At the end of 2011, I heard about a new documentary being made by a director called Mark Hartley. It was to be called Electric Boogaloo and tell the story of notorious B movie production company Cannon Films, who made classics like Missing In Action with Chuck Norris and American Ninja amongst hundreds of others.
For a B movie fan like me, their oeuvre is untouchable. Plus they also did some genuinely interesting stuff, like try to get a cinematic Spider-Man off the ground. And then there's Breakin'. Released in May 1984, with a sequel ...Electric Boogaloo out six months later, the film did much to bring the culture of streetdance, specifically breakdancing, to the mainstream. Its legacy is the vast majority of the acts on Britain's Got Talent, shows in America with Nigel Lythgoe as a judge and the film career of Channing Tatum.
It also spawned stars of its own - Michael 'Boogaloo Shrimp' Chambers and Adolfo 'Shabba-Doo' Quinones. The latter was a founding member of famed dance crew The Original Lockers, who helped to revolutionise dance choreography. As Ozone in Breakin', he was one cool mother.
When Mark Hartley finally got back to me at the end of last year (thanks Facebook OTHER folder), all those Cannon memories started whirling around my brain again and more than anything, I wondered what Shabba-Doo was up to now. So I decided to find out. Two weeks later, I'm Skyping the man. You know...why not?
Streetdance is everywhere now. But what about at the beginning?
I always felt in my heart of hearts we were doing something that would change dance forever.
In the beginning I was met with lots of resistance. There was an agent I always remember, the words he said had a profound impact on me. While I was meeting with him, he told me I needed to take other forms of dance and streetdancing couldn't last more than a minute-and-a-half without people getting bored. It hurt me and when I got to the elevator, I cried about it.
Why do you think Breakin' made the impact it did?
Our films differentiated themselves from the pack because the lead roles were played by real streetdancers.
You could almost say Breakin' was a reality movie. Ozone is Shabba-Doo. The clothes I was wearing in the movie, I was already wearing those clothes. Can you imagine, I used to go grocery shopping and do my laundry dressed as Ozone.
I remember dressing in yellow knickers, yellow shirt, huge yellow hat that we called a 747 or pizza hat and my mom just looked at me and she shook her head and she was like, 'I've failed. You look like a lemon.' I said, "I'm going to be a star, Momma.' And she said, 'no, you're a fool.'
What do you remember about being cast?
I was going to choreograph the movie originally and then I went on and auditioned for the film. And in the film, the character was written for an 18-year-old. By this time I was in my late 20s and really didn't know anything about acting, so just went in there and played myself.
I went on to get all my friends and dance crew lead roles in the film.
Jean-Claude Van Damme famously made his screen debut in the movie, dancing badly on Venice Beach while wearing a unitard.
(laughs) I do remember him being there. I remember this kid dancing all very odd. I was thinking he was supposed to be this guy on Venice Beach and he's not supposed to be a really good dancer anyway but he was just caught up in the moment. But when I look back, boy, do I get a good laugh. Especially the outfit. The outfit is classic, it should be in the Smithsonian.
And now Shabba-Doo is in the pop culture lexicon?
Chris Rock said "I'm just a regular Shabba Doo" in Grown Ups. They referenced me in Family Guy.
You're making your own breakdance film too, right? A Breakin' Uprising.
I've written the screenplay and I have a producer. We're creating a film that is much more different than the streetdance films that are out today. What they're missing is why a dancer does what he does and they kind of cartoonized us. What I've done is created a film that paints a streetdancer as they are in the urban environments and dealing with the issues they do.
What else you got going on?
The manuscript for my autobiography will be completed by the end of February. And I'm sitting on the advisory committee for the upcoming Hip Hop Hall Of Fame in New York. I would also love to go on Dancing With The Stars. I think it would offer a tremendous challenge and take my dance skills to a different level.
Well I'd watch it.
The documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story Of Cannon Films is currently shooting.