What’s in a name?


I saw Derby Baby again last night with Brandy and the wonderful women of Golden State Roller Derby in Livermore CA.  A small group of determined women who epitomize DIY Derby, and their spouses, boyfriends, parents, children whom you feel are such an important part of Derby’s support system.  You think that putting on skates, rolling around and waving at the crowd is what this game is all about?  Talk to any Derby girl to find out.

Illustration by saine from stock.xchng.com.

Pia Mess was there; talk about your beautiful talented athlete!  And a wonderful lady from Santa Cruz Derby who was also in the film.  We all had go at least 40 miles to get there; I had come 80 miles from Sonoma.

Then the film.  The audience cheered and laughed and knew it was their story.  I wish there had been more non-Derby people there so they could understand what this “thing” is all about.  The good thing about the Sonoma Film Festival showing was that out of the 300 people there (sold out in advance; ah my home town!), over 240 were subscribers to the Festival and believe it or not, they stayed to the end.

The film shows, but does not preach. Robin Bond and Dave Wruck are such good filmmakers, and they get their views across without being obvious.  And the camera work is spectacular, from the helmet shots to the overheads to one view that blew me away, looking between two five gallon water bottles onto the track.  But it is the subject that carries the story.  No matter whether in Ireland, or Sacramento or in Chicago or Denver or Las Vegas or Charlotte or Toronto, you feel these are the same people,  just with different faces.  Their views and stories tell you all you need to know.  And in true DIY style, they did this film with their own money and time.

There were two things in the film that also grabbed me because of my experiences.  One is Craig Bailey from Charlotte’s concern that this game cannot get on the sport pages because the writers tell him that the names, tattoos, the “costumes”, etc mean it can’t be a real sport because it “don’t look like one”.

First of all, Craig, the future of the sport does not depend on the acceptance of sports writers, although they would like to think so.  My father advertised on the entertainment page so the press yelled “see, he says it is not a sport!”.  The reason he placed the ads where he did was because the audience was predominately women and at that time they did not read the sports page.  Should you place ads on a page that isn’t effective to impress writers who are predetermined not to like you?

The public will decide ultimately whether to support you, so you reach them through all of your PR, outreach, community service and giving them the best product you can! (Need I say no slow Derby?)  You think you only need their approval….wrong, the fans will ultimately decide your fate.

We handled it differently.  When Art Rosenbaum (a truly wonderful writer) from the San Francisco Chronicle told me that not only didn’t he think Roller Derby belonged on the sport page, but he was limited in his space, and he had to take care of all the other sports down to high school track.

So at our games I had it announced that many of our fans (I guess I counted myself as many) who lived in different areas were upset because they didn’t get the nightly scores and we suggested they call their local sports editors.  Before long our scores and often a short synopsis of the game (which our announcers called in after the games to the sports departments) were appearing in all the Bay Area papers…..do they really care about their high judgment?  No, they want to satisfy their readers.

And we had the most powerful thing going for us:  a live telecast every Sunday night and a repeat every Saturday morning.  And this is something you can do: we got one of our local radio stations to do a “Roller Derby report” for 5 minutes three times a week.  And of course we gave the scores, talked about the stars (you all better start addressing that soon; people come to see Suzy Hotrod, Pia Mess, Val Capone, Anamtrix, etc, and I know all about the jealousy of “stars”, but until you build them up, you are going to get a lot of one-timers at your games), and promoted all the upcoming events and our community services we were engaged in.

Image by enjoymath from stock.xchng.com.

Unfortunately (for them), the newspapers are losing their impact:  television, radio, Sirius, social media, etc. are what you should go after, as well as other sections of the paper.  The people in Derby are not doing what they are doing to impress sportswriters, but are doing what they love and just want to survive and grow.

Now the other point that some expressed in Derby Baby was about the names.  Is it the Derby names that are keeping the game from wider acceptance.  My feelings? If you are doing something that is bringing more people into your arena (except slow Derby…..ok, I will shut up), you have every right (obviously as a league) to keep doing what you are doing.  When a TV network comes to you and says we want to televise your games and pay you a lot of money, but you have to use your real names, THAT is the time to decide.

One very strong suggestion:  as you know I can get a bit raunchy on my facebook page, but not too much and I have adult readers.  By your use of scatological or downright pornographic names you are affecting what adults who bring their children see.  I know The Windy City Rollers and other leagues do not allow it.  By the way, I will fight to the death to keep my official Derby name:  “The Commissioner”

I thought you might not notice this:  I am in Derby Baby at least five times, but who is counting?

We can do it together!


So many of you are booking “Derby Baby” to show in your city……And there will be many more.

Illustration by takje from stock.xchng.com.

So you need a promoter in your town…..and here he is.

For those who did not read my post a few times ago, please read “Baby, Derby Sonoma Explosion” when you finish this.  The showing of this wonderful film in Sonoma was so successful and sold out in advance because the promotion worked.  I have been doing it for 50 years, and each one is different.

OK, so I want to make a little bit of money (surprisingly, very little) and I want you all to be super successful, so let me  work with you the same way I did with the producers of Derby Baby and the Sonoma Film Festival.

Please contact me  and let me help you with booking the theater or hall, setting up ticket sale, customer bonuses, marketing PR, whatever so you can maximize your awareness and revenue from the event and make it successful and have a great time!  And if you like, we can set it up to sell tickets by cell phone with Mogotix.com.

