thoughts on the start of the 12th year of Modern Roller Derby


The first actual game was in June 2002 by TXRD.  And because April Ritzenhaler (La Muerta) had just come out of boxing training, the name they gave to these matches was “bout”.

I first became aware of the growing sport in 2005, when I met Val (sigh) Capone and the members of the fledgling Windy City Rollers at the 70th anniversary celebration of my father’s creation.

After that I was hooked.

Like all sons of gods I really wanted to see the game recreated in the original image, but I have learned that what you are doing – in the various rule sets – has made it your own, and I accept that.  I don’t think it is a big secret that I like a fast skilled game (preferably on a banked track) and it certainly is trending that way.

But what this post is really about is who I have met and interacted with along the way, and the effect that it has had on me.  Please don’t get upset if I don’t mention or acknowledge you; I always write this whole thing by memory as that is just the way I write.  So feel free to comment or yell at me.

First of all, remember my original role with Derby:  the owner-promoter from 1960 to 1973 who employed (all) of the very talented men and women in the International Roller Derby League.  And we were hugely successful in terms of attendance, television ratings etc.

But today is different, and in this environment we are all equal (am I being presumptuous in including me in that statement?).  So many of you have become great friends and what you do both on and off the track has brought happiness to me and many others.  The Bay Area Derby Girls making me feel such a part of what they were doing and even acknowledging me in their program; the WFTDA allowing me to say a few words before the nationals in Portland and the other courtesies shown me.

Both the Denver Roller Dolls and RMRG who made my trip to their city so memorable (and the indomitable P J Shields who coolly staged the greatest Colorado rescue of the century) when lst Bank Center became the Dolls home; Rose Columbo and Tom and all the others who brought me to Philly to see OSDA on a banked track (still there!), and how the original game with men and women could work today, and Ms Evanstone of the Philly Roller Girls who let me help them find a new venue.

And how all of you responded, raising tens of thousands of dollars from around the world to pay for surgeries and care for Lori Milkeris whose skating career ended when she was so brutally beaten, almost to death (see I Like Women post on my blog), and that Rhea responded immediately to start “Derby against Domestic Violence” on facebook to bring help to those in abusive situations; over 2000 belong today and you should also (and don’t forget about “Blockers, not bullies”).

And Donna”thehotflash”Kay who although with medical problems that would crush others (especially at age 56)  just keeps trucking and wants to help all in Roller Derby get a sense of value about themselves and their behavior; and because of her there is now “Derby over 40” on facebook, with an amazing array of women (and men) who are still skating -almost 1500 members-and talking about it and giving advice to each, a number in their 60s and a few 70-year olds!

I should devote a whole page to at least two very influential organizations that really helped and crystallized the growth and acceptance of Derby around the world (1418 leagues, 41 countries).  First Hurt Reynolds and his wife and all the others at http://www.derbynewsnetwork.com who certainly have not made a fortune out of their efforts to bring dozens of games each month, not only from the US but from Canada, UK, Australia and I don’t know how they do it.  And they have shown WFTDA and USARS  and whatever they can to help the game grow.  As a friend, I ask you to support them.

OK, now let’s talk about Ivanna and Trish and all who have made Rollercon the centerpoint for Derby.  The concept of bringing 5000 people together to live, skate, learn, seminar, party, get married (I’ve done it twice, and will once again this July) is such a logistical nightmare to me that it boggles the mind.  Realize, I put on over 3000 Roller Derby games in the US, Canada, and Mexico; booked concerts for the Dick Clark review, Willie, Waylon, the Highwaymen, Merle Haggard, the Smothers Brothers, etc and booked and presented trade shows; and knowing what I know, you have no concept of what is involved in putting this extravaganza on in both the US, Australia , and soon in Europe.

Rollercon is really the University of Roller Derby; it brings all of you together, and not only do you learn about skating from the best, but you meet and learn from each other (the best part!), regardless of style of skating, rulesets, etc.  And they keep adding tracks (I believe 5 last year) and remember, if you have to wait to skate, that is just the way it is…..you can only squeeze so much toothpaste out of a tube.  Please make the commitment to go to Rollercon if you haven’t already….it will make you jump start your ability (with Quadzilla (my friend from Rollerjam days), Bonnie, Suzy and all the others with years of knowledge and ability who are teaching you, and make you appreciate the game even more.  More importantly, say hello to the Commissioner who will also be leading a seminar.

