Andre Guilty, a former rapper from Long Island, talks about his film "The Last B-Boy 1979: The Roosevelt Roller Rink." Newsday's Rafer Guzmán has the story. Credit: Newsday/Chris Ware, Thomas A. Ferrara

Two break-dancers, one in a white tracksuit, the other wearing all black, faced off for a battle at a Long Island roller rink on a recent weekday afternoon. While a thumping bass track boomed and a crowd gathered to watch, the guy in white showed off some fancy footwork while the one in black executed an impressive windmill, legs whirling in the air. From the sidelines came some heckling: “You gonna let him do that to you? Don’t let him do that to you!”

Suddenly, an interloper — a man on roller skates with a rainbow-striped Afro — pushed his way between the dancers. “Yo, man,” he scoffed. “You ain’t fly!” And within seconds, an army of disco skaters took over the floor.

It was a scene straight out of the late 1970s, when the disco craze was morphing into a new style of music and fashion called hip-hop. But these dancers were hired actors, and that heckler was a film director named Andre Guilty. Accompanied by a bare-bones production crew, they had gathered at the United Skates of America in Seaford to film Guilty’s latest feature, a nostalgic teen comedy titled “The Last B-Boy 1979: The Roosevelt Roller Rink.”

ROLLER RINK IS A HIP-HOP LANDMARK

Terry Davis of the Bronx performs on set at Seaford's United...

Terry Davis of the Bronx performs on set at Seaford's United Skates of America, where Andre Guilty was shooting "The Last B-Boy 1979: The Roosevelt Roller Rink" in February. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Timed to this year’s 50th anniversary of hip-hop — a music famously born in the Bronx before spreading to Long Island, California and across the world — the film is a cinematic love letter to the Roosevelt Roller Rink, which Guilty describes as a forgotten mile marker in hip-hop history. At a time when rap was often shunned by the white musical establishment, local rinks from Roosevelt to Commack to Levittown became places where fans could hear the latest tracks and sometimes catch live performances. Guilty points to old flyers as proof that the Roosevelt rink hosted such groundbreaking rap artists as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Wizzard] Theodore and DJ Frankie Crocker.

“All the founding fathers were in Roosevelt in '78,'79, and that got to everyone else in Roosevelt,” Guilty said. “The spirits were right here with us.”

The rink opened at 371 Nassau Rd. on Nov. 2, 1978, the brainchild of three local men who also coached youth football. “We viewed our project from the points of what the community needed and what could expectably be good business,” co-owner George W. Jones, a postal service employee, told Newsday shortly after the opening. When the rink closed isn’t clear, but Guilty estimated it was sometime in the early 1980s. The former site is now the beginning of Valdur Court, a housing development.

MEET ANDRE GUILTY

Andre Guilty shoots his movie at Seaford's United Skates of...

Andre Guilty shoots his movie at Seaford's United Skates of America in February. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Guilty, 57, is a Roosevelt native and former rapper who still goes by his stage name, Andreaus13. In the early 1990s, Guilty transformed himself into an independent journalist and began producing a local cable access show that appealed to Long Island’s underserved Black community. Now titled “The African American News,” it airs Fridays at 9 a.m. on Optimum Channel 20.

Guilty recently branched into filmmaking, producing the homegrown features “Channel Zero,” which he describes as “a Black ‘Twilight Zone,’ ” and the horror-western “Cowboys and Werewolves.” The idea for his latest film came, he said, while musing about Roosevelt’s many famous sons, from the rap group Public Enemy to the sibling comedians Eddie and Charlie Murphy. Guilty wondered: What was the common denominator?

“It was the Roosevelt Roller Rink,” he concluded. Guilty also credits the Police Athletic League, the 4H Club and the Roosevelt Youth Center — where a teenage Eddie Murphy made his stage debut as a talent-show MC — for creating a supportive community. “We had a nurturing environment,” he said. “When you had the roller rink added to that, with the entertainment element, it was almost like a Disney World. It was just a magical place.”

Actors on set at Seaford's United Skates of America in...

Actors on set at Seaford's United Skates of America in February. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

HOW FLAVOR FLAV HELPED

Rapper Flavor Flav lent a hand to Andre Guilty's movie.

Rapper Flavor Flav lent a hand to Andre Guilty's movie. Credit: Getty Images On Location / Rich Polk

To find his actors, Guilty posted a casting call on the website Backstage. He also spread the word through his Facebook page — a repost from Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav helped, he said — and called up old friends.

