INTERVIEW BY CHRISTIAN HOSOI
INTRODUCTION BY DAN LEVY
PHOTOS BY CHICKEN AND RAY ZIMMERMAN
Christian and Eddie have been very close friends for a long time and this interview is an open book to their experiences together. They have been through the best of times and the worst of times as friends and as business partners. The one thing that has always remained true, however, is their friendship. Over the recent years, after Christian’s release from jail, they have both signed a new lease on life and their bond as friends has strengthened. This is a conversation between two skaters, two friends and two people whose impact on skateboarding continues to be felt worldwide. Long live the brotherhood.“IT’S CRAZY HOW OUR LIVES TURNED OUT. LITTLE DID I KNOW THAT WE’D END UP SPENDING THE NEXT 20 YEARS TRAVELING THE WORLD SKATING AND LIVING THIS CRAZY LIFESTYLE.”
What’s up, my brother?
What’s up, Christian?
I hope to be able to talk to you about the good old days. Let’s start at the beginning.
It all started at the Lakewood skatepark. We were like, 12 or 13. I told my buddy, “Man, that chick is ripping!” My buddy slapped me on the back of the head and said, “That’s not a chick. That’s Christian Hosoi.” I was like, “Whoa.” You were ripping up the half pipe. After that, we went out and smoked some herb in the parking lot. Then I remember I went to Whittier Skatepark, and saw you there. You were like, “What’s up, man?” We went out, smoked a little more and we’ve been skate buddies ever since.
It’s crazy how our lives turned out. Little did I know that we’d end up spending the next 20 years traveling the world skating and living this crazy lifestyle.
I remember when I first saw you at Lakewood. You had this crazy board with no tail. It was all worn down. I was like, “Man, you need a board.” The next time I saw you at Whittier, you were shredding and getting sponsored by Powell. All of a sudden, you were one of the top amateurs.
Yeah, I was broke. I couldn’t afford a skateboard. I ended up finding my dad’s wallet one day in the bathroom. It had $50 in it. I took the money, went out and bought a brand new skateboard. I’d gotten a mini bike for Christmas, so I sold that and bought myself some pads. That’s how I started. My dream was to be a pro skater and win a contest. I had really bad equipment, but I started getting hand me downs from everybody. Lester Kasai started giving me boards. Next thing I know, I’m skating Whittier Skatepark, and this dude is looking at me. He was giving me dirty looks. I’m from Long Beach, so I didn’t really dig that. It turns out that it was Stacy Peralta. He comes up to me, and says, “I’m Stacy. It’s nice to meet you.” The next thing I know, Caballero comes up to me. He was my idol. He came up and gave me a set of wheels. He said, “Stacy told me to give you these.” I was like, “Cool. A brand new set of wheels.” Then McGill comes up to me. He hands me his skateboard said, “Here. Stacy told me to give you my old board.” Then Jim Goodrich came up and says, “Hey, I want to sponsor you.” I’d finally made it. I finally got sponsored. Then I took a run on my new board, hung up, boom, and broke my wrist. A week later, I got a phone call from Stacy. He said, “I want to start an amateur team. I want you, Steve Steadham and Kevin Staab to be our amateurs.” I was stoked. I got sponsored right there by the biggest company in the world.
That’s an awesome story, Ed. Right after that, your wrist got better quick. You were winning all of the amateur contests at that time. That was right when I left Powell. I went from riding for Z-Flex to the Bones Brigade. Then I was on Dogtown and then I was on Sims. And then I was on Alva.
You’d just had the Rising Sun board come out. After that, we were driving to Upland and you pulled out the Alva fish board; it was the first one. I remember you told me the plan. You were like, “Eddie, you have to quit Powell, and skate for Alva.” You had just started skating for Alva. You said, “Quit Powell and skate for Alva. You’ll be the amateur, and I’ll be the pro. We’ll travel the world, grab chicks and rage.” I was like, “That sounds good, but I skate for Powell. I’m pretty happy over there.” Then I ended up meeting Tony Alva and Duncan. Somehow, you guys talked me into quitting Powell, so I made the phone call to Stacy. I said, “I want to quit, unless you want to give me a model.” He was like, “I can’t give you a model. That takes time.” I said, “Well, I quit.” I quit the biggest skate company in the world. Then you and I got in the car, and you were like, “Okay, we’re going to the Alva factory.” I was like, “Cool.” Then we pull up to this residential area. We go to this guy’s house, where he lived with his mom. The factory was in the garage. It wasn’t even a two-car garage. It was this little tiny space. I was like, “Oh, man. What did I do?” A week later, I got a phone call from you. You said, “Yo, Eddie. I guess you’re on your own. I quit Alva.” I was like, “Oh, no.” But things worked out. I got on Alva, and got a model out. My dream was to be a pro skater and win a contest. Suddenly, I’m a pro skater, and I’m getting my model out. I go to my first contest, and Alva says, “Eddie, I don’t even care if you enter the contest. You don’t even have to skate in it. Just go out there and represent.” I was like, “What? I don’t have to enter? I don’t have to do good?” My attitude changed instantly. Instead of going out there and trying to win, I was just going to skate and represent. I remember, later on, I was watching Gibson and Tex. They were so good. Craig would be drinking beers before his run. He was just crazy. I was just having a good time, enjoying life and skating.
