Breaking News: All meet to work together to assure future of Roller Derby


I never thought it would happen, and I don’t know how they managed to keep it quiet…..there were so many involved.

It was at the Palmer House in Chicago Saturday and Sunday.

There were the heads of WFTDA, USARS, MADE, MRDA, JRDA (including Claire Ashcroft from the UK!), and a rep from Renegade Derby. And reps from Roller Derby in Australia, Canada, UK, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden and I am not sure where else. And of course April Ritzenhaler from TXRD and Demolicious from LADD.

Val wasn’t there, but I saw Juanna Rumbel; Jane Hammer and Demanda Riot; Suzy; Lara Irons (Hot Wheels); Sandi Mustang Johnson (the troublemaker): Elle Hoar (who has put together a regional league in Canada); Tony Muse; Justice Feelgood Marshall; Szerdi Nagy(South Africa); Angie Kls from France; Elektra Q Tion; Ivanna S Pankin; Brandy Rettig; Teresa TC Miller; Carly Marie; from original Derby: Loretta Behrens, Judy Arnold, Cliff Butler, John Hall, all of whom have worked in training modern Derby skaters (I guess Buddy Atkinson, Jr couldn’t make it); Debbie Rice, Mark Weber, and Quadzilla from Rollerjam and today, and more….sorry I can’t list you all.

and the purpose of the conference (believe it or not!): to all work together to present a combined front in 2015 so that the Game would work for all; leagues big and small, the fans, and of course, the skaters.

On hand to serve as chairwoman and chairperson: Mia Hamm and Andy Dolich. Mia of course brought women athletes to the forefront with her abilities in the Olympics (and did a lot for sports bras also). Andy, the former marketing and operating head for the Oakland Athletics, Golden State Warriors, and consultant to the 49ers now heads his own sports firm and has always recognized the potential of Roller Derby. And Marsha Jordan from ABC TV Chicago and other members of the press were there, including Robin Graves, Vic “Moxie”, Five on Five, and Hit and Miss, and Rollin’ News.

Also there as observers and possible contributors, Windyman, Bob Noxious, Judi Flowers,Erin “Lucy dynamite” Loggia, Donna “The Hot Flash” Kay,  Bill Yates, Frank Deford and others.

there was a general session on Saturday morning, defining the areas to be covered: rules, operating standards, marketing, officiating, and more. Then there were breakout sessions: Rules to try to combine the best (from the skaters and fans view) rules to make the game more accessible: should jams be 1 minute, 90 seconds, 2 minutes long? Should all skaters be permitted to block at all times? how could the rules be simplified for less penalties, should there be a limit on scoring an any play? Should there be different levels of rules depending on the quality of the leagues? As you can see, a very difficult agenda.

One group was dealing with the problem of supersaturation in market areas: could leagues be combined? should there be mini leagues in geographical areas to increase fan interest? and of course more.

Another was focused on marketing, ticket sales, and merchandising, will Bob Noxious and Judi Flowers and Andy Dolich lending their expertise.

There was a wonderful dinner in the Empire Room Saturday night, sponsored of course by Scott Riegelman of Riedell…..and everyone got along so well…there appeared to be great progress. There were to be two more breakout sessions on Sunday, and then the final gathering Sunday afternoon to try to present and vote on actual procedures to be put in place.

I was seated between Hot Wheels and Szerdi Nagy; suddently I couldn’t hear anything because of the incessant barking.

And that damn Bishop woke me up….

an unknown story, why blood transfusions may be the reason Roller Derby is here today.


Brown Paper Tickets Blog.

When you click the link above, you will get the information you need about the blood drives in Northern Califrnia that start this week. And just added, September 6 in San Jose with SVRG.

But what you don’t know is the reason the drives are so important to me personally……and how it could have affected you.

Back before Roller Derby was created by my father I became very ill with violent dysentery, at just 6 months of age.

The doctors were puzzled….no treatment seemed to work.

Obviously no computers, centralized data……I was dying and they didn’t know why.

