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Bluntly Speaking: Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva
an emily blunt interview

Special message from Stacy Peralta:

Special message from Tony Alva

 

 



You recognize either of these palookas? Neither did I till I realized I've known "them" for years.

See they are Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, legends in the skateboard world, once part of the infamous Dogtown Z-Boys. I heard Alva's name thanks to my nephew and his billion references to the man's style; "I can't get the Alva look" They and their rogue team of hellions The Z-Boys changed the way young folks looked at that wooden board atop four urethane wheels. Simply put they made skateboarding an artform. Their moves and styles so graceful it was as if they liquefied the terrains they rode producing an almost surreal concrete surfing.

Peralta is a filmmaker and decided to make a documentary (Dogtown and Z-Boys) on his friends, himself and the beginning of the real way to ride a skateboard (sorry its "deck") ...These rules and tips aint in your grandfather's dusty old manual that's for sure!

The result was a film that created an stylized etching of an endless summer that transports you back with such riveting emotion and truth your smacked upside the head with its subtly. Even if you're not a "boarder," like myself, the film's so well done and crafted it's still mesmerizing.

The two are mesmerizing too...very handsome. Meow. It was hard to maintain a lady-like composure sitting in a room alone with these two "bad boyz." I'd love to rub mansicle Tony down in SPF15 coconut scented block on a cool Maui beach baby! Hmmmmmm.....

Enough babble here's what they had to say.


Emily Blunt: Hi boyz! You two what revolutionized skateboarding? [laughter] What's that all about?

Stacy Peralta: Well, it wasn't just the two of us… no it was just the two of us. [laughter] The other guys had nothing to do with it!

Tony Alva: It was, like, the whole crew of guys that were on our competition team, Paul Constantineau, Jay Adams…that whole team at one time changed the whole basis of skateboarding. Basically through our style…

Stacy Peralta: That and being in the right place at the right time. We had a series of school playgrounds in our area that were unlike anyplace in the world. As well as that we had the highest concentration of swimming pools! Yeah, all these empty swimming pools, and the right style of empty swimming pool.

Emily Blunt: But how do you look at an empty swimming pool and go 'yeah, this is it?'

Tony Alva: You can tell with water in it that it's right up your alley. Like all those good ones in California. They're the best pools.

Stacy Peralta: They start out as movie star pools. These movie stars want these sensuous shapes in their backyard with this beautiful bulbous cone at the top, which is perfect for skateboarding. You go to skateboard parks now and it's emulated. But even the parks have never gotten it down right. They've never ever surpassed what these guys did in the fifties and sixties. Wasn't there awhile when we only looked for Anthony pools?

Tony Alva: Oh yeah. There was a brand name pool… uh, Blue Haven, I think, um, Anthony Brothers, and there's an Amazon something. And the locals would say 'oh, that's an Anthony pool!' You know it's gonna be good.'

Emily Blunt: So you were pool brand specialists? [laughter]

Stacy Peralta: [laughter] Well, they have a plug that they used to put over the electrical thing that had their emblem on it, and hustlers collect those to this day. I think it's going a little far…

Tony Alva: Yeah, it's like taking the Mercedes-Benz thing off the car.

Stacy Peralta: So they collect those, and also there will usually be a tile with the logo on it and, or there will be something in the coping or near where the light is. The mark is all over if you know where to look.

Tony Alva: I still have the eye for it! It just stays. Every single time I drive to the city, I walk in a backyard, it doesn't matter where you are, but you're always looking at every single wall, crevice…

Stacy Peralta: You know, if you're a surfer you're always looking at the waves, saying 'is this rideable?' Because you want to fantasize about it.

Emily Blunt: How come the people who design the parks don't come to you and say, like they do with the golf guys, and say 'hey, what do you suggest?'

Tony Alva: They do.

