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
Further adventures in Beverly Hills ensue, including various encounters with wealthy, uptight old white people who shoot at them, and wealthy, debauched show-biz types who want to fetishize and sexually exploit them.
All the while, in the background there’s director-writer Larry Clark — the man behind the notorious films Kids, Bully and Ken Park — who has a rather aw-screw-it attitude toward filmmaking that stands in marked opposition to the oily-shiny high-budget pop effluvia of the Hollywood film biz.
The opportunity to appear in a semi-high-profile film doesn’t come a-knockin’ just every day in the hood, and for the boys of Wassup Rockers, it could just be a real life-changing kinda thing. That opportunity actually came about a year before filming began, when Clark and a colleague from the French culture-lifestyle magazine Rebel were driving around L.A. scouting locations for a photo shoot of Tiffany Limos, the lead actress from Clark’s recent Ken Park, and they came across Kico and his pal Porky skating in Venice.
They looked, in Clark’s words, “poor.” Not “I-stole-my-distressed-T-shirt-from-Urban-Outfitters” poor — really poor. “Their style struck me,” says Clark. “Their shoes were cracked and painted with regular house paint to stop them falling apart. And they had these shirts that were old and way too small. I found out that where they come from, these kids had to fight to be who they are and dress the way they do. They were authentic.” Kico and Porky, then 13, told Clark how they got shit from the gangbangers in South-Central for growing their hair long, wearing skinny jeans and listening to the Ramones. Clark had found his new muse.
Clark explained to the boys what he was doing and ended up shooting photos of the skater kids on their home turf in South-Central. Rebel was so thrilled with the results that they published a 23-page spread and released two covers of the issue, one with Tiffany and one with Jonathan.
The film’s scenes and dialogue are all based on stories the boys themselves told Clark during the year or so he spent hanging with them shooting photos. A fascinating blend of cinéma vérité and scripted narrative, much of it has the gritty look and feel of a homemade movie done on a hand-held video cam.
Now, you can imagine that for these kids, having the story of their lives turned into a film must’ve been pretty damn amazing. The funny thing is, now that Jonathan and Kico, in particular, are potentially on the cusp of, well, stardom, they seem fairly unaffected by it. Though just 15, both have a kind of heavy grounding in reality such that the lure of fame doesn’t quite make them quiver with excitement. Of course, their nonchalance might be an affectation, another way of defending themselves from hurt and disappointment — if not outright danger.
Wassup Rockers opens with a scene of a gangbanger kid getting blown away by a couple of other gangbangers doing a drive-by. It’s dramatic, sure, but Clark is hardly taking license. Violence surrounds these kids. Shortly after filming wrapped, a 15-year-old girl was shot outside Jonathan and Kico’s school. Recently, one of their friends, the 17-year-old guitar player of the Reliants (one of the several South-Central punk bands featured on the Wassup Rockers soundtrack) got caught in a crossfire and was shot in the eye. The bullet lodged in his skull, and he’s now unable to play the guitar.
The kid who got shot in the film is a fictional character, of course, but Clark based him on this kid called Creeper, who really did get shot a few days before filming began. Watching this movie is a bit weird like that, because Clark mixes in scenes drawn from reality with his scripted narrative. But it’s all the same thing, in a way, because the story came to Clark after going to skate parks every Saturday with Jonathan, Kico, Porky, Eddie and a few others. He got to know them, and they told him stories.
The film starts with some rough footage Clark did with a 14-year-old Jonathan in his bedroom, shirtless and scratching himself like he just rolled out of bed. Jonathan gives the details about his friends and their life in the hood, how they got into skating and punk rock, and some interesting facts about his friends’ habits and lifestyles — how his homey Milton got the nickname Spermball, for example (“ ’cause he likes to jack off a lot”). The first half of the movie is made up of all these stories that Jonathan and Kico and their friends told Clark.
“And the second half, I just made up,” says Clark, “because I wanted to see what would happen if I got ’em out of South-Central, and I just made that up. It was like stream of consciousness. I was just having fun: Okay, well, someone calls the cops, they have to run, they go in the backyard, whatta they gonna find there? And then they find this and they run again, and then they run across the yard, and then a dog comes out and bites Kico on the ass! And just like, keeping it going.”