Blue Skate

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Photo: Matthew Windsor

If you’ve ever eaten at the locally famous Blue Plate Diner, you may have noticed that more than one employee is zipping around the restaurant in shoes with blown-out toes. And if you’ve any reckoning of the talent that graces our streets and skateparks on four wheels and a narrow mass of plywood, then you know that some of Salt Lake’s finest shred-sledders are also employees of one of Salt Lake’s finest diners—and you probably could have skipped the first few lines of introductory information. The real news is that Blue Plate Diner will be the masthead under which this city’s next big skate video will sail. That’s right—a marriage of restaurant and wood pushing. Sound familiar? Certainly not! That’s because this will be the first time, by my estimation, that a restaurant and a posse of skateboarders will have worked together to create something as unique as this in Salt Lake City.

I’m no stranger to homie jobs—those poor, naïve employers who, by fate, pull one scraggly lookin’ dude (or girl) from a barrel hoping to mold him (or her) into a standup employee, not knowing that they just pulled nine more monkeys from that same barrel and that the company will be saddled with goofs for the next six months. But things are different over at Utah’s best flap-jack saloon (13 years owning the title of City Weekly’s Best Breakfast, and featured in Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives in 2008). What makes Blue Plate an exception is that most of their employees (the type I ruthlessly brutalized above) have been there for multiple years. For example, local ripper Shawn “Dirty” Hadley has worked there for just over six years. Perhaps this longevity owes to the sympathetic work environment that is Blue Plate Diner. Joe Mandl, general manager of the restaurant and overseer of the video itself, has been involved in the skateboarding community for quite some time, citing old homies like the 48 Crew. When I asked him if he allots any special holidays for skate trips, he informed me it needn’t be skate related at all, saying, “Anytime someone wants to take a vacation, they can.”

Alongside Dirty, the video features a star-studded cast of locals like Levi Faust, Nick and Sam Hubble, Dylan McGinnis and Holland Redd, all of whom will have full parts. The staff has officially been filming the video for a year. When I asked Mandl about the filming process, he says, “… Getting these guys to get footage is like pulling teeth.” That’s not to say that they haven’t stayed busy over this dry yet blustery winter. I met Mandl and most of the crew in a full-story skate warehouse Downtown where they have been able to steadily film for the Blue Plate skate video as well as other projects that the individuals are working on. The winter hideout is a masterpiece wrought by local Masonite aficionado Steve England, who is the would-be heir to the old indoor park Real Ride—had it not been closed down some years back.

Despite the camaraderie between management and staff, most of those who comprise what Mandl calls the “unofficial” Blue Plate skate team have remained in relatively bottom-rung positions at the restaurant. With the exception of Redd, all of them are bussers. When I asked Faust about this detail, he unflinchingly says, “Holland bitched out and became a server because he couldn’t handle bussing.” With a handful of friends to potentially cover shifts, these guys seem to bask in the life of Riley. Only working maybe a few days a week, they are able to stay at the top of their game while still earning some extra scratch for rent and brew.

Not only is the restaurant populated with skateboarders, but some of Salt Lake’s biggest bands also have members who work at the diner. Jason Denney, drummer for the raucous metal two-piece Cornered by Zombies, Elliot Secrist from God’s Revolver and Sayde Price all call Blue Plate home. As if this project can’t get any more homegrown, the soundtrack for the video will be orchestrated entirely by the artists aforementioned.

Despite my repeated efforts in goading them for a title, Mandl and filmer/editor E.J. haven’t landed on anything for certain. Mandl says, “Me and E.J have been kicking around names, but they’re pretty stupid: Blue Skate; Wakey Wakey, Eggs and Bakey.” Both are winners, in my opinion.
Along with the world-class skateboarding, the video will feature footage from a Wendover trip the group took together, which I’m told will be nothing short of world-class debauchery.

Blue Plate Diner is the perfect model for how a local establishment should function. By not only acknowledging skateboarding as a legitimate hobby, but also collaborating full-heartedly in an extra-occupational endeavor with their staff, the folks over at the diner have created an amiable working and eating environment that is worth every breakfast accolade under the sun.

The film’s release date is TBA, as it’s still in the filming and editing process, but expect it out at the end of April or early May if all goes as planned, with a premiere worthy of its local epicness.

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