Ivan Hosoi in Conversation with Steve Olson

The bird flies its own direction. The man is his own man. Mistakes are lessons to learn by. The journey is yours, and no one else’s. Give and receive what comes. For all of the reasons, it all happens. With thought, ideas come tenfold. Hang on the A, and take it to the 5… Always ending up on the 1. That’s the way it is, in the end… Ivan is Ivan… Thank you, man.


STEVE OLSON: What up, holmes? What are you doing? 

IVAN HOSOI: I just did a guitar art piece out of cardboard. It’s kind of Picasso-esque. Anything you do with cardboard and a guitar is just awesome. You have to look for original stuff. It’s a rough go. 

It’s a rough go, for sure. 

Some of us are creative. So what’s going on, bro? 

When I do an interview, I bounce all over the place. 

I like that. I don’t go by the straight line anyway. 

Exactly. I don’t have standard questions. 

That’s cool. So, Mr. Jones. 

Yes, Mr. Smith. [Laughs] Where do you come from? 

I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1942, right after the war. I was born and raised in a funeral home. My family history is all morticians. I’m a mortician by trade. I was born in a mortuary. My grandpa came to Hawaii in 1900, right after the overthrow of Hawaii. He said. “I’m going to stay here.” We’ve been dealing with burial since 1900. It’s strictly our family, nobody else. That’s where I come from. Death is not something you get used to. You’re crying. You feel for people. You never get jaded. 

“Now skateboarders are doing a lot of high art, and high technical skateboarding. It’s developing into something else. It’s going some place I never thought it would go.”

Maybe some people do, but they’re crass. We don’t worry about those types. What was it like growing up in Hawaii?

At seven years old, I had to go out and earn money because we were poor. My momma would let me go shine shoes. I was shining shoes on the street in front of the theatre.

Was this in Waikiki?

No. Waikiki didn’t exist then. Waikiki was only two hotels.

What kind of people needed a shoeshine? I thought everyone went barefoot in Hawaii.

Oh, no. There were men wearing sharkskin pants tucked in. It was the zoot suits and the whole nine yards. I’d spit shine them French toe shoes for ten cents, regular. When I was eight years old, my mom says, “You have to go to the Ranch.” So I went to the Parker Ranch. It was the biggest ranch in the world. My mom says, “You have to go there and work.” The men were all wearing zoot suits and fighting chickens. I was growing up in that, so my mom sent me to the Ranch and I became a cowboy at eight years old. You go up to the mountains and look for stray cattle and bring them back. Then you slaughter cows and deliver the heads to the hunters. Don’t fall off the horse though because if you fall off, you’re dead. I didn’t think about putting a tether around my waist. I just had to hold on.

[Laughs] What year was this?


Wow. Were they surfing?

They were surfing hollow boards made out of plywood with box rails and no skegs. They were long 14 to 16-foot planks. Three of us little guys would ride them at a time. That’s what we surfed, and we raced canoes. We started the Hawaiian  Association of Racing. That was early on. At 11 years old, we were the State Champions.


What distance were you guys paddling? 

It was a quarter of a mile and a half of a mile.  

You were just mad racing, sprinting. 

I’d just go for it. I was the stroker in front, the person that leads the timing and intensity that everybody has to keep up. The coach said, “When you hit that bottom, just pump it up and they have to go. Make sure your team is on it. Don’t just go wild. You bring them along.” I paddled for 18 years. 

When did you start making art? 

My dad showed me how to draw when I was eight. He showed me how to draw a fig in three seconds. 

Did he teach you shading and all of it? 

No. It was just a quick three-second line drawing. It was a Matisse type of thing. I was like, “Maybe I’ll take up art.” I dug art. When I went to my first art class in school in ninth grade, my art teacher hit me in the head with his knuckles. He thought I was the best student and he wanted me to be better, so he hit me with his knuckles, and I walked out of class. He didn’t even care. When I went through high school, I said, “Forget art. They’re idiots.” When I graduated, he told me that I was his best student. That was funny. That’s when I knew he was serious about me.


