By Nina Polien Light | Photo by Doug Khrenovsky
“I would frequent the United Skates of America roller-skating rink, and DJ Flash Gordon was a friend, so he literally threw me in the booth and said, ‘Here’s how you run the controls. I’ll see you later,’” Troy says. “It was sink or swim. I got the hang of it real quick, the crowd loved it, and I got bitten by the bug.”
Troy — whose background was in dance, commercial acting, and modeling — set out to become the best deejay emcee he could be. He read the book, “Off the Record,” on playing and mixing recorded music for an audience, and was trained by author Doug Shannon. He was then mentored by established local deejay Robin Harris and knocked on area nightclub doors with the promise to, “Make your slow night at the club happen for you.”
Along the way, he met local nightclub pioneer Ed Oliveros, owner of Dixie Electric Company, Mining Company, Club Rio, Cleveland Beach Club, and others. Oliveros hired Troy and eventually promoted him to entertainment director of all of Oliveros’s clubs. As the Flats began to expand in the mid to late 1980s, Troy, then serving as secretary of the Flats Entertainment Association, was instrumental in planning Riverfest, an annual street party along the banks of the Cuyahoga River.
He continued championing for 18 clubs on the East Bank as executive director of the Old River Entertainment Association. These 80-hour workweeks schooled him in scheduling, marketing, purchasing advertising, managing people, and other essential business skills that made him comfortable enough to launch his own venture, Troy Entertainment, which he incorporated in the late 1980s.
When Clevelanders’ clubbing habits began to change, Troy turned his full attention to Troy Entertainment and private events. Today he and his 10 employees entertain at more than 200 events annually, including corporate affairs for organizations such as Progressive Insurance, Cleveland Clinic, Sherwin-Williams, and University Hospitals.
A corporate crowd can be more challenging than wedding guests, who all know the couple and show up in a celebratory mood, Troy says.
“In a corporate setting, they’re at an event with their peers and we have to devise a way of getting them involved and getting them to interact,” he says. “We do physical and mental challenges, games, and activities that get people to mix, interact, and compete.”
Contributing to Troy’s appeal — for both corporate and non-corporate events — is his ability to stay current.
“Ed taught me a long time ago to find out what people want and give it to them,” he says of his mentor. “People today want a total experience with visuals, sound, and interactive activities.”
Depending on the affair, the experience may feature cutting-edge wireless lighting, wireless sound, video-mapping technology, photo booths, and real-time social-media interaction. The latter allows guests to snap photos on their smartphones and upload them to Instagram or Twitter, which “feeds” an ongoing slide show at the event. Attendees can also text or tweet messages, which appear on the same screen as the slide show.
“We started in an age when we didn’t have CD or MP3 players and there were no music videos, except on MTV,” Troy says. “But what makes us different is we were out seeking new things and embracing what’s new rather than begrudgingly adapting to it at later stages.”
Troy says his company was the first in Cleveland to spin music off computers and one of the first to “get out from behind the booth to get the audience involved.”
Along with keeping up-to-date with new technologies and entertainment trends, Troy is tasked with pleasing clients, even under trying circumstances. Sometimes, he receives calls from event planners who are unhappy with their current lighting, sound, and entertainment vendor and want Troy’s team to redo everything — sometimes with just two days’ notice. The day of our interview, a caterer asks Troy if he can outfit a 90- by 60-foot area with lighting because the client’s project to build a facility is delayed. The event is in two weeks, but Troy assures the caterer it will be done.
“We can put it together quickly and pull it off without a hitch,” Troy says. “Challenging, yes. Impossible, no.”
Decades after launching Troy Entertainment, Troy still works 80-hour weeks but manages to find time for networking at such groups as the Cleveland Chapter of the International Special Events Society, Cleveland Social Exchange, and the Chamber of Commerce in Strongsville, where his company is based.
He plans to hire additional employees by next spring but is not slowing down.
“I still perform because that’s where I’m most comfortable,” he says. “My life’s work is music and entertainment, if truth be told.”
For more information: troyentertainment.com