I remember the Alva team represented the brotherhood. I remember when I started my own company; I hung out with you guys. You guys were still my homies. You were the guys I hung out with at every contest. When TA was around, we’d always hang out together. We were brothers. We did party and rage back then. It was a cool time. That era is going to be something to remember, because there hasn’t been anything like the Alva team since then.
You know what was crazy about those times? You and I would go out the night before a contest. We’d stay out all night partying with girls and raging in the local towns, and you’d still end up winning the contest. I never really liked contests. For me, it wasn’t about the contest scene. It was just about hanging out with the kids and skating as hard as I could. If I did good, I did good. If not, oh well. You always took it serious, so you’d always win. I was like, “We just partied all night and homeboy still won the contest.” Then it would start all over, and we’d be raging again. Those were some good years.
Those were some unforgettable times. You guys had this huge team with Alva. I remember that Alva team poster of you guys. That poster is classic. I wish I were in that photo. I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of skaters that wish they could be in a photo like that, especially, if you knew the generation of Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Shogo Kubo, where skateboarding vertical came from. It started with surfing. Then surfers started skating. They emptied out backyard pools and busted the first airs. That’s the reason why we skated. That’s why Marina and Lakewood were built. All those things came from that. If it wasn’t for those guys, who knows what would have happened. And here you are in the poster with those guys. To be a part of that was something so special.
It was great. It was the best time of my life, with Craig, Gibson and all the boys. We’d roll up into towns and go to all of the bars. Those guys would take all the girls. It was an incredible time in skateboarding. Everyone was ripping.
I remember Freddie, Craig, Murf, Cooksie, Hartsel, J.T. and all you guys when you’d get together. You were just ripping and skating. That team was so down for skating. You had this energy that was so awesome. I know the partying and the girls were all good, but the skating part is what I love to focus on now. I like to focus on skateboarding and how it evolved and what teams came up and what teams are still here.
It’s funny, because half of those guys were Christians, like Cooksie, J.T. and Hartsel. They were Christian Rastafarians. When we were waiting for flights at airports, half the guys would be reading Bibles and the other half would be in the bars. It was a weird mix.
The Alva team was definitely a weird mix.
Everyone had dreadlocks except Gibson, Danforth and me. Gibson had crazy red hair, and Danforth had no hair. People would walk by and look at us. People had never seen dreadlocks before. It was all new back then.
[Laughs.] People weren’t used to seeing dreadlocks, especially on white boys.
People would just stare at us. We would be walking through the airports just laughing. People were like, “Those are skateboarders?” It was the best time of my life with the Alva team.
What happened for you after the Alva era?
We were living large for a lot of those years. I remember you introduced me to the club scene in LA in the ’80s. You had the magic key. It was VIP everywhere we went. It was crazy.
We were up at my house in Hollywood skating my ramp.
Those were good times.
[Laughs.] You and me were mountain biking for cross-country training. Didn’t you talk me into that?
Yeah. A friend of mine gave me a bike. I gave him a skateboard and he gave me a bike. Then one day I looked in your closet and you had a bike. So we started doing the hills and getting into training.
[Laughs.] We were riding by Dodger Stadium.
It worked. You pissed me off, though, because we’d race to the top of the hill at your house, and you’d be sneaky every time. You’d be right behind me, and you’d pass me at the last second. That sucked.
[Laughs.] Those were good days at my ramp, you and me skating solo. Those were special times for me. From us being 14 years old skating together, to having my ramp up in Hollywood, and being able to session with our close friends, Block and the Venice guys, those were some really cool times. Ray Bones would come up all the time. He was hanging out with us.
I remember guys like Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys would be out there doing kickturns on your ramp. All of these celebrities would come by. The nightlife was crazy, too. I’ve been around a lot of partiers in my life, but I’ve never seen anyone splurge as much as you, Christian. I remember one night you said to your dad, “We’re going out. Give me $200 bucks for the night.” Then you were like, “We might go and eat. Give me another $100. No. Give me $400. That should cover it.” That was just for one night, and we were going out every single night for years. The life we were living was crazy. It had to end.
That was ’91, and then the rug got pulled out from under all the vert skaters.
It got ugly.
Yeah, Santa Cruz pulled the plug on my joint venture with them. I moved in with my parents. You were living with your parents, too.
Then Chicken and Kelly built their pools in Huntington Beach.
