all around the world and here in Sonoma

I check in the morning how many people are reading my post daily…..usually very few by this time, unless it is a brand new one, and the current one has been available for 5 days.

but this blew me away:  WordPress now shows you how many countries are represented in the current readers, and this morning it is 15…..of course  all of the usual suspects (US, Canada, Australia etc) but also Russian Federation, Bulgaria, Singapore, Philippines, and India where as far as I know there are no leagues currently.

The reach of all of us on media today is amazing.  And because of the reach hundreds will come from out of town the best small film festival in America this weekend, of course the Sonoma International Film festival.  123 films from everywhere over the next 5 days (April 11 through 15) in the beauty of California’s first official town (the bear flag was hoisted just across the street from the Sebastiani theater in 1846,  where “Derby Baby” will be showing on Saturday).

And 40 of the participating 60 skaters are able to attend courtesy of Niki “Deets” Hammond (skating name:Devilina Detail) who will be on hand to promote her wonderful board game:  Jammerup…..we played it, and I had bruises afterward from the hard skating action.

I have lived here almost 20 years, and having lived in Portland, Chicago, Santa Monica, Evanston, New York, Palo Alto, Atherton, Orlando, Miami to just name a few, it is really home to me.  Pleasantly casual, unlike our more fancy neighbors in Napa County up the road;  great fresh food, wonderful friends, and so easy to get around; the 8 places showing the films (of course, the Sebastiani is our showcase), the hotels, the great restaurants are all within a short walking distance.   And don’t forget the wineries:  over 600 in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino Counties alone.

You still have time to get here and join Val Capone from Chicago, Suzy Hotrod from New York, Ophelia Ballz from Redding, Sassy longlegs from Sacramento and the other 60 who will be on hand to skate before “Derby Baby” for all of our entertainment.  And John Waters is here as well as Christopher Lloyd, Shirley Bassey (“Goldfingah”) and some surprises.

Image by eduardtrag from

Then after the film I was foolish enough to invite all the derby people and Robin and Dave and others to come to my house for an after party.  I expect about 100 people.  And this is the week Judi is away, and I have friends but now am scrambling for food and drink.  The Giustos and Coturris are providing some wine, and I hope to get more…..we are working on the food.  If you are coming here, I do not object to your bringing something…..I have the place to hang, to party and whatever.  And I hope that festival director Kevin McNeely and MC and some of the other people who make it happen will come by…..I know the beautiful publicist Brooke will be here as well as Liam Maclem from CBS-TV,  a good friend.

If you don’t have your tickets yet, contact and buy your tickets….they have a 3 for 2 special:  pay $30 for two tickets and get a third one free, so you can see Derby Baby and two other films!.

Don’t forget the Methodist rule:  never go anywhere without a covered dish!  I better see you all this weekend in Sonoma.

And oh yes, in 1997 Carolyn Stolman and I started this festival with the intent of bringing something exciting to Sonoma, and boy has Kevin and his people taken it to a new level: now considered one of the best small film festivals in the country.


I’m getting excited again

…a lot of projects at one time. is about to become a reality.  Judi Flowers and some very bright people are about to take a different fix on Roller Derby and fashion……if you know me, you know you will hear about it until it is coming out your ears.

I got my Derby fix on Saturday with the wonderful Bay Area Derby Girls.  Can you imagine 2000 people standing in the rain to get into the small building under not the best conditions to scream their heads off?April 5 was  my father’s 109th birthday……I never intended to go into his business, it just happened.

I was interviewed by the Sonoma Index Tribune and you can see it on line talking about Derby Baby and the Sonoma film fest.

And this week is Derby Babyweek in Northern California!

Photo by Berkeley from

I never thought when I co-founded the Sonoma Film festival in 1997 that there would be a Roller Derby film in it.  And this one is created with such love (and every penny they have) by Robin Bond and David Wruck…..I have seen it.  you will be up nights thinking about it and,  if you are in Derby,  you will know that somebody got it right!

So here is what is happening:  Saturday April 14th at 1 about 60 Roller Girls from Northern California plus Suzy Hotrod and Val Capone will come to my house, get into uniforms and skates, and the Sebastiani motorized San Francisco cable car will take them to the Sebastiani theater where they will meet and greet Robin and Dave and the Mayor and hopefully John Waters and Christopher Lloyd and Shirley Bassey who will be here for the festival (more on that later) and all the attendees, and god knows what a flash mob like that will  do next.  Then we will all go in the theater for the 3 PM showing of Derby Baby.

We in Sonoma are so proud of our theater, and I am proud that the funds and volunteer efforts from our first two festivals (when I was chairman) were able to help restore the theater to its original 1933 glory.  After the movie, Robin and Dave and  Suzy will answer questions about the film from the audience.

Then those who are invited will motor to the Commissioner’s house for a little repast and taste of our famous wines.  Looks like about 80 or so will be here….a couple of wineries (Highway 12 and Phil Coturri’s 16600 private label Sirah) have donated, but I could use more Sonoma and Napa wine.

I hope many of you are planning to attend, go to, see the amazing lineup of 128 films in just 5 days (guess which one is selling the most tickets!) and see what probably the best small town in America is all about.  Kevin McNeely and his staff and all the volunteers and all of Sonoma will welcome you to the Wine Country and the wonderful restaurants…..and all of this within the walking distance of all the theaters.  Order your tickets now as it will be sold out soon.

Then it is over…..damn…..I wish I had a job that paid.

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“Leo must be jamming!”

