Ellen Oneal, Alva's co-star in Universal's upcoming feature film Skateboard, adds, "Tony can be the most outrageous, obnoxious person on the face of the earth."
Fortunately for him, Alva is not easily insulted. "I don't take no shit from nobody," says the 20-year-old Californian whose nickname is "Mad Dog" and who sometimes wears a swastika on his crash helmet. "No one will beat me for years to come. I am the best because I think I am the best."
He won the last World Pro Championship in Carlsbad, California, leading 40 rivals in a combination of downhill, slalom, free-style and bowl riding (stunts performed in a concrete bowl). In 1977 he set a world record in barrel jumping - in one leap. Tony's agility is one factor. So is a flagrant, but not unjustified, cockiness, "One split-second hesitation and you're a bag of broken bones," says Alva of a sport that caused a reported 335,000 injuries last year. "some kids are too dumb to learn how to use a board and they're too stupid to practice where they won't get hurt."
A native of "Dogtown, U.S.A." (Santa Monica, Calif., nicknamed for the hot-dogging style of its skateboarders), Tony started skating casually at 8. But boards were primitive then, and his first real rush was surfing. Once skateboard equipment improved, however, he was able to transfer his hang-10 talents to the new sport. When he was 13 he began cruising for empty swimming pools, whose sloped bottoms are ideal for practicing skateboarding.
In 1975 he managed to graduate from high school. "The teachers just didn't want to put up with my mouth anymore." Then, like all devoted surfers, he took off for Hawaii. "I went to the North Shore and saw those big waves," he recalls, "I knew if I wiped out I wasn't going to come out with just a hamburger (bruise). It was bye-bye time." He tried the waves, but later admitted: "It was never really fun - too goddamn scary." To support himself in Hawaii he did "the food stamp scam" and modeled for skateboarding magazines. This exposure, plus his tournament victories, earned Alva the movie role.
Ellen Oneal, a ballerina turned skateboarder, recalls that during shooting she was having dinner with a friend when Alva stomped up and snarled, "who is this fag?" Alva was no more fond of teenage singing idol Leif Garrett, also in the cast. Says Alva; "Girls kept giving me notes for him and I'd scream, 'Get away, bitch' "
Because most of the actors were under 18, they were required to have four hours of school every day. On location five teachers quit before co-producer Richard Wolf found one who could handle the rowdy cast. "Near the end of filming, "Wolf remembers grimly, "she accidentally got in front of one of the skaters during a downhill sequence. When everyone was picked up, we found her arm was broken."
Even if the movie doesn't make Tony a star beloved by millions, he has other plans - endorsing Alva Skateboards ($32 and up) for a company which made him a partner. They carry a typically humble motto: "No matter how big your ego, my boards will blow your mind."
The above article from the archives of GLEN E. FRIEDMAN
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