Sunday, March 7, 2010

BMX Legends Interview with McGoo

Interview with McGoo

Interview by  Jeffery Slavik
Posted:  November 5, 2006
Special thanks to:  Large Ray
Photo provided by  www.23mag.com



McGoo, tell us a little about yourself.  Who are you, where are you from, and how did you get
involved with bmx/freestyle?

My name is Harold McGruther, but everyone has called me McGoo since I was 12 years old. I raced BMX in my
home state of Florida from February 1974 until October 1982. I was a mediocre midpack goon for most of my
years on the track, but I had a gift of gab that sponsors found attractive. In 1979 I landed my first factory
sponsorship from a legitimate California-based BMX company, Torker. The Johnson family owned Torker in the
‘70’s and early ‘80’s, and Mrs. Doris Johnson was the person who gave me a job offer to work at Max (a
subsidiary of Torker BMX) in 1982. At the time I was living with my best friends Greg and Bryan Esser in
Pompano Beach, Florida, and working as the editor of Bicycles Today, the NBL’s official BMX newsletter. In
December of 1982 I moved to California to work for Torker and Max and I never looked back. I have been
working in the bike industry ever since.

n the mid 80’s, you were the manager and announcer for CW.  How did you end up in that position? Ok, I’ve got to ask, we’re
all dying to know, what was it like being on the road with Dizz and Ceppie?  Any good tour stories to share?

When Max and Torker filed for bankruptcy in November of 1984, I took a position as the assistant editor of BMX Plus! Magazine under John
Ker. My co-worker at Torker was a man named Rich Osborn (no relation to Bob Osborn.) Rich took a job at CW. In the spring of 1985 CW
needed a freestyle program so I quit my job at BMX Plus! To get things going at CW. Mike Buff and Dizz Hicks were already on the CW
payroll when I joined the company in 1985. I added Ceppie Maes and Gary Pollack to the program the summer of 1985 and the four of us
(Gary, Ceppie, Dizz and I) toured the country for the next two years.


After CW, you went on to become involved with GT.  How did that come about, and what are some of your thoughts on that,
being involved with some of the biggest names in the sport at the time?  Any good stories?

I was lured away from CW in the fall of 1986 by a guy named Shawn Buckley at GT. Shawn was a workaholic kook that very few people liked,
but working for him gave me a chance to diversify my skillset in the bike industry. Running the GT and Dyno freestyle teams from 1986 to
1989 was a part of my responsibilities at GT, but I also managed the pro BMX program, designed products and wrote copy for catalogs and
advertising. My 3.5 years at GT were good ones, and I worked with a ton of great people, most notably Dave Voelker, Josh White, Eddie
Fiola and Gary Ellis.


Who were some of the key riders you helped recruit during the 80’s?

Gary Pollack, Ceppie Maes, Dizz Hicks, Josh White, Dave Voelker and Brett Hernandez stand out among the dozens of racers and
freestylers I worked with during my career as a team manager at CW and GT. When I quit GT in 1989 to be the marketing and product
manager for the BMX division at Mongoose, I hired Dennis McCoy and Fuzzy Hall. Believe it or not, working at Mongoose was probably the
most rewarding time in my early career. My boss at Mongoose was an amazing teacher, and the many trips I took to Taiwan helped build the
foundation for the career that I enjoy in the bike business today. If I hadn’t spent two years at Mongoose, I wouldn’t have come in contact
with the people who helped me start and manage SNAFU BMX, Universal Motocross or my latest venture, Biltwell Inc. (a small chopper parts
and accessories company.)


What were your thoughts on the AFA?  What were some of the memorable contests you’ve been to?

Bob Morales and his AFA affiliates made great strides in legitimizing freestyle as a competitive sport, but I think the organization failed to
align itself with the growing street riding and freestyle movement in that day. Ron Wilkerson’s Meet the Street and Vert contests did a much
better job of evolving with the riders’ interests and attitudes than the AFA, which probably had a lot to do with the organization’s demise.


You were living the dream life of many of us here during the 80’s.  If possible, sum it all up for us.  Was it as good as we all
imagined?  It sure looked like you guys had a lot of fun.

Several years ago Large Ray, Gary Pollack and their crew from Pennsylvania threw an old-school freestyle reunion at a NORA Cup event in
Las Vegas. Dozens of ‘80s freestyle riders, trick show team members and early street riders attended the event. Twenty years from now I
doubt very much that anyone on Road Fools 1 will work as hard as Ray did to assemble all of the riders from that era. There’s a general
cynicism and aloofness in rider attitudes today that just wasn’t present among riders in the 1980’s. I feel very fortunate to have been
involved with racing in the ‘70’s, freestyle in the ‘80s and the Road Fools era of the ‘90’s.  Not very many other people in the bike industry
can say they played a part in all three eras—Chris Moeller can, and Rick Moliterno, but who else? Frankly speaking, I think my best days in
BMX are yet to come…


The popularity of the sport seemed to come to an abrupt end near the end of the 80’s.  In 1988, the contests were big, there
were big rider turnouts, and it seemed like there was a lot of fan support.  By 1989 however, it seemed like it all changed.  
From your perspective, what the heck happened?

