Dance Until You Drop: DJ And Club Promoter Page Hodel
by Heather Cassell
Page Hodel is legendary in the San Francisco Bay Area as a fixture of its nightlife. For 35 years she has been spinning the hits at nearly every San Francisco nightclub – gay and straight – as well as being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer party promoter. Many people recall two of her legendary dance clubs, the BOX and club Q, to name a couple and she has no plans on stopping.
Fans can see her every Friday night at the Starlight Room at the top of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square. She also continues to spin at many parties around the bay, like Christiana Remington’s “Sister Sundays” in Oakland and DJ Rockaway’s “Play” parties around the Bay Area.
Since California’s wedding bells have been ringing for same-sex couples, Page has been quite popular keeping guests on the dance floor at many same-sex nuptials in addition to her usual wedding gigs.
She’s also an artist and author with her book Monday Hearts for Madalene, a collection of the hearts she makes every Monday for Madalene Rodriguez, the love she searched for her entire life and finally found at age 48.
Page was honored with “The One Hundred” award for Monday Hearts for Madalene in Boston in May. The award honors 100 people from around the world who celebrate hope in the cancer community and inspire others to take action, according to the organization’s website.
Page has had a love affair with music long before she stepped into the DJ booth three and a half decades ago. In her youth, Page, 58, believed that she was going to be a musician, mastering funky rhythm guitar, but she realized quickly that her options for making a decent living as a guitarist were slim. She turned her attention to the turntables and dance clubs.
“Music is a language that I speak and always have,” Page says, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that nearing her sixth decade in life that she has no plans to turn the music off or shut the party down.
She’s seen it all, as music has morphed from people actually playing real instruments to people creating sounds from synthesizers and machines as well as from a vibrant LGBT bar and dance club scene to what appears to be the affects of a long awaited LGBT acceptance and inevitable assimilation into the mainstream community. Girls That Roam sat down with Page to chat about her life as a DJ and her love of music; three and a half decades of LGBTQ nightlife and the challenges of the lesbian community today; and being a creative person seamlessly expanding from music to art by sharing her Monday Hearts for Madalene.
Girls That Roam: What does music mean to you?
Page Hodel: I love the way music so profoundly affects people’s lives. I think that Music is a conduit to heaven. It’s a window into your heart and your soul and opens everything up. Music is an “unspoken language,” it’s a “universal language.” It is something that completely bonds us all together.
I want to keep making people dance, even if I’m old and gray and in a wheel chair. I love it too much, that’s where I feel most at home. … in the DJ booth watching and making everybody dance.
GTR: What is the DJs job?
PH: The DJs job is to capture and create the greater good in every moment and to find the perfect record to make the most amount of people the most happy at any one given time. We chase that moment always.
GTR: How has being a DJ changed during the 35 years you’ve been spinning records?
PH: Being a DJ for 35 years, I know dance music like the back of my hand. And I know people and how they behave on the dance floor. At the same time, it always still stays interesting for me because the music is always changing and evolving and I love to create a community experience wherever I play. Our Bay Area dance community is an extraordinary beautiful community.
Being a DJ is very different now than the old days. It is not nearly as social it was.
It used to be, every Thursday and Friday we all (DJ’s) go to the record store. You would see all of your DJ friends and catch up, “How is this record working for you?”
There was so much interaction and camaraderie. There were lifelong friendships formed over those record stacks.
Then there is the physical tactile aspect. Songs were something I would literally hold in my hand, but now they reside on a screen. I grab the song with an index finger and drag into a virtual folder. It’s quite a different experience.
One of the positives of technology’s affect on DJs and music is that it used to be I would arrive at a club with four crates of maybe 250 records for the night and it has now evolved to I show up with 22,000 songs with me on my laptop. Today, you can’t say “Sorry I don’t have it with me tonight,” because club goers and wedding party guests know very well you probably do have it. And with most venues having W-Fi, if I don’t have it, in most cases I can buy it right there on the spot.
GTR: How has the party scene changed with the advent of electronic music?
PH: Over time I can really see that it’s amped up. There are a lot of things that are being done electronically to elevate the energy on the dance floor. The energy is so high. Watching 6,000 people dancing to really hard and bangin’ EDM it’s quite impressive. The expression, passion, energy and power, it’s really something else, the ability of the electronics to turn things up and drop things down.
GTR: What is the secret to being a DJ and a party promoter?
PH: Not all DJs become promoters. Promoting is not for everyone. DJs who become promoters are either because they are a natural leader or have a propensity to be super entrepreneurial. For me, it was always in my blood. When I was a little girl, I was one of those kids that had lemonade stands and little carnivals in my driveway. I would rustle up all the neighborhood kids to come to my little carnivals. For me it was a very natural progression from DJ to promoter. I had a strong desire for the freedom to artistically play what I wanted. I knew what would make everyone dance and was tired of being confined by other people’s and club owners’ desires.
Promoting and being the DJ at the same time is very difficult to do. Being a promoter is very challenging and a tremendous responsibility. I was always very fortunate to have exceptional managers and people working with me – I‘m sure people will tell you, it’s real fun to work with me, but its also very tough to work with me. For me it wasn’t just a big giant party; it was a piece of artwork. We all had a great time, still do.
GTR: Who are your favorite artists, today and in the day?
PH: Stevie Wonder, Rihanna, and Azealia Banks. Rihanna creates absolutely beautiful, gorgeous pop music. Azealia Banks’ is a sassy delicious female rapper. My favorite song right now is by Niki Minaj called “Truffle Butter,” that song is driving me crazy today. I really miss all the female rappers, like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Missy Elliott. I love all R&B Hip Hop artists and I love the boys too!
GTR: Your artwork has expanded beyond music into creating physical pieces of art with your Monday Hearts for Madalene celebrating finding the love you were always searching for, but whom you lost to cancer. Can you tell me more about this project?
PH: I began making hearts for my beloved Madalene when we first met. I would make a heart and leave it on her doorstep every Monday morning just as a romantic gesture and reminder of how much I loved her. Seven months after we met, she was diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer and passed away very quickly. We met almost exactly 10 years ago today. Just before she died I promised Madalene that I would continue to make my hearts for her for the rest of my life as a tribute to our beautiful love and to keep her in my physical world.
Soon after she passed, I began sending photos of my hearts to our friends and family, over the Internet, with the invitation for everyone to make a list of their loved ones and forward them on and on. The whole project has become an unbelievable worldwide expression of love every Monday. I now personally send the hearts to 3,142 people all over the world. I receive emails from Bali, Bangkok, Serbia, South Africa, and Vienna. It’s just really a magical expression of love, first to my beloved Madalene, and now a little burst of love on Mondays, just reminding everyone how important love is and to start your week with love in your heart.
I once read a beautiful quote from Mother Theresa that said, “Every act of love is an act of peace.” That really touched me deeply.
For more information about Monday Hearts for Madalene, visit http://mondayheartsformadalene.com.
If you would like to receive a heart every Monday on your “digital doorstep” send an email to and write “subscribe” in the subject.
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