Louie Barletta: People I've Known
Louie is an ageless wizard whose skating is a unique mix of creativity, fun and gnarliness. He has seen a lot in his decades on board and here are some of the characters who left their mark on the magnificent madman.
By far the one person I’ve been to the emergency room with the most throughout my life. In Australia he broke his arm at a skatepark and it was like an hour drive to the hospital. The TM called an ambulance, but it was only a driver, so he asked if I wanted to ride in the back with Jer. He gave Jerry a mask, turned on the nitrous and said, “Suck up as much as you want, mate. It’s free!” As soon as he shut the door Jer handed me the mask and for an hour we huffed as much gas as humanly possible. When we got to the hospital I could barely walk! I remember the nurse asking if I could fill out the paperwork and the first thing I said was, “Damn, Jerry, I can’t remember your name.”
He moved to my school in 7th grade. We both skated and were instantly best friends. The first Gulf War started and I remember asking him, “What are we gonna do if they draft us?” Warren’s like, “It doesn’t matter; I already joined!” He never talked about his time in the military and when he got out we moved in together. We’ve built more mini ramps in the last 20 years than I can remember. Warren would go on trips with us, but he never wanted to film. He wanted nothing to do with being sponsored—he just loved skateboarding. Warren has kept me grounded over the years, a constant reminder of the pure passion for skateboarding. When he finally moved out of the mansion he literally had a stack of decks, a backpack and one shoebox worth of stuff. “Don’t you save anything?” I asked him. “Not really, just some photos and a few medals I got when I was in the service.” What a badass. He’s my hero.
The first time I met Jay we were on tour in Hawaii and he was going to take us to some bowl out on the North Shore. He told the TM to follow him and then told Dylan and me to get in his car and off we went. Instead of going to the bowl, he drove us to an electronics store where he proceeded to make us buy a cassette stereo for his car. Best $45 I ever spent!
Never met a burrito at 2 AM he didn’t like!
Dinner with the boys and we were sitting there ordering drinks. The waitress comes over to Pete and he asks, “What’s the most expensive drink you got?!” It was some Hennessy drink that was 99 bucks a pop. “Yo! Round of Henn-dog for the homies!” he announced. It was literally a $2,000 statement.
I’ve actually never really met Leticia, but I was at the Osiris Feed the Need video premiere and I was chatting up this chick. She seemed game, but as the night was winding down she said she was Leticia’s chaperone (who was like 12 at the time) and had to take her home. I walked them back to their hotel, which happened to be my hotel as well. I was like, Put her to bed and come up to my room. I just so happened to be on the floor right above them. She said she couldn’t leave the room, so I said my goodnights and went to bed. It was then that I realized maybe there was still a chance! I went out on the balcony of my room, hopped down to the floor below and then jumped from one balcony to the next until I got to their room. I thought I was like James Bond or something! But when I knocked on their sliding-glass door she freaked out and wasn’t stoked at all and totally threw me out into the hallway. The video was rad, though.
Years and years ago I cold-called him and was picking his brain about the early days of REAL, about how difficult it must’ve been for him doing stuff at Deluxe while at the same time being a pro skater and fulfilling duties like filming and touring. I point blank asked him if he thought I had what it took to juggle being pro and running a business. He told me, and I’ll never forget his exact words, “You can, but you just have to give it that same 100% that you gave skateboarding.” I’ve enjoied his advice ever since.
I used to work in a cabinet shop with my dad. Ed was the TM for Maple skateboards and for some reason he got the cabinet shop number. He called and my dad answered. Ed was like, “What up, Lou?” and my dad didn’t hear him and was like, “Oh, just working.” Ed was like, “Rad. Well, I was calling to see if you wanted to ride for Maple.” My dad was like, “Yeah, we can do cabinets in any wood you wanna pay for.” Ed was like, “This is Ed from Maple skateboards.” And my dad was like, “Sorry, we don’t make skateboards,” then hung up on him. Thank God I asked my dad who called and he was like, “Some guy wanting us to make maple skateboards.” I immediately called Ed back and the rest is history!
We did a Dwindle trip one time and from enjoi it was me and Puleo. We got into the first hotel and I was sharing a room with the TM and Bobby was sharing a room with a guy from the Blind team. The plan was for everyone to drop off their stuff, shower and then meet for dinner. We get to our room and about 15 minutes go by and then there’s this desperate beating on our door. I open it and Bobby blows by me into our room. He proceeds to tell us how he was watching TV as his roomie was showering. Then his roommate comes out of the bathroom buck naked, holding a hand towel. He laid on his own bed and then proceeded to lay the small hand towel over his privates. Bob ended up sleeping on our floor the whole trip, but I kept thinking what an ingenious move the Blind dude pulled off—he got his own room the entire tour!
First time I met Sid he took me into his parents’ basement and showed me his 8-track collection. Pretty impressive.
We did this Redbull trip to Portugal and Zered brought his girlfriend and turned it into a mini vacation. They were in the back of the van just drinking wine, partying, hanging out—it was such a bold move, like what you wish you could do on a tour if you really had the balls. Zered just did it!
First day on tour we all get per-diem. Ali took his cash and went straight to the hobby shop and spent it all on a $500 remote-controlled airplane. We go to a park and he fills it with gas and fires it up. We’re all excited as he threw it up in the air. He scrambled to pick up the remote control as it flew off in a straight line… and kept on going in a straight line while Ali was cursing and freaking out ’cause it wouldn’t turn or dip or do anything. We just sat and watched it fly off outta sight. Ali focused the remote and then we all realized what went wrong—he forgot to put the batteries in the remote control.
If there is one unsolved mystery about enjoi, it’s why the hell Mark never rode for us.
There was a CCS event that was cash for tricks, but the cash was taped to 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor. Kader was killing it, winning bottle after bottle. He was still a kid so he kept the money and I got the 40s. I think I got about two and a half down, blacked out and missed my flight home. So yeah, Kader, I owe you three 40s, my man.
That man really knows how to throw a naked party!
During the height of The Storm I was out skating with Tyrone. We had to stop at his house to get something, the mail showed up and he saw his Osiris check had come. He opened it in front of us, pulled it out and was like “Six grand? Kibbles, yo, kibbles. This isn’t even worth my time cashing!” And then he ripped it up and threw it away. Such a gangster move.
When I moved downtown, Warren and I had a skate house and Jason lived down the road in another skate house that was full of the older skaters. For some reason they always felt the need to fuck with us. Every Monday night was garbage night, and they would come by on bicycles on their way to the bar and dump out our garbage cans on our lawn. One night we were sitting around watching 411s and their crew burst into our house. One dude had taken the dome off the 7-Eleven Slurpee machine and was wearing it like a dog cone from the vet. Slurpee dude proceeded to piss in the corner of the room, then move our coffee table and laid down on the floor. “Shit on me, JJ!” he commanded. His buddy promptly pulled down his pants and started grunting and farting. He peed on him a bit, but when no poo came out he got frustrated and pulled up his pants and then kicked our wall and walked out in disgust. I saw Jason out skating later that week. He gave me a beer and said, “Don’t worry about it. Those guys just did that out of love.” Tough love, I guess.
As a pro skater I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Do you know Tony Hawk?” My answer is always, “Yes, I had breakfast with him before.” To come clean, I was once at a Denny’s and saw Tony Hawk there eating breakfast.
One summer in Barcelona I had slammed really bad and broken my collarbone. I went to the hospital by myself for them to reset it. They pumped me with morphine and then popped it back together. Afterwards I took the Metro back to my apartment and as I was walking up the street I ran into Wes and some of the Mafia guys. I had a sling on and they were all asking what happened. I was like, “No big deal, broke my collarbone, whatchu up to tomorrow? I’m down to roll around!” Hours later the drugs wore off and I couldn’t even breathe without being in agonizing pain. I didn’t leave my apartment for over a month.
When we put Wieger on the team he was like, “Can I please have my name in the spectrum letters on the bottom of a board?” Matt Eversole was like,”To fit your name on a board, the board would have to be 20 feet long.” Well, I made it for him, and it ended up being just short of ten feet long—and was one of the most memorable enjoi ads of all time.
The enjoi TM, he buys me Coors Lights when I want them, so I had to put him on the list. Heck, this might even be enough to get a 30 pack out of him!
One year Dwindle had their Christmas party at Buca di Beppo. It was all you could drink and some of the boys were taking full advantage. Ragdoll tore a photo of Audrey Hepburn off the wall and handed it to me. Just as he did, some bouncer grabbed me and started choking me out and at one point was dunking my head in the fountain because I was trying to fight back. Obviously I ended up getting ejected from the party before we even got dinner. In the end I really thought it was a sweet gesture from Ragdoll, though. Wish I got to keep that photo.
We’re out skating one day and I asked Cas where he wanted to eat. “Wienerschnitzel,” he replied without hesitation. So we drove over to Wienerschnitzel and as we walked up to the counter the server was like, “The usual?” to which Caswell responded, “You know it, buddy.” I’ve seen Caswell do a lot of gnarly things over the years, but for some reason that seemed like the gnarliest.
Yup, just two top professional athletes at the peak of their game. It’s good to know you’ve got a buddy who can literally knock anyone out at any moment—crucial in a bar fight.
I’ve traveled nearly the entire world with Has and I’ve only seen him eat apples, cheese pizza and ham sandwiches.
Al was the first sponsored skater I ever met when I was a kid. Who would’ve guessed years later we’d be in the back of a van together drinking Mad Dog 20/20?
