Posts Tagged ‘in the club’

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 Slap Boards Are Big Brother Magazine

February 8, 2015

slap-campus

Everything is good,” declared a grinning Cortez Bryant as he clamored into his time-traveling space Delorian hours after his star client, Dwayne Carter, Twittered his displeasure and angst towards longtime employer Cash Money Records and by proxy father figure Baby/Beatrice/Birdman. “I wouldn’t be out at the club right now,” Cortez Bryant beamed, assuring YouTube viewers that nothing was amiss within the house that the Hot Boys built, despite what persons may have read elsewhere.

Was Cortez Bryant lying? Last month it emerged that Lil Wayne had sued Baby to the tune of $51 million, suggesting that everything was not good after all. Rap music is a topsy turvy business for sure, but you wonder whether Cortez Bryant figured people would listen to him rather than what they read on the computer internet, or if he was playing for time in a high-stakes game of financial and legal Stratego against Birdman’s lawyerly halberders, or if he was speaking in some far more general and cosmic sense about the human condition given Turk’s recent comments that BG’s prison sentence could be miraculously cut short by an as-yet unknowable ‘legal loophole.’*

Powers that be in the hard-n-soft goods biz would perform a similar dirt-off-my-shoulders oldster routine when it comes to the Slap Board, that ever-churning cauldron of YouTube links, hearsay, harsh truth-telling and pure id that oftentimes is livelier and more insightful than that month’s issue of your favorite big-4(3[2?]) magazine. Disclosing and painstakingly dissecting beefs, career choices, wardrobes and various industry flotsam before it can be packaged and shepherded to sponsor-approved instagram accounts, oftentimes in the most splintery and unvarnished terms capable of QWERTY filtration, is a freewheeling public service that seemingly goes little-loved in many team managers’ offices, as per Ride Channel’s recent industry survey item:

Vernon Laird, team manager, Bones Bearings:My impression of the average message boarder is a disgruntled never-has-been or never-will-be old, bitter man. Somebody who was mad that there were never sponsored or never pro and sits around and talk shit about everybody and everything in the skateboard industry because they have too much free time on their hands.

Mike Sinclair, team manager, Tum Yeto: Most hide behind their account name, and they usually want to pry, poke, and jab, which they have the right to do, at me or the brands I work for. The only difference is that I get paid for my opinion, and some of these guys just want to take their bad day out on me or others anonymously.

Before alt.skate-board and later the Crail-board provided early venues for distributing Kareem Campbell drive-by obituaries and nurturing the legend of a yung PJ Ladd, Big Brother magazine represented a forum for the attitudes and angles on skateboarding that tend toward the tasteless, puerile, and a certain mirror-gazing irreverence toward the industry itself that often seems bizarrely missing in a pastime ostensibly reared up to question authority and everything else, but that a lot of times veers dangerously near to preening sanctimoniousness. Videos got roasted, pros and industry heads were called out in interviews and editorial copy alike, and the likes of Gino Iannucci, Josh Kalis, Andy Roy, Ronnie Creager and Daewon Song were raised up on high before the publication succumbed to the same injurious stew of intoxicants, corporate ownership and general burn-out that have corroded pro careers. While there’s some truth in the rose-tinted view of a past when the general public didn’t bear witness to favorite pros profanely shouting down tweenage trollers via social-media pages of choice, the flipside has to have been the relatively few outlets and companies that controlled information flow and curated the industry’s self-image, which Big Brother never much seemed concerned with.

The internet’s halls are swabbed by anonymous mouthpieces whose currency too often is valued by loudness of opinion, and Slap’s forums are no better or worse. But the Slap message-boards too easily are brushed off as a den of venomous haters, caricatured over the years as armchair skaters in garb only, uniformed in white tees/brown cords/half cabs or more recently a Polar/Dickies/Cons ensemble that prizes wallies and reviles tricks that may rate high-single-digit Street League scores. Similar javelins surely were hurled at the Carnie/Canale/Kosick contingent back when, similarly aimed at an easy-target messenger rather than entertain the idea that, for instance, it’s possible to acknowledge the prowess of a Nyjah Huston whilst criticizing his apparent approach to tricks and skating in general.

James Craig in the Ride-Channel survey talks bluntly about recognizing when the Slap board got it uncomfortably correct:

[F]or me the biggest one was going on there early on and I just went under my middle name, Cliff. I starting seeing all kinds or random hate on me: “James Craig has the worst style in skateboarding.” Haha! It was pretty brutal, but everyone has an opinion. All I knew is my style is what it is-—not fake, it’s just me—-so it didn’t really bum me out, but it didn’t change the fact people were hating on me. You know what I did? I said, “Fuck it! I’m just going to take it in and flip it into a positive!”

It motivated me to not settle for bullshit sketchy makes but to have a little more pride in my footage and skating. This worked for me at the time, and after that I had some of the best, [most] proud years of my skateboard life. I’d look at footy from What If? (2005) and be pissed that I ended up with some seriously out-of-control arms, and in my next two parts I was super hyped on the way it all looked after putting in the effort to make my shit better. Some would say that’s wack, because I wanted to prove [the message boards] “wrong,” but motivation can be found anywhere. You just have to be willing to deal with the reality that “they” might be a little bit right, and [be prepared to do] whatever it takes accomplish what you want.

The irony shouldn’t be overlooked that in a golden age of DIY companies and spots, when even housing complex building projects are willing to take a knee before Burnside’s concrete, the longest-running and most-vibrant online web community continues to draw such ire and eye-rolling disdain from the industry. At one time skateboards were issued with an optional chip-on-shoulder and latent sneer toward powers-that-be that deemed it a loser’s pursuit, and rescinding that is one risk lodged inside six-figure contest purses, multinational sneaker endorsements and the class/coach dynamic where the dollars-earned or click-views end justifies most any means.

Jason Rothmeyer, New Balance sales manager and SPoT competition vet, remarks at one point in the Ride Channel item that “[t]he judges’ stand is a microcosm of the Slap message board. Just a bunch of dudes talking mad shit, mostly.” James Craig likens it to a skateshop breeze-shooting session, which you could extend further — a shop where anybody can be an employee, customers never interrupt the discussion to ask for new D3 colours, and closing time never comes, allowing the strength of the argument to prevail, or not, over days and weeks and years as brick-and-mortar locations cede their meetup-and-conversation functions to this aromatic and frenetic realm of text messages, embedded videos and digital Bigcartel baskets.

*For those keeping score Turk now also has sued Cash Money