In a town rife with celebrity show-hogs, DJ AM is anything but.
The 32-year-old Philly native, who has garnered a reputation as one of the premier spinners on Los Angeles' club circuit, is so unassuming a star that you would probably walk right past the guy outside his own club — except for the fact that he probably arrived with Nicole Richie on his arm.
It has been a bizarre couple of years for the DJ, whose real name is Adam Michael Goldstein. With his impending nuptials to Paris Hilton's childhood friend making headlines in gossip rags, a collaboration with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker steaming ahead (see "Travis Barker Hooks Up With Nicole Richie's Fiance, Makes Transplants Priority"), and his weekly DJing gig at his recently opened nightclub, LAX, locked in, the disc jockey has had to acclimate himself to a sudden thrust into the Hollywood spotlight, whether he likes it or not.
Still, AM has managed to keep somewhat of a low profile, refusing to fall prey to the buzz he has created and by keeping his private life, well, private. He won't comment at all on his relationship with Richie and remains modest about his recent A-list gigs (just last week he played rapper T.I.'s birthday party).
"I never really got a 'big break,' " he said. "I've paid my dues. It's always been one gig to the next to the next."
It certainly has been a slow and steady climb for AM, who credits his upbringing on the streets of Philly for exposing him to the burgeoning hip-hop scene of the late '70s and early '80s and the likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Craze, two trailblazers he cites as prime inspirations, along with Biggie, Nas and Bob Marley.
"Craze is not even human," he said. "I like his originality, and even though I'm not the biggest fan of jungle music, he can still turn hip-hop into jungle and make it sound so sweet."
As a teenager, AM began playing with his parents' turntables at home and set up his own studio with an old boom box and produced "pause mixes," splicing together recorded bits of dialogue from the television.
"There was just something about being able to manipulate the groove of the sound that's just right there at your fingertips," he explained. "It was like, this is what I was meant to do."
After relocating to Los Angeles, AM scored one of his first gigs spinning for an illegal after-hours club called the Boiler Room from 2:30 in the morning on through the next day. "I'd bring my own turntables and stereo and I'd be there for eight hours straight mixing," he said. "I loved it."
AM's residency at the club got him enough exposure to help him land gigs spinning at Hollywood hot spots like the Avalon, Nacional, Ivar and his own LAX, which was formerly known as Las Palmas. One element of his success, AM says, is his ability to be versatile and feel the crowd.
"I try to play very aggressively," he said. "I don't stick to one genre too much unless it's working and I personally like it, otherwise I kind of go all over the place."
While he may have confidence now, two years ago that was one attribute he lacked. After struggling with a severe weight problem since he was 10, AM, who was approaching 30 at the time, decided to undergo gastric-bypass surgery, a risky procedure for obese patients that involves "stapling" the stomach, reducing it to the size of a 1-2-ounce pouch.
After being deemed a good candidate for the operation, AM met with a surgeon and went forward with that life-changing step with only a leap of faith, despite objections from family and friends who warned the procedure was too risky.
"I was terrified the night before. I couldn't sleep," he recalled. "I was like, 'Is this really gonna happen?' But there was something inside me that told me it was going to be OK."
AM has lost over 150 pounds and says looking back, he doesn't have a single regret. "It's one of the greater decisions I've made," he said. "On the outside, I'm the exact same guy, just smaller, more confident and healthier. I know now I'll live a lot longer life."
A life well spent, AM says, bringing good music to the masses.
"I love that I get paid to make rooms of people dance and have fun. You really can't beat that," he said. "At the end of the day, I want to be remembered for being a good collage artist of music, because that's pretty much what a DJ is."