The Blind skate company was formed when Steve Rocco approached legendary street skater Mark Gonzales (AKA The Gonz) to start his own company under the World Industries umbrella. Mark’s previous sponsor, Vision, was regarded as one of the ‘big 5’ companies, generating a lot of money for the owners and shareholders but not necessarily an equal amount for the skaters it sponsored – and whose names kept the Vision products flying off the shelves.
People have analysed the Blind name and come up with their own ideas on the name (perhaps it was the opposite of Vision?), but that’s always been ‘officially’ denied by both Gonz and Rocco. Regardless of any in-jokes or private inspiration, skaters immediately latched onto the fact that one of their long-term icons was now in creative control of his own entity.
And we could hardly wait.
The roster of riders in ‘Video Days’ might have been short, but it was certainly sweet: Guy Mariano, Jordan Richter, Mark Gonzales, Rudy Johnson and Jason Lee. At a period when skate videos were few and far between, to have such a concise team was considered an unusual and brave move, especially for a new company. Established competitors such as Powell Peralta and H-Street would happily make a 90-minute film showcasing 20 different riders and sell it for £20: by comparison, Blind were barely a few years old and ‘Video Days’ featured five riders over 24 minutes – and for £25. The other companies had full-colour VHS cases: ‘Video Days’ had a grey cardboard box with a sticker on it.
If you’ll pardon the pun, in this case, less was clearly more.
Whilst The Gonz’s creativity made Blind a force to be reckoned with in terms of skate companies, there was another big contributing factor to the success of ‘Video Days’.
Enter Spike Jonze. Today, Spike is known for his Hollywood productions and music videos as much as anything else, but ‘Video Days’ was the starting point. With a genuine background in the BMX and skateboarding scenes, Spike was the perfect person to direct Blind’s debut video.
Creating ‘Video Days’ as your first commercial skate film production certainly didn’t do Spike’s resume any harm.
The camera work by Jacob Rosenberg was amazing and upped the ante for all subsequent skate video releases. ‘Video Days’ had an all-star cast, from every angle.
The video kicks off with the Blind team driving around Los Angeles (well, four of them: Jordan Richter is busy rolling down hills, it would seem) in an old blue Cadillac. As they cruise the streets and drive dangerously close to the edge of the freeway, we get to see glimpses of the skating abilities within. And a rather spectacular stack down a large double-set of stairs from Mark Gonzales.
Once the 60-second intro sequence is over, the individual sections begin…
Guy was fresh from the Powell team, along with fellow Blind team-mate, Rudy Johnson, even wearing a Powell ‘Supreme’ t-shirt at various points in his video part.
Skating to the sounds of the Jackson Five, Guy’s section is nothing short of incredible. We’d already had a small taste of his skills in Powell’s ‘Ban This’ video from ‘89, but by ’Video Days’ his skills were honed to perfection.
Riding a board that was almost as big as himself (Guy was 14 when much of the video was shot), he did the first noseblunt slides I’d seen on film, an impossible lipslide on the infamous Hewlett-Packard handrail and some incredible flatground lines. One of the best opening sections of any skate video ever.
Jordan had a short section compared to the rest of the team – and to be fair, he had his work cut out to hold our attentions. Whilst vert ramp skating was the popular style of the ‘80s, by the time ’Video Days’ came out, vert was in a lull and everyone wanted to see street skating. It didn’t help that the person who’d brought him to Blind – ramp genius, Danny Way – had moved on, leaving Richter as the lone ‘ramp guy’ on the team.
That said, his part shows the beginning of the period where vert riders began bringing street-inspired moves to the ramps: nollies, nose manuals and other tricks.
Opening with clips from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ (not to be confused with ‘Charlie & the Chocolate Factory’…) and skating to John Coltrane, Mark Gonzales produced his first full video section anyone had seen. We’d seen the photos in the magazines of his incredible tricks, but watching them on the TV screen was something else altogether.
There aren’t any highlights: his whole section is outstanding. The first to ollie the infamous Wallenburg steps (see middle picture above here), the handrail manoeuvres, the cruising down the street, the long linked lines of flatland… Nothing had ever been done of this calibre before.
One of the best video sections of all-time.
Having joined Blind from Powell with Guy, Rudy’s section was just as impressive. High speed lines, technical trickery (the manual to 360 flip at Embarcadero being a prime example) and crisp style made Rudy’s section the perfect follow-on from Gonz’s section.
You can tell how good Rudy was by the visible clue that many of his tricks were filmed in the same day: just look for the same clothing in a number of clips.
Another skater who we were used to seeing in the magazines but had little idea just how good he actually was, Jason Lee’s section is still a benchmark twenty years later.
Skating fast, with plenty of big moves, you get to see a number of outstanding tricks in this part. The 360 flip over the sand gap (see above left) is one of the best 360 flips of all time. We’ve heard numerous times that Jason’s part doesn’t actually show just how good he really was. But it was still enough to blow our minds.
The blue Cadillac device continues at the end of the film, with our rowdy skate team grabbing some alcohol and taking to the dirt tracks of Tijuana. Alas, it all ends in tears when they go over the edge of a cliff and crash, resulting in a eulogy-style credits section that could bring a tear to anyone’s eye.
Whilst it seemed pretty clear that it was all a joke, I recall people asking ‘Wow… did they all die?’ after seeing this for the first time.
Filed Under: Features