Skate, drugs, and rock n roll!" --Kat Von D, LA Ink
Skateboarding used to be my life. When I was fourteen years old, I was discovered by Bucky Lasek and Tony Hawk and was on my way to turning pro. I toured the country, signed autographs, and had my photo in skate magazines. Then I got hooked on heroin and threw it all away.
Soon I was living in an abandoned garage and begging for spare change. Ripping off my family and friends meant nothing to me. I was a dreamseller, pushing the fantasy that I was a recovering addict. Anything to get my precious next fix.
This is my story of struggling to survive on the streets and battling with addiction in rehab. It's a story of trust I betrayed and trust I had to earn back. It's also the story of my friendship with MTV and Jackass star Bam Margera. I would have died a junkie's death if not for him. Bam convinced me to write about how my addiction destroyed my career--and nearly my life.
"Entertaining, shocking, crazy, unimaginable." --Bam Margera.
As a teen, Novak joined the premiere skateboarding team and toured the world. Unfortunately, he also indulged in "recreational" drug use that led to debilitating heroin addiction and the abandonment of his career. Eventually repudiating the abject life of a junkie, he entered rehab and subsequently recovered with the help of fellow star skateboarder Bam Margera. This would be most powerful for an audience weaned on the X-Games; also a forthcoming film of the same name.--LM Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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September 28, 2009
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Excerpt from Dreamseller by Brandon Novak
Foreword by Tony Hawk
The lure of celebrity is strong at a young age. This is especially true in the world of skateboarding. Kids who show a hint of talent usually do so just as they are becoming teenagers, and there are plenty of companies that will promise fame and fortune to these na�ve souls. It is hard to keep your head clear when you are suddenly thrust into the spotlight for your skills and puberty is still something you've only heard about in health class. It is all too easy to get caught up in the hype, join the party scene, get the girls (who never gave you attention until you got your picture in the skate magazine), and let your skating take a backseat to your celebrity status. You are soon forgotten because your skating is no longer on point, but in your (drug- fogged) mind you are still the shit. Only when the money stops coming in and the attention dries up does reality come crashing down: you love drugs more than you love skating (or even yourself). I have seen it too many times, but one of the biggest offenders in this clich� scenario is Brandon Novak.
Brandon was a prodigal skater in the '90s. He was well on his way to a successful pro career until he got caught up in the party scene. For a while, the only amateur name you heard about was Brandon. "This kid from Baltimore is amazing! . . . the next Bucky Lasek!"
And suddenly he was gone. There were plenty of rumors about what became of this young hopeful. He stopped skating; he was doing heroin; he died. I didn't know what to believe, but I knew whatever he was doing . . . it wasn't good. I knew Bam was trying to help, but it seemed like he was unknowingly becoming Brandon's source of income--just so he could get a fix. Skating was just a memory for him; he now lived for the needle.
I only got to see Brandon skate a couple of times, but there was no denying his natural talent. He could have learned anything he wanted and made a decent living in the process. Now he is a likely candidate for a Behind the Music (Behind the Board?) episode, but his story is one of the few that has a silver lining. Through these experiences and his subsequent sobriety, he now serves as a cautionary tale. Sure, we can laugh at his stories and make fun of his poor choices, but we have to realize that this stuff can happen all too easily when you have these opportunities at such a young age.
So enjoy these tidbits, but take warning. Don't forget what you love doing if success falls on you early in life. Keep it all in perspective by keeping a clear head along the way. Don't become a clich�. Remember that Brandon is one of the few who made it out by cleaning up. The only other endings to this story are jail or death, and there is no skating in either of those scenarios.
Introduction by Bam Margera
I met Brandon Novak at a skatepark when I was a kid. Basically, he was my friend as well as competitor whenever I saw him at the skatepark, which was a positive thing because he forced me to be my best and I forced him to be his best. Soon Brandon earned a full-on sponsorship by Powell Peralta. As time went on, I saw less and less of him.
One day I ran into Bucky Lasek, our mutual friend. I asked, "What happened to Novak? Do you still skate with him?"
Bucky looked at me, completely bummed out. "I think he's on heroin." I laughed at this, but Bucky said, "No, seriously, I've heard some things and he's definitely on drugs. I'm pretty sure it's heroin. He quit the team and basically threw away his whole life. It's a shame. He really had something."
