A RETROCRUSH INTERVIEW WITH THE STAR OF
BREAKIN AND BREAKIN 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
Chambers gravity defying dancing talents are showcased in his portrayal of
Turbo in the, "Breakin" and "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo" movies. Heís
also toured with Lionel Richie, taught Michael Jackson a few of his moves,
has been in countless music videos with Paula Abdul, Missy Elliot, Chaka
Khan, Sugar Ray, The Gap Band, and an anti-drug music video with Nancy
Reagan. We caught up with him earlier this week to discuss his amazing
dancing and acting career.
started dancing when you were 10?
For as long as I can
remember I was always dancing. Growing up in the 1970ís my family always
had music going around me. In our neighborhood it was pretty diverse with
Asians and Latinos. I was always hearing backyard parties with Mariachi
music and Salsa. I was always doing some sort of dancing. Iíd say about
1978 I got the bug to do the Robot.
You had seen other people do it on TV?
Yea, it seemed like all the
television shows when I was growing up were really pushing the scientific
theme with the: "Bionic Woman", "The Six Million Dollar Man", and "Clash
of the Titans" with Ray Harryhausenís animation.
One day I came to school and
this guy jumped up and got the attention of the class with a few movements
of the Robot. I was hooked. I did it for fun. It was to get some
attention, and to get the chicks to look at you. It started progressing
You kept practicing and getting better?
Back then nobody really
taught it. You actually had to be around it or see other people perform
and grab a move here or there. Kind of improvise.
Were you one of those guys who brought out the cardboard?
Because I was from
California, Breakdancing really wasnít the thing over here. It was more
Popping and Locking.
Breakdancing is more of an East Coast thing?
Exactly, they were doing it
in New York with the whole cardboard and the wearing of the sweat suits.
The Kango hat and the big chains like Flavor Flav. They were doing that
over there. In California believe it or not one of the identifying
clothing accessories to help people know they were a Popper or at least
into that you wore the white gloves like a MIME. You can go back to the
early days and people would bring out their tuxedo gloves to show and
accentuate their movements like a MIME.
You think that it was influenced by the MIMES.
Iím almost sure it was. The
great Marcel Marceau was telling stories with his body. He was doing body
You became well known?
I was the little guy out
there dancing and showing off. I would really try to go to every
underground party or anywhere I could go to be seen. The town I grew up in
was pretty small considering Hollywood and all the bigger cities. Whenever
they had these events I would try to be there to see who else was going.
Just connect with that dance
community to see who else was into it and to meet people. Actually, try to
get a name within those circles. I had learned so much in such a short
amount of time. I didnít even know I had created my own little style. It
was based on animatronics, toys, and stuff like that. People were like,
"This guy is more advanced than his age."
learned a lot when you were a teenager.
When I was a teenager I
actually started working. I started working at a very, very young age.
Right after 9th grade I did my first music video with Lionel
Richie. Before the movie "Breakin" and "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo" I
had done a few television commercials for CBS and McDonaldís.
The music video scene was
just starting. We were the first kids in Hollywood who got access to go on
auditions. Thank Goodness we made the groundwork for these new dancers to
be featured. First it was Lionel Richie we auditioned for and went on a
world tour with him. It was fascinating because I was more famous around
the world just from the music video. It was a wonderful time for me.
You were getting recognized.
Oh big time. Then I did the
Chaka Khan video, "I
feel for you". I was focused on giving the best performances I could.
That was one of the videos to push the art form of Popping. I was real
focused on that fact. I wanted to let everybody know who I was.
Was Lionel Richie cool on tour?
He was wonderful. Still to
this day I think he is a consummate performer and a class act. We were
unknown dancers just starting off green in Hollywood. This guy went way
out of his way. He got me a studio teacher to go out on the road. He put
us up in 4 star hotels. We had the best of everything. We were just
dancers and we only came out on one song on tour.
Everybody that had written
reviews from the concerts all over the country said, "You have to wait
till Lionel Richie closes his set with "All Night Long" and see these
elastic dancers." I really appreciated him for introducing me to Michael
Jackson. One day we were backstage at the Universal Amphitheater. We were
all chitchatting after the show and they were like hey, someone wants to
meet you. It was him.
