It’s easy, and usually totally appropriate, to celebrate the good in somebody once they are gone. In death, we remember their best qualities and finest moments. We can speculate on the great things that were to come but now won’t happen without having to face the reality that most of our heroes shine much less brightly through their second and third acts. It is safe to say that, while an early demise is always tragic, some legacies clearly benefit from ending before they can be diluted.
Keith Hufnagel‘s recent death after a private battle with brain cancer that lasted several years requires no selective retrospective. His life, his interactions, and his career(s) were simply all good. Unlike others in the skate-sphere who have passed away, where we have to choose to ignore some of their less savory moments and celebrate their skills and contributions in skateboarding while looking away from their less admirable sides, or having to face the question that if they had somehow altered a couple of decisions they would still be with us. There is none of that. Huf ruled on and off the board.
Alien Workshop knew exactly how to package and present teenage Fred Gall and his part in Timecode is a brilliant mess that set the template for his next couple decades of parts. Black Sabbath, locomotives, beanies over the eyes, heaved flatground 360 flips and large drops into embankments will all become standards. While the spots might not be as crusty as future episodes, the aesthetic of the part is grimy enough.
The clips are often dark and filmed terribly, sometimes the result of LSD on both the skater and filmer’s part. The footage was pieced together from several years of clips scattered from various sources but the product is cohesive. Fred is blurred but powerful, having graduated from the crisp bright ledges of Love Park to the dimly lit nighttime streets of cities nationwide. Freddy ollies onto parked cars, nearly gets clipped while bombing hills in SF, and utterly destroys Hubba Hideout. Only one of his three Brooklyn Banks tricks is your typical over-the-wall affair. The opening line is mostly just ollies and pushing in Philadelphia’s Underground and it fucking rules! Listen to Fred talk about the tricks he filmed that got lost (at around 12:55)… tricks that couldn’t be replicated without psychedelics. I’ll be referencing this Bobshirt interview a lot, to be sure.
When I asked Fred what the greatest trick of his career was, he responded: “The tricks I did on the Hubba Hideout were really important. So I guess maybe the switch crook was my favorite.“
As mentioned by Fred, it would be neat to see these tricks filmed clean and from multiple angles, but the way it is feels like an authentic reflection of Fred’s skating at the time: rugged, raw, and without pretension. It fits well.
Overall, Timecode presents a team in flux. The Workshop was wisely transitioning from its opening line-up of fading Florida bruisers and no-name laser-flippers to a team built around a still respected Dyrdek with Freddy, Josh Kalis, and the bright but brief flame of Lennie Kirk. This lineup would last another year before Joe Custrucci would take control and thing would enter their next phase. By 1999, Fred would star as the DNA brand continuity for that most successful Workshop spin-off, Habitat.
Bonus Fred: Fred had just a handful guest tricks in Dan Wolfe‘s 1996 masterpiece, Underachievers: Eastern Exposure 3. They were mostly slow-mo jams in the almost entirely slow-mo (and even the non-slow-mo was pretty slow) minute long part of (1 of 3 Ams) Jerry Fisher.
It is a real shame we didn’t get more of this era of Freddy being filmed by Wolfe. What we did get was the legendary Love Park ledge gap to flat rail 50-50. A trick that was great at the time and later revealed to be executed on a borrowed board not long after Fred had smoked crack from the first time. Moves like this, for better or worse, helped cement Fred’s status as a reckless party animal, a prophecy that would self-fulfill again and again throughout his career.
Bonus Bonus Fred: Although released in 1994, I group Fred’s peppering of footage in Thrasher’s Feats video with the Timecode era (plus, the last post already had so many bonuses). It is a real treat to get to see some extra San Francisco Gall.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: Somebody uploaded some footage of the jump ramp at the Love Park contest in 1994. The backside flip in Feats was from this, and here is an obscene (in a good way) switch pop shove from that day. There is even more footage from this contest in 411 #9. Fred tied for 2nd place with Ricky.
Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: We’re all pining for more Fred footage from the 95-97 years: that sweet post-Philly Timecode era before he tied his hair up. Here’s some random demo in Australia from 1996:
Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred: I found another frame from this dope-ass 1995 session of Fred skating the Underground in Philly by Ryan Gee. Hell yes. This and lots of other amazing East Coast skate history prints are available from Gee here.
Tune in next time when Freddy rolls one pant leg up and helps launch Habitat, a team that he is still professional for to this day.
With Chaz Ortiz fulfilling his contractural obligations and setting sail, I think it is safe to say that Zoo York is officially out of the business of supporting skateboarders. Not that they really had any credibility remaining. Zoo York was just a embroidered satiny shell of skate brand squeezing its last drops of street cred to sell another logo shirt to the branded masses. But it wasn’t always this way.
Zoo York’s 1997 masterpiece, Mixtape, stirred together everything we dream of when we wax nostalgic for 1990s New York skateboarding. Freestyle lyrics flowed via the Stretch & Bobbito radio show – showcasing the skills the youthful generation of rappers who would soon come to dominate hiphop. Graffiti and music and stylish clothing choices and raw city skating all came together in a perfect blend of what we all imagine NYC in the 90s to be.
My favorite part from Mixtape, the part I go to over and over again, isn’t from Kids motion picture celebrities and New York legends Harold Hunter or Jeff Pang, but from Boston’s Robbie Gangemi.
His smooth style doesn’t conceal the raw power this skating has. Every trick, even the flatgrounders woven through the sidewalk pedestrians, are lofted. That front foot catch on the Brooklyn big Banks hardflip, the roller rink indoor park hip to rail backslide lipslide, and a few other illusion frontside flips are all just gorgeous. I love the look of night footage filmed with only a camera light. And the straight-on backside 50-50 to end the part is easily the best trick in the whole video.
