Posts tagged ‘goodbye’

August 20, 2014

Jay Adams 1961-2014

VCR_dogtown cover

100 Percent Skateboarder (forever)

Last week, while doing my morning social media rounds,  I noticed a photo posted on  Facebook by actor and punk singer Brandon Cruz of himself with legendary skater Jay Adams. I didn’t think twice.  Adams has been on my friends list for years and tends to either post or get tagged in photos on a regular basis. Soon enough, though, I found out it wasn’t a normal day. At least not on Facebook, not in Southern California, probably not in Hawaii and definitely not in skating circles.  Adams had passed away from a heart attack. He was only 53.

Only 53. The same age as my mom when she died. The same age I will be in two years. The older you get, the more death you encounter. The more death you encounter, the more you tend to think about your own mortality.

In 2002, I wrote an article for VCReporter about some discord among the ranks involved with Stacy Peralta’s documentary film Dogtown and Z-Boys.  It was a complicated situation involving big money, old wounds and differing opinions.  I had exclusive access, and three days to get it to press.

Intense as it was,  the story remains a career highlight for me. Of all the people I spoke with at length (I imagine I logged at least 20 hours of interview time), Jay Adams was by far my favorite. He was working at Black Flys  in Hawaii, , and had to periodically put me on hold to help customers. What struck me most about him was his authenticity which was immediately noticeable. He really didn’t want to talk to me, but he knew his input was important. He was probably the only one who DIDN’T have an agenda.  His humility and candor were refreshing. There was no bullshit with him. No ulterior motive.

I was not a stranger to skating culture and had spent a good amount of time with some of the old school pioneers, most notably Tony Alva (after the story published and went viral, Thrasher magazine incorrectly referred to me as an “Alva confidante”), but for some reason I’d never met Jay, so it was especially exciting to have a chance to speak to the enigmatic, notorious and baddest of the Dogtown bad boys. For all his woes, his battles with drugs, time spent in prison, broken relationships, etc., there was an innocence about  him. He was a good man dealing with the consequences of bad decisions and hard living. He didn’t have the best start in life, but he became a champion and a hero—on and off the pavement, in and out of the water.

I can’t claim to have really known Jay Adams, yet I miss him. He was a one in a million man in a world that needs a new kind of math. But, for all the tragedy he endured (and some that he undoubtedly caused), his death is not tragic. Granted, he was relatively young, but life was really, really good. He was sober, he was strong in his faith, he was deeply in love with his wife, solid with his kids and riding the best waves of his entire life in Mexico. It’s all any of us can hope for in the end.

Nearly a week later, stories, condolences, photos and memories continue to flood his Facebook page, and when I see the updates in my feed, it seems like he’s still here posting messages of hope and candid pics of his lovely wife. Then I remember.

There might not ever be another Jay Adams, but there is plenty of room for more champions and heroes.

To quote the many who knew and loved him: “Rip in peace, Jay boy.”



August 5, 2010

A sad week for Ventura preservationists

The sudden and shocking losses of both Suzanne Lawrence and the Foster House this week were especially painful for the historic preservation community.  Lawrence, a longtime historian and living history actor was very involved in the arts in Ventura County and many friends and colleagues are mourning her departure, among them, her daughter Gwendolyn Alley and preservation consultant/San Buenaventura Conservancy co-founder Cynthia Thompson. According to the Star, Lawrence passed away from a heart attack.  Her contribution to preserving Ventura County’s rich history and cultural legacy was well-known and her absence will be felt. She was in the process of cultivating an oral history library at the county museum. A memorial for Lawrence will be held at the Museum of Ventura County on Sunday, Aug. 8, at 2 p.m.

While unfortunately there was nothing we could have done to prevent Lawrence’s passing, the complete destruction of the Foster House due to fire, was entirely avoidable. Despite valiant and tireless efforts by preservationists over the years, both the city and the school district (which owns the property where the Foster House stood) failed to take any steps toward restoring the home of pioneer E.P. Foster, despite the potential value to the community.