Image by RAWKU5 from stock.xchng.com

Image by RAWKU5 from stock.xchng.com

Others who leap out at me:  Jessica Wendling, amazing woman from Alabama; Ten Gauge Rachel Rage; Fernando Leguero, the professional soccer star from Mexico who is bringing so much to Windy City and our game; all of the women from my home team, Resurrection Roller Girls; the wonderful women of Gotham, Oly, LA Derby Dolls who have brought the national attention to our game; April, of course; Swede Hurt; Erin “Lucy D” Dynamite who has brought her great artistry and design to our game.  Victorian Roller Derby, Far North Roller Derby, Sonoma County Roller Derby, London Roller Derby, Toronto and Montreal, Tel Aviv, Sacred City, LA Derby Dolls and their new and more exciting version of banked track Derby,  and on and on.  And of course, Far North Roller Derby in Alaska who are leaving a ticket and a Commissioner’s chair at every game!

And Roller Derby has several shrines:  The National Roller Derby Hall of Fame in New York (covering earlier Derby), the Roller Derby collection at the University of Texas in Austin: and Seltzer Park, located in Seaside Oregon right on the Pacific Ocean.

AJ from Vancouver who is going to succeed in getting Derby on TV; Cliff Butler, who can train you like no one else except for John Hall; Larissa leaven; my beautiful Pia Mess, Misty Greer; Atomatrix; Suzy, of course; Raw Heidi;  Bar Elder; Brandy Rettig, Lara (hot wheels) Irons, the wonderful and brave women of CaiRoller Derby, daring to bring the game to Egypt.  I have to stop and I apologize to all of the friends I am pissing off; just send me comments.

And USARS for honoring my family by naming their Championship trophy “The Seltzer Cup”

I have to acknowledge Donalei Erie especially, and the other photographers (except for one) who are so good and professional at what they do that you should acknowledge them and support them because they are doing it for the love of the game.

Many great writers following the game:  my favorite “Windyman”.  And of course Matt Faure.

And the magazines that are so professional:  Blood and Thunder, Lead Jammer UK (had to list those first, since I have columns), Five on Five, Hit and Miss, and the others out there also on line.

And the announcers; without their skill and sense of fun the game is much less (and remember, no other sport (I hope) has Dumptruck!)

of course the NSOs and officials, and PR and all other volunteers and those who make the sport work.

And those outside who work with Derby:  first of all Scott Riegelman and the great people at Riedell.  Not only do they have a great product but their sponsorships at Rollercon and elsewhere are their symbol of giving back.  And I know Scott does a lot more that you don’t know about in supporting skating.

The people at Atom wheels who have been particularly kind to me (and the owner gave us his wife -that sounds terrible- Atomatrix), and they also have a great shoe product now.

And Doug Martin of Roll Models (www.competeteamoutfitters.com) who wants to bring the professional uniforms he provides to other major sports to Roller Derby – designed by Derby women -and has quietly served almost 100 leagues so far.

And to Drew Barrymore who unknowlingly brought the sport to so many people who were not aware of the modern game.

And to Robin Bond, David Wruck and Ron Patrick who made the glorious “Derby Baby” with their own funds.  Please book it on a large screen in your city if you haven’t already, and certainly get the dvd.

And of course, Brown Paper Tickets (www.brownpapertickets.com).  I know, I joined them after almost 40 years of being a pioneer in computerized ticketing, but this is why:  they provide the best service to you at no cost; a 99 cent  service charge to your fans (plus minimal credit card fee); they have a dedicated person, Bob Noxious, who will work with you on helping your league, regardless if you are a customer or not.  They will help you with promotion and advice, help you to find a venue, provide paperless ticketing if you want! (imagine being able to tell the audience at a game that they can go to their cell phones and order tickets for the next game!), do season ticketing.  And 24 hour client service for you.

William Jordan and Steve Butcher are to be commended in creating a ticket service that is not just a huge profit center with service charges and imbuing this spirit throughout their whole worldwide organization.  And Sten Iverson will answer any of your quesstions at client services.

