15 Minutes – Moving to a different beat
May 26, 2003
Name: Cooley Jackson
Birthdate: July 23, 1961. I am 41-years-old.
Occupation: A dancer, singer, computer specialist at Staples and a videographer.
Family: I have four children; Trainie, 21, Derek, 12, Tyler, 11, and Jenna, 9.
What brought you to Lake Tahoe? About six years ago I was in a show called “Tap Girls,” which was at Harveys. There was an act in the show where I did a stand-up comedy and break dance routine. I then went on to do a show called “Dancing Through the Decades” where I chronicled in dance the dance genres from the 1920s to the 1990s. Each decade I would come on stage with a new costume.
After the shows ended, then what happened? Well, I decided to stay. Southern California is really a fast-paced place, and Tahoe is just the opposite. There are shows here to do if I want to do shows. But I just kind of fell for the lifestyle here.
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We’re told that you are one of a handful of break dance pioneers. How did you get you start? I started dancing when I was in high school. I thought it would be a good way to meet people and to go places and to stay out of trouble. From high school and through college I entered dance contests and kept winning them. I then got on with the TV show “Soul Train.” After that I became a regular dancer on “Solid Gold” and on on the TV show “Fame.”
So, break dancing was introduce by you on “Solid Gold”? Yes. Well, sort of. It was a variation of a tap dance and a mime move. “Solid Gold” is where it became recognized as a move. But it wasn’t until Michael Jackson brought it into his performances, though, that it became what it is today.
What did Jackson specifically do that caught on? Well, it was the Moonwalk, and it was something that I taught him how to do after he saw me on “Solid Gold.”
You taught Michael Jackson to Moonwalk? How did that happen? As a “Solid Gold” dancer we gained the reputation of being the best dancers in the business. Right after “Thriller” was released he called me and my friend Casper and told us he’d pay us $1,000 each if we could teach him to Moonwalk for the Motown 25th anniversary special. We met for five days in a West Covina studio. The first two days all we did was show him the move, and on the last three days, he practiced the move.
So did he get it right? That night of his performance is when the world saw the Moonwalk and that break dancing became a culturally acceptable art form. The thing is, he was angry at himself afterward for not getting it entirely right that night.
Has dancing taken a toll on your body? Not at all. I’ve actually remained in good shape since those days, even if I’ve grown an inch around my waist.
And do you still do performances? Yes. The last one was at the Luxor in Vegas called “Midnight Fantasy.” Right now I’m focusing on teaching kids to dance in the studio and making videos about how to dance.
You mentioned you’re a videographer: Yes, I do weddings and events. It’s fun and I get to work on my skills shooting at different angles and what makes for good angles.
And you’re a computer specialist at Staples, how did that happen? A few years ago I wanted to learn how a computer worked and so I bought one and took it apart, learning everything I needed to know about what makes it operate. And then I put it back together. From then on I’ve learned more about computers, how they work and if there is something wrong with them, how to fix them.
So you’re self-taught? Yes. I now have about 80 customers.
What do you think of the TV shows like “American Idol” and the new “Fame”? Is the talent show coming back? I really like them and I’m really glad they’re being revitalized. It shows the kids out there that people their age are out there trying to achieve their dreams.
What’s been your guiding philosophy? Stick and stay and make it pay.
What does this mean? Whether it’s dancing or martial arts or anything else I do, I’ve learned that you have to stay with it, no matter how hard, in order for you to succeed.
What is your advice to young people? If you have a dream, stay with it and don’t give up. It will pay off.