Currently celebrating a milestone anniversary as a New Yorker, Seth Ward Pyatt has vast experience in the world of theater–both onstage and backstage. And as DJ Gingy, they’re an essential part of Astoria’s hard-to-define yet increasingly vital queer nightlife scene.
Thotyssey: Hiya, Gingy! How’s April treating you?
DJ Gingy: Pretty good so far. It’s been a crazy year… but I’m fully vaxxed now, and I’m already back up to a fairly busy week of gigs. Looking forward to an even busier summer!
Many locked down nightlife performers in 2020 remained visible in the scene thanks to the virtual stage, but that was a lot harder for DJs to do. Some released mixes or spun livestream dance parties–did you partake in any of that this past year?
I didn’t do any livestream performances as a DJ, but I did do a dueling piano online cabaret show for a while. Other than that, it was mostly making the most of some long overdue personal time and focusing on forgotten hobbies.
How long have you been playing piano?
Since age 3, but professionally since I was 14. So… let’s just say a long time. We won’t do the math!
Where did you grow up–and were you always surrounded by music as a kid?
I grew up just outside of St. Louis, MO. My mom was a choir director at church, and we always had the radio or record player on at home. My parents had a great record collection of all the classic Broadway cast recordings, 1960s comedy albums, southern gospel bands, and thankfully all the great gay divas like Bette, Cher, Barbra, etc.
Did you dabble onstage in musical theater at all over the years?
Oh yes. I started out acting in high school, but also did scenic and lighting design then, too. I worked my way through college as a director, musical director and designer. I’ve always somehow managed to balance both nightlife work and theatre gigs simultaneously.
It’s fascinating how often those two worlds collide! When did you become a New Yorker?
I started coming to NYC regularly in 2010, and officially moved here in 2013. April 15 is actually my official eight year anniversary!
Congratulations! How has the city changed you, do you think?
It’s certainly forced me to be more independent than I already was. But more than changing me per se, it’s allowed me to open up to who I always have been. This city has made me more spontaneous, and less anxious. I’ve always felt like a New Yorker in some way, so these 8-plus years have just felt more like “home” than anywhere in the Midwest ever did.
How did DJ Gingy come to be?
In my early 20s I was working at a dive drag bar in St. Louis as a cocktail server. One night the DJ called out sick–he asked me to cover for him. I wasn’t too sure of myself, but he assured me that I’d be just fine as a DJ if I relied on my musician’s background and work in theatrical lighting design. And of course, I was hooked after the first night! I worked at a few small bars in StL and at Hamburger Mary’s around the Midwest before moving to New York.
I was here a few years working as a bartender, director and managing a non-profit theatre company, never imagining (but secretly hoping) I’d start DJing again. I was doing a few private parties here and there. Then finally when Icon Astoria rebranded itself under new owners, they asked me to come on board as a resident DJ… and that’s where I adopted Gingy’s name.
You’re an important fixture of Astoria nightlife, and you’ve certainly witnessed a lot of stellar drag talent come through at this point! Take Jan–née JanSport–who was the longtime hostess of Fierce Fridays at Icon! It must have been really exciting and rewarding to see her journey to Drag Race fame and beyond.
Yes! I’m soo proud of Jan, and she’s one of my all-time favorite queens to work with. We started that show together almost four years ago, I think. And [Drag Race Season 13’s] Rosé and I did a lot of Saturday nights too! I’ve been fortunate to work with so many queens, and they’re all unique.
It’s hard to put a defining label on what Astoria drag is, but so many queens who’ve been there have become major stars in the scene.
You’re right! I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what the Astoria drag and the Astoria queer nightlife umbrella is… but it’s even harder to define it when you’re in it. I’ve worked in Brooklyn, Hells Kitchen, both East and West Villages… but the Astoria scene is still my favorite, because it’s so eclectic.
You kind of got to put your whole skill set into the Iconic drag competition that Michael Block and Lindsey Kay produced there, and Heidi Haux hosted. It was really run each week like a major Broadway event! Was that both super fun and super stressful to mechanize behind the scenes?
Yes, both… but mostly fun for me. It combined everything I love doing. I got my Equity card as an off-Broadway stage manager, so that helps! And of course, there’s the light design element, too. I’ve been lucky enough to work several Miss Gay America-sponsored pageants over the past couple of decades, so anytime I get to do a major event like Iconic or any big revue type show… that’s where I thrive! The stress IS kind of fun.
So these days, outside of Astoria we can find you DJing Jacklynn Hyde’s fun brunches at Haswell Green’s in HK, Saturdays and Sundays! She’s another Astoria queen who’s evolved into a citywide superstar!
That’s right! Can’t wait for nightlife to get back in full swing and the dancefloor to open up after every show again. But for now, I’m just happy that I still get to do a show with all of my favorite queens. I can’t complain!
And you’re still the Friday night DJ at Icon, where Petti Cash performs–and lately, Jan’s been in the house with you two as well! Then Saturday nights, you and Petti present the party at the nearby Albatross, Icon’s elder sister bar. Petti’s a very fun queen with energetic shows–I’m sure it’s hard for the kids to remain in their seats when she’s on stage.
For sure! It can be difficult finding that fine line of playing really great bops but not encouraging people to get up and dance, lol! It’s a great time for the classic power ballads and a lot of the new, very chill pop tunes that are coming out now.
Anything else to plug or mention?
There are potentially a few new exciting things coming up! But not until summer, so nothing to talk about just quite yet. Also… wear a damn mask, people!
Heard! So lastly, from your DJ perspective: what’s a song or album you can’t wait to play to a packed house on the other end of lockdown?
Gaga’s Artpop sequel? Wishful thinking! Currently, I’m loving Rina Samayama. But I’m also an old school queen–so I always go back to the house classics like Crystal Waters, throw in some Whitney, Cher and Celine… mixed with whatever brand new songs that literally just got released earlier the same day that the crowd hasn’t even heard yet!
That sounds like the perfect night to me! Thanks, Gingy!