mark and eric's pack of lies


So speaking of Blender…

I know, I know, each dot should lead to another new one, but there’s just too much beauty and mystery and straight-up magic in Neil Blender for me to just move on immediately. But I’ll do it with focus- his part in “Footage” from G&S.

By the time 1990 rolled around, Blender had already been there and done that. All of it. He was a vert legend by the early ‘80s, contributed OG street innovations (no-comply, anybody?), ushered in the era of mini-ramps, been a figurehead in the DIY board graphics movement in skating, given all the best names to all the best tricks, and generally been a unique and ultra-creative personality for years upon years. What all that seemed to add up to was a part featuring some of the most “I don't give a fuck” (in a good way) skating and speaking ever captured on video. Blender seemed like he couldn’t care less about being cool or doing anything related to what the cool guys were doing (note that this part was post-Hocus Pocus, post-Rubbish Heap), and as a result, he was the coolest ever. That’s kind of a cliché, but he epitomizes it. Some notes from the epic and savagely under-appreciated seven-minute part…

1) It opens with an illustration of possibly a seated kangaroo playing a lute for some cats? The tone is set.

2) Scene two finds him in the bathroom at a Super-8 motel with some cheap toy top, a cup, and a sink full of water. I want to pause on this fact for a moment. This is obviously down time on some tour. Rather than partying, getting chicks, shopping, buying weed, or whatever else most pros on the road would do with their precious down time, Blender has chosen a toy, a cup and a sink full of water. It’s these little moments that become the nuggets of both confusion and attraction for me, as memorable or possibly more so than most tricks in video parts. Anyhow, the top goes into the water, and his reply: “I hate that game.” What? This is a game you’ve played before? So many questions! How is the water supposed to factor in? Argh, the mystery has already begun.

3) “That’s the stuff people put in their coffee.” Lighting non-dairy creamer on fire in the street? Enough said.

4) Rocket tailblock on the ramp in the woods. Have you ever tried this? Just thinking about it is difficult.

5) “Guh-duls… guh-duls!” Imagine trying to use that call to actually get girls. He had the weird, vaguely eastern European accent down pat a solid decade before Borat emerged. I call to my two daughters this way at least once a week.

6) Fakie manual on a mini-ramp. People were not doing this in the streets yet.

7) OK, now the incredibly quick scene where he walks up, drops his bag and gets into an attack crouch in front of a group of young kids… this might be the single most mesmerizing thing in a skate video I ever saw. When this video came out, my parents had just gotten a new VCR that had a slow-mo function, and I used that button literally hundreds of times while watching this scene. He moves like a graceful hunting cat, and the children are actually frightened. Look how they scatter. Why does he do this? Why do I need to see it over and over? Why is it so captivating? It’s like a scene out of Twin Peaks or something.

8) Back to the mini. This whole segment blows my mind. He does tricks that nobody ever did before and nobody has done since. If I could choose between doing the tricks he does in this part or the tricks Daewon and Haslam do in Cheese and Crackers, I would not hesitate a moment to take Blender’s quiver. The shopping cart/push manual, the fakie sweeper, the pendulum f/s rock, and on and on, all done by a 6-foot+ man on a three-foot mini while wearing full pads.

9) “Trip out, trip out.” Another moment I cannot explain my fantastic attraction to, and another phrase I utilize regularly whenever something is supposed to be weird but actually isn’t.

10) The scene in the shop where he analyzes a few graphics. This is probably the most widely known moment from the overall part because of the skeletons comment. Parking Corey O’Brien’s flaming reaper may have been the exact turning point in the transition from the ‘80s to the ‘90s in terms of board graphics, the metaphorical shot heard round the world. I think we, as a community, avoided skull and skeleton graphics for a solid six or seven years in the aftermath of this comment. That’s how powerful and how much a sign of the times it was. Neil dictated the future. It was right on then, and it is right on now. How skulls made such a comeback, I just don’t know.

And also the John Sonner comment- is he calling him a whittler, as in somebody who does small things, or is he calling him a widdler, which I was told means somebody who pees the bed? Either way, John Sonner retired shortly after this part came out.

11) Watching him throughout the part, I still notice his clothes. This was 1990- Limpies pajama pants, neon high-top Airwalks, side print t-shirts, chain wallets, etc. But there he is: skinny khakis, black socks, extremely basic low-top sneakers, t-shirts with no logo. Minimalism. Basics. Made me realize that when you really stand out from the crowd, you don’t need to advertise it outwardly. Actions speak louder than outfits.

