This post has nothing whatsoever to do with comic books. This post does have a lot to do with skateboarding and is a movie review so it gets in on the blog. I have just watched Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator twice now in two days, the second about an hour ago and I am still reeling from what a good movie this is. This actually came out in 2003 and I remember hearing about it then but somehow I never managed to get around to seeing it until now.
I started skateboarding in 1985 and continued skating up to around mid 1993. When I started skating in eighty-five Mark “Gator” Rogowski was one of the biggest names in skating and along with Lance Mountain, Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, and Tony Hawk was one of my favorite skaters. This feeling was shared by many as I remember the Gator deck being very popular with other skaters I knew at the time and the documentary confirms this. My second deck was a Gator and I had a least one more after that one. In 1992 he murdered a girl and went to prison. I was, like I imagine most of his fans, shocked by this.
This documentary is just what the title says, the story of the rise and fall of Gator. I generally don’t approve of life story documentaries about murderers but this one serves a larger purpose as a cautionary tale about the excesses of fame at a young age and the hardships young people endure when their time in the spotlight is over and they aren't the big thing anymore. The movie begins in the early eighties when Gator was first becoming popular. The film does an excellent job of capturing that era in a way that I really felt transported back to it. Old video footage from Vision videos that I haven’t seen in years mixed with still photographs from Transworld and Thrasher that I haven’t seen in years and a soundtrack featuring Naked Raygun and the Faction (both of who I have continued to listen to through the years) had me wistfully nostalgic for the first half hour of the movie. This seems an odd feeling to have because by the end of the movie I was completely bummed out.
And that’s part of the movies brilliance. It reminds us why we liked Gator in the first place and put us smack in the middle of his world on the road to fame evoking all the fun and excitement of skateboarding at that time then taking us through the hollow, phony commercialism of the late eighties Vision Street Wear phase where Gator seemed to reach the height of his fame and success. Actually I don’t remember much about Gator from this time. I always thought Vision Street Wear was lame and never had any. Instead of Vision I mostly skated Zorlac, Powell, and Santa Cruz products in the late eighties. I do remember seeing him on that episode of Club MTV that they show in the movie. Following this we see his decline as his alcohol problems and mental problems get worse culminating in his raping and murdering a friend of his girlfriend.
The film brings home the horror of what he did showing interviews with the police who investigated the crime recounting it in horrible vivid detail. The only criticism I might have of the movie is it spends so much time humanizing Gator as a tragic figure and maybe not enough time on humanizing his victim Jessica Bergsten. The movie is Gators story however and it is a sad story indeed. Many people from skateboarding who knew Gator are interviewed and Stacy Peralta sums up what I think is the point of the film best in his interview stating that fame is often not worth the cost especially at the young age that most professional skateboarders are. This film should be required viewing by anyone who is on the verge of becoming famous in any field that has a quick turnover of superstars.
I highly recommend this movie to anyone even if you were never interested in skateboarding. I’ll try to get back to talking about comics again soon.