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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

It’s been a rough decade for Gabby Gaborno, of the legendary SoCal bands Cadillac Tramps and Manic Hispanic.

He’s battled diabetes, liver problems and renal failure. He’s suffered a serious stroke and a heart attack. And shortly after his 50th birthday, late last year, he was told he has liver cancer.

To help the much-loved musician pay his medical bills, some friends have set up a GoFundMe campaign.

During a recent phone interview, Gaborno said doctors initially missed the cancer at the Orange County medical center where he was getting treatment. He’s now being treated at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

“My stomach was getting jacked up, and I was puking for days at a time,” Gaborno said. “I had gotten CTs here in Orange County, and they missed (the cancer). They missed it for a while, and I went to Cedars-Sinai to start treatment—and they said I had a baseball sized tumor. I don’t know how they missed it here, but they caught it up there.

“You know, it’s a good thing that they found it, and we’re addressing it—but radiation sucks fucking ass, man. They put these radiation beads up in your liver. But I’ve been through worse in my time. I have to go in for an MRI, and they’ll tell me how it’s going from that point.”

While the Cadillac Tramps don’t have the mainstream rock legacy the band deserves, the Tramps are one of the best-known punk bands to come out of the Orange County scene. Later on, Tramps guitarist Jonny Wickersham (Jonny Two Bags—playing tonight, Friday, Feb. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s) went on to join Social Distortion, while Gaborno went on to start Manic Hispanic with Steve Soto of the Adolescents. During a recent interview with the Independent in January, Wickerham talked about how the Cadillac Tramps were formed while he and Gaborno were trying to get clean and kick their drug habits.

Gaborno elaborated on that time.

“I met Jonny many years ago, and we were both from this place called the Hampton House, and we were kicking dope and trying to get clean at the time. There was this beat-up guitar—like someone punched a hole in it—and Jonny picked that guitar up, and I was like, ‘Man, this kid can really play!’ We sat down and started writing songs at that recovery center, and the winos would look at us and go, ‘Ha ha! There goes the Cadillac Tramps!’ Friday night, we’d take our fucking beat-up jeans and try to iron them, and the old winos would start laughing. That’s how we got our name.”

Gaborno and Wickersham would have the last laugh: They soon found themselves on tour with Pearl Jam and traveling throughout the country. Gaborno expressed pride in what the Cadillac Tramps have managed to accomplish.

“If these are the end of days for me—which I don’t believe they are—but if they are: Wow! What a good life.”

Manic Hispanic, a group of Latino punk-rock musicians from various well-known bands such as Agent Orange and the Adolescents, performs Latino-themed spoofs of punk-rock hits. For instance, Rancid’s “Ruby Soho” is “Rudy Cholo,” and The Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away” is “The INS Took My Novia Away.”

“Me and Steve Soto were starving musicians, and we were working in the back of a warehouse at a record company,” Gaborno said. “We would laugh, because we would get the mail from a lot of different characters who wanted to get signed. We noticed the kids were starting to wear Pendleton shirts at that time and starting to grab on to that old neighborhood look. For us, it was the funniest and greatest thing to see. That’s how Manic Hispanic formed. Steve came up with the idea—because it was punk-rock kids dressing like cholos.”

Has any punk band ever been upset by the parodies of their songs?

“Not one band! As a matter of a fact, Social Distortion was like, ‘Hey, man, how about doing a Social D cover?’ That’s when we came out with ‘Mommy’s Little Cholo.’ If Manic does a cover, the band (being covered) goes, ‘OK, we’re in the book!’

“I’m working on one now called ‘Beso,’ which is basically ‘KISS’ in Spanish. Imagine KISS makeup and a mariachi outfit: ‘I Want to Tuck and Roll All Night and Metal Flake Every Day.’ Oh, and ‘T.J. RockC ity.’”

While Gaborno is a punk-rock wild-man onstage, he’s also a born-again Christian. He said his faith is even stronger since his cancer diagnosis.

“It was kind of like a backroom deal,” he said. “I was at UCLA and had a lot of health issues. The doctor back then said, ‘Hey, man, why don’t you just go and enjoy the rest of your life?’ He said it very bluntly and plainly. So I’m driving back, and I’m kind of in shock. My sister said, ‘I’ve been seeing some of your old (music) friends at my church.’ She goes, ‘I just really want you to come check this place out.’ The band was really kicking, and really good, and it just kind of hit me. Christian Hosoi, the professional skateboarder, was there, and I’ve spent a few lonely nights with him.

“The funny thing is since I started going to that church, I’ve lived three years beyond what the doctor told me. With my faith, I used to be a closeted believer, but when the homeboys are around, you don’t talk about it much. I’m still that way, and I’m not a pusher, but man, I do love God. I love what he’s done to the inside of me.”

