POOLS, PIPES & PUNK ROCK
from the on-going exclusive JUICE series:
the GLEN E. FRIEDMAN Interview
By Dan Levy
(In Two Parts)
" A man of many titles: publisher; co-producer; creative consultant; photographer;
journalist; documentarian; artist; egomaniac... Without the dedication and perseverance
of Glen E. Friedman, the aesthetic of DogTown as we know it, would not exist."
How did you originally get involved with the Dogtown and Z-Boys documentary?
Well, Stacy knew that if it were going to be done correctly, I would have to be involved. He was flying back and forth from NY doing a project for ABC News, so we hooked up on one of those trips and began to talk about different ways to try and piece this thing together. At the time, it all seemed very organic and cool. But I honestly thought it would be almost impossible. He contacted me because he knew he'd have to use some of my archives and my connections, too. He knew that my book "Fuck You Heroes" had more to do with that "Spin" magazine article than any other book, and in fact was part of what has kept the Z-Boys legend alive for so many years, at least in certain circles where it may not have been anymore. So, Stacy came here and he didn't know where to begin. He had been talking to Stecyk, but he had no idea which direction to go. He was calling and asking me questions all the time. Originally, Peralta didn't even want the Z team in the movie; he just wanted to have people talking about the crew. In my opinion, that was ridiculous. I made it a strong point that he needed to include everyone in the photo of the Zephyr Team from Del Mar. I also pushed the fact that he needed to make it a multi-cultural film, by showing everyone, even guys that weren't in that photo but were down with the crew. And how from that point, it all progressed. I wanted to show how universal skateboarding was. I wanted it to be more of a cultural movie than a skateboarding movie. I still think it has a little too much skateboarding.
I think it comes across pretty cultural, though.
Well, yeah. People dig it. I think it's a good movie.
How much time went into the planning?
I'd say it was about six months before any cameras rolled. We were all working on different projects at the same time, but Stacy was the director. He worked really hard and I give him credit for doing what he wanted to do. He accepted a lot of my critiques, but there was some stuff that he wouldn't listen to me about, though. I took it upon myself to try and look out for the rest of the team. Stacy was a team member himself, so he had his own bias. And I have been carrying these guys as rebel heroes in youth culture for many years; I had to do all that I could to see that they got the justice they deserved. That was my primary goal all along. To keep it real.
What was the biggest conflict during the editing?
Stacy and I almost got into physical beefs several times. We were both very passionate about what we believed in. But I knew what I thought was right and what he thought was whack. He did do a great job overall, but the way certain things were cut were corny. Paul Crowder who does 'Behind the Music' for VH1 edited it. He also did a pretty amazing job. I like his shows. They're really good shows for TV, but some of that fast cutting for a film was just too much for me. When they originally cut this movie, they never expected it to play in movie theaters. They expected it to come out on video. I had higher expectations than everyone else did. Those guys never believed I could get the music I did, or Sean Penn. It was my idea. In fact, Sean Penn wasn't even my first choice. Then when I did get this stuff for them that really helped get this film where it is today, I barely even got a thanks. That was fucking lame.
What happened after that?
Once we got the Hendrix music, then everything else fell in line. People were like, 'Wow, you got that? We have to get involved.' And once Sean Penn was involved, it was the same. The phones didn't stop ringing after that happened.
How do you feel about your credit in the movie?
I think 'Creative Consultant' was a good title for me. The title I was given of 'Co-Producer' was a good thing, but the bad thing was that it was shared with two people that had relatively nothing to do with the film. I think the other two co-producers were just there early in the process of getting the original deals. I didn't have anything to do with getting the money, but I had a lot to do with getting the things that brought them the money, awards and theatrical release interest.
What about the music selection?