Stacy Peralta: It's just that we haven't gone into actually constructing and manufacturing the parks, because number one, the signature model parks are not to cool with the kids because the kids, like, it's idol worship and they don't actually dig that …

Tony Alva: It's not like golf. Yeah, they'll buy your board and stuff like that, but a park? That's not there. But they other thing is that we are involved with things like this. A lot of designers, guys that are building the biggest parks they can, like city funded and all, they come to us for input. And we let 'em know what we think. And Stacey even had a skate park in the warehouse next to his manufacturing place up in Santa Barbara one time which was one of the best wooden runs. Just an art museum of wood that was a great skate park. It was amazing. It's called the Skate Zone.

Stacy Peralta: So we are involved in that, it's just that there's other things that are a little bit more creative and things we want to achieve in our life.

Emily Blunt: Now how did "Dogtown and Z-Boys" come about as opposed to somebody stealing it from you and turning it into a Hollywood star vehicle?

Tony Alva: That's why we did it! 'Cause Hollywood, they were planning on making a fictional version. So this was ours.

Stacy Peralta: They came after us. They wanted to buy Tony's life rights and my life rights and Jay Adams' life rights and they wanted to buy the rights to the article in a prominent magazine.

Tony Alva: Basically this is our statement.

Emily Blunt: So you got the footage together and started editing yourselves as yougin's wow! I mean you were kids-Now, you guys are what, 36ish?

Stacy Peralta: 44 ! I was thinking you know what? I can't believe I got all this of skateboarding! I was working in television, which is an awful thing to do [laughter] and I just started looking at the footage and it was just putting me in touch with some of the best times of my life. I'm like sitting down with my neighbor and my boys, and realizing! Being reminded of my life, and it's still like we're little kids you know the Zboys? We're still having fun together.

Emily Blunt: After seeing DTZB I started to notice things. Logos and codes around the streets. When I now knew what it all meant I felt ' I am so friggin' cool!' Thanks.

Tony Alva: That is so great! So you were initiated into a taste of the art culture and then the subculture, because the Z Boyz thing and all that is is really a way of life! We were some of the first street skaters and people don't really give us that much credibility for that, but we were. And the streets was where the Z Boyz came from, straight up. So we went, we just, like Stacy said, we were pushing it 'cause we grew up in a neighborhood that was so conducive to the lines that we saw in the concrete, in the schoolyard. We were like artists and we always will be. We're kind of like an abstract artist. The concrete was our canvas. But see the benefit of this film has been to entice people like yourself, which we never expected, which has been really really gratifying. We want more people who know absolutely nothing about skateboarding to see it, of course.

Emily Blunt: Honestly, I never saw anything like what I saw in this film. I never really thought "this all started somewhere." You know?

Tony Alva : Well, it's a different approach. It's basically that the roots of skateboarding is portrayed and we were adapting and getting closer to our group of guys. When we got down to the bitter end, Stacy and I basically were it. Still it was really cool though. It was a special time in my life. I remember going down to the last event and Stacy and I were neck and neck -- we just looked at each other-- and he was like 'hey man!' It was great though. So we can look back now, and everything we worked for, regardless of how hard we competed, it's all come together.

Stacy Peralta : And it's better than a documentary too. I mean, it was not all blabbering.

Tony Alva: Now that's the way Stacy put himself in the third person and having himself be the director and having a part in it and all, I could have never done that, put myself outside of it and everything and had the film come out the way it did.

Stacy Peralta: I had nightmares about it, I'll tell you.

Emily Blunt: Well you must be honored because first of all, to be that honest seeing Peralta all over the press kit I thought ' uh-ha this is going to be an ego fest of colossal proportions! [laughter] But it wasn't.

Stacy Peralta: I was so worried about that! [laughter]

Emily Blunt: It was very endearing, and I had tears in my eyes over that poor fellow Jay Adams. We all know a guy like him!

Tony Alva: First time I saw it I did too. He's like my little brother. He's a hero to a lot of people, and he's a very strong person, but you know sometimes this stuff happens.…


Stacy Peralta: Exactly. That's just what people can relate to. You know, we were talking earlier about the whole story, it seemed like, I don't want to get too cosmic but it's like it wanted to be told. And at some point during the ending of this picture it literally just took over and told us what it wanted to be. It started going that way, and more and more we became like servants to the picture. Where it just kinda, I'm not sure whether you get this when you write an article, and you click when you're writing something, and all of a sudden it just starts to take its own shape. That's what happened.

