chrome ball interview #137: jake rosenberg

"Start off with the banger... because why not?" 

12 Minutes of Raw Footage from the Rosenberg Archive.

=O =O =O

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

chops and jake the janitor sit down for conversation.

ph: blabac

Bay Area kid goes to supersonic skate camp and breaks his arm, leading to a career in filming.  Oh, and he meets his life-long mentor the same week. Is that really how it all got started?  

(laughs) Well, kinda.

I grew up in Palo Alto at a time when skateboarding only existed in areas that had a skateshop. Places that could act as a hub for everyone interested in this thing. Luckily, I had the Palo Alto Sport Shop. And Christian Cooper, who was a friend of the family, actually worked there.

The same Christian Cooper who ended up doing graphics for Deluxe?

100%. It’s crazy, he actually gave me my first ride ever on a skateboard when I was 5-years-old. We hit a hole and knocked my front tooth out. It was amazing.

baby jake

So skateboarding was always around, but it really wasn’t until middle school in the mid-80s that I truly found it.

I fell into a crew of skaters... we called ourselves “Team Primate”, but it was pretty clear that I wasn’t as good as the other guys. Not that I was “bad”, I just wasn’t “great” by any stretch of the imagination. At the time, you either popped off a jump ramp, early grab-popped off a jump ramp, or you just early grabbed and let gravity take you. I was the third.

I grew up in a family where my father always had a camera, filming Super 8 movies and taking photos. So growing up, I always had a camera, too. And when skateboarding came into play and Team Primate started making zines, knowing that all these other guys were better than me, I started leaning towards taking photos and documenting it.

In 1988, my parents signed me up for two sessions at Santa Clara Skate Camp: one at the beginning of summer and another at the end. And off I go... my camp counselor is Eddie Elguera. Danny Way is skating around. It’s magical. I see Chris Ortiz shooting photos and he’s super cool to me. He starts showing me all his slides of Eddie skating the pool... It was the first time that a bonafide skate photographer shared his work with me. I still remember all of the bright colors and that beige pool.

But I got in a lot of trouble, too. There was a lights-out curfew and if you got caught staying up late, the punishment was having to broom the hallways. Well, I always got caught.  

Mike Ternasky

So Mike Ternasky was the director of the camp. On the third day, as he gathered all of the skaters around to talk about the day’s activities, he says, “By the way, we have a special announcement: Jacob Rosenberg, we’ll call him ‘Jake the Janitor’ from now on. He’s getting his own pro model broom soon. It looks like he’s just gone professional as a janitor.”

The room erupted into laughter, and I felt a shine.

I feel like once that happened, we had a lasting connection. Because, for whatever reason, Mike saw me. He paid attention to me. And it turns out, I really needed that at the time. So from then on, we’d laugh and be sarcastic with each other, which meant that pros and ams started joking around with me, too.

After that first session, I go home and skate all summer with my friends, before coming back for my second session in August. So, first day of the second session, and it’s the hottest day of the year. I’m skating this ramp and Todd Congelliere had taught me how to do these little backside airs... basically just wheelieing into them. But this ramp was pretty gnarly, actually. It had, like, 2 feet of vert. Rob Roskopp destroyed this thing... but not me, I break my arm.

Ryan Monihan and Jake w/ his broken arm

Carl Hyndman takes me to the Emergency Room. My parents get called in. Mike was there. And they’re discussing what I was going to do, because the session had just started.

Mike says, “Well, he can stay here at camp and help me with things, if he wants.”

So I became Mike’s sidekick for that session. And it just so happened they were filming for Shackle Me Not there that week. I ended up on the street course with Schlossbach. He’s filming, I’m carrying around the record deck that’s attached to his camera. While all of the other campers were at lunch, I’m with these guys, helping out on this thing.

Exactly. All those guys: Lotti, Ezekiel, Jeff Klindt, Hensley...

Hensley was there... ph: Rosenberg

Ripping all the airs.

(laughs) Yeah, that was my first filming mission ever for skateboarding.

A few months later, Shackle Me Not comes out. I put it in my VCR... 

And heads explode.

Right? Shackle Me Not is one of the greatest gifts to skateboarding. The counter-conversation it created with its presentation is priceless.

But in the credits, it says “Jake the Janitor”. And suddenly, there’s a sense that I had actually done something that mattered. That I’d been part of something special.

I actually remember seeing “Jake the Janitor” and wondering who the hell you were.

I was a 15-year-old kid, somehow insanely connected to this thing.

But even before seeing my name in this incredible video, just from my skate camp experience alone, it was a wrap. I’d already started filming all of the time. Borrowing video cameras. Grabbing my Dad’s camera and shooting stuff.

Had you heard of H-Street before skate camp? And were you expecting Shackle Me Not to come out and do what it did?

I think there were a few H-Street ads before that summer... barely. But going to this skate camp, it was all H-Street. The team’s all there, Ternasky is the camp director. And you felt a sense of pride in watching these guys rip, because we were all in it together.

Obviously, they were amazing. I remember seeing Hensley skating around campus in that unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and the Converse shoes. The path where he does all the no-complies and flatground stuff? That was the path from the street course to the vert ramp.

There was definitely a buzz, but it was only the people at skate camp. Everyone around San Diego knew about H-Street... and a few people up north, but that was it. If you were anywhere else in the country, there was nothing.

It was such a sucker punch of a video. Absolutely shocking.

As it should be.

Looking back, Shackle Me Not was the democratization of skateboarding. Anyone could grab a camera. Any skater was worthy of being in-front of the camera, if they were doing something good. Steve Ortega doing a 360 flip, it’s the shittiest filming job. It’s fisheye and it’s not even close. But it didn’t matter. We got the trick!

And the music and editing are just so moody. That moodiness didn’t exist in skateboarding before. That soulfulness. Prior to that, soul was Stacy doing beautiful carves on a driveway. Symmetrical stuff or abstract angles in Future Primitive. Rodney with the watermelon in freeze-frame. All amazing stuff, but once Shackle Me Not went into nighttime with the cool echo-y sounds... People screaming at you, “Get the fuck outta here!”

MT and T-Mag
You fuckin’ punks!

Shackle Me Not was essentially “fuck you.” I mean, so much of Hokus Pokus will live on forever but H-Street was already proven by then. Shackle Me Not was just those guys going for it.

The story goes that Mike and Tony Magnusson went to the Animal Chin premiere together, back when it was Magnusson Designs. They see Animal Chin and for the whole drive back to San Diego, they just keep saying, “We’ve gotta make something like that.”

Because the first time you watch Animal Chin, it’s overwhelming. But that’s what I love about skate videos, that there’s more than one way to do it. These guys see Animal Chin and go on to make fucking Shackle Me Not. That’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Because Mike can’t make Animal Chin, that’s not his voice.

Look at the scene with Danny in Shackle Me Not. It’s not Animal Chin, but that’s Mike’s skit. It’s terrible and amazing at the same time.

Everyone was aspiring to make an impact the same way that Powell did. It’s just that your way is the only way you can do something... if that makes sense. You’re never gonna be Powell. Shackle Me Not was H-Street.

But so much of H-Street was capturing tricks where Stacy seemed more concerned about overall production value…

I don’t know if I’d categorize Stacy like that.

Stacy developed an extraordinary vocabulary for capturing skateboarding. You look at certain vert parts and there are feelings he’s created. There’s a youthfulness to it... but with maturity. And as the series goes on, it becomes more experimental. There’s really some avant-garde stuff in there.

Shackle Me Not is just raw independent filmmaking. That’s some low-budget Reservoir Dogs shit... where Stacy was getting into more of a premium and experimental space. He was becoming increasingly curious about storytelling and filmmaking until he ultimately went in that direction entirely.

But that ended up being a weakness for Powell, because Stacy was the primary filmer. H-Street was the total opposite of that.

“Give Jake the camera and let’s see what he gets.” (laughs)

So how did your friendship with Mike continue after skate camp?

We became pen pals. I got his number after camp and we’d talk on the phone every now and then.

