At some point in my early days as a skateboarder, Anthony Pappalardo ended up as one of my favourites. It’s weird now to think about, and maybe some of the younger generation reading this (if they read it) might not understand, but there was a time when you might develop favourite skateboarders just by editorial photos and interviews in mags, and ads from their sponsors. Pops was a favourite of mine before both Photosynthesis and I.E., both released in 2000. He was the up-and-coming kid, right around my age, that was on my favourite company, Alien Workshop. I was also a fan of Girl and Chocolate, and remember when they started Lakai in 2000, so my interest in him was reinforced by his inclusion on Lakai from the beginning. This was his first ad, from right around the time Photosynthesis came out:
While both of those parts from 2000 were good, Pops really started to come into his own around the time Mosaic came out, and really developed a (cult?) following through to his part in Fully Flared, which is a part we’ll more than likely discuss in the near future.
-After the bouncy piano-driven sounds of Spoon that we covered last week in Dill’s part, Pops’ part starts out with a sense of urgency. There’s a moment of black after Dill, and then boom, the bass line of “Forget the Swan” kicks in and the NYC imagery starts flickering. The choice of music is notable in that it’s Dinosaur Jr., the band most associated with Alien Workshop, but also unique in that it’s sung by bass player Lou Barlow, rather than frontman J. Mascis. This seems like Pops is giving a nod to what Alien Workshop was about, while being somewhat subtle about it. And maybe this was a way to distance himself from "Habiwack":
Bobshirt: "Was there ever friction between the Workshop and Habitat guys?"
Pappalardo: “Yeah Workshop was always way fucking cooler, and dudes that had to go to Habitat, like, they just tried to make it as cool but it never was.” “Habiwack, yeah.”
-The first trick is a static black and white film shot of a Backside 5-0, seen here photographed in gloriously colour to accentuate the red V and the red Ventures.
-This will match up nicely with the J. Mascis-scored Switch Ollie later on.
-As the intro goes by, notice the photo of Pops walking by the Hasidic Jew, shot by Mike O'Meally. That's Rob Pluhowski behind Pops too. There are more photos from this session that I've seen over the years. The light is just amazing, along with the juxtapositions of cultures and the scene it's self. And on top of all that, Pops' hat compared to the hat and hair of the man walking by him. You can't really set this stuff up.
-Notice the board he's holding. You’ll be seeing him skating quite a few of his boards from this series called “Living, Breathing” by Don Pendleton.
-Quite a few pairs of Lakai Staples as well, albeit with extra long white laces.
-Things kick off with some urban hurdles. He makes it look so smooth but I'm sure connecting all those Ollies and holding speed was not easy.
-Enjoy this clip, because believe it or not it's the only regular push your going to see in his part, and the only other two pushes are switch mongo and consecutive.
-This gap out to 50-50 is a burly trick for anyone, even now, but especially then coming from the kid you would have remembered mostly for his tech skills in Photosynthesis a few years before.
-Riding Kalis’ LOVE board and sticking with the red Ventures.
-After taking a Backside 50-50 down a gold kinker against a wall, which is now reminiscent of the Frontside one he handles a few years later, we get to Flushing Meadows where Pops takes a different approach than most by not skating the grate at all. Surprisingly, this is the only clip in his part that you would call a line, and the only pushes we see leading up to a trick.
-The Ollie over the rail and into the long bank foreshadows something he would expand upon much more in the years after this part.
-I always loved this clip of him hanging on after the Nollie 180 over the rail, and then ditching the board into the trees.
-More skating at Flushing Meadows that doesn't involve the grate. This time, it's the even more treacherous cones in the rarely seen slalom section of the park.
-Those two manuals at Love Park always make me think of these clips from I.E.
-Speaking of Love Park, those manuals were just a prelude to the main event, the Switch Ollie into the fountain. As far as planning outfits go, wearing an I Love NY shirt was a nice choice. It's worth checking here to listen to Pops and Bill Strobeck talk about this time period, and watch some of the attempts at Switch Ollie, which include an off-camera comment from Kalis to photographer Ryan Gee telling him that he's "shooting a little late".
-I know Gee shot it in colour but I could only find a good quality image that was converted to black and white. Sick, right? I don't know that this was ever printed anywhere, but it did recently end up on a t-shirt to go along with a Pappalardo deck from Terror of Planet X.
-The long lens angle is what ended up running as a Lakai ad in 2002. It's a cool layout (cropped here to remove the gigantic and appropriately named Freight shoe model) but the angle of the photo is pretty underwhelming for the magnitude of the trick. Plus, as Pops said in Bill Strobeck's Bobshirt interview, “It’s a little rocket.”
-You know what's not rocket though? This Switch Flip over the rail, nor is the Switch Flip over the can at Love Park that follows it two clips later.
-That Frontside Noseslide where he lands like six feet out from the ledge always makes me think of this Gino sequence. Fast and loose.
-Always liked the colours on the Frontside Boardslide, and the transition from long lens to fisheye is nearly seamless. Nice photo too.
-On that first Nose Manual into the bank, he almost No-Complies his way out of it. The way that he bails at the last second almost makes me think that this was on one of or maybe the very first real try at this, and then he was just too surprised to ride it out. This trick was obviously a battle too. The slams look like they must be from separate days, given his clothes, and in the subsequent make near the end of this part and in the sequence from a Lakai ad he’s got on another outfit too. That second slam he takes on it looks awful, going straight to his shoulder and head.
-From here we go into the so-called-by-Greco after-black hammers, but instead of silence, we get an uncredited little J. Mascis ditty. That Switch Ollie is a hell of a blast and just floats there. Made for a great photo and ad too.
-Over a guardrail and into a bank, again, something he would expand upon thoroughly in Fully Flared. This kicks off a few seconds of just mood shots. Take note skaters and filmmakers: show the viewers your environment, not just your tricks!
-There’s not much that looks cooler than this next clip. The black suede Lakai Staples with the gum sole and a mess of white laces! The hood all cinched up on that grey Alien Workshop OG Logo hoodie! The way that he enters the frame itself, and then come on, a Switch Backside 50-50 down the massive Hubba that is Clipper, in the dark, knowing the drop on the other side of that ledge? It's a favourite of both Pops and Strobeck too.
-The successful Nose Manual and the Lakai ad that came with it:
-Damn, Pops had some good Lakai ads over the years:
-This was a good series:
-Back to it, and it's the ender, a Backside 50-50 on a rail that few would entertain skating, done on a same trip to Cincinnati with Strobeck to buy a mini-van from Joe Castrucci’s uncle.
That's it, short but sweet, just like Pappalardo's parts have always been. Still hoping to see more from him one day. —Jeff Thorburn