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The Unearthed Rodney Mullen Video Is Both Shitty and Amazing

I'd rather watch Mullen skate in a crappy parking lot for three hours than some branded event, where every dude looks like a Nascar racer.
April 3, 2012, 4:00am

Twenty years ago I was in high school. After school, I'd skip around from parking lot to parking lot in a black 1979 Oldsmobile Delta, packed with sweaty friends, listening to cassette tapes, and drinking fountain sodas. Our legs were often covered in bright oversized denim, and our double-XL Bob T-shirts hung like robes, covering our exposed boxer shorts and elbows. Five years prior, we longed to find the perfect empty swimming pool, concrete skate park, or a vert ramp carefully tucked away in the woods. None of these things existed in a twenty-mile radius of our ‘burbs, but we did have rough parking lots with yellow-painted curbs that would grind and slide after being coated with pounds of wax.


We were over the 1980s, the tight pants, launch ramps, shirtless dudes with sunglasses in pools mugging for the camera, and the berets and fanny packs we were duped into buying.

For some reason, it was way cooler to dress like a human graffiti character and listen to Das EFX, slowly rolling ona Popsicle-shaped deck with wheels so small they barely covered our bearings.

In the summer of 1992, Plan B's “ Questionable” video was released. We all knew it was a "super-team," an assemblage of big-time skaters carefully constructed, managed, and marketed by H-Street co-founder and visionary Mike Ternansky (RIP). We had worn the VHS tape out, memorizing all the bits of dialogue. We imagined grinding handrails like Pat Duffy, with Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s “Grey Cell Green” providing the soundtrack.

Even more surprising was Rodney Mullen's entrance into street skateboarding, briefly hinted at in World’s “Rubbish Heap” video a few years prior. Everyone was taking Mullen’s flat-plane bag of tricks to ledges, benches, and stairs, so, with a lot of coercion from Ternansky, he took to street skating, and kind of mastered it, completely changing and redefining what was considered "technical."

Unfortunately for my young self, the only thing cool about that summer was watching “Questionable.” None of us could back-smith a kinked rail, have cool Mike Carroll hands when we did get on a ledge, or so much as come close to anything Ryan Fabry was doing. (Does anyone remember he was in the video? Second-most fast-forwarded part in skateboarding video history, with Jordan Richter’s “Video Days” part famously holding the number one spot.)

What we did do was eat a lot of sugar, flick our boards around hoping they flipped right before we’d get frustrated, crank dated rap and Pennywise cassettes, crash out in air-conditioned bedrooms wishing we were half as good as anyone on Plan B, and wait for the newest Big Brother to arrive in our mailboxes., the ‘90s skating nostalgia website, uploaded the above footage from a demo featuring Mullen, the genius, and Brian Lotti whose “Now ‘N Later” part was so influential that I ordered the bootleg Smiths shirt he wore in it, despite not liking the band. I watched it and was taken back. Unfortunately, the footage was as anti-climactic as the summer of 1992 (I didn't manage to get laid then)—it’s just two incredibly talented humans, spinning their boards around on a cracked blacktop, with some sort of wooden structure as an "obstacle," trying to entertain a hundred onlookers. It's obvious both Mullen and Lotti are light years ahead of every scrub in the background, especially the dude at the end in his teddy-bear colored Airwalks and Green Bay Packers kit. We do see a pair of female legs in Mary Janes among the sea of striped T-shirts and Blind jeans, which is something. Mullen and Lotti roll back and forth sweating, probably bored out of their fucking minds: It's hot as fuck out, there's trash blowing around, and it’s gross. Mullen drags his toes and heels as much as any of us did that summer, when our boards flipped in drunken patterns and we hoped we’d somehow land on their right side.

Until watching this video, I had no proper clue why the summer of 1992 was at once so awesome and shitty, or why I even kept skateboarding after two months of let-down, but I have an idea. I'd rather watch this for three hours than some branded event from Circa now, where every dude looks like a Nascar racer, covered in energy drink logos and iced-out sponsor chains and Greg Lutzka does the same three tricks I didn't like the first time I saw them at his last contest. Risking boredom in a parking lot for a few hundred bucks felt like you were watching something real, not a job.