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Rocco
by Neil Brown

This is a very rough draft of an old story, I wanted to interview Rocco about how he changed things up in the Industry and this was going to be the humorous intro.


Back in the early 90s the skateboard industry consisted of a handful of really big companies — Powell, Vision, Santa Cruz, and Tracker to name a few. Very few skateboarders had their own companies and pro models were bestowed upon only the most seasoned skaters, or at least the most connected. It was about this time that a freestyle skater named Rocco decided to take matters into his own hands. So out of a friend's kitchen (that was doubling as his bedroom) and with a little start up capital from a shady character, Santa Monica Airlines Rocco Division was born. It didn't take long for the trouble to begin. SMA was a name already owned by Santa Cruz skateboards. Thus SMA became SMA World Industries and eventually dropped the SMA altogether. Rocco was well versed in how "the industry" was set up, and knew it was time for a World Industrial revolution. This subversive philosophy and the fact that Mark Gonzales, Mike Vallely and Natas Kaupas had all jumped ship to join his fledgling company immediately gained my support along with thousands of skateboarders just like me. The big companies didn't understand what skateboarders were about, and Rocco did. So with World, Blind, and 101, Rocco set forth to forever change the way skateboarders and skateboarding would do business.

A few years later I was a college drop out living at home. I just wanted to skate. I had been in art school, so with what little knowledge I had, I built a skateboard press, started pressing and selling decks. Two friends of mine were in the same boat, but instead of making boards, they started stealing stamps from postal vending machines (subsequently arrested by the FBI). I should be careful how I word this, but I started receiving large quantities of postage in the mail from an unknown source. At this point World Industries had taken over the market, the top pros that had helped establish Rocco were now following his lead and starting their own companies. World Industries had become what I thought they had fought against. A big company cranking out a poor quality product with ripped off graphics. So with limitless postage I decided to let them know how I felt.

I started my letter and postcard campaign with benign nonsensical content. I think it got to the point where I was sending 25-50 pieces a day, lets face it, I was bored. The first response I received was from the heavy metal receptionist J. D. It was simple and the point, "Neil you are going to swim with the fishes." For a while the exchanges were pretty humorous, mostly mob style death threats. But I was genuinely upset with the product World was putting out so I started being more up front. I took a World deck and sawed it into one-inch squares and packed it into a tiny box. On top of the pieces I put a wallet and inside the wallet I put a note, " you won't find any money in here I spent it all on your shit product". Sal Rocco was in charge of shipping and opened the package, and of course went straight for the wallet, needless to say I had my first real enemy. Next I sent a letter to the artist at World about how uncreative he was. Then the phone rang on a Saturday afternoon. It was McKee and he was pissed, enemy number two. Next I decided to create a rip off World logo calling myself Not World Industries. I made a couple stickers a vowed in a letter to Rocco that every graphic he ripped off I was going to immediately copy and sell in the south east, like a bootleg operation. (of course there was no chance of this since my max production was 10 boards a week, and I had no idea how screen print) Still to this day I don't know if Rocco really gave a shit or was just having some fun, but the phone call went like this "Neil, this is Steve Rocco and I am going to ruin your life." Well I pissed my pants. I was scared and didn't know what the fuck to do. Rocco said he was going to place a bounty on my humiliation and run a full-page ad with my address. I started to think about legal representation. I was terrified. The next day the phone rang and it was a girl. It didn't seem right, because - well girls don't call me. She said she saw me somewhere and thought I was cute and all this bullshit, I just said, "Ha, Ha, tell Steve I said hello and you are not a very nice person" As I suspected it was a girl from World. What I hadn't expected was she became my only friend at World Industries. Luckily Rocco was happy to know how much he had fucked with me and let it all go.

A few months later Rocco took the team on tour. The closest date was six hours away in Florida, so I drove down. That six-hour drive ended up being my savior since Rocco had checked the map for my house and decided it was too far to go just to egg the place. I was happy he didn't slip some jock a hundred bucks just to kick my ass.