Marshele Lee was nervous until she saw Coolio. She was too excited to be nervous after that.
By John Berger
Eight-year-old Jasmine Perri had tagged along with her mother and big sister but thought the dance routine looked like fun and decided to go for it. Liana Green was asked if she could dance hula to rap music -- and of course she could. Jeanne Thurston wasn't happy with her audition ("I can dance better than that"), but the casting directors evidently liked what they saw.
Thurston, Lee, Perri and Green were representative of the crowd that turned out at the World Cafe Wednesday to audition for Coolio's "Ghetto Square Dance" music video. Coolio and producer/directors Chris Palzis and Erik Fleming will shoot it at the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park tomorrow and Sunday.
The production schedule includes a Coolio concert tomorrow afternoon at 3.
Palzis, Fleming and assistant director Dan Murray welcomed first-timers like Lee. Palzis said he was looking for people different from the stock types seen in rap videos.
"We want to transcend the demographics of ordinary rap and show off the beauty of Hawaii and the diversity of the people who live here," he said. Instead of going for a generic collection of booty-shaking thong models, he and his team were looking for keiki, hula dancers, "island warrior types," plus-size people of both sexes and senior citizens with dancing ability.
The "Ghetto Square Dance" video will show Coolio coming to Hawaii, taking over the water park sound system and teaching visitors to do the new dance.
The rapper explained that "Ghetto Square Dance" will be the lead song and first video off his upcoming album, "COOLIO.COM," and that the album will feature guest spots by Kenny Rogers and Krayzie Bone.
Coolio also plans to present 15 computers to the winning school in his "How Cool Is Your School?" essay contest, co-sponsored by Xtreme Radio. The contest is part of his campaign to promote computer literacy and encourage kids to see academics as cool, not wonky.
All this is happening in Honolulu because Coolio's next movie, "Tyrone," was written and directed by Palzis, a local boy and Punahou graduate, who wanted the video to promote Hawaii as well as the new album.
In "Tyrone" Coolio plays triplets -- one of them female.
"It was funny being a girl," Coolio says. "I had to shave my mustache off. I've had a mustache since I was 16, and that killed me. It was trippy. In fact, that was the hardest part. A sacrifice for the art, pretty much."
The indie film is a dream project for Palzis. He obtained financing with help from some friends from his college days at USC. His next big step: national distribution. He hopes to premiere the film here.
"We're definitely going to piggyback the movie on the release of his album since he's got music from his album in our film," Palzis says. Coolio launches his "COOLIO.COM" tour in May.
Palzis describes "Tyrone" as a quirky comedy about two guys who accidentally kill a gangster on the way to Mardi Gras.
"It's a comedy about what happens when two irresponsible kids who are speeding kill this guy. His friends want payback. The local sheriff wants them to work undercover to take down the gang. The townsfolk want to make heroes of them, and they just want to get out and go to Mardi Gras. It's a real coming-of-age film about a kid who's ... never been in a fight and emerges from this a man."
Palzis, 32, left Hawaii to attend USC in '86. He checked out the Los Angeles film scene and soon realized he would have to make his own breaks.
"As a laborer there is only so far you can progress up the ranks without just getting lost in the process of working for somebody else. To make the leap into the director's seat, I was going to have to go home and write half-a-dozen scripts before I'd get interest in one of them."
Palzis came home in '92 and wrote screenplays while making a living as a personal trainer. When he got a serious nibble on one of his projects, he returned to Los Angeles.
"No one's ever gonna give you your break. You just gotta make it. I wrote this script and found people to get behind it, and that's how we were able to pull it off."
Breaks and dreams were what it was all about at World Cafe. Thurston, Lee, Perri and Green all made the cut, as did 11-year-old Ashley Goto, an 11-year-old veteran of the Take 2 music and drama program at Aikahi Elementary.
"I've never auditioned for anything like this before," Ashley said, "but dancing's fun and Coolio's cool!"
In concert: 3 p.m. tomorrow
Place: Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park
Admission: $20 ($15 for 11 and younger; pre-sale tickets available at Wireless Paradise, 320 Ward Ave., Suite 111.
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