I actually started working at Palo Alto Sport Shop in 1989. In early ‘90, Hokus Pokus comes out and because of working at the skateshop, I head down to the ASR tradeshow in San Diego. That’s where Mike and I reconnected. He took me to the H-Street House and we got burritos around the corner in Mira Mesa, right off the 15.

But because I had my Bar Mitzvah at the end of 1989, I actually got a Canon video camera. And not too long after that, I got a few photos that I took of Stephanie Pierson published in this European skate magazine called No Way.

So when I reconnect with Mike down there, I have my own camera and I’m getting photos published. This really stoked him out.

“Look at little Jake! The Janitor’s crushing it!”

Guy Mariano ph: Rosenberg

Was this an artistic pursuit yet or just purely documentation?

It was an artistic pursuit... and a social one.

Being needed as someone who could film these guys and help get them sponsored. Getting someone’s photo in the magazine. It felt good. I could be a conduit and feel satisfaction in that way. And sponsor-me tapes were great because not only could I help get my friends hooked up, it was also a way to show different companies my work. That way, they would see me as a filmer for stuff down the road.

So I go back down to ASR in ‘91 and I take Paul Zuanich’s sponsor-me tape with me. Mike sees it and puts it directly into the Planet Earth video. Verbatim. No changes.

Paul Zuanich ph: Rosenberg

But connect the dots here. How does Mike segue into working with New Deal and Dogtown?

Alright, so I go to the Am Jam contest in April of 1990 and meet Guy, Rudy and Gabriel. I take a ton of photos and end up sending them the photos. Those guys write me back and now we’re pen pals.

We hook up again at the Quartermaster Cup in June and shoot some more. Through these guys, I meet more guys, and suddenly, I’m building relationships with all of the up-and-coming ams.

Fast-forward to August and I’m at the NSA Am Finals in Reno. At this point, I’m now officially working for No Way... and I’m taking photo after photo. Because these are American ams, they’re not going to see this European magazine I’m shooting for, so I send everyone their photos and copies of the magazine. I just created a web.

At the same time, Steve Douglas is working on Useless Wooden Toys and he knows that I’m around. He was actually one of my camp counselors.

“Hey, maybe Jake can film for us?”

So I start filming Steve, Danny Sargent, Justin Girard and Rick Ibaseta.

Gershon Moseley for New Deal ph: Rosenberg

Did you have any hand in Gershon’s lost New Deal footage?

I probably filmed all of Gershon’s lost New Deal part. It was pretty much all from this one amazing day around San Jose. That’s actually one of my favorite raw tapes that no one has ever seen. Gershon was crushing it but for whatever reason, it never came out. I don’t know what happened there.

Rick Ibaseta ph: Rosenberg

What about Rick Ibaseta’s climbing up Black Rock and spinning down the other side? Is that you?

Yeah. For me, the camera was always on... which was annoying for some while others had fun with it. But that sort of thing just lent itself to goofing off all the time.

In this instance, Rick had just landed that beautiful backside lipslide on Brown Marble, where he popped out before the end. Just delicious... so he’s obviously hyped. We’re walking down the street and, spur of the moment, he hits me with “film this”. Next thing I know, he’s running up and sliding down the other side.

When people were in good moods and landed their tricks, that was the vibe. Dorking around and having fun.

Karl Watson at EMB ph: Rosenberg

Karl Watson brought up your sticking the camera in his face for the Think video, too.

I just loved talking to people with the camera on. That was MT’s influence... like, those twins in the H-Street videos. Those quotes captures from totally random encounters, I was after that same gold.

My question was always “What do you think about skateboarding?” because that’s what Mike always asked in Shackle Me Not. But it soon became just my shoving a camera in random people’s faces. Beautiful European women walking through EMB, I roll up and hopefully they’d do something interesting for me to have on tape forever.

Even with skaters, somebody would bail and I’d push in on their faces for an expression. Constantly. Because when someone’s not getting their line, your mind starts to wander. You start panning over to different places in-between tries.

With Karl, I don’t necessarily feel guilt, but there’s part of me that questions it now. Because there was a pecking order. I got picked on by a lot of guys, so in turn, I’d dish it out to some of the younger kids. It’s not that I didn’t love Karl, it’s just that my behavior towards him echoes how I was treated. Because you can only take so much of Jovontae decimating you with “Fat Jake” this and “Fat Jake” that...

Jovontae Decimating ph: Rosenberg

But back to connecting the dots, meeting Greg Carroll was a big moment for me. Because he was an older brother to so many back then. And he never teased me.

I first met Greg because I was working on a Venture article for that French magazine. And after seeing me around, he ends up asking me about possibly doing a Venture video. So I collected all of the sponsor-me videos for this gigantic team and start editing them down.

If you weren’t in town, you just sent in your footage. But for the local guys, Greg and I would drive all over the Bay Area in his Toyota Corolla, filming everybody.

Jason Adams No Way Check-Out ph: Rosenberg

I don’t know about “first”, that’s always a sensitive subject. But that’s early 1991... so that might be the first one ever filmed, even though it never came out.

But working on the Venture video is actually what got me in the door at High Speed. Because at this point, it’s Venture, Think is starting, and Dogtown was basically seen as deadweight... but I had friends on Dogtown so I was just naturally around those guys, filming. Next thing I know, Red Dog starts sending me out with the rest of his team. So I start filming with Wade, Cardiel, Karma... and that’s essentially how the Dogtown video came about.

Bryce is on the team and he’s filming stuff. Red Dog is filming stuff. We have all this footage, now someone needed to edit it all.

I had a little converted garage behind my parents’ place that I’d turned into an editing bay. I bought a really nice deck with the money from all the photos I was taking. I had my little chyron, a Casio Generator with the shitty titles. Music on one channel and skate sounds in the other. Red Dog would come over to check on my progress... and that’s where we made The DTS Video.

Shawn Mandoli ph: Rosenberg

How was filming early Cardiel?

That frontside 180 ollie he did at the loading dock is one of the most important things I’ve ever filmed. And I say that because of the energy of that moment. We were almost crying after he did that. The only downside is that I wish I’d filmed it better so that everyone could see how big it was. You can see it better in the earlier tries from that session, when he doesn’t have enough speed. But by the time he made it, it’s so dark that I could really only film it from one angle. But it was enormous.

First, he ollies it. And then he’s like, “Nah, now I want to frontside 180 it.”

Greg’s towing him in… and he lands it. We were dumbfounded. I remember Greg getting out of the car, like, “Dude!” I think that notion of John being kinda under the radar back then made it matter that much more. There was no spotlight to ruin the purity of the expression. Because Cardiel, above all things, is present. The skaters who are present and in the moment are timeless.

How’d you end up at the Snake Pit?

Greg and I went up to Lake of the Pines on a filming trip. We met up with John and were like, “Well, I guess we should film some stuff for the beginning of your part.”

Because there’s that crazy story from when Cardiel was a kid, about his Dad jumping off a cliff and hitting a log. He wasn’t sure if his Dad was injured or what, but as he’s floating away, he screams back up at John on top of the cliff.

“Come on, son! You can do it!”

According to legend, John jumped. I don’t know if that’s true but it was circulating at the time. And we figured since everyone had heard the story, we might as well start John’s part with him jumping off a cliff.

So the cliffs were simply part of our plan. We drove up and met John that evening. Skated the mini-ramp all night, skated the school that next morning. And during the middle of the second day, because it was so hot out, we went to the Snake Pit. After that, we hit the loading docks and that was it.

Guy Mariano ph: Rosenberg

We talked about meeting Guy and Rudy at the Am Jam earlier, is that what led to your involvement in Video Days?

Yeah, again, just by hooking up at contests and shooting photos. Staying in contact. And then the Bones Brigade came through Palo Alto for a demo in the summer of 1990. Gabriel, Guy and Rudy were all there and we filmed a bunch. I cut a little thing together with the footage and sent them the tapes. They must’ve liked it because they hit me back, like, “Hey, we’re going to ask Stacy if you can film us for the next Powell video.”