Yeah, but it pissed you off as a kid? 

Yeah. He was thinking I was not doing as well as I could. It was like he wanted me to do the Sistine Chapel. Then I was supposed to work for Sam Francis as his protégé, and Sam did the same thing. He said, “I’m going to make you see something here.” As soon as he did that, I thought of my ninth grade teacher and said, “I’m out of here.” He wanted me to walk his walk, and I said, “I can’t do it.” He got mad. Then I took out his daughter and he got more mad. He brought his daughter over and she was junkied out. I was going to cure her by taking her out so she wouldn’t go with the bad boys, but Sam thought I was the bad boy. He got it upside down. I said to Sam, “What are you doing?” I respected him. He bought a painting from me, and I thought I was going to get at least $1,500. I guess it was only $150. 

He dropped a zero. 

He dropped a zero and I went, “What?” It was a good thing though because he put my painting in his studio where he painted. He got the vibe. My guy still worked for him and he told me that. They told him it was an unknown painter. You don’t do that shit. Picasso doesn’t steal from anybody. 

Before that, did you go to Chouinard? 

Yeah. They tore me up there. I went to art school during the ‘60s, and I’d pull up every day in my frenched ‘49 Ford Victoria. I was trying to be modern, but I was punk rock. I got on scholarship, so I was rolling. It was fun. Everyone was there. 

Were you at Chouinard with Ruscha? 

They graduated just when I got in there. They were the older generations. There were so many generations of artists around. Peter Voulkos was there. John Altoon was my teacher, and he was really out there. He stripped naked and ran down the street and got arrested. 

[Laughs] He was tripping. 

He’s one of those guys that had to go all the way in everything he did. He was an intellectual. There were intellectuals like Jean-Michel Basquiat. Gary Wong and I would take him to Dennis Hopper’s studio. We’d deliver the canvases, and pick him up and take him to the gallery, so we got to know Jean Michel. He was a total intellectual with fluent dialogue, and yet, you could street talk to him. That’s why I call him a hero. You’re not trying to put it on, but you’ve got it going on. 

“Steve Caballero walked under the ramp and said, “What are you guys doing? Are you guys doing drugs under here?” We said, “Yeah, man. This is pure oxygen like the pros do.”

What music was going on for you as a kid? 

The ‘60s was the Beatles. 

I know that, but weren’t you playing music in Hawaii with Elvis Presley? 

That was my friend backing Elvis on bass. He had a show with Elvis and he said, “I’m going to play with Elvis. You want to go with me? Good. Let’s go.” Boom. We’re in the stadium and I’m standing on stage with my friend. I’m his roadie and the whole place was screaming. Elvis runs in and does two songs and gets back in the chopper and he’s gone. 

Do you know what songs he did? 

It was “Don’t be Cruel” and “Hound Dog.” He came back to do Blue Hawaii and my girlfriend danced behind him. I took her to Elvis’ set. Then I went to Honolulu to go to art school. While I was in art school, I printed RCA records. My account was Elvis Presley, so I was the one that printed the Elvis Presley records. You only print one guy. Mine was Elvis Presley, “Don’t Be Cruel.” All the 45s are rubbish from RCA because I printed them.

[Laughs] Excellent. 

Elvis comes into town one time and he says, “I want to play football.” We said, “We’ve got a team. We’ll challenge you.” He says, “Okay, I’ll get a team.” He goes and picks up ten guys. 

He was bringing in sandbaggers.  

Yeah. We were at Echo Park like, “Okay, Elvis, let’s go.” We got up there and they said, “Okay, we’ll play two-hand touch.” We were like, “No. We’re playing tackle.” Obviously, we let him win. It was funny, but I loved it because I got closer to Elvis every time. 


Were you skateboarding back in the ‘60s? 

