A Movie A Day #12: Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (2002, directed by Helen Stickler)

gatorIn the 1980s, Mark “Gator” Rogowski was a superstar.  A professional skateboarder, Gator was one of the most popular vert skaters, competing and partying alongside Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, and Lance Mountain.  Yet today, unlike his contemporaries, Gator is almost totally forgotten.  In 1991, after having changed his name to Mark Anthony and declared himself to be a born again Christian, Gator raped and killed Jessica Bergstrom, a friend of his ex-girlfriend.  Convicted of first degree murder, Gator was sentenced to life imprisonment.  He is currently an inmate of the California State Prison System.

Through archival footage and interviews with both his fellow skaters and his ex-girlfriend, Stoked tells the story of Rogowski’s rise and fall.  Even if you know nothing about the history of skating, the interviews are interesting and frequently insightful about the fickle nature of fame.  Anyone who was not already a fan of Jason Jessee’s will be after seeing him interviewed in Stoked.  Because California state law prohibits inmates from giving video interviews, Rogowski is interviewed over the phone and his disembodied voice provides a ghostly accompaniment for much of the film.

Stoked not only tells the story of how Gator ended up in jail but also of how vert skating became big business in the 1980s.  At the height of his popularity, Gator was making $20,000 a month, just through board sales and the sponsorship of Vision Street Wear.  When street skating became popular in the 90s and a new generation of skaters rejected Vision’s commercial approach, Gator found himself washed up before he even turned 25.  By using Gator’s story as a way to examine an entire era, Stoked is to skateboarding what O.J.: Made in America is to football.

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