Buggles review

Dogtown and Z-Boys

Director: Stacy Peralta


There, that's my review. What else do you need?

When I first saw the previews for Stacey Peralta's documentary of the rebirth of skateboarding during the mid 1970's I knew it was something that would interest me. When it finally appeared at the local "art" theatre I was practically salivating.

And I wasn't disappointed.

"Dogtown and Z-Boys" chronicles the lives of several teens growing up during the seventies in a crappy section of Los Angeles's Orange County. In an area devoid of state sponsored cultural activities, they create their own with disciplines like graffiti, hot rod design, surfing and finally "land surfing" or skateboarding. Skateboarding becomes these kids’ primarily pursuit, and aside from hanging out at Jeff Ho's Zephyr surf shop, they do little else. They challenge each other to crazier and crazier acts. They hop park benches. They drain pools to simulate the surfing experience of "catching air."

Without meaning to, they create the vocabulary for the modern language of skateboarding.

Toward the middle of the decade, skateboarding experiences a bit of a comeback. It's popularized as a sport, but also as a culture, primarily through Craig Stecyk's articles in SKATEBOARDER magazine. Now calling themselves The Z-Boys, the team of skateboarders who frequented the Zephyr surf shop (it should be noted the team contained one girl) take their style to the 1975 Del Mar Skateboarding championships. And then it all blows up.

Suddenly kids who were skating for fun, for companionship are being handed product sponsorships worth tens of thousands of dollars and are traveling the globe. The Z-boys explode. In more ways then one. It's their individual success that ends up destroying the team.

And that's part of what made "Dogtown and Z-Boys" so fascinating to me: It's about so much more that skateboarding. As a musician, much of my teen hood was mired in arguments about what constituted selling out. And there's no doubt that by the tenets of punk philosophy, the Z-boys did sell out. They traded friendship for fame, camaraderie for cash. They became rock stars.

And yet, can you blame them? The Z-Boys were poor. The Z-Boys were young, subject to all the temptations of that age. The Z-Boys were… kinda stupid. And there's no denying that by pursuing the big time as they did, the Z-boys profoundly influenced modern culture, creating a sport and pastime that has affected and attracted millions of teenagers since the seventies on. (Myself included, as I had a brief flirtation with the sport - enough to get several scars I carry with me to this day.)

There's one other aspect worth commenting on in relation to the film Dogtown and Z-Boys: the aesthetic. The seventies were a funky looking period and so much of where Skateboarding headed was determined by the design of the public structures where young skateboarders skated - The public schools, the bus stop benches, the parks. Part of what drove the Z-Boys to skate pools was the experience of riding these big tar gradients that lowered themselves in the high school basketball courts - just like the ones the public schools where I grew up had. I was born in 1971 and while looking over the geography of the era, I found it both familiar and absolutely alien. (I get the same feeling with those retro seventies Nike ads starring Bootsy Collins.) Like it or not - this is where I come from. But, it was a long time ago.

So anyway... "Dogtown and Z-Boys" - check it out, bro!


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