My friendship with Rick Rubin helped to get the Aerosmith music after they had been turned down. The Hendrix music came because of the introduction that Ian MacKaye gave me to Jennifer Ballantyne over at MCA who is close with the Hendrix folks. She really made the Hendrix music happen. I brought in music that Stacy wouldn't have even thought to use. I told him to use "Ezy Ryder" in the opening scene of the film. I wrote that in a mock script six months before they ever filmed. I told them to use the Buzzcocks during the Bones Brigade stuff and told him to use "Freedom" during Jay Adams's section. I brought the Stooges music in and the Nugent tracks. Paul brought in a lot of the stuff he grew up with in England and Stacy had a few good calls (Sabbath, and B.O.C.) But the music credit for the film went to Stacy Peralta and Paul Crowder only. Why would they do that when I picked a lot of the music and told them when to use it? I'm not bitter; I just think it's lame. So, there are certain things that are fishy and that made me uncomfortable, but the hard-core people know what's really going down. I know I fought as hard as I could to get that song by the Pretenders, "Bad Boys Get Spanked", taken out. I was promised several times during the process that it would be taken out. That pissed me off more than anything else did. All of the other rock tracks were totally accurate to the period, but Peralta's straight-up corny-Hollywood-novice aesthetic wanted to leave it in for some lyrical context, as though the movie was a music video; that shit made me sick. You don't even have to be that hard-core to realize that the Jay Adams' part was cut like a novice would do it. That was my biggest problem within the whole film. I think it was over-dramatized and corny. It doesn't give people enough credit to realize that Jay had a tough time but he made these choices on his own. He's still a hero and they made him look like a loser in the end. And Jay is not a loser. Like he said, he was on summer vacation for 20 years. We all owe Jay a lot.
What else bothered you?
It is so whack that they put in that scene from 'Charlie's Angels' of Stacy in the '80s. They don't even have one scene of Tony Alva being interviewed by ABC Wide World of Sports. They don't show Alva in any scenes from the film 'Skateboard.' That was just before Alva Skates and just after the Zephyr Team but you don't see any of that footage. Even people like Marty Grimes are riding Zephyrs and Easy Riders in the 'Skateboard' movie. And I was a little disturbed that they couldn't keep the continuity of the time chronologically-correct. Pool skating didn't really happen until after Del Mar. Anybody who reads 'Juice' probably knows that. If you look at the radical pool shots, no one is riding a Zephyr board in the pools. By the time they were hitting tiles, they were riding Logan Earth Skis or Sims boards, then Z-Flex boards, etc.
What about the Z-Team riders who didn't get a part?
One of my ideas was to read a paragraph from each of the guys "Who's Hot!" articles that Stecyk wrote. There are times in the movie where they could have spent one minute reading Paul Constantineau's or Bob Biniak's "Who's Hot?!" Those were amazing words. They could have done thirty seconds on each of them to let people know how they fit in. Even if those guys weren't the most popular skaters in the world, the way Stecyk wrote about them made them seem like the coolest motherfuckers ever. I guess there's only so much you can do in a 90-minute film. At times, they wanted to cut it to 75 minutes!
How many of your photos were used in the movie?
We scanned over 300 images of mine. A lot of them were used, but check out the book to see the best. They look 100% better in the book than they do in the film. Stacy's goal was to use as little stuff as possible with safety equipment, which I agreed with. There were very few skatepark shots in the film.
What effect do you think the movie will have on skating?
I think it will allow people to appreciate the roots of skateboarding. I hope it does, and they learn what style really means. That would be cool.
What's your definition of style?
It's about being fluid, smooth and radical, all at the same time.
Were you at the Del Mar contest?
No, I was sitting at Kenter wondering where everyone else was. I was only 12 at the time, so I had no way to get there.
Well, everyone on the team seems to have different memories of how it went down. As a photographer, what was your take on it?
Well, I wasn't shooting pictures at the beginning. I was just skating and hanging out, trying to be down. I wasn't that cool. I was trying to be cool. A lot of people are fronting and saying that they were down when they weren't. But everyone has his or her own perspectives. And I know some people were mad about what Biniak said in his 'Juice' interview and certain people were upset. Everyone is a little bit bigger in his or her own mind. That's all. They just have their own perspective on things. I have my own perspective, too. Some people think I'm an egomaniac, but I just tell them that I learned it all from Tony Alva.
When Hollywood tries to tap into the sacred areas like DogTown and punk rock and hip-hop, how have you dealt with that?
