Maybe We Should’t Be So Quick to Idolize a Gay-Bashing Skateboarder
Jay Adams, a guy who had really good balance on his skateboard and, as a member of the Z-Boys, helped to define skating as we know it, died from a heart attack on Thursday while vacationing in Mexico. Although he lived most of his life outside the spotlight, he was brought into mainstream consciousness in 2001 thanks to the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, and then again in 2005, when he was portrayed by Emile Hirsch in Lords of Dogtown. Adams’s death was picked up by most major news outlets, almost all of which used the words “legend” or “legendary” in their headlines and went on to describe him as a bad boy who pushed the sport away from dance-y, ballerina-style contests and into the more aggressive street and pool skating that birthed modern-day skateboarding. Less discussed was the gay-bashing Adams initiated in Los Angeles that left a man dead.
While I appreciate Adams’s contribution to skateboarding as much as the next guy, it seems odd that virtually every obituary published over the last four days has glossed over or completely failed to mention that one time in 1982 when he helped kill a guy. Adams, describing the incident toJuice magazine in 2000, said, “After a show at the Starwood we went to a place called the Okiedogs and two homosexual guys walked by and I started a fight.” One of those homosexuals was named Dan Bradbury, and, as mentioned above, was killed in the brawl. Although Adams was charged with murder, he claimed that he had left the fight by the time the man died, and was convicted of felony assault. He served just six months in prison.
Scanning through the barrage of celebratory obituaries, one could be forgiven for missing that rather large blemish on Adams’s resume.
The initial New York Times obituary on his death failed to mention that Adams, who, as their headline says, “changed skateboarding into something radical,” participated in what looks an awful lot like a hate crime a few decades ago. A more in-depth follow-up story published Sunday with the title “In Empty Pools, Sport’s Pioneer Found a Way to Make a Splash” devotes one sentence to it: “In 1982 he was convicted of felony assault for involvement in the stomping death of a gay man at a concert in Hollywood.” The Associated Press acknowledged the incident in which the “colorful rebel” started a fight and then helped beat a gay man to death by writing, “At the height of his fame in the early 1980s, Adams was convicted of felony assault, launching a string of prison stints over the next 24 years”—with no mention of the fact that the victim was a gay man, or that he died as a result. The Los Angeles Times, who called Adams “legendary” and “one of the edgy Z-boys of the sport,” devoted one sentence to the incident, also with no mention of the fact that Bradbury was gay, summing it up neatly: “He served six months for his involvement in a fight in Hollywood that resulted a man’s death.” [sic]
So far, more than 20 members of the Phelps family have left the church due to his behavior and WBC’s practices. One of them is Nathan Phelps, who left the Kansas family house at 18, accusing his father of, among other things, child abuse. Having completely denounced the WBC dogma, Nathan now lives in Canada, calls himself an atheist, and is an avid supporter of LGBT rights. He has also spent the past few years giving speeches and interviews about his experience as a member of WBC.
Back in 2012, I had the honor of having Nate stay as a guest in my house for a few days. Once I heard about his father’s death, and with the Facebook announcement Nate made about it in mind, I got in touch with him again.
VICE: Hey Nate, how do you feel about your dad dying? Nathan Phelps: I haven’t seen my father in over 35 years. I spoke to him once, briefly, in 1995. Ten years after I left home, I went through a deliberate mourning process for the loss of my family. Between that and the passage of time, I believed I would have no feelings when he passed. I was surprised that there were feelings when I learned of his condition and then his death. I’ve now had a few days to consider those feelings, and I think the sadness is over what might have been.
When you revealed that your father was dying a few days ago, you said family members that left the church were being blocked from seeing him. If you had been able to, would you have wanted to see him one last time in person? In a perfect world, I would have jumped at that chance. I left that place 37 years ago as a fearful young man. The absence of interaction, an opportunity to process that, only means I still have that fear to contend with. If there were the least bit of evidence that our relationship had changed in his eyes, I would be there in a heartbeat. Other than that, my greatest concern was for my family members who had expressed a desire to see him and were being denied that opportunity.
“I was told to help the gang beat them up and [steal] their stuff,” he says. The gang shouted “fucking homo cunts” as they laid into the couple. Ty tears up as he tells me how ashamed he was, so much so that he couldn’t look at himself in the mirror for more than a week. “If I saw them again, I’d want to apologize—I did it because I was scared, probably because that could have happened to me. It could still happen to me.”
Westboro Baptist Church Founder Fred Phelps Has Died – Fuck That Guy
So, Fred Phelps has gone to live with the big fag-hater in the sky. America mourns. The rainbow flags are fluttering at half mast. Really, you can’t overestimate how cut up the nation is. Who, for example, is left to piss all over the country’s dead soldiers? It’s a responsibility everyone will have to shoulder together.
Saddest of all, the big ol’ flirt ended his days estranged from even the two dozen people he’d made it his life’s work to keep tame and mute. Excommunicated from his church and emotionally exiled from 99.9 percent of the human race, Fred Phelps died as alone as it is possible for a man to be. Pity him for his grim motiveless anger, but let’s at least remember him as he would have wanted us to: as a psychotic, sadistic life-wrecker and overall pretty bad egg. He certainly didn’t want your pity, as the following catalog of ugh will show.
In early January, a bunch of bigoted French people gathered in Paris’s Bastille Square to celebrate their rage with a “Day of Anger.” About 20,000 of them turned up in the rain to complain about various things. Some were mad at the country’s President, François Hollande, for being too much of a liberal. Some were mad about abortion. A whole bunch of them were mad about gays. And the Jews. Quite a few people were mad about the Jews.
Anyway, our friend Félix dropped a tab, walked around, and talked to all the pissed off people. We hope you enjoy it at least as much as he did.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin banned gay “propaganda” last June, Russia’s LGBT community went from being a stigmatized fringe group to full-blown enemies of the state. We traveled to Russia to investigate the effects of the country’s state-sanctioned homophobia.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin banned gay “propaganda” in June last year, Russia’s LGBT community went from being a stigmatized fringe group to full-blown enemies of the state. Homophobia becoming legislation means it’s now not only accepted in Russia but actively encouraged, which has led to a depressing rise in homophobic attacks and murders.
The main aim of the law, which essentially bans any public display of homosexuality, is to prevent minors from getting the impression that being gay is normal. Which means that, if you’re young and gay in Putin’s Russia, you’re ostracized and cut off from any kind of legal support network.
We traveled to Russia ahead of February’s Sochi Winter Olympics to investigate the effects of the country’s state-sanctioned homophobia. In the first part, we take a ride in Moscow’s gay taxi service, hear about the rise of homophobic vigilante groups, and meet Yulia, who runs LGBT self-defense classes.