Who is Professor Michella Marino and why is she ruining my Derby and ticketing reputation?


About 3 years ago I heard from Michella (now Phd Dr Marino) that she was doing her dissertation on Roller Derby, the sport she was taking up. And in July of 2011 she with her sister Erin made the trek to Sonoma to listen and learn at the feet of the Commissioner. And in the past three years she met with many of the old and Modern Roller Derby.

Well now Michella is teaching at Hastings college in Nebraska and in just a few weeks will offer the first college credit course anywhere on the game From January 6 through January 24 the subject will be History 266,”Hell on Wheels: skating through modern Amercan History.” And on January 9 the subject will be the sport from 1959 to 1973 “The Jerry Seltzer Reign and Fandom” and the class will get to see and hear me via skype. I bet if I had asked Steve Butcher (my boss at Brown Paper Tickets) he would have sent me a bus ticket, but what the hell.

All of these years I have built this reputation as a maverick in Roller Derby,NHL, Ticketing, Film Festivals and Hookers Balls (see elsewhere on this blog), associating with Hells Angels and Frank Deford, and this woman is trying to legitimize me. Well, I won’t let it happen. No matter what the result of this class, I will still be the same carefree bon vivant trying to convince all of you that what I learned about gorilla marketing from Roller Derby and Ticketmaster is available to all leagues FREE with Brown Paper Tickets (along with their amazing free services: jerry@brownpapertickets.com)

If you are near Hastings (and there is not a helluva lot to do in January in Nebraska) see if you can get in or audit Michella’s course…..It goes all the way through modern Derby……maybe Steve will still send me the bus ticket.

Legitimate? NEVER!

Jerry Seltzer bio “Seltzer is the head of the third wave of American sports promoters this century” Frank Deford


Jerry was born June 3,1932 in Portland, Oregon.  His father Leo operated 3 movie theaters in Portland but had become intrigued with Walkathons, a marathon-type event that he then produced until 1935 when he had the idea of putting the participants on roller skates on a banked track.  Thus Roller Derby was born.

Jerry attended Stanford and Northwestern Universities, then entered the US Army where he served in the Counter Intelligence corps in Austria.  A few years after his return to the US he took over the operation of the International Roller Derby League and ran it from 1959  to 1973 when it ceased operations.  Roller Derby became so popular in the Bay Area, that it outdrew all professional sports teams except for the Giants.  He produced a one hour tape series weekly which was also distributed to over 110 stations  in the US and Canada.  He did color commentary on many of the telecasts and announced on a few.

Live games were scheduled in major arenas and stadia across the country, and some of the attendance records set were 19,500 at Madison Square Garden; 14,727 at Oracle Arena, Oakland; 27,000 at Shea Stadium New York; 34,544 at The Oakland Stadium; and 50,114 at White Sox Park in Chicago.

He was contacted by Lamar Hunt and a group of AFL football owners to head up a consortium to buy the Oakland Seals of the NHL.  Although his group had the endorsement of the Oakland Coliseum Arena and local media, the NHL chose Charlie Finley who had to suspend operations within two years.

His PR firm (Gerald E. Seltzer and Associates) consulted for the Oakland Clippers of the NASL Soccer league, and headed the campaign to keep trucks off of interstate 580 through the center of Oakland (still in effect today!)

Photo by kaeska from stock.xchng.com

Photo by kaeska from stock.xchng.com

While with BASS he produced  concerts for Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard for a client. Mark Rothbaum, Willie’s manager, presented him with a Platinum record of Willie’s for helping to boost his career.  Also co-produced two Russian River Music Festivals in Guerneville, Ca.

He also presented the Highwaymen (Willie, Waylon, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson) in two concerts for the BASS Ticket Foundation, which provided tickets for the underserved in the community.  BASS was also the exclusive ticketing agency used by Bill Graham presents, the Oakland Coliseum Complex, Shorenstein Nederlander theatres, The SF Giants, The Oakland Raiders, The 49ers, the Oakland As, Shoreline Arena, HP Pavilion, Arco Arena and dozens more.

He was also selected to handle the ticketing (and tour with) Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue.

In 1970 he produced “Derby”, a documentary about the players in the game, which was judged the best film at the San Francisco Film Festival , and which received excellent reviews from the New York Times, Saturday Review, and most of the critics of the day.  Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars….He also produced “First Position”, a cinema verite film centered on the American Ballet School in New York City, with appearances by many of the leading dancers in the world.

In 1974 he and partner Hal Silen started BASS tickets in the Bay Area, the first wholly owned independent computerized service.  It provided many producer and customer services that Ticketron hadn’t, and became the dominant ticket service in the SF Bay Area.  BASS systems were sold to Vancouver,  Houston, and Melbourne (Australia).  On November 18, 1985, San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan declared it as “Jerry Seltzer Day” in acknowledgment of his involvement with Thunder Road, a teenage drug and rehab center.

Hal and Jerry also created the BASS Tickets Foundation, which provided over $ 1 million in tickets annually to over 200 underserved non profits in the Bay Area so their clients could see various entertainments, and they worked with the San Francisco Ballet to have special presentations with children from urban areas to meet the dancers and understand and appreciate areas they might never know.