Emily Blunt: And how did it feel to win the Spirit Award?

Tony Alva : It was great! He was there, and two of the other guys were there, we were all there together and it [the show] was in the parking lot where we all started, right there! That's where the tent was for the whole thing!! And as we were eating I said 'dude, if we win something, we gotta say welcome to our party' And it was like the first thing Stacy said. You know we were just excited.

Stacy Peralta: I was having so much fun. I was jumping around and grabbing the mike and going to people. Saying hey, those offshore mornings, six in the morning, we used to be out there in the radioactive sewer surfing and stuff. And people were just like "uh, yeah, whatever" you know. It was cool. I knew some people there so it was kinda like a party but kinda like a stuffy old people thing all at the same time. But the award itself, it was just incredible. It's just the icing on the cake.

Emily Blunt: I believe that that whole team was just fated to change the sport. Don't you think that it's a little convenient that you'd have this phenomenal photographer [Craig Stecyk] with you all the way… and that there's all this video footage? You even have the melodramatic stories of the childhoods you came from. You couldn't create all of this. In other words, if this was a Hollywood picture you'd look at it and go 'oh please that doesn't happen!'

Stacy Peralta: Yeah. It is odd. And the film's a reflection of the subject matter. We pieced it the way we did because we felt that the film should look like home videos from a family.

Tony Alva: The film also had a special rhythm.

Emily Blunt: Yeah! That's what went through my mind. I'm watching it and getting into it and listening to the music. The soundtrack is just phenomenal… when I read that the editor Paul Crowder was a drummer, I was just blown away, because though it looked and felt like a musical piece.

Stacy Peralta: He has a feel for music like no other director I've worked with. He's just one of the most eclectic geniuses on the planet.

Tony Alva: He easily inspired us all.

Emily Blunt: Dogtown and Z-Boys is up there with Citizen Kane[ laughter] Okay! So it's a little bit of an exaggeration but it's just fantastic. Thank you for making it.

Stacy Peralta: THANKS! [handing me great DTZB gifts] So is it your nephew that's the skateboader?

Emily Blunt: Yeah.

Tony Alva: [handing me a few more gifts] You gotta take him to see this.

Emily Blunt: Oh yeah, well he's just dying to see it anyway! He's like 'whoa, you are so cool-you're meeting Steve and Tony?' Now I'm cool. You don't know what you guys have done.

Tony Alva: How old is he?

Emily Blunt: He's seventeen.

Stacy Peralta: Oh brother.

Emily Blunt: He's a skateboarding monster and he does, thanks to you, all those dangerous moves that my sister-in-law gets all up in arms about! She gets him padded up like he's about to cross a Minnesota tundra in the dead of winter!

Tony Alva: I wear a helmet and stuff, but that's mostly because we skate extreme terrain and also the fact that if you're really going to hurt anything when you're skating, pads aren't gonna keep you from breaking your arm or your leg. You know, if it's gonna happen it's gonna happen. But the helmet is vital. Even at skate parks. So what if you don't look Joe Cool, you know? You're gonna save yourself some serious injury if you take a really hard fall.

Emily Blunt: This from a man who was doing this vertical stuff and that air gliding thing with no helmet as a kid?

Tony Alva: Oh, well, that's alright see.

Stacy Peralta: You grow and you learn.

Tony Alva: Yeah, you do. And you hopefully don't make the same mistakes. I've knocked my teeth out, Stacy's broken his arm, I've have bumps and bruises. It's good considering what we could've paid.

Emily Blunt: From what I've seen yeah.

Stacy Peralta: It's amazing that none of us ever got hurt too badly.

Tony Alva: You can get hurt just… surfing too. Or in one of these backyards.

Stacy Peralta: That would've been a disaster. We would've been taken to the hospital and arrested too.

Tony Alva: Then the other guys that would get hurt when we were younger kids, we didn't know them well so when these kids got hurt, we would drag them out and put them out on the street and say 'ok, call your mommy.' As long as you weren't in the pool.

