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STOKED: THE RISE AND FALL OF GATOR

BY PETER KEOUGH

His career was as meteoric as one of his gravity-defying skateboard rides: Mark "Gator" Rogowski was a bratty teen who mastered the outlaw sport in the ’80s, rode the crest of its first wave of popular success, and then crashed with spectacular brutality at the end, convicted of a vicious rape and murder and barely escaping the death penalty. Helen Stickler’s absorbing documentary — consisting of talking-heads interviews (some of the locales of her subjects are more intriguing than what they say) with Rogowski’s friends and colleagues and his ex-fiancée, plus excerpts from his promotional videos and home movies made during his rise and fall and a spooky but unforthcoming phone interview with Rogowski in prison — puts his case in a cultural and economic context that’s meant to suggest that he was partly the victim of corporate commercialization of an outsider subculture. When skateboard and clothing companies offered Rogowski and others big bucks and rock-star fame for their endorsements, most didn’t hesitate to cash in, and they were unprepared when their fans turned on them as sellouts. Neither could they all make the transition (as shown in embarrassing videos of Rogowski unable to negotiate a six-inch curb) from the "vert" or ramp skating to the new and more democratic "street style."

Stickler’s efforts to plumb Rogowski’s personal depths are more perfunctory: passing comments about his broken family, his rage problem, his alcoholism, his search for identity, and his quest for religion all pale before his crime. Maybe, as he smirkingly claims in a video made at his height, he was just a jerk. (82 minutes)


Issue Date: September 5 - September 11, 2003
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