The Life and Times of Steven Cales.
SC: Hey man, before we get started: Do you know anything about that "Police Informer" site that's also posted some old skate stuff of me?
CBI: I think he lives in Canada but I don’t really know him.
Because that site kinda got me into some shit before. When you’ve been in as much trouble as I have, having your name on a site called “Police Informer” isn’t a good look. I’ve had to explain that one a couple of times actually. I don’t really like being on there.
I never thought of it that way but you have a point. Maybe he’ll see this. So let’s start this off with a little background if we could, growing up as a young skateboarder in New York back in the 1980’s.
Aw man, growing up in New York… Sunset Park, Brooklyn to be exact. It was rough. I mean, to be honest, I’ve probably had a much different experience than most people in skateboarding. Both my mother and later my father died when I was still very young. Combine that with where I grew up and the people I grew up around, it made me a much harder person. I grew up with an attitude.
I had an older brother who used to run around in the streets, doing bad shit. He liked to be tough but people respected him. He was known throughout the hood, which honestly helped me because I became known as “Ref’s little brother.” I got love from that. People knew who I was. New York was a lot rougher back then but that made things a little easier for me.
My brother would force me to fight when I was young because he felt that I needed to learn. I remember him pushing this kid into a ditch one time and making me jump on top of him. He made me punch this kid in the face. Literally holding my hands, showing me how to punch. This is when I’m like 10 or 11 years old. That’s how it was.
Yeah, didn’t he steal your first board or something?
Not quite like that. There was a kid skating down my street one day and I thought it was cool. My brother ends up walking over to the kid to ask if I can try it. The kid hands over his board and it becomes obvious that my brother isn’t gonna give it back.
“Alright, kid. Go on home. Just keep walking.”
“But my skateboard!?!”
“Nah, its my little brother’s now.”
It was mad craze… bully-ass motherfucker. But it was on after that.
This was during that OG Shut era and I know some of those guys used to skate around your neighborhood back then. I imagine that having a big influence on you as a young skater, right?
Oh yeah, I’d see guys like Obed Rios all the time. Brian Blake, that dude was my favorite back then. So sick. Richie Rojas was ill, too. I got names.
I’d see them on 51st Street in Brooklyn. There was a crew called Team Trouble that had a few of those guys in there. They were really good. I remember seeing them blasting so high off launch ramps. That shit’s amazing when you’re little. You want to do that, too.
I was actually on Shut for a little while but that was later on, after most of those dudes had split. It was towards the end of Shut, before they came back out with Zoo. I’m pretty sure I was a pain in the ass back then because out of the blue, Rodney comes up and tells me that he’d gotten me on Think somehow. That’s not how that shit usually goes. I still don’t really know how that happened but I was on some random shit back then anyway.
Yeah, weren’t you on Alva at one point as well? Was that through a sponsor-me tape?
Yeah, I basically only sent sponsor-me videos out to companies that I thought I could probably get on. I knew I wasn’t getting on H-Street or nothing like that yet… let me try Alva. (laughs)
The first time I ever heard of you was during the Blue days. Although a short-lived company, the team was legendary. How’d that happen?
Blue had a demo in Manhattan right when they first came out. I remember hearing about the demo beforehand and deciding right then and there that I was gonna go all-out crazy. I thought they were so sick. That’s how I thought it all worked back then: if dudes were around, you skated your ass off and hopefully they liked what they saw.
I was lucky because it actually worked out that way for me. Jason Lee straight up asks me if I want to join the team for the rest of the tour, right there at the demo.
“Oh yeah! Fuck it. Let’s go!”
I was hyped, man. I’m only 14-years old but it’s not like I have a stable situation at home. Whatever I wanted to do… fuck it, I did it. They start hooking me up with boards and by the end of the tour, I’m officially on the team. Dope.
Dune flew me back out to Cali after the tour was over and found me a place to stay in South Gate. It was Blue’s secretary’s house. I can’t even remember her name but her boyfriend was Mark Gonzales’ brother, Mike. Mark actually came over a few times and I was tripping. I’m in Cali, mad young, skating everyday and falling into the scene. It was all lovely, man. I thought that I’d made it.
How serious were you taking all of this back then? Getting a heavy sponsor and moving out west are some serious moves for anybody, regardless of age.
Nah, at that point, I was really just trying to be good at skating. To skate my best. I figured that if I was good enough, there was no way I could be ignored. And once again, I got lucky. The industry stuff just worked itself out for me on its own. That doesn’t happen for a lot of people.
