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.

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

 

 

Are you ready for Japanese style Roller Derby in Santa Monica March 19 and 20 plus more?


The big event is so near…..and what a break in the weather forecast:  70s and sunny both days.

Hiroshi Koizumi, the Japanese skating legend, who has skated banked track for over 40 years has put this giant event together.

Outdoors by the Santa Monica Pier (wonderful rides and food) on the parking lot.  banked track, great food.  Not only Japan vs USA on the banked track, but so much more:  exhibition game both days by the LA Derby Dolls and the Juniors.  Moxi skaters on hand for trick skating, dance skating, cosplay.  music.

Must be horribly expensive?  advance tickets at $5 admission on sale now at brownpapertickets.com.  and bleacher seating (highly reasonable) and VIP tickets also available….capacity limited by the city of Santa Monica.  Hours, from 9 am to 6 pm each day.  Japan vs USA men and women’s teams at 1 pm each day, Derby Dolls to follow, much activity in the mornings….

And until you have seen the wild, entertaining Japanese Roller game; well, it is a whole different game.  And it will be televised for Japan…no local tv or streaming.

The Japanese team is flying in, and they will be joined by Slamurai from the San Diego Derby Dolls.

On the USA roster are Tony Muse and Mark Weber, who both were on the 2014 men’s USA World Cup Champs, and Tony is on the 2016 squad.  Also Andrew Branson, Bobby Cendejas, Ray Robles, Chris Martinez, Nick Scobbda and Josh Valladares, grandson of skating legends Ralph Valladares and Honey Sanchez.

The women’s team features Gwen Miller, Stacey Blitsch (both Rollerjam and modern Derby), Jessica Heiter (Crowe), Erika Valdez, Zoe from LA Derby Dolls, Megan Martinez and more.

There has never been an event like it, and there may never be again.  And don’t tell me you can’t afford it.  And a day on the beach in March….

Say hello to the Commissioner.