Contact me at facebook, at jerryseltz@aol.com or however.  Let’s work together.

Trust the Commissioner!

“Derby Baby” will make history, and you will help


A long time ago I produced a film that was the hit of 6 film festivals, and we actually got a distributor, Cinerama.

And then we lost control of it…The film was “Derby”, a cinema verite about people in and out of the game, and in reality, a film that belonged in art houses.  But the marketing people decided to portray the film as a slam-bammer and it didn’t work…..it came and went.  And then came the creative accounting that showed us making no money at all.

Image by satty4u from stock.xchng.com.

This is the industry now, with almost no place for an independent film.  And “Derby Baby” is that.  And you look and say wait a minute, Roller Derby has hundreds of thousands of participants and fans and how can you get to them without losing everythingand never reaching all the leagues and cities..

So Robin and Ron and Dave may revolutionize the distribution of films;  and those 120 other films in the Sonoma Film Festival may get a chance that they deserve to be seen…..and it is such a wonderful radical idea that it just may work.

I will not even attempt to explain it, but if you go to “Derby Baby” on facebook or on twitter, you will see how they are setting up a method where those who want to see the film anywhere in the world can actually become a participant in a program that will give every league a chance, and it will spread the word about the game (just wait till you see this loving tribute!) and probably increase the size of your league and the game attendance.

It is so ingenious and almost as “organic” as the way the game itself has re-evolved that if this new method succeeds, you will see the film soon in your neighborhood…..Pssst, pass the word!  And there is a time restriction, so hurry up.

Baby, Derby, Sonoma explosion!


I am groggy but want to write about yesterday at the Sonoma Film Festival because I am sure I will lose memory of some of the magic.

Derby Baby screening. Photo by D.E.sign.

At 9 am Ana, Jim, and Jerry (Nicol) showed up at my house and cleaned and set up tables and started to work with the food……wonderful wines had been donated by Enterprise Vineyards (Phil Coturri), Highway 12 (Paul Giusto) and B.Wise wines (Allison).  And Sonoma Springs Ale by Darrel Smouse and other brews by neighbor Martin…..and the food, unbelievable and only added to by our Derby women as the arrived.

Amazing photo of Derby's best who visited Sonoma for the Derby Baby screening and time with Jerry. Photo by D.E.sign

And arrived they did, in droves…..The motorized cable car never could make it (her schedule was wrong) so we all got into cars and drove to the Plaza where people were waiting in front of the theater.  And our wonderful Derby women from Resurrection, Sonoma County, Sacred City, and some from Windy City (Val Capone) Gotham (Suzy Hotrod), South County (Taira), Fresno (Tengauge), Redding (Ophelia Balls), Granite City (Maine! – Angela Watson), London (I forgot your name, but she is in training with Sacred City) and zebras and more got into formation, and upon a hidden signal did the forbidden.

It is illegal to skate around the plaza (two blocks each way), but off they went in a disciplined line and pace, and they circled twice, came back to the theater, and completely illegally did a demo on the street in front of the theater. Literally dozens of cameras blazing, including coverage from our TV station, Sun TV, channel 27, which will be shown this week as well as streamed to Derby News Network for coverage.

Derby Baby screening. Photo by D.E.sign.

Then we saw “Derby Baby”.  It will make you cry, it will make you proud and have you say “yes, this it what I have been trying to tell you!”  Kudos to Ron Patrick, Robin Bond, and Dave Wruck who have devoted two years of their lives to produce a feature that shows their love and understanding of Roller Derby today.

Derby Baby Q&A. Photo by D.E.sign

And this was interesting to me:  the film audience – all three hundred of them – had sold out the showing in advance.  And after making my little presentation with our wonderful friend, Cheryl Jennings of ABC , I moved to the very back row and noted that virtually no one left the theater until the end of the film (average age of  festival film goers and subscribers:  55).  And I kept thinking, they won’t understand, it has no meaning to them, but it did!

Then there was a question and answer afterwards with Robin, Dave and Suzy Hotrod and Val Capone…..and then another wonderful thing:  Shadow, whose story is part of “Derby Baby”, has pursued skating and Derby because her father had been such a fan of the Bay Bombers (my team, my era) in the 70’s, and he was affected by agent orange in Vietnam and had died, but had seen his daughter skate!

And yesterday was actually her birthday…..and there was a drawing of Riedell products, and she won the last item, a $600 pair of their very best skates!

Derby Baby Screening, Sonoma. Photo by D.E.sign

Then we went back to my house where the crew had the best spread of food I have ever seen, many tables set up in the back yard, and we ate and drank and laughed and enjoyed each other and talked about the film with Robin and Dave and Suzy and Val and on and on for hours until, sadly, everyone had to leave except for the three from far away who stayed here last night…..and now they have left this morning and I am writing this and will sleep shortly.

There is such closeness in the Derby world…..it is hard to explain.  and Robin and the others have figured a way for all of you to see this film.  Keep checking on the “Derby Baby” site and there should be some posting soon.

Judi and I will be working with a number of you on ideas for “Seltzer Brand” which will be debuting shortly….it will be different!  And it will show our love for the continuation of my family’s game.

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