PANDA, the Professional Adult Nightclub DJ Association, is a coalition of DJ’s from gentlemen’s clubs across the nation who are united to support one another and the industry. Ron Sparkman, the current Vice President of PANDA and one of the founding members, shared with me the story of how he got into the adult nightclub entertainment industry and the history of PANDA.
C.J. Asher – First of all, Ron, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Ron Sparkman – Absolutely! First off, thanks C.J., for doing this interview and for providing awesome content that we can share with Pandanation! I was born and raised in Nitro, WV and, even though I faced my fair share, I’ve ALWAYS been able to do something I love. I did martial arts for most of my youth, so I taught at my Professor’s dojo when I was younger. I loved movies and videos games so I worked at a movie rental store and then a movie theater as a projectionist. I’m not even quite sure if either of those jobs exists anymore. From there I became a DJ and the rest is history.
C.J. Asher – Tell me a bit about your work history and experiences in the adult entertainment industry.
Ron Sparkman – I fell into the business basically. A guy started training at the martial arts school I was instructing at and was offering the black belts jobs. I initially turned it down. Eventually I decided to give it a go, so the new managers at the club, John Guerrin and Brian Kinison, upheld the job offer of the previous manager, and brought me in as security. In an attempt to get me more shifts and money, he asked me if I’d like to be the day time DJ .The main DJ, Bopper, took me under his wing, as did our regional manager Mike Dunn. I took off from there. I absolutely fell in love with the gig, and once I started hearing about what the high level DJ’s were earning, I knew I had to work my ass off to get one of those positions. After 4 or 5 years of hard work, a couple of big moves, and a couple of big risks (on my part and on the part of an owner who saw something in me), I ended up at one of the top clubs on the east coast, Dollhouse of Myrtle Beach. And there I stayed for nearly 10 years. I was able to be a part of an incredible team, led by managing partner Brent Clark, operator Joe Hargadon, and entertainment director (and one of my two major mentors) Carmen Perris. We saw the numbers skyrocket over the years as this incredible team worked like a well-oiled machine. I really don’t know that I’ll ever work with a better crew. We were magic. My last club was working as the entertainment director for the Spearmint Rhino in Dallas with GM James Ritter. One of the best I’ve ever worked for. He is currently the COO for Papermoon.
C.J. Asher – What was your main inspiration for becoming a DJ? What artists or bands inspired you?
Ron Sparkman – I know it seems kinda obvious, but music did it. My mom loved music and even named me after her best friend who was a DJ. I wanted to be an actor or comedian when I was younger, but I had incredible stage fright and through DJing, I slowly learned how to conquer that fear of public speaking. I became obsessively passionate about the job, wanting to learn all the music, all the tricks of the trade, and so on. Specifically, nu metal became my first love. I became immersed in bands like COLD, Incubus, Sevendust, and Staind. I started finding out who I really was. Piercings, tattoos, partying till the wee hours of the morning. It was one of the most amazing times in my life and I’ll always thank John, Brian, Mike, and Bopper for making me the man I am today.
C.J. Asher – Why do you go by your real name as a DJ and not a fake DJ name?
Ron Sparkman – I had some DJ names when I was younger, and I don’t mind them really, but in the strip club industry it is not really needed. I started using my first and middle name, DJ Ron James, after Dave Chappelle did the “I’m Rick James, Bitch!” episode of his show. I ran with that, always dropping a “I’m Ron James, Bitch!” during prime time. There are still friends in Myrtle Beach that yell that when they see me. I was a *bit* of a goofball in my early 20’s.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about your first experience in a gentlemen’s club. What was that like?
Ron Sparkman – My first experience in a club was the first club I worked at, the Pink Pony! I was 18 years old (you had to be 21 to get in, but I knew the right people) and I’d never kissed a girl, let alone seen one naked. The girls at the club were unreal to me. I saw a girl on stage named Draven. She was the hottest girl I’d ever seen in my life and probably a major reason why I took the job at the club, to be honest. This little club, converted from a KFC, meant the world to me. Still does.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about some of the failures and challenges you’ve faced while working your way up in the DJ industry.
Ron Sparkman – Oh man, when it comes to failures and challenges, you won’t find someone with more than me. Most of the time I was my own worst enemy. I talked too fast, my voice wasn’t deep enough, I had a really bad “puke voice” for a while, I fell in love too easy with dancers, I partied too hard for years, the list just goes on and on. But fortunately enough, I can learn from my mistakes…even if it takes fifteen to twenty times to do so. I’ve spent thousands of dollars to audition at jobs that I never got a call back for. But I just never gave up. I owe my success to my family and friends, to PANDA, and to the people that taught me to never take no for answer. The main proponent of that being my mom, who always knew I could do anything.
C.J. Asher – What gentlemen’s clubs are you currently associated with and in what capacity?
Ron Sparkman – I retired from DJ’ing earlier this year. My time has been split between traveling the world, college preparation, UpportunityU, and working as the Vice President of PANDA, the Professional Adult Nightclub DJ Association.
C.J. Asher – What projects are you currently working on?
Ron Sparkman – I’m currently working on two projects. First, moving PANDA forward to become a stronger part of our industry. Just this week we announced a deal to bring insurance to DJs and soon to all industry professionals, thanks to board member Ilan Fong. That’s just one of a few irons in the fire. Second, building my name in the science community with my project, UpportunityU. Space became my passion a few years ago and my life goal is to do something big in the space industry.
C.J. Asher – How is being a DJ in a gentlemen’s club different than a nightclub or other type of clientele, such as being a wedding DJ?
