Meet the Nieratkos - GSD: The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Aug 3 2011
Garry Scott Davis, aka GSD, was the first pro skater to be sponsored primarily for skating street. He arguably invented the boneless (some credit Jeff Phillips). In the 80s, during his time at Transworld Skateboarding, he inspired a generation of skaters to pick up a pen and write down whatever was in our fried little heads. He is as eccentric as he is eclectic. He refuses to be photographed. Legend has it he slept in the ceiling of the Transworld offices for many years, long before Earl Parker, and later myself, lived in the Big Brother offices.
He put out a zine called SKATE FATE from 1981 to 1991. For the 30th anniversary, he has put together a best of SKATE FATE book for a mere $16.95.
Here’s what the press release says:
“Skate Fate was the first and longest-running homemade, photocopied skate zine. Published by GSD and jam-packed with hilarious interviews, corrosive articles, breath-snatching photography, vibrant artwork, twisted cartoons, clever ads (both real and fake) and the latest news, quotes and slang, it was all spontaneously laid out with ultra-vivid graphic design.
The Best of Skate Fate, a mega-thick, 320-page, stark black-and-white book bursting with the most crucial content culled from the pages of nearly all 76 issues of this legendary zine. It's delivered to you fresh from the pre-computer era, when pens, pencils, paper, glue, tape, triangles and T-squares were the tools of the trade. Scanned directly from the original master layouts, it all looks better than ever!
Exclusive full-length interviews delve into the minds of skateboarding icons Neil Blender, Steve Caballero, Steve Claar, Bill Danforth, Claus Grabke, Jeff Grosso, Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Marty Jimenez, Mike McGill, Lance Mountain, Corey O'Brien and Gavin O'Brien, Chris Miller, Stacy Peralta, Rob Roskopp, Billy Ruff, Skate Rat, John Smythe (Craig Stecyk), Kevin Staab and Tod Swank.
Neil Blender's cartoons featuring Mark Coonson and friends will leave you paralyzed by laugh attacks. The Best of Skate Fate--a vital, surreal window into the most creative era skateboarding has ever known.”
I wanted to interview Garry about his book but he doesn’t have a phone and lives in someone’s attic and the internet isn’t very good so I decided I should ask some skate legends like Tony Hawk, Grant Brittan, Dave Carnie, and others for their best GSD stories. Then Garry actually called me and I scrapped that idea. But here’s what Dave Carnie had to say about him, I thought it was worth noting.
Dave Carnie On GSD
“I like that he used to sleep in the ceiling at TWS. Like behind those square sound tiles. I think he got "caught" and they kicked him out. I can only imagine how awesome that little cave was. Probably smelled terrific, too. My first skate trip to San Diego I stayed with Mark Waters. Mark was telling us about how Garry was living in the offices and would keep really creepy hours and work through the night. "Let's crank call him!" we all decided. I have no idea what we said, it was probably totally hilarious, but I do remember his monotone, stoic voice had absolutely no reaction to whatever our stupid prank was. I was a little kid, so the idea of this dude living in the ceiling at a skate mag AND staying up all night just blew my mind. "Fuck! I want to do that!"
I know Chris Johansson also worshipped him back then. His writing, especially in aggro zone in TWS, was so out there, yet so accessible. I had been reading proper literature and had already been turned onto the "weird shit," you know like Camus, and Burroughs, and Nietzsche and shit, but Garry's stuff was really weird to me. And it was all the weirder because, wow, this dude's a skater like me. He was a huge inspiration. And it was cool to hear Chris say that he was profoundly influenced by him, too. I don't think people realize how rad GSD is and what an influence on skateboarding he's had. And I kind of like it that way. Because those who know what GSD was doing, really know, probably have the appreciation for him that millions of people would.”
THE GSD INTERVIEW
Chris Nieratko: What years were you pro and for whom?
GSD: I first turned pro in 1985 for Tracker, and they gave me a pro model that was the first pro street model. I was pro until 1989. Looking back on it now, I should have been pro from 1982 to’85, because by the time I actually turned pro I was a washed-up has-been. I was instantly made irrelevant by the Gonz and Natas and all those guys. [laughs].
What was your big street maneuver?
