Sorry I had to get myself in here, but above is my favorite photo, Val and I at our Derby wedding at Rollercon in 2011. She calls me her husbitch. Click on to my name in blue above.
I have seen every Derby woman legend perform, from Ivy King to Gerry Murray, Loretta Behrens, Ann Calvello, Toughie Brasuhn, Mary Youpelle, Bobbie Mateer, Joan Weston and more; to me today the player, person awesome one who falls into that category is Val.
Much irony attached to the fact that she will be skating her final game with the Hell’s Belles for the WCR Ivy King Cup Saturday at UIC Center in Chicago. (She has tickets, or you can pay the high service charge through Ticketmaster…..not available at Brown Paper Tickets). How did I meet wonder Val 9 years ago?
Gary Powers who heads the National Roller Derby Hall of Fame created a 70 year anniversary event of the game in Chicago around August 13 in 2005. On hand were five living skaters from the first Derby, all in their 90s, including Ivy King. And a group of women from the fledging Windy City Rollers showed up, and I met the Derby love of my life, Val. As Gary introduced the group from 1935, I looked at Val, and tears were running down her cheeks. She loves all about the game, the history, the people, the traditions. She purposely goes by 1513 S. Wabash in Chicago, the site of the now torn-down birthplace of Roller Derby, the Chicago Coliseum. And she takes a photo and posts it on her page of the memorial to the building where William Jennings Bryan made his Cross of Gold speech to the Democratic convention in the late 1800s, and where Leo Seltzer presented the first Roller Derby.
The night after the Hall of Fame dinner we all showed up at the Congress Theater where the then version of Modern Derby was skated with a few additions: coaches in drag, strange requirements for penalties, but still skating a version of The Game. And the WCR and Ivy King fell in love with each other: thus the Ivy King Cup honoring her memory.
What makes Val a legend? Not just her fabulous career with WCR. Educated at Columbia College many know her as the announcer on the live streaming telecasts from everywhere, but she is Roller Derby from morning to night. She works as a beer vendor with Da Cubs, Da Bulls, and Da Hawks so she can schedule her life around Derby. She has spent more time on the road crammed into cars than Jack Kerouac. Anywhere that she is needed, she is there. When a skater died tragically in Salem, Oregon, she showed for the benefit; when Derby Baby premiered in Sonoma, she was there. The USA men’s World Cup team needed a great coach, guess who. And she coached the Puget Sound men’s team at the Big O and works with the Chicago Bruise Brothers, the Chicago Red Hots and more and more.
Her life is full….whether it is going to a music fest or spending a night at the abandoned Oz retreat, she is up for it; in spite of the fact of a medical condition that often troubles her or the injuries from the game.
Want to see more photos of her? There are 2441 on her facebook page.
My favorite WFTDA National? Chicago 2010. Stayed at the Palmer House where I used to go after the proms. Hung with people from Charm City, Oly (the fabulous Brandy Rettig), Florida and on and on. And Marsha Jordan from WLS-TV covered the tourney (Marsha used to watch the Pioneers with her mother at the Amphitheatre years before); she produced what I think may be one of the best pieces ever on modern Derby. Of course Val was interviewed and when they used the Derby News Network coverage of the WCR in the piece, Val did the play by play.
Roller Derby is a piece of history. Next year it wll be 80 years old. All should look on the game as Val does. If you can, watch her for the last time and give her a standing ovation. Derby has given you so much and Val has given her all to it.
Is Val leaving Roller Derby? Are you out of your blanking mind?