Friday, March 24, 2006

Top Brass

These days, it's hard to find a jazz album without Roy Hargrove on it. This 27-year-old trumpeter has hit records, sold-out shows, and a sound as smooth as his wardrobe, but he's more than just another young lion.

FROM SWING, JUNE 1996

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

by CORY JOHNSON TONIGHT, LIKE EVERY NIGHT, the legends guard the walls of the Village Vanguard. If you can see through the smoke and the dim lights, they're all there: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins. There's in odd black-and-white of Bill Evans curled over the piano at the Vanguard, where his trio redefined jazz music in the 1950s. Mel Lewis and Thad Jones are pictured side by side, just as they were when for more than a decade in their big band owned Monday nights this crooked basement bar, deep below Manhattan's Seventh Avenue. Dizzy Gillespie laughs, Joe Henderson bores in, Charles Mingus broods, McCoy Tyner grins. And off to the side, dressed in a fierce herringbone suit, a young Roy Hargrove, circa 1995, is blowing the shit out of his trumpet.

It seems almost sacrilegious to see Hargrove, just 27, pictured among the greats in this cathedral of jazz. Yet here he is, one of the hottest performers in the history of the music. In polls of jazz magazines such as Downbeat, Hargrove has unseated Wynton Marsalis as the most popular trumpet player in the game. In just six years, he's recorded nine albums of his own for two labels, more than some musicians record in an entire career. And he's such a frequent guest star on other artists' records that critics joke in amazement when they find albums Hargrove isn't on. He is also one of the industry's top money earners and has spent most of the last five years traveling to sold-out appearances in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

Hargrove is no Kenny G (thank God), but he plays with a smooth, accessible tone in an aggressive, highly charged fashion. Equally adept at the trumpet and the warmer-sounding flugelhorn, Hargrove calls to mind such illustrious players as Fats Navarro, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, arid Freddie Hubbard. And with each recording he makes, he adds to his already substantial following.

At about 9 p.m. on this Tuesday night, the Vanguard is filling up. After waiting for half an hour in the hot humid street, eager fans fork over a $25 cover charge to squeeze into this cramped, V-shaped space to see Hargrove play. His quintet is about due to go on, but backstage a Verve record company executive nervously scans the room, filled with musicians smoking cigarettes and tuning their instruments, and asks meekly, "Urn, where's Roy?"

No one answers. But Hargrove is tucked away in a back corner between a stack of beer bottles and a dusty old cast-iron stove. He sits crouched on a chair, eyes closed, head between his knees, rocking slightly, gripping something in his right fist. After about 15 minutes or this, he comes out of his trance arid abruptly stands up. He's a little guy, 5 feet 8 inches and thin, but decked out in a black DKNY wool-crepe suit over a cobalt-blue rayon/linen shirt and big Kenneth Cole shoes with a badass buckle. Hargrove is handsorne, with light brown skin, a shadow of a mustache, and a slight smirk on his face. His eyes are thin slits, as if he's just awakened in the middle of the night.

"Hey, man," he says laconically, extending his hand to shake mine. But he forgets he's still holding the silver balls he's been spinning in his hand. "Oh," he says. "These are my Chinese balls." He stares into his hand, then into my face, awaiting a reaction. An awkward silence falls as both of us wonder whether that was a joke, but just then the Verve rep returns arid says, "All right guys, you're on!"

Roy jumps up in the air and snaps his fingers. "Yeah! Let's go!"

The set begins with Hargrove playing a mournful flugelhorn solo. But when the band kicks in, the room explodes. Miguel "Anga" Diaz, 35, a Cuban percussionist with five con-as, two bongos, a timbale, three cowbells, arid a muted tambourine, instantly forges a wide path of Latin rhythm. His hands run roughshod over the congas, like a bulldozer through rubble. The rest of the band can only respond. Twenty-year-old drummer Karriern Riggins is kicking the rim shots; bassist Gerald Cannon, 38, is bug-eyed, playing triplet half notes; and pianist Charles Craig, 29, is punching staccato, salsa-style notes. Tenor saxophonist Ron Blake, 30, stands off to the side in amazement. Anga is one of Cuba's greatest musical stars; he received a U.S. visa only days beforehand and rushed to New York to play this gig. This is the rhythm section's first time with Anga in the U.S., and they're holding on for dear life. To top it off, a No. 1 subway train comes speeding down Seventh Avenue, rattling the pictures on the walls.

Hargrove stands in the middle of all this, powerfully tapping his heel, waiting for the groove to settle in. Then he picks up the horn, .points it to the ceiling, and, amid the chaos, picks a beautiful melody out of the air. No avant-garde noise, no discordant tiffs. Music. It's like he's floating on a magic carpet over bombed-out Baghdad. Hargrove is a little man, but he blows the horn with ferocious intensity, sometimes holding one strong note for four, eight, even twelve beats. He looks like one of those compact NFL running backs-Emmitt Smith or Dave Meggett-plowing past an entire defensive line. He powers his way through the funk, then takes a step back from the edge of the stage, holding the horn at his side. The rhythm section surges. Roy pauses, then leans his head back and shouts, "Yeah!"

FROM HARGROVE'S UPBRINGING IN A DALLAS GHETTO, it would have been hard to anticipate his life today. Born in Waco, Tex., in 1969 to Jacquelyn and Roy Allen Hargrove ("We have different middle names," the trumpeter warns, "so don't call me 'junior."'), Hargrove spent the first eight years of his life shuffling between relatives while his father was in the Air Force. When his father left the service in 1977, the family settled in Dallas's Oak Cliff section, the toughest neighborhood in the city, now famous for producing such celebrities as NBA All-Stars Larry Johnson and Dennis Rodman, and Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson.

Soon after moving, Hargrove, then 9, took up the coronet at his father's urging. "But man, I still remember carrying that horn to school," he says. "That was a rough neighborhood. I seen cats on the street comer with Unzips and shit, guys in Jheri curls, they'd shout out, 'Go toot you horn!' and I'd run off to school."

Toot he did. He practiced so much his parents begged him to play football like the other kids. But his skill on the horn, under the tutelage of music teacher Dean Hill, earned him admission to the Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. It was there, in 1987, that Hargrove first met Wynton Marsalis.

Marsalis was visiting Fort Worth for a week-long gig when he stopped by the high school for an impromptu clinic. Larry Clothier, now Hargrove's producer, was booking gigs for Marsalis at the time. "I'll never forget it," says Clothier. "Wynton called me up in my hotel room that afternoon and said: 'Man, I just heard this little kid that's gonna be a bitch. No, man, that kid's a bitch today!"'

Marsalis invited Hargrove to come by the club and sit in with the band, but it took him a full week to show up. "That last night, three teenagers are standing along the back wall," says Clothier, "and one of them has on this little tweed sports jacket, a porkpie hat on the back of his head, and a trumpet case in his hand. Of course that was Roy."

Marsalis invited the young man to join the band onstage, but the timid Hargrove couldn't even meet his idol's eyes once he got up there. "I saw him, like, shrink down and he was scared shitless," Clothier recalls. "But when it came time for him to solo, man, he just rose up and blew the crap out of that tune. And it was just like Wynton said: He was a bitch!"

Marsalis and Clothier began to spread word of this young trumpet prodigy, and the following summer they got Hargrove invited to the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague, Holland, where he played in an all-star trumpet group with Marsalis, Woody Shaw, and Jimmy Owens. Hargrove so impressed saxophonist Frank Morgan that Morgan immediately invited him to join his European tour. News of the kid genius spread among the international jazz community, and by the time he was 17, the Hargrove legend was launched.

After his stint in Europe, Hargrove was a hot commodity. He attended Boston's Berklee School of Music on scholarship, but was constantly getting calls in New York to do record sessions with other artists. So Hargrove transferred to the jazz and contemporary music program at New York's New School for Social Research and attended every open jam session he could find. He became a fixture on the burgeoning New York club scene. Even today, almost any night he's home, Hargrove can be found sitting in with the house band at Small's, a Greenwich Village jazz hole, or holding court in the back of Bradley's, the famed jazz piano bar.

But Hargrove is rarely home. He plays in New York only a few weeks a year, because while jazz is certainly growing in popularity in the U.S., the real market is overseas.

"International travel is what allows us to be alive here," says Hargrove's business manager Dale Fitzgerald. "Americans don't support this music for shit. The significance that this world sees for jazz is outside America, though it's begun to happen here. Wynton has led the charge and tapped America on its collective shoulders and said, 'What the fuck do you think happened in the 20th century that was of any significance in the world but this music?' But Europe and Japan is where our bread is buttered."

Hargrove laments that he still has to be away so much. "I try not to let it get me down," he says. "But man, last month I had to cancel a gig in Dallas, my hometown, because the concert hall hadn't sold enough tickets. My hometown! And in Japan, people are hiring up around the block. That's somewhat hard to bear."

In sheer numbers, jazz has not traditionally been great for record labels in this country. In the '60s and '70s, a big jazz album might have sold 10,000 copies in the U.S., while a moderately successful POP record might have sold 100,000. But that began to change in 1981, with Wynton Marsalsis's eponymous debut. When he burst on the scene, he amazed critics and fans. People who had never before been interested in jazz flocked to listen to Marsalis and his older saxophone playing brother, Branford. And as the decade rolled on, the Marsalises performed an even greater miracle for Columbia Records: They sold upwards of 100,000 records every time out.

By the '90s, other record companies started to catch on to the money to be made in jazz. Wynton and Branford had opened the door; now a new generation was ripe for its own stars. Enter Roy Hargrove. His 1994 Verve debut, Roy Hargrove Quintet: With the Tenors of Our Time, sold more than 100,000 copies. His current album, Family, tops the jazz charts (a limited edition three-CD set called Extended Family will be released this month). And the Vanguard been sold out all week.

The day after Hargrove's first Vanguard gig, we're sitting in the back of a black Cadillac limousine cruising along the Hudson River. Verve hooked Hargrove up with the ride to attend a radio interview this morning. Morning for a jazz musician, that is-my watch says noon. But for Hargrove, it's a break from his usual rhythm.

"I don't really do much, man," he says in his whispery voice. "Just play, eat, and sleep."

It's hard to tell whether he's shy or just modest. Hargrove lives in a luxury few musicians are accustomed to. His clothes, even this morning, are expensive and impeccable. He works out regularly at the Printing House, the most prestigious gym in lower Manhattan. He has a stylish address in Manhattan's West Village, a cavernous apartment, and a beautiful piano that once belonged to singer Carmen McRae. Of course he can't play it much, because his hoity-toity neighbors complain; so instead, he has a Yamaha keyboard that he can listen to through headphones while he plays.

Hargrove's musical style further differentiates him from the pack of other young jazz artists. While most players his age dig deeper and deeper into discordance and "free jazz," Hargrove seems to have a vision of melody. Every time he touches the horn-no matter what the tempo-beautiful sounds flow through it. "I've got nothing to be angry about," says Hargrove. "I play happy music. When the audience goes home, I want them to be high, I want them to feel what I'm feeling. It's the exchange between the musicians and music. It's like a church. Music is powerful. Art is powerful. That's what it's all about."

HARGROVE POSSESSES REMARKABLE SKILLS, but he employs them emotionally and subtly. "I'm a Libra: Balance is my whole shit," he says. "We mix it up, we'll play ballads, some funk, a little bit of everything. We're getting back to the emotion, the love, where jazz music-where all music-comes from."

If you pick up a trumpet, it doesn't seem like much: just a twist of metal, three valves, and a mouthpiece. But it's probably the most physically demanding of all jazz instruments. The player has to summon up a tremendous amount of strength from his diaphragm and force that air, in an uneven burst, from the lungs, through the trachea and larynx, and up into the mouth. Once there, that breath must be held in and refocused by the muscles in the cheeks, creating what is known as embrasure. A trumpeter must master that power and release the breath through the thinnest opening in the lips, which are melded into the bowl-shaped mouthpiece to create a tone. just a few minutes of this can physically exhaust the mouth. Most trumpet players lose feeling in their lips after a gig; sometimes they bleed.

To make music out of a trumpet is necessarily an aggressive act; and to make beautiful music is a triumph of man over nature, compassion over rage. Perhaps that is why Hargrove has such a commanding presence, such pronounced self-confidence. As a young kid in the ghetto, he conquered this horn. Holding together a band, waiting out a rhythm, managing his money, his music, his crew, and his career is nothing compared to this physical act of dominance.

Back on the cramped stage at the Vanguard, Hargrove looks like he's ready to take on the world. He's bouncing on his toes like a prizefighter. Next to him, stately Ron Blake holds his tenor saxophone out before him like a flag, his body is perfectly still, his eyes closed as he runs notes up and down, his fingers waving across the keys; he's not about to stop this stream of consciousness. The band is steaming; the bass lays down a deep pattern, the pianist is on his tippytoes playing chords so full he must have 11 fingers. Drummer Riggins has a solid backbeat, with a cymbal riding fast and glimmering. And Anga fills every open space with the sound of his congas. But Hargrove can't wait. A bundle of energy, he picks up his horn and points it to the ceiling. As the music builds, the breath starts at his toes, rises up through his knees, hips, chest, fills his cheeks.

And he just blows.


Contributing editor Cory Johnson has written for Vibe, People, and George. He reached his musical pinnacle at the age of 16, when he played guitar with Dizzy Gillespie. It's been downhill ever since.

free fallin'

HOW SKATEBOARD KING MARK "GATOR" ANTHONY WAS BORNAGAIN AS A RAPIST AND A MURDER

By Cory Johnson

FROM THE VILLAGE VOICE, December 8, 1992



WHILE HE AWAITED TRIAL, Mark "Gator" Anthony's cell in the San Diego County jail lay at the foot of a hill in Vista, California. At the very top of that hill, four-and-a-half miles up from the jail, was the rundown skateboard park where Gator had his last ride, MacGill's Skatepark. There, a handful of teenagers skated the ramps, rolling in and out, doing flips, handstands, board slides, ollies ... and every once in a while, some daring kid would at tempt a "lean 360." It's a notoriously difficult move, in which the skater tries to get enough momentum and height to fly vertically out of the bowl with his body almost perpendicular to the ground, spin around once completely, and then land where he'd taken off, inside the bowl, but this time rolling backward toward the bottom.

That move was called the "Gait-air," named for its originator, the man who sat in the jail at the bottom of the hill. For years Gator was skateboarding's biggest star. When he first started skating, fifteen years ago, his moves were so creative, so aggressive, so -- there's no other word for it -- radical, that he was able to turn pro at the tender age of fourteen. By the time he was seventeen, he was making $100,000 a year.

To skateboarders everywhere, he was a hero. He boasted of being a roving ambassador, telling skating magazines how he was going to turn the whole non-skating world on to the sport. He and his beautiful live-in girlfriend, Brandi McClain, were the skateboarding couple: they starred in skating videos together, they worked as models together, they even appeared together in a Tom Petty video. Gator gave tips to beginners in Sports Illustrated for Kids. There was a Gator clothing line, Gator skate boards, Gator videos. "I had it all," he says today, sitting in his prison cell. "I had different cars, a big house on an estate, even girls - I had the prettiest, most popular, hah, most voluptuous ' most unscrupulous girls. I say that I 'had a girl.' I once considered girls a possession. That's crazy."

Crazy or sick. Because despite all he had, on March 20, 199 1, Gator beat twenty-one-year-old Jessica Bergsten over the head with a steering-wheel lock called the Club and raped her for nearly three hours. Then he strangled her in a surfboard bag and buried her naked in the desert one hundred miles away. There were no witnesses, no one heard her screams, and the murder weapon was never found. Yet something drove Gator to confess his crime.

This is the story of the rise and fall of Mark "Gator" Anthony.



SKATEBOARDING, like other California phenomena such as surfing and savings-and-loan scams, had a tremendous surge in popularity in the 1980s. Skateboard parks were erected across the planet. Skateboard manufacturers became multimillion-dollar companies branching out into clothing, sneakers, even movies. Crude videos were slapped together featuring the latest moves by top skaters, and they sold by the thousands. The National Skate boarding Association was sponsoring contests all over North America, Europe, and Japan, and first-prize money reached $5,000 to $7,000 per event.

All this was fueled by a handful of San Diego County teenagers who had become the sport's superstars, and Gator was one of them. Born Mark Anthony Rogowski in Brooklyn, he moved with his mother and older brother to San Diego at age three, following his parents' divorce. They ended up in Escondido, a sun baked, middle-class suburb in northern San Diego County. Classic Reagan country, with surfers, malls, churches, and loads of disaffected middle-class youth, it was there that Gator, at age seven, discovered skating.

"I grew up without a father from day one," Gator told Thrasher magazine interviewer M.Fo in 1987, "and my brother kinda filled that gap. He was a bitchin' influence on me. He made me a good baseball player and an athlete in general. What was cool was that he was stoked that I was skating, too. Skating was some what deviant."

By 1977, Gator, ten, was skating regularly, but because he didn't have as much money as his friends he didn't quite fit in. "I was a social outcast back then," he told Thrasher. "My fellow skater friends were all hyped on the surf thing - who had what board, the newest O.P.'s, and who had a Hang Ten shirt. Then there I was, running around in Toughskins, y'know... . They were all wrapped up in the fashion and those types of superficial interests, they ended up fading out and I fucking lasted." Gator got his chops down at a local skatepark's half-pipes, moguls, and pool in the shape of a bra dubbed "the 42D Bowl." And he found a new set of skating friends. "These guys were so into it, having such a good time, sweatin' and laughin' and crackin' jokes and just snakin' each other. It was a full soul session, every body was just shralpin' it up. When they went into the bowl, their expressions changed to a 'going into battle' expression, going for it, no holds barred. When they popped out of the bowl, they'd get a smile on their faces and yelp and chime. It was hot." An obvious talent, young Gator was picked up by the skate- park team and began winning local contests. Bigger sponsors followed, and in 1982 he won the Canadian Amateur Skateboarding Championships in Vancouver, his first major title. With his green eyes and dark, lean good looks, charming personality, and aggressively physical skating style, he rose to the top rank of the sport.

Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi rounded out the triumvirate of 1980's skating superstars. "That was a great time for us," says Hawk, who has been called the Wayne Gretzky of skating. "We were making a ton of money, we flew all over the world, there were skating groupies at every stop. It was pretty cool to see a bunch of guys from San Diego County at the center of this huge thing. No doubt, we were stoked."

The primary vehicle for the wealth of pro skaters was skate board sales, and Gator was one of the hottest tickets in that market too. A Gator skate "deck" - the board (decorated with his nickname rendered in an op art vortex or pastel quasi-African design), sans wheels and suspension system - would sell for up to $50, of which Gator would receive $2. At their peak, monthly sales of the Gator board reached seven thousand, earning him an easy $14,000. But the cash didn't end there; he also had hi contest winnings and lent his name to a slew of products mad by Vision Sport, a skateboard merchandising company. There were Gator shirts, berets, hip packs, videos, stickers, posters -- it seemed kids couldn't get enough of him.

"Gator, Gator, Gator ... every issue of Thrasher had Gator doing something," says Perry Gladstone, who owns FL (formerly Fishlips), a skateboarding company near San Diego. "He was al ways a part of everything. There were Gator stories, Gator spreads, full-page Gator ads - he was a hero to us. We'd read about their parties, the girls ... you've gotta understand, top skaters were like rock stars, traveling all over the world, living the life ... and Gator was the wildest of them all."

Wild for sure, as Gator himself indicated in the '87 Thrasher interview, when he talked about the rush he got from riding walls at go degrees, and "on the left side of the picture there's a bum with a bottle or a junkie with a needle hangin' out of his arm," and on the right side there's a skater "sweatin' it out and cussin' at the wall and -- Bam! -- fucking forging reality, pushing his body up the wall." One of the benefits of this, said Gator, was that "it's a real productive way of venting some way harsh aggressions. Instead of breaking a bottle and slashing some body's face, you're throwing yourself at a wall with sweat drip ping in your eyes.