No. I was surfing. In 1959, it was Pupukea with the big old boards. We were surfing Sunset with Greg Noll. I had custom-made shit like Greg Noll. We’d go to Waimea at 7:30 in the morning. No one was out. It was just 30-foot glass. I was out there one day with my buddies, and Noll was saying, “I can do anything.” I said, “You’re going to die. If you don’t catch those waves, you’re fish food.” We caught that wave together and he almost died. They took a picture of that, and put it in Life Magazine the year that Kennedy died. I called up Life and said, “Hey, that’s my shot. Can I have one?” They said, “Yeah. No problem.” Bingo. They sent me that shot. People don’t think it’s me, but I don’t have to prove it. 

When bullshit is bullshit, people know that it’s bullshit. What was your obsession with the blues? 

I would go to the Ash Grove, and I saw Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters there. It was crazy. They came through with so much style. I guess that was it. 

Wait a minute. You were working at RCA printing “Don’t Be Cruel.” 

I printed “Don’t Be Cruel.” “Hound Dog” was on the B-Side. I said, “I want to print 33s now.” He said, “Okay. Get over there.” You had to do it perfectly and wear white gloves to print a 33-1/3 rpm. Pretty soon, I said, “I’m out of here.” 

Then what did you do? 

I went to art school on scholarship and made it through. It was big time fun. The year I graduated, Disney took Chouinard over. Disney would come in everyday and go, “Hi students, you know I own this school.” They would go, “Yeah. Right. Mrs. Chouinard isn’t dead.” When Mrs. Chouinard died, it was so sad. 


What was it like going to Chouinard? You had cats coming out of there that were banging. 

Everybody in L.A. came from that time. Bob Irwin was teaching there then and he was becoming the pop guy. Hans Hofmann walked through one year in the ‘30s or ‘40s. The place had some vibes. Rico Lebrun and all of those guys walked through there, so it had some history. So many guys from that school made the L.A. art scene, but they made the L.A. fetish. That’s what pissed people off. They were all fetish guys. Everybody could become L.A. artists under that kind of regime. Art and technology was busting loose and I was not into that. I love it, but I don’t do that kind of thing. I could never get into that scene, but I was building art structures for them. I worked for Ganzer and made glass boxes so they could pour glass cement without even polishing. I used to go down to Bob Iriwn’s studio. That dude used to make high tech acrylic stuff. They were all innovating. I met his son and he said, “I was there with my dad. All those artists just used my dad for his technological skills and he never made any money.” I said, “No way. I thought he was banking.” I used to hang out and watch his techniques and I wanted to do that kind of stuff. I worked for Ron Davis making his high tech stuff. I was cutting them and buffing them out. Talk about high tech. Those were going for $150,000 a piece. It was crazy. L.A. was happening. 

The Ferus Gallery was happening too. 

We’d be at the Ash Grove and we’d walk across the street to Ferus and they’d have all those balloons and Brillo pads. We were like, “What the hell is this guy doing?” It was good times. L.A. was fresh. Everyone was going against the tradition of making salon art like Matisse and those guys. It was too classic. So they said, “Screw that.” It was the Dadaists and all that. 

How long was that movement popular? 

It just started. It made things change. Things have to change. If they don’t change, you’re going to lose it. Now there’s new blood like you. It might be skateboarders next. 

What year did you graduate Chouinard? 

1967. It was the year Christian was born. After graduation, I was either going to go to Berkeley or I was going East. I got accepted at Berkeley, so I went to Berkeley. At that time, Berkeley had never accepted any art school student from anywhere in the world because it’s a top science school. They told me that I got accepted as a test to see if an art student could handle the Berkeley program. David walks up and says, “I’m going to have a contest. Why don’t you put some stuff up?” So I put my stuff up and he walked around and picked mine. It was great. There were some heavy hitters at Berkeley at that time. 

The hippie thing was going on too, no? 

