Skipping’s Long Lost Leader!

The video of 1980s skipper Bill Martinelli continues to skip its way around the Internet and a Slate Magazine writer recently published this article that tells more of Bill’s story, although so far it seems no one has been able to locate him for comment now.

I continue to be amazed by the ways his path and the one I have been skipping the past 13-years mirror each other!

We both became so passionate about the benefits of skipping that we took our message to the streets literally and figuratively. Him in the 1980s and me twenty years later in the early 2000s.

We both got significant press for our efforts. He was on the Today Show. I was in People. Time, and Newsweek Magazines.

He almost skipped with Richard Simmons. I skipped with Donny Osmond.

Him writing a screenplay after his skipping billboard business failed. Me skipping myself into financial ruin when I realized the manuscript I was writing about the skipping experience (that I had quit my day job to write) didn’t cut the mustard editorially.

Both of our passions for skipping have cooled drastically over the years, with him skipping out of the public eye to the point that I have not been able to find his name or anything, despite multiple people telling me the story of this skipper who had lived in Newport, RI that had gotten a lot of publicity in the 80s.

I even visited Newport once and asked everyone I knew if they had met him or remembered him. One evening in a bar, an African American fellow told me that he had been the Newport skipper and made up a whole story that I bought  hook line and sinker… That is until I wrote about it in the “As the World Skips” newsletter I was doing at the time and someone from Rhode Island wrote to tell me that I had been had because the REAL Newport skipper had been white and that I’d been had. Doh!

I find it sad that the homophobia thing is likely what caused Bill to stop his skipping campaign. It is a sad but true reality that much of our culture can’t seem to deal with the idea of male skippers today… So I can’t imagine what it would have been like in the 80s! All you have to do is read the chain of juvenile comments under his YouTube video to see how far we still have to go as a culture before skipping joyfully down the street isn’t loaded with negative connotations!

The resurgence of the story of Bill’s mission has inspired me to skip a lot more than usual the past couple of days.  I feel like the skipping movement has just discovered it has a long lost relative that it never new existed until now… and it makes me want to honor his early efforts by skipping as much as possible.

I would love to be able to interview Bill Martinelli about his story or at least to compare notes since we are living such parallel lives. I am going to continue to see if I can find him!  If you have any tips that might point me in the right direction, please email me and let me know!


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