Perhaps an eyesore to the casual onlooker, the boarded-up and fenced-in 130 year-old house was a gathering place for many of early Ventura’s most notable citizens and a treasure to be cherished.  I toured the exterior and a tiny bit of the interior many times, but never had the opportunity to really explore it as i would have liked to. There was no shortage of ideas for restoration and resuse of the home for educational and tourism purposes, yet for whatever reason, no one with authority was ever able to make anything happen–and now it’s gone forever.

Of course the city never seems to have money to put into such a project,  but shame on the school district for allowing a structure of great historical importance to fall into obscurity, disrepair and the hands of vandals, eventually leading to its destruction. I don’t know when this city will truly grasp the significance of our historical structures, but if we don’t take seriously our roots as a city and the economic/educational potential of preserving our treasures, they will all go the way of the Foster House, the Ban-Dar, the Mayfair Theatre etc. etc. …

R.I.P Suzanne Lawrence–someone who understood–and goodbye Foster House: may your ghosts find their way.

November 19, 2009

On his flickr, he finished the photo caption with: "I'm not dead. Just gone for a while."

Last weekend a sizable crowd gathered to remember artist Donald Cecil who passed away suddenly at only 52 years of age.

I worked with Donald for a year, maybe longer, when he was art director at VCReporter.  In those days, the editorial and art departments shared tight quarters in our office at the Harbor, yet despite what could be a tense, deadline-driven environment, laughter and creativity seemed to eclipse the negatives, thanks mostly to Donald’s wicked sense of humor and infinite stream of ideas. Besides being a gifted painter, he was also a master of Photoshop and created some breathtaking, surreal works in that medium.  Memories of time shared with Donald continue to pop into my head without context: our shared enthusiasm for the Strokes when their first record came out; how he would hide a little cat face on every single cover and those of us who knew about it had the privilege of finding it; his quiet faith; how he would say “dude” and then apologize for it; that he actually liked Kid Rock; brainstorming with him on cover ideas; his kindness to my son who, when he was five, sometimes had to come to work with me; how he burned me a copy of the Vines’ first cd with the caveat that it wasn’t as groundbreaking as the Strokes, but it was still damn good; his passion for Jujubees (had to be the name) and his hilarious entry, under a nom de plume, in one of our Flash Fiction contests. Donald was extremely well-read and literary and when he decided to try his hand at super-short fiction not only did we all have a good laugh, but he placed in the contest. If memory serves (see above) I was the only judge who knew which entry was his. To wit:


by W. Smith, Ventura

The Man In The Big Yellow Hat was sick and tired of all their stupid jokes. And he was drunk. And hungry.

“My glass is empty,” he belched to himself. In an act of self preservation he closed one eye.  Everyone in the bar watched him in the mirror, except for the lady he punched, she was still on the floor.

He felt his pockets for money. “Damned stinky ape,” he said. His furry wallet was empty and his monkey skin boots were scuffed and damp. The gravy train was gone.


See you on the other side, Don. You are missed.

October 29, 2009

Goodbye, Chuck . . .

In less than a month, yet another key figure in the early ’80s So-Cal punk scene has passed away. Chuck Biscuits, the bombastic, powerhouse drummer who played for D.O.A., Circle Jerks (in video above), Black Flag, Danzig, Social Distortion and surprisingly, Run DMC, passed away Oct. 24 from throat cancer. He was only 44 years old.

In many ways, Biscuits was the Keith Moon of punk rock: unbridled, goofy, boyish and frenzied. His drumming on Social D’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash, made it stand alone as the most balls-out energetic record in their catalog.

He will be missed.

October 15, 2009

Legendary L.A. punk promoter is mourned by many

“When Brendan started the Masque, it was a pure act, creating a place for people he liked, to do their thing, have fun and get wild, no salesmen allowed.”– Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Flea’s is just one of a rapidly growing collection of memories and tributes popping up in newspapers and on social networking sites, since Mullen’s sudden death earlier this week at Ventura County Medical Center. He was here traveling through the central coast with his long time girlfriend when he suffered a massive stroke.