“We go back, what, probably about 40 years?” said Roderick Chillous, 64, who grew up in Roosevelt and agreed to be in Guilty’s film. A lifelong karate practitioner who toured with Public Enemy as part of its security team — known as the S1Ws — Chillous showed up at the Roosevelt Youth Center on a brisk February morning to don a red gi and demonstrate his martial-arts skills for the camera. He wasn’t quite sure what his role was — “I’m trying to find out,” Chillous said with a laugh — but he seemed willing to contribute to any project that paid tribute to his old neighborhood.

“Everybody knew about this place,” he said of the Youth Center. “Parties was here, shows was here, karate was here. Anything you can name is right here in this community.”

Another star of the film is WBLS DJ Chuck Chillout, who plays a roller rink owner. “That was the spot to come meet everybody and to have a good time,” Chillout said. For DJs in the early '80s, he added, playing a popular rink was a mark of achievement. “It was hard to get in them skating rinks. You had to have a name back then.”

SKATING TEACHER GETS INVOLVED

Harry R. Gaskin Jr. of Freeport, a dancer, roller skater...

Harry R. Gaskin Jr. of Freeport, a dancer, roller skater and choreographer, on set at United Skates of America. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

For skating expertise, Guilty tapped Harry R. Gaskin Jr., a nimble 70-year-old skating teacher and competitive skate dancer who can still do splits on command. Gaskin said he was hanging out at United Skates one day when he heard that Guilty was there to scout out the venue as a location. As a man who’s been on wheels since skating’s heyday in the late 1970s, Gaskin felt he had something to contribute.

“You know, we was part of that scene,” Gaskin said. “The roller skaters was part of the rappers and the breakers. We supposed to be here, too.” Gaskin wound up serving as a choreographer; he also plays the cocky skater with the rainbow Afro.

Filmmaker Andre Guilty, second from left,with cinematographer Shawn Davis of Freeport; rapper-actor...

Filmmaker Andre Guilty, second from left,with cinematographer Shawn Davis of Freeport; rapper-actor Red Heffner of Roosevelt; and rapper-actor Patrick Broadnax of Roosevelt. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Guilty will reveal only so much about the production or even the plot of his film. He said his screenplay centers on a group of high school kids, an aspiring rapper (modeled on a young Kurtis Blow) and a climactic break-dance contest, but he prefers to keep other details “under wraps.” Guilty said he shot the film on his own dime with his own video equipment, while additional funds and equipment came from Guilty’s former Roosevelt High School classmate Patrick Broadnax, a professional DJ known as PNAX. Both declined to put a figure on the film’s budget.

“Whatever the movie needed to get done,” said Broadnax, “we pretty much pulled that out of our pockets.”

Principal photography for “The Last B-Boy 1979: The Roosevelt Roller Rink” wrapped up in late March. Guilty estimates the film could be ready for a first viewing in the summer.

“They tell the story of the founding fathers coming out and creating this genre in the Bronx,” Guilty said. “But they don’t tell you that they all were here when they started it, right here at the Roosevelt Roller Rink.”

FIVE CLASSIC HIP-HOP MOVIES

  1. As hip-hop came of age in the 1980s, it inevitably found its way onto the big screen. Here are five classic hip-hop films from the decade:

Wild Style (1982) Charlie Ahearn’s loosely scripted feature is widely considered the most authentic portrait of New York’s early hip-hop culture, partly because so many authentic figures are in it, including DJ Fab 5 Freddy, the rap crew Cold Crush Brothers, Grandmaster Flash, early adopter Debbie Harry and graffiti artist Lee Quiñones.

Beat Street (1984) This teen flick about a budding DJ (Guy Davis) and a music composer (Rae Dawn Chong) may be the Hollywood version of hip-hop, but it arguably helped export the culture to suburban America and around the world. Notable artists in the film include Doug E. Fresh, Afrika Bambaataa, the astonishing break-dancer Crazy Legs and the pioneering DJ Kool Herc.

Breakin’ (1984) It’s the movie hip-hop fans love to hate, a post-“Flashdance” cash-in whose cornball story (respectable young dancer discovers Los Angeles street culture) is the price you must pay to watch several top-notch break-dance scenes. The film also helped highlight Latinos in hip-hop thanks its star dancer, Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quiñones.

Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) This fast-to-market sequel, released seven months after the first film, reunited the main cast but fizzled at the box office. Today it's best known for its unfortunate appropriation by the extremist Boogaloo Boys, though at the time it found a fan in Roger Ebert, who wrote, “it’s inexhaustible, entertaining, and may turn out to be influential.”

Krush Groove (1985) Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, Kurtis Blow, Beastie Boys, producer Rick Rubin and many others play themselves in this thinly-disguised history of the Def Jam Recordings label, here called Krush Groove and founded by Blair Underwood as Russell Walker (a stand-in for real-life label honcho Russell Simmons). Uneven and unconvincing, but a valuable time-capsule. -- RAFER GUZMAN

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