How was it coming straight out of Brooklyn and being plopped right in the middle of the California scene like that?
Aw man, I was so hyped. It was like a dream come true. I’m out in California skating with Jason Lee! And the thing is, Jason Lee knows everyone. It’s all connected. So you might just be going out to skate and run into dudes like Paulo and Guy! Next thing you know, you’re out skating with legends on the regular! You start feeding off that shit. It’s like a switch that turns on in your head or something. You start skating extra good because you’re hyped on who’s around.
Did you find that a lot of your new West Coast peeps were tripping on your style of dress and slang? It did seem like you had a particular influence on the scene in that regard, introducing some East Coast flavor.
The ese’s used to always trip out on the way I dressed. I’d go over by Fabian’s house and sometimes dudes would be looking at me like I was crazy. But I was chilling in all baggy Polo gear, looking at them like they fucking crazy in their dusty shoes. (laughs)
I was always dressing in Polo back then… I’m from Brooklyn, that’s how it goes, ya know? Everything Polo to the socks and drawers. I always thought that stuff was cool and it wasn’t long before I started seeing others sporting that stuff as well. My gold fronts, too. All gold with little diamonds in ‘em. Joey and Cheeks ran those for a bit.
Same thing with the slang. I’d be saying “stuups” a lot and everybody started to say that shit as well. “Butters”, “buttery”, “craze”… that was all me.
You coined “stuups”, right?
Yeah, that was me and my boy Rick buggin’ out one day, making crazy faces at each other like you do when you’re young. Calling each other stupid. It just came out like that.
I think people got it all wrong though. We used it as something crazy to say with your boys around people you didn’t know. You could say it all crazy long and drawn-out while somebody was talking and they wouldn’t know what was going on.
“Wait. What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
Those guys out in Cali were always tripping off me but it’s cool. That’s how it goes. If you’re around a person a lot, you pick up stuff naturally. I feel like after I got out there, I had everybody dressing and talking like me. I didn’t think about it like that at the time. We were all so little and they were my bros. It was all just having fun.
You are known for a love of mischief, often at the expense of your sponsors. Was this something that could be seen all the way back in these early Blue days?
Yeah, but again, it was more about having fun back then. More innocent.
Probably what stands out the most from back then was stealing the Blue van. It was me, Billy Valdes, Fabian Alomar and Matt Naylor. We somehow got it in our heads that we had to skate the Powell park that day. Kevin, the Blue team manager, was with us and he had the van… but we didn’t want him to go. So I ended up stealing the keys while he wasn’t looking and bounced.
Here we are, a van full of dudes rolling down Hollywood on our way out to Santa Barbara. I’m only fifteen years old and I’m driving. No license, smoking weed… I don’t even know how we found our way out there but we did. It was craze.
Kevin was so mad at me, man. He was going crazy… but somehow, they let me slide. I mean, I only borrowed it. I’m on Blue, I was gonna give it back. I just decided to take it for a little bit. (laughs)
Nowadays, you’d get kicked off for doing that type of crazy shit and honestly, I probably should’ve been, too. But Blue was cool like that. A team manager ain’t nothing but a babysitter anyway and they knew I was hardheaded and crazy, even back then. It was all good.
How’d World enter the picture?
World basically came about from hanging out with Shiloh, Soc and Guy so much. Skating Los Feliz together, doing our thing. I guess it was only a matter of time before Shiloh got me on World. I think Guy had a hand in it, too. I wasn’t actively trying but those guys talked to the team anyway and they were down. I was already cool with most of those guys already and Rodney hooked it up… even though I think I made him mad by bringing out the weed and shit. Most of those dudes didn’t smoke weed like that back then. They’d definitely never rolled blunts or anything like that before. Once again, I came out here with the New York stuff and they started going crazy. (laughs)
I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to skate for World. Kareem ended up quitting to go back to those guys, too. Blue was bummed.
Was there any talk of Stereo yet?
Nah, it wasn’t to that point yet. I could tell there were some problems but I was still so little…
Honestly, I don’t like how I left Blue. I didn’t know how to go about showing the respect to people who helped me in my career and in life. I just broke out without even telling them.
“I want to skate for this shit. I don’t give a fuck about these other guys anymore.”
