It is well known by now that New York City (and I’m sure many other cities and friends), has lost an icon who was best known as DJ Jess Marquis, making immediate rounds on social media on the morning, of Thursday, April 9, 2015. Waking up to many texts messages and emails blowing up my phone, I shot out of bed trying to wrap my head around these “rumors” that Jess had passed and carefully figuring out who I could get real information from before my meltdown began. Unfortunately the “rumors” had become truth and the never ending support and love for this man cried out of every app on my phone, just as it was crying out of me. One thing was apparent from everyone’s shared memory was that Jess had such an impact on our lives, being the first friend to many in NYC or introducing us to an underground culture of weird dance parties, or giving us a lesson on what he loved so much about this city which is music. I’d like to share my fondest memories of him, as he had such a huge impact on my life and who I am today as well.
I met Jess in early 2000 as a roommate of my dear friend Amylu. He was Jesse and I was Andy Stylee. Jesse was new to New York and we took instant liking to each other as he was quick witted, passionate, smart, full of life and ambition. We shared many similar interests, but mainly our passion for music and our dreams of “making it” in New York as musicians. I was in a new punk band called INDK and Jesse was in a new Smiths cover band called The Salford Lads. Jesse, Amylu, and I spent many nights at their apartment in Park Slope watching TV, movies and Morrissey videos, him always made fun of how much I yelled and talked back during a show, and I often annoyed yet amazed on how long he would take in the bathroom blow drying his notoriously beautiful hair. I would give him rides around town on my 1975 Vespa and he would complain about his helmet hair. I often went to see his band, The Salford Lads, whenever possible; my favorites being the appearances at the ‘Tiswas party.
I moved to San Diego California in 2001 and picked up a street promotion job and in 2003 I decided to move back to my hometown of NYC to give promotion and marketing a shot closer to my family and loved ones. I spent the first 3 months back in New York trying to kick start my new found business with very little luck, and that’s when Jesse came back into my life. One day he called me and explained to me that he started this new party called “Trash!” at the East Village dive bar, Rififi, and he would like to hire me to help promote it. I was thrilled with the opportunity and said “Thank you so much Jesse!” and he replied “No, please call me Jess, I’m rebranding myself as Jess now“. I laughed and said “well then, don’t call me Andy Stylee anymore, I will also rebrand myself to just Andy Shaw and I ‘m going to name my new company SHAW Promotion.“
I had never done party promotion, my only background was doing some branding gigs out West on and off, and took this first job very seriously. I went to Rififi to “study” his party and although the attendance was low, the energy was high and the potential was exciting; I could see his vision and I was on board. The very next day I spent a few hours with “Jess” to brain storm promotion techniques and presented my street level approach to him; he was immediately on board as he was always a believer of grass roots promotion to reach audience as they often did back in the hay days of the ’90s. We agreed we needed to build not just a party, but a community and we were going to find those people. We would target young college kids and build a home and a family and make “Trash!” an institution where kids can come and be carefree and freak out. We designed the original Trash! flyers together, printed few thousand 4×6 postcards and some posters and I immediately went to work hitting the streets. I put my charm, heart, and soul into the party promotion and the attendance was up immediately and growing rapidly. I remember Jess and I high fiving each other, both ecstatic on the quick success of what we had built on his vision and that our strategy had somehow worked, both being so new to this. Trash! quickly became a Downtown staple and I quickly met so many awesome characters and timeless friends, including my “Chairman” Antonio, AKA Twig the Wonderkid, as well as who would become my wife and baby mama, JD Valentine.
Through my success of the Trash! party, I quickly got more party promotion opportunities with “Broadcast” at Bar 13, “‘Tiswas” at Don Hills, “Rated X” at Opaline, “Misshapes” at Luke & Leroy, and eventually with the “Motherfucker” party I was able to put SHAW Promotion on the map as a legitimate business and helped shape the landscape of NYC nightlife. I thanked Jess every day for his opportunity and trust in me and helped me build a career and I was happy to see him flourish as well, as he loved being in the spotlight and the spotlight certainly loved him.
