The first generation of freestyle BMX pros pushed the sport/lifestyle forward in a variety of directions. But the one area in which they seemed to lack, and I can understand that it was second hand, was creating individual images for themselves. A lot of them looked the same, and that was okay — more important things were being attended to. The CW Racing duo of Ceppie Maes (pictured here on the right on the Hermosa Beach pier in 1986) and Dizz Hicks changed all that, and they couldn't have been more different. Dizz was for lack of a better word, the heavy metal guy, and Ceppie, I hate to use the word but he came off as the 'alternative' rider at the time. He rode to different music, his hair was all over the place, and he seemed to recognize the importance of style in BMX before that was a thing. (That's evident in every single photo taken of him during his CW days.) For me, as a young kid getting into BMX, insecure and trying to fit in at school, Ceppie's iconic getup and attention to style showed me that I didn't need to wear chest protectors, dress like everyone else, or even listen to the same music as everyone else. He was one of BMX's first individuals. And I think he's the reason that lawnmowers still look awesome in photos.
Dave Vanderspek (left in 1987) shot by Maurice Meyer and the same garage on this past Friday night in Redondo. Vanderspek died in October of 1988 after accidentally hanging himself, just as he was starting to gain recognition for his forays into early street riding. (Street riding was a new thing but Vander was one of the early originators.) And it almost seemed like he would’ve gotten a second wind as a BMX pro. I remember opening up the issue of Freestylin’ Magazine in freshman biology and not really being able to comprehend that a BMX pro had died. Anyway, on that particular night where the bar endo photo was taken, it sounds like it was just a bunch of BMXers escaping the rain in a parking garage, having fun and not worrying about the future of the sport or innovation. It sounded like a good night.
Not too many kept up with the times while they were unfolding, but Maurice Meyer is an exception. If any of this is interesting to you, I’d suggest checking out his site.
I never really knew much about Todd Anderson, but his brand of vert and street riding spoke volumes to me. He had a less is more stylistic approach to BMX, even down to his bike setup (which featured no back caliper brakes, a coaster brake and a front brake after he started riding for General.) And he knew how to tweak everything as far as possible, as is the case here, in the Riviera Village area of South Redondo. I actually stumbled onto this spot a few months ago, and didn’t make the connection to the earlier photo of Anderson from the February 1987 issue of Freestylin’ Magazine. And to this day, I’ve never seen anyone recreate this trick. I also go to a therapist a walk away from here and complain about how BMX isn’t how it used to be…
I want to say this is Pete Kearney from the General/Hammer camp. But I may be wrong and negate the whole point of this post. I hated this ad because it made me feel stupid and talked down to even as a young teenager, but I loved Hammer safety pads. Hammer pads may have been the first thing I ordered from Trend Bike Source in Austin in 1988. Anyway, I had no idea that this was basically a walk away from where I live because the landscape has changed so much. I had to Google the bookstore running up Hermosa Ave in the background to verify, but sure enough, it’s downtown Hermosa Beach, in front of what is now a sushi place. And Pete Kearney, well, since I was born in Staten Island, and since he was from the same place, I always felt a loose BMX kinship with him. I just hope he got paid to cut his t-shirt sleeves off and rock sweatpants on Hermosa Ave in 1987.
The Fatburger Banks, with Spike Jonze landing a full page photo in Freestylin’ Magazine in 1988 on the right, and the present day banks a bike ride away from my house on the left in 2014. These things are completely unrideable nowadays, but there are some corner bowl style banks nearby that are pretty fun when traffic is light. A lot has been said about Spike and his relationship to BMX, and for a while as a young 20-something, I was a little bummed to see him move on from BMX. But as I got older, I learned to appreciate the fact that he didn’t relate to the word ‘boundary’ in any aspect of his life. He was a rider, a skater, a photographer and a wise ass that took chances, made things work in all walks of life and continued to explore. He’s actually the antithesis of BMX in the present tense, which I sincerely admire.
In the mid ’80s, a contingent of BMX riders from the midwest arose that could ride everything in their path. DMC is the most common go-to reference, but not far behind him was Rick Moliterno. Rick rode for Hutch, followed by Haro, and then went on to start Standard. And once upon a time in 1986-ish, he did I-hops at the place I usually ride at now. I got to see Rick ride a few years after this photo was taken at Haro demos in 1987 and 1988, and he seriously blew me away with his ability to ride flatland (fast) and then blast crazy airs on the quarterpipe afterwards. And then there were his miniramp/spine ramp years, which no one has been able to replicate to this day. All in all, Rick is one of the best BMX riders to make it through the ’80s and ’90s, while still remaining relevant and original. But he still needs to do some explaining about that ‘I want my life back’ documentary…
“I never smile if I can help it. Showing one’s teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life.” -Dwight Schrute
Martin ‘The Chairman’ Aparijo on the left, two blocks from my house in 1986, and yesterday around 4 p.m. at the same location in 2014. Although he was the major pro at GT in the late ’80s, Aparijo seemed to signify the generational switch from pre-1988 stationary hopping trick pro to post-1988 rolling trick pro. He was the older more established pro at GT, and I don’t think he was ready for the next generation GT flatland pro (Kevin Jones) to come in and blow the doors wide open on what was possible in flatland. I don’t mean that as an insult either. It was just a factor during a very progressive time in BMX.
Not BMX, but live a little people. I had driven past this dinky little Mexican restaurant sign in Torrance a few times and always had deja vu, like I knew it from somewhere. Lo and behold, I did. The original Blind ad, with Jason Lee sitting on the same fire hydrant, hung in my bedroom as a teenager. This would’ve been around the time the original Blind team started filming for ‘Video Days,’ and we know where things went from there. At the time, Spike Jonze was working for Go: The Rider’s Manual in Torrance, shooting ad photos on the side, and I assume plotting the course of ‘Video Days.’ As for Jason Lee, his section was burned into my brain because it kicked off with 20 seconds of vert riding and then went into crazy manual lines, all to the tune of Milk‘s ‘Knife Song,’ which featured a bunch of BMX magazine editors and a BMX pro on drums (at least I think so, RL Osborn). Yeah, you might say it was a convoluted little world back then.
So, I’ve been searching for this spot forever, and weirdly enough, it came down to the cross street sign in the original Craig Grasso photo from 1988. It’s on the corner of Guadalupe Ave. (which is nearby my house), but I couldn’t read the cross street. I knew it was a two word street name, but that was it. Today, I went on Google maps and searched for two-word street names that intersect with Guadalupe, and sure enough, there was only one — Sierra Vista Drive. So I rode the two blocks there and found the sight of one of the photos that hung on my bedroom wall as a teenager. That’s Craig Grasso shot by Spike Jonze on the left, and my shot from earlier today. The tree is much bigger today and Grasso is in jail for running from the cops in Vermont but fakie footplants are still awesome.
This time, I was 3000 miles away and I stayed inside to recycle through the 15-minute news cycle. I remember thinking how cold it probably was in Connecticut on that fateful day. I remember growing very tired of the senseless tragedies that befell the parents and relative of those affected by gun violence. I remember thinking that there was probably not a need for semiautomatic weapons in a suburban Connecticut town.
And then, earlier today, on the stretch of 84 that cuts through Newtown, I veered off the Sandy Hook exit and took the main road into the heart of a small country town. I parked at the Sandy Hook diner and walked through a dirt parking lot to the entrance. A rain had just fallen and the streets were quiet.
Everything was quiet. Continue reading