Lonny Peoples Interview

May 29, 2011

In the collective mind’s eye of early-Nineties skating, every metropolis housed an Embarcadero-like plaza, over which presided an EMB-like hierarchy. Indeed, one of the most evocative moments of the recent Kalis Epicly Later’d was his ridiculously long line at that Dallas spot–City Place I think it was called.  As city center plaza skating recedes into the sands of time, the value of pre-internet documentation of its practice increases exponentially.

ANYWAY, in Richmond, VA,  Shafer Court was the spot–the first place we went after the oldest dude in our little crew got a driver’s license. The first place in which I felt that primal “fight-or-flight” response of being in a heavy session with some heavy dudes. There was only one way to do it; in that moment, I realized the true meaning of Danny Way’s personal philosophy. I had to move it or lose it.

Truth be told, I think I lost it.

ANYWAY, Lonny Peoples became one of the main dudes in the Shafer hierarchy and one of the few from VA (not counting Northern VA) to “do thangs” in skating out west. His career spans the golden age of vert to the weed-hazed heyday of Pier 7. The interview that follows is a window into a largely undocumented era.

First question is a pretty standard, cliche intro question–where are you from and when and how did you get into skating?

Newport News,VA was where I got introduced to a skateboard by my next-door neighbors at the age of eleven years old.

What was the scene like on the east coast in the late Eighties/early Nineties?

Sick, because whoever you met took you in. And you just ended up meeting people and you did your thing; you had a place to crash. It’s not like that anymore.

Did you ever skate Trashmore? That place was a big deal when I was in, like, fifth grade.

I learned to skate vert on Trashmore with Bushka [Vidal] and Sergei [Ventura] and Henry and Mike Ruscini and all them.

Was there a big contest circuit on the east coast back then?

There were the NSA contests, which was like the national skateboarding league. That was what that was, and that was the biggest thing.

Who was killing it back then on that circuit?

When it has to come down to it back then, it would have to be Bushka, Andy Stone, all the DC boys…

What about Brian Shafer? Didn’t he used to skate vert ‘n shit?

Brian Shafer, yeah. He skated in all the NSA Contests.

How did you hear about Shafer Court and when did you first skate there?

When I moved up to Richmond in 1992 I was introduced to Shafer Court, and I skated it religiously because I only lived a block away. My rent was sixty bucks a month. And I skated it every day, man. It was actually the Pulaski of Richmond. My first ad ever in a magazine was in Shafer Court–in the first Slap.

Describe what Shafer was like in the early Nineties–the setup, what kind of shit there was to skate there, how many people would usually be there, that kind of shit.

Ali Mills - stage gap ollie from "Useless Wooden Toys"

Shafer Court would have a usual day of about twenty or thirty people a day. The setup was nice; you had a whole block. A long street, a curb, you had a ledge, you had a stage, you had gaps, you had the benches down at the end. You could skate there and no one would ever bother you. And you got to see free shows–the Chili Peppers, Fugazi played there, Quicksand…

Did you ever go up to Pulaski?

Yeah Pulaski was like my home away from home, so all my homies were there, everything. Good times.

What was the craziest trick you ever saw go down at Shafer?

Probably a fakie ollie fakie 5/0 on the big ledge on the commons, which is over knee high. Back in that day, that was the hardest trick.

Didn’t Sheffey ollie over a car there, like one of those little MG’s or some shit?

I didn’t hear about Sheffey ollieing a car. He was down at Oregon Hill hanging out with us, and he was ripping that up–over a stand-up garbage can. But a car? Nah I never heard that one.

What was the deal with that company Psychic Sun?

Psychic Sun was a company that I rode for–me and Brian Howard. That was Chris Bailey, so if anyone out there knows “Stymey,” that’s him. He was kinda shaky, but he gave me my first ad ever in skateboarding.

Who killed Shafer Court the hardest in your opinion?

In my opinion? Not being conceited, but basically me and Alan Siegler.

