INTERVIEW BY JAMES O’MAHONEY
INTRODUCTION BY C.R. STECYK III
PHOTOS BY JAMES O’MAHONEY AND KEVIN ANCELL
We trailed up time and again. I actually once seen Tumbleweed somewhere upriver bottlenecking on T-Bone Walker’s own ’27 National tri plate. Back then we lived like kings hoping to die. ‘Dat raspy rats ass sound coming right through us on its way to oblivion’s harp. Our goal was getting there early.
Art shit was easy. Kevin could always draw, but the edge came hard. They found father’s body done in by his own hand. Ancell’s been on his own since the age of twelve. A career of serious survival led him to the clarity which drowns out weapons of mass seduction.
Genuine skills have their own tariff and Kevin Ancell negotiates the ignominious existence of art stardom unlike anyone else. The majority of days he’s holed up in the studio incommunicado. When the culturati come calling, Kev finesses his way off Pedro fishing with Uncle Dickie. Or building abalone boards at Rennie’s. Or doing glyphs for P Rod and the Hubba Cartel. Hollywood film types offer him a lucrative career and Ancell’s chooses to be well off the charts down under flipping trucks with Amaze and McGee in Oz.
Open G tuning is his secret weapon. The man’s got chops for daze. Kevin Ancell is deep into honing his own groove. – C.R. Stecyk III 2006“THE SUN IS GOING DOWN. THE PIER IS JUST LIT UP, AND YOU COULD HEAR THAT GNARLY STRUCTURAL SCREAMING, AND SHIT CRASHING INTO THE OCEAN. IT SOUNDED LIKE THE END OF THE WORLD. IT WAS LIKE BEING IN THE CENTER OF AN ATOMIC EXPLOSION AND WATCHING ALL THE SHIT BLOW UP. YOU COULD FEEL THE HEAT. THE GNARLIEST THING WAS THE RATS RUNNING OFF THE PIER AND INTO THE CITY. I’M TALKING ABOUT RATS THE SIZE OF CATS. THEY WERE SO GNARLY.”
Where were you born?
I was born in Santa Monica, CA.
What’s your earliest memory?
My earliest memory was climbing into the back of the toilet into the box part and playing submarine and just trashing the bathroom. My old man would come in, and I’d be yelling, ‘Dive! Dive!’. I’d pull the thing up and water would go all over the place. It was great.
[Laughs.] When did you get in the ocean?
I was around seven years old. My dad had just got me my first surfboard. My dad was a skier, so he had me wax the bottom of my board. So I paddled out at Santa Monica pier and John Baum was surfing the pier that day. He came up to me and said, ‘Is there any wax on that board?’ I flipped it over, and said, ‘I’ve got tons of wax.’ He said, ‘Dude. The wax goes on the top!’ He took me in and helped me get all the wax off. Then he took me surfing. A lot of people may not know who John Baum is, but he was one of the greatest surfers ever to come out of Santa Monica.
How far did you go in school?
Not too far. My dad died when I was about nine or ten. He committed suicide, and I was kind of out on the street, because my mom was all messed up. I went to live with my brother on Third and Bay Street. That’s where my second life began. I went to school until seventh grade. And that was the end of it. The school didn’t have anything for me. I only went to school to pick up girls or to go see my girlfriend. I gravitated down to Pacific Park and then I ran into Stecyk and Skip. They kind of took me in. It was really crazy, Wild West shit. There were all of these psycho people doing all of this wild stuff, and I dug it.
When did you start skating? Was it after surfing or before?
It was pretty much the same time. I was surfing first, but everyone skated to get around. I was living with the McClure family. After my dad died, I bounced around all over the place. My brother really didn’t want to have anything to do with me. He was just young and doing his thing. So I wound up living at the McClure’s. Then it was on. There was skating and surfing every day. That’s when I really started getting clued into what was happening, skate-wise. Jay was around. Everyone skated Bay Street hill all the time. It was a great time.
What kind of skateboard did you have?
My first skateboard was an old Makaha Super Surfer.
Do you have any memories of POP?