I realize now that there is a proper way to do things. You can’t go around burning bridges. You gotta honor the people who try to help you. I’ve had kids break out on me like that with Fifth Avenue and I wanted to ring their fucking necks. But I can’t get too mad because I’m guilty of that same shit. People trying to help me and I just ran ‘em over. It’s stupid. I realize now how it feels to be on the other side.
I definitely burned the bridge with Blue at the time but we squashed it years later. I wanted them to know that I do appreciate all they did for me.
It’s funny… there was a minute there where Fabian got me into some shit and all of a sudden, I thought I was an actor. I’d be out there saying maybe one line, if that… sometimes I’d just be out there staring at people and I thought I was acting. So stupid. But yeah, I remember calling up Jason Lee like, “Yo, I’m an actor now. Wanna run through some lines and shit?”
He just laughed at me.
“You gotta go by these places and learn how to act first!”
Didn’t you film a full part for Love Child back then and it never came out?
Yeah, I had a full part. Most of the footage is out there now. There’s more to that as well but I’m not sure where it is. Soc said he’s seen it around. I’d love to collect all that old shit.
A back heel and an inward heel down the Embarcadero 7 in 1992? That shit would’ve catapulted your career. How come that footage never saw the light of day back then?
I ended up quitting World to ride for ATM before it ever came out.
I didn’t even care about that footage back then. I think if I would’ve tried, I probably could’ve gotten it back. But, to be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind. It’s dumb but I kinda felt like fuck it, I’ll just go out and film some more shit. I think that had a lot to do with being young.
Mike Ternasky filmed one of those down the 7. Ternasky and Mike Carroll asked me to ride for Plan B back then, saying they’d pay me more than what World was at the time. Rocco upped my pay because of that. Plan B was dope but I just figured I’d chill on World. Looking back on it, I might’ve done things differently.
What was your attitude towards filming and photos?
Filming and photos were fun at first but after a while, I stated to feel like I couldn’t breathe. Too many camera guys always around. It started to drive me crazy.
Skaters weren’t really tight with photographers or filmers back then. Those guys were more about being “work” for us. Obviously we were tight with Soc and a few others but for the most part… nah.
Some of it was on me, though. Sometimes I wouldn’t even feel like filming but instead of just saying that, I’d waste people’s time. Make them drive me out to some far away spot and not even skate when we got there… like a dick. Retarded.
I didn’t have respect for anybody back then and I definitely didn’t respect people’s time. I just didn’t know. I feel like I never had anybody teach me that shit. I brought it up earlier, I didn’t really have a mother or a father. I grew up in foster care. Different relatives and cousins. It was never a solid situation.
But didn’t you see skateboarding as a possible way out?
I did but honestly, $500 a month wasn’t gonna do much. That’s all I was getting from World. I’d been getting $800 a month ever since my mother passed away when I was 7. I was used to blowing that money on whatever I wanted, as soon as I got it. So with that mindset, skateboarding didn’t seem like it could be this big life-changing thing, ya know?
I grew up with a chip on my shoulder. I was nice to people but I realize now that there is a rebellious side to me deep down. There is something inside of me where I reach a certain point and just say, “Fuck it.”
I have to imagine this coming into play with a few unofficial shopping sprees in the World warehouse back then as well, right?
Oh man, are you crazy!?! Hell yeah! Henry and I used to go crazy back there taking all types of shit… and we didn’t even have to! We were on the team! We were basically stealing because we wanted to steal! Even after I wasn’t on World anymore, I remember walking back there with Shiloh and taking shit. I had my boy film it and everything… he’s probably still got the footage. I grabbed 2 20 boxes of boards and nobody saw shit. I walked right out and sold them all!
That’s just how we were. Back in New York. Rick and I used to go boostin’ all the time. We’d steal Moet Bottles and sell them to drug dealers so we’d have money for the clubs. Dom Perignon. We were going out everynight. 15-year-olds walking into the club. Craze.
A lot of that stuff came up in Kids later but those guys got in on it late. We were doing that shit for a long time. Honestly, we were probably the ones who showed those guys that stuff.
Why leave World for ATM? Rocco was unstoppable at that point.
If Gonz wants me on his new company, I’m going. Hell yeah. I’d already connected with him earlier, like I was saying. We were skating a good bit together back then, too. It just made sense.
I remember Hosoi wanted me to ride for Milk and Justin Girard hit me up about Mad Circle, too. But I always felt like the team you’re on says a lot about you as a skater and I knew ATM was gonna be tight.
