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Director Stacy Peralta

Director, co-writer Stacy Peralta of the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. The film is about the community of skateboarders in California in the 1970s who originated extreme skateboarding. They did so in rundown urban beach neighborhood near Santa Monica and Venice called Dogtown. They became international stars. Peralta was one of the Z-boys and is considered one of the founding fathers of modern skateboarding. The film won the Audience Award and Directors Award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Theres also a companion book, Dogtown The Legend of the Z-Boys (Burning Flags Press).


Other segments from the episode on May 6, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 6, 2002: Interview with Stacy Peralta; Review of Andrew W.K.'s debut album "I get wet;" Review of Lorna Sage's memoir "Bad blood."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Stacy Peralta on his new documentary, "Dogtown & Z-Boys"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The new documentary "Dogtown & Z-Boys" tells the story of the skateboarders
who virtually invented the moves that turned skateboarding into a phenomenon.
The film won the Audience Award and Director's Award at last year's Sundance
Film Festival, and is opening in theaters around the country.

My guest is the director and co-writer, Stacy Peralta. He's also one of the
subjects of the film. Peralta was one of the original members of the Z-Boys,
a team of skateboarders in the early '70s from Santa Monica and Venice,
California. The Z-Boys took its name from the Zephyr shop, a surf shop that
sponsored the Zephyr surf team, the best-known surfers in the area known as

The Zephyr brand of surfing which inspired the Z-Boys had a more urban
sensibility than the Southern California image, as two of the shop's founders
explain in this clip.

(Soundbite of "Dogtown & Z-Boys")

Unidentified Shop Owner #1: Our history is based on Low Riders and hot rods
and Latinos. And like I fantasize about chicks with huge hair on Low Riders.
You know what I'm saying?. Like a--like a--you know, full blonde girls
with--you know, named Buffy just weren't my scene, so therefore, that wasn't
what we were at.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Shop Owner #2: The average surf look at the time, the aesthetic
of surfing was very clean, very powder-blue, very beige, you know, rainbows
and sunsets and sandy beaches kind of a look. What we were doing was the
debris meets the sea.

GROSS: A clip from "Dogtown & Z-Boys," directed by Stacy Peralta.

Stacy Peralta, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. STACY PERALTA (Director): Thanks for having me.

GROSS: Did you grow up surfing and skateboarding?

Mr. PERALTA: Yes. I started skateboarding on a little skateboard scooter
with a box crate on the top of it when I was probably about 4 years old in
front of my grandfather's house in West Los Angeles. And then I started
surfing when I was, I think, about 11 years old. So, you know, skateboarding
was what led me into surfing and then skateboarding is what I did to
facilitate, to become a better surfer.

GROSS: Interesting. Now describe your part of the ocean when you are
surfing. Let's talk about the surfing, and then we'll get to the

Mr. PERALTA: When you say `my part of the ocean,' you mean as far as the
ocean we had access to?

GROSS: Exactly.

Mr. PERALTA: Well, we grew up in West Los Angeles in an area which is
basically South Santa Monica, Ocean Park and North Venice, and it was given
the nickname back in the '70s of DogTown. At that time, it was pretty much a
rundown piece of coastline, what we used to refer to as, you know, the seaside
slum or where the debris meets the sea. And it was not a world-class surf
break, so to become a good surfer there you had to work very, very hard
because the waves were not as good as, say, like in Hawaii or, say, up in
Malibu or down in Mexico or something like that, and as a result of that, we
kind of had an underdog mentality.

And there was one specific break in town that you were not allowed to surf
unless you were a really, really good surfer and that was at the side of what
was called the Pacific Ocean Park Pier and it was an abandoned amusement park
built on this pier right at what is now Rose Avenue. And in that pier there
was kind of this little horseshoe bay that was hidden from sight, and the
break was basically run by a surf mafia, and it was very Darwinian. If you
were good enough, you could get in there and surf, but if you weren't and you
went in there without their permission, you might not come out completely
whole, because they were very serious about, very territorial about what they
were doing.

GROSS: Who ran the surf mafia?

Mr. PERALTA: It was a number of guys that were associated with the Jeff Hone
Zephyr surfboard shop, and these were the top of the food-chain surfers. They
were the best guys on the beach. They were all the guys that we idolized as
kids and kind of mythologized. And when we were surfing the normal break,
which was called Bay Street, which was down the beach about a mile, we would
see all these guys surfing and they were who we were aspiring to. You know,
we were probably 13, 14 years old; they were probably 18 to 25. And they were
really talented athletes. But when the waves would switch, the tides would
switch, this area near Pacific Ocean Park would get very good and we would
know that we were not allowed to go there. It was just a given. `You cannot
go in there.' And if you did, they were going to hurt you, because...

GROSS: Did you ever get in?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, I went in there as a 14-year-old kid one time--I snuck in
there with some friends--and I had my life threatened. This guy that ran it
said--he goes, `If I ever catch you here again, I'll kill you and I'll bury
you under the pier.' Now I don't think he would have done that, but when
you're a 14-year-old kid and you're told that that's going to happen to you by
a pretty mean-looking 21-year-old, you take it every seriously. And so we
basically left skid marks in the sand and never came back until we got older
and became good surfers and finally were let in.

GROSS: Now what about surfing applies to skateboarding? What did you learn
surfing that applies when you're on a skateboard?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, number one, you're standing up on a moving board, on a
moving object. You're not bolted into the board, like roller skates or, like,
snowboarding or something like that or snow skis. You're standing free. You
can fall off of it. And the motion of it, the type of turns that you do are
very similar.

GROSS: Is your center of gravity and the way you can move the board really
different in the ocean than it is on a skateboard on the concrete?

Mr. PERALTA: It is very different actually. I mean, it comes down to, like,
finesse. You move your body in a slightly different way when you surf,
because you're riding a much bigger board and you're also riding on a piece of
water that's actually moving. So as a result of that wave moving, you're
adjusting in a different way than you were on a skateboard, because when
you're on a skateboard you're riding a piece of cement that does not move,
that remains the same all the time.

So although there are similar sensibilities, there is a dynamic that is
different between the two of them.

GROSS: I'd like you to compare falling on a surfboard in the ocean to falling
off a skateboard on the concrete.

Mr. PERALTA: There really is no comparison. When you fall off of a
surfboard, you land in water and it's usually kind of enjoyable, unless
you're, you know, of course, surfing on top of a coral reef which you can land
on, of course. But when you fall on a skateboard, you hit concrete; and
you're not only falling on concrete, but you're falling on concrete very, very
fast. You're going 20 miles an hour and you normally slam body first right
onto it, so it doesn't feel good and the bones don't like it as well, nor does
the skin. And as a result of that, we had to learn at a very, very early
age--we had to learn to fall. Because when we were skateboarding back in the
'60s and '70s, there was no such thing as knee pads and elbow pads and helmets
for skateboards. And so unless you learned how to roll out of your falls and
absorb the shock, you couldn't skate. You just had to stop and find something
else to do in your life. And...

GROSS: How did you learn how to fall?

Mr. PERALTA: By being very serious about what you're doing. We were very
serious. We were very, very committed to what we were doing. We loved
skateboarding and we weren't going to stop for anything. And as a result of
that, it was part of the creed that if you're going to do this, you have to
learn how to do this. And so after falling a number of times and bruising up
your elbows and wrists, you start learning that you have to roll and your roll
dissipates the impact, and so that's what would happen. And that's not to say
that we didn't have our slams on top of that, because we did, and, boy, we
took plenty.

But, you know, it's one of those things when you love doing something so much
you're willing to pay it whatever price there is to pay, so if it meant
slamming into concrete, we were willing to do that. And many of us to this
day have places on our hips that are completely dead. The nerves have been
smashed so many times that they're just gone, the feeling's gone.

GROSS: What about you?

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah, feeling's gone. There's places on my hip, the hip
pointers, there are no more nerve endings.

GROSS: What was skateboarding like when you guys started; not what did you
do, but what was done before you, so that we can see the difference between
what you were doing and what your predecessors did?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, skateboarding had a very, very brief boom in the '60s--I
think it was in '64, '65--and the kids back then were riding very, very small,
little, teeny skateboards, very thin, with clay wheels. And clay wheels, if
you don't know what a clay wheel is, is basically a wheel made of rock, and it
was, for the most part, what you would call "Flintstone" technology. They
were actually quite dangerous. And so there was quite a limit to what you
could do on a skateboard back then. You could do handstands, you could do
nose wheelies and basic tic tacs and 180s and things like that, but you really
couldn't ride bank walls and ride swimming pools.

And what happened in 1974 is the urethane wheel was developed, and the
urethane wheel was basically like a rubber wheel, but it was urethane, very
soft and it gripped the ground. So for the first time on a skateboard you
could ride terrain that had never been ridden before. And as a result of that
being invented in '74 and as a result of Los Angeles experiencing probably the
worst drought in 100 years in the years of '74 and '75, all of these swimming
pools in Los Angeles were lying empty because the government would not allow
you to fill your pool with water because of the drought; you weren't even
allowed to water your lawn; you weren't even allowed to serve water in
restaurants, and so as a result of that, we were able to ride this new type of
terrain, which was vertical skateboarding, which had never been done before.
It had been attempted briefly in the '60s, but the kids couldn't do anything
with it because it was so dangerous on those clay wheels. And so...

GROSS: When you say `vertical skateboarding,' you mean like going up the side
of a wall.

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah, like the pools that are in Beverly Hills and Malibu and
Bel Air, the rich neighborhoods in Los Angeles. They have these very deep,
10-foot deep pools shaped like peanuts or kidneys, and they were beautiful,
perfect skate parks for us, in a sense, and we started riding on these. You
know, there was a couple of abandoned homes that someone had discovered a pool
in and we went into that abandoned home, started riding this pool and in a
sense started developing vertical skateboarding, which I guess many people are
starting to say was the beginning of extreme sports.

And we absolutely fell in love with this and at the time realized that we had
to keep finding empty pools, and so we would do whatever it took to find them.

GROSS: Now one of the things you liked about the pools was that the walls
weren't at a right angle, it was a kind of sloping wall so you could skate up
it pretty easily--well, not easy for me but, I mean, relatively easily.