I remember riding down there on my bike when I was real young. It was already abandoned. It was back before the golf course was there. It was a giant open pit. We used to go play in this pit, and find all kinds of scandalous shit. We’d find dead bodies and stuff. I remember riding my bike down there and you had to watch out, because there we these little gangs of kids from the Shoreline Crips that would beat you up and take parts of your bike. I was down around the pier one day. All of a sudden, here come these guys with wrenches. I was like, ‘Oh, no. They’re going to beat me up.’ They were like, ‘Dude, we’re taking your handlebars, because those handlebars are fly.’ I was like, ‘What?’ All of a sudden, they were wrenching on my bike. They took my seat and handlebars.
Was it a Sting-Ray?
Yeah. It was a little red Sting-Ray. I remember walking home from the pier carrying my bike. From then on, whenever I went down there with my bike, I was so on edge. You would see kids fly by, going mach ten on a bicycle, and you knew they were coming. You had to be ready. The gnarliest thing that ever happened to me at the pier was once I was crawling through the fence outside. I heard this guy yelling, but I didn’t know he was yelling at me. I went to bail off the wall and he shot me in the ass with rocks. He was the guard. I was just a little kid and he shot me with a 12-gauge. I’ve still got scars from that. Chicks think I have acne on my ass, but that’s rock salt from POP. I remember all the guys surfing down there. It was a gnarly place.
When did Stecyk jump into the picture?
CR was really early. Those guys were on my case right from the get go. I remember my first encounter with Skipper. I was about 7 or 8. I walked into the shop to get a bar of wax. I was going surfing. I had some old archaic spring suit on with the blue pin stripe across the center of it, zipped up the front. Skipper was in his big podium thing that he had. He had his head cocked sideways. I was like, ‘Hey. Can I get a bar of wax?’ I could barely see over the counter. He launches into this story about the wetsuit I’m wearing, and how it came in leopard print. I was just looking at this crazy drunk guy going, ‘I just want a bar of wax.’ But I didn’t want to agitate him, so I let him roll on. He goes on for like, 20 minutes. I’m just standing there thinking, ‘I just want to go in the water.’ All of a sudden, he stops his story. This chick gets up from behind the counter and walks out the door. I’m like a toddler, but I know something just went down.
She just went down.
It’s like when you walk in on your mom and dad, and you don’t know what sex is. Your dad is humping your mom and you’re like, ‘Whoa. What’s that?’ So Skip throws me a bar of wax. He goes, ‘Here you go, kid.’ I was like, ‘How much do I owe you?’ He was like, ‘That one’s on me.’ That was Skipper.
What about Stecyk?
Stecyk was already a legend down there. I remember my first road trip with Stecyk. We went to Oxnard Shores. We get to that old dirt lot. He looks around, and then pulls out his Swiss army knife. He says, ‘See that car over there? Go slash the tires.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Go slash the tires!’ I said, ‘Okay.’ So I grab his knife, and get out of the car. I’m with Craig Stecyk. I’m going to do what he says. Right? So I get out and I’m looking around. Then I’m like, ‘I don’t even know who this guy is. I don’t know what the deal is.’ I wasn’t going to slash the guy’s tires, so I just let the air out. I get back to the car, and Craig was like, ‘Did you do it?’ I was like, ‘No.’ He goes, ‘Why not?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, man. It didn’t seem right to slash the guy’s tires. I’ve got no beef with him.’ He goes, ‘Good. Don’t do anything anybody tells you to if you don’t want to do it.’ He goes, ‘Where’s my knife?’ I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ I almost had the knife.
Did you ever skate pools?
Yeah. Not as much as everyone else. I was more into surfing. If I wasn’t surfing, then I was drawing. I skated a few pools with the guys, but I really just wanted to surf. Skating was a means to get around. One time, Jay took me skating, cross-city. That was probably the heaviest skate session I ever had. We were doing something and he was like, ‘Let’s go to my house.’ So we skated for miles and miles and miles to get to his house. Then he was like, ‘Let’s go here.’ Then we skated for miles and miles to go somewhere else. I was barely hanging in there with the guy. He was four blocks ahead of me. He’s off the walls and all over the place. We finally wind up at the skatepark. He was doing his thing. Shogo was there. TA was there.
Was this Marina?
Yeah. I was just watching those guys skate. It was nuts. When they got together it was like a pack of sharks. They’d just go off. There was so much energy.
So you were never a Z Boy, or an X or a Y?
I was probably a Y. I was in there, but I wasn’t some hardcore maniac. I mostly hung out with Wes. Chris Cahill was a big influence on me, he took care of me for years. I was just a little kid. The guy was so talented. Everybody was down for each other. You never left your girlfriend alone with them, but if you were in a scrap, they’d be right there.
