DJ Kevin Burke
DJ KEVIN BURKE – FIP BLUE WHALE TEA DANCE DJ 1977 – 1987, 1992, 1993 1994
DJ Kevin Burke was resident DJ at the Pines and Dunes Yacht Club, better known as the Botel, for 14 summer seasons from 1977 to 1987 for 5-7 days per week beginning early June and ending late September.
Owner John Whyte decided to no longer offer Tea Dance in 1988 because business was way off due to the AIDS crisis. 1992 marked 30 years that John owned the club and hotel and he decided to have a special Tea Dance in honor of the occasion. Once again he asked Kevin to DJ.
It was to be a one-time thing but it was so successful that Kevin played the entire 1992 season as well as the 1993 and 1994 seasons. Kevin also played many of NYC’s best and biggest clubs: Uncle Charlie’s South (where he was a bartender for about 6 years – some nights as DJ, other nights as a bartender. Then came a permanent gig at Hurrah, leading to guest spots at Flamingo, 12 West, Studio 54, New York New York, Bonds, The Cockring (also known as The CR Lounge) and, of course, the Pavilion. In 1983 when the Red Parrot opened he rotated nights with DJ Frank Houlihan until Frank’s unfortunate and untimely death. Kevin then became resident Red Parrot DJ playing there through the fall and winter, returning each summer to DJ at the Botel.
Along with the Red Parrot gig came 1 or 2 nights a week at the Ice Palace on 57th Street since both clubs had the same owner, Jimmy Merry. Kevin also played the popular San Francisco superclub Trocadero Transfer a number of times and other clubs and cities across the country – Denver, Houston and Key West, for example. Come the fall he was offered 2 residency DJ jobs in San Francisco – the popular Music Hall and the chance to open a new superclub, Dreamland. Returning to the Botel in the summer, good friend and great DJ Howard Merritt took over the reigns at Dreamland. Kevin also played a season at the Monster in Cherry Grove – often playing Tea Dance at the Botel then packing up his records and taking a water taxi to Cherry Grove to play the evening at the Monster and occasionally the Ice Palace. In 1988 Kevin went into semi-retirement and took a full time job with the City of New York where he put in 25 years, retiring in 2011. He currently lives in the West Village with his husband Matt. They spend their time between NYC and Fort Lauderdale.
My best friend and roommate, great DJ Wayne Scott was the first DJ to play a live Tea Dance at the Botel in 1976. He had a great season and once fall came he played in NYC and was one of the original DJ’s to play at the recently opened Studio 54. In the spring of 1977 I asked him if he was going back to play Tea or was he going to remain playing at Studio 54. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. I told him that I really wanted the Fire Island job if he did not want it, so would he please let me be the first to hear his decision. This way I could be the first to apply for the Botel’s DJ position. Wayne decided to stay at Studio 54 so I quickly sent John Whyte, the owner, a tape of mine so that he could evaluate my work.
John Whyte (below.)
John gave me a quick response – yes, the job was mine! I was very excited. Over the years, John Whyte was a wonderful boss to work for often telling me that I was his favorite DJ on Fire Island. Many times – especially on rainy days – when the place was packed – he would ask me or tell me not to play so well, keeping the dance floor from getting too worked up and excited that some dancers would jump up and swing in the rafters in the ceiling, which would happen with some regularity. Well, that was a first for me! Of course, I played my best – my reputation would be at stake. No owner before had ever asked me not to play my best on any given shift. Every September I would check with John to see if we would be doing Tea Dance again the following year and the answer was always a definitive yes. All in all, I played Tea Dance at the Botel for 11 consecutive summer seasons and the 3 additional summer seasons in the 1990’s. A lot of people – and I mean a lot – used to call me Mr Tea Dance whenever I would see them on the boardwalk or on the ferry. It was quite flattering to know that when they thought of Tea Dance in the Pines, they thought of me. I was even told jokingly by the ferry people that it was my fault to me that they needed a bigger ferry to bring the crowds across the Great South Bay! I was the first DJ anywhere to play the song “I Love the Nightlife” by Alicia Bridges. Polydor Records was then gracious enough to award me a Gold Record for that great dance song – a dance floor favorite and classic that is still played today. I’m very proud of that Gold Record and have nothing but very fond memories of being the DJ at the Botel for so many seasons.
1984-86. Hear DJ Kevin Burke remastered by Jim Hopkins of the San Francisco Disco Preservation Society here: