Maybe We Shouldn’t Be So Quick to Idolize a Gay-Bashing Skateboarder

Jay Adams, a guy who had really good balance on his skateboard and, as a member of the Z-Boys, helped to define skating as we know it, died from a heart attack on Thursday while vacationing in Mexico. Although he lived most of his life outside the spotlight, he was brought into mainstream consciousness in 2001 thanks to the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, and then again in 2005, when he was portrayed by Emile Hirsch in Lords of Dogtown. Adams’s death was picked up by most major news outlets, almost all of which used the words „legend“ or „legendary“ in their headlines and went on to describe him as a bad boy who pushed the sport away from dance-y, ballerina-style contests and into the more aggressive street and pool skating that birthed modern-day skateboarding. Less discussed was the gay-bashing Adams initiated in Los Angeles that left a man dead.

While I appreciate Adams’s contribution to skateboarding as much as the next guy, it seems odd that virtually every obituary published over the last four days has glossed over or completely failed to mention that one time in 1982 when he helped kill a guy. Adams, describing the incident to Juice magazine in 2000, said, „After a show at the Starwood we went to a place called the Okiedogs and two homosexual guys walked by and I started a fight.“ One of those homosexuals was named Dan Bradbury, and, as mentioned above, was killed in the brawl. Although Adams was charged with murder, he claimed that he had left the fight by the time the man died, and was convicted of felony assault. He served just six months in prison.

Scanning through the barrage of celebratory obituaries, one could be forgiven for missing that rather large blemish on Adams’s resume.

The initial obituary on his death failed to mention that Adams, who, as their headline says, „changed skateboarding into something radical,“ participated in what looks an awful lot like a hate crime a few decades ago. A more in-depth follow-up story published Sunday with the title „In Empty Pools, Sport’s Pioneer Found a Way to Make a Splash“ devotes one sentence to it: „In 1982 he was convicted of felony assault for involvement in the stomping death of a gay man at a concert in Hollywood.“ The Associated Press acknowledged the incident in which the „colorful rebel“ started a fight and then helped beat a gay man to death by writing, „At the height of his fame in the early 1980s, Adams was convicted of felony assault, launching a string of prison stints over the next 24 years“—with no mention of the fact that the victim was a gay man, or that he died as a result. The Los Angeles Times, who called Adams „legendary“ and „one of the edgy Z-boys of the sport,“ devoted one sentence to the incident, also with no mention of the fact that Bradbury was gay, summing it up neatly: „He served six months for his involvement in a fight in Hollywood that resulted a man’s death.“ [sic]

BuzzFeed, ever the bastion of editorial integrity, called Adams a „lord“ but didn’t bother mentioning the event at all. The Washington Post, which pretty much just jammed everyone else’s takes into one, cited the AP and said only that Adams, whose „legacy […] lives on,“ was „convicted of felony assault and served jail time…“ CNN, for its part, called him a „legend“ and added him to what appears to be a bizarre, continuously-updated slideshow of people who have died in 2014, but didn’t mention the assault. Gawker, a celebrity gossip website, republished a chunk of the AP article with a few extra sentences thrown in, called him a „legendary Dogtown skateboarder“ in the headline, and tied it up with this quote from Stacy Peralta: „He was like the original viral spore that created skateboarding. He was it.“

When Adams was asked about the incident in an interview just last month with Wildland magazine, he denied the fight had anything to do with Bradbury’s sexual orientation: „The trouble we got into that night had nothing to do with the fact the people we got into a fight with were gay. It was during the Punk Rock days in Hollywood and it was a violent time. […] We weren’t bashing gays, we were just out to bash anyone who we came in contact with.“

It’s hard to say whether or not that’s true. There is precious little information online about Bradbury or the night of his death. What we do know is that sometime over the last decade or so, Adams turned to Christianity—like a lot of old people do when they realize they are going to die soon. And, as of last month at least, Adams didn’t have a terribly progressive outlook on gay rights. „As far as how I view gay relationships and gay marriage,“ he told Wildland, „I am 100 percent against them, however I do respect gay people, I just tell them what the Bible says.“

