Remembering Mask, died 11 March 2009

Friday, March 11, 2011

Charles “Mask” Lewis 2 Years from Bobby Razak on Vimeo.


“In our world he was the general. He was described in an early article about us as ‘a more infectious Tony Robbins.’ Every person he talked to felt like they were the only person in the room,” TapouT co-founder Dan “Punkass” Caldwell said. “He always knew the right thing to say. When he told you things were going to be okay, that we’d make something happen, it was settling. You believed things really were going to be okay. He read a lot and he was able to spit a lot of knowledge. I remember being worked up about something one day and he asked me ‘Dan, can you do anything to change it?’ And I said ‘Not really.’ And he asked “Then why worry about it? Your wasting a lot of energy and that’s ineffective.’ Little pieces of wisdom like that. He was a natural born leader. We would look to him for answers and he could deliver. He was just very inspiring. He was my best friend for 20 years and the most inspiring person I’ve ever been around.”

“Charles was living in a friend’s house in the back room on a mattress on the floor,” SkySkrape said. “But on his wall, printed on a piece of white computer paper, he’d have all these sayings. ‘To quit doesn’t exist.’  He’d have ‘I cleared $2000 this month.’ Then ‘I cleared $10,000 this month.’ Meaning the company made that much money. Just little things that pushed him. They weren’t always numbers he had achieved. They were things he was one day going to achieve. And it wasn’t about money. It was about being able to go back out, to support more fighters. It was about giving back. There were times we were sleeping on Josh Barnett’s floor at a UFC when we didn’t have enough money for a room because we were paying the fighters.”

“We just really believed in the sport even though it was failing at the time,” Punkass remembers. “We just believed that anybody who saw it would be hooked on it. In our heart of hearts we knew it was going to be big. We just wanted to start a little t-shirt company based around the sport that we loved. It was fun. Even if the UFC hadn’t turned into a big phenomenon, we would probably still be doing what we are doing.”

“We did a show in Arizona and we had two fighters. The choice was whether we were going to pay the fighters or get home that night. It was only about $200 or $300 bucks each, but after paying the venue for being there and each fighter, we didn’t have enough for a hotel room. We were going to have to drive straight back. I can remember telling Charles ‘Bro, don’t worry about it. I can drive. I’ve got it.’ We had driven there that day and were looking at another six hours on the road with no sleep after the show. I can remember him breaking down and crying. He was apologizing because he felt like he had failed,” Punkass said. “Because we hadn’t made enough money that night. He took that as a personal failure. I remember telling him it was cool, that it was going to be okay. Usually he was the anchor. He’s the guy that everybody looks to when s—‘s going sideways. But we all had to support each other. It meant the world to us. As bad as things were, and I’m telling you things were bad, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We believed we were going to make this shit happen. It was like that Eminem song. You only have one chance to make it. And we preached it, promised ourselves. We are not going to fail.

“There is no Plan B. That was Charles’s saying. It’s the story of Cortez. I don’t know if it is a true story, but the way Mask told it these guys land in the new world and were outnumbered by the natives five to one. The captain had his men burn all the ships. His first mate said ‘What will we do if we have to retreat?’ And Cortez said ‘There is no Plan B. We have to win.’ There is no escape. Burn these ships and we’re going to go win this f—— war. That was our mentality. That’s how we thought.”

“We were just another company. No one cared about us. Mask was passing out these flyers, walking around the building passing out TapouT flyers and explaining who we are. On his way back to our table he saw all the flyers on the ground. He told us ‘I never want to have that happen again. I want people to remember who we are.’ The night before Skrape and Charles had gone out to a club and gotten all this attention,” Punkass said. “Skrape had the afro and was wearing a crazy jacket or something. All these girls were paying attention and he got in free to the club.  That spawned the idea. Charles came in with this military paint with the special forces hat, my look was kind of just how I looked at the time, all in black with a bandanna on. Kind of biker style or hardcore motocross. Skrape with the big afro and mismatched shoes – that was just kind of an extension of his personality.

“Our goal was for people to remember us. When we walked into the show we wanted people to say ‘Oh, those are the TapouT guys.’ Everytime we went out it was like going into battle. We took that shit seriously. It was how we lived. Charles, at one point, didn’t have a place to stay so I offered him to come live with me in my condo in the room where I had all the clothes stored to sell online. He didn’t want to burden me so he was living out of his car. So everytime we’d go to sell t-shirts at a show, that was the difference between eating and not. That was the difference between being able to pay the rent and not. We took it seriously. We would say those words ‘We’re going to battle. Let’s go kill these mothef——.’ We would go grab all of our stuff, throw it in the back of them van, and go to the show with that mentality. We wouldn’t let a sale go. We’d talk about it: don’t let anyone walk away from the table without buying something.”

“It was always in our DNA. We started with small fighters. When we first started sponsoring fighters, we didn’t have a connection to fighters in the UFC. We started at underground shows that were basically illegal in California at the time. I can remember going to a small show called Neutral Grounds in Southern California. It was at a U-Haul dealership in Compton. You paid $40 to get in the warehouse where there was a cage set up with bleachers on both sides. There was a tournament and Victor Hunsaker won. And he became our fighter. One of our first sponsored fighters,” Punkass recalled. “You’d go to the small shows, figure out who was going to be good and eventually he’d end up on the bigger shows. That was how we did it. The guys were affordable. We’d start out with clothing, giving them lots of free TapouT clothes. They were happy to have it because there really weren’t any sponsors in the sport. It wasn’t like they could go to Nike. Nike was too f*cking scared to touch this sport.”

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