Skate Documentary Corner: “All This Mayhem”

September 17, 2014


My brother doesn’t skate. He never skated. * He wears rainbow flip-flops and tucked-in polo shirts. As you probably inferred from the previous details, he joined a fraternity in college. And although we partied together to a certain extent, we never had that “partners in crime” vibe like the subjects of the skate doc All This Mayhem.

I first became aware of Tas Pappas through his 411VM “Wheels of Fortune” segment. It appears to have been filmed in one afternoon at Woodward. Even though I fast-forwarded through anything vert-related on general principle (GP), he did all these sick kickflip mute grabs ‘n shit like that.

Seemed pretty aggro.

Ben’s part preceded Markovich’s in Fight Fire With Fire—a video that, save the aforementioned part, is nowhere on the internets. The concept of doing flip tricks that pose a challenge on flat on vert kind of blew my mind. He seemed mellower, like the Slash to Tas’ Axl or some shit like that.

Before writing this, I read some of the reviews on the internet, and literally every one used the phrase “cautionary tale.” Yes, All This Mayhem functions as such. And yes, it follows the traditional story arc of a. “crazy” childhood b. rise to fame and fortune c. “crazy” partying behavior d. lose everything e. some form of redemption. But who would want to watch a documentary about someone who maintained a professional demeanor, made good choices, developed positive relationships with colleagues and family members, and had a long and successful career?

The Scott Johnston Story.

ANYWAY, in addition to serving as a journey into the darker realms of #success, the film documents the era when vert dudes were just starting to make shit-tons of money again and—this seems weird now—San Diego ruled as the skate mecca.** Contest runs through which I fast-forwarded in 411 are interspersed with #rare 90’s Carlsbad/Encinitas Hi8 party footage and even #rarer late-Eighties Australian tour footage. Why does all late-80’s video (including “Hardwood Classics” on NBATV) look like it’s from the 1930’s now? ANYWAY, the bottle of Shoe Goo on the table with the digital scale is a nice touch.


For better or worse, though, the brothers’ apex of fame and oversized check-collecting coincided with the Platinum era—the sickest team to never make a video (for some reason I always thought Justin Bokma was super good, every since there was this sequence of a 360 down some ill set in a super old SLAP). Henry Sanchez comes off like a champ in this segment, though. Who knew he had such a cool self-depricating sense of humor? *** Despite fielding a team with one of the best street skaters ever and arguably the two best vert dudes of the era, they failed to develop a #brand identity besides a Metallica rip-off logo and a name derived from a strip club. Along those lines, with Tas himself proclaims his status as an H-Street kid in the film’s exposition, I can’t help but think what he and Ben’s career trajectory would have become had they crossed paths with a Ternasky-like mentor figure. Maybe, in an alternate universe in which that old lady actually stopped at that stop sign that day, they’re on Plan B and still ripping.

ANYWAY, in addition to Hi8 footage of random people blowing lines in Carlsbad condominiums, the aspects of this doc that entertain the most are how fuckin’ aggro the Pappas’ were, the virulence of their hatred for Tony Hawk, and its stark contrast with the typical #current skater “let’s all be bro’s just ‘cause we exist” mindset. Some of Tas’ negativity towards Hawk and skating in general comes off like sour grapes—the “900 conspiracy” segment, for example—but he makes a salient point re: mega ramp.

These dudes unironically wanted to be the best—no fake modesty or “I don’t know how I won; I just got lucky, bro” type shit.  You could tell that Tas had watch Hokus Pukus thousands of times and “One Way To Do it” played on infinite repeat in his head. It’s like they were Gordon Gecko and/or the Ben Affleck character in Boiler room and Tony Hawk was that one old broker dude who kept warning Bud Fox. Had I known about this dynamic, I might have actually watched mid-90’s 411VM vert footage. Can you imagine how compelling Street League would be if its tour featured two aggro alpha male brothers who could skate just as good or better as Nyjah and wanted nothing more than to “defeat” him? Not only that—if they had been training towards that goal their whole life?

Riveting stuff.

ANYWAY, if you’re like me you will watch this on GP because you watch every skate doc. It seems counter-intuitive to “rent” a video electronically, but, like, it’s as much as a non-happy hour beer. Think of it as the 90’s version of the Gator and Hosoi docs’ depictions of “crazy” 80’s skate life.

Now when’s that Henry Sanchez doc coming out?

*We did watch Street League together once though!

**has the internet rendered this concept obsolete?

***Lance Conklin is hilarious as well.


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