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Miscellaneous - The Rise and Fall of Gator

  by Daniel Cressey

published: 15 / 8 / 2004

Miscellaneous - The Rise and Fall of Gator


With a punk soundtrack that includes Black Flag and Anti Flag, new DVD film documentary 'Stoked' tells of 80's skateboarding hero, Mark ‘Gator’ Rogowski, who is now in prison for murder. Daniel Cressey profiles the film, and tells of Gator's downfall

Back in the early 80's skateboarders could wear bright fluorescent green helmets, yet still be considered cool and Mark ‘Gator’ Rogowski was fast becoming a skateboarding legend. Near the beginning of 'Stoked' – a biopic of Rogowski’s troubled life – Gator quotes from cult novel 'Dune'; “There’s no such thing as fear,” he says. For the first half of this movie it seems he might be right. As ramp skating became the first real craze, vast sums of money were being made in endorsements and public appearances as kids across America decided that the coolest thing you could be was a thrasher. The reckless charm and the external absence of fear pushed Gator into fame. So the story now familiar to everyone plays out. First Gator becomes a star and rich. Then he starts endorsing clothes and appearing on MTV, strumming his skateboard like a guitar and the kids start calling him a sellout. He even tries the tired old device of giving himself a new name, but the scene still moves on. At some point ramps became old hat and street skating became the new cool. It’s actually painful watching Gator try to master the new style and fail horribly. Going totally out of control one evening Gator killed a friend of his ex-girlfriend after assaulting her for three hours. It is clear from the start of 'Stoked' that Gator is a very troubled man and that this story is not going to have a happy ending. Gator’s rebel image was clearly more than just a marketing gimmick, proven when he punched out a cop at a skate show and precipitated a minor riot. “I love getting arrested,” he says in an old interview. “I think I’m one of the most illegal skaters around.” In interviews and archive footage we see the start of the 80's skateboarding craze when kids from California were breaking into local gardens to skate in empty swimming pools/ and despite the clear signs of what is to come it is still a shock to hear the horrific details of his crime. 'Stoked' is, however, more than a biopic. It manages to be a portrait of the whole skate scene as it broke through and then broke down, before becoming built up again into today’s global industry. But while Gator's fellow skateboarding legend Tony Hawk now flies around in a private jet and gets to do his interviews outside in the Californian sun Rogowski’s contributions are fuzzy voice only communiqués from inside a prison. Director Helen Stickler has pieced together a compelling look at this key moment when an underground culture came over ground. The soundtrack of punk classics runs perfectly alongside the vintage, yet still impressive action shots, and the interviews with former friends drag you further into the protagonists' life. In the end Gator is a totally unsympathetic character – egotistic, arrogant, self obsessed and cocky. The broken voiceover he provides from inside his prison is hard to relate to the man who denied fear. There’s a wealth of bonus footage on this DVD but the part that provides the best insight into Gator is the transcript of his rambling confession to his crime. It shows a frightened and broken young man, who got everything he thought he wanted too soon and then lost it all.

Picture Gallery:-
Miscellaneous - The Rise and Fall of Gator

Miscellaneous - The Rise and Fall of Gator

Miscellaneous - The Rise and Fall of Gator

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