INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTO BY PAT MYERS
The time has come… For some, it comes Naturally… Slap it, draw it, grind it… Make it different, make it yours… Invent it, fuck it, sling it… But what stands out, Is what one stands for… Lucero, like him or not, All of the above is true… There’s nothing to protect but the truth itself… Stand by your ideals… Never let someone else tell you what’s what…. If so, you’re gone… That’s why John is still here. Hear-hear, and cheers… Open the bottle, take a swig. Come up with something of your own… Maybe it’s in the parking lot at Whittier, Think about it… Johnny did.
“IT WAS FUN TO MAKE PEOPLE HATE US, BUT WE JUST WANTED TO RIDE POOLS.”
Okay, we’re going from start to finish. Tell me your name.
John Leroy Lucero.
Yeah, that’s my real name. That was my dad’s middle name and he decided he would torture me with it, too.
Like ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’?
Yeah, that was my favorite song.
Who sang that song?
There’s 100 points for John. That’s JLL. Like LL Cool J.
Yeah, I guess so.
Where’d you grow up?
I grew up in La Mirada. It’s right across the street from Whittier in LA County, on the cusp of Orange County.
You had a 213 number.
It was 213 originally, when it mattered.
If you had a 714 number, you were behind the curtain.
That’s right. You were also in La Jolla, or downtown with a 714 number, in the old days.
That was the cut-off point.
Yeah, I lived right next to Whittier. In between Buena Park and La Habra is La Mirada.
Were there a lot of gangs then?
Where I grew up, there weren’t really gangs, or maybe we were just too clueless to notice.
When did you pick up a skateboard?
I was skateboarding in 1974. My sister was the first one in my family to get a board. It was a clay wheels Roller Derby.
That was top of the line.
Yeah, it was. When my parents busted that out for her for Christmas, I was so amped. She was the first one to get a real board. Ever since then, it was on.
What did you guys do?
We lived at the top of this hill, so the main thing was to make it down the hill and make the right hand turn at the bottom. Before we figured out you had to put shoes on, we’d burn our toes on the edge of the wheel making the turn. It was all about getting low and making the turns. It was the first killer feeling I ever had.
It was hard to make a turn on those weird wheels.
You couldn’t do it. It didn’t seem like it was long after that when the urethane wheel came out.
What was the first set of urethane wheels you had?
They were dark blue Cadillacs. My brother got them.
Is your brother older?
Yeah, he’s eight years older. He was the main influence on my skating. When we first started skating, everyone in our neighborhood had a skateboard. Then my brother and his friends started riding schoolyard banks. Then the first skate parks came up in Montebello and Carlsbad, and my brother and his friends would go. My mom wouldn’t let me go because I was too young. The first skate park I got to go to was Skatopia. We got our memberships before the park even opened. My membership card was #56.
Skatopia was a great skatepark.
It was killer.
It had a half pipe and the little pool.
Yeah, that little pool was great. I broke my collarbone, separated my shoulder and broke my wrist, all in one go in that pool.
Trying to learn rock-n-rolls.
How did you hurt your shoulder from a rock-n-roll?
My brother used to call me ‘Bail Bonds John.’ I’d keep trying to do it and I would jump off all the time. When rock-n-rolls came out, I really wanted to learn them. I’d try it and jump off. Try it and jump off. The first time I tried to commit, I was a little tired from all the bailing, so I got carried away and came in like a rock-n-roll fakie with my body turned toward the come in position. I shot down the wall fakie and my arm caught the wall. I tore my whole arm out of the socket and broke my collarbone and my wrist. My feet were still on the board, but I stood up and my arm was hanging down past my knees.
Did you go into shock?
Yeah, after I saw my brother’s eyes were buggin’ out. I was only 12 years old. My brother helped me up, and I lay down into the grass. When I lay down, everything kind of cracked, but my arm went back in to the socket. I took a trip to the hospital, and everything was separated and broken.
I’ve never broken my collarbone. I bet that hurts.
That was my first time, and it hurts.
Pulling your arm out of the socket must be painful.
I still have problems applying pressure with that arm. I’m like a gimp with certain actions, depending on how my arm bends.
Yuck. Was it loose ball-bearings wheels still?
I think we had Road Riders by the time we hit the parks. I know it progressed pretty fast. When the parks started happening, that’s when I really started skating. By the time I was 9 years old, I was skating full time.
Did you session that little driveway park?
We used to call it the local half-pipe. It was two embankments between the driveway cuts. We’d grind the edge down until the dirt and grass went away, and we had a two-inch gap to grind all day. Anything that was happening in the magazines, we did it right there on the local half-pipe. We built little wooden ramps and rode curbs. Then we started finding out about pools. We had four pools in our town, and that’s when we started getting into vertical.
Do you remember ‘Taters’ working at Skatopia?
No, not really. I do remember him being there. It wasn’t until Whittier opened up that I became a local dude at a local park. Up ’til then at Skatopia, I’d just go pay for my two-hour session. It’d go by so fast, and then it was time to go home. I was just trying to skate. That was my first real action skateboarding.
What was your first pool?
It was in La Mirada and it was called Moya’s pool. It was a left-hand kidney that had barely enough of a hip. These white trash people lived there, and they’d let you skate for $2. There was the La Mirada Plunge at the La Mirada City Park. It was the big Olympic-size square pool. I skated that for a long time. Then another friend named Dave Evans had a square pool with rock coping. We used to session that one all the time, because it was right next to my junior high school. We’d skate to school and stash our boards in the bushes by Dave’s house and as soon as we got out of school, we’d go skate.