Itís been mentioned that you trained him how to dance.
You know what he mentioned
it briefly in his Oprah Winfrey interview. I think with all the
controversy thatís happened to him a lot of that stuff has kind of gotten
Heís an amazing performer.
The thing that I bring up to
people when we get on the subject of Michael Jackson is that Iím glad he
continued to dance when the Hip Hop world turned Gangster Rap in the
1990ís. He kept Popping alive. He was still respecting the art of Popping
when they would see him dance. He opened the doors for us to still work.
When they saw him doing it they were like, "Okay, itís still cool."
What do you think has changed between then
Breakdancing has changed
into an intricate dance form. The power moves, the agility, the things
that they are doing now. The new school dancers took it to a newer level.
I donít think Popping has evolved as much. A lot of dancers seem to be
doing the same moves. Rewinding old videos and doing the same thing.
There are different styles.
At the time they threw
everything under the umbrella of Breakin. Youíre a Breaker, but the guy
came out doing Pop-Locking. He got labeled a Breakdancer. Itís media
confusion. Itís the ignorance of people not knowing that there are
Itís still confusing to me. I guess Iím just too white
That really didnít have
anything to do with it. The thing I liked most about Popping as an art
form was the unity. That was one of the reasons I stuck with it. Itís
something that can unite all of us. I saw that at a very young age. This
was something that was unifying among the different races. Back then
everybody was with their own crowd. If youíre a Preppy you ran with that
crowd, if youíre a college frat boy you ran with that crowd, if you were a
gangster you ran with that crowd.
It was divided in school. At
lunch time people would sit in their little groups. With dance all those
worlds came together. Theyíre still coming together. We have that one
unifying thing in common. It gave us a chance to learn from each other and
our different cultures. I got turned onto that because I realized that
being African American there were stereotypes out there. I didnít want
anybody to fear me before they knew me.
That wall was broken right
off the bat. They see me smiling and dancing. I was basically putting it
out there. Iím user friendly donít fear me. It opened up the door for me
to meet so many different people from different backgrounds. If people
were part of the Hip Hop thing it didnít matter what color you were. Hip
Hop gave birth to a lot of different artists and they werenít all black.
At school they use to have contests to see who could do
the best Robot, the Centipede, and the RoboCop.
Or The Running Man.
You used to dance.
Some of the kids would put their cardboard on the floor
and I couldnít get to my locker with their spinning.
I use to see that at clubs.
Those people who were seeing the dancers. They would get frustrated. With
Breakdancing they were a little bit belligerent to command their space on
the dance floor. They would run into people.
Is Breakdancing more aggressive?
Very much so. Itís more
physical and more aggressive.
Your category of dance is known more for Popping and
"Breakin" was a ground
breaking film. They wanted to make sure that they had well rounded dancers
that featured everything that was going on at the time. "Flashdance" had
come out a couple of years before. In that movie they highlighted a little
bit of the Breakin and the Popping which New York called Electric Boogey.
We tried to learn all of the dance forms that were out there.
While we were with the
Lionel Richie tour we got together with a group of people from the New
York City Breakers and we would practice. We would exchange styles. They
got us into some of the basic floor movements, some poses, and stuff like
that. Youíll see it when you watch "Breakin" and "Breakin 2: Electric
Boogaloo" youíll see my version of what I knew was good for the ground
stuff like the Breakdancing. My specialty was my Animation, my robotic
movements, and my Floating.
You probably get tired of people asking about the
incredible broom dance scene in "Breakin 2"?
I never get tired of that.
Itís nice in this day and age especially in Hollywood just to get noticed.
Thereís so many people doing independent films and trying to make a name
for themselves. I am referred to as the "guy with the broom" it put me on
the map. It was choreographed by the great Jaime Rogers, one of the
original cast members from "West Side Story".
You had choreographers on the "Breakin" films?
They knew we already had our
dance style polished. They added creative advice. As far as staging I look
at Jaime Rogers as more of a person who directed the staging of the
numbers. He just let me rip and do my thing. As a kid I was just messing
around a lot on the set. I was a 24/7 livewire.
One day I was balancing a
broom on my finger. I was floating in a circle and balancing this broom
upside down. Jaime Rogers and the director said, "If this kid can get the
broom upright it can be like a number from Royal Wedding which was one of
Fred Astaireís pieces." Sure enough they had a prop guy drill a hole
through the broom and attach a fishing string to my hand. With the magic
of editing I made that broom come alive.
In "Breakin 2" youíre
dancing on the ceiling which is in the same room they used for "A
Nightmare on Elm Street".
That room was used in the
original Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire and a lot of other films.
What about the rapper Ice T on the set?
was doing his thing and making his name as a rapper. I know he was cutting
music. I think I was kind of a loner in a sense because of my age
difference. A lot of them were a lot older then me when I made the film.
What about the origins of your character's name in "Breakin"?
I was Turbo because I did
everything fast. Shabba-Doo was named Ozone because his character had
airs, he was uppity, dominant, and his ego was so big.
How old were you when you made the first film?
I had just turned 17. That
was a lot of responsibility to pull off a lead part in a film. Not only
did I have to concentrate on pulling off my dance style. I also had to
read my lines. People have always since then referred to me as a
Breakdancer, but after two films and holding my own I crossed over into
There seems to be a difference between the movies.
Thereís a big difference.
Is there one you like better?
I like "Breakin".
I do too. Thereís something about "Breakin 2" thatís a
little too over the top.
To be honest with you they
didnít know how long the dance craze was going to last or what the demand
for that kind of movie was going to be. They were trying to hurry that
script out to capture the audience from the first movie. You can see from
the wardrobe how they made it more glamorous. They got a different
choreographer. It was more of a "Vegas" type of "Carnival Cruise" thing.
Thereís something better about the movie "Breakin" to me.
Itís more true to what was
going on with the Hip Hop movement. I donít knock "Breakin 2" because it
was another job opportunity and another chance to continue being on the
screen. It just goes to show you how someone can exploit Hip Hop. It was
that old saying, "Keeping it real". You could tell they werenít "Keeping
it real", but we didnít have any control over that. We were so green in
Hollywood. You get a movie offer, you keep your mouth shut, and you do it.
To this day Iím glad that we have two of these movies that helped start
the dance movement in Hip Hop.
The title to the second
movie seems known than the movie. Where did the name "Breakin 2: Electric
Boogaloo" come from?
producer David Zito told me that a lot of the film crew which was an
Israeli film crew Golan-Globus/Canon Films. They were talking amongst
themselves because my nickname is Boogaloo Shrimp. They were saying this
guy moves electric. Heís an Electric Boogaloo guy.
So the movie is named after you?
He was saying that they
named it after me. The way I dance.
Youíre very comedic in the film.
Itís exactly how my life
was. It made the acting easy. They made the dialog around how my life was.
They had me do my comedic improvising. Thatís one thing about my
personality if Iím having fun they can capture it on tape. They captured
They captured you.
That was me. You couldnít
There was an electronic music side to the "Breakin"
We were heavily influenced
by groups like Depeche Mode. It was the whole electronic funk thing that
was going on. Whatever was happening in the 1980ís in Hollywood at the
time. It even influenced our wardrobe, the spikes, and the hairdos.
had forgotten about the ear clip too.
You donít hear the electronic funk as much in Hip Hop
anymore. Do they still dance to that?
In certain circles they are.
Hip Hop has definitely changed. It was because of the Gangster Rap thing.
That spawned a lot of the Hip Hop artists that got really known really
fast. Theyíre pushing all of their idealism on America because they can.
Theyíre at the top of their game.
The thing is Hip Hop took a
turn into the Bling Bling. Get your bitches, get your hoís kind of thing.
Thatís not what we were about. That was a bit too militant for America and
it wasnít how we were living. Iím still consistent to the way I was then
in what I project. Iím more neutral.
You didnít grow up with the Gangster thing.
It was one facet of life in
the so called hood, but it didnít represent everybody. For a time people
were just looking for whatís the next thing with Hip Hop. Oh, letís focus
on the Gangster stuff. It was underground. It just sort of weeded itself
into the mainstream like a disease or a fire.
Now everyone wants to go
back to the 1980ís. You look at the TV commercials people are doing the
Robot for DSL. You see it on the Gecko insurance commercials. Itís nice to
see that people are looking into the happier or better side of Hip Hop.