Gaborno reiterated his intention to keep battling—hard—for his life.

“It’s a rough diagnosis to hear: Stage 3, baseball-sized tumor,” he said. “It’s not the easiest thing to hear, but the last time I heard news like that, it contributed to me becoming the kind of father I am. I live my life now thinking, ‘If I open my eyes, let’s live life to the fullest: Laugh, love, taste food, and grab your kid and hug him like it’s the last time, because you never know.’ … I’ve been fighting like that my whole life. The way I fight this is I put my dukes up—and fuck cancer! I love God, and I depend on him, and he’s pulling me through, and I’m lucky to be at Cedars-Sinai now. I’m also juicing like a fool, and I’m doing OK, man. I’m hanging in there.”

I asked Gaborno if there’s one thing he wants to be remembered for, should it be his time to go—and hopefully, it’s not. He was modest in his response.

“I just want to be remembered as a good father and a good front man who made a lot of people smile.”

The Gabby Gaborno Fund has been set up to assist Gaborno with his medical bills. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/ysbdz8xz.

When the Independent interviewed local professional skateboarder Eddie “El Gato” Elguera about his inaugural El Gato Classic, he said one goal of the event was to “honor the past and champion the future.”

That’s exactly the vibe that the event at the Palm Springs Skatepark had last weekend, on Jan. 24 and 25.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, a large crowd gathered around the Nude Bowl replica for the Legends Jam, which lasted into the afternoon and led into the Vert Demo in the Palm Springs High School parking lot. Many legendary names were present, including Steve Caballero, Mike McGill, Micke Alba, Jim Gray, Scott Foss and Tony Magnusson.

Most of the Legends Jam was announced by Christian Hosoi, who had an injured knee and therefore only skated briefly. Highlights included a shirtless David Hackett landing his trademark “Hackett Slash” in the bowl; Steve Caballero’s numerous attempts (with plenty of spills) to do the “Elguerial,” Eddie Elguera’s signature move; Jim Gray’s comedic spectacles after each run (while wearing a T-shirt that said “I want to be a skater”); and Mike McGill’s many spills. McGill was apparently injured during a recent skateboarding event, yet still took part in the jam. Hats off to him.

Speaking of injuries: After the 50-year-old Caballero took a hard spill, I asked him if it hurt more or less than it did when he was a teenager. “It hurts just as bad, only longer,” he replied.

Later in the afternoon, a large crowd gathered to see the Vert Demo—the one event to feature Tony Hawk. He brought the ramp for the demo, which also featured Eddie Elguera, Kevin Staab, Steve Caballero, Neal Hendrix and younger-generation skaters Lincoln Ueda, 15-year-old Tom Schaar, and 11-year-old Evan “Big E” Doherty.

Before the demo started, Elguera thanked the audience for showing up and gave the microphone to his wife, Dawna, who said they plan to make the El Gato Classic an annual event—the “Coachella of Skateboarding.”

Elguera started by landing his namesake trick, the “Elguerial,” which earned him a loud ovation. Christian Hosoi showed up with his pads and helmet, announcing from the top of the ramp and taking one gentle, non-technical run. Tony Hawk’s childhood friend Kevin Staab was dressed in all purple gear, matching his purple hair and well-known punk-rock attitude; he put on an impressive display of classic vert tricks, such as his trademarked “blunt to fakie.”

Tony Hawk’s runs were just as mesmerizing and impressive as the vert runs he did during his younger days, which won him millions in prize money—and frustrated contemporaries who would complain that he always had new tricks at every contest. It’s been said that Hawk is not a stylish skater, but his execution of tricks like the 900, the trick that Hawk was the first to complete after many failed attempts, was flawless.

Even though Caballero fell several times in the bowl, he came to the vert ramp as if he wasn’t as tired. While his first couple of runs were brief and ended in spills, he managed to shake them off and put on an incredible performance in his third run, landing his trademarked “Caballerial.” He made several other impressive runs after that.

Hendrix and Ueda brought power and air in both of their runs, with Ueda going the highest of all. Hendrix’s executions were powerful enough that Hosoi announced, “Hendrix is shaking the ramp right now.”

Elguera at one point mentioned that he brought in Tom Schaar and Big-E to “give the legends a break.” Schaar was impressive to watch, as he brought newly formed tricks and amazing skill to the demo. Big-E was the youngest and the smallest of the skaters, but his skill level was amazing: He was able to pull off multiple 900s. In fact, he landed 10 900s before he stopped and took a place at the top of the vert ramp.

