The DJ

Robert Oleysyck

Robert Oleysyck had been DJing for only about a year and a half when he moved from Memphis, Tenn., to Las Vegas in 1991. He turned 21 that same year, and was hired on the spot when he applied for a job at the Palladium. He still DJs a couple of nights a week in Las Vegas at hot spots such as STK, but his main pursuit these days is running Park Studios, which provides custom playlists for restaurants, clubs and bars, including all 25 nationwide locations of Ra Sushi.

The [Palladium], which was on South Industrial Road, was huge; it took up an entire warehouse. I worked there for about five months before moving on to the Metz nightclub, and then to the Gypsy, where I worked for the next couple of years.

I was DJing at Gypsy in 1994 when Sam Salde, who owned the Palladium, came in one night. He must have liked what he heard, because he immediately hired me back. By that point, the Palladium had switched its format to country, but Sam wanted to go back to a high-energy dance format, and he entrusted me with helping to make that change.

The club was open four nights a week—Wednesday through Saturday—and when I got re-hired, Sam still kept country music one night each week because he didn’t want to completely lose that crowd. But the country DJs left, so I had to also play country, which I didn’t know anything about. Thankfully, there was one go-go dancer who knew the format, so she helped me out.

This was also right when grunge and alternative rock music got really big. And there was a lot of underground music bubbling around then that I had been influenced by, and that kind of stuff was still relegated to underground parties, but I was incorporating that into the Palladium. I would also play music videos inside the club, and incorporate bits from movies like Animal House with the night’s programming. There were video walls made out of TVs in the club, and a huge video projector that was as big as an office desk and weighed hundreds of pounds that shot from one side of the club to the other.

I remember when Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” came out; that instantly got into the rotation twice a night. We were also playing the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” and even some Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I was playing techno, too, some of the seminal progressive tracks like “Papua New Guinea” from The Future Sound of London and “Plastic Dreams” by Jaydee. It was just a cutting-edge place where I could play a large variety of stuff, anywhere from ‘80s and ‘90s alternative stuff to modern dance music to industrial artists like KMFDM, Lords of Acid and Ministry.

Even though I was a DJ, back then we kinda did everything. I programmed the lighting; I would climb up in the ceiling and clean trusses and fixtures, and just made sure everything was working. The club had a huge box truss—it was four big trusses within each other—and it was just a massive structure that was over the dance floor. The whole thing moved on wenches and was computer-controlled, so you could do different configurations. It was a little unnerving sometimes because you’re moving it and it’s hanging above people’s heads.

Nobody had ever seen anything like that up to that point, and I don’t think it’s been done since on that scale. There are big clubs now, but they’re all broken up into areas. This was just one big open area. The dance floor itself was about the size of a roller-skating rink. It was the place to go. Working at the Palladium was a huge learning experience, and it kinda set a precedent for what was about to happen in town.

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The Downtown Cocktail Room’s doors are impossibly un-door-ish. You walk up from the intersection of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, happy to join the buzzing downtown camaraderie—the urban revolution taking hold of Las Vegas—and you’re faced with walls of one-way glass and no apparent door handle. For the uninitiated, it makes for an awkward moment. Had this happened to me, and I’m not confirming that it did, the larger metaphor wouldn’t have been lost: Maybe everyone doesn’t fit in here.



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