My Friend Copied Eric Koston’s Face

By Peter Madsen


Joey, looking like Koston. Photo by Jesse Lash.

A mutual friend of mine is mistaken twice a week for Eric Koston. Although he’s nine years Koston’s junior, when Joey skates around his Brooklyn neighborhood wearing a certain five-panel cap, people nudge each other and go, “Wow, there’s Koston.” When he moseys into a particular Bushwick dive after growing a week’s stubble, the bartenders call him “Koston.” And once when he walked into Supreme, the employees kicked everyone out of the place and treated him like royalty before realizing he was just some dude with a face that happens to look like the face of one of the most legendary skateboarders alive.

Sure, in the grand scheme of things, looking like Koston decidedly puts you on the B-list of celebrity impersonators. Joey hasn’t gotten laid for his Koston-face or been mobbed by throngs of adoring fans, but when he meets anyone who knows anything about skateboarding he gets the star treatment for at least a little while, until he tells them that no, his name is not Eric, and he didn’t do a shifty flip before crashing through a cement wall a few years back.  

I interviewed Joey about what it’s like to have a face that looks like a really good skateboarder’s face.

VICE: When did you start looking like Eric Koston?
Joey:
I think the first time somebody noticed I looked like Koston was when I shaved my head—I think I was 18 at the time. When I started growing facial hair, I ended up looking more like him, especially when I wore this one O’Neill beanie to the mall. People would be like, “Oh, fuck! Is that Koston?” I wasn't big into skating back then, so I pretty much shrugged it off, just like how somebody tells you they can’t get over how much you look like their cousin Todd, or something. But after I started hearing it a couple more times, I looked up some photos of Koston and was like, “Dude, I actually really look like Koston.”

Eric Koston is half Thai, half white. What are you?
I’m just strictly Filipino, but a lot of Filipinos look Thai. Not to generalize, but I think people along the Pacific Rim all look the same. Some people think I’m half white because Koston is half.


The real Koston.

Tell me about what happened at Supreme.
This was on a Sunday a while back. I had my beard grown out, and I was there with a friend. All of a sudden, everyone started whispering, and the staff herded the customers out of the store. They shut off the music, and it was just me and my friend. Staff members came up and were like, “Oh, hey, we just got these Clark collaborations in; you should definitely check them out.” I was thinking, “What’s going on? These guys are never this friendly.”

[laughs] You didn’t realize right away what was happening?
Not at first. They were like, “Yeah, we got these in all different colors. If we don’t have your size, we’ll order it for you.” I was like, “Yo, man, I’m just here with my buddy. It’s fine; don’t worry about it.” He was like, “Oh, cool, cool.” And I think at that time he was probably thinking, “Oh, wait, he doesn’t really sound like Koston.” The clerks were whispering again, like, Oh, shit. That’s when I was like, “Wait a minute. I think you guys are mistaken; I’m not who you think I am.” They were like, “Shit! We totally thought you were Koston.” My buddy bought some shoes and we left.

Did anyone seem embarrassed?
I think one of the guys might have been. But it’s all good. We just all laughed about it. I went back there a different time, and this whole scenario started to happen again and I had to be like, “It’s cool, guys. I’m not Koston.”

You once ran into Koston, right?
[laughs] Yeah, I went with a girl to Whiskey Brooklyn on a Monday night. I looked over my shoulder and there, lo and behold, was Koston with his posse! I was like, What! Just freaking out. I was thinking, “I gotta go over and say hi to this guy. This is my only chance to run into Koston in my entire life.” I was so nervous when I went up to him and said, “Hey, man, this is going to sound totally retarded…”

Did his eyes flash in recognition?
I don’t think they did at first, no. I told him how people tell me I look like him once or twice a week. While he was stepping back to see, another friend of his, probably a pro skater, looked at me and said, “Oh, shit! You guys kinda look like each other.”

[laughs] This photo is so awesome.
Koston gave his phone to a buddy to take a couple photos of us, for his phone. We talked for a bit, I ordered another round of drinks for me and my girl, and we went our separate ways. I didn’t want to be that guy who is annoying and talking to him while he’s trying to have fun with his friends.

Some people’s acting careers get started because they look like a young so-and-so. Have you thought about using the similarities between Koston’s face and yours to become a star in your own right?
I could play him at an early age! Who knows, man. But yeah, it’s mainly whenever I wear this hat or I go to Pearl’s Social & Billy Club in Bushwick, where all the bartenders actually call me Koston. Actually, at a lot of bars guys are like, “Dude, I think Koston just walked in.”

Have girls ever said that you look like Eric Koston?
Yeah, totally.

Have you ever gotten laid as a result of that initial icebreaker?
I don’t think they would tie it to that, but I think a lot of girls are attracted to the fact that I dress like a skater. I don’t think they would think, Oh my god, you look like Eric Koston—I want to fuck you. I mean, I hope someday that happens. It’d be nice to meet some girl who wants to say she fucked some guy who looked like Eric Koston.

Let’s hope for your sake that Koston doesn’t turn out to be a serial killer or something. I mean, if his rep goes in the gutter tomorrow, people will go from “Hey, you look like Koston!” to “Hey, Koston, you’re a fucking asshole!” Have you ever worried about that?
No, not really. I don’t think that’s anything I’m concerned about.

Peter Madsen has written a bunch of stuff for Thrasher. His upcoming book, Dealers, will be released by powerHouse Books in September.

Here's a little video documentary we made of the real Koston doing real Koston stuff:

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