From Roller Derby to Rollercon

transcontinental-roller-derby-opening-night-august-13-1935.jpg (1024×731).

Above is the image of the very first Roller Derby, August 13, 1935.

And last week was the fifth Rollercon I attended.

Photo: Rollercon Black & Blue Ball

It seems light years since the first event; but what both have in common is the intensity to compete.

I hate to disappoint many of you, but if you think Rollercon is a 5 day party you have no concept of why people are there.

It is amazing that athletes who are doing what they love take time from their work or lives – often at great hardship – to attend the most intensive boot camp, training school, games (some skate 3 or 4 a day!), to better play the game that brings all 5000 of them together.

Photo: Admin Silence of the Jams and Demanda Riot at Rollercon!

Those who attend sure enjoy themselves in the other activities (including the great parties and hugging of the Commissioner), but they are there to skate, learn to skate better, and enhance their skills.

The games are amazing; almost all full-bore; fully engaged as the game was intended, and getting off the track exhausted and exhilarated.  Old rivalries fought at the highest level (RMRG vs Denver Dolls, for example).  And often where you least expected:  The over 40 game was a barn burner; coed, full speed (damn Pitchit is fast), blocking and engaging over and over (Hot Wheels is not just a glamour puss, but one hell of an athlete), and really played with the skill that age game bring.  And the USARS game was an eye opener to many; closer to the original rules…..and fast, fast, fast.

At the USARS championship last year I asked Sassy of Oly if everyone could play USARS….she said they could, but many wouldn’t because it is too hard and requires great conditioning.  And MADE and OSDA skate virtually the original rules (all 4 pages….for those who haven’t seen them, take three minutes to watch a demo on you tube, Roller Derby Rules 1970)

And yet I saw WFTDA matches where the skaters were there to play, and there was no purposeful disengagement, even on (ugh) powerjams, and the fans loved it.

Just shorten the jams by at least 30 seconds, allow the pivot to do what I created the position to do (jam after a jammer breaks from the other team) and penalize the player and not the helmet, and see what a difference it would make.

I really didn’t believe there were at least 1000 of you I hadn’t met, but I did break my own hugging record in just the first two days; I got to become Donna “thehotflash” first Derby wife and she my third – although she became quite jealous after the ceremony and stood between me and all others.

Photo: Soooo cute...!!! The happy couple about to take their vows at the 2013 RollerCon Derby Wedding, Donna with Jerry Seltzer


And I did dance off, pants off, and wore my 26-year-old safari jacket to the fabulous Riedell party (one of the many great sponsors who really support Rollercon) and not only did I get great photos at the Black and Blue soiree, but some great lady gave me a standing lap dance that I will remember for quite a while.

I attended as many things as I could, and Bob Noxious and I hosted a packed house seminar on marketing and building attendance…..there is so much more you can do that is free with Brown Paper Tickets and I think we demonstrated that to our group, many of whom used BPT.  I think Bob got a video of the two hours, but will know later.

And I want to welcome Tony Muse and the Roller Derby Skate Company to Rollercon.  These skates were originally the only ones designed for Roller Derby years back, and he figured it was time to re-emerge with a wonderful new product.  Check them out.  They have been producing Roller, In-Line, Ice, skateboards and other products for years and have a great reputation.  And guess who was the first salesman Sales Manager George Sloniger hired way back when?   You betcha.

And I have to thank the amazing Doug Martin, who hosted me in the Roll Models booth.  He is a great guy, and his sublimated uniforms bring a professionalism to the sport that I think it needs for those who really want it to become what it should be.

And Lara (Hot Wheels) is such a great representative of Crazy skates, and you will see an interview she did with me on my facebook page…..I had to learn to speak Australian to do it.

I could go on and on, but can only give credit to Ivanna and Trish and Salsa Picante and the dozens of others who keep this thing going.  It really is the best thing in Derby today!  And the amazing crew including Sten and Michelle from Brown Paper tickets who sorted out the logistic nightmare of ticketing this event.  and what great tee shirts they gave away!

And I want to thank all of you who gave me even more shirts to add to my collection…..I will try to wear them all.

I will be at the BPT, Roller Derby, American Red Cross Blood Drives over the next few weeks….what a wonderful project!

But by God I will be back in Vegas next week, with Derby wife #4, and those who didn’t come and take advantage of at least some of the plus 400 events there were part of it, please do next year…I really want to meet you all!

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.

33 years later


An Appreciation to Leo A. Seltzer.

January 30th was the 33rd anniversary of Leo Seltzer’s death.

Roller Derby had officially ended in December 1973 when the last track was set up.  But in his mind, it had ended before.  He was so anxious to see it go to full legitimacy that it haunted him.  And the fact that roller games was such a parody of what he created troubled him to the very end.

