HigterFrequency OVERSEAS NEWS



international news _ 15th January, 2007

Jellybean Benitez’ Celebrity Situation

Text by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)

New York dance legend Jellybean Benitez chatted to Skrufff this week about his upcoming London gig for Soul Heaven at Koko and also reminisced about dating Madonna in the early 80s and how he helped turn her into the world’s biggest pop star.

“I’d been playing her song Everybody when I was DJing at the Funhouse, and Bobby Shaw, who was a dance promotions guy at that point, brought her by to meet me. It was quite common then for record companies to bring artists to the Funhouse or the Paradise Garage as part of their promotional campaigns,” he recalled.

“So I met her and we talked. She was interested and was already familiar with some of the records I’d remixed, she was working on her album and picking her next single, which ended up being Physical Attraction and Burning Up and asked me to mix that. So I did that, then also a bunch of songs on the album and then I produced Holiday,” said Jellybean.

“I thought she could be a really big artist but at that point a really big artist to me was someone achieving a gold record, which is 500,000 units in the US,” he added.

“I thought she had club appeal as well as radio appeal and thought with the right records, she would cross over. I never guessed she’d become an icon.”

The one time South Bronx street kid was already one of New York’s most successful DJs hand producers, spinning everywhere from Fun House to Xenon and Studio 54, though escaped the era’s infamous excesses on account of his upbringing, he said.

“At a very early age I saw a lot of the kids that were my age, I’m talking 12, 12, 13 and 14, go from drinking alcohol to smoking pot to doing heroin. So by the time I was 12 I’d lost a lot of my childhood friends to heroin addiction,” said Jellybean, “By the time I was a teenager the last thing I was going to do was put any drugs inside my body because I’d seen the transition that had happened to a lot of my friends.

I was also so busy then when I was Djing, the songs were three or four minutes long and the songs were 45s, there weren’t any dance mixes then, so you didn’t have any time to do anything.”

He also managed to avoid some of the pitfalls of fame, he said, on account of watching the stars of the day sometimes struggling.

“I’ve seen lot of people a lot of people starting to think they were the world’s best producer or star, being at these glamour clubs like Studio 54 and New York New York I got to see a lot of it from being right in the middle of them, with a bird’s eye view, the DJ booth,” said Jellybean.

“So I saw how someone went from zero to 60 and how they changed. But really it’s not so much about the person changing, it’s about how the media perceives them and creates hype around them. And how other people change their attitude towards them, for example, they start believing celebrities are a certain way based on what they’ve read. Or they start thinking the person no longer has time for them because they’re now famous.”

“I think it’s very easy to get caught up in pursuing what people perceive as the benefits of being a celebrity and what celebrity can give you access to, that you might not have got if you weren’t perceived as being a celebrity,” he concluded.

“I’ve watched it, but I will always be myself, I’m not so interested in what people perceive as celebrity, it’s not part of my make-up.” Jellybean DJs alongside DJ Spinna at Soul Heaven at Koko (London), Saturday January 20