There’s something to be said for Gonz turning you pro. Did you feel like you were ready? You were still pretty underground at that point…
I mean, I’m not trying to polish myself up here but I was really good. I thought I was ready.
Unfortunately, it mainly came about because I got into trouble with the law. I was about to go to jail for 2 years and it was Gonz’s idea to turn me pro before I went. I guess he was working on turning me pro already, it’s just the whole jail thing made it happen a little quicker.
I remember him saying right before I got sentenced, “Well, I was gonna give you a board anyway but here’s a board now. Hopefully this will help out with the judge and he’ll change his mind.”
The judge didn’t give a shit. Skateboarding wasn’t shit back then.
Gonz wanted me to have money when I got out, which sounded good to me. He saved all of my checks while I was in there so when I finally got out, I had a nice chunk of money… 5 or 6 grand. It wasn’t my guarantee, which was like $2,000 back then. Just my board sales: 3 dollars a board.
Why’d you get locked up?
At the time, I was really into jewelry. But back in Brooklyn during those days, kids were getting killed for necklaces on the train. Lots of people were getting robbed. So I started carrying around a meat cleaver.
A meat cleaver?
Yeah, I was wearing baggy gear anyways. No one could even tell. It was for protection.
I mentioned earlier that we used to boost a lot, right? Well, this one time, my boy and I were in this boot store. These boots were like $300 but they was the ill shit. So my boy just put some on and walked right out. No problem. So I figure I might as well give it a shot, too. But as I’m walking towards the door, this security guard starts coming at me. He tries closing the door on me so I pull out the meat cleaver. Another security guard comes and when he sees the knife, he pulls out a gun. That’s the end of that. They charge me for armed robbery and I do 2 years.
You missed Kids because of that, right?
Exactly, I was in jail and missed out on all that. Harmony had written me into the script! The character “Steven” in there… that was supposed to me! I had a script and everything. But somebody else had to end up playing me… my boy, Johnny.
The day we went to pick up the script from Larry Clark, that’s the same day I ended up getting busted with the boots. I got caught slippin’. And again, the stupid thing was that I didn’t even have to be stealing that shit. With my ATM checks and what I was getting from my mother, I was actually doing alright. I could’ve just bought them… but that part of me was trying to get over again.
Would you get a lot of support from other skaters while you were in jail?
Definitely. I remember Shiloh used to send me shoes. Huf and Keenan would send me money. Tim Gavin, the Gonz… Hell, Guy even paid for a lawyer for me one time.
Ron Chatman flew all the way out to New York City from California and took a 10-hour bus ride to see me up in Buffalo. That meant so much to me. Everyone’s generosity and support meant the world to me.
How’d you get on Menace once you got out?
Again, I burnt the bridge with Mark Gonzales. That whole 2 years I was in jail, he was paying me and I owe him so much for that… but being young and retarded, I leave for Menace as soon as I get out. I didn’t even say shit to him, either. I just got my last check and left. It was horrible. I can’t blame him for being mad.
But yeah, Menace was just starting when I got out and that was my crew. They were asking about riding for them but I wanted to prove beforehand that I could still skate after being locked up. It just so happened that they were all about to go on a big World tour together: Maurice Key, Reem, Joey… everybody. The problem is that I wasn’t supposed to leave the state. I’d just got outta jail!
I started thinking and the tour was supposed to last two weeks… I only had to check in with my parole officer every two weeks! It was the perfect window! Fuck it, I’m buying a ticket!
I bumrushed my way onto the tour because I was still technically on 60/40 at the time. Rodney was kinda tripping on me at first but once I started skating, he was definitely cool with me being there. That’s when I officially got on Menace.
I remember after the tour was over, I flew back to New York from Raleigh. I stop by to see my parole officer and he’d just gotten back from a two-week trip as well.
“Hey man, how was your vacation? Where were you at?”
“I was in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was great.”
I got all paranoid and shit. I just flew out of there… did he see me? Is he fucking with me? It was so crazy. Of all the places, right? Luckily, he didn’t know.
|courtesy of Bobshirt|
You got lucky, man. That’s a pretty small place to go unnoticed in.
Yeah, but I fucked up. Not too long after that, I went out to Cali and I didn’t even worry about reporting to my parole officer. Not only did I violate my parole, I also got arrested for drinking vodka out on the beach by the DVS House. They threw me on a plane back to New York in handcuffs. It was terrible… and another year gone for that one.