Let’s talk about the parties.
We spent a lot of time in search of surf, but we spent an equal amount of time looking for parties, too. We drove all over the world trying to find some mysto party. In Santa Monica proper, there were the parties at the Bay Street house. The Cahill parties at the Pier Street house were legendary. The cops still talk about that shit. The gnarliest party ever was Arthur Lake’s older sister Trisha’s 16th birthday party. Old man Lake went off. He was gnarly. The old man was hardcore. He had all these real gnarly friends. He tells us to start cleaning up. Then this band shows up. I’m looking at the drum set and it says Canned Heat. I don’t know what happened, but the word got out, and the whole world showed up at this party. Canned Heat was playing. We were all tripping out. The moon was out. There were broads everywhere. It was crazy. There were gnarly fights. The old man pounded some dude, and had to go to the hospital because he ripped his hand open. It was out of control. Then Arthur stuck a candle in the light of the pool and the heaviest session I’ve ever seen went down. All the boys just ripped that pool apart.
How old was Arthur Lake, Sr.? He must have been fairly old, huh?
He was up there. Everyone was terrified of that guy.
He was a big movie star in the ’20s and ’30s.
The old guy, Arthur’s dad, was Dagwood.
What happened at Cahill’s parties?
There were crazy parties at Cahill’s house. That’s what led to us being ousted by the mob. There were all kinds of knuckleheads living in that house. Crazy Timmy, Callus, Nelson Valentine, Mike Ball and I lived there. There was always someone coming in and out of there. One party, we built this big fire pit, like a big BBQ pit at the bottom of the stairs. The cops showed up. They had the paddy wagon backed down the driveway and they were just herding people into it. The fence was on fire. People were throwing beer bottles through the windows. The neighbors were so pissed. It was carnage. Timmy was up on the roof, drunk out of his mind. He leans over the rail and goes, ‘Everybody’s got to go home.’ Then he fell over the rail into the fire pit. There’s a blazing fire in there. He’s smoldering. We drag him upstairs and he’s literally smoking, and all his hair is burned off. We put him in his room, and we’re standing outside his room. The whole place stinks of burning flesh. This chick comes in and goes, ‘Oh no. Is that guy okay?’ She’s standing right outside the door. All of a sudden, the door opens a crack and a burnt hand comes out and grabs this broad and drags her into the room, screaming. It was out of control. We were like, ‘Who’s going in to save her? Not me. I’m not going in there. He’s got a gun.’
How did you get ousted by the mob?
There was a lady that lived behind Cahill’s house. Her daughter Camille went out with Bobby Selznick, who was a local guy. This lady was just this gnarly old woman, but Timmy used to terrorize her all the time. Her bedroom window was right there beside the fence, and he used to piss in her window during parties when she was asleep. Then there was an incident with some frozen hotdogs, or something. She couldn’t take it anymore. She probably didn’t sleep for two years, this poor woman. It turns out that her ex-husband was head of the LA mafia. Cahill, who is afraid of nothing, gets a call from Selznick. Bobby goes, ‘You’ve got to come and talk to this guy. He wants to talk to you.’ It was weird, because the week before, there were all these guys in suits coming by the house looking for Cahill. They were big gnarly dudes that looked like hit men. Then somebody broke all the windows in the front of the house. Cahill goes to see this guy. He comes back and he’s ghost white. He was scared shitless. He goes, ‘Pack your shit. We’ve got to move.’ I was like ‘When?’ He goes, ‘Now. Everybody has to go. They’re coming tonight, and if we’re here, they’re going to kill us all.’ He told us that the guy said, ‘Look, you little bastard, if your house wasn’t so close to my ex-wife’s house, I would have just burned it down. I would have just blown you guys up and you’d have never known.’ So that was the only thing that saved us. We were so close to her pad that he didn’t want to blow the place up.
Did you see the hit men?
They came to the door and said, ‘Are you Cahill?’ I was like, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Do you know where he is?’ I said, ‘No.’ They were like the Blues Brothers on steroids. The guy in front of the doorway was big, but the guy behind him was way bigger. I’m lying in bed with no clothes on. I’ve got my chick with me. I was just some 16-year-old kid. They go, ‘Where is Mr. Cahill?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. He might be at the beach.’ They said, ‘Tell Mr. Cahill that we came by and we don’t want to have to come back here again.’ I was just like, ‘Who are these guys?’ I was going to ask them, ‘Who should I say came by?’ But I knew it would be like, ‘Okay. We’ll tell you who we are.’ Then they’d pound me.
