As I’ve said many times over the decades going to Paris to do the ‘Still a Thrill’ video in 1987 the only person I thought of to me in it with me was Tyrone Proctor. The invitation for him to be in it with me was my small way of thanking Tyrone for inspiring me and for teaching me how to ‘live’ and serve attitude in front of the camera as a teenager on TV …. how to ‘bring it’ at all times.
Tyrone Proctor & Sharon Hill Tribute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKwc_V0BKMQ
Initially a fan of Philadelphia native Tyrone, who one of the most popular on the show, before our lives would intersect. Tyrone is an integral figure of my life not as an every day friend who I talked to on the phone often but a special part of my life as a performer. An original Soul Train Gang dancer often featured in the black teen music magazine Right On! he was a dance star. Tyrone was dynamic, dramatic with a style that stood out. He was given the nickname “The Bone” by Don Cornelius because Tyrone was so thin.
Before coming to California to live with my Mom it was one of my dreams to meet Tyrone and The Soul Train Gang and of course get on the show myself. I’ll never forget seeing Tyrone walking down Santa Rosalia Blvd. near the Crenshaw strip in an area of Los Angeles called “The Jungle” at the time. Recognizing him from TV and immediately imploring my Mom to “Stop the car, that’s Tyrone Procter from Soul Train!” This is like a movie thinking back on it. Tyrone was a bit startled but still friendly once I hopped out of the car and approached him with my soft Midwest drawl introduced myself. Letting him know I’d just moved to Los Angeles, asking how can I get get on Soul Train .. Tyrone was patient and friendly in that moment. He scribbled down his number – subsequently something we’d end up laughing about as our lives eventually did come together – Tyrone had given me a non working wrong number .. fate and destiny got me there anyway and we’d be forever linked. Tyrone and I would become friends. I reintroduced myself once I did make it to a Soul Train taping. Tyrone remembered meeting me on the street a few months before – he knew the young man, Bobby Washington who had eventually brought me on – I’d met him at church when Bobby asked me though he didn’t know me but thought I had style and his partner was out of town-fate. So many fun and memorable stories and moments race through my mind today going back to my youth and decades since with Tyrone.
Rewinding back to Soul Train where he was an original on the show, this has stayed with me throughout my career as an artist, it was in me but Tyrone knew how to really push me to bring the best. He always made people laugh with his Tyrone-isms. It was Tyrone that prompted me to dance in heels. “Miss Thing – you need to be in heels!” .. and so I was werking the show in heels most often. Tyrone developed a nickname for me back then “Miss Waddle-lips” – only he could call me that. Tyrone had names for all of us, Sharon was affectionately and playfully called his wife and the most beautiful black woman in the world in his eyes.
We had a dance group at one point called “The Outrageous Waack Dancers” profiled in Ebony Magazine at the time.. waacking was a west coast style of dance to the east coasts voguing. Tyrone helped bring the dance from the under ground black and Latino gay clubs to the show – a dance style that was originally to disco music with strings, horns and accents for days and about your dance movements and attitude showing and making people ‘see’ the music. The term ‘waacking’ was coined by those early waacking pioneers Tyrone speaks of as his mentors.
In “Still A Thrill” we waacked, posed, sashayed and twirled all in the Paris Opera House including those iconic stairs making it up as we went along-I’d dressed us in Gaultier, Tyrone was so down and then off we went through the streets, just vibing late into the night on the two day shoot – no rehearsal or choreography we just ‘lived’ in the music that’s what makes it even more special. On many of my takes when the director Brian Grant called “Action” Tyrone would be hollering over the music “Werk Goddammit – you ain’t werking – Yess Miss Jody WeRK! Give me More Miss Thing!!” Lol that was Tyrone, he made you want to be all kinds of fierce. We had the best time in Paris.. a long way from that day on Santa Rosalia Blvd and the set on Soul Train.
