Etnies roll out the red carpet in Paris…
As each bump of turbulence resonated through the tail-end of the plane, I rode it out to the loops and samples of some exclusive grime beats.
The rescue remedy and sleeping pills had me in a subconscious state of mind that I warmed to sweetly after a brain drain of booze, bass guitars and head-banging. The last 4 days and nights had been spent locked in a Heavy Metal vortex that my psyche wasn’t accustomed to at the Download Festival (click here for the rundown once it’s up).
Flying 50,000 feet above the ground with solid street music in my ears felt like a much deserved massage of my nervous system. I daydreamed back to yesteryear and the circumstance that had me strapped into a volatile metal tube here and now- Skateboarding: A passion far stronger than any drug I knew, and a culture that’s underrated and untouchable. Who’d have thought that flying down a country lane on a wood plank and four wheels would later have me invited to an exclusive party at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, all expenses paid and a 600 euro a night bedroom?
The weirdest part of all this was the party celebrated Etnies 20th Anniversary, and my first pair of real skate shoes were a pair of Etnies! I remember vividly picking a pair of grey suede mid-tops with a lace saver Velcro scratch. I don’t recall the name of the model, but it was all about the lace saver…
Flash forward to Paris, June 12th 2006, and I am racing across the city for interviews with the Etnies Pro team who have all flown in especially for the occasion. I’m staying in the same hotel as them and President Chirac lives just down the block. I notice Jacques has some lovely bank to wallrides on his Presidential compound, the Elysees, plus a few ledges round the corner. Rune Glifberg later informed me that him and a few others skated past there the other night and got bum-rushed by unmarked police cars and security guards, so I leave my board in the room and head across town to the main hub of activity on foot.
The media circus has been set up at the Concorde Lafayette, one of Paris’ most prestigious hotels with its own conference and shopping centre. The Concorde Lafayette is also a golden opportunity to get lost as me and UK Etnies Rep Gemma soon found out, two floors below the complex in a service elevator! No mind though, things are running like clockwork and the Etnies team relaxes whilst kicking a football around on one of the top floor balconies.
In attendance we have Steve Forstner, Ronnie Creager, Ali Boulala, Rune Glifberg, Bastien Salabanzi, Elissa Steamer, Ryan Sheckler, Kyle Leeper and another huge handful of magazine faces and European riders alike. If you want to fan-out on a pro skater, this is the time and place to do it. Luckily, I don’t. Well… I do a bit, when I get to meet one of my idols, Ronnie Creager, but he’s really cool and doesn’t intimidate me or come across as a rock star in any way or form. To be honest he almost looks as surprised as me to be in such circumstances. Top bloke Mr. Creager!
With the formalities and interviews out of the way (much to the relief of the riders who have been quizzed, plucked, picked and fondled by every type of action sport and fashion media type for the last three days!), I leave the boys to kick around their football, and head back to my suite on foot whilst Zac rolled into town on his 5th night of carnage in a row to. He heads straight for the bar and gets the party rolling.
It looked close enough on the map, a virtual straight line, but in actual fact… Paris is a huge city, and in June the summer is already in full swing with temperatures tickling the 30 degrees centigrade! My 15 minute taxi ride, was an hour on foot, but as Mr. Bob Sanderson pointed out; the women in Paris are stunning as is the architecture, so I rather enjoyed the scenic route. A quick wash and a change for tonight’s festivities, I remember someone telling me specifically not to wear Vans or any other major competitor to this evening’s birthday boy, Etnies. Problem is, I don’t own a pair of Etnies, but I do own a pair of Es- Etnies younger more sophisticated brother. However, these Es were my skate shoes and a damn fine pair I might add! Anyway, I doubt anyone would be checking my feet at the door, more likely my crazed red-beard that I had grown out during my four day Heavy metal debacle…it turned out that Zac turned up in a pair of Vans but I’m sure he got away with it!
