There are many fond memories of my time with Andy...but here's one that resinates in the brain.
Years ago, while on a photo shoot in Montauk NY, I had let Andy know the location of the estate where we were shooting at for Glamour Magazine in case he wanted to come by and say hi. Mid shoot, Andy rolls up in his pick up truck, surfboard in the back, shirtless, in board shorts waving and shouting with a huge beaming smile across his face "hi Ali-girl!!"
Of course his magnetic energy was flowing and naturally the shoot came to a stand still, the client gasped. I explained to the crew with burning cheeks, "That sweet, handsome man over there is my friend, the one, the only, Mr. Andy Kessler, King of NY, please do not be alarmed."
After the shoot, the photographer invited him along for the crew dinner. Andy gleefully accepted and said he would be the honored tour guide for the evening and proceeded to charm the pants off the models. It was epic, as well he got a free meal out of it!
After dinner Andy and I drove to a cliff to check out the ocean and he said to me he had "found a slice of heaven, right here in Montauk," it's where he felt at peace.
Andy is one of the first people I met when I moved to NYC. He gave me some shit and I respectfully gave it right back to him. Like most true New Yorkers Andy had a world class bull shit filter. Since Andy’s passing it has been amazing seeing all of his friends come together to honor and remember him. I really wish Andy was here to see the beauty of this. That may seem like something to say when you can’t think of anything original to say. But in this case I think its the best way to describe the beauty of how Andy is living on.
In 1997 Andy had just finished the 108th St. Skate park project. We were finishing up the steel on the vert ramp and were ready to skate. Andy and I got to talking when we took a break. We talked often about all sorts of topics from art to music to how we were bad kids. I had known Andy for about 8 years by this time. I was upset mostly about my girlfriend wanting me to move out and where would I go? We sat and talked about relationships that afternoon in Riverside Park. We talked about the good, the bad and the ugly of relationships and how you never know what is going to happen, we talked about respect and honor in friendships. One week later I was homeless. I went to 108 to skate with a huge chip on my shoulder. Andy noticed, he wanted to know what the f**k was wrong with me and I had told him I had no place to go. Andy told me he was going to Spain (or was it Australia?) and he needed someone to watch his apartment while he was gone and feed the cat. He had all sorts of old friends he could tap into for this. He offered it to me because he knew I needed a place to stay and get my crap together. He needed a house sitter. It was the best thing a friend ever did for me. In that month I reflected, saved money, helped out at 108 in his absence. When he got home he shook my hand, gave me a hug and asked if everything worked out. It did indeed. Andy saved my life with his generosity. I will never forget what he did for me. He will be my Brother forever! That is one of my many Andy stories.
Kessler was the guy who made Riverside skatepark happen (108th and Riverside) in the 90's in NYC there we no legit skateparks and he paved the way for so much of what we have to skate today. From the legal use of the Brooklyn Banks to the park that they are going to build in Flushing- none of this would have probably been possible if Andy never busted his ass to get Riverside done. He toppled the first domino and it's up to us to keep them falling. He's an inspiration to us all.
Andy Kessler was the undisputed Godfather of NYC skateboarding end of story. Every skater in the history of NYC skating is indebted to him whether they know it or not. I am proud to have been a friend of his for 30+ years.
Andy Kessler was truly the last of a dying breed. Rest In Power my friend!
Kessler always seemed like an old workhorse. One of those New York characters who you see roaming the streets forever. He was salty and hard-boiled like a true New Yorker should be but he was also the first guy to help someone out. I don’t mean that as a cliche like when someone dies they were all of a sudden a saint- no- Kess really helped people out. He was a sponsor to people trying to kick drugs or drinking, (he was clean and sober for years and years and then one day he quit drinking coffee and smoking cigs to boot!), he built skateparks, went to community meetings and generally tried to make New York a better place to live.
He was not all sugar and spice though. While we were making the film “Deathbowl to Downtown” he constantly gave us shit and was the biggest pain in the ass imaginable. He demanded to read all the narration that concerned him or his scene and he would rip it to shreds if it didn’t meet his “bullshit test”. We had to fly him out to our studio in LA to watch the cut before we could screen it publicly. Basically he felt responsible for any story about the evolution of skating in New York because if we got the origins wrong (which he was a key part of) then we would get the whole story wrong. It was a pain in the ass at the time but I feel good knowing the final cut of the film was up to his high standards- the old fucker even jerked a couple tears at the screening.
