The newly-anointed Mr. Fire Island Bear 2018 is actually a veteran nightlifer and DJ in this city, breaking through during the days of ball houses and big clubs. He shares a bit of his history with Thotyssey, and hints at some amazing stuff to come.
DJ Ted Bishop Nieves: Thank you so much, Jim.
How good did that win feel?
It really felt amazing to win. I’ll be honest, I’m still in a bit of shock. It was really quite a surprise for me to be entering the contest, and it blew my mind when I won. It was an amazing rush of joy that I really can’t describe.
Have you done contests before this one?
My first “contest” was actually just a few weeks ago during the Urban Bear street festival run by Robert Valin and his Urban Bear team. They had their first ever Mr. Urban Bear Contest, and I had enough liquor in me to give me the bravery to enter. I ended up winning on the strength of my lip sync performance, lol! That contest, of course, was all in good fun and I enjoyed that immensely.
And now look at you, you’re a pageant queen! How did the Fire Island Bear contest go… what was required of you?
It was pretty intense. The first part of the contest actually took place several hours before the event at Cherry’s. Each of the contestants who signed up ahead of time sat with the judges for a pretty intense Q&A.
After that we had the event at Cherry’s, and there we had to present two outfits: a “bar night” look followed by a fetish outfit. That was pretty amazing and difficult. I’m sometimes very shy, and had a hard time getting up the courage to go up there. Once I dd though, there was no going back.
So the bear world–and nightlife in general–knows you best as a DJ, which we’ll get to a bit. But first, let’s start at the beginning: where’s your hometown, and what were you into growing up?
I was born and raised here in the South Bronx, where I was surrounded by a lot of loud family and friends! Many of them were loud because they were musicians, so I developed a love of music pretty early on. And that was really what I was into as a kid: music.
The kids I grew up with in the neighborhood all played together after school, and most of the day during the summer. I was the one who always had the boom box with him, playing the loud music as we played handball, slugs, red light / green light, or all the other games a lot of us played as kids.
What were you listening to?
Back then I loved it all. My sister introduced me to disco, but I also listened to rock, country, and just about any other genre that was showcased on Kasey Kasem’s American Top 40 radio show. Haha! Do people still know that existed?
I bet they don’t!
How did you discover nightlife?
I was probably about 16 years-old, and like a lot of kids in the Bronx I decided to get working papers, and had worked a few jobs around my immediate neighborhood… stock boy, and stuff like that. But at 16, I got a job at Alexander’s department store. One day while riding the train, I caught an older man checking me out, and he got off at the same stop as I. We started speaking, and he told me about a place called the Pier. He asked if I wanted to check it out. I said yes, and we exchanged numbers and we stayed in touch.
That Friday after work, he picked me up for what I thought would be my first date with a man, but turned into my first class in NYC nightlife and drag and voguing and houses. That night I got the education of a lifetime, and he told me we’d do it again the following night.
That next night, instead of the Pier, we went to the legendary Tracks Nightclub on 19th Street. I stepped foot into that club, and it felt like I was home.That began my love affair with NYC’s gay nightlife.
Over the years, I would be able to experience The Saint, Red Zone, The Copacabana, The World, Mars, my favorite of all time Sound Factory, and The Roxy. These places were my home, and I felt connected to them like nothing else.
Were you voguing yourself, and turning lewks?
Ha! No, I never did master voguing, and was very shy back then. Never tried to draw too much attention to myself. But the LEWKS my friends would turn! Gurrrrrl. They were epic! Especially at Red Zone and The Tunnel.
Did you have a favorite Ball House?
Well, ALL the houses knew how to turn it in their own way. They all had it going on, so I wouldn’t say I had a favorite house. However, you were always guaranteed crazy heights of entertainment when the Magnifiques, Aviances and Extravaganzas were in attendance at Sound Factory.
Is the new show Pose accurate in its portrayal of that time, from what little has aired so far?
I would say that yes, it’s quite accurate as far as depicting the scene and the struggles of the people who were part of it. It’s really quite spot on.
How did you ultimately get into DJing?
So, DJing started when I was pretty young. It’s actually the reason I started working as a kid; I wanted to buy my own DJ equipment, and I did. I started teaching myself around 15-16, but it wasn’t until my late 30’s that I grew the balls to try and do something with it outside of it being a hobby.
Did you ever try using a DJ moniker before deciding to just go by your (presumably) actual name?