On Sunday morning, Elguera, Hosoi and Caballero led church services at Elguera’s church, The Rock, in Palm Desert. Later, as they arrived at the Palm Springs Skatepark, a crowd slowly started to build to witness the Legends Contest. Scott Foss was one of the early arrivals and watched a couple other legends join locals in the bowl as organizers set up. During a practice run, Foss took a nasty spill. Fortunately, he recovered enough that he was able to participate.

Shortly after Elguera, Hosoi, Caballero and others arrived, Elguera announced they were going to scratch the idea of the contest, because they only raised about $2,000 for the prize purse; instead, they were going to make it into another jam.

Elguera made several stunning runs, as did Caballero and Tony Magnusson. Hosoi also participated, albeit cautiously, due to his knee injury. David Hackett landed a perfect “Hackett Slash” that was even better than the one he made Saturday. Hosoi and Elguera did a triples run with Brad Bowman that went faster and faster inside the deep end of the bowl before Hosoi jumped out—with his board going up and hitting one of the photographers in the face.

On hand to watch the jam was the inventor of the “invert,” Bobby Valdez. Magnusson did an amazing invert as a tribute to Valdez during one of his runs.

One great thing about skateboarding is the laid-back nature of the sport. The legends were approachable and more than willing to sign autographs, pose for pictures and shake the hands of fans—even Tony Hawk, who stuck around after the vert demo.

It was a great first event. Here’s hoping the El Gato Classic continues to grow in the years ahead, and becomes another exciting annual event in Palm Springs.

Scroll down to see a gallery of photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

The fame that El Gato Classic founder Eddie Elguera’s skateboarding career gave him led, in part, to a drug and alcohol addiction in the early 1980s. (For more on the El Gato Classic, see the main story.)

He retired from the sport, and then became a born-again Christian before eventually returning during the boom of vert-skating in the 1980s. He opened the Rock Church, where the slogan is, “Loving people to life.”

Elguera was not shy about discussing his fall into drug use.

“Basically, when you’re at the top, and you have people throwing money at you, the opportunities are there for people who want to give you drugs and give you alcohol,” he said. “It’s so important to have a good structure around you that helps you to bounce wisdom off of. I was focused for the first two years, and I wouldn’t allow things to come in like that, because I knew what my goal and purpose was. But I didn’t have the big picture, so I dropped off the map.”

After retiring from skateboarding and taking a job at a fast-food restaurant, he had an encounter with a woman who turned him on to teachings from the Bible.

“This lady came in and just began to share the gospel about God and Jesus Christ,” he said. “That day, I gave my life to God, because she said, ‘You will never find fulfillment in skateboarding or drugs, and you’ll only find it in Jesus Christ. God will use you and find you’ll have purpose in life.’ I accepted the Lord; I started going to church. That was back in 1983, and in 1986, God began to speak to me about starting to skateboard again.”

“It was great to get back into it after a six-year hiatus. I was afraid because of not being at the top any more, but at the same time, I knew it was for a greater purpose. I got back into the competition scene, and pretty soon, a friend asked me to come and share my story at a youth group, and then a couple more, then I had a skateboard ministry where I went around to different churches and shared my story.”

Christian Hosoi, who will also be appearing at the El Gato Classic, recalled Elguera’s Bible-study meetings at skateboarding events. Hosoi also had drug problems and served a prison term after being arrested in 2000 at the Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii after attempting to transport more than a pound of crystal meth. He became a born-again Christian while in prison. Hosoi is currently the outreach pastor of the Sanctuary Church in Orange County.

“(Eddie) is a great example of what a man of God can be,” said Hosoi. “He’s a businessman and a professional skateboarder. We’re both still professional skateboarders. I’m a pastor at the Sanctuary Church, and he’s a pastor at The Rock. We still get gnarly; we still get rad; and we still hang out with all of our friends who do crazy things, but we just love people. I love his saying, ‘Loving people to life.’”

Published in Features

Palm Springs will become the center of the skateboarding world Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 25, when the area will be taken over by skateboarding’s most legendary riders for the El Gato Classic.

At the center of the event is Eddie “El Gato” Elguera, a valley resident who is a pastor at the Rock Church in Palm Desert. Elguera became a professional skateboarder in the late ’70s and went on to be a two-time world champion. He’s a major influence on many current pros, given he created several tricks that skateboarders continue to use today, such as the “Elguerial.”

“When I started back in the ’70s, when pool skating and vertical skating was coming out, there wasn’t the recognition that there is today. Now, it’s a lot more mainstream, and there are corporate sponsors like Red Bull,” said Elguera during a recent interview the Rock Church. (For more on Elguera’s religious awakening, see the sidebar.)

While Elguera is 52 now, the grandfather and father of three still has a skater look; when we spoke, he was wearing black skinny jeans, Nike skateboarding shoes, a black cardigan sweater and a red-and-black striped shirt.