[Laughs.] Mr. Right and Mr. Left Hook. What about the Z Boy explosion?
Well, I’m not an expert on the deal, but I was around. I saw what was going on. I remember me and Wentzle had been up all night doing drugs, and that morning he got a phone call from Rector. He thought he was going on another photo shoot. He was waiting for his check. He hung up the phone and he was all bummed out. I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He goes, ‘It’s over. No more nothing ever.’ I was like, ‘That’s heavy.’ I didn’t care, but that was his whole scene. What happened when the Dogtown movie came out was pretty much what happened back then. As soon as there was some money involved, everything came apart. It was all about me.
What about the original Zephyr logo?
When all that went down, I was real young. Later, I put two and two together. Across the street from the old Zephyr shop, where the French bakery was for years, that was an art studio. The guy who had that place was a real famous artist named Billy Al Bengston. He was also a closet surfer. In his closet, he had a pair of trunks that said ‘Moondoggie’ on them. He did this painting and it was the moon over the water. It was a big crescent with three bars and a light squiggle underneath it. I’m no brain surgeon, but I’m pretty sure that was the original Zephyr logo, and those guys just kind of absconded it. I’m sure they were trading shit, but I’m pretty sure they borrowed that from Billy Al, which is pretty apropos considering the guy’s lineage. Now if you ask Craig, I don’t know what kind of story you’re going to get.
Who was the toughest guy in Dogtown?
Everyone could scrap. There were some real heavy dudes, like Benito, Benny La Fonte. All of the Palfreymans were highly dangerous. Pound for pound, the most fearless guy in Dogtown was Chris Cahill. He was this little scrappy dude with this crazy deep voice. He was totally fearless. Even the gnarly dudes revered him, because he would charge into the biggest, gnarliest waves. The bigger the better, he was there. There are two kinds of surfers. There are the ones that paddle for the channel when the big ones come, and the ones that paddle right into it. Cahill was headed right into the pit. Even at Pipe, Rory and those guys were like, ‘Dude. You’re way too deep. You’re going to get clipped.’ He didn’t care. He was like, ‘I’m going deeper than anybody.’ There was a rule in Santa Monica when you got in a beef with more than one guy, the big guy goes down first, regardless. One time, Cahill says, ‘Hey, there’s this frat party at UCLA. It’ll be great. Let’s go.’ So a bunch of us went up there. And those guys all hated us. It was all the jocks. Sure enough, I come out of this one party, and there’s Cahill, surrounded by the whole football team. They were going to kill him. Cahill was just standing his ground. He was not backing down. He knew if he turned around, they were going to maul him. He walked right up to the biggest guy and just dropped him right there. Then they all just pounced on him. It was so gnarly. Nathan just disintegrated into the night. He didn’t want to have to deal with it. I could see the fight from a block away. There was this big dust cloud where Cahill was getting mauled. He came out of it barely scratched. He was giving as much as he took.
What happened when the pier burned down?
It was heavy. There were a lot of transients on that pier and they always had fires. They say that’s what started it. I remember being down there, and it was like the whole world was there. The sun is going down, the pier is just lit up, and you could hear that gnarly structural screaming, and shit crashing into the ocean. It sounded like the end of the world. It was like being in the center of an atomic explosion and watching all the shit blow up. You could feel the heat. The gnarliest thing was the rats running off the pier and into the city. I’m talking about rats the size of cats. They were so gnarly. To this day, you can be walking on the street in that area and feathers will fly out of a palm tree and it’s those rats. It’s their descendants eating pigeons. The next day, it was just carnage. It was like the whole ocean died. There used to be good waves in Santa Monica, but not any more.
Those beach rats are gnar. I remember the biggest one I saw was in Seal Beach.
They’re like muskrats.
People would put their lunch by the rocks. They’d pull the whole thing in.
They were mean, too. They were not pet rats.
When did you work at that bar and gambling joint?
When I was 13, after we got chased out of Cahill’s house by the mafia. I was hanging out with Donald Schwartz and his brother Jay. His dad owned this bar on Main and Ocean Park called the Mirror-Go-Round. It used to be called the Ooh House. It had crazy paintings and mirrors all over the outside of it. Inside was even gnarlier. It was all black lights, drugs, hookers and gambling.