Bucky was right. Brandon should have been a famous skateboarder. That's what was supposed to happen, that's what was meant to happen. It just didn't seem to make any sense.
One time, I was going through some old videotapes and found some footage of Novak. He was about ten years old, dressed in baggy clothes that were about ten sizes too big for him, with gold jewelry just like a little gangster rapper. I had a laugh at this, and then I got bummed when I started to remember all the talent in this kid that had gone to waste. I was on the phone with his mom in five minutes, and she told me he had just gotten out of rehab and could use my advice. I didn't know what I could tell him that could help, but I left my number for him.
That night in bed I kept thinking about Mrs. Novak asking me to give him advice. Could I really help him? Could I actually make a difference? It felt strange that we both had started out at the same level yet ended up so differently.
By the time I got hold of Brandon the next day, I had made my decision that he should come to live with me while he cleaned up his act. At least I could look after him and give him a hand up and help get him back on the right track.
We filmed CKY 3, and a movie called Haggard. In Haggard, I gave Brandon a part where he played a drug dealer. I also made a behind-the-scenes documentary for Haggard. Half of it became about Brandon's drug addiction. Before I knew it, I was getting fan mail about the movie, and everyone asked, "Whatever happened to Brandon Novak?" I'll tell you what happened. He went right back on the heroin as soon as he had the chance.
While he lived at my house he was always acting shady. And soon, all the skateboarding gear that my sponsors were sending to my house was disappearing: skateboards, wheels, trucks, decks, sunglasses, clothes. Brandon swore he wasn't stealing them, but who else would have? My parents?! Soon enough, everyone at Philly's FDR skatepark was telling me that Brandon was selling all my gear for cash.
Soon he started borrowing money from my friends and never paid them back. Then jewelry started disappearing from my mother's room. Then my brother Jess's CDs started to disappear. And everything that had once been in the medicine cabinet was gone except for a box of Band-Aids. Soon, my mom had to hide her purse, and the whole family had to find hiding places for anything that was valuable.
Meanwhile, Brandon was taking the bus back to Baltimore on a regular basis, for the most unbelievable reasons in the world. I can still remember a few:
He had to help his mother move a heavy piece of furniture.
His mom was sick so he had to go look after her dog.
He had to go back to get his favorite pair of jeans. Your favorite pair of jeans?! Are you fucking kidding me?!
Whenever he returned from Baltimore, he had a glazed look in his eye that told us the real reason he went home--obviously, to buy more heroin.
At that point my parents and I realized that you can't get a junkie off of heroin unless he is ready to make the decision to quit. And Brandon clearly hadn't made that decision. We soon realized that it would be the best for all of us if he left our house before something happened that ruined our relationship for good.
Three years later, I got a call from Brandon. He told me he had been clean for a few months, and for some reason I believed him. He came to my house and I let him live with me for a while. He really did seem clean, and I put him on Viva La Bam and on my weekly radio show.
Having Novak around was entertaining because he always had crazy insane stories about being strung out. These stories would usually leave his listeners with their mouths open and in shock, saying, "Are you serious?!" Eventually, they would approach Novak and ask him to retell his tales for their friends. I never got tired of hearing the hundreds of insane stories. I still don't think I've heard them all. Apparently, when you're a junkie, you're prone to a lifestyle that is unimaginable to most. Well, at least when you're as bad off as Novak let his life get.
After living with me for a few months, Brandon started to stagnate. He was doing nothing to improve his well-being, and still didn't have a job. He was doing a lot of drinking.
Finally, one day when he was telling his crazy heroin stories at my house, my mother Ape said, "You know, Brandon, you should write a book!" It hit me; I had an idea that would keep Brandon motivated and bring purpose to his life for the first time since he quit skateboarding. I told him, "That's it, Brandon! That's what you're meant to do!"
"What do you mean by that?" he asked.
"From now on, you're going to stay productive! While you stay here, you don't have to pay rent, you don't have to get a job, but you're going to write down all your experiences on paper and it's going to be a book!"
Brandon's face lit up. At that point, I think he realized this is what he was meant to do, the reason why he had all his experiences as a junkie. To write a book, and to inspire other people not to ruin their lives and careers like he had once ruined his.