Obviously, in the months to come, Guy and Rudy would end up going to Blind. But they were still into it.

“Jake, you gotta come to LA and film us!”

I end up getting invited down to film over Christmas Break... which, God bless my parents for letting me drive down from Palo Alto to LA by myself as a 17-year-old kid.

But that’s what we did. Just this amazing 5-day trip. I came down, met Mark and Jason and we just drove around LA, hitting spots. I hadn’t met Spike at that point, but later on, those guys all came up to San Francisco and stayed at my house… when they filmed that stuff at Embarcadero and Benicia.

Rudy Johnson ph: Rosenberg

Where did you stay in LA?

Rudy’s house, which was the greatest experience ever. His family made the best breakfast. I still remember eating eggs and beans with a tortilla, thinking about how I’d never had a breakfast like that before. His family was just so gracious and lovely. Rudy’s the best.

I feel like I ended up with 5 or 6 tricks in the final film... Jason’s kickflip 5-0 on the bank-to-bench. But again, my desire to put the camera in people’s faces: Mark wearing the Israel shirt.

That’s your shot?

Yeah, because that was my instinct. He bails and I go in.

What’s he trying there?

A noseslide down the Century City rail. He landed it but then bailed on the flat right after.  

The only moment I’m devastated about not recording is when Mark ollied the fence at the Palladium. He lands it clean and rolls away. A quick 180 ollie off the curb and he’s skating down the street. I turn off the camera... and George Michael is walking across the street. Mark pops his board up and starts talking to him. He can’t remember who George Michael is.

“You’re… you’re… you’re…”

Mark’s trying to figure it out, snapping his fingers. Next thing I know, he’s holding his board like a guitar and singing, “B-b-baby!” He’s seriously impersonating George Michael to George Michael.

Meanwhile, George Michael’s looking back at Mark like, “Who the fuck is this freak!?!”

But Mark’s still going at him... (laughs)

We end up looking at each other… and then Mark looks at me again. I’m standing there, watching this surreal moment with the biggest grin on my face… and then I realize that I’m holding the camera in my hands.

I didn’t film it.

Guy Mariano ph. Roseenberg

(laughs) Well, did you know about Jason’s Benihana’s intro beforehand or that he felt that way about Mike? Did MT ever ask you about it afterwards?

No. I think a lot of things about this but what I will say is that we were all very young. The bottom line is that while Mike Ternasky loved Mark Gonzales, Mike was smart enough to realize that not everyone was going to love everything he did. And that’s how you become successful.

I honestly think this stuff is more about being fodder for conversations about controversy. I mean, yeah, that’s how those guys felt and that’s what they wanted to put in the video. Okay. But if you ask those guys today if they think that piece is an essential ingredient to the video, I would guess they’d say no.

Guy and Jake
Jason has said that he regrets it.

At the time, this was an industry going through significant change. And there were strong reactions to some of the ways Mike did things. But those reactions were all from people who didn’t receive his direct love. They were from the outside.

What I do know is that Mike saved lives. He saved my life. He saved Danny’s life. He probably saved Mike Carroll’s life. And I’m not saying that in an overdramatic sense. He truly gave people the safety net they needed. Nobody else would’ve known that. All they saw was this guy who was paying people to do tricks... Or that’s what they heard.

Personally speaking, I bet Danny my hair that he would land a 360 flip mute grab for Questionable. We were in Vancouver and those guys were sick and tired of me. So I just threw it out there.

“If you land a 360 flip mute grab, I’ll shave my head.”

Because he had been trying it... and, of course, we make the bet and he fucking lands it! (laughs)

Was the video better because he got that trick? Yes. Was he fucking stoked that he landed it? Of course! The reality with Mike incentivizing tricks was that he recognized people’s innate desire to push themselves. He helped motivate that. If you weren’t part of that intimate circle, it could feel like he was possibly buying progression. But the reality was, everybody involved in those moments was celebrating.

…and regardless, he’d still take you to Benihana’s, even if you didn’t land it but gave your best effort. 

But how did the team react? Because there’s that unreleased “Jason Lee’s Brother” clip.

(laughs) Oh, God… Yeah, Rick and Danny were with me in Palo Alto. We’d been filming at Stanford and went to get coffee on University Avenue. There was a homeless guy that we gave some money to, egging him on to say stuff on camera. That was one of the things we got him to say. But it never went anywhere. We never used it.

That was just those guys being protective of MT.

Yes, we had a clip of him doing a no-handed benihana over the pyramid at Powell. We’d already premiered the video when it got back to Mike... I don’t know if Mark called Mike or what, but Mike was bummed. Gonz was Mike’s favorite skater, outside of those he sponsored.

Run through a typical day at Embarcadero.

Well, the typical weekday scenario still started with school. I had six periods and typing was my last class for the day. This is the fall of 1991 and I’m 18, which is old enough to excuse myself. So I started only going to five periods and writing myself excuses to leave early, around 1:15.

Get in my car and drive up to Daly City. Land at Mike Carroll’s house and he hops in with his board and a backpack. From there, we’d either head to FTC or straight to Embarcadero. If we’re working on a part, he’d usually have an idea for something. We film that along the way. But EMB was always the ultimate destination.

When we finally get to Embarcadero, we’d usually post up for the first hour or so. Sitting around, talking with whoever was there. Maybe someone else is starting to skate, I’ll film them for a bit. But I’m really just waiting for Mike to say, “Alright, dude. I’m ready.”

We’d film off-and-on throughout the day. Because of traffic, there was never any reason to leave early. But I also liked waiting around so that I could give people rides home. That reliance builds a relationship, you know? I wanted to keep filming these guys, so I’ll wait to give you a ride home. No problem.

We might head over to Wallenberg at the end of the day… maybe take Rick Ibaseta home in the Sunset District. And then back to Daly City with Mike. Stop by the KFC around the corner from his house, Mike always got the small biscuit sandwich with mayonnaise. Then I’d take him home and drive back to Palo Alto. 

Greg Carroll, Cochrane and Jake, Partners in Crime in the Edit Bay

So did your involvement with Questionable come about through filming Carroll? But you’re credited as a filmer, editor and producer...

(laughs) The generosity of MT with those titles.

To be fair, the Think video was critical to that all happening. Mike knew that I was filming and editing projects and that my footage was good, but I know that when he saw Partners in Crime, that’s when he realized that I could make a skate video. Obviously not on his level, but that I was a worthy student.

It’s crazy thinking back, I finished the Dogtown video and rolled right into Think with Greg Carroll. Video Days and New Deal were more like filming missions to me. And yeah, I’d edited sponsor-me videos and a few yearly friend videos for my crew, but because DTS was being released, it really made me focus on my editing… even though it wasn’t all my footage. With Think Crime, I filmed almost all of it. I was interfacing with Keith Cochrane and Greg Carroll, picking music with them and on my own, then putting it all together so I could present it back to them. It was my first public project where I had a sense of ownership in the final result... and making it was so fucking liberating.

MT's Camera Case ph: Blabac

It all happened so quickly and without much thought, which is the best baptism possible. I had no business making a legit video, but I did, which sorta rules. And that’s what primed me to being mentored and having a seat at the gnarliest table in skateboarding.

So, Plan B starts right around the time I finish the Think video in the summer of ‘91. Carroll and I are filming together more and more, and he’s definitely on a mission. We even do a pro spotlight together for that French magazine I was working for, which is now called Anyway.

That fall, I go down for another event in SD and meet up with Ternasky again. We go to Temecula High School and film with Danny and Rick. I film Danny sacking on that lipslide and that’s where I’m trying to focus the board when Rick shoves me out of the way so he can do it. I’m actually wearing an Anyway shirt in that clip. But yeah, Plan B is a thing now. They’re starting to film for this video. It’s really happening.

We all hangout in San Diego for the day. I head back home to the Bay Area, still filming Mikey. And, for whatever reason, MT calls me. Things were bubbling up down there.