Gator boasted to friends that while touring the South he would walk into liquor stores and 7-Elevens stark naked, rob them, then get drunk in the cornfields while police helicopters searched for him overhead.

On another of those wild tour dates, in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1987, Gator, then twenty-one, met two beautiful seventeen-year old blondes from rich families, Jessica Bergsten and Brandi McClain. Brandi and Gator partied that entire weekend, which wasn't unusual considering the groupies who awaited him in every town. But Brandi was different. Soon he was flying her to San Diego to visit him, and a few months later, she left Tucson for good and moved in with Gator.

He had bought a ranch in the mountains near Tony Hawk's new ranch, which he'd equipped with a whole series of wood skating ramps. But Brandi became bored with the ranch and few months later Gator sold it. They moved to a condominium in the upscale beachside community of Carlsbad, one block away from the ocean.

Gator and Brandi were inseparable. They caroused all night Carlsbad bars, made the scene at all the San Diego parties. Th were the hottest couple on the beach. "We would get high eve night," says Brandi. "We wouldn't do coke every night, but we do bong hits, we'd go to the Sand Bar at the end of his street, and get fucked up. Then we'd hang out in his Jacuzzi, get drunk o our asses, and go in and have wild sex all night."

Gator spared no expense on Brandi. So that she could join him at competitions, "he flew her to Brazil and Europe," says Gator brother Matt Rogowski. "He bought her two cars. She was a gold digger, but when they were together, they were absolutely in love and you could see it." The couple did modeling jobs together Brandi appeared in Gator's videos, and when he appeared in Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" video, she was in it too.

If he was a celebrity in southern California, in Carlsbad, the unofficial skateboarding capital of the world, he was a megastar Surfboard shops would just give him all the equipment h wanted, skaters would ask for his autograph or Gator stickers t put on their boards. Despite his ardor for Brandi, when he was alone he'd walk up to beautiful women on the beach, say, "Hi I'm Gator," and instantly have their undivided attention. With his looks, youth, and arrogance born of money and fame, in the holy land of skateboarding, Gator was his own god.



BUT WHILE GATOR was getting fat and happy cashing in on his skateboarding fame, by the late eighties a new, hipper type of skateboarding was challenging the dominance of his genre. It was called street skating, where skaters opted for urban obstacles like curbs, garbage cans, and stairways over the traditional skate board parks. Street skaters wore their pants around the knees, eschewed protective pads and helmets and counted on frequent run-ins with the police. Characterized by the sound of boards smacking against the pavement, it was louder, more dangerous, decidedly anti-establishment and, therefore, more appealing to the kids. Vertical ramp skating techniques, of which Gator was the master, were rapidly becoming obsolete. Vision, the company that sponsored Gator and dozens of other top skaters, was about to file Chapter Eleven.

"He was really worried about becoming a dinosaur," says Perry Gladstone, to whom Gator confided. "This was an entirely new type of skating. It was rad, more amped, and all the kids wanted to be a part of it. But except for Tony Hawk, none of the old pros could really skate both vert and street, and Gator was stressed out about it." Gator himself once told M.Fo just how stressed out he would get if he had to quit skating. "I'd probably have some suicidal tendencies. I'd feel low, cheap. I'd feel like nothing. I couldn't exist no way, I'd kill myself. Lose my spirit, I'd float away and my carcass would get buried."

Gator was still trying to milk vert skating for all he could. He talked to his family about marrying Brandi and settling down. Then, in October 1989, after a competition in West Germany, the party animal in Gator reared up and bit him. In typical Gator fashion, he spent the night getting sloshed, wandering from party to party. The accident that ensued is a skateboarding leg end - a drunken Gator, partying with a bunch of other skaters, leapt out of a second-story window, convinced that he could fly. Although Gator himself doesn't remember what happened, some of his friends say that he was actually trying to sneak back into his hotel after hours by crawling up a terrace. Whatever the cause, the result nearly killed him. He landed on a wrought-iron fence, impaling his neck, face, and thumb. He survived and was patched up in Germany, but upon returning home he spent months in San Diego with plastic surgeons trying to save his modeling career.

The Gator who emerged from the San Diego hospital shocked his friends and admirers. He looked the same, but he sounded completely different. "Jesus Christ spoke to me through that accident," said Gator. "I was a blind dude, but now I can see." Gator had been born again.

Augie Constantino takes the credit for Gator's metamorphosis. A skateboarder and former professional surfer who lived just two blocks from Gator and Brandi, Constantino had suffered an accident similar to Gator's four years earlier. "I was in Hawaii out drinking with some other pro surfers," says Constantino. "After leaving the party, me and a friend of mine were playing chicken when he hit me head on, doing 45 miles per hour. I guess I lost." The quadriceps in his right leg were severed, ending his pro surfing career. But Constantino decided that it was a message from God, and that he should devote his life to Christ.

Thus was born the man known as "the skateboard minister." In his stonewashed jeans, cowboy boots, and bolero jacket, he stands out from his fellow Calvary Chapel parishioners. He's built like a fireplug, wears a goatee, and has one eye slightly askew - a result of his accident. "I met Mark just before he left for Germany, 11 says Constantino from the office he keeps in the back of the church. He's vague about his official role at the church, where, he says, he is "a lay minister" who runs a youth hotline, but he adds that officially he is a church custodian.

"I introduced Mark to a personal God, a God the father," says Constantino. "Mark never had a father to speak of. I showed Christ to him and as the Bible says, He's our own true father. So of course that appealed to Mark." It was around this time that Gator started calling himself Mark Anthony instead of Mark Anthony Rogowski, because, as he later said, "I didn't want to be associated with my father at all."

When Gator's wounds healed, he joined Constantino. He started covering his boards with religious symbols and preaching to skaters, surfers, and anyone else who would listen about his "secret friend," Jesus. Witt Rowlett, owner of Witt's Carlsbad Pipelines, the premier surf shop in Carlsbad, says that everyone was amazed. "I believe in the Lord, don't get me wrong," says Rowlett. "But Mark was just fanatic. Everything he said was 'Jesus this, the Bible that.' He was way into it."

Others, however, dismissed it as typical behavior from Gator. "Yeah, he was fanatic, but that's just it, he was fanatic about every thing," says Gladstone. "That was just Gator."

But Brandi would have none of it. Gator dragged her along to Calvary Chapel a few times, but she wasn't ready for the party to end. "We literally had sex five times a day, we were so in love," says Brandi. "Then he met Augie and started saying, 'We can't have sex anymore unless we get married.' And I'm like, 'Wait a minute. We've been going out for four years, having mad sex for four years, and we can't have sex anymore? I can't deal with this. Later.' "

Brandi moved in with her mother and stepfather, who had recently moved to San Diego.

"Mark was devastated," says Constantino. "I think that it upset him even more than his accident in Germany. Look, here's an exact explanation of what happened to her." He reaches for his "sword" - a well-thumbed, red Bible on his bookshelf.

"First Peter, Chapter 4, Verse 3 -'Then, you lived in license and debauchery, drunkenness, revelry, and tippling, and the forbid den worship of idols. Now, when you no longer plunge with them into all this reckless dissipation, they cannot understand it.' " He shuts the Bible with a thump. "There. You see? Brandi just didn't get it. Mark had found a new life in Christ."



DESPITE HIS NEWFOUND DEVOTION TO JESUS, Gator's response to Brandi's leaving was decidedly un-Christian, particularly after she started seeing one of the guys she surfed with. Gator started calling her mother's house, leaving messages on the answering machine. "Mark was crazy," says Brandi. "He was calling me up leaving all these freaky messages. He'd growl. 'You bitch! You cunt! You're gonna fry in hell from your toes!' Weird shit like that."

One night, Brandi came home to find that someone had broken into her house through her window, taking everything that Gator had ever given her. Brandi and the police suspected Gator. "He took it all back, including the car," says Terry Jensen, an investigator from the San Diego County district attorney's office, to whom Brandi later recounted the story. "It's kind of like a typical young teenage stunt. That's what you do when you're fifteen, sixteen years old and you lose your first girlfriend. You want all your money back, every necklace, every ring. You know, 'Give me my high school jacket and my class ring because we're not going steady anymore.' Well, that's what he did."

Brandi still -hoped they might reconcile. On one such attempt, she invited Gator to take her out to dinner. But they started arguing as soon as they pulled out of her parents' driveway. "He was still so mad about the guy I was seeing," says Brandi. "He's the one that told me to go out and find one of my surfer friends to party with. So I did! I found this hot little blond surfer guy, six-one.

"And Mark was furious. He was driving out in the middle of this nowhere road out where my parents live when he turned to me with this really scary, serious look in his eye. His voice got all deep and, you know, he sounded like the devil. He says, 'You know what? I should take you out to the desert right now. I should drive you out right in the middle of the night and beat the shit out of you and leave you there. And I would get away with it, because everybody would know that you deserved it.' "I started crying and begging him to take me home right now. I'm like, 'My mother knows where I am.' And he took me back." Brandi was scared enough to flee to New York, not telling any one but her family where she was going. She didn't even tell her best friend Jessica in Tucson about the incident, so when Jessica showed up in San Diego a few weeks later, she called Gator asking him to show her the sights.

"Everything that I hated about Brandi, I hated about Jessica," Gator would later tell the police. "She was of the same mold that Brandi was made of." He told the police that he blamed Jessica for his breakup. Jessica, of course, had no idea about any of this. Like Brandi, Jessica was tall, blond, and beautiful, and her friends remember her as tough, savvy, and adventurous. "She was an incredibly intelligent, free-spirited girl," recalls Brandi. "She wanted to have fun and nothing else mattered. We would go to Mexico together, and she would, say, get so drunk that she would leave me there. If I couldn't get into bars - because we were under age and had fake IDs - she would leave me outside for three hours waiting while she drank.

"But we were best friends. We were very much alive. It was, like, quick, we're going to have the very best lives, and we're going to have them now."

On Wednesday, March 20, Jessica and Gator had lunch at an Italian restaurant in La Jolla, then returned to his condo with some movies and a few bottles of wine. As she was getting ready to leave, Gator went to his car, ostensibly to see if his driver's license was there.

