DJ Birthday Boy
Over the years, I’ve tried to find creative and fun ways to celebrate the existence of DJ on this planet with his huge circle of friends scattered around the world. Some years, it was easy… cruises or travel, but other years, such as 2020 with COVID-19 it was a challenge.
As I celebrate DJ’s birthday today, I look back at the some of my favorite fun surprises of past, as I plan for the future….
2020: Everyone Loves a Canadian Boy
For DJ’s birthday at the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic (but with it essentially eradicated in Shanghai), I hosted a surprise party featuring a special “social distance” celebration including his many friends and family around the world, plus his local Shanghai friends for a dinner dinner/drinks evening in a private pagoda at Cotton’s, a lovely Shanghai villa restaurant. Weeks prior, I had curated hundreds of photos of DJ’s life, plus friends around the world, for them to participate. All under the theme I created “Everyone Loves a Canadian Boy“.
2017: Better When Paired
DJ celebrated his 50th Birthday concurrently with good British fellow expat friend, Alison (celebrating her 60th), in Shanghai. In addition to a surprise party featuring a sit down at the Bull & Claw restaurant for champagne, steak and lobster lunch, I also gave him 50 gifts (ranging from his favorites foods/wines to appliances and cash), each wrapped in his favorite color at the time of electric green. It was a very special day for him.
2012 Escape to the Dragon’s Head
In 2012, I was working on a theatre contract in Langfang, a city-cum-village south of Beijing, known for its legendary foreigner dislike, after Europeans tried to advance to Beijing in June 1900 were stopped at the Battle of Langfang. I had brought my own team of 6, including DJ from Shanghai. Myself and my primary assistant (Wang Chao) were essentially prisoners to stay within the “Golden Elephant” compound, a 5-star golf course hotel, monitored closely with my driver reporting where and when I went locally. The rest of my team, including DJ, did not have these restrictions and could come and go as they pleased.
DJ’s 45th birthday was in the middle of this time, and I used the excuse I wanted to be ‘educated by Chinese cultural heritage’, and spend a day at Shan Hai Guan where the Great Wall of China begins in the Bohai Sea and is called the “Old Dragons Head” built in 1381. It was only a few hours drive away, and was approved. Mini-van filled with the 7 of us, and off we went.
Since I was so restricted in my 5-star golf course ‘prison’, my gift shopping options were limited to the hotel gift shop. DJ being DJ, and knowing somewhat about my unique situation in Langfang, made no complaint about the rather uninspired gifts that year.
2008: Always have a backup plan…
In early 2008, DJ was missing Patrick, his close friend from Montreal, so I conspired to secretly fly Patrick out to China as a gift to DJ, and throw a green party (his favorite color at the time) in Shanghai at our apartment to coincide with the reveal of Patrick’s arrival during the party.
Alas, China Eastern delayed his flight by 24 hours, so at the last minute at a late night printer in Shanghai, I prepared a life-size photo of Patrick, amended with a sarcastic T-shirt, mounted on foam core and cutout in lieu of Patrick, until his arrival the next day.
2007: The old days of carefree luxury travel.
For DJ’s 40th Birthday present in 2007, I surprised him with a trip to New York, London, Pisa, Genoa, Villefranche, Nice, Monte Carlo, Milan and Venice — then a cruise in a suite aboard the Star Princess to Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon, Olympia, Athens, Mykonos, Kusadasi, Ephesus, Selek, Rhodes, Santorini, Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Civitavecchia – then to the UK to tour Maidstone, Southhampton, Torquay, Windsor and finally London, New York and Montreal.
The trip was designed to be 5-star luxury, to visit these places with private guides, private transport and in style.
2003: Be Careful What You Wish For
Definitely the biggest and most lavish surprise for DJ’s Birthday (so far)….
After our ordeal during 9/11 in New York City, and wanting to do something very special for DJ’s 35th birthday I decided it would be fun to host a party to unite his adopted and birth families (whom had never met), amidst a TV show, with a renovation of a barn on our LollyGag property. The transformation of our old milk barn, fondly called “Woop Woop” was lovingly recreated as a spectacular garden retreat – a summer dining & lounging cottage as a birthday surprise for DJ, all captured on a special 1 hour Debbie Travis Facelift TV show which you can watch here.
Following the LollyGag Facelift “reveal”, a surprise birthday party was revealed with DJ’s friends and family from all around North America. It was a rather large logistical operation all done in complete secrecy to pull off — but it was so much fun!
2001: Now we simply fly to neighboring Thailand when hungry.
One of my favorites was when we we living in New York in 2001, and his waking up to a card from me to give him cryptic clues for a birthday treat…
I had a limo take us to the airport, and before we arrived at airport he got to open the 2nd card with the answers to the cryptic puzzle of where we were going. We flew across the country to San Francisco, and had a private dinner at Suriya Thai (on Valencia), what Zagat guides at the time claimed had the best Pad Thai in North America. (his favorite food)
There were many others, but one of my favorite moments was in 2006 when DJ and I were drinking beer after a birthday dinner in a Bangkok Soi at around 2am when we look up and a baby elephant is standing over us (presumably wanting our peanuts). DJ’s facial expression says it all.
Thailand | Philippines | Cambodia | Vietnam | Bali | Europe | Egypt | China | Turkey | U.A.E. | Qatar | Croatia | USSR / Russia | South Pacific | New Zealand