Just A Little Sketchy
Skateboarders like to use “sketchy,” as in peering over the crest of a long, steep hill, thinking “that looks pretty sketchy” – and then jumping on the skateboard and “bombing” down the incline.
That’s the kind of adrenaline rush that fuels the fearless Bacals of Anthem. The patriarch, Joe Bacal, is a champion off-road racer and stunt driver, putting himself into one sketchy situation after another. His 13-year-old son Greyson is showing signs of the old man’s fearlessness: The kid recently spent a few hours in the emergency room after a gnarly crash, resulting from bombing a hill on his skateboard.
Just the same, Greyson is no Johnny Knoxville Jr. Greyson is a budding actor, hip-hop dancer and entrepreneur. His fearlessness is more mental than physical, as he does things that would terrify most of us.
“Creator and Prez,” it says on his business card. The operation: Sketchy Ride Shop. “What I want it to be is a skateboard company that sells skateboards, parts and apparel,” Greyson says, with a quiet confidence steeped in thoughtfulness. For now, he is focusing on T-shirts and hats, with designs he creates. As he says with a shrug, “I just look around and sketch.”
Drawing is one meaning of the word “sketch.” The other one is the theme of many skateboarders: Taking on challenges that are somewhere between dangerous and crazy.
Here, it should be noted that Greyson only skateboards while wearing a helmet, which made his stay in the hospital to have his collarbone looked at only a short one; without a helmet, he would have been in big, big trouble after “bailing,” or leaping off a speeding skateboard and trying to keep the momentum going by running.
He has a good head on his shoulders, this one.
A few years ago, when the family was vacationing in Santa Monica, and Greyson was fascinated by a street dancer busting moves at the Santa Monica Promenade. “I thought, ‘That looks really fun!’”
“So,” his mother picks up, “he comes home and spends hours looking up breakdancing and popping videos on the Internet.”
After teaching himself the basics, Greyson was hungry for more. He found a teacher and eventually hooked up with a hip-hop dance group called Cyphers Squad, where he pops and breaks with much older dancers, most in their teens and 20s.
He’s a budding businessman and talented dancer. But wait, there’s more to this creative, emotionally fearless kid. He is also an aspiring actor who has booked work with Walmart and SONY, and a role in Scott Baio’s Nick at Nite show “See Dad Run.”
His manager is Jody Orellana, the daughter of a producer who has spent her life in show business. She has been a publicist, associate producer and now talent manager, splitting her time between Tramonto and Los Angeles.
As soon as she met the Bacal kid, she knew there was something about him: “Greyson has the ‘it’ factor – full of personality and charisma that draws people to him. When you have that in a kid that you don’t know personally and then you find yourself drawn in – this is one of the most important aspects in scouting new prospective talent for the rep. Not to mention how erudite and articulate he was in conversation. As a rep, initially I look for these qualities in a talent, then I look for branding power: what types can he play in the film/television marketplace and how attractive he would be to the networks and studios. It’s a combination that is hard to find, but with Greyson Bacal, it was easy.”
Greyson said he enjoys acting out characters that are different from him. And he’s good at it, says his talent manager – like when the “See Dad Run” producers were auditioning for a bully. “Which was hysterical as this role is completely opposite of his personality,” Orellana noted. “So we were all coaching him to get into the mindset of a bully. It was such a challenge for him, and yet he conquered it.”
He was so good in the audition that he landed the role as the bully. Then, when he showed up for production, “they changed it to just a smart aleck.” Some child actors might throw a tantrum over the last-minute change; not Greyson Bacal, he just shrugged and got into the new approach.
He may be amiable, but this kid has big goals: “I want to get into feature films.”
Listening, his dad shakes his head in amazement. “I’m from L.A. and I do stunt driving,” Joe says, with a grin, “but I don’t want to be on the screen.”
The boy has talents that constantly impress his father. “One thing Greyson does so well is remember lines. He can look at a paragraph or a page and remember it. That’s what makes him so unique.”
Greyson has had an audition for a Steven Spielberg project, and got a call-back (though he didn’t land the role) for a Dustin Hoffman movie. “As long as he’s having fun with it, we’ll support him,” his mother says. “When it stops being fun, it stops.”
The young actor is asked what he would say if an agent told him to move to L.A. with the promise of a string of movies. Greyson thinks for a few moments, looking down underneath a Sketchy Ride Shop hat. “I might say no,” he decides, quietly. “I’ve heard about that before, but it stays the same. A kid moves out there, starts over, and doesn’t get anything for a few years.”
And he would miss his hometown, where he has lived for most of his life. “I just like Anthem,” he says. “I like the town and the parks, even though there’s not that much for kids to do. But it’s a good town.”
Writer Tom Scanlon
Photographer Bryan Black
The Bacals have lived here since the early days of Anthem in 2001. As a champion off-road driver, Joe Bacal has become one of the town’s celebrities. Now, who knows? Maybe Greyson Bacal will become a movie actor and surpass his father’s fame.
And if the acting thing doesn’t work out, he’s got his hip-hop dancing – not to mention his skateboard business.
“He’s very creative, much more than Teresa and I,” Joe says, looking over at the quiet, slightly self-conscious Greyson. “He’s much more artistic than I am.
“But he is kind of like me. Once we want something, we go after it.”
Living sketchy, you might call that.