Waiting in his living room, Jessica looked at the picture on his mantel, where Gator proudly displayed his favorite picture - a shot of him skydiving, facing the camera, screaming at the top of his lungs while plummeting to earth. As she stared at the picture' Gator snuck up behind her, hitting her two or three times in the head and face with the metal steering-wheel lock. She fell to the floor, blood gushing from her head, so much so that it soaked right through the carpet. He handcuffed her and carried her upstairs to his bedroom. There, he shackled her onto the bed, cut her clothes off with scissors, and raped her for two or three hours.

Jessica, still conscious, begged him to stop, occasionally screaming. In an attempt to shut her up, he pulled a surfboard bag from his closet and stuffed her inside it. She screamed that she couldn't breathe. He clasped his hands around her neck and strangled her.

Gator flipped over his mattress to hide the blood that was there, then put Jessica's body, her cut-up clothing, the bag, the handcuffs, and the club in the trunk of his car. He drove for two hours into the desert, pulled off the highway at a desolate place called Shell Canyon, and buried her naked body in a shallow grave. As he drove back to Carlsbad, he tossed her bloodstained clothes, his sheets, and the club out the window. On his way back to the condo, he rented a carpet steamer, and cleaned out every spot of blood he could from the rug. When police came to question him about her disappearance a couple of weeks later, there was no evidence to be found.



JESSICA'S FATHER, Stephen Bergsten, a Tucson lawyer, had enough to worry about without his daughter disappearing. One of his clients was under investigation by an Arizona drug task force, while rumors were rife that he himself was being investigated for money laundering. But when his daughter stopped calling soon after leaving for southern California, the panicked father, unsatisfied by efforts of the San Diego police, flew to San Diego to find her himself.

He plastered the entire county with posters that read MISSING PERSON with a picture of a grinning Jessica, her vital statistics (five-eight, 115 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes, fair complexion), and the telephone numbers for the San Diego police department. He talked to her friends, he even met with Gator to ask about her whereabouts. Gator shook his hand and told him, No, he didn't know where Jessica was. Bergsten's efforts were to no avail. There were no other witnesses to her disappearance. Two months went by without any leads.

But one of the posters stayed plastered up next to a phone booth at a 7-Eleven two blocks from Gator's condo. Next to the beach, with a pizza shop next door, the convenience store is a favorite hangout for young Carlsbad surfers and skateboarders. It was also a favorite place for Constantino and Gator to preach their message of Christianity to young kids hanging out. For Constantino, he was terrific bait for young skaters willing to listen to just about anything to meet Gator.

"One night at the 7-Eleven," remembers Constantino, "Gator and I were witnessing and I saw this young girl with what they call a miniskirt - I call them towels. I said to her, 'Go and put some clothes on and when you come back, I'd like to talk to you about Christ." And she said, 'I've got nothing to worry about, I've got no problems.' I pointed to the poster. 'What about that girl?' I said. 'She had nothing to worry about. But where is she now? She could have been involved in drugs, pornography. Maybe she's dead. 'The girl just ignored us and jumped into a car. But I got a strange reaction out of Mark. He was just kind of blank, silent." Seeing the picture of Jessica, and seeing it in the presence of Constantino, was too much for Gator. One night, after a Bible study at Constantino's house, Gator returned to the house with tears streaming down his face. "I was getting ready for bed when I answered the door," recalls Constant' no. "He was crying and said he was Judas Iscariot. We both sat and cried. We prayed for about an hour, asking God what we should do. About a week later he came to me and said, 'Remember that girl in the poster? She was the one I killed!'"

Constantino remembers what he told Gator as he drove him to the police department in the early morning of May 5- "1 said to him, 'Mark, you don't need a lawyer. You don't need innocent until-proven-guilty. What do you need a lawyer for, if you answer to a higher power? If a person is accountable to God, then he's accountable to society - the Bible says that.' Constantino scoffs at the idea that perhaps his legal advice wasn't the best. Nor does he think it was unethical for him, as a minister, to turn in someone confessing to him. "Mark didn't come to me as a minister, he came to me as a friend. Anyway, I'm not an ordained minister. He knew exactly what was going to happen."

The police were astonished that someone was turning himself in for a murder that they didn't even know had happened. Jessica's body had been found in the desert by some campers on April 10, but the body was so badly decomposed that it could not be identified. The next morning Gator led detectives to where he'd buried the body. Uncuffed, standing under the hot desert sun, Gator watched as they dug around for more evidence, photo graphed the site, and talked to the local police.

When the police announced Gator's confession, the press jumped all over it. It was the lead story in the local papers, local television ran nightly updates as the case unfolded, and on national TV, Hard Copy did a "dramatic reenactment" of the rape, murder, and subsequent confession. The initial reaction of the skateboarding world's street wing was best expressed by Koby Newell, a fifteen-year-old who skated with Anthony at Carlsbad. "He was getting old," Newell told the San Diego Union, "but he was keeping up with the moves."

Skating's more established wing reacted with a bit more shock. Perry Gladstone had just signed Gator to endorse a new line of skateboards for Fishlips, which ironically featured a takeoff on the 7-Eleven logo. "I came home the night he confessed to find eighty-seven messages on my answering machine. They were all reporters wanting me to talk about Gator. My wife and I were with him two or three days every week for months setting this deal up. He was such a great guy, I just couldn't believe it." The violent, anti-authority image of skateboarding -- symbolized in Thrasher magazine's old motto "Skate or Die" - combined with the sex and bondage aspects of the murder, fed the press's sensationalist treatment of the story. One of the many videos Gator did with Brandi was called Psycho Skate, which fed the frenzy even more. Skateboarders felt that the coverage was turning into an indictment of their sport, not just Gator. "It's likely the skateboarding world will be placed under a microscope in the media," warned Thrasher. "Let's just hope that we can all remain strong."

He became a cause celebre in San Diego County. Kids deco rated their jeans jackets with the phrase Free Mark Anthony. But there were also bumper stickers that read Skateboarding Is Not a Crime - Murder Is. Mark Anthony Should Die. Skateboarders who talked to the press about it were ostracized. "It was a terrible event for skateboarding," says Gladstone. "Skating's no more inherently violent than heavy metal is inherently satanic. But people in the media tried to make it seem as if skating is a threat to the youth of America. I think you'll find that most skaters won't even talk about Gator."

The police continued to compile evidence in case Gator decided to plead not guilty to a murder charge. They found the bloodstains under Gator's carpet, and a carpet-cleaner receipt (Gator's accountant had instructed him to save all his receipts). Gator was charged with "special circumstances," committing a murder during rape, which under California law can warrant the death penalty or life imprisonment without possibility of pa role.

Unable to get a lawyer, he was appointed a public defender, self-described "glory seeker" John Jimenez, a short, stocky for mer PTA president who drives a Harley-Davidson. After taking the case, Jimenez immediately challenged the validity of the confession, saying that Gator's minister had no right to turn him in. Jimenez appealed the rape charge, insisting that the decomposed body could show no signs of forcible rape. Although he never denied that Gator had killed Jessica, he suggested that it was her own fault. He told a reporter that Jessica was a "slut," claiming to have a long list of people with whom she'd had sadomasochistic sex, including the entire University of Arizona basketball team and a handful of pros - their names, however, were off the record. "Hey," says Jimenez, "it's like Sam Kinison said, some girls just turn Mr. Hand into Mr. Fist."

At the time these remarks were made, the San Diego Metropolitan Homicide Task Force was investigating the murders of forty-four women whose bodies had been dumped in isolated places around the county since 1985.

Eventually, when the higher court refused to toss out the rape charge, on Jimenez's advice Gator pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and rape, thus avoiding the death penalty or life without chance of parole. At the January 1992 hearing in which he entered his plea, Gator submitted a remarkable four-page written statement that hinted at the struggle going on in his mind before his crime, during its commission, and afterward. In the statement he admitted that although his original confession "was directed by the Lord," in the subsequent eight months he had been "tempted to dodge responsibility, deceiving myself as well as others." But now, at last, "I've been led to a full, true repentance, having nothing to hide. Thank God."

Finally able to express "my regret and my sorrow over our loss of Jessica," Gator tried to explain why he'd done what he did. "Two months prior to the incident," he wrote, "I found myself in the midst of some surprisingly strange and almost uncontrollable feelings. All at once the plague of vile visions and wicked imaginations and the daily battle to suppress them was overwhelming. It's no exaggeration to say I became completely enslaved to these devious mental images and inescapable thoughts....

"Essentially, I became a victim first, because I turned my back on God in several ways, thinking I could get through it on my own power."

Slave, victim, but still expressing regret and "without defer ring the blame for my actions," Gator targeted three things that influenced his state of mind:

"Firstly, sex outside of marriage, i.e. promiscuity, premarital sex and cohabitation, the disease of jealousy, and the unhealthy obsession that so often attaches to these.

"Secondly, pornography and its addictive character. Ranging from risqu6 public advertising, all the way to hardcore S&M, this dehumanizing of women and men and its dulling of the senses occurs at all levels. Porn is a consuming beast....

"Thirdly, closing the ears and heart to God's counsel, including partial or nonrepentance and disobeying and ignoring the Bible.... So people, we must realize, without reduction, the gripping strength and deceptive subtlety of sin! What will it take for us to examine ourselves and listen? The tragedy of an innocent young woman's death? The fall of your favorite celebrity? O.K., perhaps the imprisonment of your best friend or relative?...

"I know the Lord forgave me two thousand years ago on the cross at Calvary. And although I attempt to forgive myself daily," wrote Gator, the struggle over his ultimate culpability still raging in his head, "I haven't quite been able and may never be able to do so."

Gator's sentencing took place on March 6. It was quite a spectacle for a suburban courtroom. Five uniformed bailiffs used a hand-held metal detector to screen each observer. They had received information that Stephen Bergsten, who would attend the hearing with his wife, Kay, was going to try to harm Gator. Eight months earlier Bergsten had been indicted, along with forty four others, as part of a nationwide drug ring. With his property in two states seized by the government and his daughter brutally murdered, there was speculation that he had nothing left to lose by killing Gator.

