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Skateboarding News

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad Boys...

Jay Adams at Venice skatepark, October 2010. Pix by Ray Rae.
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In the 80’s and 90’s skateboarding suddenly became a place were misfits lived at large. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were flowing into the business, and the bad boys of yesterday looking for some kind of street cred became the stars of the day. But that did not last long. After a while, the skateboard stars lost their shine and channeled their energy toward some kind of mild or hard delinquency: vandalism, drug trafficking, public intoxication, marijuana use, rebellion against authority, truancy, murder, skateboarding in the streets, plaza or parking lots and other problems known to be prevalent in the skateboarding population.

A lot of skateboarder’s infractions happen in the US, which has the harshest law on record and most of those guys would have gone unnoticed by the cops anywhere else in the world. Whereas being in jail for killing someone is just fair, being arrested for carrying grass or simply for skateboarding in the street (or even for not wearing a helmet) is simply outrageous. Skateboarding and the law have never been good friends and there are scores of skaters who are fined everyday for what common sense is telling us should not be a crime.

Two Master skateboard legend together: Dennis Martinez and
Jay Adams at Venice skatepark. October 2010. Picture by Ray Rae.
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Since the dawn of skateboarding, headlines have always presented a disturbing picture of skateboarders. It is harassment at worst or sensationalism at best: “Texas icon Jeff Phillips kills himself”, “Josh Swindell awaits trial for murder in Los Angeles”, "Mark Anthony "Gator" Rogowski, convicted of raping and killing a 21 girl”, “Brian Patch accused of unlawful sex”, “Eric Koston being investigated for child pornography”, “Lennie Kirk in jail for robbing a taxi driver”, “Chad Muska caught tagging the streets of Hollywood”, later held on a $20,000 bond and booked for felony charges and “Greg Myers posts a $1,000 bond” because he let some 20 year old dudes drink light beer at his house (everywhere in the intelligent world the age limit is 18, not 21…).

Other skateboarders went to jail just for defending themselves like this 2003 story of Duane Peters in SkateBoarder: "I was shooting up, living in a ditch, and got rushed by these three Mexicans. They stabbed me seven times in the knee and three times in the back. I was swinging my board around at these f-kers and the funniest thing was I was rushing so much from the coke that I couldn't climb out from this four-foot ditch. I finally got these guys off me and I was running down the street covered in blood when the cops came"… Yeah, you get the picture. It's scary enough to read Andy Roy's stories about being nicknamed "snuggle-butt" while serving time, however, when Roy confessed to Dave Carnie that he wanted to get "the aids" in order to spread it to as many people as possible, you may just be staring at one of the gnarliest statements ever said by a skateboarder.

Some skateboarders, like Christian Hosoi, Jay Adams, Bruce Logan and Dennis Martinez have found peace out of the mess and are now teaching God’s word, but that is not the case for all of them.

Take a look at the most publicized skateboarders behind bars and the story behind it…

Christian Hosoi at Venice skatepark. Picture by Ray Rae.
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 1. Jay Adams, Christian Hosoi, Dennis Martinez, Bruce Logan

Those four skateboarders share two common grounds: they were skateboard stars, spent time behind bars but all ended with redemption for all of them. Jay Adams did time for beating a man and trafficking drugs. Christian Hosoi served time related to a 2000 arrest and conviction for drug trafficking and so on…

The 2006 documentary “Rising Son: The legend of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi” tells that story. Then, there’s DOPE (Death or Prison Eventually). A film by Chris Aherns, a novelist, surfer and writer for San Diego counter culture magazine RISEN and Chris Laurie... This film takes a look at the four legendary world champion skateboarders; Jay Adams from Dogtown's Z Boys, Christian Hosoi, Dennis Martinez (world champion), Bruce Logan (world skateboarding champion owner of Logan Earth Skis number one skateboarding manufacturing company in 1980s) and it examines their rise to the top and their eventual descent into the drug and crime culture. By concentrating on their redemption and current lives as well as their fame and fall from fame this film carves a unique posture in the world of sports/skater pictures and documentaries in general. Narration is by legendary tattooed actor Danny Trejo (Blood In Blood Out, GrindHouse, Delta Farce, Con Air, Spy Kids,) and the movie title track was written by hardcore platinum selling P.O.D. with additional music by Switchfoot, Arrested Development, Red Cloud and Dance Floor Prophets. Archival period, rare skateboard footage never seen before along with current interviews makes this a must see project.