A memory that always makes me laugh is he had his beloved dance partner and best friend Sharon Hill as he was twirling her with so much energy and dynamics, Sharon’s pony tail flew off in the middle of a routine in a dance contest. Tyrone kicked it across the floor on beat as if it were in the routine, that ponytail slid across the dance floor like a prop-they were serving so hard everyone loved the theater of it all. We all laughed about it after. Tyrone was the one I called upon when I wanted authentic club kids, transgender, voguers/waackers, a diverse mix of the underground scene for my “Friends” video in 1989 filmed in NYC, he basically cast everyone in the video except Eric B & Rakim’s posse.
In recent years Tyrone as teacher, mentor and guide took the dance around the world to a new young generation of dancers as well as teaching the history of the dance and it’s other pioneers keeping alive the legacies of his mentors Tinker, Andrew, Arthur, Michaelangelo, Blinky, Gary Keys and others-those boys were so fierce Diana Ross had them tour with her on one of her most iconic including the famed Caesar’s Palace show in Las Vegas. Tyrone was also in a group Breed of Motion with legendary voguing pioneer Willie Ninja and brother Archie.
Tyrone and I attended the Don Cornelius Memorial and shared fond Soul Train memories that day, laughing about rehearsals at my Mom’s apartment on Coco Avenue, he’d drive her crazy by always eating all of the candy in the bowl she kept on the coffee table. Not long after Don’s service he sent sent me a big box of a variety of candy to give my Mom with a thank you card and a wink to those days. “Miss Rose – She’ll be knowing honey..” he said and totally right, she laughed at the time and was touched by the gesture – today she was in shock and saddened as I am at his sudden passing.
I last saw Tyrone at my 2015 concert in NYC at BB Kings. Being the friend he was coming out to support through the years and also bringing other young waackers from around the world to watch, learn and usually for an impromptu onstage twirl to ‘WerK it out!’ I thanked and acknowledged Tyrone at those shows – he deserved it and most recently a speech last year in 2019 when I received a Woman of Excellence Vanguard Award at the LGBTQ Art & Music Festival.
Give people roses while they are here is so important so there are no regrets or open spaces of feelings left unsaid or shown. Tyrone knew how much he meant to me through my actions over the years though it makes me sad that 5 years have gone by without us being in touch.
Speaking to Lockeroo earlier was emotional, and she gave comfort and clarity. It’s a blessing Tyrone had her in his life there in NYC, she is a beautiful compassionate human being.
Ironically on Instagram just two weeks ago I reposted a memorable concert in NYC from 2013 with Tyrone and some waackers he’d brought including the incredible Princess Lockeroo who has shared her talents with me onstage and is really the modern Queen of Waacking with new innovations and a global following through her travels teaching as Tyrone taught her as well.
This is a video made documenting Tyrone in 2013, one of the last waacking pioneers of the 70’s when attending a workshop he had here in Los Angeles which happened to be the week of his birthday. Volunteering to take the class fees from students at the door and to assist in any way he needed me to was an honor for me-needless to say it was awesome and very full of Tyrone-isms full fledged. Tyrone kept us all laughing making the class so much fun – full of passion and spirit.
As the Father of The Imperial House of Waacking, Tyrone insisted that I be an honorary Mother of the House some years back.
Tyrone had a saying “I’m just living my life – allow it.” In other words – just live and forget what others have to say, it’s a great mantra to live by.
It was a life well lived for Tyrone-he will be missed and loved always.
We are all blooms and blossoms of the seeds of inspiration and guidance he gave us all – big brother, father figure to some, mentor with his knowledge, kindness and humor to believe in ourselves in what we do.. and always “You Betta Werk – Werk it Out!!!”- Jody Watley June 7, 2020.
My condolences to his family, friends and all of the dancers who are also saddened by this loss. His dance children worldwide will continue the legacy to “Show The Music” through movement, attitude and joy.
Tyrone on the history and origins of Waacking in his own words.