So speaking of autographs…
I had been skating for about three years before I discovered skateboard magazines. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea they existed (the discovery of videos still lay ahead of me, as well), but there they were: Thrasher and Transworld, June 1987 issues, right there on the shelf at Tower Records. Jaw goes to floor. Anyhow, we all know that feeling of ingesting every single detail in a magazine, from the letters section to the tiny versions of the latest decks in those old mail order ads, even down to reading each and every am check-out. And in one of those early issues I poured over, right in the am check-out section, lay one of the greatest discoveries of my entire skateboarding life. Jason Jessee. Never heard of him, never seen anything of him, but immediately I took note. He answered every question asked of him with answers having absolutely nothing to do with the questions, instead breaking up some discourse on the various singers in Black Flag over the years. I had no idea who Black Flag was either, but somehow this approach to a Q&A intrigued me greatly.
Cut to the following summer, 1988. He was already pro, had one of the coolest and best selling boards out (Neptune, duh), and had just dropped his debut part in Santa Cruz’s “Streets On Fire.” Now obviously, Natas had stolen the show in that video, but Jason was the star. Due to some injury, he hadn’t been able to film a lot (though his footage in the video, probably shot in like two afternoons, is amazing- complete with hair dyed gray. What?), and so to make up for his sort of lack of footage, or maybe just to occupy his idle time while recovering, he had landed the lead role in the dramatic portion of the video- the man arrested for skateboarding, the narrator, visited by friends while in lock-down, and seemingly sentenced to die for his crimes. It was in this performance that he earned the adulation of a generation. Hilarious and obscure, laughable yet tough, neurotic but stylish, it was the debut of a new personality that skateboarding was previously entirely without, and has not been replicated since. And all this on top of the single best frontside ollies ever executed by man. He had me at hello.
Same summer, he gets a Transworld Pro Spotlight. I devour it. All photos to wall. But not before reading it and finding that he put his address in it and asked people to write him if they felt like it. Yes, I felt like it. A few weeks later appears in the mailbox of my childhood home an envelope stamped with the Santa Cruz logo, addressed to me in an almost illegible red scrawl. He had received my letter and written back to me by hand. This was my first brush with that dream world of skateboarding, the place where these heroes resided as actual humans. This guy who had amazed me on the TV had actually received my little 12-year-old’s letter and written me back. The same hands that stalled those ridiculous Andrechts to fakie had picked up a pen and held this same paper I was now holding and responded to me, person to person. And not just an autograph, but a letter. Sentences. Obviously, it made enough of an impression on me that 23 years later I still think of it like this. I framed it, placed it on my desk, and built a special place in my heart for Jason Jessee, which is still heavily fortified even as a 35-year-old. I think I may have even added on a separate wing to it for that Poweredge interview. Doheny Dos Locos! He has never, and never will, fallen from my Pantheon.
His personality, his wit, his demeanor, his humor, his manner of speech and dress, his facial and hand gestures- so much of it has affected me. I never tried to imitate him, like I did with some other of my favorites as a youth, but his little offerings have been absorbed by my subconscious. I don’t think there’s another skater who has had as much personality impact on me. I wouldn’t say I act like him at all, nor do I skate like him at all, but I think his view of day-to-day life and circumstances has woven its way deeply into my brain. Like, once when asked what my best celebrity sighting has been, my immediate reaction was to call out the time I saw Richard Simmons at LAX, sauntering along in his red workout pants and fluffy afro. I don’t know exactly how, but I know that kind of mentality and appreciation for oddity has something to do with Jason Jessee’s influence on me.
So many people whom you admire change, and often for the worse, when you get to know them, but the complete opposite happened with Jason. I first met him face to face in 1997, and since then I have spent some awesome time with him. He has never said no to anything I have wanted to do, always totally open and willing and giving, and I have gotten to know him as a person beyond the façade of the public Jason Jessee- and that has been the real treat. I consider him a friend, and what better thing is there to happen than that? Thanks for the letter, J. You never know what some small gesture is going to do.