This documentary has twists and turns that most documentaries don't follow; it shadows the main characters from their sun soaked youth and triumph and tracks their paths in and out of their world of darkness and misery then finally documenting their rugged path back from addiction. Part of the film was recorded in prison and under bridges (past residence of skater entrepreneur Bruce Logan) and a drug and alcohol treatment center for men.(Dennis Martinez's current work, "90% of the men come straight from prison and live with us for 4-6 months as they transition into society" ) where unfolding real life stories grip the audience. For those who are considering 'sampling' drugs and dream about escaping unscathed from that lifestyle this is a good prescription to help them avoid the pitfalls and destructiveness that awaits many who embrace this lifestyle. No preachiness, no talking down, just hard core music, action and real life drama. It doesn't get more real than DOPE.

Ali Boulala, BS Air
2 Ali Boulala

Ali Boulala of Finnish and Algerian descent was born January 28, 1979 in Stockholm, Sweden, and rode for Flip and Independent. He was known for his relaxed but flamboyant style and filmed notable parts in the Flip videos “Sorry” and “Really Sorry”, Osiris' “Subject to Change” and also appeared in numerous Baker videos.

Ali Boulala was sentenced to four years in jail in 2008 and served a two-year prison sentence for the death of skateboarder Shane Cross back in 2007 in a motorcycle accident in Melbourne Australia. He was eventually released from prison on March 12, 2010.

Ali Boulala killed Shane Cross when he smashed into the wall of the Tramway Hotel at an estimated 30km/h at about 1.05 am after doing two to three laps around the block. A rising superstar, Shane Cross, 20, was a pillion passenger on the bike.

Boulala had a blood alcohol concentration of .162 and Cross, who died in hospital, had a blood alcohol level of .18. Neither of the men was wearing helmets. Boulala and Cross had earlier been at a city nightspot called the Cherry Bar. They then went to a friend’s house and drank beer. Before the crash, Cross was overheard twice telling Boulala he wanted to go for a ride on the motorbike. Boulala wouldn't let Cross go because he didn't have a helmet, "You were therefore aware of the potential ramifications," Judge Pullen said before adding "You threw caution to the wind at a later stage on this evening."

Judge Pullen said Cross had his whole life to look forward to and his family had suffered enormously as a result of Boulala's conduct, she added that “Boulala's injuries would provide ongoing punishment for him”.

Cross was regarded as one of Australia's most talented skateboarders. It is understood he had signed to star in a video game.

According to the Flip website, Boulala aspires to skate once again. In 2010, Boulala was added to the Kr3w Clothing Team but because he suffered a severe brain injury in the accident, he spent more than three months in hospital and experienced post-traumatic amnesia for 65 days. By the time he was discharged from hospital, he was only able to walk 200m without a walking aid and has not been able to return to skateboarding or motorbike riding because he had a reduced range of movement, strength and co-ordination and suffered spasticity in his lower right leg.

Boulala's pro model board in 2003 which depicted him sitting on a motorcycle with a bottle of beer in his hand was pulled from retailers after the incident.

3. Joshua Swindell

Sharing the distinction of a murder conviction with Rogowski is former pro skateboarder Joshua Swindell. In 1995, Swindell was convicted of beating Keith Ogden to death outside a California bar on July 7th 1993 and was sentenced to 15 years to life.

But this was not the first time Joshua Swindell had problems with The Law: before he went away for good after smashing a brick over a gay man's head and killing him, Josh Swindle got busted at the Mexican border with guns in his car. Earl Parker caught up with Josh for an interview while he served out his time in a Tijuana penitentiary. Drugs, Broomstick shanks, hookers, bribing guards, and beating a guy down for trying to steal his shoes all get detailed accounts.