They don’t care how many tickets you sell on the system, so put your league on, let the fans know that you are with one of the largest, most accessible ticket providers in the world….they can order by phone (for just 99 cents), talk to operators in English, Spanish and French,and can service your league anywhere in the world. And the President and CEO are determined to keep this a buyer friendly, fair trade company.  They donate 5% of the service charge to community and charity organizations.  And they serve far more leagues than any other service.

Now you understand why I am with them, although I do not handle Roller Derby.

Every day more and more people are learning about what you are doing.  As Bonnie D. Stroir says, it has gone from people asking about Roller Derby to do you skate with them.  The game is here to stay; now you have to realize that you must continue the good community works and all skate like the big girls do (although Junior Roller Derby will change the game radically in 5 to 7 years).  The world will finally realize just how major a sport this is; some of you don’t want that, but the great part about the way the game has grown is that is for you to choose.

me and Paul Revere (only I got sick)


Image by d-s-n from stock.xchng.com.

Got back from the Northeast Derby Convention yesterday.  Only problem was I only lasted Friday and part of Saturday, coming down with heavy congestion and laryngitis.

On the flight from Oakland to Boston (a redeye, I should have known better), I started feeling not well, and by the time Doug Martin of Roll Models (you know, over 60 of the leagues are using his superior uniforms) picked me up to go to Providence, I knew it would be a tough haul.

Well, Dee Stortion (Jeezus, will I ever know anyone’s real name…..try having 5000 friends on facebook and when you meet them you don’t know who the hell they are), her mother, Eric, and her whole staff did an amazing job for this event.  Personally, on behalf of the vendors, I wish there had been more spectators and walkers around, but I am sure that will be rectified in the future.  There were a lot of skaters and quite a number of my friends who said hello.

Dee and Eric were kind enough to change my talk from 6 PM on Saturday to 1 PM so I could rattle off a few words and Doug was good enough to shut down his booth, and get me back to Boston……I am home now and feeling much better.

I watched the skating and the top trainers were all on hand:  My old buddy Quadzilla (from Rollerjam days) as well as Bonnie d, Suzy and all the others.  And the skaters from the 84  leagues present were very serious.

And that made me think of something:  The average skater today probably has been at it for 2 to 3 years or more, and all they want to do is get better and better and enjoy what they are doing even more.  The intensity with which they pursue perfection is perhaps unequaled.  And what is their reward for taking time off from work or family, spending the dollars to come, and buying and upgrading their equipment, etc?  Only that they will get better at this thing they love and has so grabbed their life.

If only those who needed it could get some of the costs covered.  The most obvious solution is greater attendance and merchandise sales, more sponsors,  and, wherever possible, playing in larger and more profitable venues.  As we know, that is easier said than done.

At Rollercon this year, I would like to address how can leagues merchandise themselves better?  This obviously involves production, marketing, and certainly a top level of game against the best possible opponents.  Let me know your feelings about this.  This game will only die if those in it decide it is too much of a sacrifice.  Let’s not let this happen.

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Nothing makes any sense


A few posts back I mentioned about publicity.  So much of the good that is going on with Roller Derby is virtually unknown, and yet someone like Kim Kardashian is followed by millions (not just on TV and media, but literally with 6.9 million following her on facebook and 10.9 million on twitter).  And if she and her family are examples of what America is or should be, maybe the Iranians should just come in and set us straight!

a multi-million dollar wedding extravaganza, higher ratings on cable than major league playoffs, and an example of the spoiled 1% that those in the street are protesting about.

And we have literally thousands of Derby people worldwide who are not only skating at their own expense, but doing so much good work in their communities and lives that they deserve so much more.

And then we have Lori Milkeris who has become such a symbol to all of us.  To be beaten and disfigured within an inch of her life by someone she loved and trusted, and now going through the ordeal of surgery and getting her life together, trying to complete her college degree, raising her children and just existing.  And even when her tormentor was sentenced to a long prison term, it has not given her closure but, because of her compassion has caused her even further anxiety.

But she is making it through all of this, and has the love and help of thousands of Derby sisters and brothers.  And because of her and others in Derby, we now have, thanks to Rhea, Derby against Domestic violence on facebook, with over 2300 who have joined and many who have been helped already.