Mr. PERALTA: Well, no. What's unusual is California, especially Los Angeles
has an indigenous type of swimming pool that I'm assuming comes from kind of
the movie-star pools.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PERALTA: They're these beautiful, voluptuous bowls, very sensuous in
their shapes and the transitions, like you were saying, are very, very smooth
going up to vertical; whereas opposed to like on the East Coast where a lot of
the pools are square...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PERALTA: ...and, you know, they're actually very unridable. Well, Los
Angeles was filled with these things. In fact, I believe it's the swimming
pool capital of the world. So we would go from back yard to back yard looking
for all the different shapes of pools we could ride, because each pool offered
a different possibility, a different way to expand your abilities, your
skateboarding abilities. And...

GROSS: So did all the wealthy people with empty pools in their back yards
welcome you skateboarding in their pools?

Mr. PERALTA: No, none of them welcomed us. It was a situation where--it was
like putting candy in front of a kid's face, because the drought was there,
because there were so many empty pools. I was the only guy on the Zephyr
skateboard team that had a car. So we would pile into my car with one guy on
the roof and we would drive down alleys in Beverly Hills with one guy on the
roof looking into back yards. And when we would come across a back yard with
an empty pool, we'd then drive in front of the house, we'd see if anybody was
home, and if they weren't home, we'd sneak into the back yard and we'd skate
it for a while, until we heard, you know, a car pull up the driveway, at which
point we'd sneak out of the place, you know, and take off and look for the
next one.

GROSS: Were you caught?

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah, we were caught a few times; yes, we were. I talk about
this in the film. There was one time we were caught in what was called the
Canyon Pool and it was right across the street from the actor Peter Graves'
house, and he didn't like us skateboarding there because he felt, you know, we
were bringing in too much of a bad element into a really nice neighborhood, so
they were constantly calling the police on us.

And we were actually skateboarding in an abandoned home. It was the home of
this kind of California cultural guy named Leo Korio(ph), and it was a big
estate in the Santa Monica Canyon. And so this one time the cops came we all
hid in the trees and the cops were looking for us below us, you know, in the
trees, not knowing we were hiding up above. And at the time I remember being
afraid, thinking, `I'm going to get nervous. I'm going to probably drop by
skateboard and I'm going to knock one of these guys in the head, and then
there's going to be real problems,' but, of course, that didn't happen.

But they eventually found us. They put us into the back of the car. And they
scared us, said, `Look, you know, we're going to take you down to, you know,
the police station. You're going to be in big trouble.' And then all of a
sudden they let us go, because they realized that what we were doing was
pretty absurd. We weren't hurting anybody.

GROSS: My guest is Stacy Peralta. He's the director of the documentary
"Dogtown & Z-Boys," about the team of skateboarders that invented the moves
that turned skateboarding into a phenomenon. Peralta was one of the original
Z-Boys in the '70s.

We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Stacy Peralta, and he directed the new film "Dogtown &
Z-Boys," which is a documentary about the early skateboarders in the '60s and
'70s in Southern California who made skateboarding into an extreme sport.

What was the Dog Bowl?

Mr. PERALTA: The Dog Bowl was a pool, a huge pool on a huge estate in upper
Santa Monica, just off this kind of pristine boulevard called San Vicente, and
this was a pool that was discovered after we had all kind of like become
famous skateboarders. And what happened was there was a kid living there with
his parents and the kid was our age, and he had brain cancer and he only had
about six months left to live. And he went to his father one day and he said,
`Look, Dad, I only have six months left to live. Would you let me drain the
pool so all my friends can come here and skate with me, you know, and just
hang out and I can, you know, have my friends here?' And his father said,

And his father was obviously a very wealthy man that could have, you know,
been sued if a kid got hurt in that pool, but he was very sweet to his child,
you know, in his last six months of living there and said, `You know, go ahead
and empty the pool and, you know, have your friends here every day.'

And so that kind of became the de facto DogTown pool where everyone would go
to every day and not have to risk being arrested or being kicked out. And as
a result of that, it enabled us to learn a lot of maneuvers, because we didn't
have to keep looking over our back. And, in fact, Tony Alva started doing the
first frontside airs in that pool, which was pretty much a revolution at that
time, you know, as far as leaving the pool and riding into the air, floating
through air.

GROSS: So it was like the first aerial move?

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, it was kind of a zeitgeist. There was a couple
of other guys throughout California that were attempting aerials at that time
and kind of pulling them off, but Tony was the first guy to really do it with
beauty and grace and really lay down the laws that if you're going to do an
aerial, this is the way you should do it. It was like watching a matador
facing a really terrifying bull. You know, in the middle of this very
dangerous maneuver, this aggressive maneuver, he was just looking so beautiful
and so stylish and, you know, there was a wonderfully aggressive, sensuous
quality to it. And so he kind of laid down the rules of how other skaters
should follow in years to come.

GROSS: Well, did you worry about the physical consequences a lot?

Mr. PERALTA: No. We didn't worry about that. We were aware of it, but we
didn't worry about it, because we were so hungry to be good at this. I mean,
you know, we weren't the guys that were, you know, playing Little League
Baseball and we weren't necessarily the guys, you know, getting straight A's
in school, and so finally, you know, some of us were good at something in our
lives and we desperately chased it, I mean, because we wanted to be good at
this and we really embraced the act of discovery. We each wanted to be first
at doing something, and so all of us had our firsts at certain aspects of it.

GROSS: What was yours?

Mr. PERALTA: I was the first guy to be able to sustain going back and forth,
hitting coping to coping back and forth one after the other. Instead of just
going up the pool and coming back down and heading to the shallow end, I would
hit the left wall and then go to the right wall and literally go back and
forth like a pendulum. And if you see skateboarders like Tony Hawk today,
that's what they do now, they go back and forth on the ramps trick to trick.
And so I was probably the first guy to be able to do that.

And again, we just didn't know if the body could get in these positions and if
gravity would allow us to do it.

GROSS: The first big skateboard competition that the Z-Boys, the Zephyr team,
participated in was in 1975. What was your team doing compared to the other

Mr. PERALTA: Well, first of all, that was the first contest that initiated
the new, au modern era of modern skateboarding, and it was in Del Mar,
California. We came from Los Angeles. We didn't have any idea if actually
people skateboarded outside Los Angeles, so it was a bit of shock when we got
there, you know, to see 600 other skateboarders from around the nation.

And our skateboarding was based on banked walls, you know, riding banked walls
and riding swimming pools, and also it was based on the influence of this
surfer in Hawaii who at the time was probably one of the best surfers in the
world, Larry Bertlemann, and he had a very low approach to surfing and an
extraordinarily aggressive approach to surfing. So he was...

GROSS: By low you mean like crouching.

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah, crouching and using his hands, like digging his hands into
the wave and pivoting around his hands, like doing what's called a cutback,
where his board completely does a 180 on the wave and his board is shooting a
gigantic rooster tail. Well, that's the kind of skateboarding that we were
doing, which was very low to the ground and screeching all over the place and
using our hand as pivot points.

Well, when we got to Del Mar we found that most of the competitors were doing
the maneuvers that had been done 10 years prior to that, which were the
handstands and the nose wheelies, and it was very much the upright approach to
skateboarding, and so we came in there with a different approach. And, you
know, people said we looked more like a gang, you know, than a skateboard team
because, you know, we had long hair, we were kind of ratty looking; the back
pockets on our pants were all torn off because we were getting so low on our
skateboards that were always scraping kind of the left butt of our pants; as
well, our tennis shoes were torn up.

So I think we kind of had the look, from what I understand, as like, you know,
where "Endless Summer" meets "Mean Streets." You know, it was no longer Brian
Wilson anymore; you know, this was a different story, and that had t do with
where we grew up, because we grew up in such a kind of a multicultural, you
know, environment and stuff like that. It wasn't rosy sunsets and clean
beaches. This is where, you know, the smog and the soot, you know, landed in
the parking lot, where you rarely ever saw a sunset that wasn't, you know,
tainted with a deep band of smog.

GROSS: You were used to skating in pools and on hilly concrete. When you got
to this competition, you had like a flat, wooden surface. So what were the
things that you couldn't do in this competition and what did you do instead?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, we couldn't do the type of riding that we were used to
doing, which was, you know, the tricks that we were doing on banked walls,
which were turning up and down like surfing, in a sense surfing on banked
walls and doing what's called 180 slides and, you know, pivoting around our
hands. So what we had to do is we had to apply that to flat ground, and we
did the best we could.

You know, a lot of the people didn't quite understand what we were doing
because they had never seen that style of skateboarding before, and there was
a lot of protest about it, but nonetheless we did fairly well. You know, Tony
Alva and Jay Adams got third and fourth place. Nathan Pratt got first in the
slalom. And Peggy Oki, the only girl on our team, got first place in the
women's freestyle.

So it was basically a matter of trying to somehow transfer that aggressive,
low style to just flat ground, and it was skidding around our hands and
pumping the board and kind of skidding the wheels out and things like that.
It's a little hard to describe because I've never actually described it
before, so I guess it was just a very low approach, an aggressive approach, as
opposed to standing up and doing more like gymnastic tricks.

GROSS: Stacy Peralta directed and co-wrote the documentary "Dogtown &
Z-Boys." We'll talk more in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, more on "Dogtown & Z-Boys" with Stacy Peralta.

Ken Tucker reviews the new CD by Andrew WK.

And Maureen Corrigan reviews the new memoir by the late literary critic Lorna

(Soundbite of music)

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Stacy Peralta. He directed and
co-wrote the documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" about the skateboarding team
from Santa Monica and Venice, California, that, in the '70s originated the
moves that turned skateboarding into a phenomenon, moves that are now
considered to be among the origins of extreme sports. Peralta was an original
member of the Z-Boys.

How did the Z-Boys start becoming well-known outside of the neighborhood?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, we were very lucky in the fact that--see, we all
congregated at a surfboard shop in Santa Monica called the Jeff Ho Zephyr
surfboard shop. And they sponsored us, and to get their affiliation was all
that any of us ever wanted. And part of the group that worked at the shop, it
was Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom and Craig Stecyk were the partners of this group.
Well, Craig Stecyk was a very unusual character. He was a photojournalist at
the time, and he had done quite a few interesting articles for Surfer
Magazine. And he started doing what is now called the Dogtown articles; he
started photographing us and writing stories and chronicling our adventures of
sneaking into backyard pools and riding these playgrounds at these schools.

And as a result of Craig's articles that appeared in what was then
Skateboarder magazine, the bible of skateboarding in the '70s, we became
internationally famous from those articles. And Craig had a very unusual
touch because he didn't see skateboarding in a Beach Boys type of way. He saw
skateboarding, you know, as an extension of society; that these kids are
looking for something else, that they're not attracted to the team sports,
that they're not attracted to the conventional American sports, that they're
doing something different. And he was one of the first people to come along
and realize that this wasn't just a yo-yo, that this wasn't just another, you
know, Hula-Hoop fad, that this was something that needed to be paid attention
to. And as a result, he wrote articles that many, many kids around the world
could respond to and did respond to.

GROSS: And I should mention that Craig Stecyk collaborated with you...


GROSS: ...on the movie "Dogtown and Z-Boys," and there's also a book of his

Mr. PERALTA: That's right.

GROSS: ...that's called "Dogtown: The Legend of the Z-Boys."

Mr. PERALTA: Right.

GROSS: So what was it like when the skateboarders that you teamed up with
started becoming well-known?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, first of all, none of us ever had a conception that this
would ever lead to anything. So when it finally did blow up after the Del Mar
contest, we were all being asked to ride for other manufacturers and being
offered quite a bit of money. And at the time, I went from making--you know,
being like a busboy in a restaurant making probably $30 a week to making 10
grand a month as a skateboarder. And this was in the '70s. I mean, I was
making more money than both my parents were. So it was a shock to me and it
was a shock to them because, you know, it just was kind of unheard of; you
just don't make money doing something like this. And there was no precedent
for this before us. You know, you really couldn't make money in surfing. And
I guess only the best skiers in the world could make any sort of money back
then. So it just took off like a tidal wave. And...

GROSS: So this was--What?--skateboard manufacturers sponsoring you in

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah. What happened is skateboard manufacturers came up to us
and they instantly saw the value of associating with us. And so they decided
that the best way to make money, you know, in their skateboarding products was
to put our names on skateboards. And so each of us went to a different
sponsor. I went to a company called Gordon & Smith, which, at the time, was
the number-one company in skateboarding. And they put my name on four
different skateboard models, very much like, you know, the sporting good
companies putting, you know, Mickey Mantle's name on a mitt or Michael
Jordan's name on a shoe. It was the same type of thing; it was sponsorship.
And so they were selling 100,000 of those boards, you know, a year.

As well, I was touring all over the world and introducing the sport to kids
all over the world, who had never seen modern skateboarding other than through
these magazines. So we were going to Australia and France and Germany and
England. And these kids were just so hungry for this because it was so
different, and it was a piece of America that they were finally able to grasp
and bring to their country, because, I mean, this is a completely American
phenomenon. This has no European roots to it, skateboarding, you know.

GROSS: So you were basically, you know, neighborhood kids who didn't have
money skateboarding, and then a bunch of you became pretty wealthy very
suddenly. What did that do to your relationships and to the sense that you
were a team?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, number one, it destroyed the sense of a team because we
were no longer a team. We had all left the original Zephyr team and went off
on our own to pursue our own careers. And it was an unfortunate thing that
that happened, but at the same time, it probably would have been inevitable
because there were so many good guys on that team. It's like having the
Lakers and the Bulls all in one team. It just isn't going to work. There's
too many mouths to feed.

And so at first, there was tension because some of us made more money than
others; some of us got more opportunities than others, and it just created
unnecessary tension. But in the end, we all became friends again and we were
all--you know, we all became tight.

But, I mean, I must admit to you, you know, like I said, it was so unusual
that this happened, and it happened so fast. I mean, when I was in high
school, I was assuming that I was going to be a plumber when I grew up because
I figured that would be the only thing I could figure out to do because, you
know, there was no future in skateboarding. And so this caught a lot of us
off guard. And, of course, it was the '70s, so some of the guys, you know,
got a little bit into the rock star thing, and there was drugs involved, and,
you know, it was very difficult, I think, for some of the guys to handle.
They weren't used to making that kind of money, and they weren't used to the
fame and attention that came along with it. And it sped up everybody's lives
a little too fast at times.

GROSS: So you were surprised that there was actually money to be made from
skateboarding. When you gave up skateboarding in around 1980 because of
repeated injuries, what other ways of making money from skateboarding did you

Mr. PERALTA: Well, before the end of my career, I started looking around, and
I realized I was very lucky to be doing what I was doing. I was making a lot
of money, and I was, quote, "famous" and doing that whole deal. And I
realized that it wasn't going to last forever, and I didn't want to go start
selling, you know, auto insurance or something like that that I didn't have a
feel for. I wanted to start a skateboard company.

And so I started talking to different people in the industry over about an
eight-month period and finally found a gentleman that I decided to go into
business for, a man named George Powell, and we started a company called
Powell Peralta, which, at that time, made skateboards. And we had about three
or six employees, and within about five years, we had 150 employees, and we
were doing close to $30 million a year in skateboarding. It was an
interesting adventure and a very worthwhile endeavor that was a lot of fun
during the '80s.

GROSS: In order to make the new movie "Dogtown and Z-Boys," your documentary
about skateboarding, you had to find the guys who you skated with in the '60s
and '70s. You had all dispersed by then. Was it hard to find everybody?

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah, there was 12 of us, and it was very difficult to find a
handful of these guys. They had simply fallen off the face of the planet and
were living so far under the radar, I couldn't find them. And I hadn't seen
some of these guys in 20 years. And so I was driving to the production
offices one day, and I passed a detective's office and I thought, `That's
curious.' Passed him a few more times, and finally I thought one day, `You
know, I'm going to go in there and see what this guy can do for me.'

So I gave him a list of the people I was looking for, which one of the guys
was Bob Biniak; another guy was Paul Constantineau, who were former Z-Boys,
and I said, `I'm looking for these guys and I can't find them. Can you help
me?' And he said, `I'll see what I can do.' And later that day he called me
and said, `I found the guys you want.' And he only gave me addresses; he
couldn't get their phone numbers. So I wrote letters and I drove to the
addresses; I left the letters, hoping that, you know, these guys would find
them. And a week later, they both called. And...

GROSS: That's great. And what were they doing?

Mr. PERALTA: They were living just under the radar. I mean, one of them was
working in a machine shop; one of them was working as a businessman flying all
over the country. But, you know, they just keep themselves unlisted, and they
keep a very low profile. So it was tough finding them. But as a result of
that, I then used this guy, this detective, to find other people that I was
looking for, like people that I knew had footage, whether it be 16 or Super-8,
that I had recalled from the time. And so he was very, very helpful.

GROSS: Gee, what kind of credit does the detective get in the movie?

Mr. PERALTA: He gets a thank-you...

GROSS: `Detective work' or something?

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah. I think we--I don't know if we gave him a detective work
or just a thank-you. I'm not really--I don't remember. That's a good point.

GROSS: My guest, Stacy Peralta, is the director and co-writer of the new
skateboarding documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys." We'll talk more after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Stacy Peralta. He's the
director of the new documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" about a team of
skateboarders in the '70s that he was a part of.

Now you said earlier that you were never interested in team sports. You
weren't on the Little League. What didn't you like about football or baseball
or other team sports?

Mr. PERALTA: I don't like the structure of it. I don't like--well, number
one, I really detest football, actually, because I don't like the idea that
you're crashing into other human bodies. I just don't think there's any
finesse in that. There may be finesse as far as being a quarterback, but I
just don't think it's a beautiful thing to watch. And I just didn't like the
idea of having to get dressed up in a uniform and having to work within a
rigid grid. You know, when you stand on the field in baseball, you're working
within a grid, and I just didn't like that.

And what I liked about skateboarding is that I could do it by myself; I didn't
have to rely on a team. If I was good, it was my responsibility; if I was
bad, it was my responsibility. And it was all up to me whether I was going to
succeed at this or not and not up to a coach; it was not up to somebody else
on the team. And as well, I just feel that there's just more opportunity for
self-expression. And I think we were all screaming out to be able to do that,
and that's what attracted all of us to it--is that ability to do that and to
do it on our own terms.

GROSS: A lot of people don't like to see skateboarders in their neighborhoods
or in their parks, and there have been ways that groups have gone about trying
to make sure that these places remain off limits to skateboarders. What are
some of the tricks that you've seen people come up with to deter
skateboarders, and how well have they worked?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, a perfect example of this is in the Embarcadero in San
Francisco. It's huge place in the inner city, and there's a number of cement
benches, cement planters that skateboarders like to skateboard on. They've
been doing it for about 15 years. Well, the city got tired of them
skateboarding, and so what they did is they started developing these little
pieces of plastic that they bolt onto the benches and the cement planters that
the skateboarders skated on to prevent them from doing their slides and things
like that.

But what happens is skateboarders are like billy goats; whenever society puts
something in front of them that prevents them from doing it, they'll figure
out a way to incorporate that technology into their next thing, into their
next technique. And so it's a strange, kind of like the lion chasing the
gazelle, process where they keep kind of keeping up with each other. So
they're very crafty. You know, these are very unusually sharp kids in how
they interpret architecture, and they don't see architecture in the way that
the original architects designed many of these things to be used for.

GROSS: I don't know what you'll think about this, but has this ever happened
to you--'cause I know it's happened to me--that you're walking down the street
in kind of a daze, not really thinking of anything in particular, and,
suddenly, out of the blue, some kid on a skateboard comes by, nearly knocking
you down, being totally uncaring that there are actually people walking along
the street that the skateboarder is skating down? Does that ever happen to
you, and what are your thoughts about that kind of skateboarding?

Mr. PERALTA: Well, that was me years ago.

GROSS: Was it? Yeah, I figured.

Mr. PERALTA: Yeah, I mean, so I know that. You know, this is the thing
you've got to understand.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. PERALTA: These kids don't want to crash into you.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. PERALTA: And I know it looks aggressive, it sounds aggressive; most
likely the kids look, you know, kind of tattered. But they don't want to run
into you. And so our instinct when we see a kid like that is to freeze up and
jump, but that's where you're going to get in a crash, where the kids--they
see everybody coming, and they're just going to weave in and out of everybody.
They're not going to hit anybody as long as people don't jump up and flip out.
But I know, you know, it's one of those--that's just part of the skateboarding
thing, you know.

And that's why skateboarding is looked at as being subversive, because it's
done anywhere. You know, yes, it's done in skateboard parks, where it's made
for kids, but it's also done wherever kids can do it. And as a result of
that, they do it where they're not supposed to, and it ends up upsetting
people. And that's why it's kind of got this kind of subversive edge to it, I


Mr. PERALTA: But believe me, they do not want to crash into you, because they
don't want to get hurt either.

GROSS: Do you skate at all anymore?

Mr. PERALTA: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm more relaxed on the skateboard than I
am walking and far more relaxed skateboarding than I am sleeping. And I have
an 11-year-old boy, and we have a little ramp at the house, and we skateboard
together. I certainly don't do it professionally. I mean, Tony Alva still
does it professionally, but I don't do it professionally. But it's something
I will always do. It's just part of my DNA.

GROSS: Well, Stacy Peralta, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. PERALTA: Thanks, Terry. Thank you very much for having me.

GROSS: Stacy Peralta directed and co-wrote the documentary "Dogtown and
Z-Boys." It's already opened in many cities and will open in more over the
next few weeks.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Andrew W.K's major-label debut album "I Get Wet"

Andrew W.K. is a 23-year-old performer from Michigan. He's a classically
trained pianist who prefers to shout out party anthems with single-minded
titles, like "Party Hard" and "It's Time to Party." Andrew W.K.'s major label
debut is called "I Get Wet," and rock critic Ken Tucker says there's a subtext
to the singer's yelling.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ANDREW W.K.: (Singing) It's time to party, let's party, hang out with
yourself and have a crazy party. Hey you, let's party. Have a killer party
and party. Don't even try and deny it, 'cause you're gonna have a party
tonight. And you know we're gonna do it tonight. We're gonna lose it all
when you open your door. Party, party, there's going to be a party tonight.

KEN TUCKER reporting:

I hated everything about Andrew W.K. until I heard his music. I saw his
album cover, in which the greasy-haired young man had intentionally bloodied
his face just for the shock value. I'd read that he was an American who'd
become a big star in England, where this album was released months ago. I
knew that Andrew W.K. gave interviews that sounded like motivational lectures
with obscenities thrown in to convey his positive-thinking vehemence. But
then I heard a cut on a September 11th charity album, a song called "I Love
New York City" that's also included here, and it's terrific, a literal
shout-out to Manhattan in which the strength of Andrew's vocal cords are a
metaphor for the strength of the city after an attack. Now the album "I Get
Wet" has finally been released here, and I love it. This guy is unstoppable.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ANDREW W.K.: (Singing) You gotta keep up, you gotta keep going. You
gotta keep up, you gotta keep going. No, you never let down, you gotta keep
going. You gotta keep up, you gotta keep going. I went around the place
where we once went before, but I never knew it hurt so bad. Oh. I wandered
back again, but you just slammed the door. I never knew it hurt so bad. Oh.
We were nothing but kids on top...

TUCKER: You can listen to an Andrew W.K. song and tick off the influences:
the three-chord bluntness of The Ramones; the pounding pop beats of English
acts like Gary Glitter, Sweet and Sham 69; the surly, muscular, inspirational
image that the punk poet ranter Henry Rollins projects. But somehow, as
familiar as so many elements of Andrew W.K.'s music are, he's managed to
create his own sound.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ANDREW W.K.: (Singing) Don't stop living in the red. Don't stop living
in the red. Don't stop living in the red. You were always living in the red.
You were always living in the red. You were always living in the red. Oh,
oh, oh, oh, red, red, red, red, red, red, red! Don't stop living in the red.

TUCKER: That song is called "Don't Stop Living in the Real World," and you
can find all sorts of comfort in it, depending on who you are. If you're a
concerned parent, you can tap into W.K.'s insistence that you shouldn't use
anything to dull your senses to the real world. If you're a kid looking for a
way to blow off steam, well, as head-banging music goes, heads don't get
banged any harder than this. And if you're someone who's often wanted to get
behind loud, hard rock or heavy metal, but just can't stand either the
pretensions of the excessive instrumentation or the overwrought lyrics, Andrew
W.K. is stripping it all down to its essence.

His greatest song so far is "Ready to Die," which I know sounds potentially
appalling, but listen to it as he talks about cutting without a knife,
shooting without a gun, and hear his more complicated than you'd think point:
the notion of ready to die as the equivalent of getting ready to live, to
really experience the world.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ANDREW W.K.: (Singing) This is your time to pay. This is your judgment
day. We made a sacrifice and now we get to take your life. We shoot without
a gun. We'll take on anyone. It's really nothing new. It's just this thing
we like to do. You better get ready to die, ready to die. You better get
ready to kill, get ready to kill. You better get ready to run, 'cause here we
come. You better get ready to die, ready to die.

TUCKER: The story goes that Andrew W.K. did some of his first performances in
a Detroit Starbucks, bellowing alone, accompanied only by tracks on a beat box
he carried in with him. How'd you like to hear this guy while sipping your
latte? Andrew W.K. is espresso in human form.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed
Andrew W.K.'s CD "I Get Wet."