I was just starting to get things rolling again. Menace was working out but once Rodney found out about me breaking my parole, he didn’t want to get involved and kicked me off.
How was your relationship with Rocco? Did you feel like there was any funny business going on there that some of the other heads have talked about?
Rocco was cool. I’d hit him up for money and it was never a problem. He was rich so he didn’t care. Riding around in his Porsche back in the day. I remember he’d take us out to the Gap all the time and let us spend $500 each. It’s funny to look back on, the rich guy conning a bunch of skateboarders with clothes from the Gap. That shit is garbage. (laughs)
As far as any funny business, the only thing I remember like that was Joey Alvarez actually scamming Rocco. Joey was skating for Cream at the time but he called up World Industries anyway and talked to some secretary, pretending to be me to get boxes! He even got me on Bitch with Sal Rocco! Just so he could have them send shit to his house! Even my checks! I had no idea! I was in jail! And he did this the whole time! They even sent him out a plane ticket to California! This is before you had to use I.D. to get on a plane... so yeah, Joey’s first time to California was all on my shit!
I would’ve never got on Bitch… the Girl guys were my boys. So I looked extra crazy there for a while and it wasn’t even my fault. But I couldn’t get mad at him. Joey doing that was so ill, so crazy. You can’t get mad at that.
Amazing. What about that Venture ad where you’re ollieing that rail in Jordans with that kid standing there? Classic shit.
I was pretty serious into sneakers back then. I never wanted to be in some bum-ass busted skate shoes. I always wanted my gear to be dope, even when I was skating. I remember picking up those Jordans and couldn’t help thinking how they looked so good to probably skate in. Some fat soles… fuck it, let me skate in these.
I ended up going out with Mike O’Meally to get some photos that day. The spot was on Vermont, right across from my friend’s skateshop, Warning. I’d been seeing that rail for a minute. That kid just happened to be passing by at the right time. Completely natural. No set-up or nothing. Crazy, right? That kid made the picture!
I almost nollie 180’d it, too… I landed that shit but couldn’t roll away. I had it like that back then.
Was it crazy seeing kids you grew up around, like Gino and Huf, out in Cali skating and doing so well? Did they serve as any type of inspiration career-wise for you to stay out of trouble?
Oh, it was dope seeing those guys come out and make it in Cali. Honestly, I felt like I had a hand in paving the way for kids like them from New York to make it. It also meant I was able to skate with them again out in Cali, too.
But career-wise, I was basically leading a double life. I felt like I was always being pulled in different directions. I’d be out West on some skate shit but once I’d go back to New York, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was chilling with my brother and cousins, gang dudes and drug dealers. I was getting money… let’s go shopping. Let’s go get some clothes. I don’t feel like skateboarding, looking all fucked up out there. I just wanted to look fly because I was always out going to clubs, which was never any good for me.
Skateboarding was always such a positive thing for me but, again, I also had a side of me that wanted to hang out with my homeboys and get into trouble. You can’t do both, man. I learned that the hard way.
You moved out West early on but what about the scene back home that was gaining traction around this time? Like Zoo York? Were any East Coast companies ever an option for you?
I always thought New York companies were cool but California companies seemed more legit.
I used to get shit from people saying that I was switching sides… that I should’ve been on an East Coast company or that I wasn’t keeping it real or whatever. Fuck that. I was trying to be on the best teams. The best teams were out in Cali so that’s what I wanted.
Fuck keeping it real.
You did have some Tunnel footage in Zoo York Mixtape though…
Did I? I was in a Zoo York video? I didn’t know I was in that…
Yeah, a big backside 180 and some mini-ramp footage in the Tunnel Club.
Oh, okay... Zoo York? Okay.
Honestly, I’m not sure if you were even allowed to film in the Tunnel… maybe someone snuck in a camera on the low. I don’t remember that at all but I’m hyped that shit is out there. That place is legendary.
Speaking of legends, what is your fondest Keenan Milton memory?
I remember him taking me to the Beverly Center one time right after I’d gotten out of jail. He’d just got his quarterly check from DVS and was looking at these earrings that were like $600 each. I started looking around at shit, too, just to pass the time while he was over there doing his thing. I saw this chain that was so dope but I just got outta jail. I couldn’t afford the shit. It was like $3000! That was a lot of money back then.
Keenan looks over.
“Yo, try on that chain real fast. You like it? Alright, keep it.”
I couldn’t believe it.
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, it’s yours. Just stay outta jail.”
