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Adolfo Quiñones, the admired actor, dancer and choreographer known as Shabba-Doo who specialized in the art of locking and portrayed the street artist Ozone in the two Breakin’ movies of the 1980s, has died. He was 65.
Dubbed “hip-hop’s first matinee idol” by Dance Magazine, Quiñones died late Tuesday night at his home in Los Angeles. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, his publicist, Biff Warren, noted that the dancer had tested negative for COVID-19, but “the next day he’s dead. It opens up all kinds of questions.”
Raised in a housing project in Chicago, Quinones was a founding member of the famed street-dance troupe The Lockers, and he appeared with other members including Fred Berry (Rerun from What’s Happening!!) and Toni Basil on Saturday Night Live in 1975.
Later, he performed as a member of the Soul Train Gang on television and in Bette! Divine Madness on Broadway.
Quiñones toured with Madonna as her primary dancer on her “Who’s That Girl?” trek in 1987 and served as her choreographer on several of her videos. He also worked alongside Lionel Richie and Luther Vandross and choreographed Three 6 Mafia’s performance at the 2006 Academy Awards. That night, the group famously won the Oscar for best original song for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”
After being accepted as a directing fellow at the American Film Institute — he didn’t have the required bachelor’s degree but got in with credit for his dance career — Quiñones helmed and co-wrote the musical Rave, Dancing to a Different Beat (1993), released by New Line Cinema. He also wrote, directed and appeared in 2017 documentary The Kings of Crenshaw, the title of his memoir that was published last year.
Quiñones starred opposite Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers as Turbo in Cannon Films’ Breakin’ (1984), then returned as Ozone in Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984).
“Breakin’ was more than just a dance film, it launched a cultural revolution,” he said in a 2014 interview. “In that way, there is no other feeling quite like it. … I knew it was going to be a hit.”
Adolfo Gordon Quiñones’ father was Puerto Rican and his mother was African American. “When I was three or four years old, I used to dance for my family at parties and holidays for change,” he said. “I grew up in a mixed household … so I would listen to James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Tito Puente, all in the same moment.”
His early influences ranged from Cab Calloway, Fred Astaire and Ray Bolger to James Brown and Jackie Wilson.
After his mother brought him and his sister, Fawn, to Los Angeles, Quiñones was dancing in clubs around the Crenshaw strip when he changed his street dance name from Sir Lance-a-Lock to Shabba-Dabba-Do-Bop, eventually shortened to Shabba-Doo at the suggestion of Greg “Campbellock Jr.” Pope.
With The Lockers, he opened for Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall and presented an award at the Grammys with Franklin.
Quiñones also appeared in such films as Xanadu (1980), Tango & Cash (1989), Lambada (1990) and choreographed the 2007 film Kickin’ It Old Skool, starring Jamie Kennedy and Maria Menounos. He had worked with Kennedy on the 2006 MTV series Blowin’ Up.
Survivors include his sister, a daughter and a son.
Asked in the 2014 interview what was the biggest lesson he had learned, Quiñones replied: “If I could tell anyone out there one thing, it’s that working on your craft is great, having the desire is great, passion is great, but the match that ignites it all is education. Go to school, know your craft, know how it works and be in control of your destiny.”
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