Dr. Bilderback checked all the symptons and came up with the correct analysis: I had somehow contracted the only recorded case of cholera in Portland, Oregon, in the past 50 years. Antibiotics were not in general use, and one treatment that was necessary was blood transfusions. Well, unlike today the only method was directly from one person to another (thank you, Red Cross and other blood banks). They searched frantically for a match, and it turned out to be Buster, the son of my dad’s partner in movie theaters in Portland.

I recovered of course. They weren’t certain how my life expectancy would be affected (Ha, lol). My father who had flown to Portland from Chicago was able to return, and I will post on my facebook page a photo of the telegrams that my uncle sent to my father about my continuing progress.

So, if I died, would my father have stayed on the road with Walkathons and eventually created the skating game? I honestly doubt it…. and carrything the thought further, if he had, and I wasn’t around to continue it in 1959, would enough people have even been aware to think it would be a wonderful thing to be what it is today for both women and men.

If you are in the Bay Area I want you to choose one of the dates above, register and give this life-saving gift; over 660 lives saved last year when Brown Paper Tickets, The Amercian Red Cross and Roller Derby came together to start these drives. I can honestly say, there has never been a company like Brown Paper Tickets and thank William Jordan, Steve Butcher and all for their commitment to the good of the community.

And at Rollercon over 80 leagues indicated their desire to extend this program nationally…..and you all will hear from us to get even more involved (something you may not know: over 750 leagues used Brown Paper Tickets in the last two years, and the company could care less if you use us or not when it comes to helping our communities).

The story does not have a completely happy ending; Dr. Bilderback misdiagnosed my mother the same year and did not recognize breast cancer. In spite of my father’s efforts, taking her to the Mayo clinic and elsewhere for treatment, she died in March 1942. Sorry, I would have rather she survived than Roller Derby.

Pleae register today, at http://www.redcross.org, keyword “Derby”.

Pasta, Derby, and Blood


Last night was a good one.

Unseasonably hot in Sonoma County, a blistering 97 degrees, but as always an evening cool down.

So I attended the fundraiser for the Resurrection Rollergirls in Santa Rosa……a great pasta feed for just $7 (I ate too much), so their travel team could head south soon. But I got to be with so many of them in their fun, non-game environment.

And the best part: a half dozen or so of their other league competitors, Sonoma County Roller Derby, led by Lady Sparks, stopped by to show support and pay their respects. As so often it seems in Derby leagues split for whatever reason. The irony for me (as a promoter) is that if they scheduled games against each other they should pack the house, but everything in due time. Donated a few books for the raffle and bought some raffle tickets…..what would I do if I won my books?

Sitting outside at Ausiellos spent sometime with Darth Evader, Jaime Miller. Of course I fell in love with her too (why can’t I have 5000 Derby wives). Skates for Resurrection, broke her leg, teaches special ed children and trains the Junior Derby people…..there is the future of the game! And just really exuberant about life and especially Derby. If you have to be a zealot, why not about the Game. Loved the time with her….know she will be skating again soon.

And I have to say a word about Robyn Mechelle Ross who I also sat with. We became friends at Rollercon (so many from last night are coming again, including almost all I talked to…..better get my hug strength up again) and she now lives in Santa Rosa and hopefully will be joining Resurrection..I will see them skate on the 31st against Monterey; unfortunately cannot see Sonoma County this time around as they skate on the 21st.

Actually was there last night on behalf of http://www.brownpapertickets.com (the reason I do that instead of just saying Brown Paper Tickets is that this way you will go right to the site and I will pick up “brown-ie” points (ouch).We and the Red Cross are now locked in with these two leagues again for the 2nd annual blood drive this August and September…..all the leagues exceeded their goals in blood donated last year and with more time and promotion we are hoping to double the amount this year. We may have as many as 13 leagues this year and will talk about expanding the drives at Rollercon.

Until I get around the participants in Roller Derby (and it appears to be the same everywhere), I tend to forget the unifying force the game provides. I don’t think anything except Roller Derby does it the same. And three players came up to me to say proudly they were members of Derby over 40…do you realize there are just about 4000 now skating who have joined the page on facebook!

So skate as long as you enjoy it. It is making your life better…..and if you have family and others get them involved also in some form….just makes it easier.

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.