Michael Marino's DJ handle, DJ 1 Tre, is a nod to the jersey number of a certain Miami Dolphins quarterback and ubiquitous Maroone pitchman, spiced with what he calls a "foreign swag." At the name's core, however, is an homage to his dad — the man who divided his time between the gridiron and to helping Marino overcome his autism.
"I remember wanting some Cookie Crisp as a kid, but instead of tugging on my parents' pants and saying something like normal kids did, I would just point," recalls Marino, diagnosed with autism at age 2. "I had nonverbal communication problems, but Dad helped me a lot with speech-therapy classes."
Speaking by phone last week, Marino, now 24 and among South Florida's most-prolific DJs, says he "almost never" struggles with the speech limitations that confronted his youth, communicating with all the tenacity that a gracious and well-adjusted beat-juggler should, given his new job: the public face of the Dan Marino Foundation. As DJ 1 Tre, Marino will spin Top 40 flavors ("always Mr. 305 [Pitbull], a little Bawse [Rick Ross], some Calvin Harris and Flo Rida") on Sunday during the inaugural Dance Fit Party at Midtown Athletic Club in Weston. The fundraiser benefits the foundation's annual WalkAbout Autism event, returning Jan. 26 to Sun Life Stadium.
After Sunday's event, Marino plans to get a few crowds rowdy at Sun Life Stadium, where he's DJ'ing a private Orange Bowl halftime party on New Year's Day. It's the same venue where Marino has DJ'ed the Dolphins' official pregame show since 2011, where a chance phone call after last year's NFL lockout landed the budding DJ a sterling gig holding court inside Sun Life's LIV penthouse-style suite.
"I had no idea I'd get the job. They called me right before game one against the Patriots," says Marino, of Fort Lauderdale, who spins weekly sets at SoLita, Tokyo Blue and Anthony's Runway 84. "I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I was on the big Jumbotron in high-def, busting out Pitbull, doing my thing. I didn't mess around. I love it. You get to play some Miami artists for Miami people."
As something of an ambassador for his father's foundation, Marino says he's often approached by parents of autistic children.
"I meet parents, fathers, mothers, sisters, and they'll come up and say, 'I heard that your brother is doing a lot better,' " Marino says. "They think they're talking to my brother. I say, 'That's me. I'm Mike.' They see in me what they hope to see with their own children: Someone who functions well, communicates well, holds a job and contributes to the world."
Dance Fit Party with DJ Michael Marino
When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 30
Where: Midtown Athletic Club, 2300 Royal Palm Blvd., Weston
Cost: $10 donation
Contact: 954-384-2582 or Midtown.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun