Z-Boys.com archive: FISHEYED FREAKS AND LONG DOGS WITH SHORT TALES "Original Dogtown Article"


SkateBoarder Magazine
Vol. 2, No.5
June, 1976
By John Smythe

A day in the black Glass tower
Universal City is one of those places which really doesn't exist. It's what the developers (civic planners) and real estate promoters call "a dream city for the future." If you set out from L.A. City Hall and scoured the countryside looking for Universal City you wouldn't find it. In actuality Universal City isn't a mile wide, an acre deep or even a block long; U.C. is nestled between North Hollywood and Burbank, with its back up against the foothills, and a diligent totaling of the sum of its parts yields only a black glass mini-skyscraper; a black concrete sign with brushed aluminum letters and a movie studio backlot that offers three-dollar tours, featuring synthetic quicksand, the audioanimatsonic polyethylene skinned shark from Jaws, who viciously attacks your tram, a simulated run-away train, and your own take-home photo of you with Frankenstein that costs an additional 75 cents. Universal City is really just window dressing for the corporate reports of the same company that owns Elton John.

Nathan Pratt knew none of this; he was just a kid from the beach, getting interviewed about doing a skateboard jumping stunt in some movie. Pratt was bored. His manager, Skip Engblom. knew it. The coordinator from the stuntman's association knew it. The 56-year-old mini-movie mogul second unit director with the flared stretch pants and leather riding crop knew it. Most importantly the 23-year-old starlet and secretary knew it, for it was her job for the afternoon to keep the 17-year old skate Nazi occupied while the big boys (agents, managers, directors, stunt coordinators, union men, etc.) all took care of business. They figured that the lad could relate better to someone closer to his own age. Only he couldn't relate at all 'cause he'd never been this far inland in his entire life, except for the time he went to the surf contest in Texas, and that was on the other side of the stinking desert, while this was on the other side of the San Fernando Valley She had already taken him on the Studio Tour and to the commissary where the movie stars eat lunch. There, over the roast beef sandwiches, she introduced him to "somebody like Martin Milner, who plays a cop on TV. Couldn't I meet Dracula or Gidget instead? Pratt asked. The girl had even gone so far as to offer him more diversion than he wanted, particularly in light of the fact that glass-off was in about 90 minutes. Consequently Nathan was standing back in the glass tower looking bored. Manager Skip had already succeeded in drinking the execs at least 93 percent under the table, let out all of his line, and was about to land the fish. "Well, my boy looks a little distraught; I think you guys just better make him a good offer to pick up his interest a bit." So the dickering begins, Nathan continues to look impassive, while Engblom appears vaguely threatening. Finally, somewhere past 300 dollars a foot, Skipper mutters, "It will cost you more over 15 feet, and he never jumps less than 12 feet." At this they all shake hands, venture out onto the lot where Pratt jumps off a roof into the street. Cameras whirr, and everyone looks suitably impressed. On the way home in the studio limo, Pratt and Engblom laughed like hell. Nathan went to the tropics with his score, and Skip went to Hollywood Park.


There is a movement afoot to get skateboarding back to the basics Its proponents argue that current skateboarding is a no-soul, lackluster, overcommercialized crock of catcrap. The slopes and sidewalks are far too crowded with neophytes to allow any legitimate self-expression. Magazines and films shamelessly exploit individuals and once-virgin spots in the name of corporate greed and individual ego-trips.

Camera boys fall over each other, rushing to ruin another skate paradise by exposing it in print. The sensationalism evident in the skate press renders their articles as meaningless. Objectively examine one of these publications, and what do you find? Nothing but paper stars and colored dots. Whatever happened to skating just for the pure fun of it?

Or so it goes. What is the answer, if any? Well, some find it in a radical new approach to equipment The basics involve all-steel trucks, and wheels with a rigid wood top (preferably at least 2" thick). The purpose...well it's said that the best way to find the old knowledge is to use the old doors. The steel-wheeled skate offers a hard, non-biting, rolling surface which doesn't melt or burn out at extremely high speeds. The technology of these beasties is easily within everyone's grasp. It is said that. after a couple of months on steel wheels, you return to the purest essence of the skateboarding experience and begin to encounter control situations previously undreamed of.


Woody Waller is into professionalism. Ten years ago, Woody skateboarded in a Tony Tiger sugar frosted flakes TV commercial, and netted something like $20,000 for it. Woody is the last of the low-keyed unknowns. Few people recognize him from the commercial. Of course, the fact that he skated in a Tony The Tiger suit and mask probably adds to his obscurity On the streets of Dogtown, everyone has a scam, and that scam is their total essence: their way, manner, time and place of being are all dependent upon their particular scam. Waller's scam is that of a skate star, and there isn't anyone on Main Street who hasn't witnessed one of Woody's sidewalk serenades. He waits in the shadows for the arrival of the Big Blue Buses. As the old women get off, Woody streaks up and pulls off eight to fourteen consecutive 360's. He smiles while they drop their shopping bags in astonishment. Woody has been sighted at all hours of the day and night, always in motion. On a recent afternoon, some of Dogtown's heaviest scammers were hanging out checking out Woody's action. The crowd included talents like Paul the Nazi, who offers automatic weapons with his cleaning service; Mojo Blue, the king of Silver Satin and Kool Aid: Willie the Gimp, a trip man who lives off his many insurance settlements; Purcelle the Pimp, who busses his young transvestite Honeys to the Marina in his pink Cadillac pimpmobile: Tall Tex, the second story man: Wheels the Wino, who takes his wheelchair to the bar so that when he's too drunk to walk, he can wheel home; Bordercross Billy, who baffles the customs agents with his X-ray-proof, lead-lined, poly-propelene, zippered stomach bag, which he had surgically implanted in Switzerland to smuggle contraband; Morris the Merchant, the only man to ever have charged $12.75 for a pint of Jack Daniels sour mash No. 7, and lived to tell the story; Magnificent Marko, the casualty from the psychedelic wars, who sold his story to Hollywood (it turned out that this little space monkey was an undercover cop); and 3-D Loveall, a bleary-eyed mad genius, whom, in between lathering up young lovelies with Redi-Whip, managed to find fame and fortune by inventing a 3-D television that you have to wear special goggles to see. Anyhow this convocation of Street Slicks gave Woody Waller the supreme compliment; after his routine, they began to shower the street with money.

Tony Alva was from the banks and canyons of the Northern Points. He and his friends "didn't go to school" together. Usually they would surf on the low-tide mornings, and ride the banks and canyons during the afternoon winds. He had a reputation for being fast. Tony wasn't sure where this rep came from, and he really didn't care. He just knew he didn't like it. A couple of his friends told him about the contest at the Sports Arena. "Prize money" was the only thing they said he could remember. His sponsors were up for it, so Alva entered the Pro division. "Figured I could have a good time, and maybe pick up a little money Besides, I needed a new car." So they went to the arena, the pride of Exposition Park. Tony had the fastest time in the slalom prelims, and won the Cross Country His friend Bob Biniak got second. Upon receiving his $500 check, Alva stated, "Take the money and run, son!" Tony was spotted in the Islands a week later.

Stacy Peralta originally entered his first contest as a lark, and eight months later, he was the number three freestyler in the World Skateboard Championships in the Los Angeles Sports Arena. All of this meant nothing to him, basically, since he had done it all in the name of fun. He was pretty much tired of the whole scene anyway. Then came the final straw. What broke the camel's back this time was the night he was at his grandmother's, and he told her about being number three in the World Contest. His grandmother began looking through a Skateboard magazine, and promptly stated, "I don't see you in here anywhere, Stacy" "Yeah, I know" he replied. "Well, Stacy it seems that if you were number three in the world that you ought to be in this magazine" "Yeah, I guess so, but I'm really not into it" "Then why do you do it?" "For fun, I guess" "Well, are you having fun?" "Stacy thought that over and decided to quit entering contests for a while. Might as well quit college too, and go surfing for a while.

The next day, John Arnold called Peralta on the phone from Australia. He told Stacy that Golden Breed Australia would like to bring him "Down Under" all expenses paid, to show them what he knew about skating. Stacy figured it was a good trip. He was on the next flight out.

On a steep, windswept hill in a long forgotten canyon, the skaters had assembled. They were nameless, faceless sorts, with one goal in common: to hold a professional, no frills, "non-contest" contest. There were seventeen in all, representing the various stratas of the skate experience The premise of the event was simple: each man would put up $100 cash: it would be a speed contest, with unlimited equipment (no restrictions on wheel size, composition, board length, etc.) It would be decided by the clock, and it would be winner take all; the winner pays for the entertainment. (The refreshments, in this case, were considerable.) The advantages of this sort of event are readily apparent. By holding it themselves. they sidestepped the tremendous amount of red tape and financial, legal, organizational, insurance, supervisory and other hassles inherent to the "official" contest situation. Also, the non- structured non-contest was totally responsive to the needs of the entrants (after all, the competitors in this case were the organizers). As one of the participants commented, "The whole trip is a lot more up front without all the middlemen" The implications are: if organized contests, per se, don't measure up to your dictates...who needs them? Just hold your own. Gather up your friends and equipment, venture up into the hills, put your money down and get on it.

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