December 19, 2014

Denny Riordon: Bridging the 70's and 80's

Early on in my skateboarding life, I fell in love with the Denny Riordon "People in My Head" graphic as advertised in TWS in 1988. I still consider it one of the great bits of skate art, though -- regrettably -- I have no idea who actually did the graphic. Here was the ad in question:

Denny's original sponsor was Kryptonics and later Toxic. Whenever this deck comes up on collector forums, the response is always the same: there is a strong positive response to the deck art as a strong bit of skate art very indicative of the 1980's period. Riordon's deck came in both a full sized street model and a smaller freestyle model. Here are a few variants of the Riordon "People in my head" model, coming from both Kryptonics and Toxic:

Denny was an East Coast skater who skated freestyle, ditches, pools and pretty much whatever else he could find to skate. He saw action in both the 70's and 80's eras of skating, skating against and with the likes of both Stacy Peralta and Rodney Mullen.

I recently came across a great interview with Denny. Here is an excerpt:

So what other things were there to skate? You mentioned backyard pools. Were there any because I never had any when I was growing up?

Well there were a couple of things that happened. There was always two weeks in the spring time when the pools would get drained for cleaning. Like Town and Country pool on Cranbrook Road, we would go in there and dry it out and make sure it was good. We’d ride those pools for two weeks straight. We’d go from one community pool to the next. It got to the point where sometimes there would be 30 guys in there in the shallow end and cops would come and we’d all scatter. Twenty minutes later, we’d all be back. Another one of our not so smart ideas, that we did anyway, was we would look for newspapers piled up in front of houses and if they had a pool and we’d drain it.


We had a pump system and we would literally drain pools and skate them until the people came home. That was pretty much what was going on, it was the whole Dogtown thing. We were doing the same thing, just on the other coast.

To read the entire article, see: Going Home Again: A Journal of (Re)Skateboarding.

As a little bonus, here is Denny's second freestyle run at the 1989 Savannah Slamma:

December 13, 2014

A Future Skate Pilgrimage -- For Now a Virtual One

Some people dream of making a pilgrimage to some holy site or shrine that is particularly important to them, whereas others of us dream of a pilgrimage to the "shrines" of skateboarding. For some while now I've been thinking about what would be a fun and interesting "skate tour." You perhaps know the sort of thing I mean, perhaps you have even thought of it for yourself: visiting famous skate shops and spots that were seen in the skate magazines and skate videos in the 1970's, 80's and 90's, or places which have just generally woven themselves into the fabric of the skate culture. Like our religious pilgrim, what is likely the most practical solution is to pick some location which provides a number of different opportunities in short striking distance. For them, that might mean Jerusalem or Rome, for me it would be the L.A. area, and Venice/Santa Monica specifically.

I thought it might be fun to share some of what I've come up with, maybe see if any readers have any thoughts of their own and provide some Google Streetview links -- Google's Streetview has provided a fun way to have a virtual tour of these places today. I don't know about you, but I'm always interested to see the context of these places and what else is around them.

As I already mentioned, the central hub, for me at least, has to be Venice/Santa Monica -- though, given the skate history found here, I think this is a fair central hub for most anyone. First stop, the original site of the old Zephyr Shop of Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom, found at 2011 Main St., Santa Monica, Ca. (Google Streetview).

An image of the old Zephyr shop location a few years back. Then another surf shop, Horizons West.
(Image credit: Ian T. Edwards)

Even though the Zephyr shop is no longer here of course, it would be amazing to stand outside this site where so much Dogtown and skateboarding history was written. We can be thankful that the site was saved from demolition in 2007 and has since been designated a Santa Monica city landmark.

Continuing on with the tour, it seems to me it's necessary to get right into the heart of Venice where Pacific Ave. intersects with Woodward Ave. (Google Streetview):

Now there are two immediate points of interest to be found here, one to the right and one to the left. Let's first go right, onto Pacific Ave., where we will almost immediately run into the Venice Originals Skateboard Shop (Google Streetview):

Definitely need to make a stop in there. But if we turn just back from here, turning left onto Pacific Ave. instead of right, we'll very quickly find ourselves at what is perhaps the most famous fire hydrant in the world; namely, that which Natas Kaupas spinned upon in Santa Cruz's second skate video, Streets on Fire, at Pacific Ave. and 17th Ave. (Google Streetview):

You can see the fire hydrant just to the bottom left

Amazing little piece of history, and its so great to see the building to the right still looks the same as it did in the video!

While we are on the subject of spots in this area related to Natas, let's turn to the second most famous fire hydrant in the world, one which is seen even more frequently in Wheels of Fire and Streets on Fire, that found on the corner of Hill St. and Third St. in Santa Monica (Google streetview):

I'd also mention a spot where Natas was famously photographed in Thrasher Magazine doing a wallride, on the mural on Oceanside Park Blvd. just south of the 4th St. overpass in Santa Monica (Google Streetview):

Next in our little tour of Venice is Jay Adam's house from when he was a youngster and skating with the Z Boys. Now normally I wouldn't be for posting something like this since I wish to respect privacy, but I'll make an exception in this instance for two reasons: the first is that Jay's family no longer live here, so their privacy is retained; the second is that Jay himself did a video interview in front of his old childhood home, thereby showing he didn't mind this being known. The attraction to this site isn't some sort of "groupie" attraction to Jay, it's rather because of the skate history he mentions about he and some of the Z Boys that took place around this house. (Watch the video -- and here is the Google Streetview link.)

Continuing on, we already dropped by Venice Originals, time to head on over to Rip City Skates on Santa Monica Blvd. (Google Streetview):

Some other sites in the Santa Monica area that would be worth hitting are the old banked school yards, such as Paul Revere Middle School where we saw Natas and others ripping it up in so many videos:

Finally, what would a trip to the L.A. region be without a stop into the legendary Pink Motel on San Fernando Rd. where you can skate their pool to this day (thanks to Lance Mountain!) and which most of us saw in the pool skating session of the legendary skate film, The Search for Animal Chin. (Google Streetview):

And here it is from above so you can see the pool:

So there it is. My little skate 'pilgrimage'. Where would you go?

December 07, 2014

Basic "Six Million Dollar Man" Team Deck: Rare 1990's Skate Art

Speaking more on the subject of rare decks from the 1990's, here is a Six Million Dollar Man team deck from Basic skateboards.

Here are a couple of details from the deck:

1990's decks can be so very fun. They have a character that is quite distinct from the classic deck art of the 80's on the one hand, but retain a certain vintage pull through their linkages to pop culture more generally.

December 06, 2014

The Wonder Twins: Rare 1990's Skate Art

As skate art is concerned, I am admittedly primarily drawn to and focused upon decks from the 1980's as well as the original Dogtowns from the 1970's. This is in no small part due to the fact that I was born in the first half of the 1970's and so it was the 1980's when I was first drawn into the skate world and it is that era which I have the strongest connection to and familiarity with. (Though I don't want to understate the fact that, as skate artists go, people like Wes Humpston and Jim Phillips are legends and masters of the craft as well, making their work worthy of attention at any time and in any era.)

That said, I am not one who wants to mistake my personal familiarities (or nostalgia if you will) for some sort of objective, universal standard and I am perfectly open to admitting that there has been plenty of interesting stuff that has occurred since those decades. In particular, I have developed a very keen interest in the earlier half of the 1990's -- a time which saw legendary skate artists like Marc McKee and Sean Cliver putting out so much iconic and interesting work.

One of the things that I enjoy about skate art is that the volume of work out there seems so prodigious. It's rather like being an admirer of Picasso, no matter how much you look at his work, you're constantly amazed that new things frequently turn up which you've never seen before -- and with skate art, even if you've seen a particular piece of deck art before, you're always running into new colorways that can give a completely different spin to a graphic than you've seen a thousand times before.

Recently I came across a pair of decks from Santa Monica Airlines which were produced in 1993, the "Wonder Twins" decks of Tim Brauch and Jason Adams -- which, according to Art of Skateboarding, were done by artist Nate Carrico.

(Image credit: Memory Screened)

Memory Screened has a bit of the back-story around the graphic from Jason Adams:

"This wasn’t especially inspired by any existing superhero, it just came from me and Tim Brauch drinking together. We came up with the idea together, we were just always together. Lived together, skated every day, same sponsor, traveled, all that shit! It was the best time, salad days I tell ya…"

I really connect with these decks, particularly in these colorways. The graphics really pop and they represent a particular type of skate art from the 1990's that I particularly enjoy and connect with: those which, like American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, picked up on the classic illustrative tradition of comic book and comic strip art styles. When I think classic 1990's skate art, this is the kind of thing I think about.