by Matt Kalkhoff

Two of the biggest and most anticipated events on the gay social calendar are just around the corner, and the Saint-At-Large folks who produce the annual White and Black Parties deserve a lot of credit for trying out new ideas and pushing the creative envelope. But tradition is also an important cornerstone of the Saint-At-Large philosophy. So to balance out this year's curiously diverse White Party line-up, the organizers have wisely chosen the preeminent White Party DJ, circuit legend Robbie Leslie, to spin the last leg of the 17-hour dance party marathon at Roseland on Saturday, February 16.

Having played 14 of the past 21 Saint-At-Large White Parties, the man who once taught Michael Fierman to spin records clearly knows what he's doing. Leslie's old-school style is sure to take revelers on an exquisite journey of familiar Saint classics, timeless signature selections and uplifting contemporary records throughout the late morning and early afternoon.

Leslie has always looked at the White Party as a celebration of life and love. Accordingly, he is planning a gentle yet upbeat set of morning music chock-full of positive energy and spiritually soothing anthems. "Taking into account what I expect Razor and Frankie Knuckles to be doing musically, I think what I will be doing is giving everyone a kind of soft landing," Leslie suggests. "I'll also be introducing what I'd like to think is some really dynamic new stuff - records that are both pretty and positive."

For the past 25 years, Leslie's resume has paralleled the evolution of circuit parties and reads like a chapter in the entertainment history of gay life in America. At the age of 17, Leslie left his home in Maine to spend the summer of 1975 on Fire Island. He found work at the Sandpiper (now the Pavilion) as a waiter, and quickly became intrigued with the club's rotating roster of innovative DJs. By attempting to duplicate what he had heard over the weekend, Leslie gradually taught himself to mix records at the club on off-nights. His diligence paid off when he finally got to play for a live audience on a post-season weekend in 1977. Leslie was instantly hooked and his new career soon took off.

Residencies at the Saint, Studio 54, Palladium, 12 West and the Ice Palace followed, as did occasional gigs at famed clubs like Octagon and Roxy. In 1986, after 10 years living in New York, Leslie relocated to Fort Lauderdale. He's since played many South Florida clubs, including a 9-year stint at the Copa, and currently holds a residency at the Eagle. He's also headlined countless circuit parties and other high-profile fundraisers around the world throughout his impressive career. Perhaps Leslie's most memorable and notable performance, however, took place in May of 1988.

During the 40-hour closing party at the Saint, Leslie had the unique, albeit poignant, honor of playing the final set. "At the time I don't think I had any idea of the importance of what I was doing until after it was all over," he recalls. "I didn't really realize what we were saying goodbye to."

But the spirit of the Saint lives on through the Saint-At-Large parties, and Leslie is thrilled to still be a part of it after all these years. "The Saint was a magical place on so many levels - not only musically and technically as far as the environment that was created, but it was also a place where everyone felt safe, secure and welcome. There was a feeling of being a part of something truly great." Further pondering the historical significance and enduring spirit of the legendary nightclub, Leslie explains, "The Saint-At-Large is an ongoing, living continuation of the Saint - we're just taking the original direction of the Saint further."

Leslie's remarkable longevity in the music industry is something few DJs enjoy. Perhaps even fewer enjoy the quality of life that the resilient entertainer has worked so hard over the years to achieve. Relishing in his comfortable South Florida lifestyle, Leslie is quite pleased with his tropical home base and moderate flow of out-of-town bookings. "I'm really very happy with the space I occupy in the world right now," he says. "And I hope the future brings me more of the same."

For more information about Robbie Leslie and his CD subscription service, Rarities & Lost, please visit

© 2002 Matt Kalkhoff
Featured in NEXT Magazine's White Party issue, February 2002