What did you do there?
At first, I was just washing dishes, and then I was serving the patrons. It opened at two in the morning and all these guys would come in and gamble. Everyone was doing drugs. Every once in a while, the cops would come and raid the place. It was heavy. There was a guy that came to deliver beer every Thursday, and we would steal every case of beer off his truck while he was delivering. He got so bummed, but there was nothing he could do. He could never catch us. The upstairs was full of cases of beer, but he couldn’t prove shit. Finally he says, ‘Dude, if you guys just give me some weed, I’ll give you the beer.’ So we started trading him joints for beer. We didn’t have to steal it anymore.
Did you have any favorite co-workers there?
It was gnarly. It was Schwartz and his kids. It was all illegal. We would stay up all night and then surf until we were tired, and then go to sleep. It was a tough existence. Sometimes you didn’t have money to eat. Sometimes there was some angry dad knocking down the door because you’ve got his daughter in there. It was a real tough place. The first time that I rode into the south side of Santa Monica, I was with this guy Mike Saldona. His dad was a gnarly trucker. They lived right on the beach beside the Seaside Towers. We were riding our red Sting-Rays down there. And we were little kids. He looks over his shoulder at me and says, ‘Can you fight?’ I looked at him and said, ‘Yeah. I can fight.’ I was like, ‘What is he talking about?’ Then as the day wore on, I realized. We rode into the most hardcore scenarios. There were crazy Latino gangs at one spot, and all the bikers at another spot. There were shotguns going off. It was heavy.
Where did you work next?
I worked at the surf shop. I spray-canned boards for Nathan. I did odd jobs. I mostly roamed the streets and did the drug-dealing thing for a while. I was terrible at it.
You didn’t have a scale?
I had a scale, but it was in my nose. So I retired from that. I hung out with Wes a lot doing stuff. I think my first paying gig in the skateboarding scene was doing graphics for Skipper, which turned out to be Natas’ first graphic. I read about it now, and they’ve got it all ass backwards about how it went down. So I’m going to say it right now, so I can get it off my chest. Skipper asked me to do this graphic for Natas, who I had known since he was a little kid. So I asked Wes if I could draw it at his house. So my girlfriend and I spent the day over there while Wes was at work. I drew this graphic up and it was a panther in a triangle with the lettering. On both sides, there were palm trees with skull coconuts and arms sticking out that made swastikas. I was like, ‘This is hardcore. They’re going to love this.’ I turned it into Skipper. Skipper was like, ‘Dude, I’m trying to sell these. Are you insane? No one will print this with swastikas on it.’ I was like, ‘Whatever.’ And I disappeared into the world. Then he had that guy Chris Burchinsky put the palm fronds on it. That’s how it went down. I got edited.
What about the Halloween gang? You were the leader?
Hell, no. Chris Cahill was the leader. This is what happened. We were all sitting around Cahill’s house one day, and we realized that Halloween was coming. So we started thinking about what we were going to do. Halloween was a week-long event in Santa Monica. Parties every night. It was out of control. I don’t know who came up with the idea. It may have been Psycho Timmy. He goes, ‘Let’s be a Latino street gang.’ We were like, ‘Yeah. That’s a great idea!’ So we start looking around for our chinos. I had my khakis and a wife beater and I stuffed all my hair in a beanie. Cahill and I drew tattoos on everybody. Everybody had a Maria tattoo on his neck. There were about 30 of us. So out we went to the parties. Jay didn’t even have to dress up. At that point, he already looked like a super cholo.
Did you have a name?
We had nicknames. I was ‘Junior’. Cahill was ‘Spider’. Muir was ‘Perro Rojo’. So we were off to these parties. I remember being at the Trancas market. We all walked into the market and got 40 ounce bottles and we were clanging them together walking down the aisles. We go up and pay for them, which no self-respecting Latino gang would ever do. Then we’re driving down the highway to this party. All of a sudden, there were 20 squad cars behind us with lights flashing. They pulled us over. They had their shotguns out and they were screaming, ‘Get out of the car!’ We got out of the car, and I pulled my beanie off. I started yelling, ‘Surfers! We’re surfers! We’re surfers!’ They were like, ‘Damn it.’ And just went back to their cars.
There was a gang alert, huh?
