By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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"I guess I probably had an attitude back then," Robbie says. "I just thought that if you worked hard at something, you became good at it. And if you became really good at something, good things would happen to you. I didn't understand why the good things had stopped happening."
In 1985 Robbie left Eastern and found a job driving a UPS van. "I got a delivery in the suburbs somewhere, and I get to the house, and it was a skateboard I had to deliver to some kid," he says. "I had a, almost a flashback, and all I could think about was how I used to wait for the UPS truck to bring my boards, especially after I got on the Walker team. They'd be bringing me stuff all day. It had only been five years before, but it felt like forever. I really almost broke down."
It took Robbie fifteen years to find success again.
"Here's the thing about Robbie," his dad says. "I don't think he's some kid who was good at skateboarding and got lucky with other things. I think he's a kid who works so hard he would have found success at anything. But he did go through tough times trying to figure out what exactly to do for a living."
As the Eighties ebbed, Robbie slowly built a life for himself. He'd skate the occasional exhibition to make a few bucks and promote a ramp-building business that he'd launched in his dad's back yard.
He found occasional stunt work in commercials, TV shows, and movies (Bad Boys, Deadwood). And he discovered an entrepreneurial bent he never suspected in himself. "I was doing an exhibition in Lauderdale and I brought one of my ramps up there," he says. "There was a woman there who started asking me about if I built the ramps and how I hauled them around and the kind of work I'd done," he says. "I had no idea what she wanted. But then her husband called and offered me a job."
Soon Robbie was ferrying around beautiful women in tony RVs for the ACT Modeling Agency. Using his ramp-building expertise, he also began building portable sets, a useful commodity in South Florida, where unpredictable weather can often ruin plans for a shoot. "It was great," Robbie says. "I started making a little money, and I got to hang around all these models."
In 1990, after he'd been working in the modeling world for two years, Robbie met South Beach fashion photographer Willie Miller. "I thought he was the rudest guy I'd ever met," Robbie says.
Miller, Robbie's elder by twenty years, acts and dresses like a perpetual adolescent. The two have become close friends. "Robbie's the shy one, and I'm the one who's not afraid to talk to women I don't know," says Miller (whose preferred pickup method seems to be yelling, "Nice shoes!" at women on Lincoln Road). "Not that Robbie isn't happy to just stand around looking young and healthy and wind up getting the women that I put in the work for."
In 1992 Robbie bought his own fleet of RVs and contracted his transport services to modeling agencies, a move urged by Miller. He was living on the Beach, hanging out with models, and Scott was healthy. Robbie even worked Scott into his professional life. "We have this joke we play on the models sometimes," Robbie says. "If I'm driving one of the RVs and I've brought Scott along for the day, sometimes I'll pull over and say, 'Okay, my brother's going to drive now.' They all act like they're cool with it, but some of them are terrified. He can drive perfectly well, but he likes to throw a scare into them."
But something was missing.
Miller says Robbie has regrets. "Look, the kid's doing fine businesswise; he's doing fine with women, but he was never the one thing he really wanted to be a skating superstar," Miller reveals.
Adds Hutchinson: "It's hard to say who could have been famous or great. A lot of guys that were great fell apart or got into drugs or just stopped. Robbie was certainly one of the best at one time, and he took better care of himself than a lot of guys."
Robbie chafes at the idea he might regret something in his past. "I have a happy life," he says. "I still skate plenty, but the important stuff is family. And my brother is a miracle."
Robbie was as nervous as he'd ever been for the competition that afternoon in November 2001, and the goddamn weather wasn't helping. Hurricane Michelle was headed for South Florida, and Robbie watched the trees bending in the wind as he stood atop the ramp. He'd never stopped skating he even built a half-pipe in his back yard but it had been years since his last competition, and he'd been surprised to receive an invitation to skate the Legends Competition alongside Tony Caballero and Tony Hawk.
Though he was 36 years old, he felt like he was sixteen again. He looked out over the ramp and couldn't resist the obvious metaphor. "Just like my life," he thought. "All the way up, all the way down."