“Hey, do you think you can graduate high school early? Because I’d love for you to come down to San Diego. We need help finishing this video. Right now, it’s just me and Schlossbach. I’d love for you to help us finish filming, help us edit and get it done.”

The bittersweet part was that I had so many absences in my typing class, I didn’t have enough credits to graduate. But again, because I’m 18, I just drop out of school and leave home... which broke my Mom’s heart. I didn’t graduate with all of the kids I grew up with, I left to go make Questionable instead.

Some Almost Famous shit.

I fly down to San Diego on a Southwest flight. I get picked up and we drive straight to the Plan B mini ramp. Straight off the plane, Danny does the cab noseblunt-gazelle out. Schlossbach had the low angle, I had the high angle. Nothing like that had ever been done before. We watch our footage and I remember telling Mike, “Dude, Schlossbach’s angle is fucking rad. He got the shot.”

A week later, I’m now full-on in San Diego. I’m going to the office with Mike every day, filming, and staying at his condo with him and Mary. We’re talking around the dinner table and I don’t know how it came up. But Mike says, “You know, Jake… you’re gonna be alright.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re 18-years-old. You came all the way down here. But you still looked at Schlossbach’s shot and said that it was better than yours. You’re gonna be alright.”

“Okay… cool. Thanks.”

I didn’t really think about it, I was just being honest. But what I did recognize, very early on, is that I had a teacher. Someone who was going to talk to me about real things and keep me accountable. This wasn’t just small talk. He had in me a vessel that he could impart knowledge on and help grow.

It’s extraordinary because Plan B was such a big deal at the time. I remember text-only ads about Questionable, almost taunting its release date.

I remember going down for that day in the fall of ‘91, Mike showed me Pat Duffy’s part. That part was basically done 6 months before the rest of the video. And it’s one of the greatest skateboarding parts ever assembled. That’s all MT. He’s firing on all cylinders there.

Because I’ve gone back recently to review all of his videos, forming a narrative of how Mike’s voice emerged. And the Life video is very underrated in terms of his developing an editing style. Sheffey’s part in that video is the first truly dramatic skate part, and that’s all because of the editing. Mike shows you the spots. The music alludes to this weirdness. And then it punches you in the face.

Sheffey with Jake BGPs ph: Dolinsky

The Morricone-to-Ron Allen transition.

Exactly. Boy King!

But if you look at what he crafted, it’s very raw. Shitty shots of the spots, but he’s teasing you. Before the part even begins, he’s showing you everything that this guy is about to destroy. Mike’s starting to do really high-concept editorial here… even if the material itself is pretty lo-fi.

At the same time, he’s making Not the New H-Street Video, which is all classical music and classic rock, paired with slow-motion. A different type of drama, almost the opposite of the Life video. Mike’s got all these neurons firing, where he sees the potential for creating emotion on another level from what he’s already done. The next step from Hokus Pokus and Shackle Me Not.

For me, Questionable is Mike Ternasky’s ultimate gift to skateboarding. Not only because he was so generous with bringing other people into it, like myself and Schlossbach. But Mike actually created a video with feeling from beginning-to-end. He had surrendered himself to the way he saw skateboarding and finally had a team that allowed him to play the orchestra.

Duffy’s part... that’s some Smithsonian shit, man. The rain footage is some of my most coveted raw footage because it’s so simple and innocent. It’s pure. And when “Riders on the Storm” hits for the backside lipslide in the rain, it’s so wildly at the core of what skateboarding is. You want to do that. The music just feels right. And that’s all Mike. Those are all his conscious choices.

There’s even sarcasm in the opening, with “Here They Come” and Rocco predicting it won’t last due to poor management. At that point, Mike just doesn’t give a fuck. I mean, “What a Wonderful World” for Rodney? Get the fuck outta here! That changed everything.

Who was the biggest stress case? The pickiest? And your favorite to film for Plan B?

I never really scrutinized it on that level. The reality is that, as difficult as it was, I loved every one of those guys.

Rick was picky from a stylistic standpoint, but that’s why we love Rick. Tricks were caught. Shit looked clean. Mike stressed, but not as stressed as others I’ve seen out there... throwing their boards and breaking windows. Mikey would pout. It was more internalized with him. When I got the chance to film with Duffy, and I filmed with him a lot more for Virtual than I did with Questionable, but it was always great. Rodney was always incredible. Sal and Sheffey were always fun to be around. Fabry and I filmed a ton, too. I remember us taking a trip to Vegas together. He was doing some amazing technical skating back then but was also kind of an unknown powerhouse.

They were each their own person. They’d each evoke different things in me. I’d find myself fanning out while filming Rodney. Doing things that not only had never been done before, but tricks that had never even been thought of. Things could take a while, but then you saw the ingredients of what all went into it. That Rodney precision.

I remember he’d been trying that Casper Slide for almost the entire duration of filming, and literally a day or two before the premiere, we snuck over to Mira Mesa where he finally got it. Everyone else was busy editing so I was the only one able to go out and film it. Lucky me.

How serious was Carroll about filming for his Questionable opus?

Carroll was very involved, for sure. Essentially, that’s his first full-length part.

Mike and Henry during that era… You couldn’t say they were like Danny and Tony, because Mike and Henry were best friends and they skated together all the time. Henry was relentless about doing new shit back then, it was amazing. And Mike fed off that, for sure... but at the same time, he was also having his own ideas. Nose wheelie-nollie heel?

And he focuses his board.

No, he didn’t. (laughs)

Shit, that’s right! You cut that part out! (laughs)


But for Questionable, Mikey was just in his bag. Everything was so new. You would land something for the first time and you filmed that. Because it had never been done before… and it took you 100 tries to get it. I’m pretty sure that nose wheelie nollie heel took 60 tries to get.

Mike and Henry by Schlossbach

Right, but for all the mystique of Embarcadero, if someone wasn’t actually down there, they’re largely just talking about Mike and Henry’s parts.

Because that was the height of Embarcadero. And it was the perfect spot because not only did EMB look incredible in footage, there were so many aspects to it. There was so much stuff to skate down there. It really gave those guys all of the tools they’d need.

Mike and Henry were two totally displaced kids. They had nothing that gives them any value or meaning whatsoever, other than this sacred place. Embarcadero is the center of their universe, which enables these legends to be written. These kids got to go there and be part of something. They get to be celebrated for doing all of these extraordinary things.

Embarcadero was the right place at the right time, for all the right reasons.

But was Carroll’s Questionable part always gonna be so cameo-heavy or was that a byproduct of you two being EMB locals?

All of that came about in editing. We never had an exact roadmap for how parts would come together. We talked about a lot of things, for sure. But Ternasky always knew the tone of how he wanted something to feel. He was very in-tune with that.

For me, Questionable was an education. The majority of what I edited for that one was the second half of Mike’s part, along with contests and demos, the slam section, and the credits. I wasn’t really touching the main riders’ parts yet. I’d add my little two cents wherever, but for the most part, I’m just watching MT put it all together. That, or I’m running the editing machine with Mike directing me what to do.

One thing that Ternasky was so brilliant at was capturing people’s personalities and finding ways to express those personalities through their parts. Obviously, EMB was large part of Carroll’s personality. And what comes along with EMB? The crew. That’s not the same with everyone else’s parts. But Carroll was allowed to have that, because it rang true.

Jocks ph: Rosenberg

Duffy was the Terminator, Colin was the Red Dragon, Carroll was the EMB guy with the C-Block...

Right, but Duffy became the Terminator because someone happened to capture that amazing moment. And Mike knew enough to use that footage as his intro.

I filmed the C-Block thing almost at random. Just taking the elevator to the top of that hotel after a session. I’d never been up there before. Rick Howard was there, wearing that beautiful button-up. One of those classic Rick shirts. I can’t even remember why we went up there… We were filming and somebody focused their board.

“Eh… let’s just go to the top.”

I remember walking up to that window and Rick banging on it super hard. I’m filming the whole thing and I just pan down. There it is. You can hear Carroll talking about the C-block as I’m filming it.

Mike Carroll ph: Rosenberg

With you contributing to Carroll’s edit, why only the second half of “Burnt”?

