People We’re Into: Leo Romero Interview Pt 2
In an old Marc Johnson interview he spoke of some days waking up and being able to do tricks, any trick, everytime. Now for 99% of skateboarders, myself included, have never or will ever have ANY idea what it’s like to skate like Marc. But we’ve all had those days when things just click. We’ve all heard it watching sports, “they have the momentum” “the ball just seems to be bouncing their way” all that stuff. The bottom line is this: there are some things you CANNOT DEFINE, you just have to acknowledge that something special is happening and roll with it. When I think of Leo’s skateboarding career, the way he skates, his lust for a carefree life, I can’t help but think he has this ability to harness the “special day” power. This is an interview with the one and only LEO ROMERO, enjoy.
DR: Well here we go again…mark it, take two.
LR: Yeah take two the tragic sequel. (laughter)
DR: This one is NOT supposed to be funny! This one is supposed to be DEEP, REAL DEEP. But I’m afraid it has to start out boring with some stock bullshit so kids KINDOF get an idea of what you’re about maybe.
LR: Well I started skating around twelve with a buddy named James.
DR: Wait a white kid? (Leo grew up in a predominantly poor Hispanic community)
LR: Yeah he was white.
DR: Your brothers approved?
LR: They were out causing trouble they didn’t give a shit what I did. (laughter)
DR: How many brothers?
LR: Two older and one younger and a younger sister.
DR: Your older brothers loved whuppin’ ass though didn’t they?
LR: Everyone in my family likes whuppin’ ass but me it’s kinda funny.
DR: Why do you say it like that?
LR: We’re all crazy in some way I guess, or at least people think what we do is crazy.
DR: Throwing a fist is one thing, but “soul skating” a 20 plus rail solo in the back of a school while everyone else is out front filming I think is WAY more crazy but who am I to say? Did your brothers gang bang and shit?
LR: Not my oldest brother he was considered a pretty boy in high school but the one younger then him was pretty gangstery/rebel. He had cuffed jeans and stuff.
DR: A rebel? I did not know that. (rebels are hoods kindof who basically dress like a cross between james dean and elvis…aka Mexican geasers that will fuck you up) He didn’t have shaved eye brows did he?
LR: NO, no just cuffs, black t’s, motorcycle boots, a giant HD belt buckle, and a shaved head.
DR: OH, DAMN.
LR: He was more of a gangster through middle school but then he changed into a rebel when he hit high school.
DR: He figured out how to get the white girls without scaring them off. Wife beaters, dickies shorts, and socks pulled up is a sure way to show an obvious fuck you to most people in southern California.
LR: Yeah I guess so. (laughter)
DR: Born and raised Fontana?
LR: Nah, east LA then grew up in Fontana.
DR: Home park?
LR: Pretty terrible stuff Rancho but really just street skating. James stopped skating and I basically skated by myself for almost two years.
DR: That’s soooooooooooooo rad!
LR: I had a bunch of ledges by my house at a community center and a stage so that’s where I spent two years of my life.
DR: No kick out?
LR: NOOOOOO it was a really good run until I started putting the benches down the curbs like hubbas.
DR: Then you’d leave them that way for the fucking janitor to deal with like a dipshit kid right?
LR: Yeah. (lots of laughter)
DR: Kids reading this take note: ALWAYS PUT SHIT BACK AND DON’T LEAVE YOUR FUCKING TRASH AT SKATE SPOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nothing ruins a spot quicker than some dipshit leaving mcdonalds crap, moving shit around and not putting it back, or the best writing “fuck” on the table you’re skating.
LR: It’s at EVERY SPOT HUH! (laughter)
DR: Are you kidding? It’s fucking universal to draw a dick and write fuck whether you’re in Boise, Id or Budapest, Hungary you’ll find fine genatailia art and the word fuck even though those dudes don’t speak English!!!!!!!!!! (lots of laughter) How old were you when you got sponsored?
LR: Well 15 started the whole shop sponsor thing. Originally a guy was hooking me up from Active then he moved or went on a mission I think he was Mormon. Then I went in and the dude was like, “yah he’s gone kick rocks.” Fucking prick.
