Last of the Mohicans: The Unsung New York Classic
When you think of classic New York City skate videos from the early 2000s, a few titles immediately spring to mind: Photosynthesis, of course, but Rich Mahogany, Vicious Cycle, Lurkers, E.S.T., and ... Last of the Mohicans? Yes, you read that right. Often lumped in with Westside Skateshop's Dango series, Joe Perrin's Last of the Mohicans is one of the best New York videos of the decade, thanks to the breadth and depth of the group's spot selection.
Our story starts in south Florida, circa 2004. Equipped with little more than a VX1000 and a travel budget, Perrin set out to highlight a certain brand of street skating he felt was falling by the wayside.
"I was living in Miami, and had just finished a video called The Good Life for Westside Skateshop," Perrin started. "Out of our crew, my buddy Josh Dowd, was always one of the raddest skaters, and he hadn't filmed much for The Good Life, and really hadn't been skating much at all. But he approached me one day while I was working at MIA Skateshop and said he really wanted to film a new part, and he pitched the idea to me to make Mohicans with him as a vehicle for him to put out a new part along with some of our closest friends."
Dowd recalls it somewhat differently.
"Mohicans started as a running joke," he confessed. "Late at night, people would ask where I've been and if I had been skating, which began a sarcastic onslaught of lip service to a fictitious retirement part I was filming with Joe P. The old adage Last of the Mohicans was something Danny Renaud used to say a lot in those days and it fit naturally into the lie--applied as a working title for a video none of us intended to make."
As per Perrin, much of the group was based in Miami, skating every day, but the transient Dowd and 80's Joe [Staley] were the real impetus in getting the crew up to New York City and getting Perrin in contact with Ross Norman.
"Shortly after Dango was finished, 80s Joe and I left Ross Norman in Los Angeles to put a few years of scorched earth policy into effect," Dowd told me, before diving into the background of the infamous Dobbin Block apartments.
"The New York thing began when I moved into my sister's apartment in Manhattan and 80s Joe came to stay soon after. Booted from my sisters, we moved into Dobbin [Block] (apt. 206) with Joe Bouillot. There are two main apartments in Dobbin that continue to rotate from our same crew to this day (217 and 203) and back then all the Ohio and Michigan guys lived in 217 -- James Frankhouse, Dave Caddo, Erf, Jerry Mraz, Kevin Brennan, and Ricker -- and the upstate guys lived in 203. At some point, 80s Joe moved into the living room in 217 and when the marshal came to put the lock on 206, I just moved down the hall to sleep on the second couch next to 80s Joe."
Perrin soon followed suit, spending his fair share of time travelling to New York City as Mohicans gradually turned from a pseudo-sarcastic inside joke to a full-blown production.
"There was a long stretch of years before, during and after the filming of Mohicans that we'd travel up to NY every year, at least twice a year, and we usually stayed for lengthy periods of time. We became super good friends with the Dobbin Block dudes, like Dave Caddo, James Frankhouse, Jerry Mraz, Jeff Ricker and a bunch of others ... We'd come and stay, wild out, and just mish out with everyone and go on these insane skate treks."
These treks often culminated in uncharted territory, as the group was gung-ho on "avoiding blown-out spots as much as possible," according to Perrin. It shows. Absent throughout Last of the Mohicans are the Pyramid Ledges, Blubba, the grates at Flushing*, and most anything else you'd consider a staple of New York skateboarding. Instead, Perrin and co., led by Caddo, Frankhouse, and Mraz, poked through the darkest corners of the five boroughs, looking to push their spot selection to the next level.
"Everywhere that we filmed we were always on the hunt for new spots, stuff that people hadn't skated a ton," Perrin said. "Caddo, Frankhouse, Mraz and that crew that we were usually skating with were always itching to go to Uptown, Harlem, The Bronx and all sorts of places that hadn't been fully explored. They knew obscure spots in all sorts of nooks and crannys in NY, but we'd also just push around for miles and miles almost every day, trying to find new stuff to skate." Frankhouse, in particular, really pushed the group's spot hunting to the limit in places like East New York, Brownsville, and the Bronx, "places where the cops are scared to even get out of their cars," Dowd said.