We started the People’s Park Movement. Mario Savio was the intellectual in that department. His idea was to get all of the scholarship students in the frontlines of these protests. Obviously, I was one of them. Savio says, “We’re going to protest. We’re going to walk down and block the school and protest.” I said, “I’m not into this, but I’ll do it.” The cops came that day and they had declared martial law, but we didn’t know it. The cops shot their guns with live ammo and I was right there. I heard ammo zinging over my head. You could hear it flying. I was all for peace, but I had a baby at home, so I walked away. The whole town was on fire. That was the People’s Park Movement. Kent State killed four kids the next week, and Kent State was supposed to march the same day we marched, but they couldn’t organize. It would have been East Coast and West Coast. Boom! After that shooting, we went, “Whoa.” Then I was rolling down to West Oakland and teaching ghetto kids how to draw. It was heavy. They were organizing the Black Panthers then. The cops were totally persecuting Huey Newton, and Rap Brown was doing little meetings that we’d go to. 

Were you guys tripping on acid at all? 

Yeah. Remember Norton Wisdom, the lifeguard at Malibu? I knew him at Berkeley. He bought a Mercedes Benz from an old ambassador from Italy, so Norton and I were rolling around in this Mercedes. It was an eight-seater with five doors and the Italian flag was still on it. We were working with Peter Voulkos, so we drove all over the place in that car. We hung out and gambled with Voulkos and Altoon. They were good guys. [Laughs] 

“That’s why it’s called art. You’re not selling your soul. It’s just like changing your skateboard. It’s a vehicle. You just make more art. You don’t have to sell your soul.”

When did you bounce from Berkeley to SoCal? 

1969. I got the Chancellor’s Award from Berkeley and then they said I couldn’t have the award. They said, “Get out of here. We don’t want you around here.” I said, “What?” I could have called the    chancellor, and let him know, but I never did. It was stupid. 

Then it was back to L.A. 

Yeah. Stecyk and everybody were at the ARCO Building in downtown L.A. and art was going big time. Stecyk asked me to get in this show of young turks. He did this installation with a TV in it, so I decided to do my powder paintings. 

What’s in the powder? 

It’s color pigments. I buy 50 gallons of raw pigment and start throwing the stuff all over the place. It was micro powder, like dust in the morgue stuff. Marshall Weisman said, “Okay, this guy is going to be in the show.” So I go to the show and everybody has a nice wall. I said, “Where the hell is my painting?” My painting is in the corner some place in the back. It’s okay though because Sam Francis walks up to me. Everybody was following Sam Francis around at the opening, because he was the local artist. I really didn’t know him, but he says, “I like your painting.” I said, “Yeah, but they stuck it way in the corner.” He says, “Don’t worry about it. Your art is the shit.” Everybody standing around him was going, “What?” I was just having fun. That was my first show in L.A. 

What year was this? 

It was 1971 or somewhere around there. In 1973, I went to Hawaii. I said, “I’m going to raise Christian out there the way the Hawaiians do.” He was six years old. 

Were you still with Bonnie? 

Yeah. We stayed together until Christian started skateboarding, and then he got wild. After a few years, we moved back to L.A. I said, “I have to take up art again.” I moved back to L.A. when Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was being filmed right there in that graveyard. I grew up at that graveyard, so it wasn’t scary. It was a big old haunted house. Nobody wanted to rent it, so we took it. 

Was it really haunted? 

Yes. Christian grew up there. It’s cool. It’s right there at Normandy and Washington. Michael Jackson was out on the street and I was standing out there singing “Thriller” to Christian in his buggy. 


When did you start working at Marina Skatepark? 

That was 1979. Christian wanted to go there, but the guy was not running the place right. I said, “Hey, you need help. Let me give you a hand.” He asked his mother if he could hire me and she said okay, so I got the job. At least, it paid for gas and food and free skate time for Christian. 

You were there every day? 

I was there at opening and closing every day. 

I used to see you. 

Do you remember the video that you guys did when you guys broke Devo’s camera lens? Was that you? 

Yeah. We fucked them up. 

That was classic. [Laughs] 

How about that? Devo at Marina. That was insane.  

