A study of the first termination contract put out on a handrail
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Skateboarding is all too familiar with The Terminator. The skateboarding equivalent of this cybernetic killing machine sent from the future to destroy handrails was played by Pat Duffy in The Questionable Video released by Plan B in 1992. Pat Duffy held steady through the kinks and ground the steepest lengths of steel. Sometimes Pat celebrated a new scalp with a vicious slappy or a 360 flip. Pat’s relentless attack on handrails inspired skateboarders to no longer fear the touch of cold hard steel on skin, bone and most frequently genitalia.
If it is possible to maintain the myth of a person or thing that singularly changed the course of history, then it is also necessary to respect the fact that the Terminator technology also evolved. The Terminator T-800, or Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 as it was registered in 2029 by the artificial intelligence defence network Skynet, was a product of pure evil. The upgraded T1000 – or T2 as it is more commonly known – was even more impressive with its increased agility and aggression. It might be said that if Pat Duffy is the Terminator, then Jamie Thomas is T2. So, in theory, the Terminator T-800 we all know and recognise must have had a predecessor. So, what of the Cyberdyne Systems Model 100?
An obvious candidate might be Mark Gonzales whose part in Blind’s Video Days features several handrail stunts very few could fathom. However, unlike the Terminator, the Gonz would qualify as some sort of rare prototype sent from the future by the resistance in an effort to counter Skynet’s killing machines with fun and creativity. This said, the Gonz was not the only skateboarder daring to do new stunts. Other icons stood out for pioneering the techniques of jumping and sliding or grinding down handrails. Prior to Pat Duffy, skateboarding had Sean Sheffey, Frankie Hill and Natas Kaupas. It could also be argued that Jeremy Klein deserves recognition for his backside smith grind down a small four stair rail in World Industries’ Rubbish Heap. This trick received it’s breakthrough certification stamp of approval in 1989 – later updated to the Never Been Done (or NBD) stamp of approval. Jeremy landed this trick just at the cusp of the Nineties, a new decade that would redefine just about every aspect of street skateboarding.
As the clock struck midnight and skateboarding shape shifted like Cindrella and her ride to the Prince’s Ball, a company out of Dayton, Ohio, prepared to release their vision for the future. The Alien Workshop’s Memory Screen isn’t just another skate video. It’s an experience. The sights and sounds dubbed onto the magnetic tape of the yellow VHS cassette were a signal for change. Some could decipher the stimulation they experienced as an eye opening moment to express themselves differently. The band of brothers that affiliated themselves to the Sovereign Sect saw their tricks and lines interlaced with images of churches, people, animals and sounds of radio static, phone conversions and advertisements. Here was real cultural dialogue within a video that also sought to promote skateboarding of the highest level.
As one scene melts into another, the grinding sounds of The Painteens’ It Will accompanies the vision of a chain being dragged behind a vehicle, jumping and twisting like the cerebral synapses of the viewer. Two men gesticulate and posture up ready to fight. Then the skateboarder is revealed. A white male with short blonde hair leaps upon a huge hubba to noseslide where a nose barely exists. His rear hand lifts and holds his tail to stabilise the movement. Here is the lesser-known Cyberdyne Systems Model 100.
Teleported from the future – 2029 perhaps? Exactly 40 years since Jeremy Klein’s backside smith grind – Scott Conklin emerged in Florida and laid waste to a legitimate six stair handrail by means of the same afore-mentioned trick. Scott’s backside smith grind is taller, longer and dipped to the exact angle defined by the intellectual property of the trick. Jeremy ended his part with his backside smith grind and here is Scott opening his debut with his. The feat is presented in slow motion and from two separate angles. Does Scott touch the floor with his hands on the first make? It’s hard to tell with Memory Screen’s chaotic editing style. He sure doesn’t on the second angle so it is safe to say he filmed the trick at least twice. Suddenly Jeremy’s offering pales in comparison like a mere slap countered by a skillful jab to the face of skateboarding progression.
The six stair backside smith grind is only the beginning of a methodical appropriation of handrail skateboarding by the burly Floridian youth. Scott halfcab boardslides a handrail and frontside 180s over a dozen stairs. The screen cuts to men ready to fight, one of which we now recognize as Scott and clearly more experienced in fisticuffs than his opponent who swings wildly and misses. Then the handrail assault continues, with 180 fakie nosegrinds both ways, nose slides and feeble grinds, a long balanced boardslide, a frontside 50-50 frontside shove-it dismount and a solid kickflip boardslide. As that last trick sinks in, the camera takes us back to the unsanctioned brawl where the foolhardy opponent retreats from Scott to lick his wounds and live another day.
Granted, some of Scott’s tricks had already been done by others, notably the kickflip boardslide by Salvadore Barbier on a balance beam in Not The New H-Street Video released a year earlier in 1989. Could there be another correlation with the timeline that saw the Terminator sent on its mission 40 years later in 2029? Possibly but all of these previous achievements by other skateboarders were singular, light footed and maybe even veiled in the subjective notion of luck. Scott’s tricks are determined, solid and unforgiving. Scott knew what he was doing so there can be no doubt.
The sequence ends with another noseslide on another handrail. The staircount is indecipherable due to the camera angle from beneath the rail; however it is safe to say the number would be closer to ten than five stairs. Also, and this is probably the most important feature of the last trick is that Scott slides with his nose and does not assist himself with his trailing rear hand. His right arm is raised clear of his tail. These finer details demonstrate the superior skill set our hypothetical Cyberdyne Systems Model 100 was programmed with.
Science fiction aside, Scott Conklin’s part in Memory Screen is a true artefact of a movement that would influence skateboarding culture indefinitely for several decades and still continues to evolve today. Yes, Natas Kaupas, Mark Gonzales, Sean Sheffey and Pat Duffy are all figureheads of the stunt generation but Scott was that breakthrough that propelled the dangerous nature of the handrail skater to blood thirsty heights.
The following videos were sampled in chronological order:
- The Terminator Official 1984 Trailer Orion Pictures Corporation
- Plan B The Questionable Video Joel Wrona
- On Video Fall 2000 The Amazing Pat Duffy Brian Sumner & Matt Mumford
- The Terminator Orion Pictures Corporation Kyle Reese played by Michael Biehn
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl Warner Brothers Entertainment Willy Wonka played by Gene Wilder
- Real Skateboards Kicked out of everywhere Mark Gonzales
- On Video Winter 2003 Natas Kaupas Street Skating 101 Mike Vallely
- Duck Tales Moon Theme Nintendo Entertainment System
- IASC Interview with Alien Workshop’s Chris Carter Boardistan
- Alien Workshop Memory Screen
- The Painteens It Will
- Scott Conklin Alien Workshop Memory Screen 1991 Visitor Centre John Drake
- H Street Not The New H Street Video Sal Barbier
- The Video Show Marc Johnson Modus Operandi Transworld Skateboarding