The process behind some of these missions was as simple as pointing to a subway stop near the end of a line, any line, and saying, "fuck it, let's mish up there and see what we can find." Easier said than done with a heavy camera bag, but well worth it in the end. The Mohicans found themselves in Queens for Al Davis's backside 180 switch front crooks to forward in Vernon-Jackson, on Roosevelt Island for James Frankhouse's monstrous switch crooked grind and switch back tail along the water, trekking up through Harlem for Dave Caddo and Josh Dowd to skate the crustiest bank-to-wall imaginable, heading to the Bronx for Davis's noseblunt line at Hayes Square and Jon Newport's inaugural kickflip at the now-defunct bump-to-bar on the east side, and digging through Brooklyn and the industrial wasteland of Maspeth to be some of the first to film clips at the Farragut House ledges and the red volcano, respectively. Shit, they didn't limit themselves to the outer boroughs. The group found some diamonds in the rough of lower Manhattan in the form of Clark Hassler's clips in SoHo and Caddo's ollie up, wallride, backside 360 off at the courthouse in the Financial District, and they even made it out to Staten Island for a few clips (though, admittedly, the ABC ledges were hot shit for the better part of the decade).
Though travelling all the way from Brooklyn to the Bronx for a clip or two hardly seems like a hassle nowadays, Dowd asserted that "no one else was really looking for spots and there weren't that many people trying to skate like that."
"Most people wanted to skate the perfect marble spots that everyone else skated or just sit at Tompkins all day," he continued. "Cooperatively, Dobbin probably mapped out most of the modern spots, but I feel like it was Frankhouse, Mraz, and Caddo that started the missions through the Bronx and Uptown. A little later, the New York skateboarding wave followed and moved to the outskirts finally."
In a similar vein, Perrin maintains that they were likely among the first people to skate some of those spots, though he can't comment with certainty.
"There's some spots, like the Frankhouse ollie over barrier to hill bomb, and his weird feeble fakie on like a standpipe type of thing, that we were probably the only people to ever skate," Perrin said, before adding that the hill bomb is "one of the scariest things" he's ever filmed.
"Video would never do it justice."
Last of the Mohicans dropped in the fall of 2008, to great acclaim. But afterwards, throughout New York City, something odd happened -- or, to be precise, didn't happen. Years passed, local and major videos came and went, but many of the spots the Mohicans found remained virtually untouched until semi-recently. It took the advent of Flipmode, plumbing the depths of Queens on a regular basis in the early 2010s, the hyper-productivity of Johnny Wilson and Rob Harris's crews combing through Manhattan and Brooklyn over the past few years, and the curiosity of locals and out-of-towners alike to push most of these neighborhoods and spots to the forefronts of our collective mind. Plenty of the spots the Mohicans highlighted are relative mainstays in New York City footage now, including Hyde Park, the red volcano in Maspeth, and the two-stair manual pad in Brooklyn; even more, like the bump-to-bar in the Bronx and the ledges at Vernon-Jackson, were so heavily sessioned that they've been skatestopped. A select few spots haven't even been touched since the Mohicans left their marks, due in part to both relative obscurity and flat-out crustiness, lending these spots, the tricks done there, and the video they were in a special status -- nothing to scoff at in a city of countless skateboarders. As such, a decade on, Last of the Mohicans left a mark on New York City skateboarding in a way few have. As for the Dobbin Block locals? Most are longtime New York residents at this point, active in the New York scene, and a select few still reside at the complex, keeping the legend alive. Mohicans may be in the past, but you definitely haven't seen the last of this crew.
Written by Andrew Murrell
*"Back when we were filming Last of the Mohicans, we actually would occasionally go to Flushing for a day here and there, but we always viewed those sessions as a chill day -- a day to drink beers, and film funny clips for web videos. Not sure if that was a subconscious or conscious decision to never take those sessions seriously, but nonetheless, it was definitely because of how blown out and frequently filmed at that spot was." - Joe Perrin