WHAT a ride. I’m standing in Petaluma and can barely believe it. It’s a town in northern California. Just even being here considering the start I had in life is enough. I’ve been through stomach-churning domestic violence and a spell in an unforgiving children’s home. I’ve been mentally scarred and spent most of my youth completely consumed by rage. But I’m here, on the set of a Hollywood movie – and to add to the madness, the entire thing is based on me and my life.
There are cameras whizzing by, booms swinging around and actors getting prepped in their trailers.
Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, one of the stars of the Fast and the Furious film franchise, is playing the man I grew to call dad, Eldridge – who along with his wife Marianna adopted me.
Young rising American actor Shane Graham is playing me.
Fucking hell. It’s almost too much to take in. I really have come full circle. Most of my earliest memories are of being mistreated or beaten by my biological father. I hated that bastard. He’s dead now. I’m having to relive all that pain on set, not only mentally but I’m watching it come to life again – forget magic mushrooms, seeing a film being made about yourself is the most surreal outer body trip you’ll ever experience.
In a strange twist, the director and I settled on the decision that I should play my old man, in a nice little cameo.
Maybe no one else could capture what he was like.
We didn’t subject cinema-goers to a kid being burned alive, something my father did to me.
In the movie, I just throw the boy close to the fire. I couldn’t stomach recreating it fully. It’s one of the few times I guess when the action on screen isn’t a sexed-up version of reality. If I’m being honest, it was the toughest day of my life, but in some ways the most rewarding. There was this massive lift when they finally called cut and my time as that asshole was over. And I’ll admit it. As a youngster, I was an asshole too. I look back in shame at some of the things I did. Can you believe I was embarrassed by the man who adopted me and, along with his wife, offered me a way out?
And here’s the worst part. I was ashamed of his skin colour. I didn’t want anyone to see me with a black guy. I was being given a second chance. So many others never get that. And here was I, about to almost fuck it up because of all the baggage I was carrying – even as a kid. I’d been taught to be racist. If it wasn’t for Eldridge and Marianna’s love, God knows where I’d be. I’d never forget the day they took me to see ET back in 1982. Steven Spielberg’s epic had me transfixed, sitting there in that cinema in Glasgow. It was that scene where the group on their bikes flee the police with ET – I hadn’t a clue what a BMX was. Coming from where I did, it was never on my radar. But I was transfixed. Something inside screamed, ‘this is for me’.
I craved the freedom this little two-wheeled contraption offered.
I was a maniac on the bike. I’d take on all sorts of jumps and stunts. Let’s put it this way, I’ve broken my skull alone four times, and had more concussions than you’ve had hot dinners.
But it wasn’t having a screw loose that was driving me.
It was the pain and negativity from my old life. Now I’m older, I realise riding my BMX was mediation. I was healing my wounds and directing all that rage into a positive outlet. I was good.
But not as natural as the movie portrays – that’s where the screenwriter had a bit of artistic licence.
I wouldn’t call myself a gifted rider. I wasn’t born with supreme talent. But I had determination, due to what I’ve been through and I’ll never take no for an answer – that’s why I made it.
And for me, making it wasn’t about money or fame. It was about happiness. And being able to say, I did it. That moment came for me when I got the call. Asking me to become the global brand manager for Haro Bikes. A lot of the general public might not know Bob Haro. But he’s the godfather and architect of modern BMX riding. He was also the main stuntman in ET. Now, here I was being handed the baton. Bob was the face of BMX. Now, it’s me. Distributing to 80 countries. I sit down regularly with serious big hitters. There are billionaires looking to be part of the sport or sign a deal.
And then, there’s wee Scottish John at the other side of the table – none of them have a clue about where I’ve come from and how my life began.
At Haro we have the biggest budget in the sport to give to the pro riders who I feel deserve it.
Most are far more gifted than I ever was.
In the past few years, my athletes have won gold medals at the X Games and represented their countries in the Olympics.
They’re the best riders in the world. I’m essentially their boss. But I don’t see it that way. I look at it like we’re all Team Haro. And that allows me to make these young riders’ dreams come true. I’m now in control of the BMX company that changed my own life. I’m now the face of the most famous BMX brand on the planet. All I’ve ever had was my passion – and my balls. Now they’ve taken me to the top of my sport. And it’s meant Hollywood called and put my life up on the big screen. I can’t believe I’ve come this far and ended up at a destination so far away and removed from my origins. I’m living the dream, after living a nightmare. Like I said, what a ride.