So he helped with the creation of modern Roller Derby but didn’t know it: Frank Deford


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Frank has been a friend for longer than either of us want to think about. And he laughingly said “You will always be the Commissioner.”

I related elsewhere how we met in Oakland and he ended up writing the longest piece ever for a single issue of Sports Illustrated to date about the Roller Derby The March 1969 article was read by 10 million people, a different 10 million than the 15 million that watched our games every week on television across America and Canada. He created a whole new base of understanding about our strange game.

Had he been a fan of Roller Derby when he wrote it? No, he was fascinated with the concept of “barnstorming”, the one nighters we did across America for 4 months of the year; the people who were in it, behind it, who came to watch and why. And Roller Derby was a working class sport, without the high salaries and ticket prices that folks even then were complaining about. And service charges were not outrageous then, but still higher than the 99 cents that Brown Paper tickets charges on all tickets.

And after I had spent time cautioning the skaters about what they said to Frank (as he put it) “they opened their guts” and he got everything he wanted to write for the article and the book….and one prominent male skater made a pass at him, which he was kind enough not to mention to me until years later…..not a great tolerance by society for gay athletes at that time. And he seemed to have captured a pretty accurate image of me in that era.

Frank wasn’t a skater outside of occasional sojourns to a skating rink. He played basketball in high school and in college until his coach told him he wrote better about the game than playing it. And he developed as a writer and today writes about a lot more than sports, delivers an occasional piece for Sports Illustrated, has a weekly commentary on Wednesdays for NPR radio, and does occasional features on HBO Real Sports…..this time of year he and Carol are in Key West where he is working on his 19th book.

Out of the article came “Five Strides on the Banked Track”, the seminal book on Derby that is in such demand that it disappears from libraries and sells on Amazon for as much as $650. Little Brown did an initial small printing, and the book disappeared (including my copy).

So after all these years after the demise of the original Roller Derby, after Rollerjam came and went, modern Roller Derby is here. And Frank is thrilled. He has watched games on the internet and is amazed that a successful game can be played on a flat track and that, different from the original enterprise, it has become a movement, a therapy, for those engaged.

Shortly after Joan Weston’s tragic death from a debilitating disease, Frank was asked to write her obituary for the New York Times magazine, and he wrote such a beautiful tribute that the genesis for Rollerjam developed for the two producers in Tennessee. That the game ultimately failed was really a fault of the attraction they ultimately presented: a writer-created banked track story of good and evil with cages, helicopters, you name it. But the skaters were wonderful; a number are in Roller Derby, and three of the men were important parts of the World Cup Champion USA team.

http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/2010/writers/frank_deford/05/19/roller.derby.revival/Joan_Weston.jpg (Please click link to see Frank’s article on Joan Weston and the return of Modern Roller Derby)

It was just a few years after Rollerjam ended, with the memory of a skating game in people’s minds, that April and her crew brought in modern Roller Derby. I mentioned this connection to Frank and he was very pleased.

“If anything I wrote helped to results in the reincarnation of Roller Derby in the 21st century, then I am happy. I loved meeting and traveling with the Derby skaters of the earlier generation, and there seems to be such a bonding and almost a therapeutic connection in today’s game that most don’t realize.

And for even more of a connection, Timothy Travaglini, an MRDA skater and member, has been instrumental in having this classic book available to today’s Derbyites, followers, and all. He is with Open road media who has just issued on line a kindle (through amazon.com) and e-book version. Please click on the link at the top of the page.

And they asked the Commissioner to write a foreward.

Louisa, I wish all of Derby could know you.


In her own words:

“So yeah, I still suck at skating, I don’t have all the time I wish I did to practice. It sucks. it does. So after a year I am still “Raw Meat” – that sucks, it does! But that is also okay! Okay? Because I have my enthusiasm of 12 cheer-leading teams for all things Derby. If you aren’t down with that and the fact that I am still almost a total beginner, you are on the wrong page! But I have asked ALL of you here for your expertise, experience and…and…and well, frankly, anything you are willing to share and give to others. We all started in the same place, we may not end up in the same place – but c’mon, give a hoot! Talk to each other and let’s make this a real community of sharing. Derby (heart) Love!”