DR: Bad judgement.
LR: Yeah then I started going to Pharmacy with Donnie, Jeremy, and this guy named David Gonzales who really is the one who hooked me up.
DR: Cool two SOTY’S hanging out together in their youth.
LR: Different David Gonzales asshole. But that’s where I got hooked up and skated and met Matt Allen and all that stuff.
DR: Matt Allen!?! Wow, 109 year old man in a 15 year old’s body. (lots of laughter)
LR: I mean Active seemed like dudes who didn’t even like skaters vs. Pharmacy which was obviously built by skaters.
DR: Oh, so is this when you were making out with Active Erica?
LR: Dude I NEVER got to make out with her! She was older, semi attractive, and into skating, and everyone was hitting on her that would’ve been a tough pull. (lots of laughter)
DR: Foundation how’d that happen?
LR: We went to Tampa….
DR: Wait, Pharmacy flew you to Tampa AM?
DR: DAmnnnnnnnnnnn Jeremy and Donnie were rolling hard!
LR: I met Ed and Regan and all those guys at that blue 8 stair rail and skated. Then Donnie sent them the sponsor me video but they never responded.
DR: Not even ED? He was sleeping on you?
LR: Yup then Beagle chased me down through Pharmacy and got me to San Diego and stayed with Josh and just skated, skated, skated.
DR: So you went to Beagle’s for alcoholism, bb guns, and a little of the old ultra violence huh?
LR: You know Josh was always SUPER nice to me and I may have been shielded from that stuff a little bit. Even though I’d later see him fucking be BRUTAL to people he was always very kind to me and I appreciated it for sure. Everyone on Foundation was super cool to my surprise. I thought Ethan and Daniel would vibe me for sure when actually it was just Corey who was a total prick. (laughter)
DR: Corey finally got to pick on someone! On a side note Joshua Zeus Beagle, I’m pretty sure that’s his middle name, shot out Garreth Staer’s (newest AM from New Zealand) tooth in the backyard with a bb gun just for you know, shits and giggles. (laughter, lots of laughter) So you’re first pro part was when you opened that video?
LR: I wasn’t pro.
DR: What are you talking about you turned pro right after that part dropped…..that’s called a coming out part which means you’re pro! You had the opening 22 minute part.
LR: (bursts out laughing) Not 22 minutes! Oh, maybe but I wasn’t pro when I was filming it.
DR: Well the filmers KNEW you were stupid. (lots of laughter) How did you get up from that smith grind sack so easily?
LR: My balls were high and tight then. Now I would be down for days my balls hang like sweet chariots now.
DR: Did you say hang like hang like sweet CHARIOTS? What the hell is wrong with you!?! What does that even mean? (excessive laughter) So what was you first pro part then?
LR: My first pro part was First Love.
DR: That video sucked.
LR: They’ve all sucked. (laughter)
DR: Why do you look like you’re ten years old and just woke up when you did the gnarliest 5-0 grind at the time on that UCI rail with the kink? I mean seriously you look like a fuckin little kid.
LR: That was the first spot of the day so I probably did just wake up. It wasn’t that early it was probably noon or something but I definitely did just wake up.
DR: So when did you move out of Fontana?
LR: Well it was when the whole RVCA thing started and Jimmy (arighee #worldsgreatestdad) knew my home life was getting crazy and said I could move in if I wanted to.
DR: So Jimmy was an influence then on this fucked up attitude of yours that you’ve developed huh? At the tender age of 16 you were being exposed to a certain shall we say “assholeness” that would pay “dividends?” later in life?
LR: No I mean my brothers were always shit talking assholes who were funny and my dad is a total asshole so…..
DR: Oh, then it’s genetic?
LR: Yeah maybe I guess.
DR: You really don’t think living with the biggest prick in skateboarding at 16 years old had anything to do with it?
LR: Anyone that really knows me knows I’m not a mean person it’s just that we always talk shit to each other. Then I treat everyone the same as if they were my friends and some people take it the wrong way.
DR: So Jimmy was your father figure at 16, probably not the best idea but I loved it.
