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randy miller, 59, lawyer, spin instructor, aspiring dj, los angeles

ageist EDITORS | january 11, 2018

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Randy Miller is a lawyer, a spin instructor and — recently — a budding community organizer. But what he really wants, is to DJ.

“I love being in front of people; I love entertaining people,” says the career trial lawyer. “Throw music into that and it’s a trifecta.”

At Coachella — where he’s gone for the last 14 years — Miller is forever enraptured by the sets spun by DJs in the various tents, 8,000 bodies moving as one at the creative beck and call of one person.  

The closest he gets is the mixes he makes for the spin class he teaches.

But there’s a sense in talking to Randy that a future gig behind the decks isn’t too far-fetched a notion. A man who’s known since a young age what he wanted to do professionally, Miller gives the same assured impression in tackling the challenges of living his best later life. Mostly, it seems, by throwing himself into any new experiences. When I saw him last, he was on his way with a couple of friends to a reggae set at a warehouse party down the street, looking to get some dance time in.

“There’s people who are bound to adopt or continue a certain persona,” he says. “I feel liberated from all of that; as I grow older, I feel less tied to anything — and I see no limits or confinement on anything.”

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A few years ago, Miller was looking for new office space for the firm he had started in 2009. He’d worked in downtown LA most of his professional career, but the place was soulless to him — a daytime destination for professionals who scurried home just as soon as night fell.

Not a few miles away was a darker, seedier area — the optimistically named Arts District — inhabited by artists and creatives who couldn’t afford to buy loft and apartment space anywhere else in LA.

“I identified with this place. I liked the urban environment, the rawness of it, the artist vibe. I like how it was probably at the beginning of some sort of a transformation. And I like seeing that sort of energy and change.”

The Arts District was the right neighborhood for a person who’d embraced seeking out the new and different. His “button-down” life throughout his law career came with all the known pressures and demands — long hours that took him away from his two kids, maneuvering both within the firm and in the courtroom.

But his curious mind was always there. He’d always loved music and so he continued to seek it out — hitting up gigs from the Hollywood Bowl to local open-mic nights. And while his taste as a youth ran the standard gamut from Zeppelin to Roxy Music to the Stones, Miller is up for pretty much anything these days, often eschewing the main stage acts at Coachella and wandering around the smaller stages earlier in the day.

“You can, of course, research all of it. I actually don’t do any of that,” he says. “I’ll just go in and say ‘surprise me’ … To a music lover, it’s nirvana. It never bothered me that it was a more youthful crowd. I don’t really care. Almost everybody is there to enjoy the music and be entertained. I just look for the commonality. And I’m usually not the oldest guy there, by the way.”

The Arts District office he eventually found for his firm came with a 2,500 square-foot detached warehouse, which he decided to offer to musicians for gigs through a platform called SoFar Sounds.  Every month or so, dozens, sometimes hundreds of music fans of all stripes descend on his warehouse for a night of acts they don’t know anything about in advance.

“We throw the act in one corner, and I bought a bunch of blankets and chairs,” he says. “Honestly, it could be 1965 as easily as 2018 … just people who are enjoying each other’s company and good music.”

He’s taken another step to prove to the community that his firm — the only one in the area, by the way — are not just interlopers. He recently joined a local business association that works together with artists and the area’s legacy tenants to make sure they’re not pushed out of one of the city’s hottest real estate markets. He’s also on the founding board of the Inner-City Arts school down the road.

“I don’t know what the exit strategy is and, to be honest, it hasn’t crossed my mind,” he says. “There’s nothing bad about reaping what you sow in terms of being able to relax. But I look at it differently. I’m going to keep it going until I run out of land.”

 
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