America's best-known unknown superstar. Tony Hawk is a pop-culture phenomenon. Yet I'm pretty sure my son, Tim, is the only person I know who can tell you anything about him. Last night, Tim and I spent two hours at the FleetCenter taking in something called "Tony Hawk's Boom Boom Huck Jam," an extreme-sports combination of skateboarding (Hawk is among the best in the world, and certainly the sport's most accomplished promoter), BMX stunt-bike riding, moto-cross motorcycle tricks (Tim informed me that one of the riders last night is the boyfriend of Pink), music (two DJs plus a 40-minute set by the veteran punk-metal band Social Distortion), a light show, and a loud and extremely annoying emcee.
The FleetCenter appeared to be sold out, although it was hard to tell, since large sections of the arena were closed off for line-of-sight and safety reasons. And though a large proportion of the audience consisted of fathers and their sons (ages six through early teens, I'd estimate), there were also a lot of teenagers and twentysomethings on hand, as well as a small but vocal subset of Social Distortion fans who'd come more for the music than the half-pipe antics.
Yet the Globe offered not one word on this beforehand, and the Herald had only a brief preview last Wednesday. (The Phoenix's Carly Carioli wrote a fairly meaty preview in the November 2 issue.) Nor was there anything in either daily today. Now, maybe they'll prove me wrong with a Sunday feature, but it strikes me that Tony Hawk is an example of something that had supposedly all but disappeared in today's overhyped media environment: a wildly popular performer who is instantly recognizable to millions of fans, and yet who has managed to slip almost entirely under the radar of the mainstream.