To a large extent in the late ‘80s, the bike industry and the BMX media worked solely in a vacuum to keep BMX alive in the hearts and minds
of consumers and participants. Except for the movie Rad (which was a complete failure at the box office,) the sports of BMX and freestyle
received almost zero exposure in the mainstream media. By 1985, the entire bike industry had been bitten by the mountain bike bug. With
finite marketing dollars at their disposal, bike companies had to choose where to spend their money. BMX bikes of the day retailed for
around $300, while their big brothers the MTB retailed for double and triple that amount. When the stakes are that high, the choice to divert
marketing and advertising funds from BMX to MTB was inevitable. When this happened, the BMX magazines were the first victims. BMX
Action folded, Freestylin’ turned into “GO” and BMX Plus! launched Mountain Bike Action.  Another market force working against BMX in the
late ‘80s was the advent of video games. Mom and Dad could only afford one expensive toy for Junior, and many kids opted for Atari instead
of a JMC Darrell Young frame.


How did the decline in the popularity of freestyle affect you personally?  What did you end up doing?

I think I dodged several bullets in my day by being aware of shifts in the consumer mindset and by moving accordingly. When racing
floundered in the ‘80’s, I didn’t stand behind an empty starting gate with a broom, I designed freestyle bikes and managed freestyle
programs. When organized competitive freestyle fell out of favor among street riders, I didn’t keep pushing my riders to wear leathers and
jerseys; I built a ramp called Stonehenge and hosted street jams in Huntington Beach. Many of my peers weren’t so perceptive or so lucky.


What are your thoughts on the old school vs. new school scenes, bikes, riders, attitudes, etc?

The attitude, mindset and fashion standards of yesterday’s riders were set by the BMX media. The BMX media in the 1970’s and 1980’s was
run by a bunch of 35- to 55-year-old men. By the mid-90’s, BMXers had begun to take their tips on living from a more global entertainment
force: MTV. Today, thanks to the Internet, the power to move mountains has been placed in the hands of the people. Online communities
like Myspace, VitalBMX, YouTube, Flickr and dozens of other web resources are rendering print BMX media almost irrelevant. I don’t have
any thoughts on old school vs. new school. I think both scenes are entirely different, even as the bikes from both eras become more and
more the same… example: 36-spoke wheels, thin-walled tubing, lightweight stems and forks, slim race-inspired seats… today’s hottest
freestyle bikes look very similar to the Ashtabula Black Diamond I raced on in 1975!


What are you up to these days?

Since 1991 I have managed an advertising and marketing agency called Revolution that caters to the action sports industry. Our clients
include GT and Mongoose MTB, MirraCo, SNAFU, Universal Motocross and Biltwell motorcycle parts. I work with cool people, and I get to
see all the latest stuff the bike industry has to offer six months before everyone else. Frankly, I think these are the best days of my life in
BMX.


Do you still keep in touch with any of the guys from the 80’s?

I talk to Ceppie Maes 2 or 3 times per year, and Gary Pollack and Large Ray send me emails from time to time.


Will you try to come out to our annual vintagebmx BBQ here in NJ next year? Ray, Pollak, Freeman, and Drob were there! (lol)

Give me a date and I’ll do my damnedest to get there.


Ok, only one word answers required for this section.  All 80’s related.

Favorite all time rider: Brian Lopes (vert, dirt, street, MTB, BMX, DH, XC… you name it, this guy does it.)

Favorite bike: CW Stunt Vessel (never went into production; Ceppie and I designed it in 1985. Way ahead of its time. Except for the
American BB, a modern kid would have a difficult time seeing the difference between a 1985 Stunt Vessel and a 2005 Mike Aitken signature
frame)

Most underrated rider: Dizz Hicks (He got lost in a sea of weed and leather spikes and big hair, but the guy was doing upside down rolling
flatland tricks in 1985 and blasting 8-foot airs on 7-foot quarter pipes at 85 shows per year. Dizz was a smoker and a joker and a midnight
toker, but he was also one of the hardest working and most dedicated riders I ever met.)

Craziest rider: Chris Moeller (He turned dirt jumping and wall riding into a cottage industry while everyone around him was racing double-A
and entering AFA flatland contests. If that didn’t take balls, I don’t know what does.)

Large Ray: A force of nature

Favorite trick: Tailwhip (popularized in BMX Action, it should be noted, by Brian Blyther, a skatepark and vert rider)

Thank you McGoo for your time and your involvement with the BMX industry!

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