Junior Vasquez Returns After Being Rocked by Drugs, Swindling, and Tragedy

Plus: Up close and personal with Patti LuPone

When Junior Vasquez mans the DJ booth at PlayStation in Times Square on New York City’s Pride weekend (June 23), he’ll bring a lifetime of experience to the job. Junior commanded $20,000 per week (huge money at the time) as the superstar DJ at ’90s clubs like the Sound Factory and Twilo. He set the tone, broke the records (often ones produced and/or remixed by himself), and made the shirtless himbos dance their tits off. But he also became addicted to crystal meth and got into some bad situations, both personal and business-related. Junior took time off in order to find some focus, and he returned in March to play at Space Ibiza, launching what looks to be the start of a comeback.

Now, Vasquez, who’s 69, is filming a Francis Legge-directed documentary about his life in between living it. Here are some things you might not know about the man:

The Lancaster, Pennsylvania-born DJ’s birth name is Donald Mattern, but he was given his stage name by his college roommate, another up-and-comer who happened to be named Keith Haring. At this point, both guys wanted to be fashion designers.

In the early days, when Madonna was out of money and had nowhere to live, Junior would let her dive on his couch and stay there. He also helped the rising star out by playing her records in clubs and getting her some gigs. But years after she did make it, he came out with the 1996 song “If Madonna Calls”—which, without authorization, incorporated a phone message left by Madonna—and the superstar dumped him, going “Borderline” with rage. All this time later, Junior wants to patch things up and even work with her again.
[Update: A source insists it isn’t Madonna’s voice on the record after all. They say Junior did the song—about not picking up when Madonna calls—to get back at her for allegedly not giving him credit on a collaboration of theirs.]

As New York magazine reported, Junior was with Cher when she heard Sonny Bono had died, and she totally melted down from the news; and while Junior is friends with Cyndi Lauper, he feels she has weird ideas and is a bit of a control freak.

At his peak, there seemed to be no one more powerful in the dance music industry. He was a god among men—but no one is on top forever. Spearheading his demise was that drug addiction; his then-manager’s crooked antics; and the fact that the love of Junior’s life shockingly killed himself. Miraculously, the DJ has emerged from many years of depression to a more centered place of sobriety and he’s ready to spin again.

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Madonna in 1996
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Sonny and Cher perform in London in 1965

Don’t cry for me: I finally talked to Patti LuPone

Through the years, I’ve written reams about Patti LuPone, adoring her in Evita and Anything Goes, worshiping her in Gypsy, and enjoying her face, her diction, her voice, and her memoirs. But I never got to really talk to her until last week, when the American Theater Wing had a luncheon at Barbetta, and we all convened in the restaurant’s outdoor garden for beverages before lunch started in the main room. I was sitting off to the side of the action when the Broadway legend surprised me by joining me. “I’m going to sit with you, Michael Musto, so we can both be inconspicuous,” she said, as all my chins dropped to the ground, along with my jaw. “Well, I can be inconspicuous, but you can’t,” I said to her, like a true queen. I took a moment to absorb the fact that I now had Patti LuPone captive, and decided not to bring up her recent targets, Madonna and Uma Thurman—keep it gay! I told her, “I just worked with Ben Rimalower [who did the show Patti Issues, partly about his obsession with the two-time Tony winner] and he loves you.” “I love him!” she exclaimed, full of life. (Was Patti LuPone always like this? I wish I’d cornered her years ago.) “Who are all these people?” she wondered, surveying the room. “They’re theater people,” I said. “I don’t know them,” she insisted, not being a big schmoozer. “Well,” I offered, “I recognize the mother from Dear Evan Hansen.” There was also director Michael Arden, who was pointed out to Patti, upon which she ran up to him and said, “It is so fabulous, Once On This Island!”

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Patti LuPone at the 72nd Tony Awards in Noew York on June 10, 2018

To make things even more surreally fab, gossip columnist Cindy Adams came by and sat with us, though she accidentally spilled LuPone’s champagne. “It’s so fabulous spilling champagne,” LuPone said, grinning. “It’s decadent,” I offered, and LuPone agreed, in another bonding moment. Talk moved on to the Tony awards and Patti said, “No one goes to the Tony awards not wanting to win. This whole ‘It’s an honor just to be nominated’ thing. Please. Everyone wants to win.” “It’s only human,” I nodded, in full agreement with everything she was saying. I then pointed out a nominee—Renee Fleming—to Patti, who jumped up to greet the opera diva, currently appearing in Carousel. “Just to hear her sing!” Patti exulted to me about the production, after they chatted. I raved about Jessie Mueller and Joshua Henry’s rendition of “If I Loved You” in the same show, and LuPone agreed, saying that the song is used to fill a long, dramatic scene and they made it work beautifully. (Amazingly, she didn’t do a Michael Musto and make this about herself; Patti could have easily said, “Of course, I did the same song in An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin,” but she didn’t.) Someone from the Theater Wing came over, wearing a Kate Spade dress in honor of the designer who had just committed suicide. “What’s with all these fashion designers killing themselves with a scarf and a doorknob?” Patti wondered. “It’s quick and it works,” I told Patti, mercifully avoiding adding, “Well, a scarf is fashion, after all.” Just then, playwright Douglas Carter Beane arrived—more schmoozing—and talk somehow turned to Jackie Kennedy, whom I said I was in a room with once, though I didn’t get up the nerve to approach her, not sure what to say. “Why did you marry Onassis?” suggested LuPone, and we all fell apart laughing. Patti told Cindy about how dispiriting it is when restaurant personnel in the Broadway district don’t know anything about Broadway shows and theaters; in the old days, they knew everything. Cindy asked where Patti got her white outfit and said, “They must go crazy when you go in there.” “No one knows who I am,” insisted Patti, which is absurd, so I replied, “Well, they know you from Watch What Happens Live!” And Patti and I talked about the glories of Italy—we’re both Italian American—and when we parted, she urged, “Michael, I want to urge you to go to Naples!” Do you argue with a woman like this? I’m booking a flight.

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Patti LuPone at Sardi’s Restaurant on June 7, 2018

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.
@mikeymusto