Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Whitebear Tales: Spike Jonze

I just read this up on DIG. Thought it was pretty interesting.

It was the mid ‘90’s, and I was renting a room in Chris Moeller’s condo in Huntington Beach. We headed over to McGoo’s house for a party. There were a few riders from the U.K. staying at our place. The U.K. guys were stoked because Andy Jenkins, Lew, and Spike Jonze were supposed to show up at the party, the guys from the legendary FREESTYLIN’ magazine, and the blokes had never met Spike. Spike had become super famous over the previous couple years by directing several music videos, notably the Beastie Boy’s “Sabotage” video and Weezer’s “Buddy Holly.” So we wandered into the party, and found Andy and Lew. Since I had worked with them years before, I think I introduced them to the U.K. guys. Immediately, someone asked if Spike was coming to the party. Andy got a weird look on his face and replied, “ Uh… Spike’s camping in Africa with Francis Ford Coppola.” We all laughed at his joke, and I asked “no, seriously, where is he? These guys want to meet him.” Andy replied, “Seriously… he’s camping in Africa with Francis Ford Coppola.” Jaws dropped, and Andy and Lew just kind of shook their heads.

Nearly ten years earlier, during my short stint at FREESTYLIN’ magazine in late 1986, I was standing outside the warehouse on a break, chatting with Andy and Lew. We heard a noise, and a motorcycle turned into the parking lot and pulled up to us, piloted by Ron Wilkerson. At the time, Ron was one of Haro’s main pros, and toured extensively with Brian Blyther and Dave Nourie. The motorcycle was an old cruising bike, like a Kawasaki 650 or something. There was no faring or tail boxes like a Goldwing, it was a cruising around town street bike. On the back of the bike was a smiling, blond-haired kid who looked to be about thirteen. Ron took off his helmet and said “Hey guys, this is Spike, he was on tour with us.” And with those words, The Master Cluster began to form. The three of us looked at this kid crazy enough to get on the back of Ron Wilkerson’s motorcycle for a two hour ride in SoCal traffic. We started talking to Ron and Spike about the Haro tour they’d just returned from. Suddenly Lew made a funny face, it was an “aha” moment. He said, “Spike… are you Spike Jonze?” Spike said that he was. Lew said, “Did you send in a photo for that photo contest we had?” Spike said he had. Lew said, “You won a prize.”

With that, we all headed inside. As fate would have it, we had just decided the winners, but they hadn’t been notified yet. Spike had sent in an 8 x 10 black and white print of himself doing a four foot air on a halfpipe. He had taken magic markers and colored in the photo in places. It was definitely the most original photo we had come in, but I voted against it because others had bigger airs and better riding. But Andy and Lew loved it, and we wound up giving Spike Jonze his prize that day, I think.

A few months later, I got laid off, and a couple months after that, Andy and Lew hired Spike at FREESTYLIN’. He was 17 or 18 then, but looked much younger. He melded into the scene, both as a rider and a photographer. He was a damn good rider AND skater, and could have been a decent pro in both, I think. But he was mostly a photographer, just one of the guys at the contests, shooting for FREESTYLIN’. Then in the early 90’s, we’d start hearing stories about him. Spike’s heir to the Spiegel catalog fortune, and his real name’s Adam something. Andy, Lew, and Spike are starting a magazine called Dirt. Spike started a skateboard company called Girl. Spike’s directing a music video. The Beastie Boys just mentioned Spike on the MTV Music Awards. It just kept going.

So when Andy Jenkins said that Spike was camping in Africa with Francis Ford Coppola, it really wasn’t that surprising to me. As most of you know, Spike went on to direct “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” and then produce the “Jackass” TV show and movies, with former FREESTYLIN’ art director (and fourth member of The Muster Cluster) Jeff Tremaine directing.

Yes kids, Spike Jonze WAS a BMXer. He’s also a nice guy. He’s one of the few in the bike world who has never made fun of me, which is kind of amazing since the other Wizard Publications employees, Andy, Lew, and Chris Moeller made fun of me pretty much non-stop. I last saw Spike at a ramp contest in Moreno Valley in about ‘95, and Spike actually came up and said “hi” to me. He’s a charmed one, that Spike. More power to him. - White Bear