I was spending a lot of time in Finland in the early 2000s. One summer there was a contest there and it was right after PJ’s Wonderful Horrible Life came out. He didn’t speak to a single person the whole contest. Then at one point he skated up to me and said, “Hey, Louie, you like The Smiths?” I said, “Yes,” and he skated off—dropped in and won the contest with one flawless run. Never heard another word out of his mouth the whole weekend.
I never had a sister, but if I did I’d want her to be Nora.
I was staying in Finland at the time and Dwindle wanted me to go to Italy to do a contest. I went down there and got really hammered and didn’t skate but woke up with a note in broken English that said, “If you ever wanna come to Italy I will take you around my country,” signed with an email address. Six months later I emailed the dude and told him I was gonna take him up on the offer. I never met Gio, had no idea what he looked like and just took a filmer and hopped on a train to Italy. We spent a month traveling around Italy living out of his Fiat, sleeping in churches and skating crusty Italian spots. We drove across all of Italy and Sicily and a lot of the footage from that trip is what ended up in my Bag of Suck part. Not bad for a shot in the dark!
Years ago I applied for a loan to buy a house. My loan officer was shocked that you could make enough money skateboarding to purchase a home. He said his son skated, too, and asked if I could meet him. We did a Krux demo and he brought his son Zach, who was like 11. I wished him the best of luck. Years later my mom ran into his dad and he was like, “You know when your son told me he was traveling and earning a living skateboarding, I just couldn’t believe it. And now just this month my son is getting paid to travel to Barcelona to skate.” I was like, “What’s his name?” My mom said, “Oh, I think he has a nickname like Donald Duck or something.” Yup. Ducky’s dad helped me buy my house.
First King of the Road we ever did we decided to take Erik’s RV. He drove every day, all day to skate spots, then drove all night to the next city. Every night we’d pull up to the hotel at around 2 AM. He refused to stay in the hotel. He’d pull out the BBQ and pour a cocktail. By 7 AM he was always already packed up, brewing coffee for everyone. On the drive home when KOTR ended, I remember Erik turning to me and saying, “You know, Lou, I could definitely go another week.” I didn’t even have energy to respond to him. He really is the key master to San Jose.
When we used to go on tour together he would drive the van and listen to audio science books—driving down the freeway, me drinking beers, learning about quantum physics. I loved it. I’ll never forget a conversation between him and Marc. Marc was sitting shotgun and he asked Rodney how he did crooks nollie varial heels. Rodney broke it down to quadrants on his board—quadrants on his tail and nose. They talked through how to learn that trick, like literally—putting pressure from your toe on quadrant three of the nose to your little toe in quadrant one of the nose and then rotating 15 degrees with your heel. It was a two-hour drive and they just broke it down, talking about how to do it. And no joke, we rolled up to the demo and I saw Marc do a couple crooked grinds, then in three tries actually land the crooks nollie varial heel. It was insane.
Back in the Mad Circle days an SF photographer came down to San Jose and brought Rob with him. We went to this famous three-stair sidewalk gap and Rob started throwing out switch back heels down it. He was landing on them so the photog started setting up his flashes. Rob saw and kicked one away and was like, “Yo, I don’t want any photos at spots that aren’t in SF!” I always thought that was so cool.
Around when Girl started I was hyped on Mike. We went to Fort Miley and the EMB dudes were there. First go Mike did a switch heel over the hip. My friend started clapping and as Mike skated past us he said to my buddy, “Know why you’re clapping? ’Cause that’s the best goddamn switch heel you’ve ever seen.” From that point on he was my favorite skater. And we always quoted that when we caught my buddy clapping for anything!
I left Deedz and the team at a skate camp with 100 White Claws. I get a call from the camp at 6 AM—Deedz and Jackson Pilz stole a golf cart, crashed it and damaged some ramps. They wanted Deedz arrested so they could get the $100K in damages from their insurance company. Arrested? That would mean he’d get deported. I begged for them to work with me to resolve it, and above all to please let Deedz go. It was honestly like a scene from a movie. In the end I had a briefcase of money and they dropped him off at the airport. We got them to come down to the price of the golf cart instead of the $100K, and yes… I made Deedz pay me back!
I met Dylan when he was about 13 or 14. For some reason we always shared a room on tour. I think it was because I was always the goofy uncle drinking Bacardi and Cokes and being silly and Jerry was the cool-guy uncle not saying a word, just sitting back, watching, smoking cigs. I’m so stoked he took after Uncle Jer. I’ll never forget the last time we hung out. I had flown to LA and he surprised me by picking me up at the airport. As we drove to the office we just chatted about nonsense and reminisced on old days. I think about that car ride and wished I’d been more honest with him. I wish I could’ve told him I loved him and how I was proud of him. I think about him a lot—one of the greatest to ever do it.
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