The set of action movie Faster was between takes. Veteran actor Louie Ski Carr arrived excited about what was to happen next. He wasn’t just pumped about filming a slick action sequence or an exchange of witty dialogue, he was also anxious to meet the film’s star – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. “I walked up to introduce myself to The Rock and he stopped me,” says Carr, beginning to laugh. “He’s says ‘I already know who you are! Me and my stylist have been watching all of your Soul Train videos!”
Born and raised in Inglewood, California, Carr will be the first to tell you he is where he is in life because of four things: faith, hard work, encouraging parenting, and his time as one of the most infamous dancers in the 40-year history of Soul Train.
Carr electrified the weekly viewing audience with his formal wear, on-the-fly skits, and custom dance moves that still resonates today; his antics brought him a staggering amount of fan support, casual and celebrity admirers alike. One of those: multi-platinum R&B/Pop supergroup New Edition. Member Ricky Bell says what made Carr stand out was his style of dance. “While most of the other dancers on the show were just doing the latest dances, Ski would high step across the stage, point, do Michal Jackson kicks while still managing to get in a few grooves,” he says, also noting the highlight for New Edition was not just performing on Soul Train. It was “actually meeting Ski in person,” Bell says, “and asking him what inspired him to do what he does. I’ll never forget the answer that he told us: ‘It’s an inner emotion’. Our spirits and personalities were kindred so we were instant lifelong friends ever since.”
Soul Train welcomes Louie Ski Carr home for this exclusive SoulTrain.com interview.
Soul Train: Ski what immediately pops in your head when you hear the words “Soul Train”?
Louie Ski Carr: A million memories. When it’s an emotional memory, and you speak from the vantage point of truth and passion about something you lived and experienced, then it becomes natural. The most important one was the family and the unity; even now, years and years after. We were characters at the time; you hard Cheryl [Song] with the long hair, you had Odis [Medley] with the masks, you had me with the suits and the hats and the pointing, you had Nieci Payne, and my boy Tom Tom who I used to do skits with! It was all those things! Being there was the time of my life.
Soul Train: I don’t think many would argue with me if I said you were the most unique dancer to ever grace Soul Train. You always appeared to be having so much fun, not just dancing.
Louie Ski Carr: I wasn’t like a trained dancer. Michael Jackson was a big influence on me. I really miss that dude. I was also influenced heavily by James Brown and Elvis. My moves and style was just a physical improvisation to the music. Whatever the music said to me I would just do it.
Soul Train: One of the things you would “just do” that you’re famous for was leap from one stage to the other. Why?
Louie Ski Carr: That’s how “Ski” stuck with me as part of my name. I went from Louie to Lou Ski because I jumped from one riser to the other, and my friends said I looked like a skier. You’ve seen how skiers jump and they kick their legs. I reminded them of that.
Soul Train: Okay, why would you point your finger in the air?
Louie Ski Carr: [Laughs] That’s a move I did called The Cutty Finger Salute! You might see a friend across the club or across the street; he can’t hear you but if he sees the finger… That’s the Cutty Finger! [Laughs] That’s how you get their attention! I remember coming out of this restaurant with a young lady and seeing Questlove – the drummer from The Roots. Before I could say anything she says it. I was about to approach him but he stops the people he’s with and starts busting one of my moves! [Laughs] So when he did it I did it!
Soul Train: So you and Questlove were just out there dancing at each other?!
Louie Ski Carr: Anybody that really knows me, that’s how they’ll say “hi” to me! All of my moves have names, and Questlove was doing The Go Dee Daa and The Cutty Finger! We didn’t speak for two minutes, we just danced. Then he told me he was huge Soul Train fan and loved watching the show growing up.
Soul Train: How did you end up on the show?
Louie Ski Carr: My roommate George Chambers’ girlfriend was dancing on the show. So I asked him to ask his girl if she would take me on there. So she took me but really didn’t have the power to get me on. There was this guy, Chuck Johnson, who had a particular style of dancer they wanted. It was like going to a club, you stand outside and the ladies could get in. The dudes were handpicked.
Soul Train: So you were one of the guys who got picked out that lineup?
Louie Ski Carr: I didn’t get picked the first time, but I knew I would eventually. I just had faith. They taped 2 shows on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. I planned to go back but thought first I’m going to change my look. So I went out and rented a black tux with a bow tie, shoes and a cane. Chuck comes out, looks, doesn’t let me in. Some girls go in, then a couple guys.
Soul Train: How long did you stand out there waiting?
