▶ DERBY (1971) Trailer – ok, I made a film I loved….but what about the skaters and fans?


▶ DERBY (1971) Trailer – YouTube.

Click on link above to see short trailer for the film Derby.

I backed and produced this film in 1971, hoping to make a film all the Derby fans and skaters would like…..well it turned out to be an art film about America at that time that played 6 film festivals (from San Francisco to Dallas to Atlanta to Toronto to London, and was judged best films at most) and was loved by all major film critics, but the skaters and fans didn’t care much for it at all.

I am very proud of it….it was a groundbreaking cinema verite 40 years ago, and Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars, and it was considered one of the ten best films of the year by most critics, but didn’t do well at the box office, which was not unusual for documentaries at this time. Because one of the Today show personalities loved it so much, in the late 90s I was on Today talking about it and the revival of Rollerjam.

40 years later we have “Derby Baby”…..two very different approaches to the game.

Some times you can’t put a monetary value on what you do that you like. I think one of my favorite reviews was by Sports Illustrated: (to paraphrase) “It is amazing that this is the first sports film about a suspect sport that is so honest. If you loved “The Knute Rockne Story” (a fabricated film about the legendary Notre Dame coach), then you will hate “Derby”.

It is available at Amazon; I have fresh VHS copies…..great Roller Derby action, but not really a Derby film. Remember if you watch it, it wasn’t scripted and the lighting and dialog is not always the best.

I will post the New York Times review in my next post.

thoughts on the start of the 12th year of Modern Roller Derby


The first actual game was in June 2002 by TXRD.  And because April Ritzenhaler (La Muerta) had just come out of boxing training, the name they gave to these matches was “bout”.

I first became aware of the growing sport in 2005, when I met Val (sigh) Capone and the members of the fledgling Windy City Rollers at the 70th anniversary celebration of my father’s creation.

After that I was hooked.

Like all sons of gods I really wanted to see the game recreated in the original image, but I have learned that what you are doing – in the various rule sets – has made it your own, and I accept that.  I don’t think it is a big secret that I like a fast skilled game (preferably on a banked track) and it certainly is trending that way.

But what this post is really about is who I have met and interacted with along the way, and the effect that it has had on me.  Please don’t get upset if I don’t mention or acknowledge you; I always write this whole thing by memory as that is just the way I write.  So feel free to comment or yell at me.

First of all, remember my original role with Derby:  the owner-promoter from 1960 to 1973 who employed (all) of the very talented men and women in the International Roller Derby League.  And we were hugely successful in terms of attendance, television ratings etc.

But today is different, and in this environment we are all equal (am I being presumptuous in including me in that statement?).  So many of you have become great friends and what you do both on and off the track has brought happiness to me and many others.  The Bay Area Derby Girls making me feel such a part of what they were doing and even acknowledging me in their program; the WFTDA allowing me to say a few words before the nationals in Portland and the other courtesies shown me.

Both the Denver Roller Dolls and RMRG who made my trip to their city so memorable (and the indomitable P J Shields who coolly staged the greatest Colorado rescue of the century) when lst Bank Center became the Dolls home; Rose Columbo and Tom and all the others who brought me to Philly to see OSDA on a banked track (still there!), and how the original game with men and women could work today, and Ms Evanstone of the Philly Roller Girls who let me help them find a new venue.

And how all of you responded, raising tens of thousands of dollars from around the world to pay for surgeries and care for Lori Milkeris whose skating career ended when she was so brutally beaten, almost to death (see I Like Women post on my blog), and that Rhea responded immediately to start “Derby against Domestic Violence” on facebook to bring help to those in abusive situations; over 2000 belong today and you should also (and don’t forget about “Blockers, not bullies”).

And Donna”thehotflash”Kay who although with medical problems that would crush others (especially at age 56)  just keeps trucking and wants to help all in Roller Derby get a sense of value about themselves and their behavior; and because of her there is now “Derby over 40″ on facebook, with an amazing array of women (and men) who are still skating -almost 1500 members-and talking about it and giving advice to each, a number in their 60s and a few 70-year olds!