Having been a skateboarder for the past 17 years or so, I appreciate the things Adams did to further the sport’s progression. I also understand the knee-jerk reaction from the skateboarding community to defend and lionize one of our own, and am fully prepared for the tidal wave of hate that will flood my Twitter feed after this article is published. But we’re doing a disservice to everyone—especially the friends and relatives of Dan Bradbury—when we push the uglier parts of Jay Adams’s life under the rug in favor of promoting the „bad boy skateboarder“ trope. If we want to acknowledge the fact that Adams was stylish as hell and influenced the way future generations of kids ride on wooden toys, let’s do that. But when we make him out to be skateboarding incarnate, as Christian Hosoi did when he told the Times, „Jay embodied our culture and our lifestyle all in one,“ or as Stacy Peralta implied when he told that Adams was the „purest form of skateboarder that I’ve ever seen,“ we hitch our sport to the coattails of a guy who probably wasn’t as great a person as he was a skateboarder.

UPDATE: In the 2004 book by Keith David Hamm, which is only available in print, Adams describes the incident that took place that night:

Stacy Peralta breaks sad news Jay Adams died of heart attack

Jay Adams, a legendary skateboarder who was one of the three main characters portrayed in the skateboarding movie “Lords of Dogtown,” died late Thursday/early Friday in Mexico from a heart attack.

Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva were the two other main skateboarders portrayed in the movie. Peralta went on to become a filmmaker and wrote “Lords of Dogtown,” with Dogtown being a reference to the area in Venice where he and the others were from and did their skating/surfing. Peralta also directed and co-wrote the “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” a documentary about the group of skateboarding pioneers.

Peralta broke the news of Adams’ death via Instagram Friday morning:

“I just received the terribly sad news that Jay Adams passed away last night due to a massive heart attack, send your love.”

Adams, 53, had been in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, on a 3-month surfing vacation with his wife and surfing buddies Solo Scott and Allen Sarlo. Scott told that Adams stopped surfing Thursday because he was feeling sick and began having chest pains around midnight.

“His wife called us over in the middle of the night and we administered CPR until we could get an ambulance, and they kept working on him the whole way but he never revived,” Scott told

“I’ve had the good fortune of spending decades in this sport, and he was the purest form of skateboarder that I’ve ever seen,” Peralta told “He was literally skateboarding incarnate, and the genius of it was he wasn’t the best at anything, he just was it. I’ve said before that he was the original virus that got so many people hooked on skateboarding. Now the original spore is gone, but that virus lives on in so many others. Jay’s passing reminds all of us and reaffirms that we’re connected. We’re all rolling down the sidewalk together.”

Adams’ character in “Lords of Dogtown” was portrayed by actor Emile Hirsch.

TMZ says it was the first time Adams had been allowed to leave the country in 20 years; he has been in and out of jail on felony drug charges over the past few decades.

Sadly, Adams’ young death does not come as a surprise. The rebellious one of the three, Adams refused to be a conformist and had a difficult time adjusting when sponsors became a big part of the sport. He got heavily involved with gangs and was convicted of assault in a gay bashing incident in 1982 that resulted in the death of a man.

Adams became a heroin addict and was busted in 2005 for helping a drug deal involving crystal meth.

Adams did a really insightful interview with Juice Magazine back in 2000 that I encourage you to read if you want more info on him. In this answer, he talked about his heroin addiction and his tendency to get into fights when he was younger. The language he used contains some profanity.