It was full tilt. 

Do you remember when they had gigs at the freestyle area at Marina? I played there. It was funny. 

I remember. There was a pit with all the broken beer bottles in there and the girls were jumping in. That was gnarly. 

That was a fun park to just hang out in. 

All those bowls are still under the ground. They never wrecked them. They just took the coping off and the deck. 

Did you see them bury it? 

Yeah. I had to be there to make sure nobody was skating. We closed it down and Christian would skate with his buddies.


That was a fun time. A lot of kids came up out of Marina. Your kid came up out of Marina. 

Yeah. We would see you guys roll through. Those were the early classic days. There was Brad Bowman and that whole crew. You guys were doing classic stuff. 

There was Valdez, and all the boys from Venice, like Polar Bear. It was crazed. 

There was so much soul there. There were also people like Marshall Chess. When Christian was in grade school, Marshall Chess was rolling into the skatepark with his kids. He’d roll out because he would have to go record the Rolling Stones. Christian grew up with the Chess family. 

What was it like watching your kid go up through the ranks from the brown bowls to the world? 

Well, I knew the bad boys were dangerous, but you can’t stop that, so I just hoped and prayed that the kid had some sense. He always had sense. Some people have sense and some people have more daring than sense. That’s what I believe. It’s a whole different game. I backed off on him because I knew he had sense. As a parent, you can’t be around all the time because it becomes too much. At the time, especially with Christian, I was always there, so I tried to sever the leash a little. 

You guys have a tight relationship though. Even more so than a tight relationship, there was trust. 

Yeah. That’s the thing. I guess trust would be a belief and faith that you have to go for it. 

In the beginning days of the brown bowls, we were already veterans of the sport at age 18. 

You guys took it to the classic level though. Kids like Christian wanted to do exactly what you guys were doing, but then there was all the new technological stuff like better bearings and better wheels and bowls too. 

It’s evolution. 

That’s part of it. Your generation thought that you were shut out by talent, but you weren’t. 

“That’s why it’s called art. You’re not selling your soul. It’s just like changing your skateboard. It’s a vehicle. You just make more art. You don’t have to sell your soul.”

Let’s go past Marina to when it was nothing. It wasn’t a popular sport, but they were still skating. That’s why I have mad respect for those cats. It’s not about money, but first place at a contest paid $100. All of those kids were in it because they dug it. 

Christian beat Tony Hawk on home turf closing day, and it blew Tony Hawk away. Tony Hawk came to Marina to blow Christian out of his home park and he couldn’t do it. Stacy Peralta promised Christian a model that day and Stacy couldn’t come through. He said, “If you beat Tony, you’ve got a pro model.”

How was it as a pops being in the mix? You love your kid. You want to do what you can for him. All of a sudden, he just takes off, literally. You had to feel good, right? 

Yeah. You feel good, but I hear about so many people that get good at what they do and they are always searching for another thing. It’s like they’re unhappy or something, but it isn’t unhappiness. It’s that level that you push yourself to every time and when you stop you still have to push other levels in your life. As a dad, I felt like it was only Tony Hawk’s dad and I in the whole world. There were no other dads. Every country we went to and every contest we went to, we would stand around as the other kids’ mothers dropped them off. They were like, “Here’s $5, kid. I’ll see you when it’s over.” Bang. Nobody was there. The parents that were there treated it like Boy Scouts. They went just to support the kid. I would drive out to the desert and pick up Gator because his dad couldn’t go anywhere. As a dad, I was just happy with the fact that I had a kid that was making it through it. He didn’t have to be the top guy. Sometimes, if you push too hard, they start blaming you for stuff that you don’t know. Skateboarding has a crazy industry too. Through it all, Christian was forgiving, but I can’t forgive. Tony Hawk and Christian got signed to Dogtown the same day, so we go to Dogtown’s office and they’re gone. At that time, they were New York swift cats. So I went to them and I was like, “What’s up?” He says, “Well, it’s over.” Pretty soon it was over for everybody, so we just went underground. One of my first benefactors for the underground was Lilo. She set us up with our underground company. We rocked it, and then everyone started selling hammerheads. 