I should devote a whole page to at least two very influential organizations that really helped and crystallized the growth and acceptance of Derby around the world (1418 leagues, 41 countries).  First Hurt Reynolds and his wife and all the others at http://www.derbynewsnetwork.com who certainly have not made a fortune out of their efforts to bring dozens of games each month, not only from the US but from Canada, UK, Australia and I don’t know how they do it.  And they have shown WFTDA and USARS  and whatever they can to help the game grow.  As a friend, I ask you to support them.

OK, now let’s talk about Ivanna and Trish and all who have made Rollercon the centerpoint for Derby.  The concept of bringing 5000 people together to live, skate, learn, seminar, party, get married (I’ve done it twice, and will once again this July) is such a logistical nightmare to me that it boggles the mind.  Realize, I put on over 3000 Roller Derby games in the US, Canada, and Mexico; booked concerts for the Dick Clark review, Willie, Waylon, the Highwaymen, Merle Haggard, the Smothers Brothers, etc and booked and presented trade shows; and knowing what I know, you have no concept of what is involved in putting this extravaganza on in both the US, Australia , and soon in Europe.

Rollercon is really the University of Roller Derby; it brings all of you together, and not only do you learn about skating from the best, but you meet and learn from each other (the best part!), regardless of style of skating, rulesets, etc.  And they keep adding tracks (I believe 5 last year) and remember, if you have to wait to skate, that is just the way it is…..you can only squeeze so much toothpaste out of a tube.  Please make the commitment to go to Rollercon if you haven’t already….it will make you jump start your ability (with Quadzilla (my friend from Rollerjam days), Bonnie, Suzy and all the others with years of knowledge and ability who are teaching you, and make you appreciate the game even more.  More importantly, say hello to the Commissioner who will also be leading a seminar.

Image by RAWKU5 from stock.xchng.com

Image by RAWKU5 from stock.xchng.com

Others who leap out at me:  Jessica Wendling, amazing woman from Alabama; Ten Gauge Rachel Rage; Fernando Leguero, the professional soccer star from Mexico who is bringing so much to Windy City and our game; all of the women from my home team, Resurrection Roller Girls; the wonderful women of Gotham, Oly, LA Derby Dolls who have brought the national attention to our game; April, of course; Swede Hurt; Erin “Lucy D” Dynamite who has brought her great artistry and design to our game.  Victorian Roller Derby, Far North Roller Derby, Sonoma County Roller Derby, London Roller Derby, Toronto and Montreal, Tel Aviv, Sacred City, LA Derby Dolls and their new and more exciting version of banked track Derby,  and on and on.  And of course, Far North Roller Derby in Alaska who are leaving a ticket and a Commissioner’s chair at every game!

And Roller Derby has several shrines:  The National Roller Derby Hall of Fame in New York (covering earlier Derby), the Roller Derby collection at the University of Texas in Austin: and Seltzer Park, located in Seaside Oregon right on the Pacific Ocean.

AJ from Vancouver who is going to succeed in getting Derby on TV; Cliff Butler, who can train you like no one else except for John Hall; Larissa leaven; my beautiful Pia Mess, Misty Greer; Atomatrix; Suzy, of course; Raw Heidi;  Bar Elder; Brandy Rettig, Lara (hot wheels) Irons, the wonderful and brave women of CaiRoller Derby, daring to bring the game to Egypt.  I have to stop and I apologize to all of the friends I am pissing off; just send me comments.

And USARS for honoring my family by naming their Championship trophy “The Seltzer Cup”

I have to acknowledge Donalei Erie especially, and the other photographers (except for one) who are so good and professional at what they do that you should acknowledge them and support them because they are doing it for the love of the game.

Many great writers following the game:  my favorite “Windyman”.  And of course Matt Faure.

And the magazines that are so professional:  Blood and Thunder, Lead Jammer UK (had to list those first, since I have columns), Five on Five, Hit and Miss, and the others out there also on line.

