Todd Prince

Todd Prince

TODD PRINCE

INTERVIEW & INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON

PHOTO BY TOD SWANK

If it ain’t from Texas… Well, it ain’t from Texas… Todd Prince is from Texas, and you should know it… if you don’t, he’ll let you know… Skateboarding is a special kinda thing, either you get it, or you just don’t… Mr. Prince lives for it, since a lil kid… it’s in his blood, and he has bled for it, maybe more than once, or maybe from living the life a skateboarder lives, not all, but some… 150 %… Some agree, and some just can’t hang… And that’s a fact —- JACK… Daniels.

Is Todd there?
This is Todd.

Todd, this is Steve Olson with the IRS.
[Laughs] Yeah, I’m not paying you fuckers!

Bullshit, we got you. Take him out. What are you doing?
I’m here.

You want to get in on a three-way? Let’s go, baby!
I’m honored. I’m always down for a three way.

Of course, you are. Roger, go for Todd. How old are you?
I’m five and I’m going to be six tomorrow. Copy that?

Copy that.
That’s more than four, Elmore. My name is Todd Prince.

Where do you come from, Todd?
Well, let’s get one thing straight. I was born in Pasadena, Texas, the land of rednecks, oil and gas. It’s the biggest city next to Houston. That’s where I’m from. Pasadena is actually the 13th largest city in Texas. It’s Houston. It’s the same thing.

How did you ever get into skateboarding?
Well, when I was seven years old, my dad bought my brother a skateboard. There’s another one, a big brother kicks the board to the curb and the little brother picks it up.

Bingo.
It was like a cheesy K-Mart Cal 240. My brother just kicked it to the side of the box of toys and I was like, “Hey, this thing is cool.” There was a hill at the end of our street and you could always bomb it. It wasn’t much of a hill since we’re in Texas, but that’s where it all started.

Were you hooked immediately when you stepped on it, like this is the greatest toy ever?
Hell yeah. I had so much fun. There was a bunch of people down the street that were surfers. They saw me on the skateboard, and they were like, “Hey, let me ride your board.” They would get out there on it and eat shit. I was like, “Get off of it. Let me show you.” We had these driveways that had an incline to it and I was skating those when I was eight years old. I could do kickturns and little Berts as a kid. I was skating down the road and they were like, “How did you do that?”

“Let’s get one thing straight. I was born in Pasadena, Texas, the land of rednecks, oil and gas.”

What year was this?
This was like 1975. I was just the wild little fucker on the block.

What did you do before skateboarding for fun, as a little kid?
I was blowing up shit and riding BMX and breaking out windows. I was Bart Simpson as a kid. I couldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t break something or do something wrong.

Did you play sports when you were a little kid?
They got me into recreational baseball, for a year. You know what was rad? The team was called the Little Demons. Go figure.

[Laughs] How appropriate.
It just didn’t work. I was never one to be in sports. I went to junior high and they wanted me to sign up for football. I remember riding my skateboard to tryouts during the summer. The coach was like, “If you’re going to be on the team, you can’t ride that skateboard. You’ll break your arm or something.” I was like, “Fuck you. My skateboard means more to me than your team, coach. I’m out of here.” I just skated home. I didn’t want any part of it.

They’re idiots. Whatever. Did you have a bunch of dudes that you were skating with or were you the only kid on the block that skateboarded?
There was a kid named Gene Hare that lived across the street from me. I’m the reason that Gene Hare actually became a pro skateboarder. I had to fight for that kid.

What do you mean you had to fight for him?
It was because Gene left his skateboard at the ramp one day and this guy Jesse stole it. Gene was too young to stick up for his rights and I figured out who took it and I went and busted into the jam room where Jesse was playing with John Gibson’s band, Stryker. I went over there like a mad bouncer and I was like, “This is Gene Hare’s board.” It was a Wally Inouye Caster with Gyros, Tracker Trucks and all that shit. I was like, “Fuck you, Jesse, for stealing Gene’s board. You’re lucky I don’t beat your ass.” Everyone was like, “What’s going on?” I said, “Don’t worry about it.” I skated home three miles down rough streets and knocked on Gene’s door. I was 15 at the time and he was 14. We were just kids. His parents opened the door and I said to him, “Gene, don’t ever leave your skateboard unattended at a skate ramp.” I gave it back to him and he just looked at me like, “Thanks, bro.”

