In an earlier post, I went with a "Before They Were Stars" theme for a few of the video links. Well, those videos got me so nostalgic, I started thinking back to the dawn of the Breakdancing Era -- where nylon warm-up suits became high fashion, guys who could contort their bodies in noodle-like shapes became icons, and the turntable miraculously extended its own usefulness by another ten years by becoming, of all things, an instrument. Make no mistake, breakdancing was quite the rage, even if I did live in a predominantly white suburb where there were only two kids in the whole school who could moonwalk without tearing a hamstring. In fact, I think we had three kids die trying to do the Centipede at the Homecoming Dance my sophomore year, but I digress.
Indeed, our thirst for all things breakdancing was insatiable back in the 80's, not unlike our thirst for a young Justine Bateman or even a 20-something Lisa Whelchel. And it was the "You Can Breakdance, Too, Whitey!!" commercials that gave us suburban folk hope -- hope that we could overcome our honkiness and our God-given physical rigidity to learn how to breakdance merely by watching a VHS tape or reading a book. Before Tom Emanski and Fred McGriff were teaching every Chip, Neil, and Vinny how to field ground balls by popping in a video tape, Mark Vincent (who would go on to become Vin Diesel!) and Alfonso Ribeiro (who would go on to become Carlton on "Fresh Prince"!) took a generation of suburban whiteys under their wings and tried to teach us how to break and pop without maiming ourselves. The results were mixed at best, but thanks to Youtube the legendary commercials live on.
So which 80's breakdancing commercial do you favor? A young Mark Vincent, a/k/a Vin Diesel?
Or "Breakin' and Poppin'" with Alfonso Riberio, a/k/a Carlton from "Fresh Prince of Bel Air"?
Now, if I'm not mistaken, these videos came out before white people were actually allowed to breakdance. Many of you will forget that until the late 1980's, much like baseball segregation earlier in the 1900's, white people were banished to dancing events of our own. Instead of breakdancing with our African American friends, we white folk were forced to gather in our friends' basements and jump up and down to Journey or AC-DC while biting our lower lips and drinking keg beer. However, let's pretend that in 1985 we were all equals and allowed to breakdance publicly. Which breakin' commercial makes you want to become Luke Moonwalker? Diesel or Ribeiro?
Let's assess this one, point by point:
ATTIRE: Diesel is styling and ready to go rip up some pavement. He goes with the blue warm-up and stylish headband, a breakdancing staple back in the 80's. Alfonso goes with the Michael Jackson "Beat It" red leather jacket, a cross-dressing staple back in the 80's. EDGE: DIESEL.
TANGIBLE PROOF OF SKILLS: When you invest $19.99 (or "less than $20!" according to mathematician Ribeiro) in your breakdancing educational materials, you'd like to be inspired by the pitchman and know that he can actually execute some of the maneuvers he touts as being central to the learning process. Diesel is very clearly performing some of the difficult ground moves as well as the upright, hand gesture thingy moves; you can actually see his face and know it's him. Conversely, it is very difficult to discern on Ribeiro's video if that is actually him breakdancing or if it's a stunt double. The dude doing the windmill is like 6'-4", so it's quite possible it's the same stunt double that performed the football scenes for a young Forrest Whitaker in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". I'd like to think it was Ribeiro, but knowing how white he became as Carlton in the 1990's, my doubt is justified. EDGE: DIESEL.
BACKGROUND MUSIC: Diesel goes with a standard Curtis Blow joint, complete with numerous references to "Sucka MC's". I always wanted to be a Sucka MC, but sadly I'll never get that chance. Blow even slipped a "Sheila E" reference in there, which was nice. Ribeiro has generic beats going in the background of the commercial, but the promise of the 2-album superset RAP ATTACK is a genius tease that leaves us wanting more. EDGE: RIBEIRO.
PRESENTATION: This is clearly where Ribeiro excels, as his zippy graphics depicting the words "moonwalk" and "centipede" make me not only want to breakdance like it's 1985, but they make me want to sell my car and use these maneuvers for getting around town. Diesel's graphics make me feel like I'm watching an interruption by the Emergency Broadcast System. Also, the homoerotic overtones of Diesel's partner doing the worm through Diesel's legs are disturbing, to say the least. EDGE: RIBEIRO.
EXTRAS: Ribeiro, ever the marketing genius, effectively trounces Diesel in sheer quantity of superfluous material. While Diesel's commercial looks solid enough, how can he really expect to compete with a the sizzle of a Breakin' Board, an instructional poster, and a detailed book? The RAP ATTACK double album is effectively Ribeiro running up the score with garbage touchdowns. However, MAJOR negative points to Ribeiro for catering to parents by saying that his system is the "safe way to break and pop, not the things you shouldn't try". Fuck you and your gay Michael Jackson jacket, Alfonso!! I WANT to do the dangerous shit!!! Teach me the dangerous shit, DAMMIT!!! NOW!!!! EDGE: EVEN.
SUMMARY: Ribeiro's overall package looks like it is better equipped to teach me to break and pop, but knowing what I know now, I'm so afraid Vin Diesel would kick my ass, I'd probably buy his stuff just to stay out of the hospital.
VERDICT: BREAKDANCING SUCKS