WHO IS CHRISTIAN HOSOI?
I had just gotten off the phone with Christian Hosoi, and I felt giddy like a little pony. This was a poignant sense of accomplishment and also a certain sympathy for a skateboarding idol who had burnt a flamboyantly arcing path as a top pro skater during the 80's. Hosoi spoke to me from San Bernardino Federal where he is presently awaiting trial on possession charges. There's almost too much to say about Christian Hosoi; from the childhood skateboard roots in 70's LA, to the stardom in the punk rock revival of Venice Beach skateboarding during the 80's. His story runs deep, a faction of the history of skateboarding itself.
Boasting dual citizenship in LA and Hawaii for his 33 years (mirroring a Japanese/Caucasian heritage), Hosoi started skating at 5 with veterans like Shogo Kubo, Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, and Jay Adams as models. These were the pioneers of the urethane wheeled revolution; skating ramps and dried pools along with boardwalks and driveways in the late 70's. Hosoi developed as a skater in Venice Beach's Dogtown scene, which has and still plays a huge role in defining skateboarding culture. Blowing up was easy for Hosoi, born and raised in a pot that was pretty much a school for the advancement of pop-culture.
Skating fell off around 1980 as the California style trend buckled, resurfacing huge again in the mid 80's with the national exposure of the Bones Brigade, Vision Streetware, and Vans. Dogtown Skates and Jimmy'Z rider Christian Hosoi came back as one of the new rulers of the landsled alongside pros such as Caballero, Tony Hawk, Jeff Kendall, and Nautas Kaupas. Pulling tricks like Christ and Rocket airs consistently head high, while rocking day-glo spandex shorts, long hair, ripped t-shirts and headbands jacked Hosoi into the vein of hugely successful pro skating. National competition through Frank Hawk's National Skateboarding Association (NSA) and major corporate endorsement put the Wheaties in the bank accounts for top professional skaters such as Hosoi. Hollywood of course went nuts on the new stylemakers, co-opting and marketing skating's fresh, young athletes, and their rebellious punk rock attitude for movies such as 'Thrashin' and 'Gleaming the Cube'. Holmes was there. He rocked the skateboard industry as well, pioneering the first professionally endorsed wheel from Santa Cruz Skateboards, OJ II's called 'Hosoi Rockets' and eventually forming his own Hosoi Hammerhead Skates with the rock hard 7 ply maple board shaped like the shark. Kids, betties and Converse loved him.
Hosoi's rockstar skater lifestyle bombed with the Downfall of Skating Part II, as a depression hit the US in the early 90's, throwing skaters from commercial success back to the streets (where they belong). Hosoi disappeared from the scene after financial difficulties with a couple more skateboard companies, and had been seen only by the chosen few until news of his arrest and incarceration, in early 2000. Holmes had been running from troubles with drugs for a while, evading the law for minor charges until popped with a very serious, very federal offense in early 2000: trafficking narcotics across state lines, from LA to Hawaii. Facing a 10 year mandatory prison sentence, Hosoi has been forced to settle down and re-examine his role as a Christian, father, son, fiancée and possible positive skateboarding role model.
I recently came in contact with Christian's fiancée, Jennifer Lee Hosoi online, in a bulletin board discussion I had started titled "Best Locked up Skateboarder" at Giant Robot, which had polled opinions over Hosoi and Mark 'Gator' Rogowski (killed girlfriend's best friend). Jennifer had at first thought the discussion rather tasteless and wrote me, defending Hosoi from such online attacks against his character. I quickly replied back and explained myself as a very interested designer researching a very cool public's opinion about a legend in search of content for a Hosoi info/fan site. I immediately asked for an interview, which she very nicely set up with the understanding that I would help get the word out about Hosoi's life. I enthusiastically agreed. I present to you, a recorded conversation between Christian Hosoi and myself, comprised of questions for Hosoi compiled by myself and friends who have always wanted to ask the legend questions.
April 22, 2001
Interview: Jay Hakkinen
Design: Rachel Lipsitz at fuzzyrobot.com and Jay Hakkinen at metronymous.com
Thanks: Christian Hosoi, Jennifer Lee Hosoi, Rachel McDonald, Rahiem Burrell, Tory Ford
Questions: Jay Hakkinen, Rahiem Burrell, Hai Nguyen, Jaimes, Rudha, and Dreamless
Hosting: Rob at robotix.org