“MY TRAVELS THROUGH PUNK ROCK AND SKATEBOARDING HAVE MADE ME WHAT I AM TODAY. PUNK ROCK SAVED MY LIFE.”

Gene became a pro skater after that?
Gene went on to become one of the baddest and burliest skaters out of Pasadena, Texas. He was one of those guys that didn’t get much recognition, but he killed it. Anyone that you talked to today about Gene Hare, would tell you that the guy rules. The guy did air walks and alley-oops across the Kahuna back in ‘87. Most people couldn’t comprehend what was going on.

Hey, did he ever make it out to the coast to Cali?
Actually, he lives in Utah right now. He’s been out there for years with Brian Pennington. They both are from the armpit of America, which is Houston, Texas. If you ain’t pumping’ oil, you ain’t doing shit here. Yeah. Gene is a bad ass.

When did you start to get proper skateboards? You start off with the toy one, and then you realize you need to get better equipment.
That was when I went from an aluminum Banzai to a Logan Earth Ski with Road Rider 6’s and Bennett AdTracks, which had these plastic plates that would break all the time.

Oh, yeah. When did that happen for you?
It was around ‘78.

Did you guys have pools or did you have to build ramps? What kind of stuff were you skating?
When I was a kid, I built ramps in front of my house. The first ramp I built, I had saved money from cutting grass and I built this shitty quarter pipe.

“You’ve got 30 drunk, stupid skaters, carrying this fiberglass ramp, and each section weighs about 600 pounds. Out of nowhere, we hear sirens. Everyone was like, “Run!” It turned into total chaos.”

Was it a real ramp with transition to proper?
The transition was as proper as it got. You do an L shape and just lay it down like a triangle.

That’s what I was thinking.
I have pictures of me doing a wheeler on a two-foot extension that was only two foot wide. I came home from elementary school one day and some fucker tried to ride his jeep up my ramp and put a hole in it. I was so pissed. I think I even shed a tear.

It hurts for sure.
I threw a rock through his window the next day.

[Laughs] What other kind of bad stuff did you do as a kid?
I don’t even know where to start.

Just give me one example.
I showed up at the hills where everyone rode BMX and I had an ounce of weed in my pocket and I was like, “Hey, you guys want to get high?” They were like, “Fuck you, you little punk, you ain’t got no weed.” I was like, “Fuck you! I got an ounce right here.” So I busted it out and I had these strawberry flavored EZ Wider rolling papers, and I rolled a joint. They were like, “What the fuck? Where are you from?” I said, “Don’t worry about it.” I stole that weed from my dad. My dad was in the Banditos. He was a fuckin’ Bandit. His name was Spike. He was fuckin’ crazy. It was good times.

Do you think that’s where you get some of it?
Well, yeah. I’m the spitting image of my pops.

So you were raised around bikes?
I was born and raised around all that motorcycle gang shit. My dad passed away at an early age, when I was 13. After dad was gone, everything went haywire. John Gibson and Ken Fillion would come by because I lived right behind the high school. We all went to the same high school. There were a bunch of us. It was John Gibson and Ken Fillion. Ken always had a picture in his locker of Brad Bowman doing that famous frontside invert at Del Mar. I used to go, “Fuck. Look at Bowman. That is fuckin’ gnarly.” They used to make fun of me like I was some little grommet. During lunch, we were in the same 45-minute lunch session. Johnny and Ken said, “Hey, are you that little kid that has that half-ass, half-built fucked up ramp in your backyard?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s me.” They said, “Do you want to go with us to the Sandwich Shack?”

What was the Sandwich Shack?
It was just this little sandwich shop, but we weren’t allowed to leave campus, so we had to sneak off to go smoke weed and all that. That’s where the marriage started with me and John Gibson, Ken Fillion and Troy Chasen, and it just never stopped after that.

