Posts Tagged ‘Ali Boulala’

A Smile From A Veil

March 19, 2018

When the machines complete their account of human history, our current era will be remembered for several things: an improbable resurgence of the color yellow, @versace_plug, and the skateboard industry busily getting its act together so as to gather as many dollars as possible in conjunction with the steadily nearing international Olympic hoopla. Already a schism is visible between those striving to have their proverbial shit together, and the have-nots. Dustin Dollin, proudly among the latter, explained recently to fellow traveler Ali Boulala the difference between himself and future Olympic medallion hoister Nyjah Huston, at least when it comes to chemical-fueled art heists:

DD: The thing also about skateboarding is that if you do get that popular you really have to watch your step. That’s what’s good about sticking to the society of the underground, I can fuck up and be a drunk and nobody is going to say shit. But if Nyjah does that shit, pulls down some paintings in a hotel he’s fucked. His sponsors would be out.

For those young strivers raised in sanctioned skateparks to reach for maximum experience points, straight-and-narrows may be obligatory. But for others figuring they have time to affect a pivot from Dustin Dollin’s Pellucidar to squeaky-clean Team USA garms, decades spent straying from any and every paths are busily being recorded for posterity. Consider Heath Kirchart, no stranger to bodily risk, fresh off an engrossing ‘Epicly Later’d’ that plumbed one of the industry’s more mercurial personas, who seems to have traded in a skate career with plenty of runway for legacy-milking for a series of odd jobs interspersed with life-threatening missions pursued with an endearing zest for minimal preparation. A less misanthropic pro or bro might draw accusations of burnishing his or her image for a stab at a bigger platform, but Heath Kirchart’s own circumstance reads more like a death wish, and in some ways, a relic belonging to an era swiftly fading into the chemtrail of a Tokyo-bound jet liner.

Were he cut from careerist cloth, would Heath Kirchart instead find himself trussed and dangling over a poisonous cauldron of righteous internet anger, freshly bubbling as podcast interviewees trot out tales of long-ago terroristic behaviours? As the ‘#MeToo’ movement claims celebrity scalps and forces industries from media to politics into uncomfortable self-examinations, the increasingly upward-mobile skateboarding biz might ponder its own richly checkerboarded past. Witness a string of podcast interviewees trotting forth entertaining and engrossing tales of mental and physical grotesqueries doled out by Heath Kirtchart in younger, freer and harsher times:

Jamie Tancowny, The Bunt: After I hurt my knee I moved back up to Canada for a year, year and a half… I couldn’t skate at all, I was kind of just by myself up there. That led up to, when I moved down here that’s when I switched to LE, that’s right when I started to film again pretty much to get back to the level I was before. And basically [Emerica] were like you got six months to get an interview in Thrasher. And it was like in July or whatever… I actually got it done and that’s when Heath became the team manager. And pretty much they kind of just were like, “yeah, we can’t do it anymore, we gotta stop paying you, and if you want to put your feelers out to try and find a new company you probably should start doing that, somebody that will pay you.” And I was like alright, that sucks, pretty much got kicked off.

TB: …what’s up with Heath?

JT: He’s still a good guy. He just has a temper I think. …He was there when I first went down and stayed at the Emerica mansion actually… he just kind of kept to himself. I don’t know, we’re like homies, so it was definitely kind of weird. I still see him these days, and it’s just like water under the bridge, I don’t hold a grudge, it’s not his fault.

Jerry Hsu, the Nine Club: Demos are mellower because the whole team’s with you, you’re not alone. But when it gets down to just you, though, it sucks… I’ve definitely been like the last person skating and then not landed the trick, just because I was trying something. And I’m the last one, and it’s just so brutal, every attempt. And then sometimes people will start doing a ‘Jerry’ chant, like Jerry Springer… oh my God, that only compounds it. Heath used to do that, when he was the team manager at Emerica, he would even do that when he rode for Emerica. He would start that chant and I would have to tell everybody like, no, don’t…

James Hardy, The Bunt: We went to LA to stay with [Dan Rogers, Heath Kirchart, Skatetalk Bob], I was turning 16 on the trip, while I was staying with them. I was super excited to meet Kirchart, he was one of my favorite skaters, but he was pretty reclusive… as the tale goes with him. He didn’t come out hardly ever when we were there the first four or five days. And then that’s when my birthday happened. I was asleep on the couch and lights come on and I get woke up getting put in a headlock by Dan Rogers. He was into wrestling or some of that stupid shit so he put me in some weird jock-y headlock. I got my face on the ground, he’s got his foot on my neck.

I had my face on the ground, squirming. I’ll throw Ben [Gilly] under the bus… I think I kicked his foot and he went off crying hobbling to the bedroom. Heath randomly came out of his cave and started heel kicking the back of my thigh. And started punching me. My nose started bleeding at one point… he had me in the headlock, they beat my arms to a pulp, my legs to a pulp, at a certain point I couldn’t walk.

…Eventually I was so tired I just gave up. Just beat me, I don’t care. They duct-taped my arms together, duct taped my feet, my whole legs together and then threw me in the backyard and just left me there. Someone had flour… they came out, thought that would be even cooler just to throw flour on my face. So they threw flour on my face. After I while they felt bad, I was spitting it out… so stupid, so jock-y. And then they came and hosed me down with a water hose, left me out there another 30 minutes.

Eventually the party’s over, they cut me loose. I hated all of them. I was 16… I thought all these dudes were pro skaters, they’re supposed to be rad, I thought they left all the jock stuff back in middle school. It was just typical jock-y shit. Anyway I shower and rinse off, go to bed, exhausted, just can barely stand. I wake up in the morning and my eyes are just plastered shut with pus. I could not open my eyes. I had to take my fingers and peel my eyelids open.

…And they filmed the whole thing and gave it to me as a birthday present. I still have the tape somewhere back home. So once I got sponsored that story got told a couple times, just in passing. At the Vans downtown showdown, in 2008, 2007… I told that story to a couple buddies, I guess it got around a little bit. And Kirchart came up to me, and said, “Hey man, what’s your deal?” I said, “What are you talking about?” “You’re making me look like a bad guy with that story.” I said, “Yeah, you pretty much beat me to a pulp and left me outside with flour in my eyes so I don’t really feel bad about telling that story.”

“Well you’re just making me look like the bad guy, I didn’t even do any of that.” I said, “Actually yeah, you did.”

…I will say he is one of my favorite skaters, even after that. But I never want to see him again.

Do such tales of Heath Kirchart’s malevolent reign — and there are more — serve as a cautionary signal for today’s ascendant pros bearing their own skeleton-stacked closets, perhaps with more to lose and (most likely) far less hallowed bodies of work with which to counterbalance any misbehaviours? Or do all others’ prior indiscretions pale in comparison with this fearsome visage, except maybe for Andy Roy and Fred Gall? Are folks who favor the Pink Floyd version of Heath Kirchart’s ‘Sight Unseen’ part over the official-release Moody Blues number hopelessly fooling themselves?

The Ball or the Sword

February 7, 2016

zorro

Was there a time when persons skated without bubblegoosed lenses trained upon them and atmospheric detail duly noted for later transcription or verbal tapestry-weaving when the mood lighting strikes? If you answered “hrm the 70s?” you may legally change your name to Burl Ives and open a blimp repair business in the tax-free domicile of your choice; all others must submit to pondering how the 00s’ era of history-unearthing and nostalgia-shampooing, from ‘On’ to ‘Epicly Later’d’, may now have given way to real-time mythmaking and neatly boxing up the memories and labeling them with straight and Sharpied capital letters.

Thrasher, which in 2016 enjoys the singular luxury of having probably not just every sphere-jolting trick pass their desks prior to public consumption, but also being looped into advance plotting, wisely made an event of Aaron Homoki’s jousts with and eventual slaying of the Lyon wyrm that Ali Boulala, Europe’s switch-kickflipping PD rogue, had fenced to a draw in the ‘Sorry’ days. Recognizing both the additional weight any Boulala-linked adventure would derive from his rather crushing ‘Later’d’ entry and chessboxing various message-board-borne critiques of spot ownership, Michael Burnett & co brought Ali Boulala aboard to lend technical ‘expertise’ alongside a phalanx of documenteers dripping with cameras, presumptive champagne bottles for popping and at least one dad*.

Ali Boulala’s in-person blessing, the attendant media scrum and days of stomach-knotting uncertainty made Jaws’ wrestle with the Lyon 25, which by now has been imbued with way too much weight to just close off some future video part, perhaps the fullest and frothiest example of real-time mythmaking in action, notwithstanding corporate-bannered Evel Knievel event tricks that may or may not require the approval stamps of Communist Party officials or purpose-built structures. As Love Park again circles the tubes, likely sparking plans for further, hour-plus documentaries**, here was the supernaturally ligamented Aaron Homoki jumping this big bunch of stairs, his couple seconds of hangtime stretched across magazine pages and digital video files via security-guard entanglements, celebrity pro cameos, body armour, familial love and a whiff of history and tragedy to spice the triumph and Jaws’ tears of joy.

The well-planned battle in Lyon comes at a time when skating seems increasingly fixated on capturing and preserving its wild old days as the quest to recapture lost market share and sock away retirement funds requires adopting a more scrubbed, professional and/or mercenary stance. Books drawing upon the misadventures of Scott Bourne, Lennie Kirk and now the hallowed Big Brother magazine in various ways strive to capture in permanent print those halcyon days of molotov cocktails, ill-advised trysts and penis pump reviews before they collapse into the great internet memory hole and premium priced Ebay collector packs.

As multinational beverage and sportswear suppliers up the number of racks available to coming generations and social media empire-building draws the wandering eye of TMZ, it is fair to wonder whether collective laces inevitably and regretably must become straighter, for all involved. Jenkem, who has taken up the Big Brother interview format mantle as convincingly as any current media, got in a good one with still-reliable quote mine Corey Duffel, a living and leather-clad link to Big Brother’s no kids-gloved past, who reminds that for the time being some moat remains between skating and major-league sports as long as pros are willing and able to hold forth on their dealings with grave-robbing furniture dealers:

So I buy the Craigslist bathtub and bring it inside the house, and my old lady is like, I don’t know how I feel about this tub, I’m getting weird vibes from it, that place it came from was so fucked up. Well that night, the first night with the tub in the house, a big mirror in the back of the house just came crashing down, no earthquake or wind or anything. Something else happened, like the TV flickered, something strange, and Rachel was like, “It’s the fucking tub.” So she suggested going to the hippie store to get sage – sage is suppose to get rid of evil spirits and we’re kind of hippies like that – so we’re saging around and I shrug it off like whatever.

Then a couple of months later Bobby Worrest comes over and goes like, “Oh, that’s the tub! I met that guy Tom, Tom is fucking insane!” I was like, yeah, he’s a fucking crazy but a really cool guy. Then he goes, “What a trip, someone committed suicide in that tub.” I’m like, what?! And Bobby tells me Tom told him someone offed themselves in that tub. It was funny to find out 6 months later. Now the bathtub sits outside next to the flowers.

Elsewhere, would-be Olympian Chris Cole sits for an interview with Rolling Stone, which appears in one of its sporadic periods of interest in extreme pro lifestyles, offering a glimpse of potential Q&As to come in some future age where contest politicking and milestone trick trophies must be rattled through on behalf of those greenhorn readers who need guidance through the subject-matter minefields of ‘who’s this person’ and ‘why do I care.’ It’s a relatively staid account til the end, when in a possible fit of cultural catharsis things veer abruptly toward a liquor-soaked Russian bar fight:

The next time we saw Ian, he was up on a stage, dumping his beer over some guy’s head, and in an instant, dudes were fighting all over the bar ­– tackles, punches, chokeholds. I was on the ground smashing this dude’s face in, and I look up and saw Ian getting choked by one dude while he was punching two separate dudes and being punched in the face by a chick.

If future pros fistfight Russian bouncers but never speak of it publicly out of an abundance of professional caution, do the busted teeth and cracked eye sockets make any sound? Wasn’t Chris Cole straightedge at one point or is this another phantom memory like Henry Sanchez’s Aesthetics pro model? Has Jaws scouted out the Leap of Faith elevator structure for a future wallie cover? In states where suicide was historically considered a crime would Bobby Worrest be considered to have snitched on the ghost that lives in Corey Duffel’s secondhand bathtub? And if he did, would the fact that the bathtub now is used as a planter by definition make it dry snitching?

*Unclear whether dad pants were obligatory or only assumed
**Any of which may possibly be instantly obsolete beside the Sabotage series

And to everything, turn turn turn

June 6, 2008




Seems weird that there’s this big pro-board shuffle right smack between the ASR’s, but what the fuck right? Summer’s here. Time for the young bucks to live it up while they’re young, time for old dudes like Klein to have their “Summer of Klein” complete with cheese block and fridge chair before… well I guess before going back to the same shit he’s been doing for these past 10 years that hasn’t really involved much skating.

The big news of course was at Girl, where every day’s a party in this post “Fully Flared” era. They throw you a surprise shindig for getting on the team, Guy Mariano skates with you all the time, and you get to go on vacation with Frank Gerwer. I mean, Jesus Christ. So what to do, what to do, with three super-ams that are no doubt getting offers left and right, two of them already opting for bigger shoe paychecks, all fresh off video parts… bite the bullet and turn em all pro at once I suppose. Kareem, in his infinite wisdom, pulled the same shit with P-rod and Mikey Taylor, if you’ll recall, and they were kind enough to sell a few City Stars boards before jumping ship. So hopefully everybody over at the Crailtap camp enjoys the hugs and rainbows while they last.

Turning in his pro board is Jeremy Klein, and let me tell you, this news shocked me to the core. For a few years there I was mad that Klein still had a board out. “He’s milking it!” I would seethe to myself late at night, fingers clutched tight around some issue of TWS. And it was true! How many years did he ride that terrible “Destroying America” video, which stretched his and Heath’s brilliant “The End” part to an interminable length? And he barely skated in that. Now, I understand he’s got a part in the Birdhouse video that came out last fall, which I haven’t seen because nobody saw it. (Quote from Tony Hawk at the premiere: “We’re still here.”) Which is partly why it’s such a surprise, this retirement. You’d think with a new video part, he’d have justification to keep his board on shelves for another five years, at least. And shit, he didn’t even need justification. If Jeremy Klein, your favorite asshole pro’s favorite asshole pro, can’t milk a video part for 10-plus years, who can? In a way, I gained far more respect for Klein in the last few years than I ever had for him when he was ripping in the early 90s, simply because he was pushing the envelope so much further than anyone else in terms of keeping his career running on fumes.

Anyway. At DLX there’s rumblings of Van Wastell getting a board this fall, which is kind of overdue in a Pappalardo-Wenning sort of way, when you look at Bobby Worrest. I mean, I’m a big Worrest fan, but I can see why a Van Wastell fan would be bummed that it’s taken so long for the dude to get the pro nod. In sadder news it appears Flip may retire Ali’s board next fall. I won’t moralize on that one, other than to point out that Flip had Penny’s back through all those years in the wilderness, but nothing’s certain yet I suppose. Flip site says Boulala’s up for parole in two years, at which point he’ll hopefully be back in some kind of skating form. In the meantime, here’s what I imagine Australian prison is like.

Addendum: Here’s Alex Olson’s part in “Gnar Gnar” which to me is still the best shit he’s put out.

Really sorry

April 25, 2008

Cue the “Free Ali” shirts: Ali Boulala was sentenced today for the drunk-driving motorcycle accident that killed Shane Cross a little over a year ago. Ali’s looking at two to four years for something called “culpable driving,” which is probably Australian for driving while under the influence of more than 10 beers, or whatever the limit is down under.

Does Boulala deserve to sit in some jail, despite its possibly tropical location, for two to four years? Who knows. From all accounts the Cross family wasn’t pressing charges, which is pretty admirable from a turn-the-other-cheek perspective. Skateboarding as a whole, meanwhile, seemed ready to absolve Boulala the moment it was clear that he came out of the coma. Should we?

It seems like whenever some high-profile, well-loved skater runs into trouble the skateboard world tends to rally around him.* Baker had those “Free TK” shirts printed up before Terry Kennedy ever saw the inside of a cell for having a gun in his car, if I remember right. Josh Swindell is still generally revered for being that pro locked up in Mexico, despite the fact that he may or may not have killed a guy. The murder/suicide mess that Ben Pappas was apparently involved in last year was more or less glossed over. Shit, people were about ready to canonize Christian Hosoi when he got out of jail in Hawaii, and he got busted with a load of meth. To paraphrase Aaron McGruder here, every famous skateboarder who gets arrested is not Nelson Mandela.

But it happens and I think it gets back to the dubious legal status act of skateboarding itself. We don’t like law. “No Skateboarding” signs get ignored. Cops chase you out of spots, they write you tickets, they beat your ass if you’re unlucky or can’t keep your mouth shut. But what are you going to do, not skate? Skateboarding is not a crime, etc. So early on we learn a healthy skepticism/cynicism for the law.

So how far should that go? Should Ali Boulala really go free? You could make a good argument. He suffered plenty, three months in the hospital, brain damage, may not ever be able to skate like he used to. He’s gotta live with the fact that he killed a good friend of his, and someone who’s pretty well-loved throughout skateboarding. The Cross family didn’t hold it against him, by all accounts. But then there’s the law, which also says thou shalt not skate this curb, jump that gap. In for a penny, in for a pound, then? Is there even a point to drawing a line between the two?

I don’t know. It’s hard to argue against punishing drunk drivers, or meth dealers**, or, you know, murderers. But the disregard for law is part of what used to make you a skateboarder, versus a kid who rode a skateboard, and that same pack mentality that gets people hyped about Hosoi getting out of prison is the same thing behind benefit skate jams and eBay auctions for skaters, pro or not, that are facing crazy hospital bills or some other crisis. And it’s probably worth preserving.

Anyway, rambling. RIP Shane Cross. Hold your head, Ali. Don’t drink and drive and hug your loved ones this weekend.

*Note that getting arrested in Tampa does not really count, since it’s more a passage into manhood at this point.

**Unless they’re actually cool dudes