Of course I will miss him but he left behind a lot to remember him by and now I even have a chance to walk in "his shoes"!
It’s crazy that I still get so emotional when I think about Andy. I'm scrambling to take hold of the strength of this situation instead of being frightened of this world without such a major support in my life. I worry about the majority of my friends but never him. I looked up to him like a father/mentor/dirty old man/peer and every other word to describe a family member in this town. To the good times, past and future! I am a better person from having Andy in my life and hope he is watching over me in death as he was in life.
I met Andy when I was about 14 on Long Island where I grew up, he was out there to build a 6 foot mini ramp at a recreational center in my town, when me and my friends got wind that there was a ramp being built we were there every day to help. My first impression of Andy was he was tough, he just told me to grab a hammer and start taking the nails out of this plywood so we can get this thing built. It took about a week or so to put the ramp together and in that time we all got to be friendly. After that I saw Andy here and there when I would skate in NYC, but I didn't really get to know him until I moved to Manhattan when I was 18. I was skating around downtown one day when I ran into Andy, he said to me "Long Island"? I said "yeah", he said "What are you doing in my city"? I didn't know what to say so I said nothing. From that day I developed a friendship with Andy that I had a huge respect for. We ended up skating together a bunch, even traveling together on a few occasions. That's my most memorable story: "What are you doing in my city"?
My brother Tino and I had just moved to NY from Vermont. More specifically we moved from our real home, Cutting Edge skate park in Bennington VT. Since times were not so shredding at home we spent every second at the skate park. The owner Nick Pedimontie and his wife Jannie were like parents to us.
Living in NY took a lot of getting used to. There were tons of spots to skate all over the city. NY was like a gigantic skate park and we had the most exciting time of our lives finding our way around NY via skate spots. But it still didn't feel like home. When we heard word that a skate park was being built on 108th and Riverside we were up there in minutes. It took a while to find, ‘cus riverside park is friggin’ huge and no one bothered to put up any signs about the new skate park. Finally we see a familiar sight of a vert ramp and street course covered in brand new, light blue, sheet metal. "FUUUck YEEAhhh" except there is a giant fence up around the whole park. Not a problem for a couple of bros who are starving for some transition. Half way over the fence to Shangri La we hear "Oh hell NO ! Get the Fuck down! Now!" Out walks this little greaser dude from some kinda weird lookin’ office in the park. The office looked like a metal box or train car and the little greaser dude looked like the "Fonz" from Happy Days. We are stoked he is not a cop but he has this weird way of squinting at you while he yells at you that makes you feel much shorter than he is. After making us feel like dicks for the attempted sesh he says park opens next week and not to come back until then.
So of course we show up the next day. And of course we are met with some very colorful commentary from the greaser. He looks at us and says, "Forget it! What did I tell you guys yesterday? What the fuck is wrong with you two? Mommy and daddy can't buy their way in to this place. You have to wait just like everybody else." Then to make it worse the greaser pulls out a board and starts skating the park all by his lonesome. I remember thinking, "Fuck, this dude skates!" I thought he was a construction workin’ watchdog. The next day we show up and there is a small crew of people skating the vert ramp. This looks promising until we see the greaser with his helmet on squinting at us on from the deck of the ramp. A slur of obscenities starts flying as he comes over to the gate. But this time he is opening the gate, prolly to beat us up I think. We stand there as the gate opens and he waves us in but still looks like he wants to kill us. We walk in and now he looks like he's more mad at himself for letting us in.
We get to the deck of the vert ramp and see a familiar face. Jim Murphy who used to skate with us at the Cutting Edge was smiling and says, "I see you guys met Andy." Murph is undoubtedly the reason we are getting in on this sesh. We skate all day and for the first time in a long time we feel like we're at home. After the sesh everyone is hangin’ on the flat bottom takin’ off their gear and Andy tells the rest of the crew what a pain in the ass me and Tino are. But a lot of them just look at us as to say "good work fellas." So we decide to show up just about everyday for the next couple months.
Over the next couple months we get to know Andy we see it's not just us. He likes to mess with people a little bit. Also he doesn't give anything way. Everything thing is earned with Andy especially friendship. We even got to take Andy to the Cutting Edge with us before it closed. Needless to say he loved the park and our friend Nick. And I am so glad to that my brother and I had met Andy Kessler this way.