12) The small spine. This session also blows my mind. The hand-out on a deck not much wider than his board. No-handed nosepick on a board with very little nose. Nollies over the spine, also with very little nose. And of course, inverts around the spine. Around it. I think that is the quintessential trick in the part. Never seen it again.

13) A few moments later, the music starts and you realize there has been no music the entire time, and you have been totally captivated nonetheless. As a HUGE fan of music creating the right vibe for a part, I must say that I can’t imagine this part with a song. It would have ruined it, would have taken away the hushed reverence, the silent awe that I appreciate it with. And it’s interesting- as the part fades out and you get the very Dino-sounding track, the super-8 footage, and the crusty Ohio wallride spot, you can literally see the initial contractions of the birth of the Alien Workshop happening. Within a few months, Blender would leave G&S, taking along Steve Claar, Duane Pitre, a pre-pubescent Rob Dyrdek, and a few others along to start AWS with Chris Carter and Mike Hill. Remember, when Workshop was first around, it was riding on Blender’s shoulders. He carried it. His aesthetic was a huge piece of what defined the Workshop look and feel, and still does to this day. I don't think enough people give him credit for that. And then once Workshop was up and running, he promptly disappeared. Into the ether.

This is already ridiculously long, so I’ll clip the string in a second. But to me, this is one of the parts that is bigger than skateboarding, more than skateboarding. It’s a moment that shaped my life in strange, unknown, but powerful ways. Neil Blender is one of the few pros who I admired greatly but didn’t ever meet- and I hope to keep it that way. Sacred cows and all that.


Anonymous said...

isn't Footage the video where he sings the Jeff Jones song? comedy gold...

Anonymous said...

Da best. Thanks Neil.

Sean said...

I was watching Kids the other day with some non-skaters. When Gonz in Video Days came on for a second I tried to explain the importance in a few words. Something more like this was probably in order.

I wish I had access to a mini-ramp right now. But I guess Blender's whole thing is it doesn't matter what you got in front of you. Just mess around and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

This is a time I truly enjoyed skateboarding. Late 1980's into the early 1990's. This Blender part is on my top ten list for sure. Been skating for over twenty years now and still find myself gravitating towards these earlier video parts. Can it be that it was all so simple then.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.


ps 'clap' 'clap' 'clap' 'I want ice cream'

Keith said...

FYI... that's not a "toy top". That's a gyroscope, which is a contraption you'd typically find in the science section of a museum gift shop. My physics teacher back in the day used one in class to illustrate something or another about angular velocity or acceleration. Pretty weird and interesting shit.

I watched Footage a lot back in the day. The skate shop part is hilarious and the trainwreck bobcat guy... that shit's golden.

I watched his Speed Freaks part more though. "We're gearing up for getting down" lol

That moon-surface-like skate park (was it called sadlands or something like that?) looks so tight and hard to skate.

Anonymous said...

anyone know the song at the end of the clip?

Wyatt Lee said...

Gyroscope-- right you are. Thanks for the correction.
Sadlands is/was the name of the moon crater spot. Always looked amazing.
Song at the end is called "Cigarettes" by Worked World. Not sure it is commercially available, but it is available...
Thanks to all who have been taking the time to read these, I had a blast doing them with Eric!
-Mark Whiteley

mdspb said...

And Worked World is/was his band!

Paul Gonella said...

That part is a defining milestone.

His work really came to fruition with Memory Screen, which I love dearly. So experimental and breaking so many rules. Something criticised at the time as it wasn't like all the rest, now hopefully can be seen as a wonderful experiment.

Watching it in the dark with the volume up is something special.

Sleezy Bone said...

I'm only twenty-two years old, but I was immediately stoked on this part during one of my many bouts of skate nerding online. Neil's been a skate hero since I was tipped off to him by a pissed-off Rad Dad skater at Lansing Park who said I skated like him. His mixture of unfiltered creativity and raw skill is much more inspiring to watch before a sesh then a bunch of rail hotdogging

Anonymous said...


JG said...

The crater looking thing was called moon park and yes it was hard to skate

Anonymous said...

Neil is saying "whittler," which was short for "dick whittler" which is something he exclaimed often.