This was when skateboarding was not popular to the masses. They were doing it because they have passion and heart for skateboarding, but then came the late ‘80s, and it got crazy again. 

Well, the ASPO tried to do the parents’ league. ASPO, which became CASL, was a family thing. Because of ASPO, kids like Bert Lamar and Billy Ruff got real good. That wasn’t for money. That was amateur. Then Mr. Hawk started to think like that, because ASPO was all parents. That’s when you guys left it. I think there’s a hidden message there. 

A lot of people hated on Mr. Hawk. 

Well, he ran a machine shop, like a military thing. You can’t blame him. I don’t blame him. He did step up, but I couldn’t step with him because we were coming from the old school underground. 

He was coming from a machine shop and you’re coming from a background of creativity and expression of freedom. 

And empty pools. 

That makes perfect sense. 

It was kind of nice. Tony and Christian had become perfect partners in the street and on vert. It was a good cop, bad cop thing. 

From what I can remember, it never seemed like, “Oh, I don’t like that guy.” It was more like, “Yeah. Good competition.” 

Yeah. I have to tell you, Frank got it close to little league. We would go to Whittier and the Whittier boys would be all little leaguers. 

[Laughs] Then you had Fausto and the Thrasher boys, and then TransWorld, which put that mad separation in it. It was like the good cops are from the south and the bad cops are from the north. 

It was war. 


Those were the Civil War days of skateboarding. 

You guys kept your names in the mix. You’re still in the mix. It’s the history of what’s up. That style thing brought your name up every time. We would go, “Yeah. History. Those guys know what’s up. Surf. Skate.” [Laughs] Those new guys couldn’t dig it because they didn’t know what water was.  

Who did you have to deal with when you started to do Hosoi Skates? It was like a team. You and C.H. rolled together, which I thought was cool. 

I was there as the advisor. Christian was only 12 or 13. After Stacy didn’t come through with the pro model for Christian, we were over it. Sims talked to us, and sent a contract to us, so we signed the contract. Ding, ding, ding! The next week Dorfman walks up and says, “I own Sims.” We said, “What?”  I was mad at Sims. I said, “What’s up? You can’t do this kind of business.” He said, “Yeah. We did. We’re going to come out with this board. We’re going to do this for you.” We said, “Okay, do it.” Christian was getting royalties, which was a mistake. We added the numbers up and went to the boss and said, “What’s going on? The numbers don’t seem to penetrate the silent shield here.” He said, “You guys are too young. You don’t know  business.” We said, “You know what? Thank you very much. Goodbye.” 

The story I know is that you said, “The bird has flown.” It’s done. It’s a wrap. It’s over. You’re done trying to fuck us. 

We just said it was over. They had the contract on us, and we said, “Yeah. Right.” Christian just signed the next contract that came in front of him. They said, “We’re going to sue you. We’re going to tell everybody you walked off the contract.” We said, “Tell them what you want.” That seemed to be the thing. We sued one time and there was nothing in it. We had to pay so much money to the lawyers just for the court dates. We said, “No more lawsuits ever.” Your name gets public and the guys are fighting in public. It’s boring and it doesn’t help. 

So you bounced from Sims to Novak? 

Oh, no. There was a real interlude. There was some heavy hitting with some total underground stuff, and then we decided to split on that. Everybody thought Christian was rolling in the bucks, but he never got the money. When he did have it, he just rocked it and rolled it. Everybody thought he had money, but he didn’t. It’s too bad, but I guess he showed them something. 

He showed them that it wasn’t only about the money. The kid had flair and his flair comes from the creator usually. 

You have to have the magic from the get-go.  

“Everybody thought Christian was rolling in the bucks, but he never got the money. When he did have it, he just rocked it and rolled it. Everybody thought he had money, but he didn’t. It’s too bad, but I guess he showed them something.”

