REAL OR HOAX? - DEVO Visits Pomona Pipe & Pool Co.
ISSUE 002 - MARCH 22, 2020 - DEVO had a huge influence on the Southern California skateboarding world. Their music was quirky and trailblazing. They incorporated synthesizers and they made the bold prophecy that in the not too distant future there would be music made completely with synthesizers and no guitars. What? No guitars? That was it for me, they were immediately wiped from my radar.
Back in the late 1970's, I was busy making and selling "Disco Sucks!" t-shirts created with silk screening equipment in my high school graphics class. I prided myself on my staying true to rock and roll with lots of heavy drums, bass, and guitars. New wave and punk were tolerated, but for me, I wanted to listen to Rush, UFO, Aerosmith, and Van Halen. But as history documented, and as MTV premiered on August 1, 1981, the entire world became exposed to the non-traditionalists group DEVO that the hardcore skateboarders had known for a few years. Does anybody remember seeing DEVO on October 14, 1978 on Saturday Night Live? For those who love trivia, what songs did they play on SNL?
ANSWER: DEVO performed, "I can't get no (satisfaction)" and "Jocko Homo" in that late-night setting.
LIVE IN CONCERT
Yes, while all of my skateboarding peers were eating up DEVO and stage diving to be first adopters of punk music, I stayed true to what I felt was more pure. Yes, I was intrigued, but I quickly wrote DEVO off as a fad. After all, I would not have been caught dead seeing them live in concert... Wait, on the 12th of December, 1981 a young lady talked me into making the drive out to San Bernadino to see DEVO perform at the Orange Pavilion. What can I say, it was their "New Traditionalist Tour". What do I remember? I had fun with the people I went with, but it was a laughable concert. There were no incredible guitar solos and no extended drum solos. Instead, all that could be found were quirky beats and horrible dance moves, both on the stage and throughout the crowd... I am tempted to say loudly, "I can never get that two hours of my life back again!"
FREEDOM OF CHOICE VIDEO
DEVO had figured out that skateboarders loved them and they made several visits to skateboard events to be with their fans. They even filmed one of their music videos at the Marina Del Rey skatepark. Here is what the famous Badlands skateboarder Steve Alba remembered of the video shoot in his 1989 interview with TRANSWORLD SKATEboarding...
STEVE ALBA - They just called me up. I think Rector had a lot to do with it because Devo used to wear Rector pads when they played. It was me, Duane Peters, Bobby Valdez, Eddie Elguera, Jay Smith, Dave Andrecht, Tony Alva and a few other people. I was just in the skating part at Marina. We had to crash at the end of the slalom run.
At that time there were all these team rivalries. Duane and I were on Santa Cruz and we were the punker types. Then there was the Varibots like Eddie Elguera and Steve Hirsch. We used to consider Dave Andrecht one of those guys because they all skated like robots. They were into doing tricks instead of going fast and being stylish. Duane was really into going fast as well as Olson, Alva and me.
For the video, we separated into two groups. It was us against them. We really got into the crashing part and we got really agro. The robots were pissed off. It was pretty cool. People used to call me Steve “Devo” Alba because at the time there was a picture of me at the Lakewood halfpipe contest and I was wearing a Devo shirt.
YOUTUBE - https://youtu.be/dVGINIsLnqU
I shared the Steve Alba interview to give you a feel for the Badlander attitude. Living in Pomona, I was greatly influenced by our regional skating scene. We read the magazines, studied the photos, got snaked at the banks, ramps, and eventually at Pipeline Skatepark. It was obvious that as skaters in the Badlands we were different. We had an identity of being talented, stylish, and yes, intensely different. The moment something, whether it was music or clothes, went mainstream, it was immediately shunned due to our desire to be different.
DEVO & SKATEBOARDING
DEVO understood skateboarders' desire to be different. They adopted our skateboarding Rector brand safety gear padding to be different. DEVO defined being different. Were you aware that DEVO hired the biggest names in skateboarding to be included in creating the cheesiest/worst/cheapest video ever, and we ate it up. The world was being exposed to skateboarding via a very odd music group. And as DEVO went big, and I mean huge, the skaters left them behind. The majority, like Steve Alba quoted above, continued on down the road with punk rock and most never left that aggressive and dangerous lifestyle. So DEVO had their place in skateboarding lore, they got a firm footing, and then the skateboarding scene left them behind.
So why is this so important to me? I stumbled across the rare photo of them--or is it them--posing with skateboarders from the Pomona Pipe & Pool Co. skatepark in the reincarnated L-pool. It is fair to assume that nobody but the Badlanders has ever even heard of Pomona Pipe & Pool Co. Wait a minute...
HISTORICAL NOTE: Pomona Pipe & Pool Co did not start out with that cool of a name. Nope, when this skateboard park first opened its doors it was given the extremely radical name to capture the imaginations of 1,000's of young skaters...... Wait a minute.... Wait for it... Are you ready?...
In another entry, I will share more about Willow Skatepark and the influence of its original local pro skateboarder, Harvey Hawks. Willow Skatepark was a wimpy first-generation park that ultimately got a major expansion, facelift, and name change to Pomona Pipe & Pool Co. The owners always thought that they were just one major promotion away from making it big time. They mistakenly thought they were on par with the Pipeline Skatepark in nearby Upland, California. The Willow Skatepark owners would never admit to themselves that much of their design, implementation, and concrete work was just plain lousy. And by the time the major 1/2 pipe, L-pool, ramp, and keyhole pool expansions came about, the time for gaining market share and success had passed them by.
HISTORICAL FEEDBACK REQUESTED
Many pioneer Badlanders could chime in on the deplorable waste of effort the owners went through to try to re-create the icon of skate spots known as the L-pool. Yes, they built an L-shaped pool, but it was void of the steep vertical walls, smooth finish, and even open drain channel above the tile.
Back in 1977, Mike Ditsler and I made the drive to the edge of mankind, on the east end of Upland, to skate the legendary L-pool. I can't remember how we found out its location, and we certainly weren't invited by those there that day, but we showed up ready to partake in the experience. About 20 skaters were hitting every possible steep wall and it was intense. I was a relative vertical rookie, and I only dropped in when those with already developed vertical talent would stop long enough to catch their breath. It was really hot that afternoon and I had my fair share of chances... No broken bones and no concussions, so it was a personal success. But at that time, it was way beyond my abilities, but it motivated me to watch and learn, and then practice, practice, practice!
I later learned the names of the L-pool locals like Lee Gaheimer, Muck, Pablo, Tay Hunt, Steve Alba, Mike Cantu, Harvey Hawks, and on and on to the Who's Who of the Badlands. Pretty good name drop, huh? Shhh, don't tell anybody, but that was supposed to give me credibility. Let's face it, the Pomona Pipe & Pool Co reincarnation of the L-pool was nothing at all like the original. Instead, in my opnion, it was an expensive flop that no matter how awesome the easy transitions, pretty tile, and rounded coping were, the L-pool and expanded park were deemed a "Nice Try!" by those from in and out of the area.
DEVO PROMOTION - REAL OR HOAX?
Give the Willow Skatepark - Pomona Pipe & Pool Co. owners credit though, they tried hiring pro skaters to be on site. They tried paying big bucks to lure the larger vertical contests. They dumped lots of money into park expansion. And then they tried to get DEVO to come and visit their park for a huge promo event. Afterall, DEVO seemed to love skateboarders and the match seemed like a perfect fit. Was this really DEVO in this photo? Or was it a total hoax? Somebody out there knows the truth, so please speak up and share.
I find this really odd because there is at least one DEVO imposter in the photo. Look closely at the one not wearing the mask. Anybody from the Badlands will recognize the DEVO-tee imposter without the mask as the late Peter Gonzales (RIP 2015 - https://www.facebook.com/peter.gonzales.372). I skated a lot of parks, pools, banks, and surfed a lot of San Onofre and Baja Mexico K-38 sessions with Peter (he even saved me from handcuffs and arrest by the Mexican Federales), and I would recognize that smile of his anywhere. Was he the only DEVO-tee imposter? Or was this really DEVO and Peter just happened to be dressed perfectly to pose with them? Hmmm, he did run the Pro Shop at that time. Or were these all imposter DEVO-tees and stories of DEVO visiting Pomona Pipe & Pool Co are all a total hoax? I vaguely remember Peter telling us the story while we floated on our boards waiting for another set, but I have no clear recollection. Regardless, the picture was snapped with those skaters that happened to be there that day and unless somebody speaks up and sets the record straight, then we will never know. DEVO either unknowingly or knowingly got the cool factor, but this was not enough to save the sinking enterprise. Pomona Pipe & Pool Co. was ultimately bulldozed and turned into an automotive repair and car wash....
I still smile when I think of the meeting where the original owners/investors sat around brainstorming and thought, "We need a name...Hmmm... Something skaters will be proud of and will reflect their coolness... Willow Skatepark, that's it, Willow Skatepark... Boy's we're gonna be rich!."
DEVO-tees INFO: Who were the rest of the DEVO-tees? Was this actually DEVO? What was the occasion? Who else can you identify in this photo? Try as I might, I can't find a larger version online.
WILLOW SKATEPARK HELP NEEDED: Google searches will produce nothing when you search Willow Skatepark. Google barely has any results for Pomona Pipe & Pool Co. I know that there are some skaters from my era out there that have some pictures of the park. Please send them along to me at Michael@TheHomeInspector.com along with any of your memories. I will share them appropriately and give you credit for sharing. So please bust out those old boxes of memorabilia and search your old pictures and then please take the time to share.
Thanks, Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah