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Free Falling...
August 15, 2003 5:11 PM   Subscribe

In the 1980's, Mark "Gator" Rogowski was on par with Tony Hawk at the top of the nascent world of professional skateboarding. Contrasting the path Hawk took in the 90's (video games, ESPN tie-ins), things did not go so well for Gator. After surviving a hideous accident in 1989, Mark turned to Jesus, and then shortly thereafter he brutally raped & murdered a female friend of his ex-girlfriend's. The documentary of his rise & amazing fall appears today in limited release.
posted by jonson (43 comments total)

 
Actually IMDB is showing next week as the updated release date, sorry.
posted by jonson at 5:14 PM on August 15, 2003


Christian Hosoi, the other great 80s skateboarder who was king, is sitting in a Hawaiian prision on crystal meth charges.
posted by mathowie at 5:36 PM on August 15, 2003


oh, my childhood heroes!

I used to have those wicked Gator shorts - they kicked ass on the 'jams' the other kids were wearing.
posted by imaswinger at 6:12 PM on August 15, 2003


I always thought Gator's downward spiral was one of the saddest of that crop of 2nd-wave skaters. Not to mention Christian Hosoi (on Preview, looks like Matt already did) and Jeff Phillips, who killed himself on Xmas Day in 1993. All groundbreaking skaters.

Isn't one of the original Z-Boys from Santa Monica still in jail?
posted by dhoyt at 6:14 PM on August 15, 2003


I can't wait to see this. Thanks for the post.

Gator's saga was one of the saddest stories of the 90s. Guy had so much talent, what a waste.
posted by emptyage at 6:17 PM on August 15, 2003


dhoyt: Jay Adams
posted by emptyage at 6:19 PM on August 15, 2003


Bad metaphor alert: I just caught the next to last sentence of the article,

Mark "Gator" Anthony, who has finally broken up and out of the half-pipe of his guilt...
posted by dhoyt at 6:20 PM on August 15, 2003


That's AWESOME! The "half-pipe of his guilt". Who knew the Village Voice employed such hacks?
posted by jonson at 6:28 PM on August 15, 2003


Here's some great footage of Gator in action during his prime. (for all five of us interested in this thread....)
posted by emptyage at 6:38 PM on August 15, 2003


How did I just know while reading the 'he found Jesus' part that there would be a gotcha coming right up next? ;)
posted by Space Coyote at 7:12 PM on August 15, 2003


That's so cool, emptyage, thanks!
posted by jonson at 7:14 PM on August 15, 2003


I wonder if the head injury could have been a part of it? The crazy stuff this guy did before he fell out of the window seemed fairly standard rock star crap, but he seems to have lost the thread completely afterwards.
posted by maggie at 7:23 PM on August 15, 2003


Mark turned to Jesus, and then shortly thereafter he brutally raped & murdered a female friend of his ex-girlfriend's.

Because, as we all know, that's what Jesus would do.
posted by nyxxxx at 7:27 PM on August 15, 2003


Yeah, I would think the head injury helped Gator's descent into madness. My brother sufferred a skateboarding-related head injury when he was 15 and it changed his personality drastically.
posted by mathowie at 8:25 PM on August 15, 2003


Dogtown and Z-boys is definitely one of the greatest documentaries I've ever seen. I was never really into skateboarding, but by the end of the movie, I wanted to be a Z-boy... really bad. :) Sean Penn narrates. A must see in my opinion, skateboarding or not.
posted by Witty at 8:56 PM on August 15, 2003


just saw the video, and I gotta say, those Vision Street Wear shirts were boss.
posted by imaswinger at 9:33 PM on August 15, 2003


My best friend Dave met Rogowski when he was 16. He had a Gator deck, and had it with him at the time (not surprising, as he took it everywhere he went), so he got it autographed. At the time he called it the greatest day of his life. This was two years before the accident that may or may not have changed Rogowski's personality. The movie, from what I've heard, puts a good deal of the blame on Mark's inability to transition to a street skating skill set, which came into vogue right around the time as his accident.
posted by jonson at 9:45 PM on August 15, 2003


But except for Tony Hawk, none of the old pros could really skate both vert and street...

I was confused by this. At all the demos, you'd see Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Tony Alva, Jeff Grosso, Rob Roskopp, et al, skating launch ramps/obstacles and vert ramps equally well. Is he referring to the newer school of street (lots of kickflips & freestyle) as something the vert pros didn't transition into?
posted by dhoyt at 10:04 PM on August 15, 2003


"I did lay upon her with a steering lock at one point, but that was part of the S&M," he [Mark] says. "The fact is that it wasn't rape. It was more like an involuntary manslaughter. If it weren't for my submission to her wiles and the temptation of having such sex with her..."
...
"In my attempt to quiet her, in her intoxicated and belligerent state, I had put my hand over her mouth to quiet her for a second so I could hear the voices and the footsteps coming up my walkway. She must have suffocated or had a seizure or a stroke or something. The next thing I knew, I look down and she's not breathing and not moving."
This guy is totally irrepentant and takes little to no personal responsibility for his actions and flees into "Christianity" as a coping mechanism.