I remember when the Jimmy’Z thing started. It was bumping, and there was the Vision contest in Orange County with the highest air bullshit. Taters was the Indy dude. Everything was just flying. 

Christian was getting a $10,000 check from Tony Hawk that day for winning. Christian was holding the giant check, and Fausto goes, “Christian, this isn’t your check.” Christian looked at him and says, “What?” Fausto says, “That’s not your check.” Christian and I looked at him and said, “Yeah, but the money is his, right?” [Laughs] He said, “You can have the money, but you’re not getting this big check. It’s going in my office.” He was funny. Remember the contest at Santa Ana when Christian won the highest air? Christian was doing the 11-foot airs, and I was feeding Christian pure oxygen. I said, “Christian, you’re nervous. Here’s some pure oxygen because you can’t take in air. You’re cluttered.” I gave him pure oxygen with an oxygen mask. Steve Caballero walked under the ramp and said, “What are you guys doing? Are you guys doing drugs under here?” We said, “Yeah, this is pure oxygen like the pros do.” He never believed it, so it probably got out that we were doing drugs under the ramp. 

It was pure oxygen to get highest. 

That’s right. That’s how we got high. It was so far out. I put the oxygen tank in front of the ramp the next day. We didn’t even refute that stuff. It was all good. The kid was solid. 

Your kid could hang. That’s for sure. 

Let me tell you about the last contest at Del Mar, before they closed the park, which nobody really talks about. Tony Hawk lost that contest to Christian. In the middle of the contest, Christian says to me, “Go get this girl. She’s a ten.” I forget her name, but everybody in the whole industry wanted her. Her dad was so strict and her best friend had to chaperone her. So I went 30 miles away, in my Gran Turismo, which was Lilo’s Studebaker, to pick her up. I’m flooring it to go pick her up because his run was going on, and I didn’t want to miss it. I fly out there and then the car overheats at her house. I said, “We have to wait now. I’m not blowing up the engine.” The father said, “You can’t take my car because I don’t know you.” I said, “Okay.” So we head back and, finally, we made it to the bridge, and the car blew up. I lost the transmission at Del Mar, so I called a cab. As we were pulling up to the contest, Christian was on his last run. It was time to take Tony down. If Christian couldn’t beat him, he would lose. We pulled up and the whole park turned around. They saw the yellow cab open up and out runs this   beautiful girl, and me. The whole park screamed. Christian’s mom was there. Everyone was freaking out. It gave Christian so much adrenaline, and he was doing 540s. That whole scenario blew my mind. This girl was wearing a black cocktail dress with high heels. Fausto and Blackheart were there. Everybody was there. That was one of my memories of Christian’s younger days. I said, “I’m going to miss your run, damn it.” If I had my way, I wouldn’t have gone to pick her up. [Laughs] 

Did you crack the block in that Gran Turismo? 

No. I blew the hoses though. It wouldn’t run. 

I remember that Gran Turismo. I had a ‘55 Studebaker President Speedster. I loved the front end of the Gran Turismo. The Turismo was like the next version of the Hawk without the wings. 

Right. The Hawk got flatter because it was more aerodynamic. In 1962, they won the Bonneville Flats in a Gran Turismo. They wanted to win it the next year, so they made the hood lower. 

They did the Avanti. That was dope too. I want to buy an Avanti one day before I go. The style is so ill. What do you think about skateboarding now? 

Now skateboarders are doing a lot of high art, and high technical skateboarding. It’s developing into something else. It’s going some place I never thought it would go. When Ganzer had Jimmy’Z, he signed Christian for $250,000. Then they went Chapter 11 and he said, “I can’t pay you.” 


You’re like, “Yes! Payday! Whoa. No pay.” The taxman shut them down. What about going to New York with Jimmy’Z? We did the demo at Bloomingdales and went to the Odeon. We were just rowdy. They were like, “Who are these kids?” 