That is what Frank Deford’s response was when he heard that the Olympics would be considering Roller Derby as an additional sport for the 2020 Olympics.  I will write on that topic in a future posting.

What a week for Roller Derby!  I know there is something every week.  1200 leagues worldwide, but it is impossible for me to keep up with everything everywhere, although I am certain some of you think I do.

Photo by bigevil600 from

But the other thing that occurred is that “Derby Baby” – the film that we have all been waiting for the past year and a half is finally emerging!

The Sonoma festival ( will have one showing of “Derby Baby” at 3 PM,  Saturday, April 14th.  And fully tying it in with Roller Derby, there will be a Roller Derby demo and and flash mob  in front of the Sebastiani Theater at 2 PM, with Derby girls from the various leagues nearby (Resurrection, Sonoma County,  BAD girls, Sacramento, etc) on hand in their team uniforms and skates participating.

Then they will join the festival goers in seeing the film.  Tickets are still available at  And superstars Suzy Hotrod and Val Capone (both who appear in the film along with The Commissioner) will also be on hand.

OK, I have a confession;  I saw “Derby Baby” this past week – well a rough cut, not color or sound-balanced or fully edited.  Obviously I can’t review it for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is The Commissioner is in it, but I will tell you a few things.

This movie is a labor of love.  Robin and Dave and Ron and all the others at Robin Bond Media have put their heart, soul, and money into it, and the fact that they are great filmmakers certainly makes a difference.  Right up until and through the World Cup, they have gone to regionals, nationals, Rollercon, skating rinks in Ireland and you name it to really get the essence of the sport that is really a culture.

There is not an exploitive minute in the film, and we get to hear the athletes and participants tell who they are, why they are doing what they do – often at great personal sacrifice – and what the game means to them.  You see the chills, spills, and thrills, of course, but this is the kind of feature you will want to take your friends, fellow workers, whomever with you to see and you can say “Now do you understand, just a little?”  Just hear Suzy Hotrod, Val Capone and the others put these things in words.

Derby Baby

Now let’s talk about film festivals, and why you should come to Sonoma, besides the fact that I live here.

Even if  you are not someone who would travel to Sundance or Cannes,  Sonoma is a wonderful fun casual affair:  All screens are within walking distance of the Plaza, the center of this town where California declared its independence from Mexico in 1846.

There are wonderful restaurants (all prices, all casual), history around you, and of course the famous wineries.  And Director Kevin McNeely has many features, documentaries, short films, workshops between April 11th and 15th in 8 venues running continuously every day.  Individual tickets for “Derby Baby” are on sale now at  Sonoma is just an hour northeast of San Francisco.

This has become one of the west’s favorite weekends.  Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Bruce Willis, John Lasseter and others have been honored, and this year John Waters will be on hand talking and showing his works.

But most importantly, Sonoma is my home.  Come and meet Robin, Dave and Ron and hear them talk about their Roller Derby experiences, and the Commissioner will hold court, possibly even an open house for my Derby denizens.

And those of you elsewhere, please see how we all can make this film a success around the US and the world…You will be called upon!  Oh by the way, not only did my father invent the game, and I ran it later, but I live in Sonoma and Co-founded the festival in 1997……small world.

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I think this is one of those times.

I awakened this morning with great excitement…….because something wonderful for Roller Derby is happening soon.

I have been aware of these moments before:  my father getting Roller Derby  on network television from New York in 1948;  my syndication of the game in the 60’s and the subsequent appearance on 110 stations in the US and Canada with over 15 million people watching weekly in their homes and going to sold-out live games in all major arenas and stadia.  Roller Derby, once again the national craze.

I have that same feeling for the modern game with “Derby Baby”.

We all  know that the growth of leagues worldwide doubled with the release of “Whip It”, but that was a fictional Hollywood film about a girl finding herself with overblown and exaggerated characters as skaters.

I haven’t seen “Derby Baby” except for the promos they released, and I have no interest or ownership in the project, but after getting to know Robin, Dave, and Ron in the last year and a half, I know their point of view is from the people who have brought this game to what it is today.  I just have the feeling that they will have caught the essence of why you all do what you do.

I know that they have put their own time, money and effort into the film, and they are among the leading craftsmen in their field, having received awards including Emmys.  And they didn’t just stay in Denver to film the players, but have gone to a major amount of venues and cities from regional tourneys and WFTDA Championships to Rollercons and world cup and more, so when the editing is finished, they will have 1 and 1/2 hours of the great unknown story of modern Roller Derby in a fascinating package.

The public really has no concept of what a life force the game has become to tens of thousands around the world.  The overused word “empowerment” really has meaning in Roller Derby, and the two trailers I saw seemed to have captured the essence.  There is no need to sensationalize the game, that part is there already.  But is really all about who you are and why you do what you do.

The media and the sportswriters don’t really understand:  “It is really just women in sexy outfits hitting each other on skates”.  “Here is a story about a woman who is a teacher by day and a mean Roller Derby girl at night”.  They do not get the concept of how the game is a life-changing and in many cases a life-saving passion, and the participants pay to skate, etc.

I am certain it will be an honest film, showing warts and all, and not always reflecting what perhaps  you would want there, but only a completely honest film will get your message across and hopefully bring national attention and ever-increasing amounts of participants and audience to your games and hopefully increase your revenue potential.

I know the personal sacrifices these filmmakers put on themselves in making this film.  And I know that when it plays in this area, I will do all I can to let the public know about it.  I will go to the media people I know, tell the story, and even sell tickets if they ask me.

I am certain you all will see the film, talk it up to your league and games and help make it the success it deserves to be.  After all, it is about you.