Ron Sparkman – Man, I don’t think there is a better way of DJ’ing. We get to play every single music format, we work together with our hosts, entertainers and operators to produce a show for our guests like no other, and so much more. I’ve done a few other styles of DJ’ing and MC’ing but this is by far my favorite. We’re part DJ, part therapist, part comedian, part strategist, part… a million other things. A truly talented DJ can do it all and I’ve been fortunate to know and work alongside the most talented in the business. If I’m any good, it’s because I surrounded myself with greatness.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about how you got connected with PANDA, the Professional Adult Nightclub DJ Association.
Ron Sparkman – I was basically there from the beginning. PANDA started on the Strip Club Industry Facebook page created by Glen Atkins. The DJs were the major contributors there, so a DJ named Mao Osbourne decided to do an off-shoot page just for us where we could talk privately about issues. From there, it just grew. We started getting over all our differences and realized we had more in common than we didn’t. A couple guys had the idea that we should form an organization and work together to improve the industry. PANDA was eventually born from that and I was an original member. There were some big changes about a year in, a lot of the founding board members went on to do their own thing, and I was elected to the board at that time. Earlier this year, the board voted me on as Vice President.
C.J. Asher – Congratulations! What are your long-term plans for PANDA?
Ron Sparkman – The sky is the limit, really. A lot of those plans are in the formation stages, so I can’t talk about them, but we’ve really accomplished a lot this year. We have an official business set up, we’re starting to release merchandise, we’re offering industry insurance, and much more. One of the major things I see PANDA doing is helping to unite the industry. We’re reaching out more and more to other people in the business— regional directors, operators, floor hosts, features—because we want to get their views. We want to understand how we can make the DJ a more integral part of the team.
C.J. Asher – PANDA had a HUGE presence at the 2015 Gentlemen’s Club Expo. Tell me about your involvement with it and what we can look forward to from PANDA at the 2016 Expo.
Ron Sparkman – PANDAmonium events, as we call them, have come a long way. In the first year or so, it was really about everyone getting together, having a drink (or more), and getting to know one another. These friendships turned into more over time. Now we have a nationwide network of over 800 DJs, with more and more of those DJs showing up to the Gentlemen’s Club Expo each year. As you saw, it’s causing a positive impact. The Panda party this year was a huge success and we appreciate everyone coming out. Expo is something we love being a part of. Besides just the party, we have a booth every year where we do industry interviews and share information on the organization with owners and DJs alike. We also have seminars as part of Expo itself. This year, we had former DJ, motivational speaker, and business consultant Willard Barth speak on the importance of a financial education. He’s an amazing talent and we’re glad to be able to work with him.
C.J. Asher – What advice do you have for anyone, from dancer to manager to DJ, who wants to work in the adult entertainment industry?
Ron Sparkman – The industry is changing and we’re all kind of caught up in that. The most important thing to do is to keep yourself informed and be a part of the solution. The more we work together, the more we can accomplish. What I’ve seen the amazing talent in PANDA do is a testament to that.
C.J. Asher – What’s the best job you’ve ever had in the adult entertainment industry?
Ron Sparkman – The Pink Pony was my major start and I still consider my coworkers there family. But I’d have to say Dollhouse/Afterdeck in Myrtle Beach. That place was amazing in its prime and I understand its still killing it to this day. During spring golf season, we’d see 70-100 stunning women a night, 6 stages, floor length gowns, feature showcases every hour, and some of the best hospitality in the business. We were the best. That’s also where I met all of my ex-girlfriends, so it’s gotta a special place in my heart for that.
C.J. Asher – What would your dream job be?
Ron Sparkman – My dream job is now my goal job! I want to be “astronaut qualified.” This requires a masters in a STEM field, 1000+ hours of jet engine training, and 3 years plus experience in a STEM field. To accomplish this, I’m going back to school to study physics, with an eventual focus on astrophysics, I’m starting flying lessons in the spring, and I’m going to volunteer at a local space museum until I can convince them to hire me on full time. I also want to be a science educator someday similar to Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye, though I don’t have to be on that scale. I want to help change the world for the better and I believe we can all do that. Together.
C.J. Asher – What crazy stories do you have from your history in the adult nightclub industry, either happening to you or someone you know?
Ron Sparkman – The best ones would be soooo incriminating! My 21st birthday party is still stuff of legend back home. Oh…and there’s never a party like a Dollhouse Christmas party! All kidding aside, I’ve had some amazing experiences. Probably my most favorite one would be this: Dollhouse had an open air nightclub next door called the Afterdeck and during the summer, I’d MC with stars of MTV reality shows and introduce major DJs and artists. One night, not long after I started doing it, I was on stage in front of 2,000 to 3,000 people and it was electric. It was West Virginia’s senior week and 85% of the crowd was from where I was from. So I stood on stage and had all the high schools yell from each state. When I told West Virginia to yell, they yelled at me so hard, it physically shook me! Right on cue, the DJ dropped Country Roads and everyone started singing it. I don’t think it’s a far reach to see that I wasn’t the coolest kid in school, so getting to be a part of something like that really meant the world to me. I ended up meeting siblings and cousins of people I went to high school with over the next few summers. That was one of those defining moments that I’d made it.
C.J. Asher – What are the hot music styles being played in gentlemen’s clubs nowadays?
Ron Sparkman – EDM and Hip Hop are huge these days, but we’re seeing pop and rock starting to make a comeback. We’ve got an amazing resource in Bob Chiappardi from StripJointsMusic.com. He not only gets DJs free music, he also gets bad ass music guests for our shows. A few months back, he got the lead singer of my favorite band COLD on for an episode. THAT was amazing! If you want to hear the newest hits, check out our Panda Top 20 podcast! Also, be sure to hit us up on Panda Radio on iTunes!
C.J. Asher – Thanks for your time, Ron. In closing, please provide some social media links for our readers to follow you at.