I thought it was actually a blessing because Jimmy took me to that girl’s studio. She was a famous French painter. Jimmy was tying stuff in with the fashion industry. I thought Jimmy would take it  further, but he kind of backed off it. I don’t know why because he had opportunities. 

He had mad opportunities. I think he was still in shock that it had done what it had done. All of a sudden, it just took off. 

Well, they wanted their ego to be in front. They thought the skaters were too talented, and they might take over. They didn’t realize that skaters don’t take over. They just roll. 

I don’t know that skaters really cared to takeover. We just wanted to keep rolling. We were just doing what we love and that’s the best payoff. 

I think the money guys thought we were in there to take over because that’s what happens in world affairs. Another country moves in, they take over and wipe everybody out. It’s the same mentality as the skate industry. Christian never took over anybody. I think he gave more than they paid him. 

Yeah, but if you’re giving, you get whatever it is that you get when you give. 

Not if they don’t want to give it to you. 

Fuck those that don’t want to give.  When you’re a giver, you get whatever the inner part of giving is. You give something just because you want to give it. It’s not like, “Here. I’m going to give this to you so I can get something down the line.” It’s like, “I’m giving this to you because you dig what I’m giving you. I get that energy from you that you’re just stoked that I’m giving you this.” Maybe that’s the art of giving that’s missing. Maybe people are giving to get and they’re not giving for giving. We just solved the world’s problems. Let’s go to when skateboarding died again in the early ‘90s and the street skating world came into it. You have Rocco, of all people, leading the pack. 

Then he moved to Hawaii. He was over here in Lanai, but they chased him out. He decided he would do these tours with Hummers for the rich tourists, so he brought over two giant Hummers, but he would only take the rich tourist people, and the locals got pissed, so they chased him out.  

[Laughs] In the ‘90s, what happened to you and Christian? 

It was drug city, man. Christian was loaded that whole time. He was mad drugged out. 

How did that make you feel? 

I felt worse than you know. I sent him whatever money I could every Friday, so he had cash, and somehow he made it by. He was going from motel to motel. It was heavy times because of Orange County drugging. 

“We’d walk across the street to Ferus and they’d have all those balloons and Brillo pads. We were like, “What the hell is this guy doing?” It was good times. L.A. was fresh. Everyone was going against the tradition of making salon art.” 

You can’t put it on Orange County only though. 

Well, he was there with those dudes, hanging with them. I couldn’t control that. I’d gone back to Hawaii. I lived on a farm and tried to paint. I was just doing odd jobs. It was tough trying to keep him afloat. In 1999, he calls up and said, “Hey, Pops. I’m in town with this guy and we’re doing a roll over.” Next thing you know, he’s in prison. It’s the big time now. Federal. He crossed State Lines. Most people become invisible in prison, but not Christian. They knew his name before he got there. They set him up because he was a skateboarding legend. It was a big surprise to him. He thought that every time he went to a new prison, they were going to take him apart. Instead, he was rocking in there. He’s like, “Dad, send some autographed photos right now.” Bingo. I was doing promo for Christian in prison. I couldn’t believe it. The guards and the CIA agents knew who he was. They were arguing with each other over who got to take him to court. They all wanted to hang out with Christian because he was the baddest guy on a skateboard. 

When did you bounce to Hawaii? 

2006. We were in outlaw country. No running water or lights. We were not dependent on all the stuff that everybody needs. In the cities, they want you to fear everything, so you straighten up. Being off the grid, it lets the art come from some attitude. We had to keep the soul running, so it didn’t run amok. 

They don’t want you to have a soul anymore. 

A rich guy will only want to own your stuff when another guy says, “That guy has soul. You have to buy it.” Then it sells.  

They don’t understand that the soul is not for sale. If you can sell your soul, you don’t have one. 

That’s why it’s called art. You’re not selling your soul. It’s just like changing your skateboard. It’s a vehicle. You just make more art. You don’t have to sell your soul. 

You can always make more art. 

Exactly. Roll with it. 


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