Dinner and drinks with the team is a relaxed affair with everyone gradually winding down after hectic schedules and a bizarre photo shoot with a man named Claus. Apparently Claus was a poor fashion photographer with no prior experience of working outside his studio, let alone at a skate spot with a bunch of skaters whizzing around. Needless to say, Steve was looking tired after his 30th run at a trick that Claus couldn’t get the true ‘essence’ of…
Camera. Check. Voice recorder. Check. Golden ticket. Che… D’oh! I forgot it, but who cares? I’m rolling into this party with the boys, right? Well, security needed a bit more convincing than that. Even the bloody massive 30 foot visual display and posters that adorned the Palais de Tokyo and the fans pointing, and the groupies ‘Oooo-ing’ and Aaaaahhh-ing’ weren’t proof enough as someone (un-)helpful tried to send us to the back of the queue. Ha! Luckily, the German Rep was on hand and woman-handled the situation very well. Thanks! We’re in!
Now, take two steps back and realize the scheme of things that Etnies is putting on display for their 20th birthday bash. The main Parisien spot with enough history to fill a book and a DVD documentary has been decked out head to toe in Etnies paraphernalia, from plasma screen projected drapes, to a full museum archive of glass cabinets that recall Etnies story so far. A stage with some of France’s top DJs spinning the wheels of steel, and free booze all night. The free booze was going to prove a testing point for patience however as rappers, skaters, BMXers, business people and glamour girls huddled around the square drinking fountain like bees to honey. I tried one side to no avail. Then, I tried another side and spotted Al Boglio, Cliché team manager, trying to juggle about 6 cans of beer and two cocktails as he scored an opportunity to place an order with the frantic bar staff. Even though I still couldn’t get served, I laughed as some Parisien socialite squealed because Al had dropped one of his cans on her precious Prada shoes! My third attempt bore alcoholic fruit, so I even placed an extra large order for some dude I randomly knew standing in the line behind me.
With a beer stuffed in each pocket, I felt like a thief, but then I saw my greedy technique was actually being carried out by everyone else I bumped into, so the guilt evaporated in the heat. Did I mention it was hot in Paris? Anyway, as I made my way back to the crew I met so many people I knew from different skate scenes, it left me feeling uplifted.
Etnies had really pulled a biggie off by getting so many true skate heads into one venue for the night; friendship buzzed and bounced around the marble Palais. I talked shop and complimented Ali Boulala on his unique form of self promotion via the modelling of his new pro model as a giant medallion. Ali’s take on bling gave me flashbacks of Ghostface Killah and his ridiculous golden eagle wrist band. Ali’s shoe-chain doubled up as a beer-cozy too though- stick that in your XXXL dressing gown Ghost!
The Etnies 20th Anniversary had such an eclectic mix of skateboard notables under one roof; I remember sharing a bottle of Champagne with Chris Pastras, Dave ‘Double D’ Duncan, Kyle Leeper and Sal Barbier. But celebrity status aside, this party really had everyone mixing it up and enjoying themselves which is a tough trick to pull at your usual Jet-Skate events.
Now, comes the fun as alcohol levels rise and the hunt for hi-jinx is on! Ali Boulala kicked things off by knocking over a table and smashing bottles. Over-zealous security tried to rush the gypsy king, but skaters easily out-numbered the gorillas to chants of “Ali Koumbaya!” in reference to a prize fighter. To vent their anger, a security gimp punched innocent bystander, Steve Forstner in the back of the head. Sorry Steve…
Whilst this was all going on, Zac and Lee Dainton from Dirty Sanchez had formed a bond that would see them rage harder than ever before. The 5th night on the tiles was becoming easy and the pair of them made sure that they had the best time ever. Here’s a tip that worked for Zac you may want to try out next time you are on the rip. Meet girls at beginning of night, find them half way through, ask where her friend is. If she says her friend is making out with someone in the toilets, sigh and say how gutted she must be not to be making out with someone at a party like this and then cheekily ask if she wants to make out with you….end result, a beautiful tongue sandwich from a stunning New York City Magazine Editor! Both Zac and Lee win the award on the night for Minesweeping and best raging to Daft Punk! Emerica rider Vaughan Baker gets the award for being the most stoked on life and deservedly so!
