INTERVIEW WITH DAN TAG
INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOS BY PHIL JACKSON AND ZOLI
After Burnside took off, the skaters in Philadelphia knew it was their turn to step it up and start building some renegade concrete somewhere, somehow. Skateboarders like Carlos, Dan Tag and George Draguns who had been skating for years, were totally down for anything skateable in the Philly area, whether it be a vert ramp, a concrete bowl or a grand mixture of the two. The highway next to the FDR park in Philly was a perfect spot and, over the years, many people with concrete and vert ramp building skills would roll up on the scene to help make the dream become a reality. So how did this all start? Who made the calls on what was to be built and how big? Who got the ‘crete and shaped it? Who are those old vert soldiers riding the vert ramp next to the sprawling concrete? Why would the city of Philadelphia let this all go down? Check out these interviews to give you an inside look at the devolution of the FDR SKATEPARK!
“The funny thing about FDR, and every cement park now that has been renegade-built, is it’s like a part of history now unless it gets knocked down. FDR could be there for a hundred years. It’s weird to think that a bunch of scrapper skaters were stoked and built this thing. It’s like a giant piece of artwork, a giant sculpture.”
Yo, Daniel. Let’s talk about FDR. Where were you when you first heard about it?
I think it was 1995. Love Park was the street skate spot.
That’s where you were hanging, right?
No. I was skating what you were skating at the time. I’m like the classic termite vert dude, but there’s a bunch of guys that skated South Street, and a crew of guys from the South Street area that skated Love Park. Basically, they got kicked out of there. The city said, “This is your skatepark now.” It was under the bridge at FDR Skatepark. All that was in there was a wedge and a slider cement box. People kept talking about this skatepark, so Rick Charnoski and I drove down there. At the time, we had a picture frame shop in the city. We were living in the city in Philly and we were like, “Oh yeah, a skatepark. Let’s go see.” We rolled up and there was a big cement pad and nothing else, so we got word that Carlos and some of the dudes from the South Street street skateboard connection were going to build something down there. I didn’t know that street scene. It’s like two separate worlds. They were hyped to do something and then Carlos said to us, “Do you guys want to pitch in?” We had a company truck at the time and I’d just gone through major reconstructive shoulder surgery. Carlos called Charnoski and said, “Hey, let’s use your van. Let’s go pick up cement and supplies and help us work.”
Wait a minute. Did the city know that you guys were going to build ‘crete there?
No. It was kind of desolate in a weird way. There was nothing down there. On weekends or during games, the park would fill up, but nobody was down there. Sometimes the hotrod guys would pull their cars under the bridge and wax them. They would bring buckets and pails and detail their cars. There was nothing down there and nothing was going on. Carlos is one of the dudes that, from the beginning, was like, “Fuck it! We’re building it. There is no reason not to. They said this was a skate park.” Carlos and his connections were hyped to do it. We knew Carlos through the vert scene, so Carlos was like, “Do you guys want to help too?” I’m like, “I have a broken wing, but I’m down to kick in money and let you use our van.” When the first wall got finished, it was like, “Well, that’s up.” It was a nice thing for me because coming back from being injured that was the first thing I inverted in six months. I was like, “We’ve got cement in the Northeast!” All of a sudden, it was like, “Let’s build more.” That push came from Carlos and his crew of dudes. Without Carlos, it would have never kicked off the way it did. From that, things broke off into sections where Carlos starting working on the next part of FDR. He built the first really, really big wall. As that was getting finished, we decided to build a half pipe.
What was the reaction of guys like Carlos? Did they care? Were they into it?
Carlos was totally down for it. It was one of those things where he was already doing his gig with the cement. George Draguns and I were sitting in my warehouse and we said, “Let’s call Darren Menditto. He’s got Sean Miller’s old metal in the back of his parents’ restaurant down at the Jersey shore. He’s got parts of the old brick park and some wood from Darren’s failed attempt at building a half pipe in his backyard because the city shot him down. Brian Finn and George and I took my van up there and started pulling stuff apart and throwing it in the truck. It was two full trucks. I filled my truck with the metal in my van and it was so weighed down. I was like “Whoa. Who knew that metal weighed that much?” We showed up at FDR and threw the shit out in the parking lot, and that’s all everyone needed. All of a sudden, you had Steve Faas and every vert skater and every skateboarder that was around at the time coming in saying, “I’m going to pitch in.” Even guys like Tom Boyle that weren’t living in the city were there. You name it. People wanted to go. I think that halfpipe got built in four days, start to finish. It was like an Amish uprising. We grew some beards and that was it.