STOKED THE RISE AND FALL OF GATOR: DVD
In the late 1980's Mark "Gator" Rogowski rode to fame as one of professional skateboarding's biggest stars. At a time when the sport was making the transition from urban fad to multimillion dollar business, Gator's success was due to a combination of exceptional skill and a carefully cultivated "bad boy" image. As his profile waned in the early 90's, Gator's behaviour became erratic and in 1991 he was sentenced to 31 years' jail for the rape and murder of Jessica Bergsten, a friend of his ex-fiancé Brandi McClain. Friends, pro-skateboarders and McClain recall Gator's meteoric rise and tragic fall from grace.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Helen Stickler's documentary is an eye-opening examination of how the marginal sport of skateboarding was transformed into a lucrative business and the price paid by a performer desperately ill-equipped to handle fame. With only the eerily calm telephone voice of Mark "Gator" Rogowski to work with (California law doesn't permit prisoners to be filmed), Stickler mixes archival footage and interviews to create a vivid portrait of the scene that threw up and then spat out one of its greatest stars.
One of the most pleasant surprises in Stoked are the insights offered by Gator's skateboarding contemporaries and some even older riders who recall the days before their sport was organised in any formal or financially viable way. Far from the spaced-out dudes we might have expected, these pros lucidly recall the days when fifty dollars a month was a
much as a top rider could expect to earn. When good-looking Gator arrived on the scene in the mid-80's, astronomical prizemoney was on offer and a world tour circuit sprang up almost overnight. While most riders took to sudden fame and riches with a degree of caution, Gator failed to draw any line between his public image and his private behaviour. "I love getting arrested...I'm one of the most illegal skaters in California" is his telling self-appraisal in a 1987 interview.
If there's a criticism of Stoked, it's that it dedicates too much time to Gator's ride to the top and skips rather too quickly through the reasons for his downfall. The niche target audience of skateboard enthusiasts will largely be unconcerned but more serious documentary observers may feel a little shortchanged by the scant exploration of Gator's psychological problems, his dark family history and his conversion to Christianity.
Still, this is never less than fascinating as we watch the sad demise of a star whose inability to adapt to the new style of street-skating and lack of professional support network made him a has-been at just 24 years of age. As a tragic true-life tale from the outer limits where sport and showbiz intersect, Stoked succeeds in capturing the attention of both fans and non-skater audiences and holding it for an absorbing 82 minutes.
Published: July 21, 2004
Email this article
STOKED THE RISE AND FALL OF GATOR: DVD (US)
CAST: Documentary with Mark 'Gator' Rogowski, Tony Hawk, Jason Jessee, John Brinton Hogan, Steve Olson, Brandi McClain
DIRECTOR: Helen Stickler
SCRIPT: Helen Stickler
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes plus international skate competitions
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: July 21, 2004