House girls

BonTon Productions keeps Boston’s dance clubs moving
By MICHAEL FREEDBERG  |  April 3, 2007

SCENESTER: No one has done more than Maria DiIulis to make house music big deal in Boston’s clubs.

The last time I saw Maria DiIulis, the owner of BonTon Productions, was at Rumor, the popular Theater District dance club on Warrenton Street. She was greeting guests in the “house music room” with a huge smile on her face and a notepad in her hand, checking off names on her “guest list.” Most she knew personally, and like me, they seemed thrilled to be recognized by a major nightlife “scenester” — which DiIulis is.

I doubt if anyone, DJs included, has done more than Maria DiIulis to make house a big deal in Boston’s nightlife. She sponsors at least a dozen DJs, including such major locals as Craig Mitchell, Jay Prouty, Shlavens & D-Lav, Etiquette, and Taner K. In most of her e-mail “event Invitations” she includes sets by these DJs and others that are available for download. In addition, she and assistant Danielle Dior (until recently joined by Mandy “Krokodile Tears,” who has just been hired to promote Avalon Fridays) send invites to a vast list of house fans, many of whom they know by name. The invitation is sent as an e-mail or bulletin to your MySpace page, and all you have to do is respond to join the guest list. Being on the list gives you a substantial discount at the door. It also means you’ll get into the club a little more easily, because the BonTons have their own admission line. And you can always call one of the gals by cell and she’ll come out and get you in.

After a BonTon-promoted gig ends, the gals often go to Rise, Boston’s after-hours house den. There they seem to know just about everybody. How did they become acquainted with so many house fans? More to the point, how did DiIulis — who grew up in Bridgewater, far from the downtown scene that house has always been — become a house fan? “I always loved listening to dance music. I especially listened to Vinnie Peruzzi [the late radio DJ whose disco classics broadcasts were extremely popular and who himself was known throughout Greater Boston as “Disco Vinnie”] and so did my best friend. She invited me to come to Tokyo. It was there that I discovered the club scene and fell in love. I was excited!”

DiIulis admits to being in her 40s, but she looks and expresses herself like a club kid, and she still voices all that excitement; it’s a major reason for her success as a promoter. Fans know she’s the real thing. “House music is my passion, my life. It excited me enough so that I left a good job — vice-president of a cosmetics company. But I believed in it and in myself. Here I was, out at the clubs. Wherever I went, I’d bring tons of people with me. So there I was, at Rise — this was eight years ago — and they told me I should go work at Avalon. And I did. I became a sub-promoter there.

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