A pricey Venice loft steals a historic name. Laddie John Dill and others say: "It's the antithesis of Dogtown."
"Oh my gosh! $819,000. For a loft?!?," LeMond finally sputters when he's done laughing. "None of the Dogtown skateboarders could [afford that]."
It's the merry, merry holiday season, but as it happens, if you're an original Dogtown skateboarder, you may not be able to afford to go home again. Here's why:
A press release e-mailed to the Weekly on December 22 trumpeted the mind-bending news that actor Bradley Cooper is moving his offices to a "Stunning Dogtown Station Loft In the Heart of Venice." But evidently the development's price-tag is a little prohibitive for the locals. The top price for a unit soars above $1 million. LeMond can't think of a skater capable of affording the new housing.
|Jeff Ho, at right, dropping by Scott Anderson's shaping room|
When Ho and LeMond stop laughing, they and others describe the relationship between the recent pricey development and multiple generations of Dogtown denizens as tenuous as best. To them, the 35-unit development on Main Street in Venice is appropriating a name that was once sacred to skateboarders the world over.
Dogtown is and was a moniker for the geographical location on the Santa Monica/Venice border that the Weekly has previously noted was the center of the breakthrough language of the board. Never mind Stacey Perala's hyperbole in two movies on the subject, the local language and the culture did indeed change the course of skateboarding's history.
Skaters are not alone in deriding the posh new housing that has so oddly appropriated Dogtown's name. "It's not even on the site of where Dogtown was," says artist Laddie John Dill, who is more akin to a civic leader than Venice's politically-oriented neighborhood council president Mike Newhoue.
Dill tells the Weekly that he "refuses" to use the name Dogtown when speaking of the housing project, and he points out that, technically speaking, Dogtown was about a mile up the street. It's 1970s-era core was Ocean Park.
Have things changed, and is the loft project somehow the center of the skate universe today?
Absolutely not, says Dan Levy, assistant editor of Juice magazine, who describes the true center of this world as "15,000 square feet of concrete" poured onto the sand -- the new skateboard park.
Levy, one of the friendliest names in skateboarding, can't summon up a single name of a Dogtown skater who could buy in to such a tony development. The vehement opinions have more to do with Dogtown's ephemeral implications--what it meant to those who became part of what skater Jesse Martinez once called a "tradition" rather than a physical location.
Dill, who knows his history well enough that he can put a precise address to Dogtown, explains: "To me, Dogtown was more of a state-of-mind that was centered right at 2001 Main Street."
"It meant something to people," says Ho. And as this writer has previously noted, Dogtown offered many of the area's lost souls a sense of place and worthiness. Amidst the 1970s backdrop of wrecked families, wretched drug destruction and, in some cases, abject poverty, Dogtown was not just a place but something to be.
"We've all talked about the name on that loft when they first put them up," says LeMond. "It has nothing to do with Dogtown."
"It's the antithesis of Dogtown," states Dill. "The idea of a housing development is not what Dogtown is about. I think it's kind of false advertising. I think they're trying to woo you into the Venice lifestyle that barely exists anymore: 'You can be a part of this by having a loft.'"
"What they've done is taken some meaning and used it to stand for a certain type of lifestyle. It kind of bloodies it up," says Ho. "That word [Dogtown] was coined by Craig Stecyk. He was the one who dubbed it that name. And anyone who tries to say something different is fucked up."
Ironically the Dogtown Station not only takes the name created by Stecyk, but leverages a former ghetto to sell units beginning at $800,000. In times past, the area was "what you think of when you think of Compton today," says LeMond, who lived in Inglewood during the heyday of the skate era.
Ironically, Ho does finally discern a connection between the loft's location and actual Dogtown lore. "That [site] used to be the lumber company.... I used to go buy wood there when I worked on the shop on Main Street," he says, meaning the Zephyr Surfboard Shop where skaters Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams all connected.
"I used to buy template wood [there]. Masonite and two-by-fours, to do my projects and build walls in my shaping room," says Ho, who still shapes surfboards as a solo artist and has refused to use his own Dogtown street credentials within a corporate context. He points out that such mom-and-pop businesses have vanished. Instead there's the behemoth Home Depot.
"It makes me ill," he tells the Weekly. "What's really happening to our society here?"