LR: For the most part yeah. I moved in with him at 17.
DR: Wait so you dropped out and moved to orange county with a strange overly excitable white man and your mom was fine with that?
LR: No my mom was definitely not fine with it and my dad didn’t care he was being fucking crazy. My rebel brother convinced her to let me do it because he knew more than I did as far as what could happen.
DR: You mean the opportunity or potential of the situation?
LR: Yeah this was it man I wasn’t doing anything in Fontana so whatever.
DR: I just can’t believe your mom wasn’t bummed moving in with a strange white guy in orange county.
LR: She was bummed but what could she do right? I mean Mexican families don’t like it when ANYONE moves out.
DR: Even when you’re 30?
LR: Especially when you’re 30! (laughter) So living with Jimmy I filmed with Jason Hernandez all the time for First Love and that’s pretty much all I did.
DR: Remember the first day we met?
LR: Hmmmmm oh that sketchy as rail, I mean not the rail but the area?
DR: Yeah front board a twelve into a crack den, literally 10 or so crackheads all fucked up at the bottom of the rail. That spot was rad. It was basically for all of you who don’t live in L.A. from the movie Training Day and super sketchy. I just remember you looked nervous I was like, “don’t worry just make it quick you’re fine.”
LR: Yeah I definitely didn’t want to shoot my board out into them…that was sketchy.
DR: You know what impressed me more than the 12 stair manly front board was the “warm up.”
LR: Wait what was that?
DR: The fucking Ollie to axles you were doing on a thigh high flat bar! Over and over and over again it was sketchy looking! Like WTF are you doing? That really caught my eye more than the front board and in my head I was like, “this little fucker is special.”
LR: I love flat bars. (laughter)
DR: So you filmed First Love, lived with Jimmy for a year, then moved onto the Fairfax Emerica House? (Emerica used to be so awesome that they’d rent a house for various team riders to live in) Was there a particular highlight of that time that stands out?
LR: Oh the whole fucking summer! The partys, hanging out with Minor, bumming out my roommates. Heath lived beneath me so his girl friend at the time would always come up to my room, half naked, at 3 or 4 in the morning and ask what the fuck was going on…..
DR: Yeah one night I remember you went to sleep fine and woke up with two black eyes!?! The black eye game is supposed to be played with others you know.
LR: Well sometimes, many times things are little bit different at 3 in the morning.
DR: Spraying guys girlfriends with hoses in the face, Heath getting hit by a car, neighbors getting pissed about 3 a.m. bonfires….good clean fun. (tons of laughter)
LR: Minor finding condoms in his trash can, Dustin Dollin being a drunk idiot and me and Minor shutting him down….
DR: What was that about?
LR: The usual Dustin into the night drunk rambling about how he should be owed something or more respected, or his take on skateboarding for 20 minutes straight. It was like dude we love you now shut the fuck up about it already! (laughter)
DR: Poor Dustin all he wants is for Grecs to tell him he’s the best.
LR: Well that’s never gonna happen. (laughter)
DR: When did the wild rides start?
LR: That summer. Denver to Chicago and back home. It seriously was one of the best times of my life.
DR: Since you had never ridden a bike before were you nervous when you got your bike?
LR: Not really Jimmy told me to just get on an open road and it would be easy. That first ride was like 4 hours and my helmet was choking the shit out of me and even though I hadn’t ridden before I was like, “fuck this helmet it sucks” and I took it off for the rest of the trip.
DR: I remember catching up to you guys 6 days in at the camp site in Hannibal, Missouri and the kid there had a rad Tupac shirt. But you were SOOOOOOOOOO proud of your bike and soooooooo stoked to be doing it. It ruled. I pulled Heath aside in secret and was like, “is everyone cool?” And he said, “yeah it’s cool but Leo keeps trying to ride in the front.” And I said, “he doesn’t know he’s on a sportster yet does he?” HK, “you’ll see tomorrow” and laughed.
LR: I still got it!