You think it was more of an innocent time?
Exactly, everything was
innocent. We were just having fun listening to music.
In the "Breakin" movies nobodyís shooting each other. Of
course there are Nunchucks in "Breakin 2"
It was a prop used not by
us, but by the other crew. We took it away from them in that scene and
threw them into the trash. There was a message there.
It was more of a "Dance Off"
but surely Iím seeing with the dancing coming back a more uniting, hopeful
outlook on Hip Hop. Hip Hop has had such a negative stigma attached to it
because of the thuggish and gangster stereotypes, and all the problems
that have come from Hip Hop events. No one ever wanted to book the events
in their city. They were like, "Oh no. Itís going to be one of those."
Then you have to check for guns.
With the dance especially
back then everyone was having fun. A lot of the time kids were too busy
working out and too worried about getting fit to do drugs. They were pure,
sober, ready to dance, and have fun.
You think the Meth or drugs has been a bad influence.
You see it in the music
videos. Iím going to smoke when I want to smoke. All that stuff is set in
the minds of young people. These are the images MTV and BET has been
flashing over the years. The young kids are like these are my role models
and this is how I should be. Iím going to be real, real down and real,
real hip. That whole attitude has got a lot of people in trouble. I like
whatís going on now. It seems like a resurgence of the happy times again.
You have "Dancing with the Stars" and "Jam Kids". All these vehicles were
people are doing dance where itís a happier, Hip Hop thing.
Youíre also possibly in production with "Breakin 3:
have nothing to do with that yet. I got a proposal online from someone
saying they have a treatment for "Breakin 3" and would I be interested? I
donít hold my breath on those things. If they give me a money offer or a
script that is decent thatís fine. If everything looks good then Iíll give
it a green light.
I will tell you what I have
been working on with the writer and creator of the movie "Breakin". Weíve
been making appearances at these art cinemas where they screen the movie.
Weíve been traveling around the country with a Q&A thing. Our next one is
supposed to be in Texas.
How did that come about?
We have been working
together since last September. We wanted to reconnect because we noticed
there was a big demand for another film and to see us all working
together. So we said okay lets test the market and see the response. Itís
You also have credits on TVís "Fun House" and "Family
Those are jobs I picked up
after the movie "Breakin". I was a co-announcer for the Fun House. I was
on "Family Matters" or the Steve Urkel show for 4 years. I did the Steve
Urkelbot and I did some stunt work because I was able to mimic his body
movements. I did the part as the robot. I did it as another vehicle to
promote and keep my art out there.
So many people who have seen
that episode said, "Wow, we didnít realize a guy in a suit could move that
well. It took it to another level." The Director told me I didnít know
that by using a Pop Rock dancer it cut a lot of the cost on the effects.
All of the cast were fascinated by me. It wasnít me clowning around or
what an extra would do. I was really pushing my dance style to make it
believable. They brought me back for another one. They kept bringing it
You were also in a Nancy Reagan music video about drugs.
was a very, very big deal. It was the Entertainment Counselís first music
video for Nancy Reagan called "Stop the Madness". It features me with
Heís supposed to be nice.
He was really nice. He said,
"Oh, you need to eat". He had done "Terminator" and I had done "Breakin".
We were both at the top of our game. In the music video thereís tons of
artists that leant their time for this anti-drug video. I was the star of
this Nancy Reagan video and invited to the White House.
Iíd really like that video
to resurface. Itís Nancy Reaganís anti-drug video "Stop the Madness". Iím
Popping in the video, but Iím also playing a character. I have camera time
with Nancy Reagan at the white house. Iím with the girl who played Michael
J. Foxís girlfriend in "Back to the Future". Itís a pretty impressive
Did you do stage stuff too?
We did an off Broadway thing
called, "Jam on the Groove". It had me and some of the guys from "Beat
Street". It was the first Hip Hop musical.
Thereís a creative spark that comes out when you dance.
Michael Jackson and I were
having this conversation from the first day I started working out with him
and teaching him. He asked, "How did you get so good at such a young age?
I practice and have done so many things and worked with so many people and
choreographers. You just have this spark and all these movements. How did
you get so good?"