It just kept growing and growing and it’s still going.
To this day, it’s never stopped, the camaraderie and the brotherhood. It really sparked when our local skatepark, Gulf Coast, closed down.

What did Gulf Coast Skatepark have?
It never had true vert. It was a total flow park, but, to this day, I have dreams about how rad it was.

You could just go hell on wheels through the whole park?
Yeah. It was nuts. The park closed down and the two guys that owned it, Cliff and Wayne, one day they just walked in the door and said, “Fuck it. We’re closing it.” So they had these fiberglass ramp pieces. We skated the park for a few years until the pump stopped working and the bowl started filling full of water. One day, this guy Joe Nichols, my good friend who is now in prison for life, probably, I love him, we had a meeting at Gibson’s house and we were like, “This is what’s going on. We’re going to go out there and we’re going to steal that ramp before someone else does.” I’m a little kid, like 14 years old. I was just a grommet. Joe goes and rents a U-Haul and we make the late night exodus. We’re taking that ramp before the BMXers get it. As we’re taking it apart, some BMXer from the neighborhood shows up and realizes what’s going on and he calls the cops.

What a little bitch.
Yeah. You’ve got 30 drunk, stupid skaters, carrying this fiberglass ramp, and each section weighs about 600 pounds. Out of nowhere, we hear sirens. Everyone was like, “Run!” It turned into total chaos. Everyone was going left and right. Cops got shoved into bowls full of this murky nasty shit stagnant water. I bailed out because I was on Quaaludes and I was no fuckin’ use. It was like, “Get him out of here.” When the cops showed up, they arrested Gibson and Joe and all the other dudes that were there. They were screaming, “Hey, just call Cliff and Wayne. They’ll just give it to us.” The cops called the owners, and they said, “Oh, it’s John Gibson and Joe Nichols? Just give the ramp to them. We don’t care about that.” That was the beginning of us bringing out those giant fiberglass pieces. There were eight pieces that would make a 60-foot wide ramp, so we set it up in Fred McMillan’s yard and started the first real backyard skate series. That was the first time I saw Phillips, Craig Johnson and Dan Wilkes. All those Dallas guys came down. Jeff Newtown had organized this backyard skate series and it was fuckin’ amazing. When the ramp was at the skatepark, it was just a U-pipe. We put flat bottom in that thing, so of course we went with 16-foot flat. That didn’t last that long. The people that owned the property made us tear it down and move it to this other place. We moved it to Toby Herrera’s backyard. He’s another good friend. We call him “The Monster.” We moved the ramp to his backyard and resurrected it once again. That’s when shit got really stupid.

What year is this?
This is like 1982. Johnny had quit skating after Bill Caster passed away. He just got more involved with his brother’s band, Stryker, and he just dropped out for a year or two. Then we built the ramp and that’s when Jeff Newton called Johnny. Jeff Newton was like, “Hey, I need a pro skater for Zorlac.” He wanted to resurrect Zorlac to what it used to be a few years before.

What was Zorlac before? Tell me.
Zorlac was something that Jeff Newton created and Craig Johnson, Jeff Phillips, Dan Wilkes and everyone rode for Zorlac. You weren’t shit unless you rode for Zorlac. So anyway, we got our ramp built and we’re all getting better and better, but Johnny is the guy that’s killing it. This is when skateboarding was dormant, but there was still Whittier. I remember Johnny coming over in high school, before school, and we’d smoke mad weed. Johnny said, “Newton called me and asked me to go pro for Zorlac.” I looked at Johnny and I said, “Bill’s dead. There’s no more Caster. You have loyalty to Wally and Chris. You’re their boy, but you have to go on. Go pro.” When Newton got the green light to do Johnny’s graphics, the crazy demon skulls and all that shit, it was pretty radical. I can’t believe John came to me for advice. I was like, “Johnny, do it. Go for it.” And he did. He flew his ass out to the Whittier contest and got eighth place out of 13 pros or whatever.

