A one-on-one with Historic Oil Can Harry’s resident DJ RICK DOMINGUEZ
2018 is the 50th Anniversary of Studio City’s Historic Oil Can Harry’s. A Los Angeles landmark as much as an American architectural icon. Its simple mission statement has always been to be a sanctuary for the LGBT community to come together & Dance. That mission statement is still the same today: DANCE. DANCE. DANCE.
I had the chance to sit with resident DJ Rick Dominguez on a Tuesday night, just before he started his set at The Can. To my surprise, he enlightened me about the George Michael, Janet Jackson & Oil Can Harry’s connection…
Waide– Hey, Rick, thank you for taking the time to sit and talk about Oil Can’s history and your history with me. You were born and raised in Deming, New Mexico. Who were your favorite artists & favorite songs growing up?
Rick Dominguez– I fell hard for the disco craze even though I wasn’t old enough to go to nightclubs. I dreamt of how amazing they must be, but definitely, my fav was Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” album and her follow up, “On the Radio” Greatest Hits. They were so overplayed on my Panasonic turntable, I wore out the grooves! I also loved ELO’s “Discovery” and “Time” and Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America” … but back to your question… fav artists were, Donna Summer, ELO, Bee Gees, Supertramp, Lionel Richie & the Commodores, Foreigner, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Gap Band, Alan Parsons Project and Kenny Rogers… ahh… there’s the country thing! Fav songs were “Lucky” and “No More Tears: Enough is Enough” from Donna Summer. “Last Train to London” and “Ticket to The Moon” by ELO. The entire “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack and “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy,” and “Love You Inside Out” from The Bee Gees. Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” and “Goodbye Stranger.” The Commodores’ “Sail On,” “Still,” “Three Times A Lady”… Foreigner’s “Double Vision” and “Urgent” … EWF (Earth, Wind & Fire) “Let’s Groove Tonight,” “Fantasy,” “Boogie Wonderland”… The Gap Band, “Early In the Morning,” “BurnRubber,” “You Dropped A Bomb On Me” … Outstanding!… and “Nothing Comes To Sleepers”… APP (Alan Parsons Project) “Time,” “Eye In the Sky,” and “Old and Wise,” and Kenny Rogers with Dolly, “Islands In the Stream,” “She Believes In Me,” “Lady,” and “Through The Years,” which I picked as our graduation song. Omg, I could go on and on…bad question… HA!!… Oh, my God, I totally forgot about my number one artist growing up. George Michael. How could I forget him? LOL! He and I were the same age and he literally wrote my life in his music. I moved here right when “Young Guns” and “Bad Boys” came out and I was living that. Then, I went through my first heartache right when “Careless Whisper” came along. Then, through “Faith” with “One More Try” and “Father Figure” and “I Want Your Sex” I was completely in sync. Then, came “Older” … oh, my God… Every song seemed to fit my life perfectly dealing with HIV and losing a partner and infidelities. Anyway… he was my biggest influence in Dance Music. Michael Jackson was my biggest influence in dancing.
Waide- What inspired you to go into DJing? Any specific event?
Rick– Yes! I knew very early on that this is what I wanted to be. I was probably 14 when I stepped into a dance at our local Knights of Columbus hall called the LULAC. Disco was in full bloom, and proudly displayed up on that stage, was this handsome, handle bar mustached, long haired God, spinning the records with all these lights behind him making everybody dance! “Ring My Bell” was blaring and people were having the time of their lives on that dance floor… I wanted to create that magic I felt and pass it on to everyone I could… for the rest of my life.
Waide– When did you move to L.A. and what were some of the odd-jobs you held before landing a DJ job?
Rick- I moved to LA in 1983. I started off as a waiter at a Holiday Inn, then moved on to Shakey’s, and within a year I landed a job at Music Plus, where I quickly thrived and became a manager by *1984…otherwise known as the best year ever in pop music! That’s a fact! (*Billboard Magazine; see below) I got my first club gig shortly after I invested in buying my technic 1200 turntables and mixer where I would practice mixing on my 12” vinyl collection nonstop every night after work and weekends. I used to hang out at this small little bar in West Covina called Scene One. I wasn’t even 21 yet, but the owners loved me, and once they heard I was looking to be a club DJ, they quickly gave me my first break. From there, I of course, took on many careers, but always maintained a DJ club gig ever since. Whether it was one night at one club a week, or seven nights a week at four different clubs! But my day jobs went from working at UPS, to banking, to audio engineer for Hollywood Sound Systems and finally at Clear Channel in Burbank where I became an on-air personality “Gig” on Star 98.7 and moved on to assistant programming director for Hot 92.3.
