Chapter 1. TOUCAN SAM TEACHES ME A LESSON: The day I knew it was time to take control
DEAR TONY HAWK
WE ARE YOUR BIGGEST FANS! WE EVEN EAT YOUR SERYELL. DON'T RETIRE, YOU THE BEST SKATER EVER. YOU CAN'T JUST QUITE!
In 1998, I got invited to New York to help Froot Loops, the sugary cereal that my skate friends and I used to eat by the case, radicalize its image. Actually, invited isn't quite the right word: A marketing agency paid me to join a team of fellow "extreme" athletes at a big coming-out party where it would be announced that the cereal's mascot, Toucan Sam, was now himself also extreme. (This was before the word got banished to the Island of Misfit Slang.)
The night before the event, I joined BMX hero Dave Mirra and lunatic Olympic ski racer Johnny Moseley at a media-training session with agency execs. They told us that they wanted us to stay in character during press interviews, meaning we were to talk about Toucan Sam as if he were real, and as if he ripped. "You should see that feathered freak's McTwists," that sort of thing. Unfortunately, they failed to caution against inadvertent shout-outs to competitors.
The whole thing would last only a couple of hours, and they were paying $50,000, a lot of money for me at the time. The skateboarding industry was just starting to emerge from the fiscal doldrums of the early 1990s, and I was a young father barely scraping by as a pro skater and co-owner of a struggling skate company. So I figured the money was worth two ...