And the announcers; without their skill and sense of fun the game is much less (and remember, no other sport (I hope) has Dumptruck!)

of course the NSOs and officials, and PR and all other volunteers and those who make the sport work.

And those outside who work with Derby:  first of all Scott Riegelman and the great people at Riedell.  Not only do they have a great product but their sponsorships at Rollercon and elsewhere are their symbol of giving back.  And I know Scott does a lot more that you don’t know about in supporting skating.

The people at Atom wheels who have been particularly kind to me (and the owner gave us his wife -that sounds terrible- Atomatrix), and they also have a great shoe product now.

And Doug Martin of Roll Models (www.competeteamoutfitters.com) who wants to bring the professional uniforms he provides to other major sports to Roller Derby – designed by Derby women -and has quietly served almost 100 leagues so far.

And to Drew Barrymore who unknowlingly brought the sport to so many people who were not aware of the modern game.

And to Robin Bond, David Wruck and Ron Patrick who made the glorious “Derby Baby” with their own funds.  Please book it on a large screen in your city if you haven’t already, and certainly get the dvd.

And of course, Brown Paper Tickets (www.brownpapertickets.com).  I know, I joined them after almost 40 years of being a pioneer in computerized ticketing, but this is why:  they provide the best service to you at no cost; a 99 cent  service charge to your fans (plus minimal credit card fee); they have a dedicated person, Bob Noxious, who will work with you on helping your league, regardless if you are a customer or not.  They will help you with promotion and advice, help you to find a venue, provide paperless ticketing if you want! (imagine being able to tell the audience at a game that they can go to their cell phones and order tickets for the next game!), do season ticketing.  And 24 hour client service for you.

William Jordan and Steve Butcher are to be commended in creating a ticket service that is not just a huge profit center with service charges and imbuing this spirit throughout their whole worldwide organization.  And Sten Iverson will answer any of your quesstions at client services.

They don’t care how many tickets you sell on the system, so put your league on, let the fans know that you are with one of the largest, most accessible ticket providers in the world….they can order by phone (for just 99 cents), talk to operators in English, Spanish and French,and can service your league anywhere in the world. And the President and CEO are determined to keep this a buyer friendly, fair trade company.  They donate 5% of the service charge to community and charity organizations.  And they serve far more leagues than any other service.

Now you understand why I am with them, although I do not handle Roller Derby.

Every day more and more people are learning about what you are doing.  As Bonnie D. Stroir says, it has gone from people asking about Roller Derby to do you skate with them.  The game is here to stay; now you have to realize that you must continue the good community works and all skate like the big girls do (although Junior Roller Derby will change the game radically in 5 to 7 years).  The world will finally realize just how major a sport this is; some of you don’t want that, but the great part about the way the game has grown is that is for you to choose.

Today is Festivus, the Holiday actually created for Roller Derby.


I don’t want to spoil your holiday season for whatever you are celebrating, but what is really undeniable is that most of Derby are really Festivus worshippers.

First of all, Christmas is about peace, Hanukah is about magic oil, only Festivus is about feats of strength and airing grievances!

Look at this quote from the Book of Festivus:  “And once the Festivus meal has been consumed, immediately the Feats of Strength begin.  And they must go on until the leader either is wrestled to the floor, or the unhappy ones form another league!”

And the airing of Grievances?  This is the ultimate proof that the spirit of Festivus is within all Derby skaters, NSO’s, volunteers, announcers, and leaders of rulesets?

And I have heard many of you relate Miracles of Festivus (“I can’t believe she can get her ass around the track”).

What about the Festivus pole?  I have seen the photos posted on social networks of many of you spinning around the pole;  obviously you say it is for conditioning and exercise, but why then do you use the Pole?

I have seen none of you spinning around a Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush…

Why this fear of worship of the best of all Holidays, the one that encourages you to beat the shit out of each other?  Who has the strength to overcome you?

So this is why I, in an official act of The Commissioner, declare Festivus to be the official Holiday of Roller Derby.

So let us begin with the Feats of Strength.