You were addicted?
Yeah, and we’d try to get to Skatopia on the weekends. After we found pools, I didn’t think that parks were that great, but I still liked the flow of the parks. I love the flow of snake runs and banks as much as vertical. I loved the flow of Skatopia’s big snake run. Pools are the heaviest, though. You go straight into the action.
Did you ride Paramount?
It was one of my favorite parks. My brother loved Paramount because there was no coping there. You could snap over the top. It had some weird beveled edge. And they had the vert-bowl.
The vert bowl was insane.
I never made it to the top. I saw George Orton do a front side air out of there, though. My brother used to ride it on his back – kind of like a coffin ride. He used to do airs out of the vert bowl on his back.
I remember him well.
He’d get to the top of the last turn, and I’d put both hands on his helmet and push him as fast as I could down to the edge, and he’d go straight up, feet first, on his back, and he’d grab the board by its rail and float back down to the bottom. He’d go to the pro shop if he broke his board and get another one.
Did you ever skate Marina?
Yeah, it was kind of far away, but we went a few times. I dug on Marina. Marina had the some of the first best pools in a skate park.
What about Lakewood?
I liked Lakewood’s little keyholes. The half pipe was gnarly. It got real deep on the end.
When did you first get sponsored?
I think it was 1980. ASPO (Association of Skate Park Owners) was a contest series in the parks for all the un-sponsored amateurs, 1A, 2A and park teams, and I started skating in those contests in late ‘79. I was riding 2A at 13 years old. I was at ASPO at the Reseda Skatercross, and I was riding one of your boards. I had some Blood Revolver wheels on and some Indys. I ran into Denise Barter, and she was stoked I was riding those wheels. She checked me out in the contest, and then she asked if I wanted to ride for Dogtown.
I was down, but I never got a phone call back or anything. I found out later that Dogtown was going under. That was the beginning and end of my Dogtown sponsorship. Sponsorship never came up again, until I got booted out of the Whittier Skatepark for being a little punk rock troublemaker kid. I remember Stacy Peralta came up to us out front, riding the curbs. He was giving us the lowdown. He said that this was the next generation of skateboarding. He thought we were something else, so he started sending us these little street boards and then Stecyk came a few times and took photos of us. The whole time I was doing this, I was kicked out of the skatepark. All I was thinking of was how to get back into the skatepark. I was trying to tell Stacy that. He was like, ‘No, man. We want you on the streets.’ I was like, ‘Street skating is cool, but I ride pools.’ He never really listened to me on that, and I always wondered why. Later on, I realized they had a plan. That was my first encounter with the industry types.
[Laughs] The industry types?
They had a plan. I thought the plan was so girly.
Why wouldn’t Peralta let you ride the pools?
I don’t know. I wanted to be in the contests and skating pools. I kept asking, and he never listened. He said street skating is the future of skateboarding. I was bummed. I thought it was all skateboarding.
Why did you get booted out of the Whittier park?
I was just getting too rowdy. We used to torture people. The little girls would show up, and we’d pee in water guns and squirt them in the face. We’d put ice in pellet guns and shoot people. We’d piss off the balconies. The owner of the park pretty much had it with us. We never paid, so they just threw us out for life. When we got booted out of the park, it was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me.
Who was the owner?
Did he have kids?
Yeah, he had two kids. They skated the park.
What were their names?
Mike Guilotti and Angelo Guilotti. They used to skate around the park naked. They were kind of fucked up.
Brewce Martin syndrome?
Well, Angelo Guilotti now has a pool up in Malibu built for skating.
Really? He was the first person I knew who had edible undies. He wore edible undies to the park one night.
He was one of those naked guys .You know, those guys that have to get naked every time something happens.
What did they have to get naked for?
I don’t know.
Did anyone eat his undies?
I hope not.
You got booted from the skatepark, but Whittier was your first skate team?
Yeah, we were still skating at Lakewood and Big O, but we couldn’t go everyday because we didn’t have cars. I didn’t want to tell my mom I got booted out of the park because it was my perfect excuse to be out of the house. I went to school, came home, got a bite to eat and went to the skate park every single night. We’d go there and just antagonize Ross Guilotti and ride the curbs and sidewalks in the parking lot. My buddy Richard Armijo and I both got booted. It was our purpose to have everyone think we were complete idiots. One of us would fall over and then we’d start throwing our boards at each other. We were out there screaming and raising hell, and people started noticing that. We’d do inverts on curbs and board slides. Whatever we were missing in the pool, we were doing on the curb.
And Stacy Peralta thought this was the newest thing?
Yeah, I think he already had a plan before he saw us. People were already street skating. We weren’t the first ones. When he saw us, I think he saw some unknown kids that were already doing what he was thinking needed to be done. It was our own version, and he was amped up on it. We weren’t really buying his program, though.
He was sending you boards and stuff?
Yeah, he sent us these little street issues. When he first showed them to us, he said, ‘What do you think about these boards?’ I said, ‘These are like Hobie Mike Weed radical terrain models, just painted over.’ He said, ‘How can you tell?’ I said, ‘I know. I can tell what these things are. You must have gotten them for $2. Closeout special. You could put some camouflage on them and call them the ‘street issue’.’ He said, ‘Well, we have another coming out and it’s called the ‘general issue’.’ He sent them and we rode them and Stecyk took photos. They were fun boards, but to me, it was all a joke. It was fun to make people hate us, but we just wanted to ride pools.
It was an antagonistic approach?
You want people to not understand you. You want people to laugh at you. You want people to not understand your scene, because you don’t want to be just like them.