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British granny takes clubland by storm

November 14, 2010

Giving a whole new meaning to Lady Gaga, a British granny is proving you're never too old to get down, rocking top clubs on both sides of the Atlantic as a DJ at the grand old age of 69.

Ruth Flowers, aka Mamy Rock, is a politely-spoken grandmother from Bristol in southwest England who has just taken Los Angeles clubland by storm after moving across from Europe.

"I love people, I think that's what carries me through. I love the young ones too, because they get such a bad press often. And I haven't find them to be anything but wonderful," she tells AFP.

Forget the cliches of retirement homes, afternoons in front of the TV and knitting: although well beyond pensionable age, Flowers seems to have more energy than most of the 20-somethings dancing to her pumping rhythms.

"I am still awake when the younger people around me are sleepy. I don't have a problem with night work," she says. "It doesn't seem so strange for me because I've always been a little bit different.

"I have good health. I am fortunate with my health. If I had many of the complaints of other older people, I couldn't do it."

She came to California to record her new single, "69", and to make her US debut at an electro festival in Anaheim, south of Los Angeles.

The gig in front of 3,000 young clubbers went so well that she has been invited to DJ in New York on November 29, before heading for China and Japan at the end of the year.

From a musical family, Flowers always sang but once married devoted herself to her work in a fabric shop. "I had a wonderful life," she says, adding that she has 'no regrets of any kind."

But after retiring to Portugal for 10 years and being widowed, she started to grow bored -- and that's when electro entered her life.

"I went to a party for my grandson, and after the party he took me with his friends to a disco. I was quite impressed by the enjoyment, the energy. And I thought, 'Could I do this for young people?'

"And so I said to my grandson 'You know darling, maybe I could do this,' and he told me 'It would be so cool!'"

At first it was just an interesting thought, but it developed rapidly: through a mutual friend she met French producer Aurelien Simon, who told her about his idea to launch a "mamy" (French for granny) DJ.

"I said: 'You know, that is one of the craziest ideas I've ever heard.'

"And here we are," she says with a smile.

She says at first she struggled, not least with the technology -- the turntables and mixing equipment. "I'm not a great technician by any means. I'm from a different age group. It was very hard at the beginning."

But she persevered, making repeated trips to France to gain mixing experience -- and ended up, last year, finding herself performing at the Cannes Film Festival in front of Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz.

"I was quite amazed. I stood there and I thought 'My God, what am I doing here?' But I was amazed by the reception I received, and the young people are so wonderful.

"I didn't think they would accept me like that, but they all wanted me to be their grandmother," she adds.

Cannes was a springboard, and within months she was booked for events around Europe, known for her look of fluorescent T-shirts, glittery jackets and huge dark glasses, as well as plenty of jewellery and a shock of white hair.

Does she think of herself as eccentric?

"I don't think I'm exceptionnal. I don't know why people think it is. I'm a little bit different from the average grandma, but I don't think that's something so strange that people can't accept it.

"My son thinks it's great he says "go for it Mum, if you want to do it, do it!' ... And my friends are all very enthusiastic."

Unsurprisingly, her musical tastes are a bit different from the average 69-year-old, and range widely: from Daft Punk and David Guetta to James Brown, the Rolling Stones or a Lady Gaga remix.

Her only rule, when at the turntables: "If I like it, if I enjoy it, I play it."

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