Louie Ski Carr: Until after lunch time. Chuck comes back out, I’m still standing there chillin with like 3 or 4 other people. My man is like “Yo just let my boy in; he’s wearing a tux!” Chuck was like “Man…c’mon in”. I flew in there straight to the main stage where all the main dancers danced! I knew if I could get up there without nobody messing with me, and do all my crazy Michael Jackson moves, best believe they were going to see me! I’m 6’5” in tux; you can’t miss me! [Laughs] Then I see Don Cornelius looking. I thought I was about to get kicked out! So the same dude who let me in pulled me aside, asking me who I was. Said Don wanted me to go up on the riser. I said “WHAT??!!” [Laughs] He put me on the riser and the rest is history.
Soul Train: You’ve been able to make your mark as an actor too. Do you think you’ve been cast more for your skill or your look and size?
Louie Ski Carr: I would say for my craft. After Soul Train I didn’t want to be an ornament. I went to the beach one day and prayed on it. I knew I had presence. So I went to community college and took every theater class there was. Once I’d learned the craft of acting I got an agent. I went from doing a lot of theater to doing a big job here and big job there. I know it’s my craft because I worked really hard. When I danced it was freestyle, but acting? I studied that.
Soul Train: Have you played a character who resembles the persona you created on Soul Train?
Louie Ski Carr: If you look at my reel, even though I’ve played Othello in theater, on film I play mostly bad guys. I’m always dressed in black, sporting my Michael Jackson hat with a brim like the ones from the 1940s. I put a little bit of the style of dress from my time with Soul Train into those. When I played in Belly 2 with The Game you could see the style of Lou Ski the Soul Train dancer in Lou Ski the actor. The vintage James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart-type with the suits was the way I dressed on Soul Train.
Soul Train: What has been your most important role in your personal life?
Louie Ski Carr: Surviving Inglewood and being able to talk to the youth who look up to me for what I’ve been able to do with my life. I remember coming back to my old neighborhood, Rogers Park, and giving back. Giving some of my best friends money. They truly look up to me. The had a ceremony where they put my name up in The Hall of Fame at Rogers Park where I grew up playing basketball as a kid. It’s like being a role model; that means a lot to me. You know when I had to bury my father…[Pauses] I knew how proud he was, and how proud my mother was of what I did with my life. She instilled good values in me, taught me to be a man and make good choices. I was productive. A lot of my friends didn’t make it; they went to prison or to the grave. I chose to do something with my life and I choose to give back in every facet.
Soul Train: Ski what is your favorite Soul Train memory?
Louie Ski Carr: I was pondering that. So many people have asked me… It’s a collimation of the events it took for me to get in Soul Train, becoming a riser – one of the main dancers on Soul Train, but the highlight of my Soul Train career would be meeting New Edition.
Soul Train: Did you meet them before or after the show?
Louie Ski Carr: During a break from recording the show. Someone told me New Edition was fans of mine and they wanted to meet me. There was Bobby, Ronnie, Mike, Ricky and Ralph – I think they were 16 or 17 at the time – all sitting there lined up in the chairs. So I went up and shook their hands and asked, “Where are you all from?” And they said “We’re from Boston.” So then I said “welcome to the Train!” And they had these BIG smiles on their faces; and remember I’m 6’5” [Laughs] so they’re looking up at me and I’m looking down at them. They told me they made it a point to meet me if they ever got on Soul Train. They wanted to know where my dancing and style came from.
Soul Train: Sounds like they were really impressed by you.
Louie Ski Carr: They were, but they didn’t even know my name! [Laughs] Ricky said, “We asked this one dude and he said your name was George! So whenever we saw you dance we’d be like ‘Yo, there’s George! Look at George! What’s George gonna do today?!” [Laughs] They bought suits like I used to wear and called them “George”. So they said they wanted to do something with me, and asked me to come on stage with them when they sang “Candy Girl”. I was more than excited; I’m just a cat from Inglewood who used to watch Soul Train from his living room and wanted to make my mark. But I told them whatever you do, don’t tell Don Cornelius. He would have stopped it.
Soul Train: So how do you feel your performance turned out?
Louie Ski Carr: I came on and did my thing. Did my famous Lou Ski Kick in the back, I jumped up like I was touching the logo, landed in between them and kicked my leg like Mike does, pointed to my socks, they pointed to their socks, the rest is history! Don comes on and says, “Hey Big Lou, don’t come on stage no more with the singers.” All the other dancers was in an uproar because they’d never seen anything like that. I’d never been a part of anything like that. It was huge for me, it was huge for the Train, and it was huge for New Edition.
Soul Train: And your relationship continued to grow from there?
Louie Ski Carr: Yeah. They told Don they really liked me. From there I became their center for their basketball team. We traveled the world; they were like the young Jackson 5 and I was like their big brother. I’d even sneak them in to the club, and we’d be VIP. It all came back full circle when they performed at The Forum in Inglewood where the Lakers used to play. It went from me going on stage with New Edition back then to me going on stage with New Edition as grown men at The Forum in front of all my people in my city! It all paid off! Soul Train really opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me.
- Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker is an entertainment and news journalist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker