Chairman of the Board

Tony Hawk Airs on the Side of Commercialism

Hawk's idea of a skate and BMX stunt show took the form of the HuckJam. Still, he needed financial backing to take his show on the road, but potential sponsors balked because there had been no precedent for an action-sports arena tour. So Hawk put up his own cash to prove it could be done. He gambled that sponsors would see it his way, and last spring he took the show to the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and spun the fucking wheel. Five corporate sponsors were awed enough to back the tour and reimburse Hawk for his investment.

But the HuckJam will be solvent only if people buy tickets to the shows. The prices vary depending upon the location, and Hawk, while being vague about the financial details, says he doesn't expect to make money during the first year. The shows' costs are high, but typical ticket prices range from $25 to $75, and there are T-shirts and $20 programs, of course, so plenty of money is being generated from crowds that have topped 10,000 at several stops.

"I thought we were going to lose money the first time out," he says. "We didn't get all the sponsors we had hoped for. I don't think we'll have that problem next year. We've already locked in some of the big-time sponsors for next year."

Big wheels: the Huckjam Stars pre-show
photo: Amy Pierce
Big wheels: the Huckjam Stars pre-show

Guerinot, the producer, insists that the show is supposed to be an art form first, though.

"You find these pure little voices of culture and they get fucked," he says. "Someone sniffs out the money and ruins it. This is different because it's a guy and he's doing crazy shit. Any good art is done because it's rad, and money becomes a by-product."

So what does a Boom Boom HuckJam look like? The one in San Jose starts with 69 union employees assembling and calibrating center stage: a 13-and-a-half-foot-tall, 80-foot-wide halfpipe that cost $1.2 million to build. The rest of the sprawling set covers the whole arena floor. A 35-foot-tall roll-in ramp continues through the middle of the halfpipe like a Hot Wheels track, to a launch ramp, a landing, and eventually to a massive quarterpipe at the opposite end of the arena. At the set's other end is a stage where the Offspring will play live. The arena floor is ringed by a motocross track with banked walls in the corners leading to ramps that allow the riders to launch 25 feet over the halfpipe. Plus, there are huge TV screens so that spectators can see the whole blaring spectacle.

When the crowd arrives later that evening, the arena lights have dimmed, and there is a curtain surrounding the ramp. Once the show starts, the curtain drops, and most of the 8600 in attendance (at least half are families) cheer politely but enthusiastically during the phantasmagoria of screaming motorcycles, and lights, and athletes spinning in the air and assaulting the ramp.

The Offspring take the stage later, and some of the kids grab HuckJam decks that they've bought from concessionaires and scramble to get the autographs of their favorite skaters, proving again that the athletes are the headliners.

"I liked the skateboarding," says 25-year-old Jennifer Park of Livermore, California, who attended with her husband, Kyle. Neither of them skateboards. "The way they showed each other support. They seem like cool dudes."

After the show, workers from the megacorp ConAgra Foods, one of the show's sponsors, hand out samples of their product Squeeze 'n Go, pudding in a tube. Once the kids are outside, they throw the tubes on the sidewalk and begin stomping on them, sending great gobs of pudding squirting out with fantastic farting sounds, which is a fucking funny thing to do if you're a kid.

And it connects somehow with what Jim Guerinot says about the core demographic that attends the HuckJam.

"It's the in-between boy," he says. "He's not into girls yet. And he's not thrilled with cartoons. He's gone from playing with G.I. Joe to lighting him on fire."

Like a skater in a Brooklyn park trashing his former icon.

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