James Lightning but known in Venice Beach skate circles as “Mad” is a Venice Beach legend. He was an originator of the Venice Beach roller-skate circle as we now know it. Mad was in his early 20’s when he came to Venice Beach from his rough Watts upbringing and found something he could put his heart, mind and soul into… Roller-skating. He was determined to learn how to skate and later DJ the music that helped Venice skating become popular world wide. Mad is self taught and developed into one of the finest precision skate dancers Venice has seen.
What started with a transistor radio, developed into a boom box, then became a modernized, moving sound system, capable of giving the roller dance circle a fun day time club atmosphere. Mad began mixing the music himself and is and was often requested by tourists and locals for copies of the music they could bring home as souvenirs. Graduating to larger sound systems with deep cycle batteries and amplifiers, the Venice sound systems spawned by Mad have become a full day source of soundtrack for the roller dance and skate park areas. Mad is a clever man with a keen ear and engineer’s ability. Mad built and taught Pamela Pine how to build her first music system and she has been the primary provider of music since 1994.
After problems and troubles for playing amplified music during the early days of the boardwalk, Mad is now happy to see his dream of a lively, joy and music filled beach setting the sound track and heartbeat of one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the world. Over and over, Mad took the hit for skaters, going to jail multiple times until a fatigued judge finally told the police to stop arresting him as amplified music is something to enjoy not hassle. Even after his old music systems were confiscated, Mad would sit back and build another one. Mad, the intimidating face with the “Teddy Bear” personality has now seen his dream come to fruition.
During Mad’s time in Venice he, along with other skaters, created moves and routines, often based on comic book characters and TV shows. Those moves and routines are still being repeated, practiced and performed today. The “Line-Up” Mad created is still done by Venice skaters. Mad is also a great teacher stopping by to give lessons and pointers to this day. His style is still alive at Skate Dance Plaza. At the end of the 90’s, when the skate area he had known as home was destroyed, in the renovation, Mad turned his interests to motorcycle repair and riding, but you can still find him many weekend afternoons in the Venice Beach Skate Dance Plaza.
Mad is a star in the award winning documentary, “Rollerdreams” the rise, fall and rise again, of Venice Beach Skate Dancers (1978- 1999)