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Pump Up the Volume

Pump Up the Volume

Caroline D’Amore made her debut as an L.A. “It” girl years ago, appearing on the scene with her famous pals Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Eventually the model and actress made her debut as a DJ in West Hollywood’s dance clubs, leading to a residency at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, and her single “Kill the Clock.” Now D’Amore is concentrating on her Billboard.com Web series, DJ Diaries, where she tags along with big-name DJs like Steve Aoki. D’Amore spoke to us about her mother’s AIDS-related death and her thoughts on Hilton’s recent remarks about gay men and HIV.

You used to run with a high-profile crowd, including Paris Hilton. How did you guys know each other?
I started DJ-ing about eight years ago. I used to hang in the booth with DJ AM and he really inspired me. I loved watching how happy he was while making other people so happy. He really was my inspiration and motivation. He was the one that told me I could do it. Paris hired me to DJ all of her record release parties around the world. This was before it was “cool” to be a chick DJ. We actually had a lot of fun.

How do you feel about the remarks she made a while back about gay men having AIDS?
I was shocked and did not believe it. She’s always known how my mother passed and always had many gay friends. When I heard the recording, I was very disappointed. I know she didn’t mean what she said and was just joking with some gay friends. However, it’s time to grow up and always think about what you say and how it can affect others. I’m always the first to snap at someone who makes a negative remark about anyone because of how they were born.

What was it like growing up in Los Angeles?
Growing up in L.A., for me, was a lot different than you’d think. I was the daughter of a hardworking pizza man who ended up kicking it with the rich kids. I lived in Malibu because we opened a D’Amore’s Pizza there. I’d make just enough money delivering pizzas so I could pay for gas and valet at the hottest clubs. I worked to party. I must have been fired from D’Amore’s 100 times. But being the owner’s daughter had perks. And, of course, free pizza for life, so I never starved.

Your mother died of AIDS when you were very young. How did that affect your life?
I was raised by my pops. It made me super strong, maybe too strong at times. I was the only kid who didn’t cry for their mommy at sleepovers. Which turned into not really needing anyone. Which made it hard to date me. I’m so lucky I met someone who could handle me. My husband [rocker Bobby Alt] changed me for the better, but he loves me for the tough bitch I am. If he’s not happy, even for a moment, I will totally cry.

My mother contracted the AIDS virus when I was very young. [Doctors] gave her a precautionary blood transfusion and did not check the blood they gave her. It was a total fluke. I was lied to for 15 years about it. I always thought she died from toxic shock. I was very angry that my father lied to me, but I now understand that he did not want the stigma of the disease to affect my friendships at school. As we all know, kids can be mean. The stigma of this disease has always been something I’d like to help remove. Anyone at any time can contract this disease—gay, straight, a mom of four with no drug history. Everyone needs to educate themselves on how to be protected and also about how to discuss this disease without adding to the stigma. It shaped my outlook on life by reminding me that life is so precious and can be very short.

You have a significant fan base in the LGBT community. What does that stem from?
My sister and best friend, Christie, came out at age 15—to only me. I always had to stick up for her within the family and outside of it, so I’ve always had an open heart from a very young age. My first club experience ever was Ultra Suede and I totally fell in love with the culture and scene. One of my first gigs as a singer was at Cherry Pop, and my sisters and I do the AIDS Walk every year in honor of my mother, under the name Team Bonnie Major. These walks are always eye-openers because even in West Hollywood there are people spreading hate on the sidelines. I literally have to stop myself from kicking some ass when I see these hate-filled people with demeaning signs.

Tags: Ask & Tell

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