Coming up, Maureen Corrigan reviews the memoir by the late literary critic
Lorna Sage. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Lorna Sage's memoir "Bad Blood"

"Bad Blood," a memoir written by the late literary critic Lorna Sage, won
Britain's Whitbread Award last year. It's just been published in this
country. Book critic Maureen Corrigan says Sage's voice reminds her of
Lillian Hellman and M.F.K. Fisher, her illustrious predecessors in the `tough
dame' school of female autobiography. Here's Maureen's review.


It's so commonplace for contemporary autobiographers to confess to some "Jerry
Springer"-sized splotch on the soul that I think it takes more guts now for a
writer to own up to the little fragilities that render us human, all too

In part three of her magnificent memoir, "Bad Blood," the late British
literary critic Lorna Sage recalls how, as a teen-ager, she rushed around a
windswept English sea resort one afternoon, clinging to her best girlfriend,
the two of them emptying coins into every jukebox in town to make sure that
Elvis' "All Shook Up" drowned out the rival sounds of Pat Boone's "Love
Letters In The Sand."

I cringed when I read that passage. In the precise, haunting language that
characterizes her book, Sage captures the hysteria of a still-virginal, but
hormonal teen-age girl. It's a passing moment of safe-sex frenzy that most of
us female readers, at least, have also enacted, long before cynicism drew a
hip black veil of forgetfulness over the pastel pink, embarrassing details.

I don't want to give the misimpression that, as a memoir, "Bad Blood's"
gimmick is that it memorializes only the mundane. There's plenty of domestic
cruelty and eccentricity of character here. The archfiend, the progenitor of
the bad blood of Sage's title, is her grandfather, who reigned as the vicar of
a tiny Welsh village when she was growing up in the 1940s. Think vicars like
the Bronte sisters' Gothic loon of a father rather than those gentle servants
of the Lord in Barbara Pym novels. Sage's grandfather carried on brazen
assignations in the gorse bushes with the spinsters of the village, while his
wife, Sage's grandmother, granted herself a secret divorce and some measure of
financial independence by successfully blackmailing her husband with his own
sexually explicit diaries.

Sage, who spent her early childhood in the vicarage, says what made her
grandparents' mutual confidence trick of a hateful marriage more than just a
run-of-the-mill case of domestic estrangement was her grandmother's titanic
anger. She simply refused, for decades, to keep up appearances, never
cooking, cleaning, attending church or uttering a good word about men as a
species. Like most old devils, however, the vicar boasted some seductive
attractions. A book lover as well as an alcoholic, he taught the
four-year-old Sage to read, primarily to shut up her prattlings so that he
could drink in peace.

The passion for reading he self-servingly imparted to his granddaughter
distinguished her in the village school, a medieval institution where the head
teacher would walk down a line of children and, ticking off their heads,
pronounce which ones were predestined to be muck shovelers. Despite the
prevailing village assumption that too much reading was known to send you
daft, Sage threw herself into her studies. She also developed early into what
a lecherous uncle called the poor man's Brigitte Bardot, and, a true good-bad
girl, she became pregnant at 16 without realizing she had had sex.

Here's how Sage describes the pragmatic unreality of her situation: `My
parents' plan was that I should go to a church home for unmarried mothers,
where you repented on your knees, scrubbed floors, said prayers, had your
baby, which was promptly adopted by proper married people, and returned home
humble and hollow-eyed. Everyone would magnanimously pretend that nothing had
happened, so long as you never seemed to be having a good time or developing
too high an opinion of yourself. From now on, you could count yourself lucky
if they let you learn shorthand and typing. Look where so-called cleverness
got you.'

You can tell by her nimble, tragicomic tone that Sage's story isn't going to
turn out that way, and, indeed, it doesn't. There are so many compelling
reasons to read "Bad Blood," including the brilliance of Sage's literary
interpretations, whether she's scrutinizing her grandfather's naughty diaries
or the gloom-and-doom poetry of Thomas Hardy, as well as the vivid and very
damp view she offers of postwar rural Britain, where electricity is still a
novelty and the timeless landscape seems to be dotted with people: tramps,
village idiots, Polish POWs, just stuck in the mud.

The bonus feature of "Bad Blood" is that it also happens to be a superb memoir
of a daughter of the 1950s who got knocked up, but not knocked down.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed "Bad Blood," a memoir by Lorna Sage.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) Well, a-bless a-my soul, what's a-wrong with me?
I'm itching like a man on a fuzzy tree. My friends say I'm acting wild as a
bug. I'm in love. I'm all shook up. Mm-hm-hmm, ooh-hoo, yeah-yeah, yeah.
Well, my...


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PRESLEY: ...ooh-hoo, yeah-yeah, yeah. Well, please don't ask me what's
on my mind. I'm a little mixed up, but I feel fine. When I met a girl that
I liked best, my heart beat so, it scares me to death, When she touched my

(Funding credits)

GROSS: On the next FRESH AIR, we talk to John Burns, a foreign correspondent
for The New York Times, about his long-term reporting from Afghanistan. He
won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Taliban in 1997. I'm Terry
Gross. Join us for the next FRESH AIR.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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