The Oakland tragedy: a wake up call for us all.


In the 60s and 70s Oakland was the World Headquarters for Roller Derby.  Our original office and training center were not far from the site of the terrible warehouse fire that killed at least 33.

The fire never should have happened: an illegal art collective was in the warehouse with many people living there with no attempt to get permits; no fire sprinklers or legal entrance or exits marked.  So there was a music event on the 2nd floor, one staircase made of wood pallets the only exit and entrance, and material that was just waiting to burn.

The city is at fault for not inspecting the building; the owner for allowing it to happen….and there are probably a number of other warehouses being used for the same purpose.

But what I want to focus on is your safety at any event you either attend or produce.  I produced Roller Derby, concerts, sports events, and then ticketed them through my company at a later time….I have been in this business (currently with Brown Paper Tickets) for 60 years.

There are no shortcuts to safety for those who attend events, whether it is Roller Derby, clubs, concerts, festivals or whatever.  First, as a spectator, once you have entered the facility look for the exits, are they clearly marked?  I am always concerned about halls where tickets are sold as general admission….are there clear aisles, does it seem oversold to you?  Greedy promoters (not an oxymoron) will often keep selling beyond permitted capacity….happens more often than you think…what we did at BASS would check the capacity (set by the fire marshal) and never sell beyond the figure, no matter what the promoter wanted.  And if you think the facility is over capacity, leave and request a refund.  I also suggest contacting the fire marshal for future reference.

The major arenas and buildings usually are operated by the cities or management, and you are more safe attending events there (maybe not as much fun).  less likely to be a counter- culture event.

The lesson learned from the Oakland fire is that you do not think that when you are going to hear music you are putting your life at risk.  Just do a few simple checks whenever you go.

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…..here is his Lord, Buckley.

All good things come to an end…..my 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