'Big Brother' Skateboarding Magazine Goes Full Gala in Paris
Paris is a place where the past—your past—will haunt you.
Twenty years ago I was a writer and editor for a stupid little skateboard magazine called Big Brother. While most have forgotten about it, including myself, DC Shoes recently approached us about doing a BB x DC collab thing.
“Sure,” we said. “How flattering.”
So we resurrected the dead horse that was once our magazine and beat it into a big dumb coffee-table book, some silly apparel, and a couple of pairs of ridiculous shoes. The coffee-table book, aptly titled SHIT, probably received the most attention. The first printing sold out shortly after it went on sale. The second most exciting item in the collection, at least for me, is my signature shoe: DC created a replica of the “Dave Carnie Signature Pro Model” that we designed at Big Brother way back in 1998.
At the time, the skateboard industry had recently discovered the signature shoe concept. The market was soon flooded with dozens of examples, most of which were made for undeserving pros by companies no one had ever heard of. We said: “Let’s make our own damn shoe.”
Our goal was to make the stupidest, least-appealing shoe possible. I think we succeeded because it looks horrible. And not in a funny way. It looks even worse in a reality. In hindsight, I think we could have fucked it up a little bit more. I suggested, for instance, adding punji sticks to the footbed of the DC version, but DC wasn’t even willing to kick down for one of the original design’s most celebrated features: a heel bubble filled with Coors beer. At least we managed to include the dick on the side of the shoe. That was no simple feat either. I was surprised to learn that the talented cobblers at DC had never worked with penises before. It took a great amount of effort and a lot of emails to meet my demanding specifications.
Left: Scan of Carnie's original design printed in 1998/ Right: DC's 2016 Remake of the shoe
“The dick needs to be bigger, goddammit. How many times do I have to say this?” I think they were intentionally making the dick too small just to exasperate me so that I’d keep writing ridiculous emails about bigger dicks. DC has always been a rather conservative athletic footwear company. It’s not every day their employees get to giggle about penises in emails and meetings and actually call it “work.”
Close-up of the D
DC threw a release party in Hollywood with midgets, dildos, SHIT-shaped ice sculptures, and other nonsense that went over very well. It went so well that DC’s Paris headquarters wanted to throw its own party. So they flew Sean Cliver and me to France to officiate an event that went down in the basement of a DC showroom called The Hub. They called it a basement. To me it looked like a medieval sex dungeon. Such is Paris.
Before the event, Sean and I sat through a half dozen interviews conducted by journalists with thick accents from all over Europe. One of the interviewers was a girl from a Spanish magazine. She was very nice, but she wasn’t very good at interviewing. Her first question, for instance, was, “Who are you?”
I apologized and said that I didn’t presently have an answer for the question. It was unlikely that I’d have one by the end of my life, let alone by the end of the interview. She didn’t like that answer; so she readjusted and asked, “Well, who is Dave Carnie?” Sneaky devil.
Left: Sean Cliver and myself in a corner of The Hub (aka Le Sex Dungeon) / Right: Hell's Angel. This guy—actually I need to be careful what I say because I have a friend of a friend who’s an Angel and I’ve heard some stories—but this French Hell’s Angel (?) who attended our event looked like he was straight out of a Tom Of Finland drawing. Maybe The Hub really is a sex dungeon when it’s not hosting silly skateboard parties?
At one point during the interview, she asked something like, “While making coffee table book, SHEET, was anything you find surprise to you?”
“There was,” I said. “I was surprised at how much I used the word faggot in my writing.”
It was very much a part of my vocabulary growing up, but I stopped using that word probably a decade ago. It’s offensive to homosexuals, and I don’t want to offend homosexuals. Pretty simple. That’s what I said to her, but after the interview ended, the “faggot” subject remained lodged in my head for the duration of our stay in Paris. Why did I use it then? Why does it bother me now? Is there more or less hate floating around these days? Why are linguistics so weird? Does being in “Gay Paris” have anything to do with this? Whatever it was, I couldn’t stop thinking about “faggots.”
If four French people meet on a crowded Metro platform, as was the case before me one morning, that’s 12 fucking kisses that need to be exchanged before they even ask, “Ca va?”
I was surprised by my use of the word, first, because it offended my artistic sensibilities. It was a glaring example of poor craftsmanship. I used it a lot in Big Brother. It reads to me now as very infantile, amateur, sophomoric—it’s bad writing and reveals a lack of imagination and skill. It’s doubly embarrassing because, as I said, I have since recognized the word as offensive and hateful.
You can use the Eminem defense (sounds like a chess move) all you want (e.g., “It doesn’t mean ‘gay’ anymore!”), but it doesn’t change the fact that faggot is the favored epithet of intolerant and violent homophobes. As the gay comedian, Rick Crom, said about the word on an episode of the FX show Louie, “You might want to know that every gay man in America has probably had that word shouted at them while they were being beaten up. Sometimes many times. Sometimes by a lot of people all at once. So when you say it, it kind of brings that all back up.”