DR: I know you do little buddy. You’ve scared me multiple times on your bike including today dipshit! That was sketchy when you got on the freeway today. Just to let everyone know reading this Leo was riding an 883 sportster (bigger bikes can go 120 fairly easily vs a stock sporty maxs out around 90 or so, and we’d cruise at 90) with the throttle completely pinned all day long for hundreds of miles a day. Heath, Ben, and I would usually be in front and there was little buddy maxing out to keep up all day every day for three weeks straight. Every once in a while we’d nail it and go like 120 mph +++ for like twenty minutes and he would disappear in our rearview mirrors. When you do that to people you just laugh to yourself because you know they’re killing themselves to catch up, it was hilarious. So as you were trying to keep up one day tell all the readers how you scared the shit out of us the first time.
LR: What the blow out?
DR: Yeah the blow out….
LR: Well I was riding normal to keep up maxing my bike out probably going like 85 mph or whatever then Ben rolled up on me and was pointing to my bike and I was like, “yeah whatever it’s cool bro!” and I just kept maxing it out. He kept yelling at me until I figured out something might be wrong and it was. Apparently I blew out my tire who knows how long ago and was basically going as fast as I could with a blown out back tire, retarded I know.
DR: How many did you go on and what’s your favorite and which one was sketchiest?
LR: They were all awesome, Portland, obviously the first one, and New York because it was soooooooooooo long and harsh at times. OH SHIT, going into Philly on that one with Huey was super super sketchy. He’s from there and when we hit the city limits it was fucking on! There’s no lane splitting there of course but he was riding like a crazy person. (laughter, usally Huey just cruises but being back in the homeland set something off in him). There was this one point where a cop was on the shoulder giving someone a ticket and we ripped by him in the SHOULDER!!!! He must of shit his pants. They were all awesome I loved them all.
DR: So you rode for Baker when you lived in the Fairfax house right?
LR: Yeah, pretty much. It was super cool for that time I liked riding for Baker but when I moved away to Long Beach I wasn’t really around anyone anymore. I felt like I wasn’t really part of the crew.
DR: As a casual observer it seemed to me like you never really got to shine there at Baker because of the bad video timing. I mean that as just bad luck nobody’s fault, like you get on, they just put out a video so a new one won’t be out for quite some time, and there you are with tons of footage rotting. I mean you 5-0 grinded frost how long before that footage came out like 3 years?
LR: Yeah that part was kind of a bummer but I didn’t really care about that. For me it seemed like a stretch to pretend that I was in tight with everyone. We all like each other but I just wasn’t really part of it. When I moved to Long Beach Toy Machine just seemed like the thing to do. Ed and I have always been close and it was just a natural progression.
DR: In Baker’s defense or any team for that matter that has more than 5 pros it’s crazy. Baker probably had like 9 or more pros at that time it’s hard to really keep an equal amount of focus on the guys I’m sure. Do you remember how against you riding for Toy I was and why? Now’s your chance to put me on blast.
LR: Kind of you didn’t want me to do it because you didn’t think it was that strong at the time or something?
DR: Not to be lame or hurt anyone’s feelings, I just didn’t want you to be the only “star or high profile” kind of guy on any team. I think it’s nearly impossible to build a brand that way vs. a team of high profile guys. That being said, Toy Machine is one of four companies that has a distinct recognizable marketing campaign in all of skateboarding. Adding your skating though seems to have really pushed the brand to a new level.
LR: What are the four?
DR: Toy, Baker, Anti Hero, Enjoi. Whether it’s Ed’s ribbon, Drew’s letters, Julien’s handwriting, or an Orange mean spirited joke, all of those companies are consistent over the years and I hope it’s paying off.
LR: They are consistent like that huh? I’ve never looked at it like that but all those companies you KNOW it’s their add you’re looking at. I just really like Toy because it is very, very skater driven. There are lifestyle things of course but it’s very raw skateboarding always which I love.
DR: Well I didn’t think YOU could turn a board company around by yourself (Leo interjects)
LR: It wasn’t by myself there were…..(I cut him off in return)
DR: I know you think that but all I’m trying to say is I was WRONG. Congratulations I know Toy is doing better right now than it has in quite some time….at least in our shop anyway. What you guys have done in the past three years during a down time in the economy, blah, blah, blah, nothing short of amazing.
