Fitting still via Bronze’s 2020 Promo
Moving right along…
This place — whatever you called it — got knobbed.
The neighbors from the adjacent roof threw marshmallows at us the second or third time we ever skated here, so it got dubbed “Marshmallow Ledges” on the spots page — though nobody ever called it that. It was “those wooden ledges on the sidewalk over by World Trade with the kinked metal bench before it.” The park was part of a W Hotel, except what a boring thing to name even a boring spot after.
The following feature appeared in 2003: A Year Magazine. (We ran a feature from 1991 last year.) The issue is now available for purchase on 2003magazine.com, along with a QS hat we produced in collaboration with 2003 to commemorate the northeast blackout of 2003 — the day the T.F. was dubbed the safest place on earth.
Skateboarding was maturing in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Videos went from handycam promos to hour-long blockbusters with pro-level production values, skaters were padding their pockets with royalty checks from sponsors that were fatter than ever, and prodigious 15-year-olds were outshining the grown-ups with tricks that were unimaginable in the early 90s.
Except in New York, where skateboarding was still synonymous with chilling, of a lifestyle without an end goal. After 9/11, it felt even further removed from what was happening in the skate industry at large. The spots throughout Lower Manhattan became either desolate or off-limits, which made chilling (instead of missioning into the outer boroughs) that much more appealing.
But being New York, there was, of course, an exception. Vicious Cycle, released in 2004, was a video made throughout those years that upended the attitude associated with New York. Filmed by R.B. Umali and Doug Brown for Zoo York from 2002 to 2004, it was the first video to emerge from a crew of skaters living in New York who refused to accept what was becoming the status quo for a city that dominated in most other areas of culture. The result was very much up to par with anything coming out of California or elsewhere.
In 2003, Bassett and other skaters involved in the making of the video cohabited a windowless apartment in Lower Manhattan. This is the story of the Vicious Cycle house.
Where are you from and how did you end up in New York?
I grew up in Chatham, Massachusetts, which is in Cape Cod. I started skating there, met people, and then started going to Boston a lot. From there, I started getting hooked up with Zoo stuff from Jeff Pang, and would go out to New York to visit those dudes. I went back a few times, and then on my 18th birthday, I moved to New York. That was in November of 2002.
Were you getting paid to skate at that point?
Zoo paid for the house that I moved into, but I wasn’t getting paid.
How did the house come together?
The house was on Broadway and Fulton Street. I wanted to move to the city, so I talked Zoo into getting a house for me, Brian Brown, and Billy Rohan at the time. Billy eventually moved out, and Brian’s brother, Doug, moved in. He was the main one filming us back then. Lou [Sarowsky] would stay over a lot, too. People would always come to town and crash, whoever was around skating.
The Ocean Howell interview linked in Monday’s post reminded me of this bit from 2009’s Deathbowl to Downtown documentary — which apparently is $65 for a DVD copy on Amazon now and unavailable to stream anywhere?
Update: Stream it on Vimeo for two bucks.
Both the Howell interview and this bit discuss how cities will give developers a zoning pass / tax breaks on additional floors if they furnish the ground level of their property with a public plaza. The irony is that the plazas are often restricted to people who want to sit and eat lunch, i.e. a rather limited idea of what the “public” is. Nearly every piece of our European coverage has whined about how this is inconsistent with any Euro city we’ve visited, so I’ll spare you the recurring “America sucks for skateboarding” speech. There’s a lot of good early nineties Financial District and midtown footage in this segment, and by the looks of it, they were still busts then ;)
People gave Deathbowl a bit of a hard time when it came out — “the narration was heavy handed,” “the 90s were too focused on Zoo York,” etc. — but skateboarders will dig anywhere to complain. When I got the DVD in 2010, I was a month into nursing probably the closest you could sprain an ankle without needing medical attention. I finished watching it at maybe 2 A.M (on a school night!), yet still got the urge to grab a cruiser, and skate over the 59th Street Bridge to go up and down little hills on the westside til the sun started to come up. Can’t say a proper skate video has relayed that unshakeable “I really need to go skate”-feeling the same way since.
It was fun rewatching it to find this clip, you should give it a whirl.