I remember. I judged that contest. It was happening.
Well, Gibson comes back and his eyes are just on fire. He’s like, “Dude, I can’t believe it. Neil was doing frontside airs and instead of grabbing this way, he was grabbing that way. They call them lien airs, and Christian is doing these crazy sideways footplants, but instead of doing them this way, he’s doing them like this and they’re calling them bonelesses.” Everything was different. Johnny was on fire. It didn’t take him long to kick it up a notch and he was killing it. It was just unbelievable. We all looked up to Johnny. All we rode as kids were Caster Inouye or Caster Strople with Gyros and Tracker Trucks. We didn’t have dick.

Why not?
We were poor. We’re from Pasadena. We didn’t have any money. We didn’t have anything. All those guys from Dallas would come down with their fancy pads on, like Craig, and they looked like futuristic soldiers ready to go fight a war. They looked like a bunch of robots. It was probably like what you went through with the Nor Cal versus So Cal type of shit. We had the same kind of vibe going on here.

“Zorlac was something that Jeff Newton created and Craig Johnson, Jeff Phillips, Dan Wilkes and everyone rode for Zorlac. You weren’t shit unless you rode for Zorlac.”

Yeah, but there wasn’t so much of that. It was more hype.
Yeah, but you always have to be proud of where you’re from.

Well, I had pride because I always skateboarded with other people, no matter where the fuck they were from. Johnny was the baddest. I knew Johnny when he first came out here. He was Tex. It was like, “Look at this little kid, ginger ripper from Texas.” I did time with Tex because he was with Strople and Wally. That thing was going on and the whole time there’s this little kid from Texas, which was Johnny. So modern day gladiator uniform warriors come down from Dallas, Craig and Phillips, and whoever else.
Yeah. God bless ‘em. We all loved Jeff and we all know what he did. He was everyone’s everything. I remember Jeff saying, “God, I just want to beat Gibson some day.” He finally got his someday because he worked his ass off. I remember asking Johnny about it and he was like, “This guy came from under the ground. I don’t know where this guy came from.”

It was cool because it wasn’t just dudes in California. Guys were ripping all over the country and all over the world. It finally started to disperse and go out everywhere. I liked it when other cats would come in. It was sick for me.
Oh, yeah. My greatest day… I was one of those guys that never asked to be sponsored. I just skated. If you didn’t have a good video part…

I have no idea about the video thing. I don’t know what it’s like to have to make a video part. That was after my time. Did you have a video part together?
No. There was no fuckin’ video involved. I remember coming home from skating Parker Pool, this badass pool here in Houston that everyone knows about. It was where you divide the men from the boys. By then, we were getting the ramp transferred to my backyard.

“THERE WAS THAT TIME FRED SMITH AND JIM MURPHY PULLED UP IN FREDDIE’S LITTLE CAR. THEY DROVE FROM THE EAST COAST IN THE TOYOTA WITH THE “LOUD ONES” LOGO PAINTED ON THE SIDE. IT WAS THE RADDEST SHIT EVER.”

Oh really?
Yeah. I was always the first one to jump in the car with my old buddy, Joe Nichols, and go skate all over town. I remember coming home and everyone came running out of the gate and everyone was like, “You’re sponsored!” I was like, “What are you talking about?” They said, “Jeff Newton called and he wants you to ride for Zorlac.” He talked to your mom and she said it was a go. I was like, “Fuckin’ A!”

[Laughs] I love that. So you got sponsored from a phone call from Newton?
Yeah. I broke my leg a year prior at the Clown Ramp. I sat there and watched all my closest friends get sponsored at that contest. Troy got sponsored by Sims, and Ken got sponsored by G&S. Blah, blah. I was like, “Fuck. I guess I missed the cut.”

You did make the cut, eventually.
Riding for Zorlac was one of the greatest fuckin’ things I ever did.

Tell me why.
At that time, we were like the Oakland Raiders of skateboarding. We didn’t give a fuck.

I love that.
Zorlac was the punkest fuckin’ company. It’s sad that it isn’t still there today.

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, ORDER ISSUE #72 BY CLICKING HERE…

Todd PrinceTodd Prince

1 comment

  • Melissa Burns January 30, 2016

    I grew up in Pasa”get down” dena a and remember skipping lunch to watch Todd and the P-Men skate behind PHS.

    Reply

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