By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"The sponsorship money, all the corporate crap, guys wanting to make money and shit. Intellectually, I could understand it, because everybody had to move on and do their own thing, but it ripped everything up," says Ho. "It was just over."
Big sponsors picked the team members off one by one and started trotting out the Dogtown dog-and-pony show. For Biniak there would be a halftime demonstration in front of 85,000 people at a Rams-Raiders game at the Coliseum. For Nathan Pratt it would be a jump stunt in a movie for a fee negotiated by Engblom at $300 per foot (he'd warned that Pratt never jumped less than 15 feet). Alva and Peralta would appear in movies and TV shows. Peralta even made it onto Charlie's Angels.
It was high times, and the Z-Boys were quick to embrace the fame, fortune and party. Biniak's apartment was the headquarters.
"Every one of the boys would come over. I'd be in there banging chicks, and they'd be going, 'Give me a couple of Thai sticks,' and I'd say, 'Go ahead, take a few,' and they'd go in my laundry basket. I had a wicker laundry basket full of them," Biniak says with a chuckle. "I was on my own from the age of 14. I had no parental guidance. I was running wild. We wanted to skate, party and chase all the richest chicks up in the Palisades and see what we could catch."
Now the boys were running wild with money and license. Rich hangers-on appeared on the scene, wanting to be down with Dogtown. They gravitated to the Hollywood nights. Sponsors sometimes indulged their ever-increasing recreational drug use with freebies.
By 1977, to the outside world, the Dogtown scene was exploding. Jim Muir and Wes Humpston, another local who used to embellish skateboards with his hand-drawn art, trademarked the Dogtown name and went into business with some guys from New York. Peralta left Gordon & Smith and hooked up with George Powell to form what would become Powell-Peralta. An investor backed Tony Alva to start up his own line of skates. Skateboarding was booming, too. Shot out of the double barrel of urethane wheels and an attitude adjustment in the punk-rock personas of the Z-Boys, it had turned into a $400 million business. For a while, Skateboarder was the hottest title on the newsstand.
It was a dizzy, headfirst time, but the inevitable passing of the Zephyr team coincided with the inevitable passing of their youth. Most of the team had graduated or dropped out of high school by 1978, and it was clear that the big world outside Dogtown had different plans for each of them. Before that would happen, though, they had one last brief and brilliant moment together. It was at a place they called Dino's Dogbowl.
Dino was a kid with terminal cancer who looked up to the Z-Boys. In the summer and fall of 1978, he fulfilled a personal "make a wish" and got his dad to drain their pool in wealthy north Santa Monica. It was open only to Z-Boys and their guests, and it became the place where they rekindled the old Dogtown spirit. "It was like back to the old times because it was just us," remembers Peralta. "There weren't any officials, and it wasn't sanctioned. It was pure again for a while."
The Dogbowl sessions are still legendary. The friendly competitive fire was back, and the boys pushed each other further and further above the coping. Then, during one of the sessions, nobody's too sure on which day, Tony Alva barreled up the wall to vert. He blasted past the coping and shot out into open air. He grabbed his board, turned his nose and re-entered. Alva had landed the first aerial. The line in the sand had been crossed, and the Z-Boys had changed skateboarding forever, again.
"It just felt like the ultimate adrenaline rush. We thought hitting the lip was the limit," Alva says of that day. "I realized I had more control over gravity. There was a whole new level to get to now."
The Dogbowl sessions lasted until Marina del Rey built a skatepark that became the place to go. The Z-Boys dispersed, and though they would ride together from time to time, ruling wherever they went, it was never on again like it was at the Dogbowl.
By the end of 1980, skateboarding had faded from view too, going down in a sea of insurance issues, recession and mothers who didn't want their sons to grow up to be Z-Boys. Wentzle Ruml fled to the East Coast to escape the hard-partying lifestyle. Biniak went to college. Even Alva was out of circulation for a while as he tested the waters of higher education before deciding the mainstream world was not for him.
Punk rock, since its West Coast inception, had been the sonic soulmate of the Dogtown scene. In fact, Jim Muir's younger brother, Mike, was the lead singer for seminal hardcore band Suicidal Tendencies. In punk Jay Adams discovered another outlet for the 100 watts of aggression he had brought to skating. Although the Z-Boys had the reputation of never taking any shit, they didn't go looking for fights. With everyone gunning for them, they didn't have to. In the punk-rock scene, however, Adams admits he found an arena for what appeared to be sanctioned violence.