Also known as Don Berns, the DJ played an integral role in Toronto's club and rave scene, both in clubs and on the radio.
Don Berns, known to Toronto ravers as Dr. Trance, died yesterday evening.
Berns was referred to as the “godfather of the Toronto rave scene,” and with good reason. The DJ was one of the people responsible for bringing parties into bigger and better venues in the mid-’90s, and he gave voice to ravers through both his work behind the scenes, and his booming voice on the radio and in clubs.
Berns’s various promotions—including Nitrous, Atlantis, and Effective—took parties out of disused factories and warehouses and put them in high-profile spots such as the Ontario Science Centre, the CN Tower, and the Toronto Island Airport.
The Connecticut-born Berns first came to Toronto in the 1980s to work for CFNY as an announcer and assistant program director. He previously worked in radio in several American markets, including Buffalo, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and San Diego.
Along with Chris Sheppard, he was instrumental in getting early techno tracks on the station. He would talk about his love of raving on air and, through his media platform, exposed the scene to thousands.
After being let go in 1992, when the station decided to switched formats, Berns went to the then-new Energy 108. He also spent time at Power 88.5, Hot 103.5, and CHIN FM.
Berns wasn’t what you expected a raver to look like circa 1991. Already in his 40s when he started going to parties, he was frequently twice as old as everyone else in the room. That said, he was exactly what the scene needed—a big personality with a big vision; a man who appreciated showmanship and atmosphere, and felt like raves deserved to be in every major venue in the city and that every major venue in the city deserved a rave. At a time when other people in his age cohort were trying to shut raves down, he was an outspoken voice championing them as a cheerful, low-testosterone, low-aggression alternative to the club scene.
An out-and-proud gay man, Berns was also a fixture at Toronto Pride events for more than 20 years. He also had a career in entertainment outside of music. When he wasn’t DJing, he was a voice-over artist best known for his work with TSN, as well as working as an actor and being a well-known member of the city’s improv scene.
According to his Facebook page, Berns had been admitted to Brampton Hospital for a minor surgical procedure on Thursday.