Waide– The life of a DJ, eh?… you teach line-dancing at Sunset Kaiser Permanente, tell us about what you do.
Rick- I’m going on nearly 10 years now with their ‘Get Fit Program,’ designed to help employees do some extra cardio and fitness during their lunch hour. I’ve since branches out to several local branches to try and spread the fun. We don’t call it just line dancing, though. I had to add Hip-hop and Latin line dancing, otherwise, it wouldn’t appeal to many staff members!
Waide– Stagecoach 2018! You’re one of the headlining DJs and Choreographers. Tell us about it.
Rick- Yes! This is going to be an epic event for me! Last year I was brought in as a line dance instructor and part of the dance team at the Honkytonk Stage! This year, I’ve been selected to not only be part of the dance team and a featured instructor, where I’ll be teaching four of my dances during my DJ sets, including my latest dance, “Make A Little Love,” as well as club favorites, “Blue Jeans On” and “You Look Good” and a fun club contra dance appropriately called “Honkytonk County Line.” But ALSO, as a featured DJ, as well!! I’ll be working a different shift everyday starting with Friday, April 27th from 10am-1:30pm, Saturday the 28th from 5pm-8pm, and Sunday the 29th from 1:30pm-5pm! Be sure and Swing by for a little ‘Honkytonk’ dancing fun if you’re planning on hitting this amazing event! Check the website for all times and dances being taught @ http://www.stagecoachfestival.com/honkytonk-schedule
Waide– Oil Can Harry’s is celebrating its 50Anniversary! You’ve been a resident DJ & Choreographer here for many years. What are your nights & what do you teach? Give us a time-line & history:
Rick- Yup! 25 years and counting… well, I started back in 1993 as a backup DJ and very quickly fell into a regular shift. Former Owner, Bob Tomasino, took me under his wing and through the good and bad times he shaped me into a regular fixture, helping me become the resident DJ and launch many successful nights that to this day are still packing the dance floor here! We kicked off the Saturday Night Retro-Disco over 23 years ago, and it’s been a huge celebration ever since! I ran that night for about 20 of those years with guest performances from Thelma Houston, Jessica Williams, Cynthia Manley, Maxine Nightingale, and most recently, Randy Jones, from the Village People…YMCA! ha-ha! Now, as for the other nights, I’ve also become a celebrated Country DJ and Line Dance Instructor and I owe all of that to my residency at OCH! We’ve been running a great County-Western dance night we call TGIF for many many years and have had some success with Tuesdays and Thursdays up until recently. Tuesdays are still there for anyone that’s ready to learn as many of these awesome line dances that fill our floors, as they can! Thursdays have since become Salsa Night… but, that’s another story! I started teaching and choreographing line dances about 17 years ago with absolutely no dance background other than dancing every night of the week for decades when I moved to California. HA! I decided I could do that, teaching became a passion of mine that lead to choreography and my first two dances, “Crossing the Border” and my very first one “J-Rad” are still local club favorites. The story behind J-Rad is bitter-sweet. I lost my best friend and soul mate, J.R., to a drunk driver in ’94. He was not only a beautiful man, but for the most part, made me who I am today. He gave me the confidence to peruse and pursue my dreams and to get out of the shadows of a shy insecure boy. Our love for dancing and Janet Jackson was amazing! He knew every move to every video she had, and trust me, for a white boy, he had the Beyoncé effect long before she was a Destiny’s Child! Ha! Anyway, after he was tragically killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the 405 Frwy, I became a huge advocate of no drinking and driving! Through it all, my healing came with new music from Miss. Jackson and my inspiration for my first dance was “All 4 You” which was named “JRad” using his, Janet’s and my initials. So, I will forever think of that shining star watching over me every time I here that song. “Together Again” was my answer to that indeed, angels do exist… thank you, Janet!