“The best fight is like the fight against addiction of heroin. That’s a gnarly fight because I let the shit take over me for a while and it became the main thing I wanted to do. It’s a fight to not want to do it. That’s a real fight to try and stay sober. As far as beating people up and shit there’s nothing cool about that. I used to think it was cool to go to a party and have people fear me and just be a crazy guy and usually that was alcohol-induced or drugs and shit. It’s not cool to go and ruin peoples nights and try to make them bleed. Maybe I’m older now or something.…“I was stuck doing heroin and self destructing for a little while. Kind of like this last year and a half or so I didn’t travel. This is the first time in a long time I didn’t. I let drugs take over and control my life and bring me down to some lows I didn’t even know existed. Mainly it was heroin and I suggest don’t do the shit cause you just might like it. I didn’t ever stick a needle in my arm until I was thirty-six and I always was against the shit. Then after I did it, I let it become my number one thing to do. Where that’s what I thought about when I woke up and I really let it fuckin’ become a big thing in my life, which it shouldn’t be. So I’m just saying that drugs are fuckin’ gnarly and they’ll take you down. Drugs are just bad. They’ve got no part in surfing or skating. I kinda mean more like hard drugs. I’ve never heard of some chick sucking a dog’s dick for a bong hit and going ruining their life over smoking weed. Crack, heroine and shit are fuckin’ gnarly. And I’m not saying to kids go out and smoke weed cause for me it’s just all or nothing. I’m pretty stoked on the way kids are now days. When I was a kid if you didn’t smoke weed and do drugs you were lame and now a lot of kids don’t do drugs and it’s cool not to do drugs. I just hope they don’t have to go through all the shit that guys from my generation did with addiction and shit to drugs because it did absolutely no good for me as far as skating and surfing goes. Even alcohol, a lot of kids think it’s cool to drink beer and skate and I think it’s just really stupid. It does absolutely no good for you.”

Stacy Peralta breaks sad news Jay Adams died of heart attack

Gay bashing

Template:Discrimination sidebarGay bashingphysical actions that are direct or indirect in nature by a person or group against a person who is gaylesbianbisexualtransgenderedLGBT), or of questionable sexual orientation, or one who is perceived to be so, because of stereotypes.

A „bashing“ may be a specific incident, and one could also use the verb „to bash“ e.g. „I was gay bashed.“ A verbal gay bashing might use sexual slurs, expletives, intimidation, or threats of violence — or it might take place in a political forum and include one or more common anti-gay slogans.

Gay bullying involves intentional and unprovoked actions toward the victim, repeated negative actions by one or more people against another person, and an imbalance of physical or psychological power. [1] Similar terms such as „lesbian bullying“ or „queer bullying“ may also be formed.

In the early 21st century, gay bashing and bullying have expanded to include acts conducted over the Internet, or cyber-bullying, too, and these act can reach audiences electronically across a city or worldwide in an instant, giving them greater propensity for causing considerable harm.

Gay bashing

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Jay Adams‘ death is a pretty huge loss for the skateboarding community. He’s considered one of or perhaps even the greatest influence in the sport’s history. Kind of a mixed bag, though. Adams was a drug addict and was also charged with murder in a 1982 gay bashing incident.

Wow – sad news. I was never into skateboarding but Dogtown and Z-Boys is one of my favorite movies ever.

I skated and followed the sport pretty closely in the late 90s and early 2000s and I’ve never heard of the guy.

I’m an old skater and have known of jay for 20 yrs. He’s an original. But he was also a scumbag person in the 80s. He clearly had emotional issues and then became a violent junkie. And yes a man is dead because of him. And it’s not like Jay did anything for skateboarding after 1981. So while anyone dying is sad for friends and fans, it’s zero loss for the world.

I like those movies like Lords of Dogtown, but it’s kind of like, c’mon, these guys aren’t THAT legendary. They pump these guys up into demi-Gods. It’s always like that with skating, or snowboarding, or surfing, or really any „cool“ sport. There’s always these „legends“ popping up, without whom we would surely not even exist.

I still think „Summer of ’69“ is a great song even if Jay was a murderer.

hey moron you’re thinking of Bryan Adams the singer not Jay adams , who is no relation at all and he was a skateboader

“ c’mon, these guys aren’t THAT legendary.“-maybe not if you live in Nebraska or new jersey. I grew up south of LA, and this guy was legendary.