Yeah. It was like wildfire. The gnarliest thing that happened, what ended it all, was in midtown Santa Monica at some event hall. There was a big Halloween party. So we all rolled in there. It was invite only, so we all had invites tucked away. We rolled up to the door, and there are all these football player dudes at the door. They were all huffy with us. Cahill walks up and puts on his black glove and reaches in his shirt and whips out our invitations. We all piled through the door and the place just parted like the Red Sea. It was amazing to me, how horny the surfer broads were when they thought they were going to get chewed up by these Latino street guys. They were down for it. They were ready to go. I knew a couple of them, and they didn’t even recognize me. I was like, ‘Baby. I’m going to make love to you so hard. I’m the man.’ The chicks were like, ‘Okay!’ At one point, I took my beanie off and my hair falls out. They were like, ‘Oh my God. It’s Kevin Ancell. I’m dying now.’ So then I’m looking out the door and I see multiple low riders rolling by. They’re all up and down the street. Then I realized these guys are looking for us. Everyone was like, ‘Who’s this new gang?’
You were a new rival gang.
We were in their hood. I was like, ‘Oh, no. We’re going to die.’ So I grabbed Cahill. I was like, ‘The whole squad is out there. We’ve got to get out of here.’ He was like, ‘What do we do?’ I was like, ‘Let’s not look like vatos anymore.’ So we’re trying to get all our shit off, because these guys are going to come through the door eventually. We go to find Psycho Timmy, who’s drunk. He’s just sprawled out all over this table. There are thousands of beer bottles all around him. We were like, ‘Timmy, get up.’ Then all the bottles started breaking all over the place. Then the fights break out. The cops come. That was the end of that Halloween scene.
You were in a gang for a week?
Yeah. It was about a week. That was all we lasted. That was the end of it.
What about the guy that showed up in the brand new car and Natural Progression twin fin and bleached hair?
That was after the pier was gone. We were all down at Station 26, where Ocean Park hits the beach. That’s where everyone hung out. This guy rolls up in a white Mercedes; he’s got peroxide blonde hair, and a brand new Natural Progression twin fin strapped to his car. He rolls right up to us. He falls out of the car like, ‘Yeah, dude. What’s up?’ I swear to God, it was over like that. I’m going to say it was a solid 45 seconds. The guy had braces on and somebody got him in the mouth. His braces were coming undone. Blood was flying everywhere. The guy was out on the ground. The car was on it’s back, on fire, and the twin fin was gone. It was so fast and so furious. The guy was just done.
How did you guys deal with the guys on roller skaters?
We made sand traps. This is when roller-skating was just getting hot and heavy. There were all these speed skater guys down there. We’d sit on the wall and throw sand out on the boardwalk. These guys would jump it. Then we’d spread out and the sand bar would get bigger and bigger. Then they couldn’t jump it anymore. They would splatter so hard just trying to clear the sand. We’d just laugh. It was great.
What about Jay and the oranges?
Jay could throw shit, accurately, up to 50 yards. It was a long way. He could hit a rat from 50 yards with a rock. It was gnarly. He would take these oranges and grapefruits and squish them all up so they were all pulp inside. There was a part of the parking lot where there was a turnaround. It separated the two lots. We’d wait for the cops that were cruising through to get in that barrier. Then Jay would let go of this orange and it would land on the cop car, and just explode like a bomb. The cops would stop and jump out with their guns out. They were spinning around looking. Then they’d realize that their car was covered with orange pulp. They would be so ashamed that they would get back in their car and leave.
[Laughs.] They wouldn’t see him?
No. It’s like it came from the sky. It was like death from above. God help you if Jay had a bag of oranges.
When you were a young sprout, did you ever get to go camping in the desert?
[Laughs.] Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I was hanging around with Peggy Oki, who I really liked. I was probably 16. She was rad. She goes, ‘Do you want to camping?’ I was like, ‘Yes!’ I was going to go camping with Peggy Oki! Unreal, man! So we get in her car and drive out to Joshua Tree. We’re hiking around. Life is beautiful. I’m with this crazy girl. I felt like I had arrived. We get some food and we’re under the rock, eating dinner and the stars are out and shit. Now I’m going to make the play for Peggy Oki. Then she’s just looking at me like, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ She was like, ‘I could go to jail for that shit.’ I tried my best to maul her. She was like, ‘Hey, I’m like one of the guys. Leave me alone.’