It’s not that we didn’t like the first half, but Opio was always one of our favorites. There was timing to think about, but there is also a flow of inspiration. That part is literally almost every touchpoint in Mike’s life back then. And “Burnt” was hella rare.

That’s how I discovered vinyl-only b-sides.

Exactly. Because not only is that track super good, it’s hard-to-find. And it’s pure Mikey. So you’ve gotta find a way to put it in there. But you can’t just start it where the song starts when you’re in the middle of a part, you want to continue a flow. So you enter it at the best point. Mike loves Opio, let’s start it there.

Why do both Carroll and Rick’s parts end with non-makes?

Well, the Rick front shove over the Gonz gap can also be seen as the beginning of the slam section. I filmed that one… he was so close and it looked so good, it needed to be seen. You can put a slam in there of a valiant effort. That was as good of an ender as any… same thing with Mike’s switch frontside big spin heel. That was insane at the time. People needed to see it. It was all part of the conversation.

Sean Sheffey ph: Rosenberg

What was Sheffey like for Questionable? Is Pinky Tuscadero just constantly dropping gems at this point?

(laughs) I didn’t even know who Pinky Tuscadero was at the time! I didn’t watch a lot of tv growing up.

Who knew he was such a Happy Days fan!?!

Right? But Sheffey and I always had a great relationship. You definitely didn’t want to get on his bad side, but there was also a teddy bear quality to him. I actually used to babysit Julien a lot back in the day… because living with Ternasky and his fiancée, they’d need time alone every now and then. So I'd just stay at either Danny’s or Sheffey’s house. I remember sleeping on Sheffey’s floor a lot or on the couch in his living room. It was always great.  

You shot Sean heelflipping the SD double-set for Big Brother. Was that a make?

Oh, no… he tried that for a while, actually. I have a lot of photos of that but it never panned out.

What about Rick buying socks?

That’s just Rick and I hanging out. We’d just got done skating... he got a few things on the curb outside that I don’t think were ever used. We decided to go inside and have some fun. You always gotta film stuff like that.

Because Rick could be coy with the camera. Sometimes he’d be like “Turn that shit off”…he’s that way in the background of the Pinky Tuscadero clip. But other times, he’d be into it. Like in K-Mart that day.

“Hey, Mary.”

He’s full-on talking to this woman about socks. So there was a side of him that loved it, too.

Jake took this photo but has no idea how this ad came about.

Is it hard to watch your older footage from a more technical perspective? Having progressed as a filmmaker in the decades since...

Not at all. I appreciate the rawness and innocence of the old footage. For me, the only thing that turns my stomach is wishing that I didn’t turn off my camera at times when I did. Or that I can’t believe I taped over something. At a certain point, you don’t have enough money to buy new tapes so you’re taping over shit… and unfortunately, I taped over a couple things that I wish I hadn’t.

There had been Demos sections before, but I don’t remember so many non-rider clips in a video prior to Questionable. As editor, are you choosing these “friends” on your own?

100%. Because I had Paul Zuanich, my old friend from Palo Alto, in both Questionable and Virtual Reality.

If they did a good trick and were homies, I put them in the video. I filmed Cardiel for Dogtown, Ternasky films him doing a padless 540 on the deck. I’m putting him in there! Slow-motion. Because it’s Cardiel doing a fucking McTwist!

And Mike’s down for that?

Of course! Because we love skateboarding. It’s just another texture.

Any truth to that long-held Kanten Russell rumor? That since he wasn’t on the team, the rest of the guys had to do his tricks?

I was never in any team meetings, Mike T made sure to keep those sacred. So I don’t know for certain. But Kanten was Schlossbach’s guy. At the time, Schlossbach was filming Kanten just as much as he was filming Plan B guys. I do think Dave was trying to get Kanten on the team... but while it makes for a great story, who cares? What’s that myth trying to say? Is it trying to paint something as more complex than it really was to justify a few decisions? So that you could possibly take one side and not the other?

I never filmed anyone doing a trick because of Kanten possibly having done it. 

How did MT keep Duffy’s part a secret?

Because Mike filmed almost all of Duffy’s part himself. And with the timing of it all, this was exactly when Mike broke from H-Street. Mike filmed him for almost the entire summer of ’91, when the split was taking place. Mike would come to NorCal and film with Carroll and Duffy. Then he brought Duffy down to San Diego for those famous sessions at San Pasqual.

Nobody knew who he was back then... Gabe Morford, maybe. Because he shot him. But that was it. The only person who needed to know was Mike, so he kept it under wraps. We’d all heard the legend of this kid named Pat Duffy, but he wasn’t skating spots where people were at. He was just out there in Marin County.

He was barely even communicated as a rider beforehand. He was just a question on that “Quiz” ad.

Yeah, “Everyone has heard of Pat Duffy: False.”

It was a joke. But the value in doing that was priceless. This guy came out of nowhere and blew skateboarding’s collective mind!

But was Duffy stressed filming for Virtual Reality after having just released this incredible debut?

Pat’s just a wonderful soul. I’ve never seen him as being self-absorbed about things like video parts. And regardless, his Virtual part is still incredible in its own right.

I filmed his White Rail lipslide. And I still remember that day being some “pinch yourself” shit. Like, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

But he did it that day. Not that it was easy, the slams he took on that thing are some of the scariest I’ve ever seen. It was scary.

Jake and the Virtual Reality Notebook ph: Blabac

Where did the Virtual Reality open come from?

Well, as we were starting to work on Virtual, I remember Mike and I just wanting to fuck with people. Like, how could we outdo Questionable, using the tongue-in-cheek standpoint of Virtual Reality? A video for the senseless?

I don’t remember whose idea it was... we were just sitting at Mike’s house one night and it was this dumb idea we had. What if we did a split-screen? But the more we thought about it, split-screen would make both sides too narrow and you wouldn’t be able to see the trick.

“What if we did 3 screens!?!”

Once it was said, we were definitely doing it.

So I started building each screen on its own, trick-by-trick. Timing them out to where everything happens on the screen at the same time. Where everyone is skating a bank, everyone is skating a rail... The same discipline.

That notebook is me pre-editing the parts, breaking down where everything starts so you can see how things lines up. I edited each of those intros on their own tape to a beat sheet. It was only when we got into mastering that we were able to line them up and do the split screen with music. Obviously, Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” is great. And that’s the whole video for the senseless, man... The guitar. One screen? Nope. Two screens!?! Nope. Three screens!!!

Okay, here you go. Here’s your fucking Virtual Reality!

That video was such a seminal experience in my life. Because Virtual was essentially Mike giving me the keys to the car. And that’s a testament to Mike. He directed Questionable, which was the roadmap. I saw intimately how that was made. And Virtual was him taking a more producer-type of role. Having a strong directorial and creative hand, but letting me do things on my own... at 19-years-old. I will be eternally grateful for that.

Jake's Virtual Reality Notebook, Page 2

There’s a ton of exclusives in that open, too.

Yeah, that was the point. Ronnie Bertino’s in there. I filmed Ronnie for Think, loved that kid. Mike knew about Ronnie, too. All of that stuff was part of it.

I remember Duffy having a line that was just too long, but it was great. So I just broke it up with clips in-between. If you watch the whole thing, it’s constantly cutting back to this one line in Pacific Beach. But you could do that. Not everything had to be some crazy banger on the smaller screens.

So did anyone ever tell MT that they just didn’t want to do another video?

I don’t remember any of those type of conversations. I was certainly never around for anything like that. But the expectation was always to keep going with another video. A video per year. That’s how most brands did it back then.

But how real was this apparent threat of retirement?

Well, Hensley had filmed a lot of stuff with Sturt for Not the New. Backside noseblunt slides, the cab over the picnic table, the 540 fakie ollie...

The pivot-to-fakie in Carlsbad is insane.

Forget it. Yeah, MT filmed that.