I see the skateboarding in the DogTown era as a very influential time. I think it's nice to get the story out there because now people might understand why I'm so loudmouthed and opinionated. It's because of growing up with that crew of people and in the scene. I think Craig's stories tell the tale even better. The movie doesn't even touch on what was really going down. The truth is the DogTown boys did bring the hard-core style in and what they did that inspired people the most was how they attacked pools and how they presented themselves to the world with an attitude. When Biniak says that if you showed up at a pool and they didn't want you there, you'd get your ass kicked; that was serious. People were very territorial and righteous about their bros and beliefs.
You knew them before they were getting paid huge money?
Well, they never got paid huge money, first of all. And even when they started getting sponsors everyone was still pretty naive because no one had ever done it before. No one was making that much money. The money that Jay made he mostly spent on partying. Tony had a studio apartment at the peak of his fame, in Venice. No one was buying houses. People were just paying rent.
What about the censorship of the movie?
Everyone I've ever talked to at Sony Pictures Classics has been rude ro me. I believe they are to blame for the censorship. They (specifically Tom Bernard) denied that they would censor it and then they did since Sundance. That's a fact! After the email campaign (started by www.zboys.com - a fan website) that instigated hundreds of z fans to write directly to Bernarnd (and Wilson at Vans), dozens of people got replies from him specifically denying the film was censored at all. In my personal experience, I perceived him as being a bold-face, ingrate, art-exploiting, greedy liar. I believe he said what he had to say, to get all the hard core Z-fans from blowing the story into the press before the film was released where it could appear that Sony Pictures Classics, a 'supposed' art film distributor forced producers and directors to censor their film after it won awards at Sundance uncensored. I think that guy is a total jerk. His rude behavior was witnessed by many who worked on this film. Some have great e-mail evidence and others probably won't admit that they told me he was an asshole because they have a career working for people like him. It's sad. They edited all the 'fuck's out of the movie except one. (I've been told if the word 'fuck' is used only once in a film, it can retain a 'PG-13' rating. If the word 'fuck' is used two or more times the film automatically gets an 'R' rating.) And Stacy justified it by pointing out the other freedoms they had to make the movie the way they wanted, so they thought it was a reasonable concession. I said, 'Well, you're the filmmaker. It's your fucking movie.' The word 'fuck' means a lot to me. Two of my books have 'fuck' in the title. The Z-Team became famous for having that attitude, so to censor language to get a PG-13 rating is inexcusable in my opinion.
In the '70s, when the media frenzy hit the team broke apart. What will happen this time?
I don't think it will affect people too much. I think the initial excitement gave a lot of people hopes for a second chance at some notoriety. It made them feel like they did when they were younger. Everyone got really excited and the egos got a little out of control but everyone actually has grown up. Some have families and have moved on in a lot of ways. Everyone did go a little crazy for a minute, but now reality has set in, and everyone realizes it's just a movie. It's cool and it's inspiring, but it's history, it's not the present. And I think most of the guys have a good perspective on that. I'm still surprised how many people are stoked on the movie. I mean, I like it. I always thought it would be big because of the '70s connection but I don't really think it will be that big.
Well, Tony Alva got a shoe deal from Vans recently.
Well, in a way, Tony has been working on that shoe deal for 20 years now. He's been skating the whole time and he deserves it. He loves skateboarding. He has dedicated his life to it. If anyone deserves a skateboard shoe more than Tony Alva does, I've never met him. Tony is the man. Just like I said in the movie, he is the most important skateboarder that ever lived. Jay is one of my favorites, but Tony did it all. He did it with style and he had the ego and the charisma. And he was able to communicate. And he also had the savvy that Jay didn't have. Jay was the most radical by far, but Tony controlled that radical spark.
What was your relationship with Ho, Engblom and Stecyk?
I never knew Jeff back then, but now I consider him a good friend. From what I can see, he has more integrity than anyone else in the entire organization. I remember Skip being at the Zephyr shop. He was pretty intimidating. We went to the shop one time looking for Biniak who had stolen my board. Skip denied that he was there or knowing of him. (Biniak finally admitted last year that he stole that board.) But Skip is also one of the great storytellers of Venice; he's a classic. And Stecyk would never even let his face be seen in public. He would always shoot with the same guys. And Craig's photos were the most amazing stuff I'd ever seen. And the words he wrote were the most inspiring I had read as a teen. Craig used to give me shit all the time in the 'SkateBoarder' gossip column "Off The Wall". He was always razzing me. He pushed me to do better things to show all these motherfuckers up. Since those days, he has written an intro or comment piece for each of my books. Read the intro to the new book, DogTown - The Legend of the Z-Boys and you'll see how I really feel about Craig and what his contribution to my life and skating culture has really been.
P A R T - 2
DOGTOWN - THE LEGEND OF THE Z BOYS
A conversation about the book with Glen E. Friedman
interview by Dan Levy
"Pushing the old boundaries establishes new 'limits.' In actuality,
the only limiting factor is that of your imagination. You can go as far as you
want to take it, or perhaps more aptly as far as it takes you. After you leave
the realm of traditional preconceptions, you enter the area of endless freedom.
There exists no right or wrong, rules are unheard of, and the course is uncharted."
- C.R. STECYK III
DOGTOWN - THE LEGEND OF THE Z-BOYS is yet another cult classic
from the illustrious Glen E. Friedman, mastermind of "Fuck You Heroes," "Fuck
You Too" and "The Idealist." Friedman's exploits are world famous and his influence
is undeniable. The idea for this book is yet another example of Friedman's genius.
To combine the works of his enormously intelligent mentor and inspiration, C.R.
Stecyk III, with his own private archives of photos from the DogTown era, proves
once again that Friedman stays consistently ahead of the curve. For the record,
Craig Stecyk should be recognized, once and for all, as the ultimate authority
on everything cool. No one could have written about skateboarding the way Stecyk
did and the fact that he shared it with the world makes us all luckier than we
may ever realize. Radical moments in skateboarding history that changed the world,
all wrapped up in a beautiful black binding. This book is a potent collection
of Stecyk's photos and articles about the Z-Boys and DogTown from 1975-1979. Along
with Friedman's powerful photos, it's a brilliant mix. For nostalgia junkies,
skateboarders and everyone that sees the DogTown and Z-Boys movie, every page
is a soulful experience. Mad Dog, Red Dog, Bull Dog, Bullet, J-Boy, P.C., Baby
Paul... "DogTown - The Legend of the Z-Boys" is the quintessential encyclopedia
of the skate history of DogTown and the infamous Z-Boys in the late '70s.
People say that you and Stecyk made DogTown what it was.
That's nice, but I can't take credit for that. I kept it alive for sure. Remember by mid '77, there were no Stecyk DogTown articles in SkateBoarder magazine. There were no Z-Boys in SkateBoarder other than a Biniak interview later in the year. I think the Alva frontside air shot I took at the Dog Bowl brought the Z-Boys back in the mag in a big way.
They had to use that photo.
Yeah, and the caption read 'Dog star rising.' Then Tony wrote a letter to SkateBoarder thanking me for getting him back in the magazine. He felt like for a while he was a 'Dog star dropping'. It was politics. They cut him off because he started hanging out with the guys from Skateboard World, which was a new magazine from the L.A. area. The guys from San Diego didn't appreciate that. The business just started getting crazy. Stecyk just didn't want any part of the bullshit business side of things. Craig has always been very anti-establishment. Did you know that neither Stecyk nor I ever had a cover of SkateBoarder?
Yeah, and we definitely took the best pictures of anyone in that whole crew. It was very political. Plus, I was just a kid.
You were only fifteen then, right?
I was fourteen with my first published shot. The only credit I can take is that I was inspired by Craig and I kept it alive when he tailed off. DogTown became known as the center of pool riding and aggressive, radical skating. I was there everyday, either skating or taking photos. Craig was already over it for the most part. It's almost as if he handed off the baton to me. He started writing about me in "Off the Wall," which was the equivalent to "Trash" back then. He was dissing me all the time and telling me I didn't know how to focus my camera. Stecyk pushed us all to be more than what we were with the way he wrote and what he wrote about us. He's a great instigator.
He's a genius.
Yeah, he really is.
How many photos are in the book?