With the bailiffs standing between Bergsten and Gator, the skater offered a solemn apology to Jessica's family, asking them to forgive him. "God has changed me, and it was no typical jail house conversion," pleaded Gator. "I sincerely hope that they can accept my apology for my carelessness."

"Carelessness?" Bergsten shouted. "He is a child-murderer and child-rapist. He is evil incarnate." Gator, along with many others in the courtroom, cried as Bergsten continued in an angry twenty-minute monologue. "Cowards die a thousand times and he will die a thousand deaths," Bergsten shouted, his voice breaking. "He raped her and raped her and raped her and then thought, 'Let's kill her.' We couldn't say goodbye to Jessica be cause that filth left her with nothing but a piece of skin, left her for the coyotes and the goddamned birds to eat her." He glared directly at Gator and said in a firm voice. "I told you - and you remember, Rogowski - what would happen if anyone hurt my daughter. He says he's undergone a religious conversion. judge, you must have heard that same story one hundred times. If he underwent a religious conversion, it was to evil, degradation, filth, and Satanism."

Shortly thereafter, Superior Court judge Thomas J. Whelan sentenced Gator to consecutive terms of six years for forcible rape and twenty-five years to life for first-degree murder. Gator will not be eligible for parole until 2010 at the earliest.

Jimenez says that Gator "took some shit" when he was first put in the San Diego County jail. But one night soon after he was incarcerated, inmates crowded around a television to hear Gator's story on Hard Copy. "After that," says Jimenez, "I guess they thought he was a heavy dude, because the rest of the population has kept their distance ever since."

Gator is trying to surround himself with other born-again Christians in jail. He is appealing his sentence, and has been placed in a medical facility (for manic depression). Augie Constantino is continuing his studies to be a minister, while cleaning up the Calvary Chapel. He still preaches to surfers and skaters in the San Diego area working with a group called Skaters for Christ.

Stephen Bergsten's money-laundering charges were dismissed two months ago in Tucson.

Brandi lives in a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side, working as a flower arranger.

Jessica's remains were buried in a family plot in Georgia.



THOSE WHO VISIT GATOR in prison are struck at first by how truly repentant he seems, sitting in his cell In a loose-fitting navy-blue jumpsuit with SD JAIL stamped on the back, his once wild long hair now shorn and carefully combed, as he talks about his fall from grace.

"I had been exposed to pornography since I was a little boy, three years old," he says. "In what form? In the form of sex, actual sex with people. I'm not going to say who, but with people in my childhood. First let me say that it wasn't only incest. I don't want to mention family members, of course, because I want to protect them. But let me put more emphasis on the fact that it was babysitters and older neighborhood kids."

Has it occurred to him that if he was the victim of sexual crime as a child, he might have a propensity to carry out such crimes as an adult? "If you believe that it was a revenge killing and that it was prompted by Brandi, I would say yes," he replies, and suddenly you're listening to a dramatically different Gator than the one at whose sentencing a Catholic priest testified, "Never before have I encountered a person so clearly open about his responsibility." You're listening to a man skating away from the idea that the murder was really his fault.

"I did lay upon her with a steering lock at one point, but that was part of the S&M," he says. "The fact is that it wasn't rape. It was more like an involuntary manslaughter. If it weren't for my submission to her wiles and the temptation of having such sex with her..."

Gator takes a deep breath, sighs, then continues. "I don't want to defame Jessica at all. I'm very, very sorry about what happened to her. I just want to make it known that I was led into a sexual situation that I didn't want to have anything to do with.

"I wouldn't have submitted if I didn't have some weakness, some background desire. You can go down the street to Coronet bookstore in Oceanside and buy a vast array of S&M bondage magazines, pictorials, descriptive pictorials, paperbacks that are step by step about how to lynch somebody sexually. It's pretty sick. I got a lot of ideas.

"That night, I didn't realize what kind of a purring feline she was. It's really hard for me to say these things about Jessica; we lost her and I don't feel good about that. I just want to make it known that I was led into a sexual situation that I didn't want to have anything to do with. I was scared I'd be discovered with this wayward woman.

"There were a lot of kids in my neighborhood, my prot6g6s in skateboarding who would have Bible studies with me. I was being an example to these impressionable kids. For them to see me with this woman and all that had been going on - the wine bottles, the cigarettes upstairs - it would have been devastating. In my attempt to quiet her, in her intoxicated and belligerent state, I had put my hand over her mouth to quiet her for a second so I could hear the voices and the footsteps coming up my walkway. She must have suffocated or had a seizure or a stroke or something. The next thing I knew, I look down and she's not breathing and not moving."

Mark "Gator" Anthony, who has finally broken up and out of the half-pipe of his guilt, will be forty-three years old before he is eligible for parole. He says he doesn't think he'll ever ride a skateboard again, but hopes that someday he'll be free so he can learn to fly a kite.


-- fin --

Zen And The Art Of Basketball

Two weeks on the road to enlightenment with the Chicago Bulls

By Cory Johnson

from Swing magazine, March 1996



"Joey, I touched God! I touched God!" A young man in boots and a heavy down jacket is jumping up and down outside of the Four Season's Hotel in Philadelphia, hollering to anyone within earshot. "With this hand! I touched him! I touched GOD!"

A big cathedral looms across the street, but this guy is screaming about his encounter with a hotel guest--Michael Jordan, starting guard for the Chicago Bulls basketball club. I've been following the team for nearly a week and I've seen crowds swarm from quiet hotel lobbies, empty streets, anonymous strip joints, and secretive gyms, all seeking a piece of Jordan, his teammates, and their coach.

And, honestly, who wouldn't like to share their experience? Who wouldn't like to know what they've known? There's something special about this team, beyond their basketball talents, beyond their gaudy record, beyond their celebrity. They play this sometimes brutal game with joy, with a seemingly constant awareness of where they are and what they can do. They find opportunity in the face of adversity, peace in chaos, they conquer without anger or hate And yes, occasionally they can fly. Who wouldn't want that?

This is the kind of unique spirit the Bulls coach Phil Jackson, has sought to instill in his team. Jackson, who has guided this team for the past seven years, is a devoted student of Zen buddhist. InSacred Hoops, a book he wrote last year (with People senior editor Hugh Delehanty), he attributes much of the team's success, not to the talents of Jordan and Scottie Pippen (the Bulls tremendously skilled forward), not to discipline or diet, but to the study and lessons of Zen.

So I am following the Bulls in search of something more than basketball, grasshopper. I am searching for enlightenment. I want to know of the spiritual ground from which Michael Jordan soars. And I wonder whether Zen could teach us all how to fly with similar grace.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters,
in the end.--Ursula K. LeGuin


on a quiet Thursday morning in January, three newspaper reporters, two all-sports radio jocks, four television crews, and one magazine writer crowd into the press room at the Bulls custom-built practice facility in suburban Dearfield, Illinois. It's an off day.

Behind a glass wall the sound of basketballs echo in a large gymnasium, but we can't see their practice. Shades cover the windows. It's perfect metaphor for the Bulls organization: one part secretive, one part courting the limelight. They built a wall, but they built a glass wall. After almost two hours, the shade covering windows is drawn, and the reporters scramble down a hall into the gym.

Pippen, guard Ron Harper, and Jordan are challenging each other in a three-point shooting contest. Dennis Rodman, the enigmatic "bad boy", acquired this season from the San Antonio Spurs, and reserve center Jack Haley are practicing free throws. Tony Kukoc, formerly Eurpoe's greatest player snagged by the Bulls three years ago, is working his moves under the basket with an assistant coach. But the reporters want Michael. They mass around Jordan, all asking variations on the same theme: can the team win Seventy games this season.

As of this writing, the team is on pace to win 75 games in an 82-game season, obliterating the record held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 69. the reporters pummell Jordan with lame quesitons, and Jordan responds with seemingly trite answers. But in a Zen framework, Jordan's otherwise boring answers take on deeper meaning. "It's not about how many we win, we're just playing the game of basketball," he says. "We're not looking that far in advance. This team is focused per game."

The core of Zen is living in the present, and much of Jackson's training focuses on this point. To help me understand the team's psyche, Jackson had suggested I read the seminal Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki. And in it I can see in it the spirit of this club. When Suzuki writes about meditation, he might as well have written about won-lost records. "When you try to attain something, your mind starts to wander about somewhere else," Suzuki wrote. "When you do not try to attain anything, you have your own body and mind right here."

The beat reporters may miss it, but the spirituality of this team has a strong presence. Their team room, upstairs from the gym, is different from any other team's. Like other teams, they use it for strategy sessions and to review past games on video tape. But the Bulls inner sanctum is filled with artifacts of their coach's spiritual journey: a wooden arrow with a tobacco pouch tied to it, the Lakota Sioux symbol of prayer; a bear claw necklace, representing power and wisdom; the middle feather of an owl, for balance and harmony; a painting telling the story Crazy Horse; and photos of a white buffalo calf born two years ago in Wisconsin.

For much of this team, the spiritual approach to the game is new. Jordan and Pippen are the only players left from the group that won championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993. And Jackson is facing the challenge of instilling a team spirit in a group of cagey veterans and inexperienced players. In a few short months, he's trying to teach them a whole new way of thinking, getting them to focus on the moment to achieve a distant goal. "The young guys," says Pippen, "have no idea how deep we're going to get into it."

A good merchant hides his goods and appears to have nothing; a skilled craftsman
leaves no traces -- Lao-Tzu


A day later, Jackson doesn't look much like a Zen master. We're in Philadelphia, where the Bulls are soundly thrashing a young 76ers team. But Jackson is livid, hollering at the referee from his seat on the sidelines. "C'mon! Where's your judgment on that?" he shouts angrily. Then he starts yelling at Kukoc. "Tony! To the post! Post! POST!" Kukoc refuses to back his shorter opponent into the basket, instead opting for a turnaround jumper that misses. Jackson growns in frustration, and Kukoc hangs his head.