My real name is Ted Nieves. I decided to use “DJ Bishop” back in the 90s, when the X-Men introduced this character named Bishop, who absorbed energy and converted it into concussive force. I’ve always felt that a DJ absorbs the energy from the crowd and turns it back to them as concussive beats, so it seemed appropriate. Later on, as I started working, I added it to my own name in order to help spread my brand.
As of right now, what do you enjoy spinning most when given the freedom to do whatever?
Oooh. I’m seriously feeling my Afro and tech house vibes when left to my own devices. Those beats just get right under your skin, and drive your hips into madness.
What have been some highlights for you, or major moments, DJing venues in this city over the years?
Oh, that’s a really hard question… but I think that I can narrow it down a bit! The first major milestone for me was when G Lounge asked me to be part of their now legendary DiLF party, promoted by Mark Lander and Franco DiLuzio.
Next would be getting to be part of the team of DJs that work with NYC promoters Antonio Cedeno and Shane Tate. It’s always an honor to be listed as a part of their teams. Also, being a part of the Fire Island Bear Weekend has been amazing. I’ve played the opening party two years in a row, and loved every minute of it.
Did you ever think the bear scene would become as huge as it is today?
Yes. The bear community was built out of a need for acceptance. The level of shaming and prejudice in the gay community has always been really bad. We’re all aware that, often, the oppressed become the oppressors. Well, it is certainly true in the gay community. We are oppressed, so we need to oppress those who are larger than we think they should be, or skinnier than we think they should be, or who have a different color skin than we find attractive… and it goes on and on.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that it’s always love and light within the Bear Community. But I have certainly experienced more love and acceptance here than I have in the other aspects of gay life that I’ve experienced.
And with that said, that is why I believed from the beginning it would be a growing community. Who doesn’t want to walk into a room of people that all look different, and not feel like they are judging you? Man, that’s heaven right there.
Okay, that brings us to the gigs. First off, there’s the Pride edition of Soaked at Rockbar in the West Village on Friday, June 15. John-John appears, J. Rios and Matty B. host, Viva Vidalia performs, and dudes in underwear get wet for our entertainment. This monthly has been a huge success for Rockbar!
This is actually my debut with the Soaked team, so I’m super excited about it. What makes it even more special is that there is a full upgrade of the sound system at Rockbar that [manager] Jason Romas and I worked on. It’s going to be the official unveiling of that, and I can’t wait to blow people’s socks off with that sound.
And you’ll be back with John-John at Rockbar for your actual monthly, Purgatory, on June 28th! Hey, why aren’’t we calling it FURgatory?
LOL, we had originally wanted to use a different name, but had to change it at the last minute. “Purgatory” was whet we came up with because that sounded sexy and naughty, and it kinda stuck. But maybe we should put it to a vote and see if people would like us to change it to FUR-gatory. What do you think?
Either works! What’s the scene like?
It’s a really fun vibe. The party takes place right after RuPaul’s Drag Race, so people are really happy (usually) and very chatty after the show. We like to carry that vibe over, and slowly make it sexier. I bring a blend of pop, house, and EDM to the event, and I keep it sexy with our gogo dancers. We’ve had awesome response to the event, and are excited to continue and see how it goes.
Yes. ®Evolution Saturdays at The Hangar was born out of them wanting to have a legit, full-on house music event that catered to the classic house heads, and the new kids that are still discovering what real house music is. DJ Mando and myself talked about it, and determined the sounds we wanted. We worked with management to come up with an official name for the event to start branding it, and breathe new life into this NYC gay nightlife fixture.
There are a few plans to really begin fleshing out some other nights as well. As you know, the Hangar has been a haven for many of our brothers and sisters of color for decades now, and yet so many people don’t even know about it. I mean, can you believe that this coming Pride march, they will be celebrating 25 years of service to our community?
So, anything else coming up for you?
Well, along with Soaked and ®Evolution this week, I have Purgatory next. And Pride Sunday is a double-header for me playing at Rebar from 2-9pm for their annual Pride celebration, followed by The Hangar’s Annual Pride and 25th Year anniversary celebration. So, it’s a jam-packed June for me.
Nice! Enjoy the gigs! Okay, last question: What should a young, new DJ do when trying to make a career in this business?
Work hard and promote yourself. No one will believe you if you don’t believe it yourself.
DJ Ted Bishop Nieves spins weekly Saturdays at The Hangar NYC (10pm), and last Thursdays at Rockbar for Purgatory (10pm). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for all his scheduled gigs, and follow DJ Ted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.