Big-name skateboarders participating in the El Gato Classic include Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill and others. During a recent phone interview, Tony Hawk explained why Elguera is such an important figure in skateboarding.

“He absolutely inspired me, especially when I was coming into my own in skating,” Hawk said. “I felt like he was the most progressive skater and really a pioneer of trick-style skating. I didn’t really have the build or the natural style that a lot of skaters had, so I just loved doing tricks—and he was at the forefront of new tricks.”

Hosoi talked during a recent phone interview about the days of skateboarding when it was thought of as an outlaw sport.

“The whole ritual of skateboarding wasn’t just skateboarding; it was the discovery of finding an empty pool, planning it out, and inviting everybody to come,” he said. “… It was a pioneering thing, because no one had done it yet, and now we have grandmas taking their grandchildren to skate parks, where they’re learning to be the next Tony Hawk.”

Elguera remembered when prize money wouldn’t even cover airfare or hotel expenses for the professionals who would show up to events.

“Sometimes, first prize would be $500, or maybe $1,000,” Elguera said. “Then skateboard parks started to close because insurance companies didn’t want to insure skateparks. Skateboarding kind of took a dip after that, and that’s when the contests popped up where the prize was $100. When I was at the top, I never thought I’d still be skateboarding at 52, which I am today. Back then, you figured your career would go to 25.”

There was a goal in mind for any kid who skateboarded.

“You wanted to get sponsored,” Elguera said. “Not so much for the money and everything else, but just to get free product, because then you could get boards, get wheels, get clothes, and you didn’t have to buy all that stuff. You were like, ‘Wow, I hit the top!’ when you get your first package. You end up waiting for the UPS guy. The UPS guy for skateboarders is like Santa Claus.”

Elguera said many early innovators in his support have not received the recognition they deserve. On the El Gato Classic website, there is a graphic asking, “Have You Seen Them?” with a list of skateboarding innovators who have fallen off the radar; organizers hope these missing legends will see their names and attend.

“The El Gato Classic is where we’re taking the guys who were really pioneers and revolutionary in terms of what skateboarding could be,” he said. “A lot of the guys we’re gathering together didn’t really get the recognition, and that’s why I want to come out and just say, ‘Thank you.’ I have a saying: ‘If we honor the past and champion the future, skateboarding will never die.’ My goal with the El Gato Classic, with this first one, is to honor the past.”

There’s a reason the El Gato Classic is being held in Palm Springs, beyond Elguera’s connection to the Coachella Valley: From the late ’70s through the early ’90s, there was a spot called Nude Bowl outside of Desert Hot Springs. The former Desert Garden Ranch, which was once a nudist resort, had a kidney-shaped pool and some leftover structures that skateboarders loved. Videos from the Nude Bowl era now on YouTube show a pool with tons of graffiti; one video shows a fire engulfing the entire outer edge of the pool as people skateboard inside of it.

Today at the Palm Springs Skate Park, there is a replica of the kidney-shaped pool—sans graffiti, of course.

Hawk said he knows the Nude Bowl’s history.

“I never got to go there. It was a famous spot, and just about all the legends coming to this event have probably been there,” he said.

Hosoi said he went to the Nude Bowl all the time.

“We’d have punk-rock bands up there, and it was outlaw craziness up there on that mountain,” he said. “There were dirt roads forever to the top of this hill and just hundreds of people. It was out of control, and I’m surprised no one ever died up there, because that’s how crazy it got. It was all day, all night and ’til the next morning, to where we’d finally just say, ‘Gotta go!’ because there was no more in us.”

Proceeds from the El Gato Classic will go to the Tony Hawk Foundation, which works to build skate parks in low-income communities.

“The perception of skating in those areas when a park first gets built—there’s usually some pushback about having a skate park, and what it means, and what kind of crowd it will attract,” Hawk said. “When a city finally approves a project, and they see that there’s a community that rallies around it, they end up building more. We’re empowering communities that are already trying to help themselves.”

It’s well-known that in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Hawk and Hosoi were rivals in vertical-skating events. At the El Gato Classic, they just might have another epic skate battle.

“I feel like he and I have come a long way,” Hawk said about his former competitor. “We’re no longer rivals and are more like comrades. We’re happy we’re still doing this for a living and that people come out to see us. I think we’re just more appreciative of the fact we’re still here than trying to compete with each other. When we get together, even in a competition setting, it’s more of a celebration.”

Hosoi said he agrees, but joked that he still feels the rivalry at times.

“We like to have fun, but we’re competitive,” Hosoi said with a laugh. “It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s playing pool or throwing rocks at a can 100 feet away—we are going to compete!”

The El Gato Classic will take place Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 25; the times, prices and venues vary. For more information, visit www.elgatoclassic.com.

Published in Features