Throughout the game, Jackson constantly calls on players to substitute in and out. "Dickie!" [Simpkins] "Steve!" [Kerr] "Harp" [Harper]. Most NBA coaches rely on about six players to carry the team, but before this game is over, Jackson uses most of the bench. "The thing about Phil is that he keeps it interesting, on and off the court," Kerr tells me later. "You could be in any game at any moment, so you're always ready."

Jackson had explained his approach to me at lunch over a steak sandwich. "This is a game where it takes twelve guys," he says. "At some point in the season, everyone is going to contribute. I like to keep people going, empower them in some way. I want everyone, players and coaches to contribute to the team. I learned that from my father. He could delegate a lot of jobs around and really work in harmony."

Phil's father Charles was a Pentecostal minister in Montana, where he and his wife Elisabeth raised three boys, Charles, Joe, and Phil. Theirs was a fundamentalist Christian home; worship was a strict rule. Phil's parents urged him towards the ministry, making him memorize extensive passages from the Scriptures and filling him with a fear of the Holy Spirit. But to his great disappointment, he never learned to "speak in tongues," as his parents faith demanded, and he began to drift from their religion. Eventually he was dodging services to work on his jump shot.

He played college ball at the University of North Dakota, and was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1967. But a back injury and spinal-fusion surgery forced him to miss a season and a half. As his physical skill deteriorated, Jackson adapted by strengthening his mental approach to the game and . H he went on to play another eleven years in the NBA. Hewas the Knick's beloved hippie, living in a loft above an auto repair shop in Manhattan and exploring all sorts of religious experiences.

After his playing career was over, Jackson took a job in 1978 coaching the to Albany Paltroons , of the low-rent Continental Basketball Association. On that dimly lit stage, with his family living in nearby Woodstock, Jackson experimented with some novel team-building techniques. He paid all the players the same salary and gave them equal playing time through the first three quarters of every game. The fourth quarter belonged to that night's hottest hands. They often traveled by bus (Jackson sometimes drove--while working on a crossword puzzle), which helped desolve cliques amoung the players. The team went on to win the CBA championship in 1984, and Jackson won Coach Of The Year in 1985. The lessons of that experience stay with him.

"You try to connect some strong bonds between these different groups on the team," says Jackson. "That's why our privacy is so important as a team. The team needs an environment where they can experience their own personal weaknesses, and feel like they can be supported by their group. They can be improved and corrected by their coach and be backed by their teammates. Coaching is constantly making the ties that go between all these individuals."

I think about the places where I've worked with people who never considered me a teammate, where jealousy, ego and envy destroyed the common work we were trying to achieve.p> Another classic Jackson technique for opening the minds of his players is reading assignments. "Phil comes on the plane with a big bag full of books at the beginning of a trip," explains Kerr. "Then he walks up the aisle and hands them out. He'll announce that a book report is due at the end of the trip. He's joking, of course, but the rookies don't know that." Jackson tailors his reading list to the individual players: former-Bull B.J. Armstrong got Zen Mind, Beginner Mind , former-Bull Stacey King got Mike Judge's Beavis & Butt-Head: This Book Sucks. "It's not that he's trying to give you a message, neccesarily" says Kerr, who has been assigned Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses and Tony Hillarman's A Thief of Time. "I thnk he's just trying to keep things interesting. It's an eighty-two game season, and it can get monotonous. Phil's trying to keep our minds active."

To Jackson, it's all about awareness. "What you do at every moment is important and has meaning," he says. "Even when we come into a place like Philadelphia, where the team has a losing record and we could be looking beyond them. But today's is important. There are people here that are going to enjoy the game, people looking forward to it, spending a lot of money, traveling distancesŠ And for the team, there's an experience to be had. That's why I encourage my players to be at every game, not miss any practice­even if you're somewhat sick­because you don't want to miss out on anything. It's an experience that you can't replace. You'd be missing out on this great experience."



If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball. --Phil Jackson


I have this from very plugged-in theological sources: God is not dead. God is not even retired. And, sorry folks, Michael Jordan is not God.

But you wouldn't know that from the press clippings that greeted his return to basketball. After the murder of his father and a year-long fling with baseball, Jordan's comeback was hailed as a "second coming," "a gift from on high." Without any evident irony, Slam magazine (where I once worked) even compared Jordan's return to a combined resurrection of Dr. Martin Luther King and Jesus Christ. "Welcome back, God," they wrote.

In my week with the team, I didn't see the heavens open up for Michael Jordan, but the hoop sure seemed to. At home against the Supersonics he nailed 35 points, avenging one of the Bulls only losses this season. In Philadelphia, Jordan scored a season high 48 and sat out most of the fourth quarter. Two days later, he would against Washington would get 42.

He still scores practically at will, but Jordan is a changed man. At 33, he's not the trash talker he once was. He's still extremely competitive, but he's deeply concerned with the state of the game. He seems to have taken to Jackson's teachings about anger clouding awareness. Jackson would quote St. Augustine "Anger is a weed; hate is a tree."

In Philadelphia, Jordan was engaged in a battle with brash rookie Jerry Stackhouse, age 19, who had bragged that the NBA provided no challenge for him. On the court he trounced Stackhouse, who scored just 10 points while Jordan was in the game. But afterwards, Jordan insisted that the battle wasn't personal.

"I was talking to him on the court," he said. "It wasn't malicious, I was just trying to get the best out of him, and get him to relax. Because I want him to do well. I thought he was nervous. I thought he was rushing. 'Calm down, let the game come to you, don't chase the game.' It's kind of odd that I'm talking to my opponent like that, but I respect every competitor, you know, I want them to do well. I think we all must do what we can to restore the love of the game, the challenges of the game. I don't think it should ever come to a point where the businesses becomes the challenge. The basketball should be the challenge.""

Basketball has been a trancendant experience for Jordan. It has sent him to college, gave him a career, made him a millionaire, gave him the platform to become the most recognized man on the planet. Yet He seems constantly thankful for the blessings basketball has bestowed on him.

He is devoted to the game. On the court, he has a simmering attention, a constant focus. And he brings the same intensity to doing an interview, or signing an autograph, or smiling. That too is a fundamental tenant of Zen. Chinese master Huang Po said "If you can only rid yourselves of conceptual thought, you will have accomplished everything. But if you students of the Way do not rid yourselves of conceptual thought in a flash, even though you strive for eon after eon, you will never accomplish it."

Despite his myriad accomplishments, Jordan is always striving for more. "I feel I've played my best basketball when I play against the best competition," he says. "I think you need something to push you to improve. I would push anyone to try to help me improve as a basketball player. I didn't teach Jerry Stackhouse a lesson tonight. Basketball taught him a lesson."

Two monks were traveling together in a heavy downpour when they came upon a
beautiful woman in a silk kimono trying to cross a muddy intersection. "Come
on," said the first monk to the woman, and he carried her to a dry spot.

The second monk didn't say anything until much later. Finally he said "We monks
don't go near females. Why did you do that?"

"I left the woman back there," the first monk replied. "Are you still carrying her?"



Dennis Rodman asks me to meet him for dinner at strip joint called Delilah's Den. So as he munches on chicken wings, and near naked women with surgically augmented breasts bring us beer, he talks about his long strange trip from San Antonio last season.

"It wasn't that things were so bad," he says. "It's just that people didn't have anything else to write about." Rodman's antics gave a critical press plenty of material, and it wasn't just about hair dyes, tattoos and scrotum piercing. There were flagrant fouls, skipped practices, and missed team flights. He was suspended for a key playoff game. During another, he tossed a bag of ice at his head coach Bob Hill (whom Rodman refers to as "Boner"). He even head-butted the Spurs mascot, a fluffy big-eared Coyote. Last October, Rodman was traded to the Bulls for reserve center Will Purdue.

Jordan and Pippen were consulted before the trade, and Jackson met with Rodman to make sure he wanted to be a part of the Bulls. Jackson showed up for the meeting riding a Harley. Rodman was sold.

For the Bulls, he turned out to be the missing link. "Dennis really understands the game and he's fit in here because he works hard," says Pippen, who still wears a scar across his chin, courtesy of a hard foul administered by Rodman a few years back, when he was with the Detroit Pistons. Supposedly the two players did not talk for the first two months of the season, but the hostility seems to be behind them. "It's been a lot of fun this season, really," says Pippen, "not just winning but the attitude of the team. Everybody seems to be in to it. I mean, there's no animosity or jealousy on this team. Everybody's just having fun."

Jordan even credits Rodman with being in touch with the Bulls' spiritual core. "I think Dennis emotionally is into this team," said Jordan. "It's not just athletic ability. I think it's the mental. He knows what we are, what we're all about, and what we're trying to achieve. He wants to contribute to that, and you can sense that."

Jackson's system allows the players to be individuals. And Rodman, the most blatantly individual player in the game, is appreciative. "This team has the 'I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude,'" he says. "What ever you do, we can accept that, as long as every one can commit themselves to playing basketball. Anyone can do anything crazy and it's like, 'Okay, whatever.' Phil [Jackson]'s like a Deadhead. He can go out there and smoke a joint and people won't give a fuck." Rodman pauses and smiles. "But I'm sure Phil doesn't really do that."

Jackson has worked hard to reach out to Rodman. Rodman's book assignment was Jackson's own Sacred Hoops. "I felt like he was talking about me," says Rodman. "I believe in visualization and the Zen and looking past to the beyond and things like that. I was like, 'Damn, he's on my same page.'"

Rodman has his own mediation ritual that predates his service with the Bulls. A mutual friend once described it as "Dennis's eye-of-the-tiger thing." But having witnessed it today, I now know it's a very peaceful process. About an hour before the game, Rodman would sit back deep into his locker stall, his eyes wide open, staring out into space. He seemed aware of everyone else in the locker room, but he paid them no mind. "I'm not thinking about basketball," he explains, knocking off the last of the chicken wings. "I just blank out everything. Basketball is not important right now. I don't think basketball right now. I concentrated on what I've gotta go and do, what I gotta do tonight. I'm just going to hang out and have a good time. The basketball will just happen."

