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If the articles in this 30th Anniversary Issue teach you anything, it should be that skateboarding has evolved leaps and bounds over the past three decades. It should also make clear that key individuals—pioneers—served as central catalysts to these massive advances. Ray Barbee’s addition to the Bones Brigade in ’87 and subsequent appearances in Powell Peralta’s Public Domain (’88) then Ban This (’89) represent some of the most critical junctures in our short history. On the heels of Steve Steadham, Ray cracked the façade of what had been more or less up to then a white-bred pastime. He also showcased some of the first conscious line-based flatground street skating ever. And unlike the neon glam beach volleyball styles of the ‘80s vert scene, Ray’s casual attire and cruising lines through LA sprawl set the table for city kids of all stripes and colors to make skateboarding theirs in the two decades and change since.   

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Jun212013

« Skaters and Drugs Outtakes: Jeff Grosso »

The next outtake from this 2003 Skateboarder article is one of my personal favorites—all around class act, Jeff Grosso. I Rememeber being so stoked when I got to do this in '03. I had never spoken to Jeff before and it seemed like every sentence out of his mouth was immediatly timeless. Pearls of wisdom from a guy that lived it. Enjoy. Below: Nosepick, Photo: O —ME

JEFF GROSSO:

“You’re alienated from the start, and skateboarding is a testament to that. I mean you don’t fit in anywhere, a lot of kids are from broken homes, so you pick up a skateboard to try to fit in elsewhere. Coming from a place of rebellion or alienation sets the tone for any drug addict. You’re already isolated. They hate you, you hate them, you hate yourself, so what else to do but destroy yourself in order to get back at them.”

“There are people with addictive personalities and there are people that can do something a couple times and just walk away. Unfortunately, with drugs, you don’t know if you have the physical makeup of an addict until you try them.”

“I had a buddy from high school that went to architecture school at USC. He turned me onto cocaine. He’d sit there and do line for line with me, smoke the shit, whatever. One day he just turned around and was like, ‘Whatever, I’m over it.’ He could just walk away because he didn’t have that addictive trait. Me, I tried it once and it was like, ‘Stick a fork in me’ I couldn’t put the shit down. The rest was 15 years of pain and suffering.”

“In the 80s, there was basically two camps. You had the nerds, like Tony (Hawk), Lester (Kasai), and Kevin (Staab), and then you had the Hellraisers like Phillips, Craig Johnson, Gibson and all those dudes which were the cool guys. I was like extremely nerdy and obsessive about my skating but at the same time I wanted to be accepted. The first time I smoked weed was with Alan Losi and Neil Blender. When you’re 18-years-old, sitting there at with your childhood heroes, you’d pretty much do anything if you thought it would help you fit in. Its all about jumping off the bridge.”

“Skateboarding promotes self-destruction. I see it even with dudes today. You’re paid to be this clown. How much can you destroy, how gnarly can you get, how fucked up can you get. Everybody just watches from the sidelines, like cheering you on. And you’re supposed to walk this line. Like you’re supposed to get as f—ked up as possible and still skate your best on call. Then, the second you loose your value as a skateboarder, everybody turns their back on you. You’re the next casualty.”

“They started handing me $65,000 a year at 17. I mean, really, I was doomed.”

“You can’t blame anybody else if you have drug problems. If you can’t take the f—king heat, then you better get the f—k out of the kitchen. And if you’re to stupid to get out of the kitchen, then you deserve what you get. That was my problem. I was like, ‘Hey, I’ll just burn up in here,’ and I did. The next thing you know you’re sticking needles in your arm and you’re a fucking lowlife.’”

“Skateboarding is just young and naïve. Other sports have the same problems, they just have better damage control. I mean if a football player goes out with a couple of hookers and an eight ball of coke and wraps his fucking Ferrari around a tree, they have guys paid to come in, pay off the hookers, take care of hospital bills, keep the guy out of jail, and keep the story out of the press because Nike has an investment in their athlete. In skateboarding, they just cut their losses and grab a new kid. That’s changing now. But it’s still far from being fixed.”

“It’s this trap people fall into. Like it’s the dark side of human nature. We like to sit and watch somebody else fall down, and we laugh along, encouraging it and pushing it further. Then we go home to our homes or whatever and think, ‘God, that was cool hanging out with so and so while he self-destructed.’ But it never even registers that that person doesn’t have another home to go to, that they’re stuck in this 24-hour party.”

“I only lasted about three or four good years at the top. Then I knew my ride was over. But like Hosoi, I ran around for another ten years living off my name in the seedy underbelly of the skate world. Like, ‘Oh you’re that professional skateboard dude’ I’d be like ‘Hell yeah, that’s me.’ Meanwhile I hadn’t stepped on a board in like 6 months. ‘But, hey, you got a pocket full of drugs and you want to party with me because I’m so-and-so. Oh, by the way, can I sleep on your couch. And I’m gonna steal your VCR in the morning when you’re passed out, because I need to go get more drugs.”

“All you can really do is share your experiences. Try to make some of the younger kids aware. But at the end of day I can only speak for myself. When I was young, I f—king knew it all, I had it all, it was never going to end, and I was going to be king of the world. There was nothing that was going to knock me off. Turn around, and I’m 34 years old, I struggle to pay my bills, and life just didn’t turn out the way I had planned."

"When you’re lost in heroin, and you haven’t reached any sort of bottom, you just can’t see out of it. You have to get an extreme amount of pain before you can accept anybody else’s help. Something like 15 percent of heroin addicts, even the ones that are able to get off it for even a couple years, end up relapsing and ultimately dying from it."

"With skateboarding, there’s so much physical pain involved that its easy to fall into. One day somebody gives you a Vicodine because you got a hipper and right there you get a taste for opiates. Then you move on up the ladder."

"We got a bunch of guys that just died over this shit. And even for those of us that got out, its like what do you have left? You’re physically and mentally wrecked from it, me being one of them. You’re by no means a success story. You just try to get your life back together after the big crash."

If you want even more Grosso tales, here's another column I got to do for TWS last October:

What it Feels Like: To Die 3 Times w/ Jeff Grosso

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