Robbie would quit Zoo York the next year and eventual start Vehicle, one of many struggling East Coast centric board brands that should’ve been huge. The near impossibility to clear the music and video rights from the skaters, Stretch and Bobbito, the rappers, and the beats they are rapping over has made Mixtape a hard video to locate and one that will never see an official digital reissue. I don’t think the contemporary Zoo York really has much interest in it anyway.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z7E-sr0lv8?rel=0] Joey Bast‘s quick part in the middle of Real’s Non-Fictionvideo paints a sweet portrait of mid-90s San Francisco skateboarding. The EMB/Union Square days were essentially over but the city still had lots of classic terrain available.The mass produced ‘skatestopper’ had yet to be marketed, the routineness of security guard encounters coupled with the plethora downtown spots made easy pickings for a skater with the obvious natural talent and baked-in pop of amateur Joey Bast. Thus, about half the tricks being filmed on the same day.
From an older Bobshirt interview: “I was kind of a procrastinator. When it came to filming I would always put it off, so in total I filmed for maybe two weeks. Real did set a deadline and I realized that I didn’t have enough footage, so all the footage where I’m wearing that stripped shirt was the last day of filming.”
Sitting amongst a legendary roster featuring prime Huf, laidback style king Drake Jones, barrier breaker Jamie Reyes, the Cardona twins, and the fucking Gonz, it would be easy to glaze over Joey Bast’s 90 seconds. He was dropped from the team not long after (or perhaps even before) the video was released, and other than a Planet Earth part and some 411 clips, that was all he had to give. Which is a shame, because the kid had a lot of loft in his tricks and some serious ambidexterity combined with the willpower to not film all his tricks at the trendiest bust-free SF street locale of the era, Pier 7.
So take a quick moment and appreciate a forgotten part that is as refreshing as a misty breath of fresh air before an elevated pop shove it.
Most would consider Andrew Reynolds performance in Birdhouse’s The End (1998) to be his graduation from Willy’s friend into an elite realm of professional skateboarding. This metamorphosis was presented rather completely the following year in the Baker Bootleg video, condensing Andrews growth from fuzzy headed Florida grom into the proto-ringmaster of the band of degenerates who would soon take over skateboarding. Baker Bootleg’s Hi-8 B-Roll of all the motion picture filmed Birdhouse stunts seemed to make those monumental tricks all the more real… the Boss had arrived.
But those of us paying close attention during this era had already witnessed Andrew’s undeniable proclamation of manhood. Tucked neatly away twenty minutes into a Best of 411 volume from 1997 lies nearly three minutes of golden Reynold footage. No music, no embarrassing spoken intro, no filler, no drunken orangutans, just Boss trick after Boss trick.
Even to this day, it is very rare to come across a skate part without music. Outside of Tim Dowling’s Listen video, I can hardly think of any (coincidentally enough, Andrew Reynolds in Bake & Destroy comes to mind). Without a driving rhythm or narrative of a song, the tricks and lines attack relentlessly. Heavy trick after heavy trick bludgeon the viewer providing only the slightest breathing room with a stylish line or a broken board.
It’s understandable that this part would be forgotten quickly, even in an era of repeated rewatchings of every skate video released. 411s, while popular, tended to only be on topic until the next issue came out. Except for the slow motion intro tricks (and even then), a 411 part rarely got the shine of a board company release. The “Best of” even less so.
The potential impact of Andrew Reynolds’ Profile in Best of 411 Vol. 4 can be revisited by watching the entire video, or even browsing a few different parts. In a video full of present and future legends (Marc Johnson, Daewon, Rodney, Jerry Hsu, etc.), Reynolds’ part is truly unique, memorable, and only dated by the low quality of the magnetic video tape. Future business partner and pre-identity crisis Jim Greco also has an incredible part in this tape that predates his Misled Youth reveal, but see how the song and overall “411-ness” of the whole thing lower what should have been Greco’s big debut into just another 411 Wheels of Fortune for the pile.
Why more skaters and skate video makers don’t choose to make an edit here and there without music is beyond me.
A standard feature of the skate video full length since the early 1990s is the montage or “Friends” section. Usually a song in length, we get treated to an assortment of tricks from skaters not featured elsewhere in the video and rarely even on the team in a pro/am sense. It is a highlight reel of geographic pals, sister-company associates, flow international team riders, and otherwise unclaimed ‘other’ tricks that went down during the filming sessions.
While occasionally refreshing and at random times containing a surprise banger, these parts are easy to forget. There are, however, exceptions.
For your consideration, the NYC montage from Transworld Skateboarding‘s 1997 Greatest Hits video (itself basically a 35 minute montage of montages). Note: Greatest Hits was the title of TWS’s 3rd video (4th is you count Dreams of Children) featuring all new footage and not a greatest hits video in the typical use of the word.
Filmed mostly by Ryan Gee (I assume), I’m looking back at these clips through a lens 20 years thick and thinking this part does a surprisingly satisfying job of encapsulating NYC skating in the mid 1990s. All the more unusual being produced by a magazine that is staunchly SoCal.
The spots, the skaters, the sounds, the grit, and the crowded, cavernous feel of skating in a pre-skate stopped (and pre-9/11) Manhattan… Huf is popping, Keenan is alive and well, Puleo is doing a variation of the cellar door thing, the Banks are covered end-to-end, and Quim is at his most Quiminess. Some tricks from obscure-only-if-you-weren’t-there legends like Chris Keefe, Ryan Hickey, and Peter Bici give the part a little more authenticity. Now, if only Transworld had sprung for a Mobb Deep track.
I also miss back when it was ok to put the skaters name on screen. Why did everyone stop doing that?