Any old flame stories? Who was your first love?
There was this chick, Myra. She was a local chick. I was still in school, in the seventh grade. I don’t know how we hooked up, but we would have these radical make-out sessions at lunch. Then the principal got bummed about it. He called her dad. It turns out that her Dad was some KKK guy. He wanted to kill me. I almost had to disappear for a while. It was pretty gnarly.
What about getting popped in the act?
With a chick?
That happened all the time. Mike Mendelson and I got drunk with these two girls. They were sisters. We drank like a case of beer, and we were in her house. I was lying on the sister’s bed. It wasn’t even a sex thing, but we were probably going to make out or something. Mendelson spilled some shit on his pants. The sister was like, ‘Come in the bathroom and I’ll fix your pants so they don’t stain.’ So he takes off his pants. He’s standing in the bathroom, and she’s sitting there, cleaning the pants. I’m on the bed, and there are beer bottle everywhere. Then the mother comes in. There’s some guy on her youngest daughter’s bed and beer everywhere. Then she opens the bathroom door and there’s her other daughter sitting in front of some guy with his pants down. She thought her daughter was giving him a blowjob. All hell broke loose. It was so gnarly. I ran out of there with no clothes on.
What was your first paying art gig?
My first paying art job was with Craig. This was after the Zephyr shop closed, and Nathan had his shop there. Craig used to get his mail there. So he’d be down there every week. Nobody knew where Craig lived. There was a chick named Squid, who idolized Craig. She thought he was the mad genius. Squid shows up one day at the shop with a ’63 cherry Volkswagen. It was all primered, with the beautiful little window in the back. The car was perfect. It was ready to paint. She comes in the shop, and says, ‘I want Craig Stecyk to paint my car. I have $200.’ She holds up this cash. I said, ‘Wait right here.’ I went in the back, and said to Craig. ‘That broad is out there. She wants you to paint her car. She’s got $200.’ He’s like, ‘Tell her to come back in four hours.’ So I go out and tell her. So she leaves. Craig says, ‘Get the spray cans.’ Me and the other guys grab every box of spray cans back there. We had an arsenal. We were right on Main Street in broad daylight. We went off on this car. I asked Craig, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He was like, ‘Whatever you want.’ I was all over the place. Craig didn’t even bother with the outside. He went right for the interior of the car. He started banging the windshields and the seats with ‘Pig Lust’. We painted the wheels and all the windows. Everything was covered. The car was sitting there with fumes coming off it in the sun. We’re all laughing. The chick comes up and sees the car, and tears start rolling down her face. She was so stunned.
Good or bad?
It was not good. It was not good. I realized then, be careful what you wish for because you might get it. That was the big lesson. She takes her razorblade and scrapes the paint off the windshields so she could see, and drives away in the car. I’m like, ‘Wow. That was radical.’
She didn’t ask for a refund?
She was paralyzed, dude. She didn’t know what to do. She was mortified.
[Laughs.] That was your first paying job?
Yeah. Craig comes out and hands me $20. I was like, ‘What’s this for?’ He goes, ‘You work, you get paid.’ That was my first paying gig. Over the years, Craig has directly or indirectly gotten me just about every gig I’ve ever done. Somehow or another, he was manipulating. That’s how he ran the show. We called him the ‘Minister of Disinformation’ or the ‘Minister of Propaganda’. When I was a little kid, I used to dream about doing gigs with the guy. Then later, when I was actually working with him, I was like, ‘Oh, my God. This is so heavy.’
What about ‘Sk8 TV’? Did you paint that pool?
Yeah. Me and Ken Jones who was a brilliant artist painted it. He was a friend of Craig’s. Craig called me up and said, ‘Come down here and paint this pool.’ It was freezing cold at night, and the wind was blowing so hard. We’d be shooting the paint, and it would fly sideways.
Where was it?
It was in Sun Valley at the Pink Motel. We painted the shit out of that pool.
That was the original paint job at the Pink Motel?
Yeah. Craig painted some stuff. We finally got it all done, and it was beautiful. Then the skaters showed up. They were like, ‘Yeah. Let’s skate this pool.’ I was like, ‘Whoa. Don’t be skating on that shit.’ I got all bent out of shape. It was pretty funny. I think we did it in three days. It was great. Craig got me gigs like that. Then it was jobs doing skateboard art and graphics.