, details. Before the ceremony, I went up to my room and saw that we were running about an hour behind. I didn't get upset. I just decided right there not to be one of those people who can't enjoy the moment.
Interview by Amanda Long