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It's 3:00 a.m., one of those all-too-infamous Saturday nights at the late Boomerang, and the dance floor is jammed with sweaty, jostling, grinning, working bodies. The pitch: fever. Not a soul in the house is standing still. And then at once, just like that, the music stops. A collective gasp, then a shudder, then silence.
From the vantage point of the DJ booth, it's as if the Earth is standing still. The crowd's looking at one another, searching for a sign, waiting for someone to go first, to show 'em how to respond. Luis Diaz, as nonchalant as a cat with his cool down pat, grins winningly, slips a slab of vinyl onto the Technics, and slides the fader up ever so slowly. Voices ricochet around a room still devoid of an instructive beat, and the crowd begins to spin, literally spin, hands in the air, feet off the floor. Then - boom! - there's the kick, a gutteral thump to the midsection, a roar as the place jumps into overdrive.
Thus was this scribe's first encounter with turntable tactician Luis Diaz, a groovester who, with fellow wheels-of-steel men Carlos Menendez and George Acosta, would come to epitomize the South Beach night.
As befits a colorful creature of the night, the history of Luis Diaz is at the very least kaleidoscopic. A teen transplant from a none-too-picturesque Jersey City, it could be said that he's one of the original Beach rats, a witness to both its checkered past and buoyant boom. That in itself is enough to give him the proper perspective or, if you will, an edge, something Johnny-come-latelies can only feign.
Luck's been well on his side since Diaz's first real assignment: "Some girls I knew introduced me to this guy who said, `I got this gig I can't work any more because my mom found out it's a women's bar, a gay bar. If you want it, it's yours.'"
Anyone even remotely familiar with the civilized world knows the significance of gay clubs in breaking dance music. Diaz, smart enough to recognize opportunity's welcome knock, found his chance to place a most auspicious foot in a normally hermetically sealed door. Soon followed a rapid succession of mainland engagements at such deja vu-provoking joints as Rick's Cafe and Cheers, "another crazy gay scene." So he broke records, "got into [his] roots," and earned his stripes with the demanding hard-core gay crowd. Coincidentally, it was at an erstwhile drag-queen bar where he started on the South Beach scene. "Joseph's was when I housebroke the Beach," he says. "You know how you housebreak a puppy? That's what I did to everybody down here."
South Beach at that time was still a veritable wasteland. Menendez was rockin' Woody's and ex-pat Tony Garcia was slippin' 'em muscular progressive at Club Nu, but no one was really going deep. We're talkin' "bass-ment," where sound becomes throb. And remember, this is pre-X, when the DJ supplied the mood alterations. Diaz was that man.
From Joseph's sprung what has commonly become renowned as the Avenue A series of ever-blasting parties: "Gary James used to come by Joseph's and he had this idea to move the scene for a night," Diaz recalls. "We took over this Lincoln Road storefront, it was really small, set it up BYOB, a three-dollar cover, and we sold the juice and ice. It was totally illegal. It lasted six weeks before it was busted."
Diaz became Avenue A's first DJ. The rest, as they say, made history. Avenue A begat The Truth at the Di Lido, which begat The Truth "Construction Parties" at Boomerang. This is how one-nighters are born. These days there are more promoters than people (success has a way of doing that to those short on ideas), and South Beach is trembling from the fall-out.
But back to the issues. Diaz is no longer a mere disc jockey. Not that he isn't content to simply move the crowd - the look on his face says he is. But in South Beach, celebrity has a way of attaching itself to even the most elusive of figures. Diaz now is somewhat of the playboy rainmaker, the king of the one-nighters. In addition to his weekly Wednesday proceedings at the Third Rail Club (formerly Ice Cream Joe's Playhouse) and Sticky Mike's Frog Bar (Thursdays at Le Loft), Diaz trips the night away at the most notorious one-time events the brittle Beach has ever seen (most recently Cafe Milano's one-year anniversary fete at the Cabana Club and the raucous Miami media party at Polly Magoo's). But what price turntable fame? Well, this sit-down - on-the-vantage-friendly porch of the aforementioned Polly Magoo's (point restaurant of the I Tre Merli gang) - was merrily marred by a parade of friends, acquaintances, and admirers, a post-season pastiche of movable proportions, all too eager to see Mister Diaz receive his due.
And in these cutthroat days, being wished well is the best revenge.