I told Mike, "We go out
every Friday night. We go out every chance we get. We practice at the
clubs. You have the music blasting, the crowd hype, you want to show off,
and the girls. You have everything there. You go out there and you
improvise. Then the crowd gets hyped. You know that the latest move you
just did was good and you keep it. Michael was like, "Wow, I really wish I
could go out like that. People just donít understand that I canít go out
anywhere without my bodyguards." I was like 14 when he told me that. I
thought, "Wow, thatís so sad. He canít hang out with the fellows at the
club like we do."
People just mob him.
He conveyed that to me. That was a key factor to growing in this art form.
If you were at a club and you had that brassy music and the audience
there. You can just be out there free to express yourself. A lot of
creativity came out of that.
The thing is I got out of
that once I became a celebrity and became known for a specific style. The
problem was people were starting to go to the clubs knowing you would go
there to work out. Theyíd start taking their little super 8 or digital
cameras and videotaping you and your moves. The next thing you know
theyíre using your stuff that you havenít even put out yet.
Theyíre still doing it to
this day. They go out to clubs and find these people willing to dance and
show all their great stuff. Theyíre paid choreographers theyíre going to
go out their and videotape and just check it out. Theyíll use certain
movements and then it becomes thereís.
I learned at an early age to
stay away from the Hollywood scene and practice at the most remote places
where people didnít know me. I would be somewhere in the desert or at a
Karaoke bar. There was nobody there that was a threat to my career.
You were able to stay away from drugs.
was easy for me to realize because I was so young. A lot of my friends I
wonít name in any names. A lot of people go down because of drugs and too
much partying. All I wanted to do was have fun, but yet still be
professional. I donít want to end up being just another unemployed African
American male partying his life away.
I see these guys who have a
big opportunity to make a difference and be respected in this world.
Theyíre flaunting how much jewelry they have and chasing women. My father
was a military man so I wanted to be a little more respectable. I didnít
pursue that. I was just trying to pursue a professional career. Itís been
a difficult road. I wouldn't compromise myself and portray certain things
people wanted. Iím the way that I am. For many years I focused on putting
the best work out I could as a dancer. I started getting into music.
You sing too.
After being on tour for 9
months with Lionel Richie and the Pointer Sisters and the whole musical
environment I was influenced by them.
Did Michael Jackson have big parties?
Everything was professional.
Weíd work out together.
Who else have you touched base with celebrity wise?
Thereís Tony Curtis, Diana
Ross, and Madonna. I met almost everyone who was popular in the 1980ís. In
Hollywood at that time I was unique in their crowd I was unique in and of
myself. They thought this is the guy.
Did that open up clubs that were over 21?
was part of that group of kids who were underage and allowed into their
clubs. We lost a lot of great artists because of that. The hottest clubs
in Hollywood I was there. The good thing is thereís no way I could have
been on any substance to pull off the dance moves I did. I would have
spontaneously combusted. Everybody invited me into the clubs because they
knew I was going to rip it up that night. That was a workout.
The 1980ís are seeing a resurgence.
I see a lot of my
contemporaries that started off with me getting a second chance at their
careers. Iím trying to grasp this whole wave of people from the 1980ís who
are being given a second chance. I want to get out there and be visible.
I want people to know I
wasnít just a dancer. Iíve accumulated all these other talents along the
way. Iíll always dance. Itíll always be part of my heart. I know this is a
very good time to showcase my acting career.
Growing up who did you have a retroCRUSH on?
When I was growing up I
always liked Wonder Woman. That was the play list that they had on
television. Youíd watch "The Bionic Woman", "Wonder Woman", "The
Incredible Hulk", and "The Six Million Dollar Man".
We were backstage at Lionel
Richieís concert. Lionel was at the top of his game. Youíd come up the
stage in the green room and thereís Rod Steward, Stevie Nicks, and there
was Prince. All these people were back there. Iím sitting there and boom.
Next thing I know sheís back there, Lynda Carter. She walks up to me. Oh
my God. I was speechless. I didnít know what to say to her. I said, "Hi".
She looked like a 7 foot tall Goddess Amazon woman. She was just
beautiful. That picture of the dark hair, the blue eyes, and the nice firm
body. She was definitely the one I had a crush on.
How to tell if someone is on drugs.
Check out Michael's official website at: