Many people have been wondering what happened to Anthony Pappalardo. He seemed to have it all and then one day just disappeared off the face of the earth. Was he on drugs, lazy, unmotivated, have a serious injury? Unfortunately, any of those possibilities would have been a lot better than the situation that Pops found himself in. It’s a dark story and there are some valuable lessons to be learned from it. Four months ago I contacted Anthony with the hopes of getting him to tell his story. The result is the honest and introspective narrative below.
48 Blocks: Let’s start with Converse, what happened with your shoe deal?
Anthony: I’ve always kind of hated / thought negative / bitter type interviews were kind of lame…. the last thing I ever wanted to do after reading / hearing somebody talk shit is go out and skate, talking shit’s easy, it will always be… go learn how to ride a skateboard. That’s hard… every time I sat down to answer this question, I found myself avoiding it, fabricating it, or blatantly lying about it. Selecting all – copy- delete… telling myself I’d try again tommorrow, until I realized, that if I was going to answer this truthfully, there wasn’t a chance in hell to keep it positive… and that sucks. The driving force behind anything that I’ve been asked to be part of, from video parts, to an interview, etc is in the hopes that it inspires that person enough to want to go out and skate. That’s it. And if by chance, that scenario was ever the case, nothing makes me more psyched… and it was / will always be worth it. For anybody that has ever been into what I do on a skateboard, I feel like I owe them the truth , actually fuck it – even if you don’t, anybody that just skates. The past 15 years (more like the 12-13, I was given the chance) I worked too hard for people to believe I burnt out in some bullshit flame built out of speculation, lies, assumptions, etc. I’m the first one to realize why these things get created and even exist in the first place. I have always dealt with it throughout my career on some level. It’s pretty logical, it’s just the outcome and what gets created if nobody gets the truth or anything for that matter. As of today looking back throughout it all, I probably have more fingers on one hand than I can count in my whole career (or life) that I’ve been lucky enough to experience, that has made myself proud, honored, and maybe even felt a sense of achievement from skateboarding.Since the last one of these things and coincidentally the most recent directly relates to your question, I’ll bore you with the others as I would like to thank each and every person that were ever a part in making these possible, and I’ll do my best to answer this question for you…
- coming home from school and listening to a message on my answering machine from Dyrdek
- when I went “officially” went amateur for the workshop and Castrucci made this little commercial for it
- walking / skating (I still remember the exact street) talking on the phone to Rick howard about riding for Chocolate, and getting a text from Meza about month later telling me to look at crailtap (my Hecox portrait was up)
- My Lakai video part,
- and lastly being in a bar / restaurant surrounded by friends, family, pros and people that I’ve looked up to my whole life growing up, respected beyond imagination, all gathered there because my name was going to be on the back of a converse shoe, and the craziest part of that, was that they were actually all accepting that fact, not talking shit on the idea of it, that it fit, and people were congratulating me, and feeling that it was really the natural progression of things, people and mags were stoked on it, and just maybe, I deserved it. That will be coming up on 3 years ago.
This is what I know about myself and that company. It’s a company I risked my whole career and quit another shoe company that I had a previous good relationship with and was loyal too for over a decade to ride for. I was asked one month after I just put out a video part which just happened to turn out to be the biggest, most watched skate video of our decade, and at that time to take that risk was nothing more and still was just an idea, nothing concrete, no shoe designs, no team, and having a hard time getting one together for pretty obvious reasons – most people don’t like risking good, stable things in their life that they invested and worked their ass off for a chance to ride a non-existent company with a history of failing in the skateboard world at least 2-3 times already notched on its belt… it wasn’t like they were offering “free life” contracts, that’s for sure, or at least I wasn’t. After going back and forth, I ended up getting them to at least match what I was getting from lakai at that time. It was sketchy, and it was a major risk, but I took it and I had to stick to my guns. I had to believe it could work, but I knew it could work if done in a specific way and they were on the same page as I was about how to make that happen. With the Lakai video being released at that time, I was just what they needed and they got it. No big deal, that’s businesss.
The first 2 years I rode for them was completely mellow, it felt like any other sponsor I’ve ever had and this would be around the time there was some talk of releasing my shoe. Things were looking good, this company was actually starting to work, the brand was finnally showing some stability with basically all the risk now gone. It seemed like everyone all of sudden wanted to ride for it, or just be a part of it in anyway they could, which I was totally down for, I gave my input, helped, and backed who I thought would / could help make this thing work, and that was all cool. I wanted nothing but the best for this company, like anything I’m apart of, to continue growing on an upward path and to get better. And it did, and I was psyched. I take a lot of pride in who I ride for, I only ride for teams / companies that I think are the best / raddest out there. That’s the only way its ever going to be for me… and if I’m lucky enough to get that opportunity, it works.
At about that same 2 year mark in, Converse starts giving me a little shit about getting some coverage, for fucks sake, they had every right to, they just dumped all this money into the release / promotion of my shoe, it was totally understandable, I had just put out that Epicly Later’d and it seemed to be getting some pretty good feedback, and also around the same time Meza flew out here for a weekend and we filmed that Red commercial. I mean things seemed to be pretty much on the same track I’ve been riding on for the past 12 years if not better. Around that time, I felt like people were starting to get my Lakai part, and I remember almost out of nowhere kids were coming up to me just being so psyched, so positive, so supportive. It felt good and I was just skating like I did today, a couple days ago, 5 years or the day after I picked up and rode my first skateboard. It was also contract time again with Converse. All the original guys needed to re-nogatiate, plus them trying to integrate all the new guys into the program. This is pretty fucking ironic, that in 15 years, if I was forced to pick a time that I actually might of felt semi-confident about how things were working out “career-wise” those couple of months would of been it. This company was about to release the first run of my shoe, and threw me this party celebrating it a couple weeks prior. I wasn’t being some asshole on a deserted island somewhere sipping Mai Tais. I stopped drinking over 5 years ago.
Literally out of nowhere, for absolutely no reason, they started getting real shady with me. I seriously couldnt understand why. Word was, my shoe was actually doing alright. Actually, I don’t know that for sure, to this day I have never been told, but it seemed like every single kid in NY was running them and they just were everywhere. Since they kept it running the following three years with a total of over twenty different colorways of it being released, some as recently as 4 – 5 months ago, would I be the crazy one to say it was probably a success – especially that after the first run, they totally stopped supporting the shoe, myself, and I was essentially being held hostage, just being told “there wasn’t one person out there who might of actually bought it or supported it because of the lifetime of work I put into skateboarding, so I just had to get over the fact that my name was on it” and that there wasn’t a shop out there willing to touch or support a thing with my name on it anymore” I look back and see how pyschologically that did fuck me up, cause there I was believing that. I would go out skating at that time and get nothing but tons of positive feedback running into kids all day everyday, but I didn’t believe it. It’s almost three years later and honestly, I think I still get more kids coming up to me more now than I ever did during any other time in my career… and I still have a hard time with it. I would literally love to know what I ever did to that company except help it, in so many ways, gave them exactly what they wanted and needed to get off the ground – a successful pro model shoe, give them 100′s of google pages filled with just the most positive feedback from kids, shops, and people with my name and their company’s name postively affiliated with each other. You can actually google Cons skateboarding right now, and I’m still the first one that comes up in the images, and it’s not like it’s going anywhere and I wouldn’t even know who to call right now if I wanted a fucking pack of stickers. Six months ago I walked into the huge converse store on Broadway in New York and I walked in on two skater kids who looked like they were on vacation with their folks and they were looking at and eventually ended up buying the shoe with my name on it. I watched from halfway across the store, and instantly had to break out, I was just so bummed, one of the kids had a Chocolate shirt on. If I had a dime in my pocket that day, I would bet any person at Cons that if I would of went up to those kids, they would of knew who I was. That was two years after I was told that there wasn’t a shop or kid left who would support anything I was a part of and this is how it more or less spiraled out control, or more or less their way of justififying that they just exploited me to a pulp and were about to do things you sometimes hear about, but never really believed unless you’re some hippy living in a shack in Costa Rica. You didn’t think human beings were really capable of acting out such corrupt shit. To this group of people that I was riding for and about to renogiate this new contract with, only what I did during those 2 years mattered and I was being told it wasn’t up to their standards. Which at that time is complete bullshit. I was doing stuff pretty regularly during that time. After is a different story which I take responsibility for and I’ll get to, but everything I was being called out on was just so damn hypocritical. The only reason I ever got the fucking chance and eneded up riding for them in the first place was literally because of a video part I put out a month before I ever signed their contract and started riding for them. So they get to pick and choose what I’ve done in my career at certain moments, it doesn’t work like that, it has never worked liked that, and it’s a pretty easy concept, and when you decide to sponsor somebody, you obviously get the whole persons bags, all their history, that’s such an obvious fact. Maybe that can and will always be an advantage to some people like a Kenny Anderson, which it better damn be, cause he’s been out there twenty years and built something that takes nothing but hard work and talent to build, and not too many people can build what he did, many try, many fail, and he has a lot to offer a company compared too somebody coming up who hasn’t ever even put together a real full video part yet or maybe just did, and there’s nothing wrong with first parts, everybody has one, I’ve had mine… but when I get treated like I’ve never done a thing on my skateboard ever, meanwhile the biggest accomplishment was a month before I signed their contract, it just comes down to blatant shady business.
I kind of blacked out the phone call where we had too “re-negotiate.” A lot of things were just so ridiculous, I remember him saying “you know Anthony, the guys that ride for Cons are all A pro status, that’s our brand you know, and honestly you’re just kinda of a C grade pro. I’ve never been so insulted or blown away in my whole entire life. I couldn’t fucking believe they had the nerve to say that, I seriously remember it just getting real quiet, so silent, and just having a million thoughts running through my head and I couldn’t even say one of them, these were the same people I looked into the eyes of at this party they threw for me a month prior, just so fucking disgusting. Well I actually hung up with a good-bye at the end, and it was officially left at “I’m not at the level of being sponsored, therefore no contract anymore… no deal. Literally I wasn’t sponsored anymore by them, the icing on the cake was I found out the day before that the other team I rode for, Elwood (which I decided to continue to ride for despite getting other offers after the Lakai video as well ) was going to stop paying their skate team – so it was a wrap. Just like that, in a literal snap of their fingers they decided to take my career into there own hands and prematurely end it. This company took every single thing away from me and so everybody on the team got resigned, or added, except myself. A month prior, they started selling a product with my name on it (which they stopped a couple months ago), could there literally be not a better test to see how “marketable” I was?
People don’t realize this, and I dont really know how not, that if you’re not 15 living in your parents house anymore, that when people stop paying you to ride a skateboard, that’s it. You can’t put the time and effort to worry about trying to film some trick you thought of… all that goes out the window. That window…that’s the whole point of sponsorship, within 24 hours of that call I was literally stressing about how I was gonna eat that night. Living on nothing but purely survival instincts, and the most frustrating part of it, is nobody knowing that, living this double life, a lie in the sense that I’m out there still trying to live up to those expectations of just being a pro skater , but it’s not possible – believe me, I tried. I really fucking tried, and that was just basically the hell of what has been the past two and a half years of my life and this is the sketchy way they were able to get away with doing that to me – a couple hours later that night, I get a text ”Anthony, I really feel bad for how this worked out, so I’m able to offer you this as a contract for the next two years…” It was fucking embarrassing, I was making more being an amateur for Lakai, but backed up against the wall, I had to sign this thing, I had no fucking choice, they just released a shoe. At the time, I remember telling myself that all I wanted to do was just be able to go out and have the chance to film for the Chocolate video and I remember getting bummed, it still wouldn’t of allowed me that, it would of been hardly enough to even cover rent. Well, if they would have even honored that goddamn contract… that was going to be the hell I would of had to look forward too, but they didn’t and I was still loyal to them throughout this whole time, to this day, everyday I run into kids that get psyched, think I’m some pro they like, meanwhile they don’t know I’m out collecting scrap metal to sell so I can eat that night. It got that bad, because that contract I signed, was all just a ploy, they realized my shoe was doing good, the best selling in the line, and they needed me of course looking like I rode for the company while they released another three colorways of shoes with my name on it every six months for God knows how long. It would look kind of weird, especially around that time, if word got out that they kicked me off, I was still going on trips, I remember going out to Vegas to help film that Kenny commercial, on the phone being like, ” dude, I literally don’t have a penny in my pocket, I’m kinda sketched on traveling, I couldn’t even get to the airport if I wanted too, but I still made that trip. But that bullshit fake contract, ended up being just that – they wouldn’t live up to it. I got more excuses and stories, month after month, like “the guy that needs to verify a check is on vacation, don’t know when he’s getting back” and me just like being so worked, telling them, “I’m literally hungry man, I need to eat” and there I was “riding” for them, not getting paid, going through absolute hell, and then digging this hole of them coming down on me for not skating or getting shit done… and It looked like exactly that on the outside as well. From that text it took them over a year to ever get any type of help from them, which by then it didnt matter anymore cause the first month I couldn’t pay rent, by the third month I was getting evicted, by the fourth month I was stressing about how I was going to be able to afford storage, cause I was basically on the street, and in six months it didn’t fucking matter anymore, cause I ended up selling and pawning every single thing I owned. I was fighting for my life, literally, to really put it in perspective, in those 3 years that I had that shoe out, my own pro shoe on converse, there was two and a half of those years that there was no way in hell that I would ever be able to get enough money together that would allow me to walk into a store and just buy a pair on my own if I wanted to… and the most fucking frustrating part of the last three years is all the support I’ve gotten from literally almost every person I know. Kids I run into skating every single day, all the expectations that I know I can live up to, but living that lie and looking like I’m not doing shit, cause I wasn’t getting the support from the only people who at the end of the day could have the power and opportunity to give me that chance… cause you can’t pay rent with street cred and shockingly you can’t pay rent with a company pumping out over twenty different colorways of a shoe with your name on it either. The only thing I’ve ever wanted from them at the end of the day was just to have that chance…they never gave it to me.
48 Blocks: Are you still doing a lot of woodwork ? How much of your time is spent on creative pursuits outside of skateboarding these days?
Anthony: No, I haven’t. I lost my little clubhouse almost 3 years back. For two winters in NY I was fortunate enough to have a place to hang out, make stuff , and just keep busy. It was definitely a cool experience and taught myself a lot of shit for as short lived as it was. It’s been a while since I’ve put time into anything creative besides skateboarding…but that’s plenty, cause it’s always enough to fill that creative outlet, but it never allows you to reach a point of feeling completely content, totally satisfied, or gets easy enough that you can wake up one day and it just bores you. I guess it could if you stop thinking.
48 Blocks: You’ve always been a really creative skateboarder and you’ve mentioned in interviews that you’ve drawn inspiration for skateboarding from going to galleries and looking at paintings. Do you consciously seek out spots that are aesthetically appealing to shoot or film? How much does that factor into your skateboarding?
Anthony: Yes and almost to a point where its probably borderline obsessive for sure, but thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it.
48 Blocks: Being that you’re both from Long Island, are both fairly aloof, and both ride for Chocolate; it’s hard not to draw some comparisons between you and Gino Iannucci. Was Gino around L.I. when you were growing up? Did you ever skate with him back in the day?
Anthony: I always think its crazy (for obvious reasons) when people draw some type of comparison between us… He definitely was a major influence for me growing up, but it didnt have anything to do with him being from the Island. By the time I made it out of my driveway, he was already out In LA, so I never saw him around. I think the first time I even got to see him skate in person was on a trip to Italy for skateboarder. Gino along with others like Guy, Caroll, Keenan , Dill, etc were all my favorite skaters growing up for the same reason I still like those guys today. They just get it. They ride a goddamn skateboard better than anybody.
48 Blocks: I feel like Bill Strobeck has documented the majority of your skating throughout your career. Is there anything different about filming with Bill than other filmers?
Anthony: Yeah, he’s a friend, and that can go a long way, means a lot to me for some reason. He called me out of the blue one night when I was fifteen years old to see if I wanted to go hook up and go skate / film with him. The next day by 10:00 am we were filming lines down by the seaport, and the rest is history or on YouTube perhaps. Over the years I’ve had the chance to film with some other people like Ty or Meza, and honestly, it’s always felt like the same good vibe. I think if it hits the point were I’m actually filming with anyone, that kind of relationship / respect that I kind of need has already been established. Bill also films really good and has a style that has always been his own, which is a bonus.
48 Blocks: I know it’s been talked about a million times before, but I have to ask you about Brian Wenning. You guys were inseparable at one point, what happened and what are your current thoughts on Brian? Have you guys reconnected at all, when is the last time you’ve seen or spoken to him?
Anthony: It has to be at least ten years since I’ve seen Brian, and I could no way in hell recall when or where that was. I really have no idea what he’s up to, I mean you hear little things every once in awhile through the grapevine – an interview here and there, just as much as anybody else, if that seems like he went through a tough couple years of battling some personal stuff, he’s human. I would just want and hope nothing but the best for him… that he’s in a healthy and happy place, and I mean that…
48 Blocks: It seems like you’ve mostly filmed in New York and in the surrounding area for awhile without going on very many trips. What is it about skating New York exclusively that appeals to you?
Anthony: It’s just what I know…
48 Blocks: I saw you post a photo of your Chocolate portrait with different hairstyles and you made a comment about image on Instagram..Do you feel like skateboarding is overly image-driven these days?
Anthony: Yes, it always will be that way. There hasn’t ever really been a time where it wasn’t. Sheep don’t ever try to mock or imitate humans. They can’t say the same about humans behaving like them unfortunately.
48 Blocks: What is your current status with Chocolate are you still sponsored by them? If so, was there a reason other than lack of financial resources that you didn’t have any tricks in Pretty Sweet? If you no longer ride for them, can you tell us what happened and when you and Chocolate officially parted ways?
Anthony: Unfortunantly this little soap opera doesn’t have a happy ending. I wanted to thank anybody that has helped me in any way, shape, or form over the past 15 years and an extra special thank you to a few select people that have been there for the last 2-3 years. Unfortunately, the way life is and people are, the difference is quite dramatic. These are the people that made sure I had a roof over my head at times, people that fed me when I was hungry, the last thing I have to do is list these people cause they’re the first ones to know exactly who they are.
Who knows what my relationship with cons is today… 90% of people I run into think I still ride for them. Why wouldn’t they, they put out the 22, 23, and 24th colorway of my shoe not even six months ago. I never got even anything close to a call, email, or anything telling me shit was going to go down, or I was kicked off, get prepared, or anything… They were cowards who did nothing but lie to me every month for two years digging my life into a whole of shit deeper and deeper every month…They knew what they were doing was so fucking wrong on so many levels, there isn’t a capable human being in the world that could man up enough and be put on a phone and would be able to ever call me and try to somehow justify what they were doing, and cut me off, still to this day. If I was any bit of a real burden to that team, people react, and the first thing they would love to do is reprimand and make me pay the consequences. Your guess is as good as mine.
The relationship that I have with Girl and Chocolate is the same one I’ve always had with them. It’s never been anymore or any less today than during any other time. It’s a group of people that I have an incredible amount of respect for. From the OG skaters that made something together better than anybody else that I grew up watching, to everybody currently on the team, to everybody behind the scenes, just its history and how it started. All these things contribute in some way, all come together and produce something that to me has always been the best in skating.
About 10 years ago I made a decision that it was the only board company I would ever support or want to be a part of in any way. So I quit the Workshop during a time you didn’t do shit like that and contrary to belief, I never quit Alien to ride for Girl. It wasn’t anything like that. I just quit and went through a period of buying boards from the shop and I remember telling myself if they happen to give me this opportunity and reach out to me, I would be so grateful and psyched. Meanwhile I had everybody I know calling me up telling me I’m crazy, don’t do it, try to get back on Alien, they’re not going to put you on; and I didn’t give a shit. It was coming out of one ear faster than it was coming in. It had nothing to do with worrying about where my next check was going to come from. If they never would of reached out to me, that would of been it, another company wasn’t an option. So I would of fully sabotaged my own career at the time, but I was lucky and a couple weeks later, I did get that call. This proves why it will always be different with them. I remember talking to them and they felt super bad cause it happened to be real bad timing issues and was early in the year right after they did their budget and they said they would put me on and give me pro boards, but not until the following year. They weren’t going to be able to pay me a definite salary, they would give me royalties; but nothing was concrete. I couldn’t give less of a shit and I mean that and for close to a year it was like that. Them giving me that chance was all I ever wanted in the first place and with that given, I was able to skate and things eventually fell into place. Right now, I still get boards from Chocolate. I don’t have any of my own boards out currently and I shouldn’t until I put out of some type of video part and start getting more coverage. Nothing is more logical than those consequences and there isn’t an ounce of bad blood between us. Those guys are the last people I would ever point a finger at and honestly, I don’t think they knew the severity of my situation over the past couple years and its exactly how i would be handling the situation if I were them.
Look , I’m a person that’s pretty fucking hard on myself in a lot of ways. I’m a skater, that’s what I’m made of. I don’t run around pointing fingers and blaming others for my mistakes and fuck ups, believe me, I have no problem taking the credit. It doesn’t change anything at the end of the day. So it simply comes down to that if the situation was different than the one I was ultimately given would have I had a video part? It can’t be answered definitely, because I’m human. Who knows, life is so random, maybe I would of blew it somehow for whatever made up reason you can think of. But honestly, I would of placed my bet on yeah, of course I would of been able to film a video part. It’s the only thing I know how to do to this day. I feel confident saying that I actually know how to do that. Would it have been a bunch of bullshit ollies and 50-50′s, probably not. When have I ever done that? My last part was in the Lakai video, the first two tricks are back to back ollies, and there’s not another ollie in the whole part. I wouldn’t of placed my bet on that, but it’s pointless to assume something that can’t be changed.
Alright, I can’t type into my phone anymore. Thanks to every person that rides a skateboard. Sorry, I’m not as delusional as you probably wished. Don’t expect a comeback, I never went anywhere. I won’t leave you hanging.