Do you remember anyone doing anything over the stage gap besides ollieing it?

No. You know, that’s the funniest thing–I’ve never seen anyone do anything else. Unless Alan kickflipped it; I don’t really know. I heard he kickflipped it, but I never saw it.

When and how did you find out that Shafer got shut down, and how did you react?

Actually, I had  just come back from San Francisco. I was living in San Francisco, came back on tour, and went through Shafer Court and noticed they had gravel [where the street used to be]. Basically almost cried, because that was an era that shouldn’t have ended. Then I heard they got fucked in the long run because it wasn’t satisfactory for handicapped people, so they ended up having to change it to what it is now. The only thing left at Shafer Court now is the ledge.

How did the opportunity to go out to SF come about?

With a phone call from Greg Carroll from Venture. He told me “What are you doing there? You need need to come out here and get exposure, because it’s long overdue.” So in twenty-four hours I packed my bags and left. I went out there and struggled my ass off. I had to prove myself. Ended up staying out there eight years.

Describe the scene in SF at the time; was Embarcadero still the main spot or had the pier era begun?

Nah that wasn’t the big spot anymore; it was more like the pier was getting started. Me, Karl Watson, Henry Sanchez, Spencer Fujimoto–we all were roomates on 618 Fell St. We all had our shit goin’ on there. It was a new era, and Pier 7 was it.

One thing about Henry Sanchez that no one knows is he skates vert. He skates vert, he skates transition, and he loves skating. I love him to death knowing that he skates everything. He never knew I skated transition either until we went to a demo in Sacramento. He goes “you skate [vert]?” I was like “Yeah, you too?”  The next thing you know we were skating vert.

Describe an average day in the skate life in SF back then.

An average day? We’d wake up, we’d see who had the most weed, we’d see who was selling what and then turn around and head out to the pier. We’d skate there from basically mid-afternoon until dusk, then turn around and head out to the bars, selling product the whole way.

How did that company Generation that you rode for come about?

That was Steve Roug, who basically ran Spitfire, Thunder, Indy–everything back in the day. My best friend Kit Erickson also had a lot to do with that.  He was a big influence on street skating, and I ended up getting involved in Generation through Kit. It was a great thing until we lost him.

What led to you moving back out East?

Because this is home–where my family is, where my true friends are, and other than that, man, this is home. Always will be.

Same with me, kinda–the quality of life is a little more relaxed down here…

This is like my best saying–it’s always nice to leave, and it’s always nice to come home. And Virginia–no matter what part of Virginia–will always be home.

Who helped you out the most on the industry side of things?

I would have to say Drake Jones–a big influence on my life, and he dealt with Deluxe ’cause he was pro for Real. He helped me out a lot. Greg Carroll, the whole Think crew, Keith Cochrane, everybody like that.

What are you up to nowadays?

Skateboarding as much as possible and working all the time. Just picked up new sponsors recently, and, other than that, moving back to Richmond, VA where I haven’t live since ’92.

You said you just picked up some new sponsors; this is your chance to plug your shit…

My board company Outlook Skateboards, Burley Wheels, Royal Trucks ,WRV Virginia Beach, and Spartan Energy Drink which is coming out real soon.

What’ up with Royals?

I love ridin’ em; I rode for Venture for 15 years. It was so hard to make the transition to a different truck, but I went with the crew that I know, which is Greg Carroll and his brother Mike and everything like that.

How would you compare skating transition–i.e. pools/bowls–to vert and to street, and which do you enjoy skating more? Has it always been that way?

Actually, when it comes to that category–everything. No matter what’s ever been put in front of me, I’ve skating everything there was to skate. Not scared. Basically, pull over the van and if there’s a hot curb i’ma hit it.


4 Responses to “Lonny Peoples Interview”

  1. Recommend any videos to supplement the interview?

  2. Chris said

    Good interview. I haven’t thought about Lonny Peoples in years. It’s great that he’s still tearing it up.

  3. smorales said

    good one.

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