The Keith Ogden killing was the first (reported) gay-bashing-murder to hit the skateboard world. Regardless that the facts are in dispute, a jury found that Josh Swindell was guilty of a second-degree hate crime murder and he is now in jail for 15 years.

Word on the street was that Danny Way, Joshua Swindell, and Steven Matus were out and drunk in Azuza (between Los Angeles and Diamond Bar) after attending a rap party.
They somehow came into contact with keith Ogden. There was an altercation that ended with the death of Mr. Ogden. Swindell claims that Ogden was drunk, had a gun, and kept coming-on to Swindell and the others. Swindell admits to hitting Ogden, however, Swindell claims that Ogden had a pre-exisitng head injury that lead to his death. Without this injury, it would have just been a "normal" gay bashing. The other side of the story was that Swindell and crew were out looking to beat up someone who was gay. Either way, someone was killed. Danny Way was never charged with anything and the extent of his involvement is not clear.

"This was a vicious felony assault. This was always in my mind a murder case," said Pomona Superior Court Judge George W. Trammell before sentencing the 23-year-old Diamond Bar skateboarder.

Swindell, with his tan faded and his hair darkened after two years in jail, raised his handcuffed hands in defiance after the sentencing, saying sarcastically, "Oh, yeah." Swindell told the judge he had filed an appeal.

Before the sentencing, Swindell shook his head in disagreement when Trammell rejected his lawyer's petition challenging the judge's decision to limit the jury's options to first-degree and second-degree murder.

Steve Mateus, 19, of Diamond Bar was also charged with Ogden's murder, but he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in return for a six-year sentence. As part of the deal, he testified against Swindell, saying he saw Swindell lead Ogden out of the bar and kick him three to five times in the face

Neil Heddings
4. Neil Heddings

Neil Heddings carved out a reputation based almost as much on the pentagram tattoo on his chest and his rebellious lifestyle as his mastery of backyard pools and plywood half-pipes. While a teenager in Oregon, he made a name for himself by mastering the cement bowls of Portland's Burnside Skate Park, built by renegade skaters. After they dug a hole under a bridge and filled it with cement without city approval, Heddings and other skaters kept expanding the park, until the city finally accepted it as a public facility.

Heddings was starting to go pro when he moved to San Diego around 1997 and got a job at a skateboarding shop. Companies were sending him clothing and paying him to show their wares in magazine photos – companies such as 151, Randoms Hardware in Encinitas, Independent Truck Co. and the better known Vans. He tattooed his body with brand names and his feet with the checkerboard pattern of a Vans shoe.

Heddings already had a brush with The Law in March 1997, when he pleaded guilty in San Diego to felony assault for hitting a man over the head with a skateboard, causing a cut that required stitches.

Miki Vuckovich, who heads the Tony Hawk Foundation, and promotes public skate parks, described Heddings as a "gnarly, on-edge type of skater . . . (who) let his skating do the talking for him."

"He kept it real," Vuckovich said. "He didn't sell out. He stuck to his ideals and didn't let the money or the lure of lucrative sponsorship sway him from (them)." Family and friends, he added, seemed to be a big part of Heddings' life.

He named his youngest son Budweiser, in short, buddy; sported a shaved head and traveled the globe performing for crowds and making thousands of dollars a year from skateboard companies to help hawk their newest boards and gear.

That image served him well in West Coast skating circles but Heddings says the same image worked against him the morning of Nov. 23, 2002, when a San Jacinto (Riverside County) police officer walked into a bedroom and found the skater with the lifeless body of his 2-year-old son, Marcus, cradled in his arms. The toddler died as a result of a head trauma. In 2006, the then “former” pro skateboarder Neil Heddings was convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment for the involuntary manslaughter death of his two year old son. Heddings was later released. At the time of his son's death, Heddings' 1997 conviction of beating a man over the head with his skateboard was discussed in the media as well, which did not help.

