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Francesca Simon Talks to
Toledo Diamond
December 10, 2008

Opposite Photo:
Toledo Diamond in Dark Streets

TOLEDO: A Full Faceted Diamond Performer
"The fault ... lies not in our stars, but in ourselves...."
William Shakespeare

Toledo Christopher Diamon (a.k.a. Toledo Diamond) was born under a lucky star on August 16. Don’t ask what year. He will only admit, “I’m way past 21.” Despite his self-confessed faults that Leo star imbued him with the strength of a lion, a big heart and a creative genius. That seems the best explanation for this extraordinary performer, an ex-junkie, who was no stranger to jails. In an interview with New York Cool earlier this week, Toledo humbly fessed up to his own dark street past.

When you see him on the big screen this weekend, prancing and crooning in the new movie Dark Streets (see Francesca's review of Dark Streets), don’t forget that this is a man, who has danced on the razor’s edge of life. Having run away from home by the age of 13, Toledo started smoking marijuana, jumped in and out of jail for years and ended up with a 16-year heroin habit. I was ready for a raw, hard-edged street character. But I was wrong.

His “hello” was deep and seductive as I expected. But before I could say little more than my name, in the background I heard a sweet, high-pitched voice squeal “Elmo! “ It was the voice of Halo, Toledo’s two-year-old daughter. “Mr. Darkness, putting on Elmo,” chuckled Toledo. “You understand the mutiny that’s going on right now. I’ve got to put Elmo on. Trust!”

A great conversationalist, who laughs easily and speaks honestly, this underground icon, is an alchemical mixture of poet, singer, and dancer and has been called a connoisseur of haberdashery. And he’s an unashamed daddy-man under the spell of his daily heart’s delight – his daughter. “This is all day every day,” he said. I’m the Daddy-Daughter Man!” He loves it. Yet no one is more surprised than Toledo by this current parental bliss and his continuing rising star.

He has survived addiction, kicked his heroin habit and has triumphed to the sound of great applause – from adoring fans and at home from Halo. “Things really do change when they change,” he said. “I didn’t ever think I’d be a dad.”

But he did think he could be a performer – and he was right. On the screen of Dark Streets a film noir/blues musical, Toledo sizzles with the sexual heat of an Isaac Hayes, steps smoothly as a giant version of Sammy Davis Jr., croons tunes sometimes with a Barry White low tone or funks it up with Sly Stone style edge. But make no mistake – he’s an original! And his accolades are hard earned.

He plays the role of Prince Royale, the charismatic master of ceremonies who provides the film’s narration and is featured is several smoking scenes of burlesque style song and dance extravaganzas. The Los Angeles Times once l heralded him as "The coolest cat working in Hollywood.” He made his mark as a street dancer on Santa Monica Boulevard and as underground artist performing on the poetry/spoken word circuit. His dynamic street dancing got him noticed and gigs as a featured dancer in iconic videos of the 80s with pop divas Janet Jackson and Paul Abdul, and doing choreography for George Michaels and US3’s “Cantaloop” video, which earned him an MTV Video Award nomination.

But a Leo must be a King, so Toledo created his own spotlight with “The Toledo Show” a combination jazz band and burlesque/nightclub act where he took center stage as the main attraction. Gaining a new reputation with his long-running show which moved to various venues in the LA area, Toledo drew the attention of the Los Angeles star-studded crowd. You never knew who was going to be sitting in the audience – it could be Prince or Leonardo DiCaprio or anyone from the creative group of constellations shining in Hollywood.

One night it happened to be Choreographer Keith Young, who helped make the Broadway hit Rent a smashing success. Earlier in the day he’d read the script for Dark Streets. That evening Young saw Toledo’s. show at Harvelle’s Blues Club in Santa Monica. He soon knew he’d found the perfect person to fill the role of Prince Royale. He later brought the producers to see the show and they were sold also. “He’s extremely talented and very original,” says Corina Danckwers, one of the producers. “And he was perfect for the role."

Whether he was perfect for the role or not Toledo had his reservations.
“I take everybody with a grain of salt,” Toledo said. “I don’t put stock in anything until it is actually happening.” It was two months later before he heard from Young. “I didn’t know anything about the movie except I was doing it.”

“Once I was on set I knew I was really doing it. I thought, “Can I act? Do I know how to act?” He wasn’t sure so he settled on a plan. “I said, I’m going to “be”. If I’m too uptight I won’t be able to absorb my surrounding or take direction either so I‘ll just adjust.” Toledo did several song and dance numbers for the film and was in a few other scenes. "Rachel [Samuels, the director] let me ad lib. She’d just say, 'Come up with something poetic.’ I did. It was real fun. But I knew it could have gone straight to cable or video.”

Several years passed before he heard anything from the producers again. “Two years later I got called back to do voiceovers,” he said. “The narrator’s role wasn’t part of the original idea. Claus [Clausen, one of the producers] put up a new set and just let me tell the story.” The set was basically a dark room lit by candlelight with a leather chair where Toledo simply sat, smoked a cigarette while poetically telling the tale. His narration provides the film’s sharpest acting edge.

The cool chair dance you see as the credits roll at the end of the film is more proof of Toledo spontaneous creative combustion. “It was at the end of the night. They just put the music on and I started dancing -- keeping in mind where Keith [the choreographer] was coming from. They just let me go!”

Toledo is a class act and he’s got the clothes to prove it too. The unique threads Toledo wears in the film are all his original designs. “I make all my clothes,” he revealed. “I had an idea of how I’d like to look – it was something I saw in my head. I couldn’t find it in the stores.” He started making custom clothes for fans and now he’s about to start his own clothing line to be called “Hard Love”. “It symbolizes anything you’re willing to die for,” he said. People all over in every culture can identify with that." Toledo has no formal training for design and sewing. Like everything else he picked up the skill as he needed it. “I learned from a friend who could sew,” he said. No deadline has been set for the release of the line, Toledo said, he’s just going to work it in as he has time.

Every Sunday night at Harvelle’s you can find Toledo continuing to hone his performance skills. Toledo practices a personal philosophy of “cautioned humility”. There’s no arrogance in this creative creature. “There’s a humble bone always going up my spine,” he laughed. “I’m nervous every time I get on stage.” Today Thursday, December 11, 2008, Toledo will be performed with his band and Bijou Phillips at Kress, a Hollywood nightclub, to help promote the film. And you can bet he was nervous. “I never want to be not nervous,” he confesses. “When that happens, it’s over. The nervousness keeps me in shape and keeps me in the moment. It keeps me right here, right now!”

Want sneak a peak at The Toledo Show?

Check out these YouTube videos:
THE TOLEDO SHOW – Dreams 4 Sale







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