The quintessential New Yorker (sorry/not sorry Woody Allen) opens up about his latest film ‘Rock Rubber 45s’
Take Bobbito Garcia’s two previous films Doin’ It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC (2012) and Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives (2015), add in his 2003 book Where’d You Get Those? New York City’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987 “mix ‘em and cook ‘em in a pot, like gumbo” and you have Garcia’s latest film, Rock Rubber 45s. Part lifetime-achievement-award show, part therapy session, Rock Rubber 45s hops between personal and athletic disappointments and career and genre-defining successes.
Robert “Bobbito” Garcia grew up in NYC, the youngest of three. During his hectic childhood, he was literally and figuratively surrounded by music at home (his bandleader father would bring home musicians for all-night jam sessions) and later found his solace on neighborhood basketball courts. Between expertly cut footage and testimonials from celebrity friends/fans, the film simultaneously shows Garcia as a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a DJ, an athlete, a TV and radio personality, a writer, an author, an announcer, a coach, a filmmaker, and a shoe designer. But ultimately, Rock Rubber 45s shows us he’s just human and deals with the same struggles we all have.
Garcia is the cool uncle at the cookout—everyone knows him and he’s always up on the latest and the greatest. This film is nothing without Garcia’s expert storytelling and infectious positivity.
The Couch Sessions caught up with Garcia ahead of his second DC screening of Rock Rubber 45s at Sneak Attack DC.
The Couch Sessions: Your previous works have each covered the loves of your life: basketball, music, and sneakers. Now, you’ve brought them all together in Rock Rubber 45s to tell your story. Was that always the plan?
Bobbito Garcia: I think I always had the plan to write an autobiography, a book. But I think after seeing the impact that my first film “Doin It In the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC” and my second film “Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives” I think that’s when the idea came to do an autobiographical documentary about my life and my imprint on these three separate but also interrelated, intersectional cultural movements but then also to dress it with personal narratives so that it’s not just a greatest hits like “yeah I designed sneakers for Nike” or “I did this or did that” but talk about real things that real people could appreciate and identify with. Coming up with the title I had about 50, 60 titles before I landed on “Rock Rubber 45s” and the first time I said it out loud I said, “Ah, that’s it.” I wanted something to be original and something to be interpretive and not so in your face.
The Couch Sessions: If you take a second to think about it you know exactly what it is—if you know, you know.
Bobbito Garcia: If you know, you know but if you don’t know it provides curiosity. People will be like “What is this film about? What’s ‘Rock Rubber 45s’?”
The Couch Sessions: Basketball, music, and sneakers. Which one is the wife, which one is the girlfriend, which one is the mistress?
Bobbito Garcia: [Laughter] Well, I mean, for me, basketball probably comes first and that’s why in the title “Rock” comes first deliberately. At one point, I was like “Oh, maybe I can name the film Rubber Rock 45s” and that has a nice ring to it as well “Rubber Rock 45s” but then I was like “No. Rock Rubber 45s. Rock for basketball.” I wouldn’t be into sneakers if I wasn’t into basketball. Let’s just put that flat out. As I explored in my book that I authored back in 2003, “Where’d You Get Those? New York City’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987,” basically all the iconic hip-hop models were highly valued as performance sneakers prior to the hip-hop community embracing them.
So, I think—my father is a Latin jazz musician—you saw in the film and I grew up in New York right across the street from Rock Steady Park I was bound to get involved with hip-hop but me playing ball was what introduced me to all the hip-hop heads that I would wind up having lifelong friendships with. If it wasn’t for basketball, I don’t think me and Rich Medina would become as tight as we did and that’s how I became a DJ because he helped me out early on. I’m thankful for basketball first and foremost and I’m thankful for music first and foremost. Sneakers would probably be the last part. That’s more of a material item that I enjoy designing, and I enjoy the history of and documenting it but it’s like the least important of the three. Although I know that upsets people when I say that, but it’s the truth.
Basketball is my life, music is my life, sneakers is my life. – Bobbito Garcia
The Couch Sessions: Rock Rubber 45s is a celebration of you and your life—well parts of your life—but there are a lot of ups and downs, disappointments. There’s a lot of pain and loss in this film. What was it like making this film and then on top of that having to see it on the screen and then talk about it?
Bobbito Garcia: Yeah. Well, I haven’t really watched the film that many times. I would say “Doin it in the Park,” my first film, I watched like 100 times straight from beginning to end. We started screening it and doing premieres for all the festival selections—it was my first film and I wanted to hear every single city and how they responded, where they laughed. With this film being my third and being so delicate and me being so transparent and vulnerable I probably only watched it front to back maybe five times. Imagine looking at yourself in a mirror for 90 minutes and all your open wounds you can see in the mirror. You can only do that so many times. It’s a very special film, I’m very proud of it and it’s the exact presentation I wanted to have about my story and my life and the way it’s been received has been phenomenal. I’m getting men and women after the premiere coming up to me and hugging me, crying on my shoulder, sobbing hysterically crying at some moments. Because it’s deep and people can see themselves on screen.
People identify with my life because they experienced it, too. In that way, it’s greater than an autobiography, it’s a narrative of a people and of a community. I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to share that and if it helps people heal and if it helps people feel positive and if it helps strengthen people to know that they’re not alone in their experiences, then so be it. More power to them.
The Couch Sessions: One thing I’ve noticed, as men—especially men of color—we’re taught to be strong. I’m sure you’ve grown up being told “suck it up, be a man” and taught not to be vulnerable. You spoke earlier about being transparent. What made you feel comfortable enough to be transparent and be vulnerable in this film presenting your story?
Bobbito Garcia: Um, I think in my years of being a public figure, early on it was really present to learn that my voice can empower people. So, basically when I was on the air with Stretch back in the 90s, I used to get letters from people who would tell me “I listen to the show every week and you mention that you don’t drink and smoke and you went to Wesleyan University. You’re a role model to me.”
Once I realized that I could be that positive beacon for other people, it was empowering to them and it was empowering to me, so I’ve always known that the more real that I am, l the more real my following is going to be. I’m not a mainstream personality. I’m not gonna reach a million people with this film. I’m gonna reach thousands of people maybe 100,000 people with this film in a very impactful manner and I knew that just in my conversations over the years about being sexually abused as a kid and learning that I’m not alone. A mad amount of my friends have experienced that and now with the screenings, mad people in the audience are coming up to me crying on my shoulder and shit. I knew that if I was completely transparent and vulnerable that other people—similar to the ‘Me Too’ movement when someone comes forward and tells their story and more women come out and say that person did that to me too—they find that strength from the first person to step forward. I mean, there are times to be vulnerable, right? Someone else asked me today, “Why didn’t you talk about that in your first two films.” It wasn’t the platform for it. This film was because it was only about me—it’s about a lot more than me but I’m the storyteller, I’m the main storyteller. It was delicate but I’m glad I did it and have only gotten positive responses to it.
The Couch Sessions: Your son, when he is old enough to watch this film what do you hope he takes away from it?
Bobbito Garcia: Yo, that’s a great question. I don’t know I haven’t even thought about that because he’s four and he really doesn’t know who daddy is. He sees me getting stopped on the street and people give me respect and people ask me for photos and people ask me for autographs, so he’s growing up right now in a way that he’s like super outgoing and like too much. We walked by this building the other day and there were like 10 homeboys out front and he was like “hey everybody, hi!” and I had to say “Yo, chill!” You don’t just say hi to strangers hanging out in front of their building they might be up to activity that’s not necessarily safe. I mean, not necessarily, maybe they’re just hanging out enjoying the summer breeze but maybe not.
So, it’s interesting to see how he perceives how people receive me. I hope that he watches the film down the road and is proud of what his father’s done in his life. But honestly, I haven’t really given it that much thought because it’s hard raising a child on a daily. I just try my best to give him the attention he deserves and needs, and my wife as well because I travel for a living. I might be gone three, four days of the week and he wants to be on the road with me and wants to go to work with me. At some point, he’ll watch the show and be like “Oh, that’s what daddy does.”
The Couch Sessions: Your dad played ball, your dad was into music. You play ball, you’re into music. Do you think your son will follow behind you?
Bobbito Garcia: I don’t know. I’m not putting any pressure on him, I’m not guiding him in any direction. He knows I love basketball. The other day I asked him what his favorite sport was and he said, “Soccer, basketball, and hockey.” And I was like, “Hockey?! Where did that come from?” and he laughed. He’s a little comedian, we joke around about it. He definitely is leaning toward basketball and he knows how to DJ already but my wife and I are raising him to be open-minded and progressive and an independent thinker. I think he’s already in that lane. He knows I love basketball, but if he doesn’t play ball, that’s fine. If he plays soccer I’ll be a little disappointed but it’s cool. [Laughter]
The Couch Sessions: What’s next for Rock Rubber 45s?
Bobbito Garcia: I’ll be back in DC on August 4th to screen Rock Rubber 45s at the Sneak Attack DC event. You can go to RockRubber45s.com for tickets and to download the film. I appreciate the support. Much love to Vickey Ford and The Couch Sessions for all the support that you’ve shown me over the years and I am out of here!
Rock Rubber 45s is now available on all major VOD platforms (Worldwide) including: iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, Vudu and Google Play