He was a successful developer of real estate in Lancaster, California, lived part time in Gearhart, Oregon where he fished, gardened and never stopped trying to bring back the game he loved.  He was planning to spend the summer of 1978 in Montreal where he felt the best skaters he had seen of the “new” generation, because of the background in hockey and other sports.  But a severe headache sent him to the hospital.  I got the call from Belle and immediately flew to be by his bedside.  During the time I was travelling, he suffered an aneurism from which he never awakened.

When I arrived at the hospital he was on a breathing machine.  Because of a disagreement between us (I don’t even remember what over), we had not talked much in the last six months.  I went by his bedside alone and told him how much I loved him and was sorry that I had disappointed him.  Later the doctor came and talked to all the family and was pretty cold about it;  my father’s brain had stopped functioning and the kindest thing to do was to let him pass away.  We did the next morning.

I don’t think any of you reading this can realize how much I think about him and how the most important thing in his life besides family had disappeared in his lifetime.

And every time that I think or talk or look at Roller Derby today, I wish he could just have known what his game would become and how it would change people’s lives and bring joy and kinship to so many people around the world.  So wish him a happy birthday on April 5.  He will be 108.

An American Hero to be thankful for.

One of the most amazing Americans you don’t know:  my cousin Sherman Seltzer who was a hero in the Korean War, worked with Van Braun to get us into space, and has designed systems for satellites, Hubble, space station and more, and was just an Alabama cowboy.  And he was awarded the US’s most prestigious aeronautical prizes, the Wright award.
Since this was written he has passed away……he was an absolutely humble and amazing human being and one who made our country safer.

REACHING FOR HEAVEN: From Pershing To Apollo, Sherman Seltzer Prefers Ranch To Rockets

December 28, 2009

By Darryal Ray

He doesn’t remember the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon, but he helped it get there.

“When I turned 80, things started slipping away from me,” Dr. Sherman Seltzer is saying. “You just sort of grab the memories as they go by.”

Dr. Sherman Seltzer, a retired aerospace engineer with NASA, oversaw the guidance and control systems of the Saturn rockets that carried man to the moon. Shown here at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, today he prefers the tranquil life of cattle ranching.

Now 83, he catches many of those memories from the porch of his brick ranch house that sits atop a knoll near New Market in Madison County. Down below, he can see his Hereford-Red Angus cattle grazing, and in the distance, Tater Nob rising from the floor of Hurricane Valley.

It’s the kind of view that can swallow up a man, much like seeing Earth from the moon. “Every morning when I come out here, I say a prayer,” he says as he grabs his seat on the porch. “I thank God that He’s allowed me to use it for a while.”

Seltzer is an aerospace engineer who spent a lifetime reaching for the heavens, but there’s no place on earth he’d rather be than here. Here, he can watch his cattle graze and his horses run and kick up their heels. Here, the childhood days on his grandfather’s Montana ranch — and his beloved late wife Lou — somehow don’t seem so far away.

If some of his old engineering buddies from NASA (National Aeronautical Space Administration) were to stop by, they may talk about the days spent preparing the Saturn V rocket that launched Neil Armstrong up to his “giant leap” on the moon. Mostly, though, those memories stare back at him from the photographs that adorn the walls of the office inside his home.

Photos of Saturn rockets, Skylab, the Hubble Space Telescope, Pershing missiles and Polaris missiles testify to Seltzer’s many contributions to aerospace and defense. A specialist in guidance and control systems, he left his thumbprint in the heavens on more than one occasion.

The celebrated rocket scientist Wernher von Braun said as much in a photo he addressed: “To Sherman Seltzer, in appreciation of your fine contributions to the work assigned to the Marshall Space Flight Center — Wernher von Braun.” Next to it hangs a certificate for “Exceptional Scientific Achievement” signed by NASA Administrator James Fields.

There’s a photo, too, of Seltzer sitting proudly in the cockpit of the YO-3A, one of two silent airplanes he designed for Lockheed to fly reconnaissance during the Vietnam War. “I designed the YO-3A while I was working for Kelly Johnson at Lockheed,” Seltzer says. “I designed it so it could be flown over the enemy and see how they were resupplying the troops invading South Vietnam. I was real proud of that because it was never detected, never shot at.”

Above them all hangs a photo of Seltzer as a young soldier with Army buddies during the Korean War — and the two Purple Hearts and Silver Star he was awarded during that conflict.

Still, there’s an odd dichotomy to this cluttered little office, a strange mixture of rocketry and ranching. A pair of worn leather chaps are flung across the back of his chair, and paintings by popular cowboy artist Charles Russell compete with NASA certificates and photos for wall space. Aviation magazines share the desktop with beef cattle publications.

