From Itunes I purchased ‘The Bones Brigade: An Autobiography’ last week and I watched it twice already. Talking to my friend, Simon, midweek we agreed that this is really a good telling of skating in the 1980’s. I said to Simon how the documentary ‘The Man Who Souled the World’ about Steve Rocco showed the 1990’s skating and I stated some comparisons of the two documentaries. Simon said how ‘Dogtown and Z-boys’ documented the 1970’s so if you took these three documentaries collectively you have 30 years of skateboard history. Oh joy!
For the Dogtown documentary I can’t comment much because I only saw it once and it literarily was before my time. But I am a fan of the movie ‘Lords of Dogtown’ even though purists find fault with the Hollywood bolstering of 1970’s skating. Even most of the Bones Brigade era (starting in the late 70’s) was before my time, I started skating in 1988, and they really started to lose popularity around 1991. Perhaps I’m a poser since I’ve never seen ‘The Bones Brigade Video Show’ (1984), ‘Future Primitive’ (1985) or ‘The Search for Animal Chen’ (1987), but on my first day or week of meeting my neighborhood skate friends I saw ‘Public Domain’ (1988). Seeing a skate video of any kind when I started and especially the level of skating in ‘Public Domain,’ really started my obsession with the sport. So I think my time growing up with skating does fall in the time period of the transfer of popularity from Powell & Peralta to World Industries in the early 90’s. So I have a problem with one statement in the new Bones Brigade documentary, but I’ll save that to the end of this entry.
First I’ll state what I like about the documentary. It focuses a lot on Lance Mountain, and I think he brings out genuine emotions about his talent compared to the prodigies Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, and Rodney Mullen. Lance Mountain was brought on the team as a personality, from being a goof, and when they started making videos he really became a video personality. Mike Vallely and others say that his skating in those videos made the sport more accessible than the super ramp skating. But Lance Mountain never felt he was at the level of the other skaters on the team. Both Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen explain their problems and anxieties from the pressures of the contests back then. I think this documentary does a good job in getting the backstory in these skaters’ lives and their role in the Bones Brigade. But it does it in a respectful way without getting into gossip territory or bringing up anything embarrassing for them. Rodney Mullen gets a little personal with family history, and his emotional problems, but it’s focused on the skating. And really he says some interesting things including a long statement that ends the documentary where he even mentions libraries and dusty books! Watching this documentary, I believed what most of the riders were saying.
I also found it interesting that the early Powell & Peralta advertisements were creative, and helped sell their product. I don’t remember much of their advertisements in the late 1980’s, but by then they were a big company. From the other documentary on Steve Rocco that came out in 2007, advertising for World Industries was vital as well. So if one was to start a skate company one could gander the two most important things are the quality of the riders on the team, and advertising. Back to the Bones Brigade documentary, the advertising segment shows that creative and wacky people are drawn into the skate industry. Lastly the skate clips are great in this, and the timing makes sense and is explained well. One thing about ‘The Man Who Souled The World’ on Rocco is that the events were explained at a quick pace but the years are not always clear in that one. George Powell, the co-owner of the Bones Brigade, is interviewed in the Bones Brigade documentary, and said his focus was to make a good skate products with his engineering background. To this day they make the best bearings and wheels. On the overwhelming positive I like the focus on Rodney Mullen, and he made the Rocco documentary better too.
My main beef with ‘The Bones Brigade,’ documentary is near the end Stacy Peralta goes on the differences toward the end between him and George Powell. Mr. Peralta states that he wanted the Bones Brigade members to branch out into smaller companies underneath the same umbrella, and George Powell wanted something else or to stay big. Mr. Peralta states he knew were the industry was going, he saw it coming, but the company did not. To me, I believe the random dude in the Rocco documentary that said that Powell & Peralta really didn’t see their collapse and the rising of World Industries until it was much too late. What Stacy Peralta says in the Brigade documentary is exactly what Steve Rocco did with World Industries. I’m not calling Stacy Peralta a liar. I just think it’s easier to say he knew the direction of the industry twenty years later than to admit he made a business mistake. Also going to smaller companies was just part of the collapse of his compnay, World Industries and other companies concentrated on street skating, which is the direction that skateboarding went. Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill and other Vert skaters were amazing but everything focused on street skating, and it just took a year or two, 1991 or so. I could be wrong about this, but it’s my opinion. The documentary on Rocco also conveniently forgot to mention that skateboarding collapsed in popularity around 1990 that also helped the change to smaller companies and make street skating, in a lot of skaters lives, the only option if one wanted to skate.
Stacy Peralta co-owned Powell, and directed this documentary among others. Rocco’s company had a hand in the making of ‘The Man Who Souled the World.’ So I’m glad the skate industry is making these documentaries, but they are told from their own perspective. I believe the upcoming Danny Way documentary has ties to the industry as well. Perhaps the skate industry is not big enough or considered historical enough for objective or outside documentaries. Maybe people without skate knowledge would make lame documentaries. Anyway, I don’t think Ken Burns is signing up for a 9 DVD set on the complete history of skateboarding yet, maybe some day.
Lastly, a documentary I own and watched several times is called ‘Deathbowl to Downtown: the History of New York City Skateboarding.’ That documentary focuses on a place instead of a specific company or individual rider, and I think as a result has a more varied cast of people they interview.
*Below is a clip from ‘Public Domain’ 1988, I can still remember being at my neighbor’s house and glued to the television while seeing professional level skating for the first time.