1. Give Good Interview
Everyone was stoked. A reporter from Big Brother had called the house and said he wanted to interview Corey. Said he wanted to devote two pages to the kid wonder from Walnut Creek.
Finally, Corey thought. They'd noticed.
Corey Duffel had been waiting for this moment for six years. At age ten, he'd begged his mother, Sharon, to buy him a skateboard for his birthday. When the day arrived, Sharon and Corey filed into the family minivan and drove to the Ooga Booga skate shop in nearby Concord. Corey picked out the Wade Speyer pro model, which was just about as long as Corey was tall.
By the time they had returned home, the boy was lost in the skateboard and everything that went with it. He'd always been a terrific athlete all over their tidy suburb: track star, All-Star Little Leaguer, All-County swimmer. And he was a playful little ham, too -- not just for the family, but for everyone. He'd say anything for a laugh, do anything for a moment's notice. Turned out the skateboard fit Corey well.
Tricks out on the front curb -- which he'd slick down with gobs of wax -- begat tricks on metal benches at parks. Tricks on the small wooden quarter-pipe in the driveway begat tricks on the large half-pipes out in the backyard. One summer, Corey's dad, Steve, built a half-pipe just behind the swimming pool. All three Duffel boys rode the thing dawn till dusk, back and forth, back and forth, but Corey, the middle brother, skated faster, grinded longer, soared higher.
When rainy days turned the ramp into a swamp, Corey stayed indoors, studying skate videos and the professionals who were glorified in them. Corey watched the pros olley themselves high up into the air and come spinning back down to earth. He memorized their foot placement, board movement, weight distribution. He read their interviews in the sport's best magazines: Thrasher, TransWorld, Big Brother. "We looked through our Thrashers and wanted to be just like the professional skaters we saw," he says.
At just age thirteen, he landed his first sponsor, Think Skateboards of San Francisco. Corey's older brother, Stephen, used the camcorder to help make his "sponsor-me tape." When Corey brought the tape to a big skate contest, approached Think owner Greg Carroll, and handed it over, Carroll was impressed by the kid's moxie. "He was this little white boy from the suburbs," Carroll remember. "The All-American type, for sure, as in the Brady Bunch-type of kid."
But then Corey turned sixteen, becoming more punk rock and less Walnut Creek. He dyed his hair black. Cut up some T-shirts. Pierced his nose. Bought his first black leather jacket.
Corey's new identity didn't jibe with that of his sponsor, and Carroll complained that Corey's attitude was headed for the gutter, too. Corey was an ambitious amateur who'd picked up a handful of other product sponsors -- Hurley clothing, Arnett sunglasses, Emerica shoes -- and was anxious to turn pro. But Carroll said the kid no longer fit Think's polished image, so Carroll dropped Corey from the team: "I told his mom, 'Be careful who your kid's idols are. He's looking up to the wrong people.' "
So when Big Brother called the house last summer, Corey was ready. If he wanted to catch a new sponsor's eye and turn pro, he needed to score big coverage in a big magazine. The family was ready, too. "Corey was walking around the house, saying 'I gotta figure out something to say that will be funny,' " recalls Sharon, Corey's mom. "I said, 'Corey, you don't have to think up anything funny to say. It's Big Brother. They're going to print what they want.' "
Even Sharon Duffel knew of Big Brother's sketchy reputation. Where Thrasher provides credible, albeit fawning coverage of its subjects, and TransWorld is a straight-up Teen-17 gush-o-rama, then Big Brother is the industry's National Enquirer. Larry Flynt -- yes, that Larry Flynt -- publishes the rag. The name of Big Brother's game is Embarrassment.
The phone interview was recorded by managing editor Chris Nieratko. After a few get-to-know-you pleasantries, Nieratko cut to the quick and asked Corey if the rumor was true: was Corey a fag?
The dis was aimed at Corey's appearance. Long and skinny, Corey isn't often confused with the high school quarterback. Also, since a speech impediment rounds his R's into W's, Corey's voice sounds playfully childish. And, with Corey's dress code a walking tribute to Dee Dee Ramone, Nieratko pegged Corey for a pansy. The interviewer stretched his logic one step further and asked Corey if his girlfriend ever felt like a lesbian, since she was dating a girly-man.
Corey laughed and thought about what to say. And then he said, "Well, we were sitting in Wendy's once, and some nigger comes up to us, like, 'Hey, lesbians, get down on your knees and give me some blow jobs right now.' That's the only time she has ever felt like a lesbian. He was some trashy nigger like [pro skater] Stevie Williams, like gold fronts, like sketchy, and had a pistol in his pocket, so I pretty much had to listen to whatever he said, like you don't want to talk back to him, so that's the only time she probably felt like a lesbian."
Finally. They'd noticed.
2. Give Better Interview
Located at the end of a cul-de-sac in Walnut Creek, the Duffel home looks like a mirror image of the one directly next to it: a rectangular green lawn, a big tree, a driveway, an American flag. The Duffel home is distinctive, though, for the six-foot long metal rail at the curb, built for board slides. And Corey's car, a 1984 white four-door Oldsmobile with a skull and crossbones on the front license plate and skate stickers everywhere else, also upsets the suburban symmetry.
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