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Tony Hawk went to some coffee shops in North Carolina and yes, people recognized him this time
The legendary skateboarder made stops in Lincolnton and Boone last week. So why he was here? Turns out, the story's deeper than you might have thought.
Folks, here’s the situation (again):
Eagle-eyed North Carolinians immediately picked up on the location marked in said tweet: Lincolnton, North Carolina. Which, you know, is not a place where you’d expect to see legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk on a Friday morning! Turns out, neither did the girl behind the counter! Tee hee!
This was an excellent tweet (turns out, Tony Hawk is very good at Twitter), but it doesn’t tell the whole story. So what really happened here? What was Tony Hawk doing in North Carolina? And what did he order? Folks, I am happy to say that we here at the Rabbit Hole got to the bottom of it. All of it. And it’s a story that goes a lot deeper than you might realize.
Tony Hawk enjoys it when people think he looks like Tony Hawk
First up, this genre of Tony Hawk tweet is sort of a running trope. Hawk is 53, and can still pull off a few skateboarding moves that people half his age can’t land. But Hawk himself looks like, and I’m putting this nicely, Just Some Guy. When you remove the helmet, pads, and skater chic, he turns into your best friend’s cool dad, the one who lets you stay up late and doesn’t care what you all are up to in the basement.
Still though, people have been doing one of two things to Tony Hawk for years: Either confusing him for other people,
or thinking he’s some dude who looks like Tony Hawk, but isn’t actually Tony Hawk.
Here’s a collection of what Hawk calls “mistaken identity” tweets, if you’re interested in more of this. Those tweets stopped for a while, mostly because people didn’t think they were true. However, he did start them up again this month, much to the benefit of Tony Hawk fans, this newsletter, and the folks at Grounded Coffeehouse in Lincolnton.
The girl knew it was him, but just couldn’t quite comprehend it
Here’s the thing: If you were at a skate park in, say, Los Angeles, or a coffee shop near said skate park, and Tony Hawk walked in, you’d know it was him! He’s supposed to be in those places! But when you’re working the counter in a small North Carolina town, your brain defaults to skepticism.
Brittany, the girl who took his order, explained in a Facebook post that she knew it was him, and was trying to play it fairly cool. Hence, she should have asked him directly if he was Tony Hawk, but instead, told him he looked like Tony Hawk, hoping he’d say “well, I am.” Her coy question gave Hawk an opening to play coy right back at her. Hence, we have an encounter where both people seem to know exactly what is going on, but the dialogue makes it seem a little more ambiguous.
For what it’s worth, Brittany said it was busy on Friday morning, and that nobody else in the place seemed to recognize him. But! Brittany got confirmation, thanks to Tony Hawk’s credit card receipt. Later on, Hawk said the Americano she made him was “excellent.”
I reached out to Brittany on Instagram, and, well, there’s not really more to the story than that. “He came in, ordered, I made my comment just as his post on Twitter, handed him his coffee and he was out,” she told me. “I’ve fan girled all day but that’s about it. I went against myself and didn’t acknowledge that he WAS Tony Hawk. Missed opportunity for me as a fan, sadly. He was very polite though.”
But wait, Tony Hawk went to ANOTHER COFFEE SHOP LATER ON
That interaction is getting all of the attention, along with some write ups in Buzzfeed, ESPN, and People magazine. But I really enjoyed the other thing that happened later on, which is sort of a celebrity interaction kabuki theater that played out on Twitter. Let’s start at 6:41 a.m.
Fast forward about five hours.
Looks like things got better!
To be clear, this is a different coffee shop about an hour to the north, at Appalachian State University in Boone. That’s right, Tony Hawk got a coffee in Lincolnton, and then ANOTHER one at ANOTHER coffee shop a few hours later, which led to that second viral tweet and picture above.
Let me take just a minute to explain a little bit about what happens when your narrative about a quirky celebrity sighting blows up. As some of you may remember, Mick Jagger visited the Thirsty Beaver Saloon in Charlotte back in September. Nobody recognized him in the moment, and then the entire city collectively lost its mind the next day when Jagger posted a picture of himself out front, enjoying a beer. I wrote up a story about it, which went on to become the most-viewed thing I’ve ever posted. The story itself was viewed 221,000 times, and my social media mentions went turbo for 48 hours.
So what was the lasting effect, though? Well, nothing out of the ordinary. I did a local television interview. My aunt, who I had not talked to in a long time, called to tell me that another relative in California had heard my name on CNN. Morgan Fairchild retweeted my post. But that was about it. My next couple of newsletters got a fairly regular amount of views, and Mick Jagger never sent me a DM.
All of which is to say that these sorts of things come on quickly and without warning and can go away just as quickly, and people decided to unfollow you when they realize their interests don’t line up with yours.
So why, again, was Tony Hawk in North Carolina?
Ah yes, back to that. It appears that Hawk flew into Charlotte, got in a car, took I-85 south to U.S. 321 in Gastonia, then headed north. He stopped off for coffee about an hour into the trip. One last note on that: Grounded Coffeehouse is a mile-and-a-half away from the highway, located between a Subway and a tire shop on Highway 150, a road that continues on to Boger City and Pumpkin Center and the final resting place of Dick Trickle. Props to Tony Hawk for going local and heading out of his way to find some local flavor instead of hitting the Starbucks right by the exit.
He then drove on to Boone. Why? Commencement was on Friday at Appalachian State, and Hawk was there to see one particular graduate: Olivia Underhill.
She’s the daughter of Ray Underhill, who was a member of the Bones Brigade, the legendary mid-80s skateboard team that started Tony Hawk’s pro career. The team changed skateboarding forever, but it also created some extremely strong bonds, especially between Hawk and Underhill. From Wrightsville Beach magazine:
The two men became lifelong friends. When they weren’t touring the world together Underhill usually could be found at Hawk’s house working on his tricks with his distinctive ponytail flapping as he grabbed some big air. The two were featured in a 1985 Mountain Dew commercial.
Underhill eventually retired from pro skateboarding and moved with his family to Wilmington in 1998, where he handled marketing for Eastern Skate Supply. He was a fixture on the local skateboarding scene, and volunteered at Ogden Elementary School, where his two children attended. But in 2006, Underhill was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare type of bone cancer. He died two years later at age 45. Afterward, Hawk vowed to take care of Underhill’s family.
And he has. He’s raised money for a foundation in Underhill’s name. In 2018, he renovated the home that Underhill’s widow lives in down in Wilmington. (“He’s Uncle Tony and he’s been there from day one,” Kerry Overman, Underhill’s widow, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “He’s been a blessing in my life.”) Hawk made a big donation to help build the Ogden Skatepark, not far from where the Underhill family still lives here in North Carolina. And on Friday night, when his goddaughter, Olivia Underhill, got her degree in Boone, Hawk was there.
And in the midst of all of that, he found time to do what he does. Boone Greenway Skatepark opened last month, and already, it’s had a visit from Tony Hawk, even if the weather wasn’t ideal.
People may not recognize Tony Hawk, but Tony Hawk recognizes a good skate park when he sees one.
UPDATE: This story has now been read by Tony Hawk.