Doug Curtis ’02 jokes that he started DJ-ing dance parties in St. Louis, Mo., to keep his friends from leaving the city. Not all of his friends took the bait, but Curtis was hooked. What began as a fun diversion became a business and a ministry—in that order.
Back in his hometown after graduation, Curtis worked for a high-profile audio-visual house, producing multimedia events at conferences and conventions. He took his new know-how into the dance parties he was DJ-ing on weekends. With a business partner, he turned those dance nights into multimedia products: That ’80s Club and London Calling.
Each is a portable party with a distinctive look, sound and atmosphere that Curtis creates at a site. Since June 2005, Curtis has hosted That ’80s Club every Friday night at the St. Louis bar Rue 13. Using LCD projectors and TV monitors, Curtis and DJs who work for him play classic music videos from the 1980s. Sometimes there’s a theme, like Moonwalker Night or Madonna Night.
“It’s a light-hearted, carefree environment that cuts across a bunch of demographic barriers,” Curtis said. “People anywhere from 21 to 51 come out. It never seems to get old for them.”
London Calling draws a different crowd. Named for the 1979 genre-crossing album by the British band The Clash, the party on Saturday nights features indie-alternative music and video that slip out of easy categories.
“We’re trying for an atmosphere that’s creative and artistic,” Curtis explained, “one that’s accepting and encourages the people who come to express themselves creatively in their own form.”
Both dance nights were a sideline to his weekday job—until late 2006, when that job and his business partner went away. Curtis decided to try to make the clubs his bread and butter. “It turned out to be way more of a God thing than I imagined,” Curtis said.
In the three and a half years since, both That ’80s Club and London Calling have thrived in the St. Louis entertainment scene, and Curtis has drawn plenty of press. But that’s not what he means when he says his decision was a God thing.
“All the success and notoriety I had achieved I made into idols,” Curtis said. “It was all about me.”
Until a year or so ago, when the house of idols crashed. With business troubles, a serious knee injury and a divorce, Curtis took to bargaining with God. “I told him, ‘The only way this is going to work is if you’re involved. So, OK, we’ll make ministry a part of London Calling.’”
On his end of the bargain, God started with the minister. “He stripped all the false idols from me, one by one, painfully so,” Curtis said. “But the joy and transformation he’s worked in me has been worth every ounce of the pain. How could I not be excited about that?”
He tells his excitement to the London Calling patrons who, Curtis said, “come to talk to me with their most personal things. It’s an atheistic crowd. They don’t believe in absolute truth; they’re hostile to Christianity. But they’re craving authentic relationships.
“My sole passion now is to be a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to intercede in their hearts. Because I know the lengths to which God in Christ goes to fight for our souls.”