On an excellent interview for AutomaticMag after he finished his sentence Heddings had harsh words for the Injustice System of America: “Well without getting too deep into it, basically my son died and they tried to pin whatever they thought happened to him on us which wasn’t something that happened. In the end they used a scapegoat as far as Christina goes and they gave her murder charge and a battery cause of death, that is where her two life sentences came in. And as far as I go they gave me involuntary manslaughter for my failure to protect Marty from Christine. Which is basically a big pile of bullshit. What really happened was that as far as the judicial system goes, it’s a really messed up system. All politicians are career-minded individuals. All they are worried about are their conviction rates, their records, and the success of their own job. They step on people’s lives day in and day out. At the point where we were ready to go to trial, I had already been there so long that they had no choice for their own political and business careers to move forward and prosecute us and try and put us away. I mean, the DA, Kelly Hanson even said himself that he believed in my innocence but his supervisor wouldn’t allow him to give me a proper appeal or offer me a time served kind of thing at that point. So we went ahead and went into trial and they won.” Word out…

And finally, when you save the best for last, you got the story of “Gator”

Gator in Transworld, December 1988
5. Mark Anthony "Gator" Rogowski

In the 80’s, Mark “Gator Rogowski” was one of the best skateboarders around. Born in 1966 in Brooklyn, NY, he toured with Tony Hawk around the world and had a crazy lifestyle. Sponsored by Gullwing Trucks and Vision Street Wear, at age 17, Gator was already making $100,000 a year. The “Gator” line included several variation decks, a full clothing line and was a regular fixture in Thrasher magazine and multiple skate videos including on the 1989 film Gleaming the Cube, with Christian Slater..

It was during a skate show in Arizona that Rogowski was introduced to Brandi McClain who became his girlfriend and they started appearing together in many skate-related ads and promotional videos for Rogowski's sponsor (Vision Street Wear), as well as the Tom Petty video Free Fallin’ (with delicious scenes of vert action).

After Brandi left him in 87, “Gator” became obsessively jealous: breaking into McClain’s home to steal what he had previously given her, calling her new boyfriend with threats, and threatening McClain directly. One night, Rogowski got a call from Jessica Bergsten, Brandi McClain’s girlfriend who had recently moved to Southern California. Bergsten asked Mark to show her around San Diego. They spent a day together, then, he brought her home.

Gator in a Vision Street Wear ad circa 1990
That’s when things turned horrible… He beat her with a “Club", an anti-theft device popular in the 80’s and 90’s. After knocking her semi-unconscious, he dragged her to his bedroom on the 2nd floor and raped her, wrapped her in a surfboard bag to avoid the noise, strangled her and managed to dump her naked body in a shallow grave in the desert –all without being caught.

A few weeks later, her body was found, but because of the state of decomposition, her identity remained unknown. He would have gotten away with it if Gator had not recently turned Born-Again Christian. He confessed what he had done to his "spiritual advisor", a born-again Christian surfer, who encouraged him to confess his crime to the police - which Rogowski did, waiving his legal rights.

Later in 1991, Rogowski pleaded guilty to rape and murder and received a 31-year prison sentence after a jury found him guilty of the rape and murder of Jessica Bergsten.

Gator had his first parole hearing at the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo on February 7th, 2011 but was denied parole. He won't be eligible for a new hearing until another seven years.

A 2003 documentary entitled “Stoked: The rise and fall of Gator tells his story”.

Rest in Peace Keenan Milton, Pepe Martinez, Keith Ogden, Shane Cross, Black Mike, Harold Hunter, Phil Shao, Jeff Phillips, Jay Buck, Kit Erickson, Tim Brauch, Mike Cardona, Brendan Kerr, Justin Pierce, Johnny Romano and every other skater out there who has died a tragic death, pro or not. You are all missed greatly.

All pictures of Christian Hosoi, Dennis Martinez and Jay Adams at Venice Skatepark from Ray Rae private collection. Used by permission. If you need printout, go visit   

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posted by Xavier Lannes @ Wednesday, September 21, 2011 


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