There are over 100 pages of never-before-seen DogTown images of mine. You have to understand that a lot of my photos have been lost over the years. One of the photos of Jay flying out of the pool backside, James Cassimus handed to me in an envelope at last year's Old School Skate Jam. I didn't even look at it until I got home and it was the original slide of my first published photo that had been lost for over 25 years. I couldn't believe it. Stecyk's photos are from '75-'79 and my photos are from '75-'85. There's a lot of Dog Bowl and some Cherry Hill, too. I moved to Jersey right when that opened. Cherry Hill was known as one of the greatest skateparks ever built. I have shots from Oxnard and lots of shots of Marty Grimes.
I have a lot of respect for you because you always stand true to your vision.
Well, thanks. But, I have to give credit to the crew for that because think about hanging out with those hard-asses. I was younger than they were so I had to learn to hold my own. If I didn't shoot good photos, I might get my ass kicked. I learned how to not waste film or time. I learned how to deal with lots of different attitudes just by hanging out with that crew.
How did you get Stecyk to agree to do the book?
Stecyk did not want this book to happen. He didn't want to do it. To him, it's all history, and I think that's great. He's a true artist. He just wants to build on the past and move on toward the future. But even before "Fuck You Heroes" I wanted to compile Stecyk's DogTown stories because they inspired me so much. I used to read them during study hall months before I ever had a photo published. Stecyk's stories were so inspiring; I just had to make this book.
Was Stecyk reluctant when you approached him?
He was next to impossible. I was looking at stuff I hadn't seen of my own in 20 years. I told Craig that we should compile them with his old articles and the one thing that would make it refreshing is that it would be all photos of mine that no one has ever seen before from the same era. When I presented it like that, he liked the idea. He was never really stoked about it, but he said, 'Okay, maybe that's cool'.
How do you feel about the consistency of skating today and trying to take photos?
People used to bail a lot then, too, but they were way more consistent back then. Skating was about flowing, not about tricks! I used to push people. I'd say, 'You have to go a lot higher if you want me to shoot a picture of that!' I was a real hard-ass but I knew you had to push people to get stuff to happen.
You got the photos.
Without a doubt.
What was your favorite type of skating to shoot?
I liked shooting stuff with style. Frontside grinds were the coolest thing to shoot. You could see the expression on people's faces and you could get really close.
What stopped you from going through another publishing house?
Well, originally I tried with my first book, but no one wanted to do it. No one believed in it. Then, out of neccessity, I taught myself with the help of a few folks how to do it all on my own. DIY, as always, to save the day!
Have you considered publishing other books?
Yes, I have. I was considering one recently, based on a radicalchildren's rights pamphlet I got through AK Press from England. But the "DogTown" book is the first on Burning Flags that isn't just mine. I co-authored it with Stecyk and he's getting a royalty.
Was there a point in your career when creative control was an issue for you?
I never had creative control back then, that's why I demand it so much now. The photos that I submitted to magazines were cropped or turned black and white, or they picked the wrong photos. The final straw was a book called "Hardcore California." I was printing the photos and I knew they wouldn't pick the right ones, so I decided to make my own book which became "My Rules" photozine.
Was there ever a time when the skaters told you where to stand?
Jay Adams told me where to stand all the time. He always had good ideas for photos. T.A. was always good at that, too. They knew what would make a good photo. They had a rad perspective.
Did you find that you were inspired again after doing the DogTown book to start taking more skate photos?
No. It just reminded me of what I did back then and why I liked it back then and why I don't do it now. I mean, I'm still inspired by skateboarders now, but I did my thing back then. I would never shoot pictures at a contest now. It's just not exciting to me. The tricks that people do now that are really insane are so technical that it's nothing that I can capture in a still image and do it justice. It's just kind of boring to me. When you lived through the era that I lived through, there's not much more to it. It's all just derivative. I leave it to the kids that are still out there everyday working their asses off. The other thing that's disappointing is that everyone is so professional now. I think that's kind of weird. Back then, after being published a few times, we knew we could get in the magazines. But I just think things were a lot more pure back then. But there are some guys and girls out there now that are taking skate photos that I can appreciate like Mike O'Meally, who is a real nice guy, and Sharon Thomlin from England. They really love the sport and I respect that. But some people are just taking photos because they think it's cool. Fuck those assholes. If you don't skate, you shouldn't be taking photos of it. You're just a kook. If you don't go to punk rock or hip hop shows and love the music, you shouldn't be shooting pictures of those bands. I hate it when people shoot pictures of stuff they're not into.