Yeah, that’s what made me start my company, after I saw you start your company. It seemed like the thing to do. After you’re a pro skater, you get into the business end of it. I started a company called Public, which was pretty cool. I started it in my mom’s garage, but I kept on going to Chicken’s factory all the time. Then, one day, I asked if I could rent a little spot there. Chicken and Kelly were like, “Sure.” They gave me a key and, all of a sudden, my dreams started coming true real quick. I had the key to this huge factory with thousands of skateboards. I had my office there. You were working with Chicken, doing your company called Milk. I was bragging one day. I was like, “Hey, Christian, I sold more boards than you this month.” You got all pissed off. You were like, “Okay, Eddie. That’s it. We’re working together.” I was like, “Cool.” We were finally going to be partners after all these years. I said, “What are you going to call your company?” You said, “Focus.” I was like, “Cool. Focus and Public.” You were like, “No, Eddie. You have to get rid of Public. Public is whack. If you want to work with me, you have to concentrate on one company, and that’s Focus.” I was like, “Oh, man, there goes all of my hard work.” But I was like, “Okay. I’ll go for it.” We’d been buddies for years. You were one of the best skaters in the world. Of course, I wanted to be partners with you. Right then, the phone rang. You picked it up and instead of saying, “Public Skates.” You said, “Focus.” I was like, “Oh, no.” Then you turned to me and said, “By the way, Eddie. We can’t be friends now that we’re partners. Friends and business don’t mix, so we can’t be friends anymore. We’re just business partners.” I was like, “What?” Within five minutes, I’d lost my skate company and my friend. Then Duncan came in.
This is a good story. Keep going.
Duncan came in to build a wall for our new business in Chicken’s warehouse. We needed a wall, so I called Duncan, because he builds a lot of stuff. Every night he was there in Huntington, he was going out and hooking up with a different girl. Duncan saw what was going on and he was like, “You guys need help.” I said, “Yes, we do need help.” That’s when Duncan got involved. Duncan built the Soul Bowl right down the street. He built the ramps. All of a sudden, we had a big bowl to skate. Right about that time, I asked Chicken if I could rent a room in his house. He said, “Sure.” So I had a key to the warehouse at Screaming Squeegees. I’m living in a mansion with a pool in the backyard, a skateboard museum, pool tables and a pinball machine. It was a skater’s paradise. It was a dream come true. Then Duncan moved in to Chicken’s. You were there, too, sleeping on the couch. That’s when things started getting wild.
I started getting more into crystal meth at that time. I was dabbling in it at the beginning of those companies. As time went on, it became an everyday thing for me. I was hanging out with all of the wrong people. Next thing you know, I was living at everyone else’s house. I was out doing whatever I was doing. You guys were living at that house. We were doing Focus. Then everyone was butting heads because everyone had a different agenda.
We were fighting all the time. Duncan and I were best friends, but we were fighting every single day. You would come in, and then we’d all start arguing. Everyone was arguing. It started sucking really hard. We weren’t making any money. I thought we were going to make it big, but we weren’t making any money. Then things started getting weird at Chicken’s. The good thing about Chicken was that once he fell asleep, he was out for the night. You couldn’t wake him up. You guys would be all loud and crazy and it didn’t bother him. Then Duncan blew it. He had a girl over one night, and she tried to light a cigarette on the stove, but she forgot to turn the gas off. She almost blew up the house. Chicken was like, “Duncan, you’ve got to go.” So Duncan moved out. Then you pretty much trashed Chicken’s house. It was bad. After that, finally, I got kicked out. We all got kicked out. That’s when the company ended. It wasn’t fun any more. We weren’t close friends like we used to be. Times were tough. We all went our different ways. I moved back to Long Beach. Duncan started doing all of the announcing stuff again.
And I disappeared.
You were gone.
I was lost in the abyss of drug addiction.
Yeah, I went back to my mom’s house. I walked into my old room, sat down, and called an old friend of mine from Long Beach, Eric Wilson. He was the bass player for Sublime. Two months earlier, Brad, the singer, had died. They had a big mansion in downtown Long Beach. They were like, “Come over, Eddie.” So I went over there and pretty much never left. I moved in. That was a crazy time in my life. I was traveling with those guys and doing tours. It was cool. The rock n’ roll guys got it good. They’ve got the big bus, the videos and bunk beds. Those were crazy times. Those guys were doing a bunch of drugs. I was the band manager. My job was to go to the store, buy beer, roll joints and hang out all day. I did that for about a year. Then Duncan called me. He said, “Eddie, do you need a job?” I was like, “Yeah, I need a job.” I’d never really had a job before in my life, besides being a pro skater and trying to do a skateboard company. He was like, “Come over to the Block.” The Block was a new mall they were building. I went over there, and Dave and Carje were drawing up the plans for the Vans combi pool. Duncan said, “Eddie, we’re building skateparks.” I was like, “Cool. I’ve never built a skatepark.” So we started digging and building the combi. After that, it was crazy. We built 12 skateparks, and then I got involved with the Vans Triple Crown, the Gravity Games, and traveling the U.S. setting up all the events. That’s what I was doing for a while.