Kristine Milkeris-Smith,  Lori’s sister, has been there to help take care of her, but is now back home with her own family, but is devoting herself to continuing to help and to further get the word out about domestic violence.  She has created purple message bracelets that sell for $2 each to help with Lori’s continuing surgery.  Please go to Lori aid 2011 on facebook or to Kristine’s site (her name).

Please note that at Lori aid 2011 by the photo of the bracelets, there is a link to make a donation through paypal….any amount is great.

And in Doug Martin and my booth at the WFTDA Championships I will be selling the bracelets and taking checks for Lori.  If you don’t want to come by and see me just for the wonderful person I am, at least make certain you stop by to aid a Derby sister who needs your help now.

This societal ill is endemic both within Derby and certainly without.  Many leagues are working to inform and educate their members and outreach to the community through women’s shelters and more.  And there are organizations that men can join who have engaged in violence or want to stop it.  And it is not only limited to violence against women.  Men and children are also victims.

Roller Derby is often what our life is all about; not just the game, but the empowerment, the closeness with others, with doing good for our community.  When you are at the penultimate event of the year in Derby:  the WFTDA Championships, or you are watching on WFTDA.com or listening on Derby news network, add to your good feeling by helping someone who really needs you.

I have asked Lori to be my second Derby wife at Rollercon next year,  and she has accepted!   I hope you understand dear Val and Judi.

This year at the WFTDA Championships.


I am very excited about going back to Denver soon for the tournament November 11 through 13.

A year and a half ago an old friend from the ticketing days contacted me and since he is now the grand poobah in Denver with AEG (one of the two largest promoters of talent and building operators), he had taken over the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, halfway between Denver and Boulder and had made a promotional arrangement with the Roller Dolls. He invited me to their game and I flew into town.

I hadn’t been back since 1974 when Hal and I started our ticketing company and promoter Barry Fey as our first client. And Chuck Morris operated a club called “Ebbets Field”. I think you can guess where he was from originally. Chuck actually was our first client.

Well a lot has gone on since then, and today Chuck has a lot on his plate, from Bon Jovi to Justin Bieber, and much of what goes on in the Rocky Mountain state.

When I arrived, he had me booked on TV, radio and newspaper, and I gladly talked about Roller Derby, modern Derby, and why it is such a great up and coming sport. I met with the league, and at that time didn’t know anyone (pre-facebook), but soon realized I have a huge family. I also was able to go to the training center for the Rocky Mountain Roller Girls and was greeted just as warmly.

At the game the next night (the B team skated against Ogden, and Candis Rose had me autograph her panties – a new experience for me) – and the Denver team played Texas.

The building where this year’s Championship is being held is breathtaking; it seems as though it was built for Roller Derby. It has 7000 comfortable seats, great lighting and sound, all the electronic running lights, a huge jumbotron, and more. I know many of you will watch on WFTDA.com, but if you are near Denver, please join me and the thousands of others to see the 12 teams, the best out of the 1093 in the 36 countries that have leagues. There will be continuous action over three days. I met with so many women and men last year in Chicago who were at the Championships just to watch, learn and cheer.

I actually will be working in a booth (not all the time) with Doug Martin of completeteamoutfitters.com who provides uniforms for so many other sports and brings the professionalism to our game that I believe it needs. Also, (I wear a number of hats), I will show you how just with your cell phone (and everyone else’s) you can now provide completely paperless ticketing for your event; and I will be introducing the “Seltzer” line of products, with the design talents of Judi Flowers, Judy Alexander, and rock and roll patriarch Jeff Axelrod (among other things, he was responsible for the Grateful Dead skull logo).

I am going to have fun, party hearty, but mainly watch some of the greatest athletes in the world put forth all of their efforts to attain glory. Actually you might say they have already as they made it to the finals.

The only time you will see me leave the arena (when I am not working) is if anyone chooses to do the slow and stop play. But as Commissioner, that is my prerogative.

Mainly, though, I will just enjoy what I believe is rapidly becoming the most exciting sport ever. And I will be cheering for all those who have come before.

Thank you all for not only keep the game alive, but for making it “totally awesome”.

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