But at the time, it was Hensley who wanted to move on. That just happened. So Mike made a beautiful tribute to Matt and that was that. It wasn’t necessarily a retirement part, per se. Matt was just done with skating.... We love Matt. We have all this amazing footage. Let’s use it! It’s a great way to send him off.

I don’t know what the conversation was with Sal, but I do remember him not having as much footage for Virtual as the rest of the guys. He seemed to be in an overall different place with his skating and his drive. But there was never any intent in Mike’s mind of ending someone’s career. He would never want to turn off someone’s flame.

You have to remember that Mike was 27 when he died, so he was only 25 when we were making Virtual. Most of us are allowed passes well into our 30s with decisions we make in life. Most people are allowed to fail throughout their 20s before getting their shit together. Mike wasn’t allowed that because he was this titan of the industry. People were always so critical of everything he did.

“He’s retiring people! Is Mike Carroll next!?!”

Of course not. Does Mike Carroll want to retire? No. MT wasn’t about to just start retiring people.

Sal’s given me his side, I was more wondering about how this affected everyone else, which it clearly did.

I think if Mike wasn’t in the middle of making a video and starting new brands, he would’ve probably seen that it wasn’t a great idea from a team standpoint. He just might’ve been too caught up in what he felt the video needed to consider how such a move could feel to everyone else.

How was the communication inside Plan B at this time?

Mike was actually grooming Rick to take over Plan B, the skateboard aspect of the company. He was showing Rick the books and how the company was run.

Mike was looking to step into more of an executive role with everything... because you gotta remember, there was no reason to think that a skater’s career could last longer than 10 years back then. So Mike isn’t trying to end careers here, he just didn’t know where things were going. He was doing the same thing with me, too. I was to make all of the videos for Plan B and Type A Snowboards.

But yeah, Mike’s plan was to have Rick run Plan B, which is why it stung so bad when those guys left. Because I knew that there was nothing vicious in Mike’s heart. He was actually trying to empower those guys.

So Rick took that knowledge and left to start Girl?

I don’t think that’s fair to say. I just think that Mike and Rick wanted their own thing. By that point, they’d seen all of these other people start companies. Why couldn’t they start their own, too?

If Mike’s showing Rick the books, there’s that wheel invoices legend about numbers not adding up, which was once cited as a reason for Girl.

I don’t know about that. I’d be curious if that specific question was asked to that specific person at that moment. But the reality is what I just said, those guys wanted to do their own thing.

Mike Ternasky was not a shifty person. He just wasn’t. He was a very shrewd businessman. You’d drop a penny and he’d tell you to pick it up. Seriously. But he wasn’t shifty.

Mike Carroll and Jake ph: Blabac

MC throws your board in the ocean, you two get in a fistfight a week later. We’ve heard Mike tell it but I’m curious to your side of the story.

At the heart of it, Mike and I were friends not because we sought each other out but because we complemented each other at a time when we both needed it. Again, I could be very annoying. But I was always filming. I was dedicated to my craft. On another level, Mike is also an artist. He’s exploring a personal space, trying to do something incredibly technical that comes from within. But because we’re not necessarily friends by design but by necessity, I’m an easy target for his frustration. And with my personality, at that time in my life, I would take the abuse. Just grin and bear it, thinking of the greater good. And it just got gnarly.

So Mike and I were filming, and it’s a shame because this was my favorite board I’ve ever had. It was a Rodney Carl’s Jr board that Danny frontside flipped the Carl’s Jr gap on. Because he’d broken his board, he borrowed mine. So that board is actually in Virtual Reality... which was the same one that when Mike got pissed about not landing a trick: “Fuck you, Jake!” and he threw it in the ocean.

A week or so later, I start to cut Rick’s part. Carroll is in the editing room and we end up having a little back-and-forth. He starts egging me on.

“If you don’t stop making that noise, I’m gonna slap the shit out of you.”

And I take the bait.

The original altercation took place in the editing room. There was some initial shoving.” And I essentially had to put my money where my mouth was. Your heart-rate goes up and I was just like, “Fuck it.”

Mike T and Rick are in the living room... and they’re kinda licking their chops, like “Oh my god, are these guys are gonna fight!?!”

So we go out in front of the house. And I’m scared, because Mike Carroll had grown up fighting his brother. I felt very outgunned.

“Come on, bitch! Fight me.”

He just keeps saying it.

I fucking take a swing at him and hit him perfectly in his jaw. I didn’t even know what to do. We’re just standing there, putting up our dukes. So I hit him in the face.

He stops.

“Wow... déjà vu.”

That was his reaction... And then he comes at me. Five seconds later, we’re wrestling on the ground. I’m on top of him, now he’s on top of me. He starts punching me in the face, I dip my chin so he ends up hitting me in the forehead. I somehow got him in a headlock and ended up throwing him down, which he pulled my shirt and pulled me down with him. So then he had me in a headlock and was pounding my head.

We sorta separate after a minute and he says, “I respect you. I respect you for fighting me.”


And with that, I walk over to this community pool that was across the street. I take off all my clothes, down to my underwear, and walk into the pool. I put my whole body underwater.

30 minutes later, I walk back into the house. Rick is looking at me with wide eyes. It’s not that bad... just bumps and scratches. Carroll is in another room and MT is trying to navigate it all. Carroll and Rick end up getting in the car and Mike takes a Southwest flight home.

Ternasky and I don’t talk too much about it. He just wants to know that I’m alright.

“You okay, Jake? We’ll go out to dinner tonight.”

We go to Souplantation, which was kind of a thing at the time. I remember sitting down with him and Mary... and Ternasky finally cracks. This is the greatest part of it for me. He gets this big smile on his face.

“Dude, what did it feel like to hit him?” (laughs)

“I don’t know... It felt amazing.” (laughs)

I’m sure he had wrestled emotionally with Mikey for so long. Because he was such a tough kid. But the beautiful thing about life is that Carroll and I are close friends to this day. I care for Mike Carroll deeply. Regardless of the feelings I’ve had since then, because I had a big chip on my shoulder for what those guys did and how they left to start Girl. Painting MT the way they did, I thought it was so disrespectful. But I’m grateful that we both had Mike’s affection and that we shared such an intense relationship with each other.

I remember when we first reconnected in 2007, we had this deep hour-and-a-half conversation and forgave each other. It was essential to growing.

Talk to me about Rick James’ “Give It To Me, Baby”.

My memory is that MT and I narrowed it down to two Rick James tracks. I was the one editing Rick’s part, so I chose that track to start cutting with and it was perfect.

Music is interesting because I feel like a lot of people talk about the music in Mike’s videos who don’t really know what they’re talking about. There’s so many wild opinions about the music in Love Child, but nobody ever talks about the fact that Mike Ternasky made that video. He literally made it right after Questionable.

There was a Warehouse Records nearby in Poway. And one of the things that Mike would do is go there with riders and pull music. Drop it into the cart. I remember getting Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” there with Carroll when it came out. But MT used to get stuff like Billboard’s Top 10 Hits from 1965. He had all of those CDs from 1960 to 1982. And we’d just listen to them constantly. Anything we liked, we put to the side. That’s how we got The Steve Miller Band and Kiss.

But if you go back to Not the New and Questionable, I remember having conversations with Mike about things like Jim Croce and Louis Armstrong. Because that’s skateboarding. It doesn’t have to be Operation Ivy or Bad Religion. Sure, there’s a place for that, but it doesn’t always have to be that.

Riders would often share music they liked, but, in general, Mike and I would audition songs. With Virtual being so brash with this big intro… Rick James? Rick Howard? Of course! It just made sense somehow. Because there was always a playfulness to Rick. It shines through, like with Edgar Needham.

Mike believed that a video part is as much a love-letter to the skateboarder as it is an expression of love from that skateboarder about skateboarding itself. It’s deeper than just trick-trick-trick. Because Rick James, that comes from loving Rick Howard. You play that song, you look at Rick and you smile. He’ll do one of those personality things and it becomes crystalized.

Blowing a kiss around the corner.

Exactly. That was the same day as the rowsh-rowsh caveman. Right on Wilshire. Just messing around, he does something completely random, and it’s forever.

If I were to differentiate the Plan B videos from the Girl videos, which I hold in very high regard, the Girl videos are more about a love of skateboarding. They’re more playful with this idea of skateboarding, where the Plan B videos are love-letters to the skaters featured.

Not that Mike Ternasky should take credit for Girl’s success in taking skateboarding into new directions, but he did play a role in having people initially fall in love with them. The love-letters we wrote those guys played a large part in defining their images early on in their careers.

How did the Blind Friends section come about? Was that really a pre-Girl footage dump?

I don’t know where it ever came out that the Blind Friends section was supposed to be a Girl footage dump. Because I filmed some of those clips and I edited the part. The only reason that part even happened is because World knew there weren’t any new videos on a timetable. They had a bunch of footage that probably wasn’t going to end up anywhere, so we were allowed to use it. Let’s have this segue part.

Rick, Rudy and I always loved the Beatles... It’s a no-brainer. And it’s all these great guys we love. Because there was concern over Plan B being too insulated after Questionable. People saw us as being too cool. Let’s give our friends on Blind some shine. Not only was it rad, it was also free stoke for Plan B. More cool stuff to have in the video!

A footage dump would’ve meant a lot more coordination than I remember there being. I don’t know if Rick and Mike were that calculated. It would’ve meant clandestine moves... which there obviously were, but I don’t think to that extent. That’s not my memory of things.

Jake and MT at the Virtual Reality Premiere ph: Kosick
So we’re entering a turbulent time here: Virtual Reality comes out, almost immediately followed by the Girl exodus, and not too long afterwards, MT’s passing.

Alright, so those guys leave and Mike is devastated. But Mike and I also kinda broke up after Virtual Reality, to a degree. That project took a lot out of everyone.

We drove up to his wedding together, which was June 19, 1993. The day before my birthday. And I’m eternally grateful for that time in the car, because we talked about the stress of everything and how gnarly it all was.

“I think I’m gonna take the summer off and finally get my diploma.”

“I think you should.”

“And I’m going to apply to college, too.”

“That sounds like a great idea.”

MT's Wedding

The plan was for me to go to film school and get this technical education. We’ll continue making skateboarding and snowboarding videos together. And we’ll write. Because we both always wanted to make movies, when I was done with film school, we’ll make movies together, too.

That was our kinda naïve idea for things, based on the strength of our collaboration. Because, after all, we’d just finished Virtual Reality... which at the premiere, after it was done playing, all we heard was “Play it again!” So we played the whole video again. We played it twice-in-a-row at the premiere that night. And almost everyone stayed in their seats for the second showing, too.

We knew what all we were capable of doing together, we just needed a break. So we take that summer off... which happened to be the same summer those guys left. I ended up staying in Northern California and got a job at Sega of America. And at that point, Mike found Christianity, which was very fulfilling for him. He’d just gotten married and his wife had a strong sense of faith, which developed in him as well.

He came up to Northern California for something in March, after I had been accepted to college. And I’d just bought a car. He was so proud of me. It felt like the seeds of everything were really happening. And at this point, we’re talking on the phone all of the time. But that was the last time I saw him.

That May, Pete Thompson, who was working at Slap Magazine, sends me an advanced cassette of the Beastie Boys’ “Ill Communication”. I had just started listening to it in my bedroom when the phone rang. It was Mike’s cousin, Joel. And I could tell that he was very nervous.

“Hey, Joel... you okay?”

“I just want to tell you that Mike is gone. There was an accident this morning and he died.”

My first instinct was that no, he’s not dead. He’s just in the hospital. They’re gonna bring him back. Even though Joel told me that he had died, I still didn’t believe it. He’s gonna be fine. I just gotta get down to San Diego and see him.

We get off the phone. I stop playing the music... and I’m just numb. I remember going to Blockbuster later that night and renting A Bronx Tale. But when I sit down to watch it, I just can’t. I have no grasp on reality. So, to this day, I’ve never listened to “Ill Communication” all the way through or watched A Bronx Tale.

I was on a flight to San Diego the next day, but that entire week is a blur.

I remember seeing Danny outside the viewing, which was so profound. He just seemed so empty.

“Jake, what are we going to do?”

And I knew what he was saying. How are we going to live without this guy who’d been so integral to our lives?

The funeral was the next day and I was grateful to have participated in that. Mike and Rick are there. Mary was pregnant at that time... it just felt terrible. This tremendous lifeforce was gone.

I don’t remember who’s house we went to afterwards, but Colin’s dad came up to me and said, “Jake, you have to finish the video. You just have to.”

At this point, I’m trying to go to film school... I’m just on a different path.  So I hear him out and respond with, “Let’s see.”

The whole thing was just devastating. And I continue to soul-search to this day, trying to understand the complexities of it all. I don’t think that it’s been until recently that I understand the true magnitude of everything. Having kids and being older, much older than Mike was when he died.

I don’t know if this is enough... there are layers to the depth of the relationship.

Well, I’m sure that you’ll be figuring all of this out for the rest of your life.

...No, I figured it out.

Jake Self-Portrait

How can you be so sure?

I was molested when I was 5 years-old by my next-door neighbor. On-and-off for about 2 years. And I repressed all memories of the abuse until I was 18-years-old. That was the fall of 1991... and it was my next-door neighbor, who still lived there. It was a complicated situation and still a very open-wound. I just didn’t remember... until I was in this psychology class and a guy came in to talk about being sexually-abused and how he repressed the memory. I’m just sitting there, when all of a sudden, I start remembering things.

But when did Mike call me to move down to San Diego? The fall of 1991. So, at this moment where my psychology exploded and I had nothing to hold onto, I get a phone call from this guy, asking me to come to San Diego and be a part of this thing.


And that’s the thing about Mike that’s so perfect. He could somehow recognize people who had damage. People who couldn’t take care of themselves. I actually think that most of our peers in skateboarding from that time have some kind of damage, to an extent. I mean, look at the whole Plan B team. Almost every person on that team grew up in very difficult circumstances. Danny, Mike Carroll, Rodney... so, what I’ve come to understand is that I didn’t even know that I needed to be saved. But he did. And he made me feel whole when I wasn’t. He made me feel safe and that I had value. He did that with several people. Mike nurtured us.

ph: Rosenberg

You never told him?

I never told him, but I think he knew somehow.

I don’t know if Mike experienced sexual abuse but I do know that he had a very chaotic upbringing, at times. I think he had an instinct, the same one that I have whenever I meet people. A way of telling that there’s something going on underneath the surface. Mike had a nose for this himself, and I think that’s evidenced by the lives he touched and the people he pushed. So, I hope that brings some new perspective to “I’ll give you $500 bucks to do that trick.”

Because what if this is a damaged kid but it’s something they want to do and are capable of doing? You know helping them elevate and feel that sense of self-confidence will begin to give them the tools to heal.

...That’s why it’s so important for me to talk about this stuff now.

Thank you for talking about this, Jake. Stories like this are very important.

Thanks, Eric. It’s a big deal for me and critical to be honest about. Overcoming the insecurity and trauma from the abuse has been an ongoing thing. It requires therapy and self-work and because someone may read this who has had a similar experience, I would encourage them to find a therapist or a safe person to talk to, to release that burden and start to work on themselves. Pain and trauma manifest in different ways, but there is a way through it, to emerge without the weight or the shame. It never really goes away, but it becomes a part of you that you can harness in powerful and beautiful ways. I am definitely here to say you can grow from it and find yourself.

And you obviously went on to do Second Hand Smoke, where was that project when you took it over?

It was probably about 60-70% filmed when Mike died.

Over that summer, Jeremy Wray came up with Jason Dill and we filmed some stuff at Hubba. But the rest of filming was on them because I’d started film school. So Plan B got everything to where they felt was a good spot and hit me up to come down and edit it all together.

I flew down to San Diego the day after Christmas. Mary was already gone. It was just this big, empty condo that we all used to live in. There was a bunch of footage and a giant photo of Mike in the living room. That was it.

