Kicking It In Harlem With Taimak: The Last Dragon

eartha and aimakBy Eartha Watts-Hicks

The year was 1986, and the movie Berry Gordy presents The Last Dragon was nothing short of a phenomenon. Highly anticipated, it blended the worlds of film, music, radio, and television with its incredible movie soundtrack and music videos, featuring Vanity and DeBarge, among others.

At the center of all the hype was the incredibly handsome Taimak Guarriello, the son of an African-American mother and Italian father. A 19 year old, who just the year before, won the New York State Kickboxing Championship, found himself propelled to celebrity and immediate fanfare. On Monday, June 27th, 2016, Harlem World Magazine celebrated the book release. The event, hosted by Musa Jackson, packed family and fans into the swank Sushi bar, Little Bamboo, just north of 116th Street, at 175 Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY.

Here is my exclusive interview with Taimak:

Eartha Watts Hicks: First, let me say, Taimak: The Last Dragon, an autobiography, is an amazing story, so open and revealing. And this writing is amazing! Did you work with a cowriter?

Taimak Guarriello: Thank you! And no cowriter. I wrote it all myself and I did have the help of an editor. Before writing this, I had written several screenplays.

EWH: How long did the process take and what was that like?

TG: From inception of the idea, it took two years. It actually took me 18 months to write the book. And when I would hit a wall and was blocked, that’s when my editor would step in to get the process going again. There were points where I didn’t know what was important to readers and what parts of my story they wanted to know. My editor would ask me questions that compelled me to remember those parts of my life that I had forgotten.

EWH: What was it like becoming an overnight sensation and being considered a heart-throb?

TG: It was a difficult adjustment and very exciting at the same time. All the attention was almost overwhelming. I was 19 years old, and as a kid you just want to have fun, fun, and more fun. I loved it. I wanted more, more, more. But when I needed to take a step back and regroup, I trained. My martial arts training helped keep me grounded.

EWH: What was it like meeting and working with Vanity, Berry Gordy and all the other celebrities during that time?

TG: Back then it was great and now it’s sad, because we lost them, Leo O’Brien (who played my little brother in the film), Denise Watkins (Vanity), and so many others. They were great people and they still had so much in them to offer. That part of it now saddens me.

EWH: What compelled you to share your life story?

TG: I’ve been through so much, learned so much; I wanted to share that knowledge. I wanted people to get something from my story, so that it could help them. People have a way of believing the person is the character. And that movie’s character was made up in 1985. I wanted to give people a chance to get to know me, some of the things I have achieved since, and I wanted to give back with some authenticity.

EWH: From martial artist to actor, choreographer, director, and motivational speaker, how do these separate roles carry over, and is there any cross-benefit?

TG: As far as the acting, I had intense training. I studied under Milton Katselas, who also trained Richard Lawson and Jeffrey Tambor. And I studied the martial arts as a child, and that has given me discipline. So when I approached other endesvors, I focus on one at a time. And I’m organized. Staying focused, I return back to the project and keep working at it until it’s done. I’ll tell anybody, if you are creative person, you need to do something creative everyday. Every day, I do something creative. And if a person is to be an actor or director, to be a productive, you have to be able to take on that leadership role and be a good leader, because the actors need to trust you.

EWH: Do you have any creative passions or hobbies that we don’t know about?

TG: Yes I’m great with my hands. I laid the marble flooring in my home.  I also do carpentry. I’m pretty much a handyman. And then as a kid, having spent part of my childhood in Europe, I play soccer very well.

EWH: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

TG: Yes! Readers please feel free to connect with me across all social media @IAmTaimak.

Eartha Watts-Hicks, is new Editor-in-Chief of Harlem World Magazine, author of the book Love Changes, and member of the Harlem Writes Guild.

Be sure to purchase Taimak’s book on Amazon and leave a review.

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