’There are too many people standing on the side trying to pick up women,” complains D.J. Famous Amos. “They’re not gonna be picked up if you don’t show ‘em how you can shake your booty!” At the bar, a grizzled Al Pacino look-alike seems content to grind arrhythmically against a bottle blonde as she sips her white Russian.
Amos (who, though he’s appropriated the name of the African-American cookie mogul, is a diminutive, goateed white man) is presiding over the “Jammin’ Oldies Dance Party,” WTJM Jammin’$2 105’s roving weekly promotional boogiethon. The format’s tightly scripted blend of post-doo-wop, pre-rap soul has taken the radio markets of the country, and now New York, by storm – in TJM’s case, doubling its ratings in its first three months of existence and sparking panicky ad campaigns by competitors Kiss-FM and WCBS. But the Jammin’ Oldies format is having a less notable impact on the dance floor at Club XIT, next-door to the Roger Smith Hotel. A couple dozen fingers go into the air when Amos cues up Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out,” but for the most part, the crowd is more enthusiastic about the door prizes – two $50 gift certificates to Princeton Ski Shops – than it is about the overamplified jams and glaring, meandering disco lights. Which is probably par for the course at any oldies-station dance party – even one whose tag line is “Not your father’s oldies station.”
The city’s appetite for R&B crossover hits like “Celebration,” “Love and Happiness,” and “Shining Star” is a side effect of what might be called the Puffy factor: The archetypal jammin’ oldie is a tune Puff Daddy either has already sampled or is likely to make use of in the near future. The bulk of TJM’s ratings spike has been in the coveted 25-to-54 demographic; the listeners drawn by this party’s on-air promos, though, seem to fall mostly in the upper end of that spread, making it unlikely that they’ve overdosed on Biggie Smalls’s reworked version of the tune they’re currently swaying to.
What they might get tired of, though, is the station’s limited repertoire. Program director Joel Salkowitz says he plans to “grow” the playlist once the station is better established. For now, hits by Jammin’ Oldies patron saints such as Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and Aretha Franklin are in such heavy rotation it’s almost possible to hear the same song twice in a cab ride. But at the midtown soirée, at least, the formula works: The floor finally fills up, around 11:30, when Amos spins Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” for the second time that evening; the first time he’d played it was at 11:05.