Once I started choreographing dances, and people were responding with big smiles and congratulations, I knew it was something I would be doing for as long as I could. Since then, I’ve choreographed close to 50 dances, including “Bad Romance,” “When Love Takes Over,” “UptownSlide,” “Tic-Toc,” “Loosen Up My Buttons,” “Girl Crushin,’” Ex’s & Oh’s” w/Jonno Liberman, “Dance Like Yo Daddy,” “If My Baby Doesn’t Love Me,” “A Little Heartbreaker” and a huge So Cal fav, and one of my faves, “Everybody Have A Good Time,” which celebrates what this is all about! Good times! I’m currently working on a new routine for the Dance Group I founded, now celebrating our 16th season, the International Award-Winning “The LA Wranglers.” I’m very proud and happy that we’ve been able to entertain our friends and families of the GLBTQ communities for all these years and continue to thrive. And now, with a nonprofit status, we hope to give back to our community as much as we can! We perform at our local prides and gay rodeos as well as special events near and far. We also host an annual event I created called WWLA (Wrangler Weekend Los Angeles) July 27th-29th and now in its 7th year. We bring on guest instructors from around the country and teach all day workshops, and host big dance parties at night! This year we’re back at the lovely Garland Hotel located just blocks from our host bar, Oil Can Harry’s, where we will kick it all off with our famous Boots, Briefs & Bras Party! We’ll be teaching everything from beginner to advanced couples 2-step, waltz, and west coast swing, and of course, line dances! This year we’re bringing in the talents of Joey Warren, a world-famous choreographer and sweetheart of a man who will challenge us with advanced line dance classes. Also, we’re bringing back a line dance king from San Francisco, Michael Metzger, who’s current hit line dance, “Play That Sax,” is burning up dance floors all across the country! Also returning hot off the world line dance competition trail, Jonno Liberman! With a few award-winning dances in his pocket now, a huge rising star in the line dance world! Jeremy Box will grace us with his style and beauty, teaching couples how to use their full potential in WCS and waltz! Our event is welcoming first time instructors Kerry Kick, from The Ranch in Anaheim for some sweet line dance classes. Sheila Schlicht all the way from the Bay Area will be teaching some sweet 2-step couples classes, and last but definitely not least, Troy Inman from San Diego, with lessons in sexy ‘shadow dancing.’ I will be debuting a brand-new line dance that weekend as well! More info at www.thelawranglers.com. We are also gearing up for the only So-Cal Gay Rodeo around, the Palm Springs Hot Rodeo from May 10th-13th! I’ll be the featured DJ all weekend starting with the Hot Pool Party on Thursday the 10th at the host hotel, Baymont Inn &Suites! Friday, we kick off the nightlife with a special live ‘Behind the Toolshed’ parking lot performance from the hottest new gay country star Brandon Stansell at Toolshed Bar, followed by me spinning the hottest country remixes and your fav 80s and 90s flashbacks. Saturday will be the famous Dancing Under The Stars party where I’ll be spinning classic country tunes and line dance favorites sponsored by Chill Bar and featuring a performance from The LA Wranglers! Get more info at www.psrodeo.org. So, as you can see, I’ll be a very busy man over the next few months. My schedule at Oil Cans currently is every Tuesday. We like to call it ‘Line Dance Review Night.’ I’ll teach 2 dances and continue to do run-throughs of all the dances that are being taught that month. Great way to get new dances down solid! Then we have TGIF Fridays where the first 2 hours (8-10) is our classic country set! The best of days gone by, including a line dance set of dances we’ve loved for decades! Then, by 10, we switch gears and I mix in Contemporary Country hits and take our line dances up a notch! By 12:30 we kick it into line dance mania to close out the night. So, there’s a lil’ bit of something for everybody! Check out Oil Cans, or my own website, for an updated monthly calendar of all our lessons! I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’d love to thank John, the current owner of Oil Cans once again for opening his heart to me and giving me a home to do what I absolutely love! Without him there wouldn’t be an OCH! And, Tommy! You’ve always…ALWAYS had my back! Thank you, both, and here’s to another 50 years!
Waide– Who are your current favorite artists and favorite songs? What are your favorite genres?
Rick- That’s a loaded question, as well, so many come to mind because I spin not only Country music, but I’ve been a dance club DJ for 35 years now and still working at 4 clubs at the moment. So, some of my current faves in Country are: Old Dominion, Thomas Rhett, Billy Currington, Brett Eldridge, Kelsea Ballerina, LANCO, Cole Swindle, Midland and Honey County. Some of my all-time favs are Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Shania, Garth, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Tracy Byrd, Clint Black, Reba …oh hell, that list won’t ever end…I’ll stop now! In Pop, Hip-Hop and club music, I’m really digging Dua Lipa and Halsey right now. Big fan of Sofi Tukker, and Jax Jones. I’m having fun with Cardi B, Bazzi is a new R&B singer that I’ve taken a liking to, and Jason Derulo can deliver hit after hit and I love them all! Favorite songs at the moment: “Hands Up” by Merk & Kermont, “Sunday Finest” by Sir Roosevelt, “Heartbreaker” by Parolee, “Tip Toe” by Jason Derulo, “I like It” by Cardi B, “Selfish” by Stephanie Quayle, and “Break Up in the End” by Cole Swindell.