I grew up in and around the Bay Area and lived in San Francisco during the early '90s. I had a few gay friends who were all of the punk rock variety and seemed to enjoy describing themselves in the most self-deprecating ways possible. Their liberal use of the word faggot was an attempt to disempower the hateful rhetoric—“If we embrace it, it can’t hurt us”—but I mistook their flagrant use of the word as permission for me to use it as well. Of course, it doesn’t work that way and, similar to the rules and regulations surrounding the use of the N-word, just because the antecedents to a pejorative may bandy it about freely, this does not allow everyone else to casually sprinkle it into their speech. It took me a time to learn that.
Racism: “Au Planteur” was an old colonial-era store that specialized in exotic goods like coffee. When I saw this sign, I had a realization: “Two of the most politically incorrect words, ‘faggot’ and the N-word, contain two Gs.” Yet other 2G words don’t have the same punchy effect: aggrieved joggers buggering baggage doggedly blogged. Although I think the word “spigot,” which only contains one G, sounds kind of naughty.
Compounding my “faggot guilt” in Paris were the men, women, and children who were kissing each other all over the streets. I was not into it. And not because I’m squeamish about seeing men kiss each other. No, it was because the result-oriented, better/faster/stronger American in me was disgusted by what a waste of time this ritual requires. If four French people meet on a crowded Metro platform, as was the case before me one morning, that’s 12 fucking kisses that need to be exchanged before they even ask, “Ca va?”
You can hardly get anywhere in that damn city. You have to swerve around everyone slobbering all over each other on the sidewalks. “Don’t you people have anything to do?”
(On the subject of Parisians and work, there were massive protests every day at the Place De La Republique while we were there. Our French host explained that it’s basically a flea market for protest. You can find any number of things to complain about in the bazaar. Of course, terrorism was at the forefront of the demonstrations. Other popular gripes included “work” and “rent.” I found it amusing that the French manage to work harder at protesting work than actually working.)
While I don’t really know what Peace and Love is, it has to be better than all the Hate that’s floating around these days.
The Musee De La Chasse (Museum of the Hunt) is a strange museum in Paris. It’s like a cross between the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and the Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA. A large portion of the collection involves dead animals and the antique guns that killed them, but there’s weird shit everywhere. Make sure you spend some time with the Satanic, talking boar’s head.
I have this fantasy that I’m going to live in London, Paris, Munich (“everybody talk about…”) some day. I prefer the culture, the lifestyle, and the attitude. While Europe has its problems, my experience has been that they are simply better at Life than we are in America. The LGBT community, for example, is allowed to use the bathroom there. So I’m going to have to get over my dislike of the kissy-poo ritual. Although that’s going to be difficult because people suck.
I don’t want anyone in my personal space kissing my face whether they’re attractive or not, but especially when they’re not. And, as we all know, most people are not attractive. This was made abundantly clear to me on a number of occasions every day in Paris.
A pair of young ladies were sitting at the table next to me at a café when a very old man, a jovial drunkard in a dirty old suit, approached and greeted them.
“AH! BONJOUR!” His tiny little eyes had turned into milky white oysters. Oily tears bled from his canthi and oozed through the creases in the gelatinous folds that fell down his stubbly face. His scabby pink ears and gin blossom nostrils were bursting with broom straws and vacuum cleaner dust. Thick bands of elastic taffy spittle connected the corners of his Stephen Hawking lips. He was not an attractive man.
Yet, when he leaned in for his traditional welcome smooches—stifling a belch in the process I should add—the young ladies did not revile in disgust, but casually proffered their cheeks. Then the drunkard took a seat at their table and helped himself to a glass of white wine from their carafe. I kind of threw up in my mouth as I imagined him kissing me. Maybe I won’t move to Europe, I thought.
Art is boring. Looking at a Monet painting is like hearing another AC/DC song: I love it, but after seeing/hearing that shit over and over again for this many years, it’s hard to get excited about either of them. Seeing/hearing stupid tourists talk about art, on the other hand, is both fascinating and immensely entertaining. You can’t believe how much Stupid there is in this picture.
At the end of our interview, the Spanish journalist announced that we were going to play a game of word association. I hate word association. She acted like it was her invention, and she was very proud of it.
“Word association?” I said, feigning confusion. “What on earth is that?”
She tried to explain it again to me in her thick Spanish accent. “So. I say word, jyess? And then jyou say word back to me, whatever word jyou sink, okay? But, ees important you no sink words, only say first sing. Okay? You understand?”
“Yeah, I think so,” I said.
“Okay,” she said. “First word: Spain!”
“Faggots!” I replied.
The Spanish girl seemed rather disappointed and indicated she didn’t like my response one bit. She gave me “Really?” face.
“Sorry,” I said laughing. “I couldn’t help myself.”
I apologized to Spain, homosexuals, and Spanish homosexuals. She said it was unnecessary because she wasn’t going to use it anyway. I hope she doesn’t because, while I don’t really know what Peace and Love is, it has to be better than all the Hate that’s floating around these days.