That meant so much to me, man. He bought me that chain right there on the spot. Keenan was the best.
Not sure if a lot of people even realize that was your guest clip in his Chocolate Tour part.
Yeah, I’ve caught a few sleeping on that one, not knowing that was me. Nollie kickflip over the grate at Flushing. I liked that one because I felt like I caught it pretty high. That was a rough grate, too. That thing would fuck you up.
Keenan wanted to hook me up in his part. We grew up together skating in New York and like I said, reconnected out in California. We were close, man. The Girl and Menace crews were always real close. Not sure if a lot of people realize that.
|courtesy of Dawes|
Being so close, were you able to recognize when the party lifestyle began to bleed over to more serious problems for certain members of the crew? Were you starting to see problems develop and possibly recognizing them in yourself as well?
Yeah, I could see some of it. But that’s the thing: everybody was partying. It’s something as skateboarders that’s part of the deal. It seems like it’s cool but it’s not. It’s all good for a while, going out drinking and doing whatever, because you can handle it. You don’t even realize when it starts to turn into this whole ‘nother thing… when the shit catches up to you.
It caught up to a lot of us. I’ve had my troubles. I was in self-destruct mode for a while there, killing myself. I’d taken it too far. It was embarrassing. I hated for anybody from skateboarding to see me like that. I’m alright now though.
Were you ever concerned about an accident like Keenan’s being a possibility?
I was staying with Keenan at the time when the accident happened. He had already been in the hospital four times in the last year because his pancreas was swollen. He was drinkin’ too damn much. Too much Jack. Waking up in the morning and literally pulling it out from his pillow. Not even brushing his teeth yet. He was wylin’.
It got to the point where Rick Howard told me not to let him drink. I started keeping an eye on him after that, trying to keep him away from that liquor. But I have to admit that I’m guilty of letting him do it. I’m guilty of partying with him. I don’t think I knew how serious it really was.
“Nah, beer’s okay. I just can’t drink liquor.”
I thought he'd be okay. I actually remember him asking if I wanted to go out to that party with him.
“Nah, I’ll meet up with you later.”
But I never made it. Something came up and I didn’t end up going out there. I was supposed to but I didn’t… and that’s the day he passed away.
There’s footage that my friend filmed at that party of Keenan walking around, asking, “Where’s Steven?”
I couldn’t handle Keenan’s accident. I didn’t know how to deal with it and basically went out of control.
I know you unfortunately got into some more trouble not too long after that. I imagine the guilt being pretty severe after he bought you that chain.
Yeah, the guilt when I got sent back was just terrible. And it was the police who actually stole my chain when they arrested me.
This was back in New York. I was all fucked up and got into a fight at this club. They kicked me out and I ended up jumping into a cab, telling the driver to take me to Brooklyn. We take off and I’m trying to tell him the fastest way there but he’s not listening. He wants to do it his way.
“Nah, man… I’m paying. Go the way I’m telling you.”
I’m already mad after fighting in the club and now this dude won’t listen to me? So you know those plastic dividers between the driver and the backseat? Well, we’re at a red light and I just start punching that thing. The driver gets scared and jumps out the car, running away. So I jump in the driver’s seat and take off. But I’m still fucked up from the club so I end up crashing the car. That’s the last thing I remember.
I wake up handcuffed and my chain is gone. I still have my Gucci watch but it’s in my pocket for some reason. I never took it off. Why would I take off my watch?
So when you get out, you got on Lucky?
Well, I went in for a while again and once I finally got out, Greg Carroll hit me up out of the blue to ride for this company. I gotta say, Greg’s been my boy through a lot of stuff over the years. I was already skating again when he called and once I knew he was putting me on, I really started going for it. Greg let me stay at his place up in SF for 7 months or so and everything was starting to fall back into place. I even started filming some. Lucky had a promo video and I had a lot of good stuff for that. I think they only used one trick for whatever reason but I had some stuff.
What was the story behind that overcrooks in Gino’s Yeah Right part?
Gino asked me. I think he wanted it to be just like how it was in Keenan’s Chocolate Tour part. I only had a week to film something for it. I was stressing.
I randomly started trying those overcrooks at the Thrasher park one day and they were coming together. Someone mentioned that they had the perfect rail for me somewhere in Marin County so we went out there. I didn’t get it at first. I felt like I had all this pressure on me and I was bummed. I started praying and shit. Anything to make it work. But I got it, yo. Hell yeah.
