IASC Update

Craig Stecyk’s phone call to my house the other day was answered by my 22-year-old son, Colin, who at the time was holding his two-year-old nephew, Gavin, in his lap. Colin was sitting on one of our benches and at his feet was his other nephew, Gavin’s eight-month-old brother, Liam. The family is expanding. In the midst of balancing his nephews, Colin was attempting to pass along to Stecyk that I was still in Europe, but as the story goes, Liam was squawking, Gavin was hungry, and Colin was up and into the kitchen as Stecyk suggested he’d call later.

Liam crawled it into the kitchen, Gavin took the phone as Colin put him down to begin slicing fruit, which he then served atop the bench where he had been sitting. For Gavin the bench’s sitting surface often becomes a countertop, whereas for Liam it’s something he can grab onto after pulling himself up, and if all goes well he can laterally move himself down to his brother’s food. Then a whole new cycle begins with Liam leaning one-handed on the bench looking incredulously at his brother walking away with the food.

Twenty years ago the same bench provided this same service to Colin as his older sisters left him behind–the grandsons are the second generation of kids to use these benches as tables, counters, and seating areas. The benches have also been used as book shelves, ladders, platforms, and during one eventful evening, one of them became a battering ram that took out two doors. I made these benches more than 30 years ago. At the time they were something that we needed. We didn’t have chairs, but we did have a table, and the benches seemed a simple solution.

“You should make some benches,” was the suggestion of Michael Murphy, whom I was working for at the time. The table had been my father’s work desk, and after his death I’d finished the production of his government film contracts by keeping Murphy on the payroll. After those USIA films were completed, I was headed for Washington, D.C., but ended up in Hawai’i, instead, working on The Hawaiians with Charlton Heston and Geraldine Chaplin. Frances and I got married there, the wrap party was our reception, and then we spent months traveling in Europe on movie money. We even crossed paths with Stecyk in Biarritz, evading INTERPOL in the process, and then returned to Hollywood, where Murphy returned the favor by hiring me to build some projects at his compound deep in the Malibu hills. “Build some benches,” he said.

I needed heavy lumber to make the benches I wanted, and because resources are always a hot commodity, I asked around. My friend Scott Halley had the answer, “POP.” The next morning there I was, on the beach, beneath the crumbling ruins of Venice, California’s Pacific Ocean Park (POP) pier, attempting to haul enormous planks across the sand. The whole project took weeks, because as it developed the project changed. The benches became something else. They weren’t just benches anymore. It was work. It was hard time-consuming labor. The planks had been structural pieces of the pier. Most of the ones I took had been beached on the sand for a while and were dry, but we ended up collecting some that were floaters, too. Four-by-twelves. Six-by-twelves. Eight-by-eights. Most of these rough-cut timbers were twelve to 24 feet long, and some weighed more than 100 pounds. They were like trees. They were trees.

At the time, my only vehicle was a ’59 Volkswagen Bug that had been offered up by Gary Weiss as a debt repayment after Frances and I had returned from Europe. He was living in a studio on Main Street across from Star Liquor, behind a new surf shop that had opened. Gary was about a year from leaving L.A. and venturing to New York where he would become involved with a new comedy show that would be broadcast live on Saturday nights. We had stayed with Gary in his studio for a week while our house at Topanga was being vacated, and the only problem at Gary’s was the toilet/shower arrangement–it was sharewith everyone else in the building. Gary’s recommendation, “Get in there early, ’cause those Zephyr guys get in there and they never leave!”

So, it took an entire morning to drag my first load of the POP planks to the parking lot, and then getting them up on the roof-racks–it was a project. As it was, I had to off-load. They were so heavy I nearly crushed the VW’s suspension–those cantilevered wheels were splayed out. I remember actually worrying that someone would take my planks as I drove away with only one strapped atop the car. I made our benches, and I made a bed–a four-poster POP bed with the platform six feet off the ground. The first time she saw it, Sharon Peckinpah said, “How in the hell do you get into bed?” Once we got up there we tended to stay. Good view. People would come over to our house and wander around trying to find us.

POP furniture was the rage at Topanga Beach for a while. Scott Halley used POP timbers to build an entire house–the advantage of having a truck. At one point I think he rented a four-wheel-drive flatbed and pulled up under the pier to stack his load. The benches are all that we have from that era–our bed ended up in Sleepy Hollow, California when the new owner of the house saw it. “Oh, my gawd! I have to have that!” is what I think she said. I should’ve sold it to her for 100,000 dollars. I’d hauled the thing from Topanga to Hollywood to San Francisco to Venice, and then to Sleepy Hollow. We built everything without nails, and by using driftwood and broom handles for dowels, I could take the thing apart and reassemble it in about ten minutes.

Before our first daughter, Aran, was born in San Francisco, I had lowered the bed’s platform–pregnancy didn?t lend itself to climbing up into bed. Frances was pregnant with our second daughter, Allwyn, when we were readying to leave Sleepy Hollow and move to La Jolla, and maybe I was tired of hauling the thing around, but I think it was more the enthusiasm of the lady moving into our house. She wanted the bed. I told her about POP and some of the story, but she wanted all the details. The story was important to her because she saw the bed as something significant. I told her what I could.

Which is this story. Part of the story, anyway–”our story.” And every part of it is the story that skateboarding is. Being part of skateboarding is our story, and by inclusion, by being involved with skateboarding, you are part of my story and I part of yours. It’s our history. Its history. Skateboarding’s history. Our story is our history.