That is what Louisa Kalimeris says on the wonderful site she created on facebook: Roller Derby Compendium for Freshies Worldwide…..and she has almost 2000 members following and contributing.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rawmeatsydney/

Louisa is no longer with us; she was in a hospital in West Toronto, having had such a severe asthma attack that she was in a coma and did not recover.

What a tragedy for all of us!

I never met her in a person, but what a kind, caring, self-effacing talented woman. From Australia, living in Toronto, a member of the Canadian Professional Writers’ Association. We had many discussions as friends; as a new wannabe skater she was trying so hard to be Derby and ran into the buzz saw of Derby drama of being put down for her ability by some teammates (are you ever going to face up to Derby drama!). So she started the website https://www.facebook.com/groups/rawmeatsydney/ to have an exchange with others just starting in Derby.

And she blogged and asked my advice on coming down on those who tried to crush her but couldn’t do it in a mean or vengeful manner….that is Louisa.

And she was excited because she was starting a costume photo contest on her site on Easter (ironic, now a resurrection) and the winner would get a copy of my book.

So the site will continue as a living tribute to Louisa. Please share and post it all throughout your world. And Aaron and Ref are continuing as administrators and they want you to keep contributing. And her friends are creating stickers, ribbons and other ways to honor her and want to set up a campaign to end asthma. go to the site above or her page on facebook to get all the information.

And what can you do for her?

Keep Roller Derby the wonderful movement it is…..Show kindness and aid to Newbies and others…..that’s all Louisa wants.

The Commissioner accepts award for BPT for best customer service for performing arts


Brown Paper Tickets Wins "Best Customer Service for the Performing Arts" Award.

Click above link.

Please: talk to me jerry@brownpapertickets.com……and so many of you are not using us to the full extent of free services.

Are you allowing ticket buyers to buy on their PCs, mobile devices? Have you gone to promo@brownpapertickets.com to see about free promotional help…..or checked out venues in your area on http://www.brownpapertickets.com, or know we will take phone orders from customers at no additional cost? so much more.

Talk to me….please.

Staying in the game is all about reaching a paying audience, and we help you in so many ways.

At least we didn’t play Roller Derby there.


Tonight ends one of the worst swindles in the history of San Francisco.

I lived through all of it and remember…Charles Haney, a contractor, bought the worst piece of land in San Francisco at Hunter’s Point; conspired with Mayor George Christopher to privately build a stadium to bypass the voters; secretly made a deal with the City who bought back the land at ten times the price, paid Haney exorbitant fees to grade and prepare the stadium, and thus Candlestick Park came about.

It was built in the coldest part of the city, with the promise that a unique piped water heating system would keep the seats warm (it didn’t) and would be the greatest stadium in the country (it wasn’t).

The field was below sea level and never drained properly….hard to get to, parking terrible, and just an unholy sports venue.

Freezing in the summer for baseball; San Francisco suffered the embarrassment of the whole country seeing Giant pitcher Stu Miller blown off the mound during the All Star game.

Just a terrible cement edifice.

The only good thing? Ann Calvello in later years dolled up, and was a ticket taker at one of the gates for the 49ers.

So this dreadful place is gone….lucky they had the great 49ers playing there, and for those of us who remember the World Series of 1962 the games were cancelled for days because of heavy rain and a field that wouldn’t drain…..and the bad luck continued in 1989 when the earthquake stopped the World Series and of course last year when the electricity and lights failed during a Monday night game.

And San Francisco losing the Niners? they are moving 40 miles down 101 to a great venue with great parking and access in warm Santa Clara.

And here is something the newspapers and media didn’t want you to know (and of course I did, being in the ticket biz): the majority of fans were from the South Bay anyway.

I saw a lot of football (and some baseball) at the ‘stick. The best thing: two Rolling Stone Concerts about 25 years ago.

Stop the nostalgia….it was a terrible place.