Stacy Peralta: He's all got a fracture and the kids are screaming and 'hey, get him out of here before they hear him!' and the skating would go on. [laughter]

Emily Blunt: Your style looked more like surfing riffs than skateboarding.

Tony Alva: Yeah, but the style made us feel kinda like Jimi Hendrix or Carlos Santana or something. Rockstars. It was the only thing we knew, it was the utmost.

Stacy Peralta: The thing is we live in the age of extremism, where going big is all that matters now. Back then, you could go big but if you didn't look good doing it, you might as well not do it. You had to look good… you couldn't just learn it. You had to really put the time in.

Tony Alva: Eventually you just reach a state where you don't think about the style anymore. It's like a statis. But that is one part where the energy would let you get to, and the style that we represented, all the Z Boys had a very similar style even though they reached their peak. But I think it was because of our attitudes. We just had this really unique beautiful casual attitude. It was a lot of imagination. You're imagining yourself doing something while you're doing it.

Emily Blunt: I noticed the continual hand touching concrete, that was all very wavy surfery.

Stacy Peralta: When they showed surfing, Bertleman would do that! Every time we used to watch he would always have his hand scraping the crest.

EB; Would you say 'we put so much work into this style we designed?' I mean that you didn't just jump on these skateboards and God willed that you would use this style and recreate the sport?

Tony Alva: No we put in time. The only thing any of us really wanted to accomplish as kids was to get on the team. And to be recognized by the two guys [Skip Engblom and Jeff Ho]that owned that shop. Because once you're in that shop and they say 'you know, we like what you're doing.' You could be a part of us.' You know 'cause our parents didn't understand what we were doing, the school didn't understand it. They didn't want you bringing skateboards to school. They wouldn't let us and we'd have to stash them. We got no respect for doing it except for these two guys that ran the shop. And they were like 'Not only do we think it's cool what you're doing, but we want you to do this. And we're gonna support you guys.' And they gave us free skateboards, helped us make our own boards, they gave us… we were kids who could barely afford a two hundred dollar surfboard. They gave us surfboards. They'd make us work, we'd have to work a couple weeks in the shop, sweeping up stuff or doing whatever, but in the long run we got a surfboard, the thing that we would've paid hard-earned cash for. So you know it's the mid 70s in California you know, down in Santa Monica…

Stacy Peralta: You see that's a good point Tony's bringing up. Back then when we were living on the beach there and stuff, I remember it was just desert, open sky and ocean. But still there really was a different culture. It was just developing in this little petri dish of its own.

Tony Alva: Look at it now. Look how it's changed down there.

Emily Blunt: I'm not from here.

Stacy Peralta: Are you from Boston?

Emily Blunt: Yeah.

Stacy Peralta: Actually I've never been. I've been all over the US but not to Boston.

Tony Alva: I sponsored a guy from Boston. Fred Smith III and basically the editor from Thrasher magazine, Jake Hill, he's from Boston. Great place.

Emily Blunt: Yeah, especially to grow up in. In school when we'd learn about American history and say we'd be talking about Bunker Hill, we'd jump in the bus and go to Bunker Hill! It makes a difference with the learning.

Stacy Peralta: We don't have any historical architecture to speak of. Well we have old, super old missions, it's crazy. California's pretty rich in culture, but it was Indian and Mexican and European. The Spanish came here for a bit, then the Mexicans just took over.

Emily Blunt: Boston had so much to do with America, you know with the Revolution our birth as a nation.

Stacy Peralta: Philadelphia too. I love Philadelphia.

And off we went into heavy discussions on history and places to visit that were not so much skateboard friendly but made a great vacation…

Do your selves a favor and get to Dogtown and Z-Boys it's one helluva fine film. Dogtown and Z-Boys has been taking the independent circuit like a tsunami! Find this film! You'll be drawn in as you watch these kids, now adults and living their lives, morph the sport they loved. The sweetest thing is, naturally, these guys had no idea the impact their addiction to the rush of extreme riding would have on the skateboard community. Stacy, Tony and all their friends on the team recreated the term "vertical" and there's plenty of freespirited enthusiasts that are extremely thankful!

Dogtown and Z-Boys Review Here

 

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