Disgusting. Inhuman. Certainly not Christian.
posted by gen at 10:08 PM on August 15, 2003


"The fact is that it wasn't rape. It was more like an involuntary manslaughter. If it weren't for my submission to her wiles and the temptation of having such sex with her..."

Ahh, good old fashioned christian accountability.
posted by 2sheets at 10:09 PM on August 15, 2003


Yes. He's clearly a prime example of Christianity in action. Speaking of which, how do they show three shots of Hosoi on mathowie's link and none of them feature the Christ Air?

I second the Dogtown recommendation. Now when do they release the Powell Peralta videos on DVD? And did they ever find Animal Chin?
posted by yerfatma at 10:19 PM on August 15, 2003


That Animal Chin DVD has long been rumored, but I went searching for it tonight & could find no concrete evidence. Man, if that thing ever does come out, I'm gonna head down to Rip City on Santa Monica & pick up a deck, trucks & wheels & seriously injure myself pretending I'm still 15. And then I'm gonna sue Powell Peralta!
posted by jonson at 10:37 PM on August 15, 2003


(I got Future Primitive & Search for Animal Chin (both VHS) on eBay last summer for about $20 each)
posted by dhoyt at 10:58 PM on August 15, 2003


from what I've heard, puts a good deal of the blame on Mark's inability to transition to a street skating skill set, which came into vogue right around the time as his accident.

I'd say for the Vision team, Mark Gonzalez kind of became their big mid-late 80's street skater, perhaps Gator being vert only was a big part of his downfall.
posted by mathowie at 11:03 PM on August 15, 2003



MetaTalk.
posted by interrobang at 11:24 PM on August 15, 2003


(just kidding. really. I'm sorry.)
posted by interrobang at 11:27 PM on August 15, 2003


as far as i remember the 80s, we in the south US perceived it:

oldschool: big soft wheels, tight-ass trucks on curved surface boards (or mini-boards)

newschool: tiny hard wheels, looser trucks..

oldschool was dorky. newschool was the shit.
posted by shadow45 at 12:17 AM on August 16, 2003


The less dramatic side of the '80s skate legend where-are-they-now file:

Duane Peters: Singer with punk band, U.S. Bombs. Still skating, occasionally.

Gonz--never really went away, did he? Well, okay, he did, for a while. Artist, broken poet... BMX rider?! And still ruling on street.

Tommy Guerrero -- Judging by Google, you'd almost think he was more famous as a musician than as a skater...
posted by arto at 3:02 AM on August 16, 2003


I could swear I saw US Bombs playing as the house band on a Comedy Central stand-up series awhile back. Please tell me I was hallucinating.

Metatalk
(just kidding. really. I'm sorry.)


You guys really were bored last night :) And here I thought we were having a perfectly riveting conversation, among the 2-3 of us. Ah well, I was only in it for the nostalgia. See, my knees and back won't let me ride the old Natas mini anymore.

*pulls up pants nipple-high, reaches for truss and bottle of Bufferin*
posted by dhoyt at 7:50 AM on August 16, 2003


(BTW I wouldn't ordinarily support a groundless MetaTalk post like jonson's from last night, but the comments were hilarious, and it just got funnier when people became morally indignant. Seemed harmless enough, and I can't imagine anyone would make posts like that everyday)

::::coughespeciallynowthatcardosoisgonecough:::::::::::::
posted by dhoyt at 8:04 AM on August 16, 2003


I could swear I saw US Bombs playing as the house band on a Comedy Central stand-up series awhile back. Please tell me I was hallucinating.

They were... On Premium Blend. I got the impression from a recent record review that Duane Peters is no longer with the U.S. Bombs. War Birth, however, is one of the better punk albums of the last 7 or so years.
posted by drezdn at 11:09 AM on August 16, 2003


It was bizarre when Gator was arrested. I met him a month or two before at Phillips Skatepark. He was very calm and polite which was not how he acted in the 80's.
Oh the great street vs vert rivally. Around '90 everyone freaked when they found out Gonz could skate vert. He was the first in a mag pulling a stalefish on vert, 4 feet up and tweaked. Gonz's current company is DLXSF which has some info on Duane Peters.
A movie of Peters career/life Who Cares will be shown at the end of the month, and Peters is now in Duane Peters and the Hunns.
For a good flash back Independent Trucks site has archives of ads as far back as '80.
My wife got to meet Hawk this year at a demo in Vegas. She got him to sign my Aug '87 Thrasher with him on the cover. He said he was really surprised to see something that old. I will never get rid that Thrasher.
Arlo Eisenberg's family run Eisenbergs Skatepark is 30 minutes away, but I do not have any gear anymore.
posted by sailormouth at 12:09 PM on August 16, 2003


Does anyone know what happened to that pro skater Josh something-or-other who went to jail around 94 for murder?

