in conversation with Ragdoll
Las Vegas born Anthony Scalamere — better known by his professional moniker, Ragdoll — came up in the ranks of professional skateboarding in the early 2000’s and earned himself a reputation as a truly innovative, unpredictable and fearless stuntman. If you’ve ever seen any of his video parts you know about him throwing himself off huge shit with utter disregard for his own body, as well as pulling from a unique and eclectic bag of tricks. Ragdoll is a complete authentic original, a legit outsider artist who does everything in his own way / style with a zen-like confidence. He’s also just a straight up survivor of life, one of the most positive people I know and he seems to have an appreciation for everything skateboarding has given him, good and bad. Plus he looks like he should be in a rock band. A rockstar without a band, if you will. And like any good rocker, my man definitely lived hard, fast and true in every way possible. This is all super relatable to me, and why I wanted to talk to him for this very first issue of Possessed Magazine about still being alive in 2021, skateboarding, music, growing up, living better and coming out the other side a runner.
Don’t call it a fucking comeback, cuz my dude never left...
Who are you?
Anthony Daniel Scalamere the III, AKA Ragdoll.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Las Vegas, raised in the streets of Las Vegas and then moved to Los Angeles.
And where do you live now?
Now I live in Tucson, Arizona.
What was growing up in Las Vegas like?
I hate Vegas. I have nothing good to say about Vegas. But my honest answer is that it was a good place to be when I was young. But as I got older the veil get lifted and it revealed what Vegas really was to me. Some of my family had gambling problems, then drinking problems and drugs. And it just all escalated, that's what Vegas is. But as a kid, like growing up, all I did was play soccer with my friends. Normal kid shit. There was a water park called Wet N’ Wild and my dad would give me a season pass every year, and I would go there. That's where I spent my summer times before I started skating. And yeah, it was pretty normal as a kid. But as I got older, I realized what Vegas was. It's a terrible, terrible, terrible city. Everyone goes there with the mindset of they're gonna make it. And when they get the harsh realization that they're not gonna get rich off gambling they get really pissed off about it and they walk around Vegas miserable. There’s just a lot of miserable people out there.
Was there a skate scene there?
Oh, yeah…. skate and music. I was a hardcore kid, straight edge and vegetarian. I didn't start drinking until I was, like, fucking twenty years old. My homey was in a band called Curl Up and Die and they were the best hardcore band in Vegas. They were my dudes. Strife would come out there, we’d go to all the hardcore concerts. Saw Gorilla Biscuits when they came through, all that shit. When I refelect on all that now I’m like “Man, we had a fucking crazy underground scene!” And it wasn't like concerts, these bands were playing in record shops and shit. So it'd be 200 kids crammed in there seeing their favorite band, just going nuts.
As a kid who did you look up to?
I loved Mike Tyson when I was growing up. Just watching his fights with my dad, that was my introduction to boxing. Mike Tyson was the shit. All his pay per view fights were insane, it was such an event to watch that guy fucking do his shit. Mike Tyson was definitely my first hero.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you have something you were set on?
Yeah, haha. That was the first thing I ever wanted to be. I think my stepmom asked me back in the day, and I was like, I wanna be a garbageman. I think it’s because they used to ride on the back of the trucks. Do you remember that?
Yeah for sure, on the sides.
Yeah, and it just looked dope to me! And picking up all that shit... so cool.
Like that movie Men at Work, you prolly saw that shit as a kid huh?
Yeah, with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez! But yeah, that was like the first thing I wanted to be. But then I wanted a professional soccer player.
Oh cool, so soccer was your love before skateboarding? Were you good?
Yeah, I was fucking really good.
I guess it’s all feet-work, right? So then how did you get into skateboarding? What made you focus on that?
Yeah and my sister was always into really cool shit, music and skateboarding. She always dated skaters and was around that scene. All my sisters were like moms to me because I was the baby of the family. So I'd like to be raised by different sisters at different times in my life. My sister Angel was always into Jane's Addiction and Minor Threat and Black Flag. And like, all the cool fucking music and there was always a dude in her crew that had a skateboard. I think she only got a board to try and hook up with other skater dudes. So I started toying around on hers eventually and from there you know how it goes. It just overtakes you. You pick it up once and it just stays with you. I just fell in love with it and it stayed with me from that point on.
Have you ever been in a fight?
Yes. I've never provoked a fight, but I've been on the receiving end of someone wanting to fight.
What did you learn from the fights you’ve been in?
Just always be on the receiving end, never be the asshole that is encouraging it and make sure you throw the first punch. Always throw the first punch if they get in your area. If they get within punching distance, they’ve already started to fight. Every time I get in a fight and I win, I still feel like a loser. That's what I've taken away from it. Like even if someone is threatening me, we get in a fight and I ended up whippin his ass, I'm gonna feel bad for him. Like, fuck dude, thanks for making me feel that way, You know what I mean? So it's just pointless, but if it's necessary then it's necessary.
You ever been to jail?
What did you learn from that?
I've been there twice, once was for some bullshit that I don't even remember what it was. I think I missed my court date and I was there for two days in the holding cell or whatever. And then the second time was for some dumb shit. I did some fucking Icarus Line shit and stole a guitar out of the Hard Rock.
Did you really?
Yeah. Long story short. We were partying at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas and got blackout drunk. I can't remember how, but we ended up in the concert hall. We jumped over the bar, and we were trying to get drinks and shit. And there was a fucking a glass case with the guitar on the wall, no one in the venue and I just smashed the case and darted out. I was out there filming for the Pig Wood video and we're staying at my friend's parents house. They had to have, like, a tracking device or something on the guitar because I got woken up by the fucking FBI. Just so many investigators and detectives and shit, Asking me where this guitar was and I was blacked out. I'm like, “What the fuck are you talking about?” So they're like, “Alright, well, you gotta come outside for questioning," or whatever. And they pick me up with the blanket I’m wrapped in. So we get out front and I’m like putting shit together, just slowly piecing the night together. Lizard King was on the hood of the car and so was my other homie that was out there with me. And The Cops go “You can make it a lot easier for yourself, just come clean and we can all go together. It would be easier on you." I'm like, What are you talking about? Like, wanted me to rat them out. And I was like “No, this gonna be difficult for you. I’m the only one that had anything to do with it." So I went to jail for two weeks, and holy shit that was life changing.
That's a wild fuckin’ story.
Yeah it was fucked.
Would you learn from being in jail?
Just what the judge will tell you.... Did you learn lessons? Yes. Are you fucking proud of your actions? It’s funny, but was it worth it? No. Some people could be like “Oh yeah, I’m just in here chillin’." For me I just don’t want to miss a day or minute of skateboarding.
Do you believe in happy endings?
No, because that means you've given up on trying to make something even better. For me a happy ending is going to be when someone else tells it for me. When I'm no longer around on this earth anymore and someone else is telling what Ragdoll’s happy ending was. I'm not here to say...
How did you get your nickname?
The way I fall. When I started filming for videos, other people would see me fall and just get tossed around. But I think my homie Erik Hamimoto was the first one to say, “Damn, you look like a ragdoll.” I didn't really know what that was but someone explained that it's when your body goes limp and you're just fucking flailing about. And that's how I always fall. Like I never tense up. I just think if you're gonna fall, just go with it. And when the momentum's done, get up and fucking dust yourself off. And then after that Chad Muska made my nickname certified. After he said it, it stuck.
Are you good at falling? And is that something people can learn, or it just instinct?
I made my career off being good at falling. I'm not that good at skating, but I'm good at taking a beating and falling. And for me being good at taking a beating and falling, it always winds down to me ending up getting my trick. I was never like the first try dude. Like, get a trick the first try or second try. I was putting in work. But to anyone reading this who wants to learn to skateboard, know that falling is 99% of skating. If you're trying to do tricks and shit, you need to know that you you're gonna fucking eat shit. And you need to learn your own technique of how your body is gonna fall. Because if you don't know how to fall, you're gonna get hurt every single time.
You learn that you just gotta keep getting back up.
The biggest obstacle to creativity is breaking through the barrier of disbelief. And it's not taught. It's not like you're getting back up because you have to do this trick. Nobody's forcing you to do anything on your skateboard. It's just you against the fucking world. And the world is getting that trick and being happy at the end of it. It's just you versus you. If you love skateboarding you're gonna get through it and continue to do it. If you don't, that's why there's those dudes at the bar being like “Oh yeah, I used to skate.” It's like, “No, you didn’t bro. You tried skating. You weren’t tough enough for it." Skating is hard.
Yeah it is. I saw on your instagram you had a quote that said something like “you either grow up or you continue skateboarding”
I liked that a lot. You get old when you quit?
Yeah totally. And anybody can put that towards anything they do. Like it's either grow old or you continue making art or music or anything that you love. Because if you lose that fucking one thing that makes you live, you're just gonna get old and die.
I like that a lot. So, what have you been skating lately? What are you into?
The fucking streets dude. I'll just drive around and if something catches my eye, and I'll know I'm capable of it or semi-capable of it. It's always been stairs, gaps, droppings, roofs—fucking anything dangerous. I like to thrill myself. Yeah, if I don’t have a scab on my body throughout the week I just feel like I didn't really skate this week. I need to be cut. I need to be sore. And that's the type of shit I like about skating. I'm walking away with the trick, but I had at least a little battle wound.
What do you think that says about you?
I don't know. People can call it whatever they want. I call it living. Feeling alive. If you put yourself through hell, everything else is just easy.
I was looking back at some of your old skateboard video parts this week and I feel like one of your contributions to skateboarding was kind of like helping people see that you could do different tricks. Freeing them up a bit. You know? You were doing a lot of hippie jumps and fire crackers and tricks that back then weren’t considered “cool.” Did you get a lot of flack for doing tricks for skating differently?
Absolutely. I get a lot of people who come up to me now and say “Thank you for that video part," and this and that. But yeah, back when that part dropped a lot of like top professional skateboarders would make jokes. There were just a lot of cliques in skateboarding back then. They would be like, “Oh, it's not a real trick," this and that. Our crew, the Hellrose crew, we just skated how we wanted to and people talked shit on those parts. It took about 10 years for people to get it. Like, “Oh shit, he was just out doing his fucking thing!”
And now that’s the norm. With this new generation everything's cool.
Yep. In skateboarding now if you're not doing your own thing... Nope, nobody wants it. It's just boring. You have to have your own personality and style to get some attention now, and I like it. But then I also see a lot of people just forcing being unique. They're trying to do their own thing but they're not doing their own thing. You know what I mean? Some people just looked forced, but that's with anything. Skateboarding has come a long way, and it's rad to see that everybody is like, pretty much fucking making it look fun in their own way.
Skateboarding still blows my mind. Meaning the progression of it all. Everytime I think it can’t get any crazier, someone raises the bar.
Yeah. Do you remember when Rodney vs. Daewon one came out? I thought that was it.
Yeah, I remember thinking it peaked then too. Haha.
When that came out I was like, this is it! Like, I'll never be this good so I'm just gonna go do whatever I want. That's pretty much how I attained doing firecrackers and hippie jumps and shit like that. I couldn’t do anything in that video so I'm just started doing my fucking thing. And now I think kids have the freedom to do whatever the fuck they want, that’s why they're progressing. They're not pigeon holed into doing what they can't do and like suppressing all the stuff that they want to do. Now they just got free range to do whatever and they get good quick.
Yeah, that’s all so cool to see. Lots of girls being good too as well, we love to see that. But I mean, skateboarding is always ahead of the curve on everything I think. It’s very inclusive. Skateboarders run the world, right?
Exactly. We're fucking everywhere. You can't escape us. You are either one of us, or you used to be one of us and you want to be one of us.
How do you feel now compared to how you did when you were 20 years old, do you still feel like the same person?
I seriously feel younger. Because I think as I got older I got smarter and I got younger from being smarter. Like I don't do any of the dumb 20 year old shit that I used to but I'm still acting the same. You know what I mean?
Yeah definitely, for me I kinda figured out the stuff I really didn’t wanna do.
Earlier when you were telling stories about coming up and all that stuff I could tell that you are a total fan of skateboarding, almost like a student of it. I dig that cuz I can just tell that you genuinely love it. What was it like being a pro skateboarder? Was it everything that you thought it was gonna be before you got there?
Um, it was weird. Like I said, skateboarding was so different back then. I didn't think it was gonna last, so I didn't really relish in the moment. I was making really good money, really good money. And everyone around me was like, we all made it. Everyone I came up skateboarding with, we were all going out to dinners and I was buying the fucking bar out. Every night I was sharing my pro status with everybody cuz I didn't know how long it was gonna last. So I didn't ever take a step back and say like, “Holy shit, I really accomplished this!” I was so on the go and always wanting to do more. I just keep going, going, going, going because I never knew when they were gonna fucking pull the rug out from under me. Because that's just how it was back then. But by the time you're like 28 or 29, they retire you. And I didn't reflect on it enough at the time. I don't regret that, but I never had that moment that was like, “Fuck I'm pro!” The only time I ever felt proud was like when my mom was collecting the magazines I was in. My brother-in-law did too. It almost meant more to someone else to see me succeed doing the only thing I ever loved doing.
What's your definition of success? How do you define that for yourself these days?
Never being satisfied and always striving to keep doing what you love doing. Success to me isn't making it to a point where like, I made it. Success is continuing to do what you love. Like, if I was a millionaire and I was living on a fucking beach that would suck. So to me success is living the truest you can to yourself. And you know what I mean? Just live true to yourself and that's all the success you'll need. You don't need anything else if you're successful in your own heart and on your own path.
Do you have any general life advice for younger people, you know, things you learned coming up?
Research everything you do. Like with eating, research what's in your food because there's a lot of shit you can't pronounce and you shouldn't be putting that shit in your body. And it may be getting older, but it's also me being wiser. The things that you put in your body are gonna either help you maintain what you love doing, or it's gonna hinder you. So I would just pay attention to your body and pay attention to what you put in your body. You don't have to quit drinking, just moderate. Moderation is the key to life. Have a healthy balance of what's right and what's not so good.
What was the catalyst for you to start running?
Skateboarding. Just through injuries, not being able to skate and dealing with depression cuz of being off my board, just all that shit. All the time I didn't spend on my skateboarding, it caught up with me when I tried to get back on the level that I thought I was on. I couldn't do what I used to do. I never went to a sports doctors or any shit like that. I just take everything upon myself, I listen to my body and do what I think is right. So I thought, well, if I need my legs to jump off of shit, they need to be strong so I need to condition my legs to be able to skateboard the way I want to skateboard. Which is like taking drops and shit. And I wanna skate for a long time. When I started to run: I felt it in my arms, I felt it in my ass and I felt it all over my body. And that's the same thing skateboarding did. So after that first run, I was like, I found my niche.
Did you try other things first?
Yeah, I went to the gym and I was doing like kettlebells, yoga and this and that, and it didn't have that feeling. Everyone says running is super hard on your body, and I'm like “that’s what I fucking need!” I'm not trying to baby my body and live to be a 90 years old with muscles. I'm here to take a fucking pounding! I need to go run, feel like I just got fucking abused skating and then be able to go skate and feel like I got abused running. So for me, running was just like the most physical thing I could do for my body.
If you run but you've never skateboarded, let me explain that it’s basically the same thing. You get into skateboarding like, “Whoa, this feels like I just ran a fucking triathalon”. And that's what got me hooked on running too. It was just so similar to skateboarding. And not the movement or the flow but just when you're done with it, you're wrecked. If you push your body hard enough running, you feel it all over your body. When you push yourself hard enough in skateboarding, you feel it all over your body and you get those euphoric fucking dopamine releases in your mind and that’s where that happy ending is.
How often do you go running? And what else do you do for your workout?
Well, it's been five days a week, Monday through Friday. And then I skate on the weekends. But sometimes like today, I'll just push it. I think it was 4.5 miles that I did and 300 push ups along the way. I'll stop every quarter a mile and do 25 push ups. And then after that I ended up fucking climbing this mountain that I see on my run every day. I'm like, I'm gonna fucking climb that thing today. So today, I ran four miles, climbed the mountain and did 300 push ups. I just put on my shoes, go run and figure it out from there. And I run until I’m like “Fuck, I’m tired” and then I run back.
What do you like about running?
I fucking hate running until I'm actually doing it. But after the first stride I'm always like, “Okay, this is why I do it.” Because it’s like skating, it's you versus you. Nobody else is gonna run that next mile for you. Nobody's gonna run that next two steps to make it that mile. It's just like you versus you. Whatever you get done today, it's because you got it done. I get a clarity from running... I think it's called Runner's High or something. I don't know. I'm new to running. You just get this euphoric feeling. For me, it's once I hit the mile mark — I almost black out with fucking clarity and I just let all my negative thoughts, or whatever is on my mind, leave it. It's just like when you're driving and and you get to your destination, you're like I don't even remember getting here.
What do you think about when you run?
Everything and nothing at once. It's almost like I black out, but I go through every thought I had in the morning when I'm laying in bed. And by the time I'm done running I have no more thoughts weighing me down, I just run through it all.
Yeah, totally. It's a mediation. A lot like surfing or skating, or even flying drones for me as funny as that sounds, but all those things you're only thinking about that thing you’re doing.
Yeah, it's a blackout of clarity. It's so fucking cool. And once I felt that for the first time, I was like “Okay!”
Tell me about the video part you’re currently filming for Crawl.
Yeah, I'm calling it Crawl because that's where I'm at. That’s my point of skateboarding right now. I've gotta fucking crawl to get back up again. So I'm just like I said, I'm just doing what I can and conditioning myself with running and getting as strong as I can and putting this part out. And then it's open. It's open wide from there. I'm not stopping.
I like how you said you were considering it not like a comeback. I think you were considering a welcome back.
Exactly, it's more of a welcome back than a comeback, that's for damn sure. Because I didn't go nowhere. I never quit skateboarding—like I may have not been in the eye of everybody in skateboarding but I never went anywhere. Yeah, it's just hard when you like something so much and also to be in the center of it all. You know, sometimes you gotta fucking take yourself out and grow up in your own ways. If you truly love something then it doesn't matter how much you grow up, you're still gonna love that shit. You know what I mean?
What you do think people don't know or don't understand about you?
They might think they have me figured out. They always envisioned me as my Black Label part or my Pig Wood part or the music that I'm into or how I grew up. But I don’t even have myself figured out yet. I'm continually growing. It's not that I don't give a fuck about a lot of things. I just care about certain things so much it seems like I don't give a fuck about a lot of other things.
Got any last words?
Skateboarding is not an art.
Skateboarding is something that turns your ordinary surroundings into art.