60 Years of Giving
Desti Loeijs is known for her quick smile and ‘can-do’ attitude by all in the local Live Events industry. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to work on Live Events and not have met Ms. Desti Loeijs!
She has dedicated her working life to delivering amazing production work. Desti started off her eventing career at the Natal Rugby Union at Kings Park Stadium working for Roger Gardner and later started Selective Media & Promotions with Alison Mulhall (now McCutcheon), with Tanya van Agthoven (now van Agthoven-Marais) joining them a bit later.
Big Concerts, under instruction from Roger Gardner, approached Selective Media & Promotions to handle the eventing/production for Paul Simon … and the rest as they say is history!
Desti took on the role of Tour Manager for Big Concerts over the period when the lifting of the cultural boycott saw an explosion in the music industry and first landmark international concerts like the Paul Simon Concert in 1992.
Since 1997, Desti has been part owner and Director at Mushroom productions, continuing to be the “rock” upon whom everyone can rely for the larger concerts as well as entrepreneurial initiatives like crewing agency, Sebenzani, Showtex show fabrics and South Africa’s most popular live-streaming Internet portal, Skyroom Live.
We asked some of the Gearhouse team to share their experiences with this industry icon over the years.
Otto and Linda Wijnberger, Directors at Gearhouse In2Structures met Desti in 1991, while working on an Amitabh Bachchan concert in Durban with Selective Media & Promotions. The company name only came later, so at that stage, they were irreverently, but affectionately, nicknamed “The Tarts” by the rest of the team.
“That’s when Attie Van Wyk picked up on her amazing organisational abilities and stole her for himself”, remarks Otto. “When my crew hear that they are working on a ‘Desti gig’ there are smiles all round. – good food, good mood!” A great memory for me, personally, was working with her on the MTV Base concert at the drive-in on top of a mine dump. She has always managed to pull off the extraordinary.”
“Desti is a very special friend to me and we have an unforgettable friendship” adds Linda. “She is a strong woman with a heart of gold, a woman that has given so much to our industry. I am so proud of what she has achieved.”
It was around the same time that Ofer Lapid (Joint Managing Director of Gearhouse) also crossed paths with her. “Desti has always understood the importance of production, but in those early days it didn’t matter how much you cared; the elements were not yet in place locally to deliver to the standards demanded by the touring artists, promotors and international production teams.
It required a great deal of innovative thinking to deliver their requirements in terms of trucking, ablutions, security, technical supply, site access, crane work and the rest” he says. “Together with the South African promoters, Desti sowed the seeds of the professional production industry in South Africa today. Building on what she learned from different Production Managers and Promoters, she just kept fighting to move the industry forward in the interests of crew, performers and promoters, and she succeeded!” says Ofer.
“I was not her favourite person in the beginning. She didn’t have much time for the loud, heavy-accented, Israeli newcomer. She had her own team of favourites, so I made sure I was super-nice and delivered a great service and, over time, the common aim to deliver a great production with good technical suppliers became apparent and we worked together more and more.” he says. “It has been a long and fruitful collaboration.”
Pieter Joubert, Director at Sets Drapes Screens was just 21 when he first encountered Desti on a Chris de Burgh tour in 1993. He, too, comments on Desti’s ability to bring the human aspect of production to the fore. “Desti always ran the most disciplined production but in the same breath always looked after the crew, ensuring that we flew on time, stayed in good accommodation and got fed. She has never lost the human touch.”
In 1994, Bill Lawford, Gearhouse Sales Manager arrived in South Africa and was introduced to Desti. They hit it off and when he moved to Johannesburg in ‘95, he rented a spare room in her home. “Desti was working as a production manager and was always busy in a small office just down the hall from my room. One day, she was busy setting up her new company and asked me for an idea for a name. I jokingly suggested Mushroom, simply because she spent most of the time being kept in the dark and being fed a great deal of sh*t……and it stuck!” he laughs. “Desti remains my closest friend to this day. I can’t even count the amount of shows we’ve worked on together but they’ve all been great!”
Craig McGinn, Senior AV Engineer at Gearhouse has known Desti since 1995 and remarks that then, as now, she is always happy to get her hands dirty “working as project manager, chef, bottle-washer or anything thing else that needs to be attended to – an absolute all-rounder. She is such an amazing person; hard-working, fiercely loyal and a great friend as well. She maintains that we are all one big family and always has the crews’ well-being at heart. She is the matriarchal figure onsite whose comeback is unfailingly ‘My crew come first’’’ he says.
Gearhouse JHB Operations Manager, Stuart Andrews agrees “I love the fact that Desti is always ‘mom’ to everyone on site. Her personal attention to detail and her obvious love and care for all the people on site brings out the best in everyone. I can’t even count the number of jobs I have been on, with her, over the years.
When I picked up the ‘flu on the Roxette show a couple of years ago, she bought a ‘get well soon’ card and had the production crew sign it and gave it to me together with a box of Advil. I took the card with the good sense of humour intended and I also took the Advil, which actually got me through the gig!”
Desti not only works hard but she plays hard too. “A few years back, we missed about 6 flight departure times because we were having so much fun together. We just kept changing our flights so we could stay a little longer!” comments Craig.
According to Havaseat Director, Chris Loeijs “Desti is just the nicest person to deal with in a business environment. She has a real ability to soften even the most demanding clients and it has been tested over and over.”
“Nowadays she is more a friend to me than a production manager” says Pieter. “Good memories for me were in the early days on Foreigner 1993 where I had put a harness on her daughter Natalie as a joke and suggested flying her up into the roof… I think she was 3 at the time. Desti took it in her stride. Her other daughter Caitlyn still calls me ‘prickly Pete.’”
Clearly a much-loved person in our industry, Desti turns 60 in July 2018 and the team at Gearhouse would like to acknowledge her for how much she has contributed to our industry and to thank her for making it a pleasure to work on a “Desti” gig. We wish her all the very best for the next 60 years! Happy Birthday Desti!
Story Robyn D'Alessandro, Photo courtesy In2Structures
Jul 19, 2018