With that, he summons the buxom "shot girl," who takes turns straddling our laps, whipping out a bottle of booze in each hand and pouring them straight into our mouths. I'm not sure what happened after that, but I'm wondering if this is the right path to enlightenment.

For a raindrop, joy is entering the river--Ghalib


The Bulls are actually losing. A strapping Washington Bullets team has worn their way to a five point lead in the third quarter. And I remember what Wennington said to me the day before. "All this Zen-stuff looks great when we're winning."

I think the hardest thing about Zen, about any religion, is faith. But Zen masters warn if you push, you won't find it. You have to be aware and let it come to you. You have to accept that it's always there. "If you try to attain enlightenment," wrote Shunryu Suzuki. "You are wasting your time your black cushion."

Jackson decides to put on a trap, that is, let his players swarm on every opponent who has the ball. And suddenly, Rodman looks like he's been cut loose. He's challenging everything. On an inbounds pass, he's doing jumping jacks in the opponents face, forcing the Bullet player into a bad pass. Pippen snags it and dishes right back to Rodman under the hoop. Rodman instantly taps it back to Pippen for the slam over the dazed Bullet player.

The entire energy level of the game has changed. Even the bad bounces are now in their favor. Back at mid-court, Steve Kerr slips on wet spot on floor. But he pulls himself up just as the Bullets point guard Tim Legler arrives with the ball. Jordan senses Legler's instant of confusion and swats the ball out of Legler's hands into Kerr's. Without even looking back, Jordan races alone to his basket, receiving the pass from Kerr. As Jordan takes to the air, the entire arena seems to take a collective gasp. Soaring towards the rim, Jordan swings the ball with two hands in a little circle, then jams it into the hoop. ŠThe crowd goes bananas, the Bulls players jump up from the bench screaming, and they cruise to a 116-109 victory.

After the game, Jackson has to endure more questions about the 70 win plateau. But I ask him if one could find Zen meaning in such a game. "All that seventy stuff is in the future," he says. "But the Zen comes from an approach to each situation. Let's play this play. Okay, this play is messed up--let's go on to the next play. Let's learn from those mistakes and then let's go on. But each play, each moment is like a breath and a release."

His players have achieved a remarkable unity and I've had the rare opportunity to see it on and off the court. This is a special season and they seem to be taking it all in, enjoying each situation as it presents itself. In Zen, it is said that all you needs to do to reach enlightenment is "chop wood, carry water." That is, at every moment, with every task, you must pay attention fully, and involve yourself in it completely. On the Chicago Bulls each player fully individual, and everyone is completely aware of their identity as a team. And they're loving every minute of it.

This team plays together, even parties together. That night, Rodman, Haley and I run into half a dozen other players at a nightclub. Tomorrow is an travel day, and Dennis is buying shots by the dozens. We're surrounded by girls from the strip joint next door and the teams is laughing and carrying on. Steve Kerr wraps his arm around my shoulder. "You make me laugh, man," he shouts over the music. "You probably think it's always like this!"

I ask Wennington is this team spirit is a result of Zen. He leans down and says "All this Zen-stuff looks great when we're winning." But if the effect is as intended, can the cause be ignored? Jackson's team religion creates an environment for winning--and winning is the result.

Jackson told me that for many years he kept a picture of Sri Chimnoy on his bathroom mirror with a caption that read "Make your work your play, and your play your work." To the Bulls, and to the world at large, Jackson works as a basketball coach, his players play. But for me, Jackson and his Bulls have been Zen teachers. Students of Zen are sometimes asked koans--nonsense questions that bring the student, through the contemplation of it, to greater awareness. So I ask: "Can the path of a bouncing ball lead to enlightenment?"

-FIN-

Clips

FINANCIAL FEATURES:

Evictions Loom for Nasdaq Stocks
January 15, 2001
As their share prices fizzle, hundreds of new-economy companies suddenly find themselves at risk of being booted off the exchange.

Desperately Seeking Financing
Jun 18 2001
Cram-downs, death spirals and other ways to keep hope alive.

CyberCache: TokyoMex, a Fool's Fool, Lives Larger Than Life
July 8, 1997 01:00 PM ET
Manhattan and the basement bar at Burrito Mama's, a tiny Mexican joint, is no relief. The heat from the kitchen is like a blast furnace, and the pulsing salsa music from the stereo only emphasizes

Secrets of Stock Fraud from a master sleuth.
October 18, 1999 10:59 AM ET
The story of Paul Regan, an accountant more parts private eye than pencil pusher. Regan has spent decades uncovering unseemly financial fraud. Here he shares tricks and tales of his trade.

ECONOMICS:

Productivity Myth
Aug 13 2001
New government figures cast doubt on the supposed gains of the new economy.

Fame and the Fed
January 08, 2001
As Alan Greenspan has become a media fixture, he's learned to use the media as a tool of economic policy.

Just in Time
February 16, 2001
Rising inventories are a reality in the new economy as well as the old. But this time around, they may not be as painful.


STOCKS:

Betting The Ranch
Jun 25 2001
A high-stakes game of poker pits Excite@Home against what could prove its own toxic financing.

Cisco Loses Its Shine
Apr 6 2001
For years, the networking giant dominated every market it went into. That was then...

Old Whine, New Bottles
Dec 11 2000
After millions of bad investments, and amid reports of faltering revenues, is Gateway trying to blame its old problems on the new problems of the Internet Economy?

Diversinet Loses Its Grip on Its Biggest Customer
March 20, 2000, 12:25 AM ET
Is a Canadian wireless Internet company up a creek without a paddle? [And look what happened to this $48 stock after my stories were published.]


COLOR COLUMNS

Easy Money: Life and Death on the NYSE Floor
April 7, 1997
Last week, Patrick "Paddy"Grieve died where he spent the last 25 years working: on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Behind DLJ's Velvet Rope
January 18, 2000, 12:45 AM ET
It has an online brokerage for individual investors, but DLJ conferences still cater to VIP snobbery.

Investment Legacy
November 6, 2000
One of the greatest lessons I ever learned about the stock market came from my grandfather, a man who never bought a share in his life.


FEATURES

Free fallin': The Story of Mark "Gator"Anthony
THE VILLAGE VOICE, December 1992
The world class skateboarding star born again as a rapist and murder.

Mr. November
GEORGE, August 1996
When Nike decided to run Ken Griffey, Jr., for President, there was just one problem-a reluctant candidate who knew nothing about politics. To the most powerful image-makers in the world, that was part of the fun.

Zen and the Art of Basketball
SWING, March 1996
A week on the road to enlightenment with Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman and too many strippers to count.

SURF NAZIS?

As two surfing Congressmen gut Federal environmental laws, they have inspired a new grassroots/wetsuits political movement--their young surfing constituents. But can angry surfers really play politics?

By Cory Johnson

From Swing magazine, June 1996



ON A BRISK MAY MORNING, freshman Representative Brian Bilbray, 44, zips up his wetsuit, takes one last slug of coffee from a Styrofoam cup before chucking it into a garbage can, and trots down the beach with a 6 foot double-finned surfboard under his arm. At his side is bearded Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, 48, who plops into the chilly water on his 9 foot single-finned longboard, a fiberglass replica of a 1960's classic. They paddle out into the Pacific without exchanging a word as they eye the break off Newport Beach, near the southernmost edge of Rohrabacher's Orange County, California district. To the north, one can just make out the offshore oil rigs off Huntington Beach as the congressmen reach a pool of frothy white foam just in front of the first big wave-- not uncommon for surfers, but creepy just the same. They can't know what the foam is, and with the wave fast approaching there's no time to think about it. So both Congressmen dive into the foam, shoving down the noses of their boards, dipping below the wave's lip and emerging on the other side to await their ride back to shore.

Back when Bilbray and Rohrabacher were first elected, many of their constituents expected the nation's only surfing congressmen to be guardians of the environment. After all, surfers are canaries in the coal mine when it comes to water pollution. But once they got to Washington, these two conservative Republicans, with surfboards in their offices and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on their flank, have turned out to be two of the most vigorous foes of federal environmental regulations. Their surfing bretheren back home are pissed--and now they're doing something about it. Young surfers, Republican and Democrat alike, are mobilizing a new, energetic polictical movement in an attempt to remove Bilbray and Rohrabacher from office. But the Congressmen are sticking to their guns.

Bilbray and Rohrabacher insist that they're not anti-environment, and cite their surfing as evidence. What they're really opposed to are federal regulations that they claim are draconian and harmful to business. "As a surfer, I can't come back from Washington without cleaning up the water," says Bilbray. "This is something that's really personal for me."

But Bilbray and Rohrabacher's surfing buds back in California aren't buying it. They argue that you don't have to be a Democrat to be a surfer, but you do have to support the environment--and these federal regulations are a critical part of that effort. "Surfers represent a cross section of the population; lawyers, students, stockbrokers, construction workers," says Steve Hawk, 40, the editor of Surfer magazine, "and in Orange County, especially, you'll find them conservative. But the one place where you'll find conservative surfers liberal is environmental bills."

Now, the surfing congressmen have pushed their betrayed bretheren into uncharted territory. And the question they're asking themseves is, Can a culture reknown for being apolitical and free-spirited, get organized enough to fight back?

RYAN LEVINSON IS A STRAPPING 24 YEAR-OLD, with a dark tan and thick hair bleached blond by the sun and surf. In a meeting room above a Laguna Beach shopping mall, he sits in a circle with about eighty other surfers, discussing plans an upcoming environmental protest. "I talked to a group of surfers with disabilities--you know, dudes in wheelchairs?--and they could man the information booth while we're in the water," says Levinson. "Hey that's great," says Cyndi Headley, the cute and perhaps-overly-enthusidastic blond who is running this San Diego Chapter meeting of the Surfrider Foundation, an 11-year-old group of surfers concerned about the environment. "Okay, so Ryan will talk to the former surfers..."

"No," Levinson inturupts. "They're still surfers, they just can't go in the water anymore." There is a moment of quiet confusion, then the group starts to smile and nod with understanding. To Levinson, surfing is more than a sport, more than a pasttime. It's a mindset, and to him, it goes way beyond standing up on a surfboard and cutting into a wave. Levinson has been surfing since he was nine years old, but just last year, he was diagnosed with early signs of muscular distrophy. "Ten years from now, I won't be able to surf," he says. "Fifteen years from now I probably won't even be able to paddle out in the water. But I'll never stop being a surfer."