Mullen founded L.A. punk rock flashpoint the Masque, booked music for years at Club Lingerie and authored a number of important books chronicling elements of the late ’70s to mid-’80s L.A. music scene (We Got the Neutron Bomb: the Untold Story of L.A. Punk, Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs, Live at the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley and others).

Beyond his many accomplishments, the Scottish-born music promoter and archivist/historian was by all accounts a dear man who impacted many people’s lives with his generosity and kindness. He was sincerely passionate about music and devoted to supporting it however he could.

And the stories are quickly amassing into quite a volume. From journalists and bloggers, such as Robert Hilburn, Kristine McKenna, Chris Morris, Kevin Roderick, Lisa Derrick (a friend who was with Mullen at the end), Nancy Rommelmann and Greg Burk to scene icons Tequila Mockingbird, promoter Carmel Conlin, film maker Modi Frank and Julie Christensen (Divine Horsemen, Leonard Cohen), nearly everyone has something to say about Mullen because nearly everyone who knew him, never forgot him.

I was not so fortunate, though I’m quite sure our paths crossed as Mullen and I traveled the same circles or, rather, I orbited the periphery of his universe. Many of the bands that were beloved to me, got their first break from Mullen, most notably the Plugz and the Chili Peppers (I’ve got my own stories about those boys.) I owe a debt to him, as so many of us do. Were it not for is vision, his chutzpah, his heart and soul, my life, and to some extent, my identity, would be quite different.

Cheers on you Mr. Mullen, until next time.

June 26, 2009

and now Michael Jackson?

The way I like to remember Michael Jackson (and the 1970s)

The way I like to remember Michael Jackson (and the 1970s)

“The difference between insanity and genius is measured only by success”

I made a joke on someone’s Facebook page that I’m preparing for a plague of Paris Hilton’s thong underwear. Forget Hollywood Babylon; this is Hollywood Apocalypse. Farrah and the King of Pop on the same day?

Yes, it’s too early to joke, and with the respect that’s due these two icons of popular American culture just for enduring the press, I will proceed on a more somber note: I’m beginning to feel very old.

I am only four years younger than Michael and in the early-1970s, my Jackson 5 records got as much play as my Osmond’s and Partridge Family LPs. The Halloween that Thriller was released I dressed as a dead bride (home made costume from thrift store remnants) and partied in West Hollywood like it was 1999. Jackson’s music has always been part of the soundtrack of my life and despite the freakish manifestations of an unstable psyche, he was a tremendous talent who brought great joy and some heartache to the world in his time here. Talent seems to come with a proportionate price of anguish.

It’s a sad day to be sure.

June 25, 2009

Bye, Farrah


I find myself resisting the urge to make inappropriate puns and rhymes with her name. Despite the apparent devolution of her persona in the last couple decades, there was always something endearing and certainly fascinating about her. Beneath the all-American, sparkly sun-bleached surface, it was dark and sad and a little bit creepy (especially where her relationship with Ryan O’Neal was concerned.) In other words there was much more to Farrah than big hair and a hot bod (there usually is) as the abyss behind those cavernous eyes revealed–not to mention the juicy bits in Tatum O’Neal’s memoir.

I remember Charlie’s Angels and the iconic poster my younger brother had on his bedroom wall. I remember loathing the girls at school who copied Farrah’s feathered hairstyle. I remember when feathered hair itself became loathsome. Farrah bravely endured possibly the most humiliating cancers of all: rectal cancer. She refused to let it mock her. This I find most memorable of all. Here are some of my other memories of the late great Farrah Fawcett:

Her first embarrassing appearance on Letterman

Farrah on a skateboard

Farrah the artist: using her painted naked body as the brush on canvas

Farrah the psychobiatch from Hell (again via Tatum O’Neal)

Farrah playing tennis

Farrah selling toothpaste or cosmetics or something

Her rightfully acclaimed performance as the victim of domestic abuse in The Burning Bed

/wave. We’ll miss you. xoxo.

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