This was December 26th and the video premiered on January 7th or January 9th, I can’t remember. It’s all a bit of a blur because I had so much work to do. I just had to hunker down and get it done... I remember Jeremy Wray coming over a lot. Pat Channita, too.

I filmed all of Danny’s new vert stuff at night. The cab heelflip and backside ollie kickflip… It was tough for him, being injured and not having a part, but we wanted to make sure he had some kind of stamp on the video. That’s why I decided to put his part going into the credits, as more of a bonus section. Just to take some of the pressure off.

Second Hand Smoke was my working with whatever I had. Some things are undeniably amazing, some things just are what they are. But with Jeremy, it felt like the whole video was building up to his part, especially with what footage he had that no one knew about.

There are a couple of things that I wanted to do in SHS that I’m quite proud of. Things that Mike and I had talked about but just hadn’t done yet. Like in our previous videos where something in a clip happened to coincide with the lyrics of the song? Or when Pat Duffy hit his head at the end of the song in Virtual? We saw how effective it was when things hit that way.

We were also starting to play around with putting the heaviest trick up front, too. To start with the banger. Because why not?

So I remember looking at Jeremy’s footage and we narrowed the song down to “White Room”, but he had this crazy long line... and with something like that, you either use the whole thing or just the frontside flip. Obviously, with how that line is filmed, there’s so much power to it. But it’s not like you can put that at the end of the part, either. There’s too much of a lull, especially after already creating a rhythm with the editing so far. You’d have to cut the sound and just have nothing. That’s not the right move.

At some point, it just became how the part was supposed to open. No music. Just raw skating with the little cameos in the background. Because you know something’s coming. Where’s he going? It’s creating tension... and then you open with the banger. Drop the music when he lands and then structure everything to fall in line with the beat, purposefully. Putting the pop of the board to the beat at first and then switch to landing on the beat, then cut. Not just cutting the edit on the beat.

And other things, like where the song dips out, fill in that gap with grind sounds in a beat pattern... like his section at Hubba. So even in the negative space, you’re creating a rhythm.

For me, Jeremy’s part was the crescendo. It felt fitting that my last thumbprint on skateboarding videos was to push in a direction that Mike and I had talked about, with a skater he was so excited about, skating at a level that was what the brand expected. That part is my proudest statement. And something that I’ve only come to realize recently: it’s beautiful that Questionable starts with Duffy by MT and SHS ends with Jeremy by me. It just feels right.

So you always knew after SHS, you were done with skate videos?

It’s funny because the summer after Mike died, the guys from 60/40 called me. Gonz’s company, wanting to know if I could help out with a video they were wanting to do. But I was just so despondent, I said no. I said no to the Gonz. That should tell you how dark of a place I was in. Mark’s my favorite.

I didn’t fully know that I was done, but I knew that I was going to film school. And I knew that I gave everything I could. I went to San Diego and did everything I could to give back to Mike’s legacy.

We premiered the video at La Paloma and I got on the red-eye back home that night. And that was it, I was done at 21.

Jake, Colin, Danny
And it took the Danny documentary to bring you back to skateboarding? It couldn’t have been easy making a documentary about your friend after all this...

Well, it’s so much later. Making the Danny doc was wonderful because it was my way of identifying many of the things that we’re talking about now. It was my first psychological dive back into what skateboarding means to me.

Being so close to the subject and with all the events that Danny has gone through, some of which you chose not to cover, do you feel like you were successful with the piece?

I just wanted to tell a story with Danny about the positive aspects that skateboarding can bring to someone. And I wanted to celebrate what Danny has done on a skateboard. I wanted to show the complexities through his unique self-abuse and this grand vision of not being satiated. Wanting more but not knowing where to go. And yes, I feel like it ultimately was successful.

I think a lot of the Danny doc was told through Mike’s eyes, actually. 

Danny and Jacob ph: Blabac

I feel like people too often skip from Stacy Peralta to Steve Rocco in skate history timelines, forgetting the impact of Mike and H-Street...

Because Rocco is not the right connection. Stacy was a storyteller, Rocco was a disruptor and businessman. Mike was a storyteller, too. So the Stacy-to-Mike conversation is the correct one because they’re both innately wanting to express things about skateboarding.

How was MT with Rocco anyway?

Those guys were funny together. I think, at a certain point, some of what Rocco was doing with Big Brother turned Mike off. But I think he always saw Steve as a character and a brother-in-arms. These were two guys doing things radically different than the rest of the industry. But at the same time, they also had very different styles from each other in their ways of getting things done.

Jake and MT's daughter, Michaela ph: Elkins

How would Ternasky view skateboarding in 2020?

I think he’d be stoked on skateboarding today. All of the endless expression and diversity... he would lose his mind over somebody like Nyjah. A kid like Chris Joslin is such the perfect Plan B rider and how his True part rolled out was so incredible. So meaningful to see him come through that way. MT would’ve been stoked on that.

Mike just wanted people to be passionate about what they were doing. He was always interested in things that were real, coming from a good place. That’s what mattered most to him. Pure expression. Don’t be phony about it.

Special thanks to Jake and his family, Mike Blabac, Sean Dolinsky, Michael Burnett, Mark Whiteley and Gustavo Neves.

R.I.P. Mike Ternasky

And don't forget Jake's Questionable/Reality Companion Post.


jaybird said...

Absolutely amazing . Thanks chops & jake .

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you both for an amazing interview - really needed this today.

Nick S. said...

Incredible insight and explication of arguably the most important period of skateboarding's history. Thank you Chops for providing the platform, but more importantly, thank you Jake for having the strength and will to share all of your memories (good and bad) about this pivotal time in skateboarding. Amazing work here, guys. Truly.

Anonymous said...

Amazing interview. Much needed. Thanks to the both of you.

drumrats said...


Damian Stachelski said...

Wow is that Schlossbach sitting on the steps at the end of the vid there? Finally know what that guy looks like

Dill said...

Loving this . . .

For me, this era defines the "grand narrative" of skateboarding, as everything splinters off from here. As the raver goofy boy street futurist DADA avant-garde, culminates into a crack cocaine like distillation which would become Guy's part in Mouse — every video is basically a sop to the format of Questionable, and basically every full length part conceptually becoming a striving aspirational and unrealizable attempt at the self actualization of mid 90's Guy. Something kids who started post 2000 cannot understand.

Anyways, can anyone shed some light on the girl with the daisy dukes before Duffy's VR part? Been wondering for years.

Great top shelf content


chops said...


Check Jake's Guest Post, talked about there.


Pierre Wikberg said...

Incredible read.

Anonymous said...

I have a wav export of Tilt Wheel 8 1/2 directly from virtual reality.
it still makes me wanna skate today when i hear it in my playlist
jake explained it well its the feeling and emotion that was made with that video

thank you Jake

PhilKaiolohiaOyao said...

Great interview with jake and mike ternasky. I went to high school with mike ternasky. He was a senior when I was a sophmore being in the same wrestling team and started skating seriously in 85/86 remembering everything that was going on the next 10 years from Powell videos to h-street videos and tripping out finding out my high school wrestling team mate managing h-street from skateboarding montegue banks to the launch ramp skate jams after animal chin and ban this. To meeting so many local Bay Area skaters from sponsored ams to pro’s hooking me up with Santa Cruz, think, real, Schmidt stick/New Deal boards/trucks/wheels to picking up my moms vhs �� Panasonic camera �� and documenting my skateboard friends and trying to help them out in mid 90’s while following mike T’s accomplishments. I’m thankful for jake and mike T for capturing the magic what I would see at EMB circa 88-94 and later on to the pier 7 era and remembering the east coast skaters moving to SF when renting a room there was super cheap. I will always hold these skating years and memories sacred������������

isidro said...

Great interview!
Can’t ever get enough stories and anecdotes from those years. Thanks for your work.

djneilnice.blogspot.com said...

"Mike just wanted people to be passionate about what they were doing."


Ben Johnson said...

That was really a cool interview and it was good damn.

Good creative writing..Appreciate your skills and efforts here..Keep Writing..

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