30th Anniversary of Beat Street

FixedBeatCoverThere’s another big celebration for Beat Street this week, and the organizer actually invited me and said they’d be honored to have my attendance. Sha Rock is giving the opening address for the festivities that include two screenings over the day. Beat Street was actually my original idea and something I’d been trying to sell to a variety of production companies. Unfortunately, my story (which was based on facts) got hacked to death and nothing but the characters’ names survived. They even took the small cameo I arranged for Phase 2 out of the final edit because someone decided Phase didn’t have anything to do with creating hip hop. I guess that was Harry’s call. It was strange to see what happened after hip hop became big money, sort of like what’s happening right now with cannabis.
I put the original script on Smashwords, and still hold out hope someone will come along one day and produce the real story with my original title and script. Just to give you an idea of how different it was to what came out in the film, here’s the opening scene. A fledgling rap group has shown up at their sponsor’s house, only to discover another crew is messing with their equipment. Check it out, and if you like it, you can pick up my original script on Amazon.


My homage to Samo in Beat Street

Just a curious question that recently dawned on me after watching the Basquiat film. Seeing that you were the original writer of “Beat Street,” was the Ramo character a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Jean-Michel and his SAMO moniker? If so, what a prophetic ending! –James

Great question, James. I don’t know how I came up with the name Ramon, I knew I had to switch up all the names and was looking for something original that had style. In my original script, a central character catching on fire in a subway tunnel was named Ramon, and his tag was DJ Ramo. In dropping the “n,” I must have been thinking about Jean-Michel’s tag, Samo. So I guess it is sort of a nod in his direction. The climax in my script involved Ramon catching on fire in a subway tunnel. It was a depiction of what happened to Ali when he was painting one night with Futura 2000. A spark by a passing train set off a can of spray-paint whose nozzle was hissing. Ali was covered by flaming paint and barely survived. While in the hospital, he gave a famous interview to the New York Times about the dangers of graffiti writing. In embellishing his story, he claimed to have been abandoned by Futura while on flames. Futura actually put out the fire and took him to the emergency room. After the story was printed, however, no one would believe Futura’s version and he was forced to join the Navy to get a ticket out of town for a few years. My original script was called Looking for the Perfect Beat and was very, very different from what eventually came out. In fact, the main characters’ names was almost all that survived. Someday, maybe Looking for the Perfect Beat will actually get produced. I put the entire original script on Smashwords and Amazon for $2.99.