Last week, Free launched a series of interviews with international skaters that came to American to chase their dreams. While all of the stories of culture shock are interesting, Benny Fairfax’s is particularly noteworthy. The Palace and adidas pro recounts a disturbing racist incident with Ethan Fowler and a hilarious run-in with Shiloh Greathouse. Never meet your heroes rings true here.
Okay I’m not too sure where this sits in relation to what we’ve just discussed but do you maybe want to do the Ethan Fowler story now so it’s out of the way… If you still feel comfortable telling it obviously.
Yeah ok fuck it, he deserves to get called out. So this is quite early on when I was over there…Actually maybe I need a beer for this, one sec (goes to the fridge)… Also before we get into it I want to make it very clear I met so many lovely people there, made so many good friends and overall had the best time. This is just one of the more negative things that happened to me when I was there…
Okay. So um… Obviously Ethan Fowler – OG Stereo legend – I looked up to his skating so much… Always thought he was a steez guy etc.
Yep. I mean… Tincan Folklore…
Yeah… But I was maybe not as aware as until I went out there just how much all those guys idolised him, how much he was like the fucking guy.
Anyway so I didn’t have a licence or a car so you know, once I was out on the sesh I was kind of at other people’s will… And one afternoon the guys I was with were all excited like: ‘hey dude we’re gonna BBQ at Ethan’s house and then we’re gonna go to his psychedelic rock show, it’s going to be fucking sick dude! Ethan’s the fucking coolest!’ You know like the sun shone out of his arse for them basically. Everyone loved him.
So we go to Ethan Fowler’s house, we have this little BBQ then it’s all ‘we’re going to the bar now like, Ethan’s band is going to play dude, sick’. So we were in some little basement bar in Downtown LA, and you know he plays his show – everyone’s had a few beers – whatever… It was really loud in there and so he just kinda cornered me like: ‘hey man, not too many n****rs in here is there? You must feel super out of place dude, look around.’ And I just, I just froze – like what the fuck? He knew that I was the little kid on the team, the new guy coming over here from England, and that he was in this position of power. Like I’m fucking Ethan Fowler, like I can say whatever I want to you. So yeah, ‘not too many n****rs in here, you must feel pretty out of place man.’ And I’m just like ‘errrr’ and I’ll never forget he looked me in the eyes smiling and said, ‘you probably want to punch me right now don’t you? But you’re not gonna are you?’ And then he walked off. I was left there frozen like, ‘oh fuck…’ I didn’t know what to do. I just left and got a taxi to wherever I was staying that night and that was kinda it.
Yeah I wanted to ask, did you not tell Pastras?
I actually never spoke to him about it, they’re really nostalgic about Stereo, Chris and Ethan go way back together and I knew that it would really upset him so I didn’t want to rock the boat and make an issue out of it…
Did you speak to anyone else about it?
Yeah I remember telling some of the other friends what happened and they were like, ‘ah Ethan probably just like had a few beers man, he didn’t mean anything by it…’
What the fuck, how could you brush over something like that?
Yeah they all pretty much swept it under the rug because it was Ethan and they all looked up to him. No one wanted to hear that shit. And looking back at it now I’m like – mate I’ve seen plenty of guys have plenty of beers but they don’t go whispering racist shit in little black boys ears after they’ve had a few…
I can’t help but feel like the power dynamic just makes it extra disgusting as well.
Yeah it makes it a little bit more ugly – it wasn’t just a weird back-handed comment that came out of nowhere by accident, he cornered me to say that.
Did you tell your mates in London about it?
Yeah and they were obviously like, ‘what the fuck?! Fuck that guy!’ you know… It was definitely a power trip for him. The look on his face… He enjoyed it… So yeah… Not very cool.
Ok well obviously you’re going to have to tell me this Shiloh story now ha ha.
I dunno… It is pretty funny though.
Alright… So this is when I lived in Long Beach and I used to hang out with John Bradford (the Skateboarder photographer) quite a lot. Our little crew was like Raymond Molinar, Nick Trapasso, Tony Silva and a few others and after our day of skating one time we decided to have a little BBQ at John Bradford’s house. He shared a balcony with his neighbours – these fixie riders – who were also having a BBQ evening, and Shiloh (Greathouse) was friends with them so he’s there with his bird… And he’s shitfaced ha ha. And he sees us and is like, ‘oh no way you guys are here what’s up?’ So we’re obviously like ‘hey Shiloh what’s up, cool!’ Just hanging out you know… But then at one point he turns to Bradford and is like: ‘you never fucking call me back! I got shit to film! I got shit to do!’ and his girlfriend was like ‘yeah! Shiloh’s got tons of tricks he wants to shoot, why don’t you ever call him back?!’ ha ha. And then – he was pretty mashup – he just starts going around the room ranting at us all like, ‘Trapasso you skate good but you dress like a little bitch. And Raymond you can skate ledges good but you’re a fuckin’ hipster with all your stupid cameras! I’m an innovator, I made up all this shit!’ ha ha. And then he turns to me and starts going, ‘Benny you tell them: who’s your favourite black skater from back in the day? WHO?!’
So I’m like, ‘Uh… Keenan? Drake Jones? Uh… Kareem’
‘Yeah yeah those guys are alright, those guys are alright… But…’ And then it escalated a little bit…
What, like, was he actually kicking off ha ha?
Ha ha well yeah kind of… We ended up having to trick him into thinking he’d called himself a taxi to get rid of him.
Head over to Free for more Sunday morning reading.