Joe McCarthy to Donald Trump….my personal travel. Already saw this rodeo.

In 1952 I was a junior at Northwestern University.  I would be in the army in two years, but at that time I was too young to vote (not yet 21).

It was an election year.  Truman had decided he had enough, so he was going to pack up Bess and Margaret and go back to Independence, Missouri.  The wartime hero/general Dwight Eisenhower was running against Adlai Stevenson from Illinois.  And in the fall of 1952 we were holding a mock political convention.

Every fraternity, sorority and independent house on campus represented some state.  My fraternity (an all Jewish house since none of the others would take our kind) was South Carolina.  Our chairman for the convention had written to governor Strom Thurmond and he had kindly sent us a large confederate flag which had flown over the state house, so we were all ready.

The convention represented both parties, and some well-known legislators had been booked to talk to us, including Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin.  He who was causing so much controversy, claiming the Democrats were the party of Communism who had sold out in Korea, and harbored so many hated communists (substitute immigrants for today) who were out to destroy America.  He claimed to have the names of subversives in government and other establishments, and his hearings would lead to the destruction of many innocent lives.

I sat close to the stage in the gymnasium; he started speaking at a very low calm level, and we pretty much got his standard speech:  America was on the verge of insurrection; the Democrats were either communists or shielding them;  then he waved a stack of papers shouting here are all the names, and they all will be brought out into the open.  I was very shaken by this man.

In the next several years his power and following increased; his hearings got more and more terrifying, until finally at one with the Secretary of the Army he accused an innocent lieutenant and the Secretary, almost in a fury, stood and froze the monster with his famous “Have you no shame, Senator McCarthy” tirade……Edward R. Murrow devoted one of his “See it Now” programs to expose McCarthy.  In 1954 Joe was finally censured by the Senate.  He died a broken alcoholic in 1957.

Have you no shame, Donald Trump?

What do Walkathons, Red Skelton, Lord Buckley, and the evil Pendergast machine have in common?

After operating movie theaters in Portland, Oregon, Leo Seltzer organized a Walkathon in the depression era and took it on the road; a walkathon was similar to a dance marathon, except it involved walking (are you clear).  He took it first to Denver, was very successful, and then to Kansas City.

Now Kansas City was the home of the Pendergast political machine, which was closer to Al Capone’s operation than a political party.  Police were bribed, so despite prohibition, alcohol, and all the other evils were pretty wide open, and they had control of whatever went on in the city.  My father was approached about working with them, and turned them down cold…..he started receiving threats, and one night with a packed house, stink bombs were set off throughout the building, forcing evacuation.  Mr. McElroy, who managed the building, came in the next night and told Leo he had to close as the building was a fire hazard.  When a nearby reporter (my father contacted the press….where do you think I learned that stuff) heard it he asked on what grounds….”Coffee Grounds” yelled McElroy…..the papers printed that, Leo got a restraining order and then completed the run.

Three of the MCs for his Walkathons were Red Skelton, Frankie Lane, and Lord Buckley.  Red honed all his later material here, met a “walker” girl he liked, and married her….they never separated.  Frankie went on to become a famous singer in the fifties; his most famous song was “Mule Train”.  Lord Buckley was before his time.  In the realm of Lenny Bruce and later George Carlin, he was the ultimate hipster…..His routines were “the Naz” about Jesus, and this one (from youtube) about the Gettysburg address given in hipster…..too few remain today.

Leo toured with his walkathons for three more years, until one day at the Chicago Coliseum, and you know the rest… is his Lord, Buckley.

All good things come to an end… last Rollercon coming up

I think I have been to 8, but not certain.

But this one is my last.  Lots of reasons but mostly personal.

I will go out with a bang:  hosting final interactive Brown Paper Tickets seminar Thursday, July 28, 3:15 pm room S456 at the Westgate.

talking about make your events successful and a lot more.  prizes, of course.  hope you all come.

I hope you will come and see me during the week.  I will be either at Brown Paper Tickets in the admission section, or with my buddy Doug at the Roll Models (uniform) booth, or walking around…but only on Thursday will you be able to hear my priceless words of wisdom.

Two of my Derby wives will be on hand:  Val Capone and Donna “Hot Flash”, but will miss Lara Irons, Lori Milkeris, and Carly Marie.  And Barbara Dolan and Bob Noxious aren’t coming either, nor is Szerdi Nagy or Mellfire or too many others, but I know about 5000 of you will be there, so no chance of being lonely.

And I still am with Brown Paper Tickets and always accessible to discuss anything with you……what kind of company hires somebody when they are 80 and only cares that its clients are satisfied?  honestly, nobody like them.

see you round the pool

The Commissioner



Roller Derby 2016, a look ahead

A facebook friend whom I have known for 6 years had an image come on his page which was from Key Arena in 2009, where the whole lower bowl was filled with 7000 fans for Roller Derby for the Rat City League.

It seems as though that was a high point for fan interest in games for most leagues.  Today many leagues have moved down in the size of the venues (and if they haven’t, they should check their average attendance and realize they are not in operation to pay high costs to venues), and are they really assessing the strength of their attraction to a paid audience.

Let me make a point here that always seem to be contentious to those who developed the modern flat track game.  I take no credit for what you have developed and have spread virtually worldwide.  In the past, I have been the subject of resentment (by a very few) because of my family’s creation of the banked track game.  I am sorry for that, but I think most know that I am only interested in the skaters and the success (however measured) of what they are doing.

I as a promoter and as a spectator really liked the game in 2009…obviously it has changed since then and, except in a few exceptional areas, attendance has declined. That should tell you more about the reality of the situation than anything else.  Once you open the doors and charge admission, you are in competition with all other forms of entertainment (whether you want to call it that or not), and what you present is how the public judges if it is worthwhile to spend their time and money there.

So there’s the rub; most of those who have entered the world of skating do so because it fills a special need in their lives and they enjoy it: “Roller Derby saved my soul”.  I would ask you evaluate your league and its objectives very realistically:  if what you are doing satisfies all the participants, then don’t go crazy try to make it a success as a paying sport…..obviously, you must get more dues-paying members and find other ways to fund.

Bob Noxious and I present a seminar annually at Rollercon, and we will address most of the problems you are facing….and not just on a marketing basis.  Bob has written some great features on Derby on the Community page on, including methods to promote, to gain new recruits, to operate as a business and more.  And obviously I have many years background in promoting Derby and other sports.

Look to the leagues that remain successful…what is the key to what they are doing. Communication is the key here; everyone should not feel she has to reinvent the wheel.

Derby is not going away….with over 1800 leagues in 58 countries, more men’s and junior leagues, it has a real foothold in the more than decade it was developed.  And we at Brown Paper Tickets will help in any way we can.  I am