I met DJ Mark Leventhal 20 years ago. He was 30, and we had a great deal in common: We both loved music. We were both Jersey Boys, we were both DJ’s (yeah—I did that too) and we both did the “unthinkable” by moving to South Beach in the early ’90s.
Mark curated and created music that was just right, an unstructured non-stop musical adventure. A poem, a play, a story with no beginning, middle or end. He leaves those who knew him with a huge spiritual win. He took his passion, music, and he narrated it for us; translated the beats, ran with it, and made a living doing it 24/7.
Mark passed away two days ago, February 18th, 2014.
He was so loved on this unique barrier island. Mark woke up one recent morning and knew something was off. He got unexpectedly sick, his life was abruptly interrupted. He was hospitalized. It was serious. The South Beach community rallied and held a fundraiser to help with medical bills. Mark, like many freelancers, had no health insurance. Unfortunately, he lost the fight!
I’ll always remember Mark’s mellow tone and unique personal harmony. He had this devotional, almost irreverent calm, never hyper or frantic—even when our sound systems failed during outdoor events.
I hired Mark to spin at my first Volleypalooza (an outdoor model volleyball tournament where a fun sports competition met T & A, mixed with music and a two-day mini beach village). The first one was actually held by a former promoter named Tony Theodore in 1994. It sort of failed, but I loved the concept and decided to make it an annual event, knowing that combined with the power of Ocean Drive magazine, it would be a winner. In February 1995, on the beach, across the street from the News Café, at Ocean and 8th, it was created. Mark was with me from day one, always our music director. And with Rick Delgado, our multi talented tournament director emcee, we created magic on the beach for the next 13 years.
Mark, and so many other people, made beach volleyball one of the keystone events that helped created South Beach. Thanks Mark! I always dialed your number to play at my annual Ocean Drive magazine Anniversary parties. And in those very early days, when we had a party with “no budget,” Mark played for free.
I remember fondly at every event and every party, I would ask him to play “it louder, softer, change the tempo, or just stop playing all together.” We never developed cues or rehearsed this stuff. I always produced on the fly. I would yell, scream, make requests. Years later, someone pointed out and made me aware of the very obvious fact that he was wearing headsets and couldn’t hear me anyway.
Most of all, I’ll never forget this great image of him, Holly and their two newborn babies wandering on stage during those great crisp, blue sky, sunny warm, tropical dreamlike February weekends in the late ’90s. Whether it was Jamie Foxx, Tommy Davidson, N*SYNC or No Mercy, Mark was always there with me. He was South Beach’s DJ, and at least for me, is and will always be that guy.
Sometime after 2007 when I sold Ocean Drive, I lost track of myself, and Mark, among other people. I regret that so much. I no longer heard the music this magical poet spun, sounds that I loved so much. But Mark just kept on spinning.
I don’t think he ever made it to the big stages at LIV or STORY or ULTRA. I’m almost certain that he didn’t even care or “give a shit” either way. He was our South Beach DJ, and he earned it, day and night, schlepping his own equipment from gig to gig. Just like a surfer, he probably dreamed about it, but never ever rode or caught the “big one,” but I know he still loved every minute of it.
So he didn’t make it to the big dance, you know the $100,000-a-night gigs. There will be no statute or bronze medal, or even a street named in his honor. He will be the anonymous minstrel, a person who arrived on our little island at the right time, and, along with a handful of us, carved out a brand in Miami Beach that today is called South Beach!
Let’s ask new Mayor Philip Levine to proclaim today, tomorrow, this week, whatever, “Mark Leventhal Day.”
Mark, I’d like the honor of being able to play a song for you called “We Belong To Music,” written, sung and produced by Miami’s own Timbaland, featuring additional vocals by Miley Cyrus.
Mr. Leventhal, it’s time to take the headsets off, maybe on the beach we owned for a moment in time, at Ocean Drive and 8th Street. Sit under a wind-twisted palm tree and listen to all the great music you created for us!
Yea, I like that!
Take a bow!