Richie Cannizzo remembers the sand. Heaps of it.

“(They would) put it all over everything for three days,” recalls Cannizzo of the annual beach party where he got his start as a DJ for clubs.

Cannizzo’s sister and her friends were bartenders at Club 516 in Old Bridge, New Jersey, when they asked Cannizzo to emcee the beach party for the Raceway Park Summer Nationals (an annual drag racing event).

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“I was pretty hooked instantly,” says Cannizzo. “It was a growing experience for sure. I started slowly started taking shifts.” At the time, Cannizzo primarily DJed for mobile gigs (e.g. weddings), but the stage was set and Cannizzo established what would become his career. “Within about six months, I was managing as well—usually working four to seven shifts a week,” he says. caught up with Cannizzo —now a DJ at Rick’s Cabaret in Chicago — for his thoughts on DJing and what he’s seen in his 30-plus years inside the DJ booth, in conjunction with and our monthly Spotify series. Don’t miss Cannizzo’s personalized Spotify playlist right here!

ED: How did you end up landing at Rick’s Cabaret in Chicago?
CANNIZZO: Just over a year ago, my manager, Brett Polulak that I worked with previously in New York City at Sapphire and Vivid Cabaret, brought me out here. I haven’t looked back since. Chicago is an amazing city and market.

ED: Describe the market in which you work as a DJ. What is your clientele like, and how do you adapt the music you play to fit this clientele?
CANNIZZO: It’s a big tourist city generated from tons of conventions and sporting events. Great locals as well. The clientele base changes throughout the night so I’m always changing the music/vibe. I pretty much mix every song together regardless of tempo or vibe—I make it work while making announcements during the mix or right after it so girls and clients are sure when it’s a new song.

“I’m there to make everyone the maximum money — the club, girls, bar and wait staff, etc., so if one girl or customer wants to tip me lots to play wack music, it’s not happening.” – Cannizzo

ED: What role do you feel you’ve played in the success of clubs where you’ve worked, and what role do you believe a DJ plays in the overall success of a gentlemen’s club?
CANNIZZO: I strive to be the best DJ and beyond. I keeping it pumping like a real club with cutting-edge music and my mixing. For some examples of my mixing, check out Besides the music side, I always help with marketing—I currently run the @rickschicago Instagram page and I’ll also go out occasionally on promos. DJs play a large role. A DJ could make or break a club.

ED: How hard is it, as a DJ, to play music to a diverse crowd of customers—as well as the entertainers—and keep everyone happy? What’s your strategy when it comes to this juggling act?
CANNIZZO: Hard, but overall I’m there to make everyone the maximum money—the club, girls, bar and wait staff, etc., so if one girl or customer wants to tip me lots to play wack music, it’s not happening. I’ll make a self-sacrifice for everyone else. Most girls understand how it works. Some definitely do not and it’s important to have managers who trust you and have your back in these situations. Rick’s Chicago definitely has the best team of managers and staff that I’ve worked with so far in the three-plus decades I’ve been doing this. I rotate the girls by the genres they like so the vibe and energy keeps up. If I feel a girl’s genre doesn’t fit the current clientele base they get a temporary new genre, usually just a house mix of their genre type. Rarely getting complaints tells me I’m doing it right.

ED: If you could change one thing about the strip club industry, what would it be?
CANNIZZO: Tough one. I’d say more ex-DJs as managers.

ED: What is your favorite music to play on a busy Saturday night at the club? Conversely, when you’re not in the club, what music do you prefer to listen to?

CANNIZZO: House music for the majority, but not any one house music style, I change it every few songs. When I’m not in the club and not doing research, I listen mostly to ’70s music.

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ED: If you could see any concert or lineup of artists, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
CANNIZZO: All the “27 Club” together would be phenomenal (Editor’s note: the “27 Club” refers to the age a number of famed musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse died) and as an added bonus Johnny Cash, John Lennon and Prince. More talent with this bunch than 100 musicians who lived three times as long.

Where do you originally hail from: Old Bridge, New Jersey/Club 516
Current Club: Rick’s Cabaret Chicago
Years employed at the club: 1
Years in the industry: 30+
Favorite recording artist: Beatles for the complete rock ‘n’ roll foundation.
Industry hero: Markie Mark Pears
Favorite feature entertainer: Hot Dog Shannon (early ’90s)
Favorite DJ or industry pro: Tim Rhodes, learned lots while working with him
Favorite part of your work night: Getting done after a great night
Pet working peeve: Lazy DJs and entertainers
Advice for fellow club DJs: Manually mix every three minutes and join PANDA

Check out Cannizzo’s personalized Spotify playlist right here, courtesy of!

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