By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Add in beers instead of pixie dust, and it wasn't that far from life at one of the Wethouses. Exploring alleyways, talking with hoboes, running from the cops, filming — and then coming home to a constant party.
"It was just freedom, you know?" remembers Gordie Cousino, a male-model-pretty skater known for technical flip tricks. "You'd go and just skate all day long. You'd go back, get a couple of tall cans and a fifth of Skol and get fucked up and watch the tricks that you did that day."
For Michael Burnett, editor-at-large for Thrasher magazine, regional skateboard crews creating their own identity is nothing new. In the 1970s there was the legendary Dogtown in L.A., which begat Frogtown in San Diego and Fogtown in San Francisco. In the '80s it was Team Steam on the East Coast, King Glug in Atlanta, Hesh Crew in San Diego. In the '90s, skaters in Vancouver created the Red Dragons. The Silly Pink Bunnies, originally out of San Fran, are now national. He thinks the Wetboys were heavily influenced by the Pissdrunx, "elegantly wasted rock-and-rollers" out of Los Angeles who are typified by pro skateboarder Jim Greco's drunk-addled antics. "As far as acting gay," Burnett says, "imagine that you're a nineteen-year-old in a post-Jackass world: What do you got to do? It's like what's punker than punk? How punk can you get? We can make out with a dude. So, yeah, what's sketchier than that?"
None of the rented houses lasted more than a year; bills and angry landlords inevitably forced the Wetboys to move on. The first house, a dilapidated Denver Square at Fourth Avenue and Inca Street, became the go-to place for skateboard scenesters after the release of the first Wetboy video, Til the Birds Chirp, in 2005. People were attracted by the group's good-times-for-all mindset and casual style, an urban-refugee look born more of necessity than fashion sense. Many of them lacked jobs, and they shared clothes, food and money. Some had sponsorships with skateboard companies that gave them free product, which could be sold on the street or at secondhand stores for quick cash. They slept in the back yard when the party people wouldn't shut up. They got bread from a nearby church food bank and ate huge pots of spaghetti. When making out evolved from an initiation rite into a nightly party custom, some Wetboys raised the stakes by playfully cutting unsuspecting friends. Razor blades grew into knives, knives into swords. Then a trip to the hospital ended the fun, so a truce was called. Another pastime involved masturbating on a pink teddy bear, a game one observer dubbed "Bearkakke." There were no leaders; decisions were generally made through consensus — if they were made at all. It was like an anarchist collective, but without all the hippie-dippie political shit.
The skateboarding footage reflected this closeness. While one Wetboy was doing a trick on a rail, another would be in the background doing a cartwheel. Or multiple Wetboys might do tricks at the same time. Mark Spencer, who had been filming Wetboys members for years, was so inspired by their camaraderie that he created a contest devoted to skateboard crews. He called it Way of the Warriors, after the 1979 cult film The Warriors, and encouraged skateboard cliques across the state to create team names and identities and produce their own videos.
He received entries from the God Squad, 1086, Trick Factory and others from as far away as Kansas. When the videos premiered at the Bluebird Theater in 2005, the Wetboys were the obvious winners. They'd perfected the practice of skating in a group — a "party line," they called it — with elaborate, playful choreography that combined creative, unseen tricks on random urban objects.
Since the early '90s, videos had been skateboarding's primary mode of communication. The big-time videos would usually add the so-called "mess-around" tricks — the wacky stuff that the pros might do between difficult shots — behind the end credits. But the Wetboys integrated this silliness throughout their production and backed it up with great skating. "This vid is a great example of the beauty of skateboarding, innovative, creative," says one viewer on YouTube, where the clip continues to receive thousands of hits a day. "Makes me want to start skateboarding again," says another.
"It was just their presence on screen," says Spencer. "They had flair, the way they skated, style — and a lot of stuff they put in the video was interesting and kept things moving. The editing was really good."
The start of the Wetboys' 2006 contest submission has them exiting a moving car and "ghost-riding the whip" while they do tricks on the street, after which they climb back in and drive off. They won the title again that year. But some of the competition grumbled that their win was based more on hype than substance.
The backlash was beginning.
Get wet with Don Naughty: I'm from Texas originally, then I moved to Arizona when I was young, young, like eight. I've been skating since I was a little kid, because of my uncle. I saw him skating or something. I met Styles and Jerrod and all the friends when they visited down south. I came up to Denver to check it out and loved the hell out of this city.