So, with Sony International’s release of Dogtown And Z Boys, the rest of the world may begin to realize that skateboarding is a story, and for many it will be an introductory experience to one of the many stories that make up skateboarding’s story. Stacy Peralta’s documentary provides audiences with a glimpse of the life and times of the Zephyr Team, and the subsequent impact of what a ragtag collection of kids from Santa Monica, West L.A., Mar Vista, Venice–Dogtown–could pull off.

Standing in line to see the film when it was shown recently during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, I was attempting to rendezvous with John Lytle and Jim Knight (they’ve sat on our benches) with hopes of securing tickets for all of us. Elaborately convoluted film-festival procedures had eliminated the possibility of buying advance tickets, although as I waited in line, several others showed up with tickets in hand. Conspiracy theories were abundant. All of which become part of this story, because when the film began few people who had been in line made it into the theater. Where did those other people come from? What’s their story?

Festival patrons, pass holders, the press? They were admitted. They made it into the theater, and the hundreds of skaters waiting in line were left outside, in line, disappointed and confused by what took place. Peralta graciously made the introductions to the film, the lights were still up, and just before he concluded I noticed Jim Knight slipping into the last vacant seat in the house moments before a security-type usher rushed in and surveyed the scene.

Concluding his remarks, Peralta suggested that whatever anyone thought about the film, when all was said and done “it is a film about skateboarding.” And as an afterthought he assured everyone it was okay to make as much noise as they wanted. There were some hoots from the packed group, a couple people shouting “Yeah, Stacy!” and the lights went down. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, almost, because before I got home that night and sat on one of those benches and reflected on what had transpired, the story took on a twist. Peralta had said, “Make some noise,” and Jim Knight followed the director’s direction. There’s a point in the film where Stecyk is standing in a wrecking yard and talking about the dynamics of what had taken place in the 70s, and Knight yelled out, “Yeah, Stecyk!” fairly loud. Knight certainly has his story of experiences with Stecyk and Peralta from the Bones Brigade days–things lit on fire, things thrown from rooftops, things driven too fast, things drunk too wicked. His shout was respectively received with a few chuckles and “Yeah, Jim!”

So encouraged, during the next several minutes of the film, Knight continued to “make some noise” by offering up exclamations about anything and anyone, “Yeah, Stacy!” “Yeah, Alva!” “Alva rules!” And he got louder. All of which seemed fine to everyone in the theater except for the guy who appeared at Jim’s elbow and quickly ushered him out of the theater. Afterward, sitting on one of our benches, Frances asked, “They threw him out? They threw Jim Knight out of the theater? He’s watching Dogtown, and they threw him out because he’s making too much noise?”

Isn’t that our story? Confusion and misunderstanding blended with success and acceptance? Murphy, who made Skater Dater nearly 40 years ago, is well and working in the hills of Malibu. My POP bed is allegedly still in Sleepy Hollow. POP is long gone. Star Liquor is open for business. Gary Weiss is back in Hollywood and called last month while he was working with Tom Adler. I’m going to call Stecyk right now and I’ll probably end up sitting on one of my benches while I talk to him. Gavin is in the backyard. Liam is asleep. Colin has a baseball game in a few minutes. I think I’ll call Jim Knight, too, because I need “the rest of the story.”

It’s our story, this story of skateboarding, played out in our lives each and every day by each and every one of us. It’s a story worth telling and living. It’s skateboarding.lights were still up, and just before he concluded I noticed Jim Knight slipping into the last vacant seat in the house moments before a security-type usher rushed in and surveyed the scene.

Concluding his remarks, Peralta suggested that whatever anyone thought about the film, when all was said and done “it is a film about skateboarding.” And as an afterthought he assured everyone it was okay to make as much noise as they wanted. There were some hoots from the packed group, a couple people shouting “Yeah, Stacy!” and the lights went down. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, almost, because before I got home that night and sat on one of those benches and reflected on what had transpired, the story took on a twist. Peralta had said, “Make some noise,” and Jim Knight followed the director’s direction. There’s a point in the film where Stecyk is standing in a wrecking yard and talking about the dynamics of what had taken place in the 70s, and Knight yelled out, “Yeah, Stecyk!” fairly loud. Knight certainly has his story of experiences with Stecyk and Peralta from the Bones Brigade days–things lit on fire, things thrown from rooftops, things driven too fast, things drunk too wicked. His shout was respectively received with a few chuckles and “Yeah, Jim!”

So encouraged, during the next several minutes of the film, Knight continued to “make some noise” by offering up exclamations about anything and anyone, “Yeah, Stacy!” “Yeah, Alva!” “Alva rules!” And he got louder. All of which seemed fine to everyone in the theater except for the guy who appeared at Jim’s elbow and quickly ushered him out of the theater. Afterward, sitting on one of our benches, Frances asked, “They threw him out? They threw Jim Knight out of the theater? He’s watching Dogtown, and they threw him out because he’s making too much noise?”

Isn’t that our story? Confusion and misunderstanding blended with success and acceptance? Murphy, who made Skater Dater nearly 40 years ago, is well and working in the hills of Malibu. My POP bed is allegedly still in Sleepy Hollow. POP is long gone. Star Liquor is open for business. Gary Weiss is back in Hollywood and called last month while he was working with Tom Adler. I’m going to call Stecyk right now and I’ll probably end up sitting on one of my benches while I talk to him. Gavin is in the backyard. Liam is asleep. Colin has a baseball game in a few minutes. I think I’ll call Jim Knight, too, because I need “the rest of the story.”

It’s our story, this story of skateboarding, played out in our lives each and every day by each and every one of us. It’s a story worth telling and living. It’s skateboarding.

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