My DJ schedule is quite full these days, with Country Tuesday’s and Friday’s at Oil Can Harry’s, Thursdays it’s Funky House and Hip-Hop at Precinct In DTLA, Saturday’s are open to play private events, weddings, etc., except for the 3rd Saturday of the month where I spin 80s flashback videos at The Bullet in Burbank! Yes, I’m a VJ (video jock), as well, and Sundays I teach an advanced line dance class at Just Dance Studios in Studio City from 4-6pm… come take my class…you’ll have a blast! Then, I jet over to Flaming Saddles in West Hollywood to DJ from 7pm-12:30am.
Waide– Long Beach Pride. What will you be doing?
Rick– I am the Director of the Country Stage this year. So, basically, I’ll be managing, producing and running the Country Stage all weekend… and DJing a few shifts, as well, along with DJ Jonno! We’ll be bringing in the talents of 3 amazing dance troops, Phoenix Heatwave, all the way from Arizona. Kickers’ Cloggers from San Diego, and of course, The LA Wranglers, and 2 fabulous singers! Our very own Tommy the UK Cowboy, and our Headliner is Brandon Stansell, coming off the heels of his brand-new record “Slow Down,” featuring “Spare Change,” a 2-step club favorite. His title track debut single also features Grammy Nominee Ty Herndon. This year we want to be sure people get what they came for! Dancing! So, our entertainment will be limited this year to no more than 20-minute sets! We’ll also be bringing back our Mechanical Bull! Ole, Fu Man Chu was a huge hit last year! So, he’s back! So, who’s coming to Long Beach Pride?
Waide– What’s your favorite movie?
Rick- I fell in love with “Love, Simon.” It’s a quirky great gay love story with some great comedy relief to make you want to see it again and again. Well, at least I do… my fav all time is “Powder” from the 90s, even though I’m a HUGE Disney/Pixar fanatic! No movie has ever moved me like “Powder” did.
Waide– What’s your favorite book?
Rick- “The Next” by Rafe Haze… it’s a very cleverly woven murder mystery with a gay erotic theme that had me glued to every spectacular page! Check it out!
Waide– What’s your favorite color?
Rick- Forest Green! That color makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Waide– What do you see as the current ‘trend’ in DJing/music?
Rick- Well, to be honest, it’s not trending like I had hoped it would… both Contemporary Country (bro country) and Hip-Hop seems to be getting slower and darker all the time, more so than any other musical defining times in history. There’s an occasional party song that’s faster than 80 bpms (beats per minute), but the majority is painfully low energy, and remixes aren’t what they used to be! Although, Barry Harris and The Perry Twins are remixing the hell out of current pop songs and finally putting the ‘bump’ back in the club! As for DJing trends, technology is insanely impressive! Although the true art form of old school vinyl DJing is long gone… there’s an exciting curve of mixing tools, controllers and apps that are bringing the art of DJing to levels I thought I’d never see in my lifetime. So, if I had the money, I’d invest in all that is new and current in the world of DJing! Cause it will leave me behind, sooner than later, if I don’t follow the wave of the DJ future!
Waide– OK, Mr. Dominguez… this has been a fantastic sitting. I appreciate you being so candid and calling out so many Artists for the good reasons! Now, how does the public find you?
Rick– Feel free to follow me on FB and Instagram. Please check out my website while you’re at it… Thanks, Waide, this has been a blast! Kiss, kiss, hug, hug!
Resident DJ Rick Dominguez full contacts:
Rick : Oneraddj@gmail.com
Oil Can Harry’s: www.oilcanharrysla.com
The L.A. Wranglers: www.thelawranglers.com
Long Beach Pride- www.longbeachpride.com
Flaming Saddles- www.flamingsaddles.com
The Bullet- www.bulletbarla.com
Sundance Association For Country-Western Dancing- www.sundancesaloon.org
*On a special note to all NoHo Arts readers… Remember, DJs are just like restaurant servers, hair stylists, massage therapists, and so on. They provide a service that will typically make you Happy! If you make a request with a DJ, please remember, tipping/gratuity, is ALWAYS APPRECIATED! Please, don’t forget them!
Final note from Rick:
*1984 was not only the best year in pop music, according to Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines, but it was my first full year living my dream Los Angeles, and on my way to becoming a club DJ! With the mega hit makers Madonna, Wham!, Prince, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Duran Duran, Eurythmics, Cyndi Lauper, U2, Bon Jovi! all these mega stars had some of their biggest records of their careers in this banner year! It was the year where all genres were making huge gains! I was working at a record store and reading Billboard Magazine weekly, and a little-known fact about me, I was FASCINATED with the HOT 100! so much so, that I created my own TOP 30 charts, TOP 10 albums, and TOP 20 dance club singles charts for almost 10 years! (from 1977-1986) I still have some of these in my archives! So, watching my favorite songs climb the charts was such a thrill for me! I still to this day follow the charts and love music trivia!