Every day of good surf is precious to Levinson, reason enough to get up at 5 am and beg his friends near the beach to look out the windows and size up the waves. It's reason enough to blow off another day of classes at San Diego State for a quick trip to the big waves of Mexico. He'll risk surfing near a dirty rivermouth after a rain storm, when the waves are raging but the sewage is running off from the densly populated hills near the ocean. Afterwards he goes through a ritual of rinsing off with scalding hot water, flushing his ears with perroxide and crossing his fingers with hopes that the pollution won't give him ear infections, hepititas or worse. Every day that the beaches are closed due to polution and he can't surf (there were more than three hundred sudch cays in San Diego County last year) Levinson's anger at Rohrabacher and Bilbray burns even hotter.

"Guys like Rohrabacker and Bilbray, they're not surfers," says Levinson. "I don't care how well they surf. True surfers love and respect the ocean, these guys pollute and then lie. They've betrayed us and who we are, and we can't stand for that."

Levinson is helping to organize the group's third paddle protest, where hundreds of surfers paddle their boards through polluted waterways in Southern California to draw attention to their cause. This protest is particularly important to them, because it will take place on August 10, just a few days before San Diego hosts the Republican National Convention. "We're trying to bring attention to the ocean environment," says Levinson. "We think that's something everyone, Democrats and Republicans can respect."

The anger at Bilbray and Rohrabacher runs deep in the surfing community. "Here's some politicians trying to pass themselves off as surfers, and they gut every environmental laws that's come along," says Donna Fryre, co-owner of Harrys' Surf Shop and organizer of the surfers against Bilbray movement. "A lot of people in the surfing community bought their act and voted for them. I think surfers are going to make the difference the next time."

ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES in late July--while wearing gold lapel pins of stickmen catching a wave--Bilbay and Rohrabacher teamed up to support an amendment to a bill that would virtually eliminate enforcement of federal anti-pollution standards. With Rohrabacher's support, Bilbray introduced another bill in July to permanently exempt the San Diego County's sewage treatment plants from Environmental Protection Agency checkups. Gingrich enthusiastically hailed Bilbray's bill as "the beginning of the end of the Clean Water Act," the landmark piece of legislation passed in 1973.

A one-time lifeguard, Brian Bilbray was elected mayor in 1980 of California's Imperial Beach, a famed surfing community, at age 27. Back then, he wasn't always hostile to government aid. In 1980, when the Tiajuanna River was dumping Mexican sewage into his community, Bilbray sought state and Federal aid, but didn't get it. So after alerting the media, he jumped into a bulldozer and personally plugged up the estuary. That soloist approach to problem solving was exhibited again in 1982, when the Imperial Beach pier caught fire. The dashing young Mayor Bilbray--more parts David Haselhoff than John Kennedy--paddled out on his surfboard with a bucket, climbed to the top of the flaming pier and put out the fire, as television cameras caught all the action.

Last November, Bilbray defeated incumbent Democrat Lynn Schenk, and he wasn't shy about courting the surfer vote, printing campaign t-shirts emblazoned with a surfboard and the phrase "Schenk Don't Surf." Bilbray was swept into office on the strength of his opposition to illegal immigration, and the environment was rarely talked out during the campaign. After his election, he was promptly called on to give the seconding speech nominating Gingrich as Speaker, and littered it with sometimes-tortured surf metaphors. "Like a tsunami we swept into office," Bilbray announced to the assembled House of Representatives, "and Newt Gingrich is making so many waves in Washington these days, you could shoot the curl on the Potomac."

But despite his nods to the surf, Bilbray's votes against environmental laws have earned him the League of Conservation Voter's lowest possible rating--a zero out of one hundred. Bilbray complains that the label is a raw deal, especially regarding his opposition to the EPA's regulation of San Diego's sewage treatment. The problem, he says, is that EPA rules require treatment of sewage before it's dumped into the ocean, rather than looking at the water quality after the sewage has been dumped, as state environmental laws would. "The Scripps Institute [a Southern California-based scientific organization] says they cannot find any biological degradation of the environment from the existing sewage operation," says Bilbray, "but the EPA insisted that we improve it anyway. So for a decade the agenda has not been what is the best thing for the water, but what is the best way to comply with Federal regulations."

Rohrabacher's stand against environmental laws is even more strident. A one time Libertarian, he made his way to Congress after seven years as a senior speech writer for Ronald Reagan. Initially dismissed as a right-wing extremist--and still considered that by many Democrats--after seven years in office he's become a leader and moral compass for Republican freshmen. Rohrabacher is a strong supporter of offshore oil drilling and led GOP efforts to cut spending on corporate grants to develop energy conservation products.

But his lifestyle does not fit the stereotype of the conservative Republican. The affable bachelor brags of drinking tequila with John Wayne and wild and crazy friends ranging from Ollie North to Sammy Hagar. "He's not just the 'Surfing Congressmen,'" explains Dale Neugebauer, his press secretary, "he's also the Rock n' Roll Congressman." Indeed, his guitar sits in Gingrich's office--not far from the full-sized surfboard, decorated with a congressional seal and two overlapping American flags, that Rohrabacher gave Gingrich.

Rohrabacher took up surfing shortly after his election in 1988. Now, whenever he gets back to California, he paddles out with his 25-year-old campaign manager, Rhonda Carmony, and Congressman Bilbray. "Bilbray, he can really surf," says Rohrabacher. "He's very aggressive. I'm always watching out for the other guys--the last thing I want to do is run over one of my constituents. But Bilbray, he just goes."

Rohrabacher is sitting in his campaign office, which is tucked in a back room of the slightly rundown Wind and Sea surf shop in Hunnigton Beach, just a block from the ocean and the famous surfing break at the pier. Girls in bikinis and young skateboarders with baggy shorts hanging below their knees kids drift in and out as he defends his attacks on environmental law. "The question isn't whether or not the water should be clean," he says. "The question is how pure and at what cost. Clean water is good enough. We don't have to have pristine water."

Many argue that the water is far from clean now: 1995 was one of the worst summers yet for California surfers, with hundreds of beach closings up and down the coast. For fellow surfers like Hawk, seeing a Rohrabacher bumper sticker was the last straw.

"It had a drawing of a longboard and said 'Rohrabacher: Fighting for Freedom and Having Fun," says Hawk. "How can this guy advertise to the world that he's a cool surf dude? It's great that these congressmen surf. I wish they all surfed, it would put them all in touch with the ocean. But don't use it, don't appropriate it--especially if you're going to vote against bills that would help the ocean."

In the July 1995 issue of Surfer, Hawk initiated a letter writing campaign, with a scathing editorial on the voting records of the two congressmen, urging them to "break away from the Republican ranks, paddle past the pack and into the pit, prove to us that you really are surfers."

Bilbray's response in the pages of the magazine wasn't exactly restrained. "[Hawk] will not tolerate anyone who does not march--or surf--in lockstep with his liberal orthodoxy," said the congressman. "He's upset about the wipeout of the liberal ideology in the last election."

But that just further irked area surfers. Surfing clubs and surf shops around the region organized demonstrations against the congressmen--uniquely wacky demonstrations, of course. The influential Surfrider Foundation has held it's paddle protests, and has initiated it's own letter writing campaign. San Diego surfing legend Skip Frye and his wife Donna have turned over much of their surf shop to campaign against Bilbray. They're publishing newsletters and printing bumper stickers, and have rigged up a "talking toilet" that imitates Bilbray's voice, then flushes on command. "We're going to flush him out of Congress," says Donna.

Organizing surfers has been likened to herding cats, but the movement is beginning to show signs of catching on. "If you drive down to the beach and look at all the [anti-Bilbray] bumper stickers on people's cars, you can see we're starting to turn the tide," says Donna Frye.

ON A BRIGHT APRIL MORNING, Shelly Warner, 27, is surfing the break next to the pier at Pacific Beach. The waves are slightly over her head, but she's holding her own on an eight foot long board, affixed with an anti-Bilbray sticker. As the she walks out of the water, stripping off her wet suit and shaking out her long blond hair, the men on the beach stop and stare, mouths open in a true Baywatch moment.

Warner is typical of those young people campaigning against the surfing congressmen. Her father was in the military, and she holds on to the conservative values that she was raised with. In March she exchanged wedding vows with a fellow surfer while standing on a rocky point that only exposes itself at the lowest tide. She's anti-welfare spending, pro-capital punishment, and she thinks that military cutbacks have gone too far. Warner is a registered Republican and has never voted against her party. "I voted for Brian Bilbray because he was a surfer from Imperial Beach," she says. "I thought he was just like me, a surfer with conservative values. But when I started to hear about his votes in Congress, I felt betrayed. For a surfer, the environment gets closest to home. When my brother and my husband come back from surfing and have to get hepitias shots, well, I don't know how Bilbray and Rohrabach can say the water is clean enough."

So for the past few months, Warner has been distributing flyers about the congressmen's voting records on the environment. She's covered her truck with anti-Bilbray bumper stickers. She's even thinking about volunteering for the campaign of Peter Novaro, a San Diego surfer who is running as a Democrat against Bilbray. "If Bilbray hadn't claimed to be a surfer I probably wouldn't have a problem with him," she says, flashing a detirmined look from her bright blue eyes. "But now I have a problem with him."

In responce to this grassroots movement againsts them, Rohrabacher and Bilbray, once known to march in parades wearing wetsuits, are denying the political power of surfers. "Surfers are not outside of society," says Rohrabacher. "They are a part of the electorate, and the electorate supports me."

Bilbray seems slightly more more pained by the rejection of his compatriots. "To have surfers against me feels like knife in the back," he says. "I feel like I'm talking to that critical guy sitting on the beach: 'Look, dude until you're in the water, until you've shot a section, you're really not in the position to judge me.' You've got people who've never made the commitment or the sacrifice."

The surfers would say the same.

-- FIN