From The Salford Lads to Sadie, The Alps, We Are Americana, many different venues of Trash!, Indierotica, Broadcast, NC 17, BUST, Shaken & Stirred to Kill City, I was involved with everything Jess and he was always there for me, pulling me on board for every opportunity he got, as would I always have Jess by my side for anything important including SHAW Promotion anniversary parties, nightlife awards, birthdays, Bootie NYC parties, the list has no end. When I was helping Cityzen.tv back in 2004 with their “SHAW on the Street” nightlife assignment, the very first person I interviewed was Jess to show my admiration and respect. Jess was the first person I asked to attend my limited seating table at both the 2008 & 2009 Paper Magazine Nightlife Awards and we both jumped with joy and screamed together when I won both years, knowing that I was there because of him. Years later when he made the tough decision to end Trash! at The Studio at Webster Hall, we talked for an hour rambling about the forever changing NYC party scene and what our plans for the future would be.
As much as he was my friend during the night, my favorite memories of Jess are the things we did away from the clubs and bars. I helped Jess move into one of his first tiny East Village apartments and remember staying overnight a few times, exhausted after Trash!, staying up until the wee hours of the morning. We both understood the struggles between the nightlife persona and personal lives and we used to have a bi-weekly meet up at his apartment, discussing both work and life; it was there he would pay me with a stack of white envelopes, each dated for the party the payment was for. He was there for me when I went through my divorce, took me out to dinner and comforted me and Jess was there to congratulate me when I was newly engaged to the love of my life and my wedding; it is clear that he was always there for me.
Hudson Hotel Dinner
The last time I spoke to Jess was just a few days ago. I recommended our Bootie NYC DJ Lobsterdust, for his Kill City party and we talked about his Shaken & Stirred burlesque party, which I was currently promoting for. We chatted about my soon to be born son to which he mentioned JD and I were “obnoxiously cute” and he was looking forward to meet him.
I have been crying all day, shut the curtains, and stayed in bed as many others have. Everywhere I turn in my office I see something that reminds me of Jess Marquis, framed nightlife posters on my walls, flyers around the office; it is so apparent to me how much he is in my every day life, even though we don’t see each other as much these days. I have always considered SHAW Promotion and Jess/Trash! a brother and sister brand as we started our journey together. With the untimely passing of my old friend, I truly feel a part of SHAW Promotion and NYC has died with it (I remember thinking this when he ended Trash!). As I look at the thousands of social media and news postings about Jess, there is no measurement to the magnitude of impact he had on so many people, with many of the stories repeating a similar, loving story. It has also made me realize I know more than half of all the people posting, because of him.
Jess was a motivated person and always on the lookout for new trends. He stayed current on his skills with DJ classes at Dubspot and he was always willing to give young start up talents a chance, whether it be an aspiring DJ, burlesque dancer, band, bar tender, or just promoter such as myself; his love and support for everyone was genuine and endless. Jess’ passion for Morrissey and Michael Jackson is notorious and we shared the love of late night (or early morning) diner eating and Indian food; I always loved listening to him telling crazy stories over meals. He loved acting, dancing, photography, fashion, DJing, and had an intense love affair with everything he did.
Jesse was so much more than just “nightlife” for me, he was an inspiration, an icon, a loving soul, and most of all, he was a friend. I am so filled with so much sadness, it has crippled me; I’m incapacitated, and inconsolable. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved him and have many stories about how he touched their lives as well as to his family who clearly lost an amazing son. Jess, will never be forgotten, your shadow lives on in my daily life and always will. I love you and may your smiling, freaky soul rest in peace.
~ Andy Shaw, April 10th, 2015
Photos by Nicky Digital, Amylu, PinupNYC, and myself.