I think it translates in the photos.
Yeah, but some people get lucky, too. They get a good shot every once in a while and they still don't know anything about it. The film that's wasted and the lack of integrity involved with getting the images, I just don't respect.
Talk about printing bail shots.
Well, obviously there are some bail shots in the book but those were the first attempts at things. That is the significance of those photos. It had never been tried before. Like that half pipe that Jay Adams was on at Oxnard; that had a foot of transition and eight feet of flat wall. It was insane. To see Jay at the top of it, so compressed, was unbelievable. The one where he's catching air is an obvious bail but it's so gnarly to see him going straight down that wall.
Who had the best style on the Z Team?
I think Paul Constantineau had amazing surf style on the banks, but the one with the most bad ass style was Tony Alva. Shogo [Kubo] was bad ass, too. And how do you even describe Jay's style? Jay was the most radical skater you ever saw. It was like his skateboard was a part of him.
You were in an interesting position being a skater and a photographer.What was it like shooting your 'friends' like Stacy Peralta?
Well, Stacy was always the good guy. He would always encourage people to skate better. He was the only one that seemed approachable. Then he started traveling and doing demos and tours and he was way more professional than everyone else. So I started taking pictures with my pocket Instamatic because all of a sudden my friends were getting in the magazines. I was like, 'I'm going to take pictures of them, and maybe they'll be famous'. Then one day I found this teardrop pool, and I took Jay to it. I borrowed a camera because the magazines wouldn't take photos unless they were shot with a 35-mm camera. I shot the photos and then I showed them to Stacy. He said, 'Wow. These are good, Glen.' He encouraged me to send them to the magazine. A few weeks earlier, I had seen Stecyk. I didn't know who he was but I knew he worked at the magazine and he gave me some kind of encouragement. So, I called SkateBoarder and said, 'I've got these photos and I want to send them down, but I don't want you to lose them'. They said, 'Don't worry. We'll get them back to you'. About a month later, I got a tear sheet in the mail with my full-page shot of Jay, from the very first roll of real 35mm color film I ever shot.
Were you familiar with using a 35mm camera at that point?
I had taken Photography 1, but I had only used the Instamatic in that class. I did have a 35mm I got for my birthday, but I only had it for a month before it was stolen. But I knew what had to be done. I followed what I learned in class and used my own ideas. When I got that picture in the magazine, no one could believe it. I was blown away. My first photo was a full-page subscription ad. Back then, the subscription ad photo was one of the most important photos in the magazine. Then the next big photo I had published was from the grand opening of the Reseda Skater Cross. Stacy gave us a ride out there. That was the first time I met the editor of "SkateBoarder," Warren Bolster. He gave me free film that day. I was totally stoked. So I'm up at the top of the second bank where everyone is taking photos. Stacy just stopped skating and started laughing. He couldn't believe that I was up there with all the big guys shooting photos. He was encouraging me and laughing at me at the same time. As it turns out, I was the one from who ended up getting the full-page shot of Wally Inouye doing one of the first early backside airs. To get that photo published from that day was a big deal for me back then.
What other photographers were at Reseda that day?
There were a lot of other people around, but I never respected any of them. Stecyk was never around when I was shooting, that's why I can say that. The other guys didn't even look through their camera at what they were shooting. I never wanted to waste film. I wanted to compose the shot and do the best I could even though things were out of focus a lot. I was still learning. All those other guys were just kooks to me. That's why I got to hang out with the crew so much, I was one of the crew. Sometimes it didn't seem as professional, but when they saw the photos they didn't care how old I was.
Was it just being in the right place at the right time?
The reality is that I was in the right places at the right times, but there were other people shooting photos, too. I also had the heart to believe in these things. I hustled and got the shots; and I did it better!
GLEN E. FRIEDMAN'S OLD PRESS ARCHIVE index