LR: Well I hope we keep moving units. (laughter)
DR: So why LBC?
LR: It’s just mellower, it’s not crazy traffic like LA, it’s not retarded like orange county, the property is cheaper to buy, or it was anyway. I just like it a little calmer than LA I guess.
DR: Well if Long Beach is so awesome why were you sleeping on my couch shirtless at two in the afternoon with your hand in your pants when I came home from my honeymoon? (lots of laughter)
LR: That was when I first moved here and my apartment didn’t have electricity, hot water, none of that stuff.
DR: Large screen direct TV.
LR: Yeah that either! Plus I got to hang out with Reina who is, or was the best dog ever.
DR: Who was your special vistor when you were “house sitting?”
LR: Oh Boosh that’s right! That idiot knocked on the door and said, “what the fuck are you doing here?”
DR: I know why would he ask that? I didn’t know him at all, the only reason he was around was because Heath put his nose on the side of his face a few days earlier at the after party bachelor party.
LR: We watched Jurassic Park, pretty uneventful.
DR: Top three pros as a kid go!
LR: Heath, Jamie, Rowley.
DR: Top three now?
DR: He’s not pro!
LR: I know but Heath, Westgate, and……..I’m gonna say Collin.
DR: Top three fav companies as a kid?
LR: Zero, Emerica, Baker
DR: Now try not to be biased!
LR: I really do like Toy, Alien is cool, hmmmmmm I’ll say Girl.
DR: GIRL!????! Then why did you pick them to come in last on KOTR?
LR: I don’t know I was probably being weird or something….oh Lakai that’s right! (laughter)
DR: Top three fav tricks right now?
LR: I’ve been doing tons of nollie flips and switch flips over the thing at stoner park those are just fun right now.
DR: Do you have one of those in your part?
LR: I doubt it, I can’t really remember.
DR: People don’t know that you basically can do any trick on a skateboard without really trying. But sometimes your parts can come off a little frontside “rail” heavy. Why don’t you use different stuff in your parts?!? Like the b-sides of stay gold you have a pretty rad switch backside tailslide in there. You’ve never had one in a part prior why b-side?
LR: I leave that up to Minor or whoever is editing the video. Maybe it was filmed bad.
DR: Nope it wasn’t. I know the maker of every video has a certain look or feeling they’re trying to create when it comes to putting parts together but I’ve always been big on new tricks for a guy. Anyway, who would you add to Emerica right now?
LR: I really wanted to add Daniel Lutheran when he was coming up so I’ll say him.
DR: Toy? I already know the answer but amuse the readers.
LR: WESTNAILING VIRUS.
DR: That’s Brandon Westgate for everyone who doesn’t know. How about Eswick? Maybe you should add ten guys. (laughter)
LR: I really wanted to get Austin Gillette he’s sooooooo awesome. I wish he could’ve rode for Emerica too, he rules.
DR: When are you gonna buy a house in Des Moines? (laughter)
LR: I know huh? I should! It’s probably pretty cheap there huh?
DR: You could buy a house and rent it to skaters and keep the master bedroom for yourself!
LR: Do you think that could happen?
DR: Slow down I was just kidding.
LR: I know but maybe…..
DR: Stop it you’re gonna get everyone excited. You know this may be one of our last times out there.
LR: Wait, why would you say that?
DR: I don’t know how many times can we keep doing this and having fun? Unless of course the skate park actually gets built then that would change everything. Are you stoked to play the show?
LR: Of course but you know this is going to be the Cuates last show right?
DR: WAIT WHAT!!!!!?????
LR: We’re splitting up probably it sucks. So Des Moines get ready cause this one is gonna be insane, bring your dancing shoes!
DR: Damn, last trip, last show, what the fuck. Oh, one last question…..why do you wear the SUBSECT shirt in so many damn photos?!?
LR: I have good luck in that shirt, it fits great, you know I love you bros, and because SUBSECT is the shit.
Photos: Jeff (from various Wild Ride’s)