He also got arrested on tour with Danny Way for carrying a gun across the US/Mexico border IRIR.

Someone help me out here - I can't think of the name and it's driving me crazy...
posted by backOfYourMind at 7:38 AM on August 17, 2003


Josh Swindell
posted by sailormouth at 9:09 AM on August 17, 2003


Thank you sailormouth!

This actually popped into my brain while I was brushing my teeth this morning, but there could have been a few sleepless nights otherwise.
posted by backOfYourMind at 10:24 PM on August 17, 2003


Too many cats I knew/know that were at the tops (sponsored) as far as skating ability growing up are either now dead, incarcerated or about to be. I don't live around them anymore, so I only see them at Christmastime when I go home for a week.

They were good people. They were my buds. But man were they into living on the edge -- verily, despite themselves. That's all I can think of when reading the story of Gator. They were all seekers in the most extreme sense of the word but sadly, without the words to describe what they felt. Made for some insane tricks I must say. But were any of them "all there"? Nope. Yet they respected me even though I sucked major ass. I push goofy but ride right if that gives you any bearing.

Damn. TIme to buy a deck. I miss the gettin' stoned watching Shackle Me Not/playing Sonic the Hedgehog dog days of summer in basement bedrooms.

Two more things:

I agree with gen. Gator sounds totally unrepentant as far as that 1992 VV article goes. He sounds like he's found the god for those with god complexes who want to smooth the fact of that over with insipid justifications after the fact. (Of course it could be brain damage as mathowie notes). But wtf? The end of that article left me cold.

And what the hell is with this name Boom Boom Huck Jam? (speaking of insipidness)
posted by crasspastor at 12:05 AM on August 18, 2003


Wow - memories from a place I haven't been in a long time. I had a Jeff Phillips deck, and remember feeling so strange when I'd heard he'd killed himself.

I push goofy but ride right if that gives you any bearing.

Hah, me too - which is why I haven't done it in 15 years or so.
posted by jalexei at 5:46 AM on August 18, 2003


My first board was a neon-green-and-black Gator spiral. I was so proud. Saw him at a skate contest in Chappaqua, NY back in the day. Caballero, Hawk, Mountain, Alva, Independent trucks, TransWorld Skateboarding, Thrasher, - man, talk about nostalgia overload.

I also had one of the first Burton snowboards, the black and red ones with the flat tail and the mountain logo. Hell, I had a Snurfer.

My point is not that I was/am hip, but that I feel like I need a friggin walker and calcium supplements now.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:03 AM on August 18, 2003


And I'm highly suspect of the couldn't-make-the-transition-to-street argument. If you can do that stuff on a ramp, you can do it on the street. Style-wise, attitude-wise, even equipment-wise, there maybe have been some adjustment necessary, sure, but still. Maybe he just got too old.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:07 AM on August 18, 2003


what happened to bryce kanights? that guy was cool. i organized a bunch of skating contests/demos in berkeley and oakland in the 80s. got guerrero & a bunch of folks from thrasher to come. kanights at the time was sponsored - i think by powell? and was also the head photographer for thrasher, and brought us all kinds of swag. eventually we got shut down because the schools wouldn't let us hold the events on their property (oakland tech, various schools in berkeley).
posted by luriete at 9:31 AM on August 18, 2003


That Animal Chin DVD has long been rumored, but I went searching for it tonight & could find no concrete evidence...
posted by jonson at 10:37 PM PST on August 15


jonson,
not exactly concrete evidence, but oldschoolskates says they're getting the Chin DVD mid summer (which has long since past I guess). Not sure if this is the official re-release or something not quite as legal.
Might be worth contacting them. They've got a great selection of 80s original issue and re-issue skate stuff. Good to jog memories, or in my case your paypal account.
posted by tedruxpin at 9:42 AM on August 18, 2003


I agree the idea of not being able to transition from vert to street is not a valid reason. Gator had been skating long enough to see the cycles of vert or street being hotter.
There was a huge difference between the 80's street skating (launch ramps, wall rides, and street plants), and early 90's street with way more flatland/freestyle tricks. Even in vert there was the shift of big airs and inverts to more technical lip tricks and board flip airs.
The toughest thing I ever saw was Phillips transfer from 6' wooden bowl to the spine of a 6' mini ramp. Out of the bowl hip frontside to indy into the spine over 8' gap.
The one trick that never needed to be done on street or vert was the Ho-Ho, and every variation of it.
posted by sailormouth at 10:28 AM on August 18, 2003


In case anyone is still checking this post out, Fresh Air with Terry Gross featured an interview with the documentary filmmaker Helen Stickler and former skater Ken Park today. As of today, it is not available online, but in a few days a streaming version should be on the site as the August 21st show.
posted by samuelad at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2003


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