How Arizona DJ Quinton Jenkins founded a gay dance tent


“I travel the planet living the good life,” Quinton Jenkins explained last week. “I love that. I’m the guy who’s been a serial entrepreneur, something beyond what others thought was possible for me.

He spoke about his various careers as a print and runway model, professional dancer and nightclub manager. Lately he’s better known as DJ Nathan Quinn, who’s getting ready to play dance records next week. Gay pride Event.

“But more recently,” he admitted, “what I am most of the time is very slightly out of step with jet lag.”

Jenkins had just returned to Sedona, where he lives part of the year, from his home in Spain. He admitted that traveling sometimes worked his nerves.

“But it’s worth it to be home in Arizona,” he said. “We first came to Phoenix in 1968. My parents and I first lived on the south side, where we hovered just long enough for me to complete eighth grade, and then we went to Paradise Valley in 1971. ”

After high school, Jenkins founded a dance troupe called The Cassettes and moonlighted at a local restaurant where his cheekbones were spotted by someone from Yves St. Laurent. “This led to my first professional dance concert,” he said. “It all happened right after that.”

This included a contract with model agency Plaza Three, where Jenkins taught male modeling classes in exchange for prints and runway performances.

“I have to spill some tea,” Jenkins said. “Helen Rogers owned Plaza Three and found out that I was dancing at Casa de Roma on weekends. She pulled me aside and told me that she couldn’t get one of her models to work in a gay bar. She was in this bar almost every day having martinis for lunch with the owner, and yet she was pooping me for dancing there.

Jenkins got away, signing first with Tony L’Image Casablanca and later with Ford / Robert Black, who didn’t care that he dances and choreographed in both gay and straight clubs. .

“At Graham Central Station, we had a number called Angel and the Revealers that brought in 1,000 women every Thursday,” he boasted. “I was doing a double thing, posing for pictures during the day and dancing in a thong at night. But I also did parades, shootings, dubbing. In the 1980s I said, “It should be possible for men of color to do what everyone else does. ”

The TV people disagreed. On the ABC-TV dance show American kiosk, Jenkins was a regular “star dancer” on the show. But these bits were never incorporated into the final cut of the program.

“Vicki, my dance partner, was white,” he explained. “They were showing white couples and Latino couples, but they weren’t going to let a mixed race couple hang out on screen.”

Jenkins complained to people on TV. “It has become a bit of a controversial legal battle. I won an amicable settlement, and that’s all I have the right to say about it. I signed something, you see.

American kiosk had its rewards. Jenkins has worked with music legends Charro, KC and The Sunshine Band, Debbie Harry and Viola Wills.

“I danced behind them,” he says. “I was able to meet and share with them, and they were very grateful that I performed their music by dancing.”

He’s been working across the dance floor since the early 1990s.

“Modeling was great for me,” he said, “but I was working in a state that didn’t like African-American men. I have a lot of international stuff, but here in town I was doing shoots for PetSmart or Smitty’s or Bashas who only paid $ 25 an hour for a shoot. Big campaigns weren’t happening. You have to remember we didn’t have a black model before Tyson Beckford. I needed of something that pays a cashier’s check, so I accepted a position as the entertainment manager of a nightclub in Sedona.

This led to more DJs and the birth of Jenkins’ alter ego, Nathan Quinn.

“When I made records, I used the name DJ Quintessential,” he explained. “I would play the old school, the new school, I could change the genre. That’s what my fan base said was my musical ear. I went to Amsterdam, and I had an agent there and he shortened my name to DJ Q. I said, ‘Let me find something that will be mine forever.’ So I took my second name, Nathan, and shortened it and made my last name Quinn, short for Quinton. It means ‘He who speaks the truth.’ ”

In 2004, Jenkins’ friend Kevin Andrews booked a tent at the annual Phoenix Gay Pride event to promote his sound and lighting company. He asked Jenkins to come and play some music.

“The folks at Pride said, ‘If you think people are going to dance inside a tent when it’s 100 degrees outside, go ahead.’ And that’s how the Gay Pride dance tent was born.

The folks at Pride have also booked nationally renowned DJs The WonderTwinz to play records this first year.

“Those two sleazy MFs,” Jenkins sneered. “They were like, ‘Oh no, girl, we can’t go out until 5 or 6, because who’s going out at noon to dance?’ It made their faces crack when I had 200 people on the floor at noon. I’m still laughing about it, you must know that.

Recently, an old beau from Jenkins called him a professional bon vivant, which amused him.

“My friends were calling me a salon number,” he said, then sneered. “And I always corrected them. I would say, ‘No, my darlings. I am a enormously successful salon number. ‘”

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