The boneless one. I thought up that around 1979 and me and my friends in Cincinnati, Ohio started doing it in 1980. Jeff Phillips used to claim that he invented it, but I never saw any documentation of it, so who knows?
Being a non-ollieing street skater back then, what is your take on modern street skating?
I didn’t ollie early on, but I did get into ollies in the late 80s. I never did a handrail or anything, though. I could ollie up onto curbs and bus benches. But my take on street skating now is that I think it’s amazing. For the past 20 years I’ve been astounded by all the stuff those guys pull off. All the flip tricks down handrails and 15-stair gaps blow my mind. But I do wish that videos and magazines would focus on all of skateboarding instead of just one kind of skateboarding, which is usually handrails. Back in the 80s you could see all different kinds of skating in videos and magazines, and now it seems like it’s too focused on one kind.
What is missing most? The Dan Gesmer Skate Ballet niche?
That and slalom. Freestyle. No, I’d be stoked if there were more pipes, pools, vert… maybe even the occasional downhill wouldn’t hurt.
Go Skateboarding Day appropriated your initials. Are you flattered or furious?
I’m flatted, but I think it was a total accident. I’m happy because on the web it takes a lot of attention away from me. I like to stay in the background. I don’t want to be up in everyone’s face.
What’s with you not allowing people to take photos of you?
I didn’t mind a long time ago, but when you turn into a fat, pasty, middle-aged guy, I’m not that stoked on it anymore.
So there’s really no chance of us seeing a nude pictorial of you, is there?
What kind of theme? Maybe a janitor? The Wild West?
Do you feel like you’re the Tony Hawk of GSDs?
How many GSDs are there besides German Sheppard Dogs? I’m the Frank Hawk of GSDs.
Legend has it you lived in the ceiling of the Transworld offices.
Back in the early 80s I was working at Tracker and making minimum wage, so I couldn’t afford to rent a room or an apartment. Me and a couple of other dudes, Brian Ridgeway and Marty Jimenez, were sleeping on the floor at Tracker. After a year, the owner of Tracker, Larry Balma, kicked us out but didn’t increase our wages. A lot of times we’d sleep in these trampolines called highballs at Delmar Skatepark. Sometimes I didn’t feel like taking a bus down to Delmar, so I would end up sleeping at Tracker even though I was banned. There was this little ladder in the bathroom that went up to the roof, but in-between the ceiling and the roof there was this two-foot high crawlspace and I put a piece of plywood up there and slept. Then Stecyk printed in the Trash column of Thrasher that one morning the ceiling gave way and I came crashing through onto the sink below. That was totally fabricated, but I did sleep up there a few times. One time I was up there asleep and Tracker Larry climbed up and was like, “You’re busted, GSD!” I don’t know what I did after that… probably started sleeping in an anthill somewhere.
You stopped being a pro in 1989. What have you been doing since?
I’ve been an amateur. I did some recording and touring with a band called Custom Floor. I worked on Skateboarder when they first came back in ’97. Then I worked at Sole Tech from 2002 to 2009 as an editor, and I did all the content for the Emerica, eS and Altamont websites. Since then I’ve just been freelancing for Maloof and Sole tech and a bunch of other stuff.
What’s the best interview in this book?
I only skimmed over the interviews, so I’ll actually reread them again in the book. But I remember the Steve Claar interview being pretty nuts. Jason Jesse helped me interview him, and that one gets pretty raw—there are some wild stories in there. There’s something in there about a jizz rag under the bed.
Who is your favorite skater of all time?
Neil Blender and Mark Gonzales. They were both amazing influential skaters and artists.
What’s the spider monkey story?
That was when I lived in San Jose in 1982. I lived in this boarding house on the east side in this full Cholo neighborhood. This old alcoholic lady rented out her whole house to all these boarders. She had this spider monkey in the backyard chained to a tree and it had its own house and stuff. I would never go near that spider monkey because I always had a bad feeling about it. Then one day Craig Ramsey came over to pick me up to go skating, and he went up to it and started petting it and it bit this huge chunk out of his wrist, like a half dollar-sized chunk. He had to go straight to the hospital and get all this surgery and stuff for severed tendons. It was pretty crazy.
Buy SKATE FATE at Blurb: http://www.blurb.com/my/book/detail/2340607
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