I’m from Nebraska as a kid– and though I never met the guy– I sure as hell knew of him. All those guys that brought sport to new horizons were my heroes. I didn’t care about character then– I didn’t even have any of my own. I just knew that skateboarding was the greatest thing in the world, and guys like Jim Muir and Adams and Alva were dirtbag, poor freaks like me, and I identified with them, and wanted to skate and live with the same intensity.I’ve made a lot of bad choices, and I’ve been put into some instances where I had no choices. We’re all just simple, ugly, human beings living life. The main difference between a regular guy, and a lowlife criminal in some scenarios, is that one got caught.

You don’t know skateboarding history. To start history in the 90’s would be like starting American history in the late 1800’s- post Civil War. You don’t know the history of you don’t know the names of Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Bob Biniak, Wentzle Ruml, Peggi Oki, Jim Muir, and I could go on. They revolutionized and made skateboarding a sport. A few of the names above, during the drought of the 70’s in CA discovered bowl skating. You’re missing on some of the most incredible stories, not all clean and sparkling, but it created something special. Tiny Hawk, Natas Kaupus, and the like, are second generation.

[quote]NJ Possible wrote:I’m an old skater and have known of jay for 20 yrs. He’s an original. But he was also a scumbag person in the 80s. He clearly had emotional issues and then became a violent junkie. And yes a man is dead because of him. And it’s not like Jay did anything for skateboarding after 1981. So while anyone dying is sad for friends and fans, it’s zero loss for the world.[/quoted

While I don’t know much about his presidency, I think he did an ok job following Washington. Also, surprised he’s still alive in the 80s. He seems like he must be over 200 years old at this point.

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Historical incidents

Template:Ambox/smallGay bashing has occurred worldwide for many decades and continues today. [2] HomophobiaUnited States was especially serious in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when many gay people were forced out of government by boards set up by presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. As historian David K. Johnson explains:[3]

Johnson concludes that Senator Joe McCarthy, notorious for his attacks on alleged Communists in government, was often pressured by his allies to denounce homosexuals in government, but he resisted and did not do so. [3] Using rumors collected by Nevada publisher wrote in 1952 that both McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, were homosexuals.[note 1] Washington PostBenjamin C. Bradlee said, „There was a lot of time spent investigating“ these allegations, „although no one came close to proving it.“ No reputable McCarthy biographer has accepted it as probable.[note 2]

Historical incidents

Statistics and examples

Every day, teens face harassment, threats, and violence, and they hear anti-gay slurs such as “homo”, “faggot” and “sissy” about 26 times a day or once every 14 minutes, according to Mental Health America. [4]

About two-thirds of gay and lesbian students in Britain’s schools have suffered from gay bullying, a survey by the Schools Health Education Unit found. Almost all that had been bullied had experience verbal attacks, 41 percent had been physically attacked, and 17 percent had received death threats. [5]

There is a high rate of suicide among gay men and lesbian women. According to a 1979 Jay and Young study, 40 percent of gay men and 39 percent of gay women had attempted or seriously thought about suicide. [6] In 1985, F. Paris estimated that suicides by gay youth may comprise up to 30 percent of all youth suicides in the US.[6] The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has found that gay, lesbian and bisexual youth attempt suicide at a rate three to six times that of similar-age heterosexual youth.[7]


Template:Ambox/smallThe state of Illinois passed a law (SB3266) in June 2010 that prohibits gay bullying and other forms of bullying in the schools in that state. [18]


In response to growing awareness of gay bashing and bullying, a number of support groups have been founded to help LGBT persons cope with their abuse. In Europe, BeLonG To LGBT organisation and Anti-Bullying Network are active in the Russia has the Russian LGBT Network.

Notable in the It Gets Better Project, for which celebrities and ordinary LGBT people make YouTube videos and share messages of hope for gay teens. The organization works with USA, The Trevor Project and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education NetworkSafe Schools Coalition provides resources for teachers and students where bullying is a problem. Egale Canada works with LGBT BrazilGay Group of Bahia (Grupo Gay da Bahia) provides support. LGBT South Africans can turn to the South African Human Rights Commission.

The Book of Marlow.

Would you like a book all about Marlow trying not to be gay?

I’ll send you an email when it does & let you know whenever I can share more of my adventure in stalking my husband to be.