Life of Bay’s legendary Mr Shakes now on film

Tremaine van Aardt

Mr Shakes
Mr Shakes

PORT Elizabeth has been good to entertainer and club owner Mr Shakes, and now he wants to give back to the city by teaching the youth valuable life lessons.

Mr Shakes’s Bewareness Campaign, with its safe sex and anti- drugs message, has been taken to new heights with the DVD launch of a full-length documentary titled Passion to Live! which illustrates his life and will be aired at the Boardwalk amphitheatre this weekend.

The energetic Achmat Shakeer Johnson, 65, who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than four decades, owning and revamping more than 50 clubs nationally, said he had agreed to the film because he “owed it to Port Elizabeth”.

The older generation will remember the Golden Fountain, the Godfather, La Dee Das and Jubilee Hotel, owned by Johnson. But since leaving the industry in 2007 he has spent his time trying to take the anti-drugs and safe-sex message to 267 schools around the country with his campaign.

“PE made Mr Shakes, I owe them and the Lord everything I have. Which is why I have taken it upon myself to be the messenger and saviour of the youth here – and what better way to do so than through film,” the Aspen Heights resident said.

Port Elizabeth-born award-winning independent filmmaker and producer of the film Shelley Barry said she focused on telling local stories, and her teenage fascination with Mr Shakes would not allow her to pass by the opportunity to work with him. “When I was 16, I went to the Godfather for the first time and met this larger-than-life character. I have always been fascinated with him and how he used the disco platform to entertain and educate the youth about a number of social ills plaguing the community.

“I met him before a show in Johannesburg and pitched the idea, and he agreed. It has been three years since we started filming.”

Despite initially not having any money to shoot the production, Johnson said he had not been too concerned as “Jesus would provide”. Johnson converted to Christianity after he was diagnosed with cancer in 1995.

“I was told I only had three days to live. Today I have been a cancer survivor for 19 years and the cancer is currently in remission. Since then the Lord has provided, as he did with the film,” Johnson said.

The film premiered at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival in Cape Town last year. Tickets for the screening on Friday and Saturday are on sale at the Boardwalk for R100 per person. All proceeds go to the Bewareness Campaign.

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