Hal Silen and I got out of Roller Derby in 1973, out of the ticket business in 1997. I had some consulting work afterwards and Judi Flowers went to Europe with her friend Greta and some other friends. While in Paris, Judi, who has always loved and been around flowers (coincidence, huh?), found some silk flowers she felt were very pretty and when she got back to her hotel she put them on some black slippers and all the other “girls” wanted some.
Now Judi has been a hospice volunteer for over 25 years. During the worst of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco she would visit the patients in the AIDS ward at San Francisco General and they loved it when this angel, who bore a slight resemblance to Alexis in the famous TV series of the time would flow in looking gorgeous and staying with them and bringing them cookies and fun. (To see Judi now, click here). But Judi had a full list of clients and worked with the dying, something I don’t think I could ever do, largely because of the early death of my mother.
She then thought, why not take slippers to cheer up her women clients…..so she put oversize flowers on black slippers and not only cooked food and cookies but also delivered her flower slippers. She delivered them to homes and hospital wards. She relates one experience where she left off a dozen pair at UCSF hospital and visited patients. In the elevator on the way down there was a woman who had obviously been given a pair. Someone in the elevator asked the patient where did she get those beautiful slippers. With a big smile she replied “a friend game them to me.” Judi had tears in her eyes.
Well, all of her friends wanted the slippers, so Judi and Greta would sit by the dining room table with silk flowers and plain black slippers and clip the stems off the flowers and with their sore hands glue the flowers to the top of the footwear. But when Judi went to Rancho la puerta in Tecate, Mexico, that winter, she wore her slippers and came back with orders for over three dozen pairs!
When Judi got back and we all talked, we thought why not start a slipper company, featuring Judi’s original design as a basis, and I would help with the PR, and Judi and Greta would market it. We rented some warehouse space and our friend and colleague Carmel Barella joined us to manage the business, and Marilyn Albert took care of entering and checking orders, our dear friend Anna (banana) helped Jerry Nicol ship.
For some reason we decided to go to Chicago for some appointments. Remember in an earlier blog I mentioned that at the 50,000 attended Roller Derby game at White Sox Park in Chicago I met someone who has always been special in my life (and Judi’s too)? Well Marsha and I were together from 1972 to the end of 1973 when Roller Derby ended, my life was shattered and I went back to California and Hal and I and Peggy started BASS tickets. Marsha went on to become a news writer at WLS-TV in Chicago (the successor to WBKB where Roller Derby first went on the air in 1948) and then a producer with the station, getting an Emmy for one of her features, and producing for Roger Ebert on the local news and other pieces for Good Morning America and the local news anchors.
I called Marsha and asked if there was news value to what the women were doing, she tied us in to the local animal shelter and did the first television appearance of Judi and Greta. (Remember, connect the dots). But that was only the beginning.
We sent slippers around and somehow Patricia Fields who was designing the clothes for a new television series on HBO called “Sex and the City” saw them and felt they were the over the top kind of item she wanted for the girls. On the show for the first two season, all the stars wore her slippers at various times.
And Judi’s collections have been acclaimed since: Feature on Oprah’s favorite things, the Today Show, Vogue, by Eva Longoria and many more. And at the first Rollercon I was at in Las Vegas, Judi donated over 400 slippers for the Derby women.
Judi is having a great Holiday sale now….my readers can save 70% and qualify for a great gift at http://www.judiflowersfootwear.com…see all of her items there.
Subscribe for free to all my blogs in the upper right hand of this page. Just add your email address to the subscription box.