It’s what I moved to California for.
Once upon a time, skateboards had steel wheels. But then polyurethane came along and it changed the sport. I realized this in the parking lot at Mammoth Mountain in May of ’75. One of the locals insisted I try his new board. Which I did, riding way down the parking lot. It was smooth, it was glorious, but it was a long hike back to where I started.
So I stepped off.
Don’t ever do this.
You’re going fast. The earth is stationary. You place your foot and you begin to tumble. Thank god I was still wearing my ski clothes, but the asphalt burned through my ski pants and my long underwear and I ended up with scrapes that took years to heal on my elbow and thigh.
I don’t think I’ve been on a skateboard since.
But it was then that it all started. In the seventies. Skate culture. Of which the preeminent personality is Tony Hawk.
Now when I lived in Utah, we pooh-poohed the surfers. Because of their ethos. All you needed was a board and an ocean, no lift ticket, no clothing, except for maybe a wetsuit, and housing was not at a premium. Any time there was crime, we blamed it on the surfers, and this too often turned out to be true, and if caught red-handed they’d decamp in their Volkswagens for California, but surfers were the nicest guys around.
Skateboarding is even cheaper. The barrier to entry is nearly nonexistent. And it requires no ocean. So a whole culture burgeoned.
And it is this culture that I experienced last night at the Ace Theatre for the premiere of Tony Hawk’s film “Saturdays.”
People hate skaters. The noise. The way they scuff up pools and public works. But nothing can stop them. It’s rebellion on the most basic level. Tell a skater no, and he just hears yes, it’s a challenge to them. Wealth is not a determination of status. Everybody’s equal, the main criterion is whether you can skate, and whether you can get along.
Everybody was friendly. Now that’s kind of amazing in today’s divided country. But skaters are all in it together, outside the mainstream, even though one can argue they are the mainstream, they’re bonded together, by the sensation, by the thrill.
I’ll admit enjoying Netflix.
But it’s nothing like sports.
And I’m not talking about those team affairs, that youngsters age out of and oldsters follow with a fury, but individual events. Although there are ultimately competitions, it’s really about a solo effort, what you experience. You don’t have to be great to enjoy them, but the better you are the more thrilling it becomes, and you want to get better, and you want to be thrilled.
It’s the sensation that makes me want to ski every day. The only thing I can compare it to is sex. Can you name one single thing that feels like sex? I can’t. And I can’t name one single thing that feels like skiing, sliding down a mountain at the limits of your experience, danger around every curve.
But the difference between skiing and skating is when you fall doing the former, you’re on snow, when you take a dive doing the latter, you’re on asphalt.
And the tricks they’re performing in this flick are astounding. Not only riding down stairs, but jumping over them completely! All by faceless people unless…
You’re part of the culture, and then you know everybody.
Tony came out with the team to introduce the movie. The applause was thunderous. Nobody was primped, this was not the Oscars, full of fakery, everybody came as they truly are. And after the hoots and hollers died down, the lights were dimmed and…
We saw what you see on YouTube. Only at the highest level. In a theatre in Los Angeles.
It’s hard to explain L.A. It’s a fluid culture where who you are and how you live is most important. And by talking about who you are I don’t mean your job, that’s secondary, but your identity. Are you fully-formed, are you enlightened, do you have your priorities in order. Watching “Saturdays” it was like income inequality didn’t exist, no one was bitching they weren’t making enough, even though Tony Hawk is one of the highest paid athletes in the nation.
But that’s because people believe in him.
Tony wasn’t told what to do. He developed on his own. And he’s got no airs, no attitude, he treats the wannabe and the star the same. Who wouldn’t be drawn to him?
But he wasn’t the only star of the flick.
Actually, one of the biggest stars was a woman, Lizzie Armanto, who was the only one wearing knee pads and a helmet other than Tony himself. She’s riding the pool and you don’t say Lizzie is good for a girl, she’s just plain GOOD!
And there are tricks and antics and even stars.
That’s right, Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis, David Spade in his “Joe Dirt” mullet. Even Amanda Palmer playing the ukulele. You see everybody in the know is in the know. It’s a secret society.
And the secret society was in attendance. Because if it was open to the public it would be shut down, by the horde who just want to get closer…
And Mark Mothersbaugh was there, he and Tony posed in Devo flower pot hats and…
I’m thinking how it can only happen here, in L.A. Where the fringe is de rigueur, where it’s three hours behind New York and no one cares.
So Tony Hawk is living every boy’s fantasy. That’s right, we dream of playing for the Yankees, making a living as an athlete. I tried, I was filmed doing a spread eagle off the cornice of Wipeout at Mammoth, but I dropped out.
But I never lost the urge. I never lost the desire. Hell, I have a friend who’s a concert promoter who skis every day during the winter and surfs in the summer when he’s not out with the biggest band in the world. You see you just cannot get over it. You can tell yourself otherwise. But when you see Tony and his posse doing their tricks, all you can do is sit there as your jaw drops and say…I WANT TO DO THAT TOO!