DJ spins tunes, moods at U.S. Open
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In a small air-conditioned room high above Arthur Ashe Stadium one afternoon last week, as Mardy Fish prepared to take on Nikolay Davydenko down below, Dieter Ruehle cued up Van Halen's "Right Now" and let it rip.
Ruehle is the official tournament DJ of the U.S. Open, on duty every day for two weeks straight from 10 a.m. to whenever the last night tennis match ends.
He sat in front of a device called an Instant Replay that held 1,000 audio cuts and a laptop so chock full of music -- Beatles, Eurythmics, Rihanna, others more obscure -- he could play nonstop for days, though much of his art is portioned out in 60-second bursts.
"The job is to heighten emotions, unite the crowd, play along with the mood in the stadium," he said.
Ruehle is 43, a native and resident of Los Angeles whose regular gig is DJ at the Staples Center there. Here, sitting next to producer Tim Beach, 44, of Centerport, who manages a constant stream of chatter and data from television networks and in-house technicians, Ruehle plays before and after matches and during changeovers. He also takes player requests.
Serena Williams is partial to Green Day. Andy Roddick in his younger days liked to enter to Metallica or Guns N' Roses. Lately, Roger Federer has been asking for David Guetta's "Titanium." When Andy Murray didn't ask for anything at all, Ivan Lendl, his coach, requested Wham! and Culture Club, though inquiry by tournament staff revealed this to be a bit of Czech humor.
Ruehle stuck headphones over an ear, then opened the window in front of him to gauge the crowd's response. On a weekend night deep in the tournament, packed to capacity with about 23,000 fans, the intensity can be almost frightening.
At the moment, though, with temperatures in the 80s and a crowd of hundreds, not thousands, the reaction was subdued.
Now he uttered something close to sports heresy: Spectator sports without music, he said, can be bland. "It's kind of like a movie. We're adding a soundtrack," he said.
If the very notion is anathema at grassy Wimbledon, it's much easier to conceive here, at a tournament that was among the first to adopt electronic line calling, blue asphalt courts and night tennis. "We like to put a New York imprimatur on this Open," said Michael Fiur, the tournament's executive producer for entertainment.
There are limits, though. No music during points, sometimes none at all during late stages of tight matches deep into the tournament, Fiur said.
When it rains, don't be surprised the hear songs with "rain" in the title -- there are many, and Ruehle knows titles and artists by heart -- and on a hot, sunny afternoon like this one, there may well be songs about sun.
Ruehle cued the Beatles' "Good Day Sunshine," and the tournament rolled on.