This morning as I got CootieBoy dressed I realized that his skateboarding shirt is actually an ode to Jay Adams, one of the original Z-Boys in the 1970s. What I found interesting was that on Tuesday night rather than watch election results I watched a movie all about Jay Adams and the Z-Boys! Lords of Dogtown follows the original skaterats in the mid-1970s- Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva. Originally into surfing, they found skateboards and never looked back, starting a new sport that even *I* wanted to be a part of when I was in 4th or 5th grade (which would have been about 1978 or 1979). I can remember saving up my babysitting money for WEEKS so that I could buy a skateboard of my own.
The kids in this movie were great. Emile Hirsch (“Into Thin Air”) played angry Jay Adams – a boy who has to raise money to take of her burned out mom. It’s this same Jay Adams who continues to skate and surf even today (in Hawaii no less). Heath Ledger plays Skip, the owner of the surf shop who realized skateboarding may make him more money, and organizes a skateboard team to compete around the state. Soon the bigger skate business execs take notice of Peralta, Alva and Adams. Peralta signs a deal with G&S and begins travelling all over the world in support of his brand. Tony Alva also signs a big contract and becomes Peralta’s superstar competitor. Adams, on the other hand, gets a couple minor offers for sponsorships but never hits a big payday like Peralta and Alva. Despite this, Jay Adams is considered -even by his fellow z-boys – THE original seed for the skateboarding boom.
The movie was fun to watch and brought back a lot of memories for me. In high school in the mid-80s I went to a high school that had about 20 or so skaterats and I remember being so enthralled by them. They were into weird music (I was into new wave but they liked Circle Jerks and Black Flag) and dressed funny (lots of Billabong logos). But when I’d see them in the hallways between classes I couldn’t help but stare. I wanted to be friends with them but didn’t know how to break in to the group. There was one guy in my grade who kind of lead the group (along with his older brother) and he was REALLY nice but still intimidated me to no end.
A year after I graduated from college I moved into an apartment with some friends of mine, and we eventually let our friend Mark move in. We didn’t have a room for him, so he slept on the sofa and instead of paying rent he provided dinner every night from the restaurant where he worked as a cook. He was a MAJOR skaterat. What I loved about him was he obsession with the sport – he had dozens of magazines and videos and we’d all sit in front of the tv and watch the wipeouts on the videos and pour over the magazines to read about the latest competitions. When he moved out, he gave me a shirt that had always been one of my favorites – it was a red t-shirt with a picture of Olivia Newton-John in “Xanadu,” which was one of my favorite movies. The shirt was made by a now-defunct skateboard manufacturer and I still wear that shirt even today!
Anyway, back to the movie. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of skateboarding, I think this movie is worth watching for two reasons: Emile Hirsch and Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger chews the scenery to perfection as alcoholic Skip, the surf shop owner. And Emile Hirsch practically vibrates with rage in some of his scenes. And the skating isn’t bad either.
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