“In his heart, he’s really and truly always wanted to be a cowboy. That’s his heart’s desire,” says Tally Fanning, a longtime friend who helps Seltzer tend more than 130 head of cattle and keep track of doctor’s appointments. “I’ve asked Sherm (that’s what he wants his friends to call him), ‘Do you not realize all the things you’ve done?’ To me, the engineering work that he’s done far surpasses anything else he’s done in life. But to him, that is the least of his accomplishments. He wants to be a cowboy.’”

When Fanning first began tending Seltzer’s cattle, he says Sherm insisted on nothing but purebred Hereford, the same white-faced red cattle his granddaddy had raised back in Montana. In fact, Fanning says, he and long-time Hereford producer Glynn Debter of Horton frequently went to Montana and purchased bulls and cows together.

Fanning says he eventually convinced Seltzer to try some Hereford-Red Angus crosses. “That way, we’d still get some of those white faces every once in a while and that seemed to make Sherm happy,” Fanning says. “But Sherm has always tried to have good, quality cattle. When we started buying cattle at the R.A. Brown Ranch sales in Texas, he’d always want the best. Sometimes, you’d have to tell Sherm to quit bidding because he wanted to buy the best at whatever it was, and you can’t do that when you’re running just a commercial operation.”

P.D. Nicaise, who first worked with Seltzer on the Pershing missile system, remembers how Seltzer’s farm got its start on lands leased around Redstone Arsenal where he kept a couple of horses and some cattle. Later, he says, NASA engineers would show up at the farm to help round up and brand cattle.

“We all laughed and joked with Sherm about being a cowboy, but Sherm’s a technical man. He knows the engineering and the science,” Nicaise said just before relating an incident where Seltzer, decked out in cowboy hats, jeans and boots, wowed the audience at an aerospace industry event with his technical presentation on guidance control systems.

But Seltzer, a short man who casts a 10-foot shadow, is far more than a rocket scientist. He’s packed a lot of living into his years, a fact not lost on Nicaise who was so taken by Seltzer’s fascinating life story that he urged him to write his autobiography. He agreed, and sat down with Nicaise for hours to record the recollections in Sherm’s Story, self-published by Seltzer in 2004.

The son of an entrepreneurial attorney whose brother is often credited with having created roller derby, Seltzer attended high school in Hollywood where comedian Red Skelton was a frequent visitor at the family’s home.

He graduated UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and an Army ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in 1950, right about the time he met Lou on a blind date. “It was the hardest campaign I ever fought,” he says with a broad grin. “I fought hard to get her to marry me. I loved her the first time I saw her.”

But the Korean War interrupted their honeymoon, and Seltzer soon found himself in an M-24 tank in northern Korea where he “welcomed the Chinese” into the conflict. He received one Purple Heart when a Chinese soldier bayoneted him, and another when a landmine exploded beneath his tank. With broken bones in his legs and his scalp blown off, Seltzer crawled from the wreckage under heavy fire as a fellow soldier held on to his pistol belt. He awoke to a chaplain saying last rites over him.

“I wrote to Lou and I said, ‘Things don’t look good, but we’ll figure something out,’” he says in his autobiography. “I said, ‘Why don’t you send me a book about agriculture so I can learn another trade.’”

It wasn’t to be. Despite a permanent limp, Seltzer’s Army career continued. After Korea, the Army sent him to the University of Michigan where he earned two master’s degrees in aeronautical engineering and guidance control. Later, he would earn a doctorate from Auburn University.

In 1959, he was assigned to oversee the Army Ballistic Missile Agency’s Pershing missile project at Redstone Arsenal. Soon after, von Braun coaxed him into NASA to oversee the guidance and control systems of the Saturn rocket that carried the Apollo capsule to the moon. “I never wanted to be an astronaut,” he says. “I just wanted to make sure they got there safely.”

Still, he became fast friends with astronaut Owen Garriott as the two worked side-by-side on the Skylab, the United States’ first space station. Garriott would later visit the station in 1973 — and make several space walks — on the Skylab 3 mission, which lasted almost 60 days.

Although Skylab’s orbit ended in 1979, another project that bears Seltzer’s fingerprints — the Hubble Space Telescope — continues to explore the universe two decades after its launch.

Between retirements and lecturing, he and his engineering buddies launched —and sold — multi-million dollar businesses in the defense industry, including SVS (Shirley, Van Allen & Seltzer) which today is a subsidiary of Boeing.

Dates and names may escape him now, but Dr. Sherman Seltzer, the rocket scientist who guided men to the moon, knows the closest thing to heaven is right here in Hurricane Valley. It’s home.

It’s riding his Quarter horses and checking the cattle. It’s sitting on the porch of the home Lou designed, and watching the moon rise over Tater Nob.

“He has a brilliant mind that has been everywhere,” Fanning says. “But his heart is right there on that farm he calls his ranch.”

Seltzer wouldn’t argue with that.

“I love it here,” he says, pushing back his Stetson to reveal a wide smile. “I’m the luckiest man on earth.”