The clock had hit 3am and the Etnies team was unleashed on the serene streets of Paris. A herd of us began the trek back to the Concorde, but soon realised that the walk would last a couple of hours if we didn’t grab a cab. Take this minute to envision a drunk and disorderly group of pranksters hailing lonely cab drivers and begging for the journeyman to squeeze at least 10 sweaty bodies into his pristine vehicle… Zac’s crew, namely all the A4 crew and more UK rampagers had started to steal wheelbarrows to get back to the hotel but with obviously no joy. Not happening! Eventually, three cabs pulled up one after another and the party could continue.
Did I mention the Concorde Lafayette was an affluent resting place with a skybar? Well, the word circulated and somehow we found the secret lift that got you to the top-floor pleasure dome. In true rebellious style, we bum-rushed the show and greasy business men with their escorts reeled in disgust and disdain as Etnies scoped out the venue. The bar staff wasn’t all that concerned with Ali’s get-up, but more intrigued by the exclusive character that ordered them to fill his jewel incrusted chalice.
Celebrity misogynist, Don Magic Juan self-proclaimed Pimp was in attendance with two young ladies draped on each arm and about $5000 of bling on each hand. Apparently the pimp met Andrew Reynolds recently and an Emerica shoe collaboration is in the mix! The Bishop (as he likes to be known) really is a pimp, at least he does a good job of acting like one judging by the way he man-handles the women, The most bizarre thing is that the ladies love it and were literally fighting for his attention. I don’t think they noticed him carrying a Yellow Page plastic bag all night though… Not so glamorous, is it?
Obviously the skybar got shut down in less than five minutes, so we dropped 35 floors to the lobby where news of a nightclub around the corner from the hotel had everyone stoked. The night club in question was called Le Night, and advertised the fact that it open till dawn. Perfect! However, once inside, the melodies of Madonna and Dizzie Rascal weren’t going to put a sweet swing on the 15 euro beers! Zac’s first round of three bottles of 1664 beer clocked in at a whopping 51 euros, so the nectar was sipped like the finest of cognacs after that until Zac supplied the entire party with a stolen bottle of Vodka, suckers! As people relaxed fully and lost their inhibitions (Did anyone have any after midnight anyway???), a few beautiful ladies danced around crossing eyes with the men. For public privacy I cannot disclose the man who nearly fell victim to one of these ladies of the night. Let’s just say, she wasn’t asking for a cab fare home…
I signed out around 5am and retreated to my lovely hotel room, only to be awoken an hour later by my surprise room mate – Mr. Bob Sanderson! I practically had a heart attack when this burly Birmingham lad laughed and roared about the fact that we would become bedroom buddies for the night. I knew Bob would be around, but not within such proximity, he was out there reviewing for Sidewalk Mag, look out for the write up in July’s issue.Luckily, the party had tired us both out so conversation never went further than a blurry greeting. It wasn’t till the next day (later that day?) that Bob and I shared words and views on the event, Paris and our host Etnies. We both came to the conclusion that Etnies sure know how to hold a party, and Paris is probably one of Europe’s most beautiful cities with plenty more skate spots that Barcelona.
After a good and greasy lunch at the pub over the road from the Concorde Lafayette, I bid farewell to my new friends and felt relieved and rewarded for having run the gauntlet. I had survived a week long haul of partying in three different continents, whilst Zac was missing and wouldn’t resurface for another three days!
I take my hat off to all those involved in Etnies who have done skateboarding proud for the last 20 years. Bring back those lace savers!
Visit www.etnies.com for the full experience. We have a feeling that we will be able to cover the LA party in October so watch this space.
Big thanks to Pierre, Brenda, Gemma, and Josette, Jenny, Rudi and Victoria for their hospitality and organisation..