DJ Hitman Has Become a Staple in Long Beach Nightlife.
By Blake Pinto
Feb. 11, 2017
If you have hit up the Long Beach night scene, chances are you’ve probably shared a moment with Michael Franco without even realizing it.
Better known by many of the city’s promoters, club managers, and night owls as DJ Hitman, his big break in 2006 would almost cost him his life.
While loading up his truck after a house party in Moreno Valley, he was approached by a group of thugs who were upset about the Orange County initialed hat that he was wearing.
“He said ‘you trying to start some shit?’ and I just said whatever man and turned my back and kept loading my stuff,” Franco said, “He told me not to turn my back to him and when I turned back around he socked me with his right hand and flipped my hat off with his left. Before I knew it, I’m getting jumped by a lot of people.”
Franco said his brother had come to his aid, helped him to his feet and the pair began to run away when they heard several shots fired.
“Next thing I know, my right ankle hurts and I was like, did I step in a puddle?” Franco said, recalling the blood spilling from his lower right leg and drenching his sock.
He revealed two scars showing where the bullet had entered and exited. His brother had been stabbed as well.
Flashback to 2003, where the 14-year old Franco only wanted one thing: a turntable set. So, he did what many of us have done and tried to find anything and everything he could help his parents with around the house until his father, Isidro Franco, finally gave in.
“It was a Numark Battle Pak,” Franco said. “Back then it retailed for $350 and came with a legit beginner DJ setup.”
He would quickly amass a small collection of vinyls and became the unofficial DJ of the Franco household. One very important thing was still missing though.
“My dad actually came up with the name,” Franco recalled with a grin, “I would be in my room and he would come up to me and be like ‘you’re the hitman huh?’ and he started calling me that. Then at school somebody asked for my DJ name and I was like – call me Hitman.”
Little did his father know that the impromptu name he had given his 14-year-old son would become synonymous with some of the hottest nightlife in a city with half a million people.
After the shooting in 2006, Isidro forbid his son from playing house parties. Luckily, the teenager was already on the radar of some club promoters.
Eddie Martinez, a promoter for multiple all-ages clubs at the time, had seen DJ Hitman’s flyers for house parties and noticed the outpouring of support for him on MySpace after he had been shot.
“He told me, ‘hey man I’ve been following you, how about we get you into clubs?’” Franco said with a sense of gratitude, “he said if I kept pushing that he would make sure to get my name out there.”
As a 17-year-old, DJ Hitman began playing alongside other DJ’s twice his age and by age 20 was being flown across the country to perform at clubs. He has never looked back.
“I have some cousins and other people who look at me like ‘you’re still a DJ?’” Franco said with a hint of bemusement at the smugness of the question, “I say, yeah I’m still a DJ, what do you like to do because I’m getting paid for what I love.”
Currently, DJ Hitman is in rotation at multiple hotspots throughout Long Beach including Agaves, Sevilla, Moonshiners and Cuban Pete’s. Franco has come a long way from playing house parties for just $30 a night. In fact, he said the name has stuck so well that no one even knows Michael Franco anymore.
“Maybe only 25 percent of the people at the places I’m at in Long Beach know Michael,” Franco jokes, “There is this whole group of people who know DJ Hitman almost as a completely different person.”
He recalled one comical instance when he had tried to message a woman on the popular dating site Plenty of Fish only to be turned down. Then a few weeks later the same woman messaged DJ Hitman on Instagram, where he has amassed more than 3,200 followers, hoping for a date without realizing they were the same person.
He admits there are some drawbacks to a profession that is one big non-stop party. He actually decided to abandon doing what he loved full-time because he recognized he might not have been making the healthiest of lifestyle choices – we’ll leave it at that.
“I wasn’t ready to do what a lot of people end up needing to do to keep themselves going,” Franco said sternly.
In 2008, a 20-year-old Franco got a reality check while driving home after a night of mixing music and one too many drinks. He was pulled over and the Hitman was hit with a DUI.
“The gig was up,” Franco remembered “Blessing in disguise is how I looked at it.”
Now Franco feels like he has settled into a nice rhythm in life, working as a UPS bulk delivery driver Sunday through Thursday. Then, every Friday and Saturday night he rips off the uniform, puts on the headphones and gets back to his roots; a 14-year old boy who loves music who has grown into one of the most renowned DJ’s in Long Beach.
His dad was right. He is the Hitman.
***Editors Note: This story was originally published Feb. 2, 2016.