I got two tricks on that rail that night. The backside overcrooks and a backside smith…. the photo ran of the backside smith but the clip never came out. I don’t even know where the hell that is.
With all due respect, a promising resurgence followed by further legal trouble seems to be the running theme here…
Like I said, I was always trying to hustle as well as do skateboarding. The problem was, by this point, the hustling was overtaking the skateboarding half of it and I got lost. I got lost in that world.
You really didn’t see me much after Lucky because things were going so bad. I was big into robberies back then. I did 32 months in 2004 for 7 robberies, got out and 20 days later, I went back in for 16 months. Resisting arrest with violence and stolen property. I’m lucky to even be out right now, they wanted to give me 14 years!
The thing is: if you go to jail too many times, you basically become another person. The way you are in jail starts to become who you are on the outside. It’s all about respect. I was so used to having to react to everything, I could no longer let shit slide. I even started hitting my friends! In jail, you have to react or people will just run you over. I couldn’t get out of that state of mind.
But didn’t you get shot in the face? Wouldn’t that serve as a wake-up call?
Yeah, you’d think. At point blank range, too. He tried to take my head off with a bullet, man… lost some teeth and shit.
How’d that go down?
South Central. I was out hanging out on the porch with these girls who were Rolling 20 Outlaw Bloods. I had an ounce of cocaine on me and this dude came up and shot me in the face. He was gonna rob me but must’ve gotten scared and ran. He didn’t even take anything. Just jumped in a white car and sped off. They never got him.
It took 5 hours to get me into the hospital. I was actually putting cocaine in the hole the whole time to numb my face.
Jesus, man. But after a few more bumps in the road, you’ve been able to stay on the outside for a while now and seem to be making some real positive strides. Looking back on everything, are you the type of person with regret, wishing things had turned out differently or do you try to focus on the present and the future?
I regret things but I realize that the past is the past. There’s nothing you can do to change any of that. You just have to live and learn. Hopefully you can help somebody else out so they don’t make the same mistakes you did.
I see talented kids on the come up all the time. I can tell when they’re starting to go down that same road I did. I’ll straight-up tell ‘em. I’m not gonna sit back and watch when I can hopefully change it for the better.
That’s part of what’s good with Fifth Avenue. It helps me make sense of a lot of this and hopefully some good can come of it. I love skateboarding, man. It’s just good to be around it.
Talk some more about Fifth Avenue Skateboards. Is that your company?
Yeah, Fifth Avenue is me and my partner, Jae Pryce. It’s our company. Jae’s the founder and he set it off a few years ago. I caught wind of it, we worked some things out and now I’m a partner. We’re just trying to do something good with it. Hook up some kids and put out some dope product. The team is doing well, too. I got a couple of kids out of San Diego: Mike Berdis and Brandon Lefever. They rip.
I’m trying to pass on everything that I’ve learned over the years. Skateboarding is so crazy right now but if I can help these kids out in anyway, I will. It feels good.
As we wrap this up, what are some words of wisdom that you’d like to throw out there to the universe?
Just be yourself. If you love skateboarding, stick to it. Don’t get into all that other shit. You can’t mix positive with negative. You can’t live a double life. It might work out for a second… you start thinking you got away with something but it’s gonna come back and bite you in the ass. It doesn’t work in the long-run.
I’d like people to realize that I was able to do a 180 with my life. I’m a person who struggled all of his life but I’m trying to move past that. I’ve changed. I’m trying to do something meaningful now. I care about these kids, man. I can see myself in so many of them... so many Little Stevens walking around. I just want to help.
Real quick, I'd like to thank all the people that have been there for me one way or another: Mark Gonzales, Jason Lee, Kareem Campbell, Dune, Ron Chatman, Jake Brown, Filthee Martin Maldonado, Fabian Alomar, my brother Albert aka Ref aka Sharky… Javier Nunez, OG Menace team, Rodney Mullen, Harold Hunter RIP, Keenan Milton RIP, Justin Pierce RIP, Pepe Martinez RIP, Guy Mariano, Shiloh Greathouse, Soc, Mike T, Grizzly, Adidas, Eva Marie aka Eva the Vandal. Shout out to Nayomi aka Omi.
Too many to name throughout my life. Thanks, though… @stevencales1.
Last but not least, the Fifth Avenue Skateboards team, my partner Jae Pryce, team riders Mike Berdis and Brandon Lefever, the Berdis Family.
One love. One life... so learn it.