A Toothless God
The story of the Zephyr skateboarding team, the guys who midwifed modern skate culture, has been retold in magazines, books, the DogtownandZ-Boysdocumentary, and in the upcoming LordsofDogtown,the feature film based on the doc.
But as important as they were to the sport (and the multimillion-dollar commercial enterprise skateboarding and other extreme sports have become), Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, Jay Adams and the rest of the Z-Boys are not spokesmen for the entire revolution, just a part of it—the part they carved for themselves on the streets, sidewalks and drained backyard swimming pools of Venice, Santa Monica and West LA.
Duane Peters is absent from Dogtownbecause of geography; he was born and raised in OC. But he was just as influential in skateboarding—perhaps the most influential skater ever. WhoCares?TheDuanePetersStoryis a remedy. Director John Lucero set up the film as a sort of companion piece to the Dogtowndoc. Like Dogtown,WhoCares?is all interviews cut with vintage skate footage. The film argues that the Zephyr skate team wasn't unusual: America in the '70s was a nation of similarly outcast, broken-home kids who found salvation in polyurethane wheels screwed onto a wooden plank.
Dogtownhad a rich well of skating legends retelling their histories. Peters' tales of mindless self-destruction—he wasn't called the Master of Disaster for nothing—would border on unbelievable if Lucero hadn't found so many friends and fellow skaters to back him up. You quickly realize that Peters had to have his own movie.
Peters' birth in Anaheim marked the boy for destiny: his mother's obstetrician cut Baby Duane in the head while breaking her water. As a kid, he jumped in front of moving cars and trains just to see how close he'd come to getting hit. He was the first skater to execute a 360-degree upside-down death loop—after shattering his collarbone. He almost lost an arm because he broke his elbow so badly in a drunken tumble down a staircase. He used winnings from skate contests to pay drunk-driving fines. To fuck with people—his favorite hobby—he'd show up at competitions with a swastika drawn on his head and gob loogies into other skaters' helmets.
But mostly Duane loved his drugs. "I liked whiskey, I liked heroin, and I liked cocaine with my heroin," he says in the film. "I hated acid, but gimmie some of that, too." There were robberies, credit-card scams, run-ins with the cops, and two sons he wasn't ready to parent. He was twice taken to emergency rooms for overdosing, dead-on-arrival.
Only in his forties, Peters' life already has a kind of Hollywood climax, followed by the moment when he sobers up and gets responsible. But before that, we see that art imitated life—his penchant for personal injury imprinted itself on his punk rock projects in bands such as the Hunns, the Exploding Fuck Dolls and U.S. Bombs. The original punk rock skateboarder, if Peters hadn't thought to put the Ramones, Black Flag and the Germs onto his skating mixtapes, today's kids might still be grinding curbs to Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper. Indeed, look closely enough at his face, and you can see the history of the Warped Tour where Peters' front teeth used to be.
WHO CARES? THE DUANE PETERS STORY PREMIERE, FEATURING LIVE PERFORMANCES BY DIE HUNNS, THE STITCHES AND JFA, AT THE BRIGG, 17208 PACIFIC COAST HWY., HUNTINGTON BEACH, (562) 592-2200. FRI., 8 P.M. $10. 21+.
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