I first met Tom when I was a closeted teenager in our hometown of Ventura, California. Unlike myself, he was openly gay and I would envy the way he would strut down the hallways of our high school with questionable glitter in his eyes and confidence to spare. Seeking a gay confidante, I befriended him and we began what turned out to be an amazing fruitful friendship. Today Tom has made a name for himself as DJ Carnita —the man responsible for the wildly successful queer daytime soul dance party, Hard French. Started in San Francisco a mere year ago, Hard French has already traveled to New York and Toronto to spread their love of old 45 soul records and delicious BBQ with the masses. This month they’re hitting the road again with The Real Nitty Gritty tour, making stops in cities such as New York, Toronto, Austin, and New Orleans. If you live in those cities and haven’t had the pleasure of attending one of his parties, I suggest you RSTD immediately. Hard French is a pleasurable throwback—an amazing party without the bitchy attitudes and pretension. The goal is to dance, eat good food, and make out with babes. Isn’t that what we all want out of a party?
I interviewed Tom over Gchat because transcribing things is hard. We talked about the origin of Hard French, cute boys, and getting laid.
me: hi beb! are u ready for this pomo homo shit?
djcarnita: i was born ready
me: perfect. ok so let’s get the boring shit out of the way. how did hard french get started?
djcarnita: well, Brown Amy and I had been djing together for a couple years doing exactly what we do now, spinning soul on 45s and after all that time not even our great taste and hunky looks could get us a gig. we literally couldn’t get a happy hour in a lesbian bar.
me: yikes. #dark
djcarnita: these were trying times and then last february, four of our friends approached us and had secured this dreamy daytime outdoor space at a bar called el rio. amy and i had been talking about doing a daytime soul party for years and so naturally we jumped on it. then poof boom fag magic!
me: did you have an immediate clear conception of what you wanted the vibe to be? like did you envision it as being totally queer?
djcarnita: initially we just wanted people to show up and dance. being that all six of the hard french crew are queer, we assumed that the party would lean that way, but all of us run in pretty diverse circles, which was ultimately reflected in the attendees.
me: how was the first party? did you have a big turnout? i feel like it blew up pretty quickly.
djcarnita: like a dick in yr hand, grrl
me: and then what? you became the toast of SF parties, quit your day job and made millions?
djcarnita: yeah, pretty much. i have a pretty fast car, time-share in tahoe, you know. its been a big year. but really life has changed quite a bit.
me: i feel like everyone who throws parties has like this secret double life at a 9 to 5. can you tell me about yours?
djcarnita: technically due to my nightlife schedule i’ve finagled a 10/11-6/7. I work at a non-profit here in the city that helps low-income folks start small businesses. it’s pretty cute.
me: precious. so when did you kind of realize the magnitude of hard french?
djcarnita: I actually think it happened at our first party. Jorge (one of the HF crew) announced over the mic that it was 8 and the party was ending and thanked us. tthere was this INSANE applause and people were cheering and chanting for more songs. it made me realize that we aren’t just djing we’re creating an experience that has a greater impact than your “9-5” dance party.
me: john cameron mitchell co-hosted a hard french party. how did that come about?
djcarnita: OK, i love this story. last September we did Hard French’s in Toronto and New York and Toronto’s happened to occur during the Toronto International Film Fest where Rabbit Hole was making its north american premiere. being that Hedwig literally defined my queer identity from 15-18 i HAD to go. so i did and later learned that John was djing a queer TIFF party that night so i went, danced, got wasted and gave him a flyer for the toronto party which was the next night. he said he couldnt make it as he was heading back to NY so i reached into the depths of my coat and pulled out a HFNY flyer and gave it to him and then casually chatted for 10 minutes about Teddy Pendergrass being a noted tranny chaser. fast forward a few days, I was outside the East River Bar where we did HFNY smoking and checking the door situation and he strolled up, gave me a hug and enjoyed the party. naturally my heart stopped for about 45 seconds. we chatted about music and dj’ing, he said he’d be visiting SF in the fall and he happened to be visiting at the same time we were booked to do a festival in Golden Gate Park called Bring Your Own Queer. so, we asked him to dj, he said yes, and that was that. he played some FUNKY SHIT too. gaymazing. it was POURING rain and all these soggy homos were dancing to nasty funk. it was crazy.
me: that sounds amazing. speaking of homos, can we talk about boys now?
djcarnita: it depends on what you ask. do i have to name names?
me: i just want to discuss the fact that you are a gay DJ and get laid a lot.
djcarnita: i do alright.
me: so do you get groupies?
djcarnita: occasionally i’ll be out at bars and boys will come up wasted and do the whole “blarrgghh i LOVE hard french” and lick my neck or something. i dont sleep with these boys because that’s tacky. but, i have definitely seen a significant uptick in interest in my loins and person in the past year. i would like to think it’s because i’m getting hotter with age, but it probably has more to do with hard french.
me: we’re both way cuter than we used to be in high school. that shit was awkward.
djcarnita: yeah, i feel like our high school selves would be honored to get the shit fucked out of them by us now. we’d be like, “fuck yes!”
me: so what’s the deal with the SF nightlife scene? is it small?
djcarnita: i think when you compare it to new york or whatever its small. but it’s ridiculous and vibrant. i feel like every week there’s a new queer party being thrown by some hot bitches with a great theme and amazing djs. in the past year especially i’ve discovered that there’s a pretty handsome web of gay party promoters, djs, personas so that’s fun to get to know.
me: are you excited to take hard french on the road?
djcarnita: i dont think excitement even covers it. i’m completely blown away honestly. it’s stunning that in one year we can go from nothing to traveling across the country and play our records for people.
me: so what’s the master plan with hard french? what do you want to accomplish with it?
djcarnita: i’d like to use it as a platform from which to launch my campaign for mayor of san francisco. but really i have no idea. at this point it has injected so many new and hithertoo unthinkable experiences into my life that i would just like it to yield new adventures and open doors.
me: where are you DJing in NYC?
djcarnita: we’re playing on march 14th at this place called Bedlam, which i’ve never been to but i heard its pretty amazing and anderson coopers boyfriend owns it so i’m expecting good things.
me: why should people come to the nitty gritty tour?
djcarnita: they should come because we’re coming all the way across the continent to be there. and we’re bringing some of the freshest soul and funk jams they’ve ever heard all on the original 45s. none of this ipod shit. oh, and everyone who comes to our party will get laid.
me: i really hope thats true.
djcarnita: it is!
me: don’t tease. did you hear that everyone? come to hard french and get laid. done.