If you’re lucky—and if you’ve been around long
enough—and paying close enough attention, you too can cite the
party, the weekend, the career-defining event, when you felt
as if a deejay made the transition, the leap forward, into a whole
other dimension of musical authority.
We’d heard things before. We knew people who remembered a night at
the now-defunct Studio A—an after-hours that left them gabby with
euphoria. “If you’ve never heard her play after-hours before—OHMIGOD!”
And there was also that Miami/South Beach coterie who swore by her
Monday morning after-hours parties at Cactus.
So all we had to do was get to Arabian Nights in Kissimmee. Program
the Magellan, set out from the Magic Kingdom—and hope for the best.
Because we’d heard things—about boys driving in circles and ending
up in Alabama. The freeway was nearly empty. Long stretches of road
with only one other car in the opposite lane. And then the
intersection for Arabian Nights Boulevard—and the turnoff—and the
cars filling the lot and lining the boulevard for half a mile.
It was Sunday morning and herds of boys made their way across the
lawn and toward the massive Moorish archways in cerulean blue
with the solid wooden doors like the entrance to the Alhambra.
This was Arabian Nights. This was where the horses ran—and this was
the morning after the Belmont had left Big Brown wanting: a massive
structure, a track surrounded by seating rising high into the sky.
This was south Florida’s racing Colosseum—and for the next six
hours, this was our church.
Inside, it was dark and steamy. The hallways were like huge
underground passageways leading into the main arena—where the
boys were packed onto the floor, highlighted in washes of red light
and green lasers. The track was covered with a wooden dance
floor. A floor that moved to the beat, a floor that rose and
fell with the rhythm of a thousand stampeding stallions.
And leading us all, riding us through the night, was
Alyson Calagna. Our
jockey and trainer, she whispered in our ears, “(You Know We’re
Gonna) Kick It Up.” “The Party Just Got Started,” she whispered.
“(Can You Feel It?).” “I Feel It Comin,’” she said. “Work This
“And the dance floor is jumpin’”—lifting and falling beneath our
feet, as we found our inner equine. Forget about Chincoteague; we
were the wild ponies of Kissimmee. Race horses to the gate,
Triple Crown winners all—and still, they poured in. The entire South
Beach contingent, werking it out in the most flattering light
And through it all, Alyson played with all her MIGHT. We were putty
in her hands. We let her lead us through the morning. There were
snippets and samples (the voice from the Disney World tram, no less:
“Ride the rail, ride the rail”). Boys made the pilgrimage from
the track to her booth, to bow down before her: “Praise U/I Love
You So.” Overwhelmed by the beauty of her music: majestic,
sonorous, orchestral, soaring—as in “Toca’s Miracle” with the
lyrics “I need a miracle/Tell me that you understand/Take me as I
am,” and her remix of Altar’s “Away From Me,” and especially Jesse
Labelle’s “Shine,” as he sang “I will follow you/Anywhere you
go/And I will run with you/Whether fast or slow.”
Sometimes it’s where you are—as well as where you’re not. Not at
work, not at home, for example. Somehow you’ve found yourself, right
where you need to be: on the dance floor surrounded by thousands of
like-minded loving individuals working it out to the music from
deep within the soul.
And the lasers rippled like water, over the crowd.
It was a morning filled with moments of such aching, shattering
beauty—such as when the music shivered to a diminuendo—and the
snow drifted slowly onto the crowd, snowflakes falling on horses,
the boyz with their arms upraised, as if releasing doves of peace
into the heavens beyond.
It was a triumphant performance, a brilliant coming together
of horse and jockey, the two running in perfect harmony, and by the
morning’s end, there was no doubt in the crowd’s mind that Alyson
has definitely joined that G5 set of deejays, that group of heavy
hitters whom we all know by first name. Add
Alyson to that list:
no surname necessary. Let the girl work her magic journey
wherever she wants. We’ll follow her anywhere.