When Dave Carnie emailed me last month, weeks before word spread, telling me Baker and Emerica rider Kevin "Spanky" Long had been accidentally burned alive and suffered third degree burns I didn't believe him. I generally don't believe anything that comes out of his or my mouth. It was especially hard to swallow when I'd heard that he'd been burned in a party accident gone wrong and that, upon waking from a sedated skin-grafting, he found he'd been given the skin from an African-American in the grafting.
Then all the skate news sites chose to report the accident on April Fool's Day, which made me, and most others, not believe it even more. But when Carnie posted the full story and interview with Kevin on Already Been Done, I felt awful. Not for not believing Carnie but because I could relate to the fear Kevin went through as his shirt went up in a blaze. Once, at trade show, Pat Duffy and I were playing around in a taxi cab and a lit cigarette got flicked and my polyester Hawaiian shirt went up in flames and I thought I was going to die. The cab pulled over and I had to jump in the San Diego harbor. Getting burned sucks. But at least Kevin is back skating and on the mend.
What are you up to today, Kevin?
I was just out skating. I'm struggling.
I thought you weren't able to skate for months.
No, I'm back on. It feels like I'm out of shape and that this world has passed me by.
Is it the burns?
It's just being on my butt for two months. The burns are all good. No pain. Everything feels good. It's mending nice. It's just pink, kind of scar-y skin. The day after tomorrow I get a burn garment which is like an undershirt that I have to wear for a couple months to make sure the scars don't rise and I don't lose the range of motion in my arm and all that.
Do you have any of the African America skin that was grafted on you still or has it all rejected you?
They took that all off when they did the skin graft from my head. Unfortunately no more black skin; I still feel black though, for sure.
Have you adopted more of a Terry Kennedy style or an Antwuan Dixon style?
I'm more like that guy with the extensions. What was his name? Terrell Robinson? No, I'm not. I'm Sugar Ray Leonard.
Has this all just been a publicity stunt for you to get more coverage?
Yeah, I had to do something. Times are tough out there. I'm not doing those Cory Kennedy's. I have to do something to get into mags.
Are you planning any more burns or death defying stunts to try and get more coverage?
Who knows? I'll wait until this all dies down and see how desperate I get again.
Do you have insurance? Or did this come out of pocket?
Luckily I have good insurance but it's still real expensive, man. Even with the insurance. The bills just build up. I don't even want to know what it would've been if I didn't have insurance.
I'm guessing easily $100,000 or $200,000.
Definitely. I was in the hospital for a longtime and they just keep adding stuff on, you know? I was there for almost two weeks. 12 days and I had two major surgeries where I was out cold.
That tab is probably closer to a quarter of a million dollars.
And there still might be a third surgery. Probably not but if the scars start to rise than they said they'd put me under again and shoot steroids into the scars.
How does that make you feel that you're the Quarter Million Dollar Man?
It's an expensive publicity stunt.
Did you keep the old flannel that caught fire? Do you still wear it?
Yeah, dude. It's hanging up in my living room. It's un-wearable though. There's barely anything left of it. It's a Braydon [Szafranski] shirt now.
Skating now, is there any range of motion that's just not there?
No, it's all there but I've had that thing where I was just holding my arm as if it were in a sling. It just feels weird. It just doesn't flow or fly around. It doesn't hurt at all and there's no loss of motion. It feels back to normal.
You know a lot of people thought it was just an April Fool's joke.
Yeah, some people still do.
No, it wasn't. You know what's messed up too? I'd see people since I'd already been burned and out of the hospital and since the news came out way later people I'd already seen post-burn are treating me like I got molested like, "Dude, it's so good to see you outside of the house." I'm like, "Dude. I saw you a week ago."
Did anybody do that funny gag like when you get a fresh tattoo and they smack it really hard?
Ha! No. When I first came out of the hospital I was still in a lot of pain and I hadn't seen people in a while and they'd come up and they'd give me a bro hug and it would be so painful that I didn't want to go outside of the house really. At first I had massive bandages but when I went back for my first check up they just peeled all the scabs off and there was this weird pink skin underneath; it wasn't like a regular cut. All the scabs peeled up at once. It was weird.
Are you going to let anyone ever light you on fire again?
Hell no! I get Vietnam flashbacks 20 times a day lighting my cigarettes.