In 1983 Seltzer joined Ticketmaster as executive Vice President, Marketing and Sales, and created the same kind of services that BASS provided and within 5 years the company had virtually eliminated Ticketron from the marketplace.  He also provided management help for various local offices including New York, Chicago, Denver, Orlando and Miami.

After leaving Ticketmaster in 1993 he moved from Santa Monica to Sonoma, California, sitting on a number of non-profit boards including the Bay Area American Red Cross.  He was asked by Reverend Cecil Williams of Glide Church to help to secure a venue and help with the marketing and fund raising for  the 30th aniversary celebration of the church with Robin Williams, Bobby McFerrin, Maya Angelo and others that raised over $300,000.  He was also an initial consultant for Stub Hub.

In 1997 he co-founded the Sonoma Film Festival which today is considered one of the leading independent festivals. Proceeds from the Festival were used to restore the classic Sebastiani theatre. The following year funds were raised for lights for events at the Sebastiani.  He helped present “Derby Baby” at the festival in 2012.

He and his sister Gloria Gurian donated land in Seaside Oregon to create Seltzer Park near Leo’s home, and presented concerts with Willie Nelson and the Smothers Brothers to raise funds. He had served on the Bay Area Board of the American Red Cross and in the past three years was involved with the Red Cross and Brown Paper Tickets in co-ordinating blood drives in Northern California, New England, Chicago, Florida, Pennsylvania, and  New York….over the last several years over 3300 lives were saved from the blood donated.

He also serves as “The Commissioner” of modern day Roller Derby.  there are now 1967 amateur  leagues in 65 countries encompassing over 100,000 participants (www.derbylisting.com).  He has no official capacity other than advisor to the various leagues on a non-compensated basis.  The Seltzer Cup, named for his father, is presented by at the annual USARS national championship.  And Texas Roller Derby, the first modern Roller Derby banked track league, features the Ann Calvello Cup, which is presented annually to its championship team.

He joined Brown Paper Tickets in sales outreach in 2013 and recently resigned to concentrate on consulting.

He has a blog:  www.rollerderbyjesus.com.  Featured in “Five Strides on the Banked Track”, Frank Deford, Little Brown;  “A very simple game” Herb Michelson; “From Roller Derby to Rollerjam” Keith Coppage;  “Ticket Masters” by Dean Burdick; “Bay Area Roller Derby” by Keith Coppage and Jerry Seltzer.  and of course a wikipedia page. he twitters @jeryseltzer, and has over 8000 friends and followers on facebook…, and his blog has had almost 400,000 viewings.  He was featured in a recent BBC presentation on Roller Derby, in a segment of “Strange Inheritances” on Fox Business Channel and in the Mark Greczmiel documentary on the late, lamented, Oakland Seals Hockey team of the NHL.  And he was featured in the CBS television program “Decades” on 8/13/2018.

Recently he was the subject of the April 2017 issue of Valley of the Moon Magazine and a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle relating to the 20th anniversary of the Sonoma Film Festival.  He also co-presented on behalf of Brown Paper Tickets the World Roller Derby Week in Chicago August 13 to 19 2017..the event on August 13 took place on the original site of the Chicago Coliseum, where his father and he presented Roller Derby.

The American Red Cross Northwest selected him as a 2018 Red Cross Hero for the blood drives, and he was honored at a function in Santa Rosa, Ca.

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Thunder Road, Etta James, Judi and me


Thunder Road is a teenage drug and alcohol center in Oakland that is so much more.  It includes family counseling activities and training for life.

My friend, Joel Selvin, rock critic for the San Francisco Chronicle went to the center to help establish a music department and ended up being a huge supporter.  He put together an annual “Roast and Jam” at San Francisco’s oldest nightclub and invited local celebrities to be “roasted” and local musicians, who probably had similar problems as the kids, to perform.  He was able to have Van Morrison, Sammy Hagar, Huey Lewis, the Doobies, and on and on show up.  And Herbie Herbert, manager of Journey, became a mainstay of the roasters.

Bill Graham, Joel, Sammy Hagar and others were roasted, and I think Joel ran out of victims and asked me to be skewered.  I was an easy target because my computerized ticketing company, BASS, was constantly assaulted for its service charges.

So Judi Flowers and I went to work on fundraising and getting roasters.  We put together a great silent auction that I believed raised about $30,000.  Included was an amazing donation from Pixar’s John Lasseter who gave a private tour and lunch of their wonderful facility in Emeryville .  I think someone paid about $6,000 for that prize.  We had great rock and roll items, band jackets, photos, and it was terrific.

Frank Deford, America’s best writer and commentator on sports and other subjects, flew out and thoroughly laid me out.  He of course knew me from my Roller Derby days, and mentioned that I went from “Tickets” in Roller Derby (see my post on Tickets) to Tickets for admission.  Roger Ebert sent a video in which he mentioned my film “Derby”  for which he gave 4 stars,  and said he was angry because I had gone from producing movies to just producing tickets;  and Willie Nelson’s video, which brought the house down, accused me of getting him in trouble with the IRS because of my “scalping”  (not true!) of his tickets.

Then came the music,  The house band was Booker T and the MGs, then Joel’s wife Keta Bill (what a blues belter!) performed with Sam from Sam and Dave, then Bonnie Raitt (what a woman, not only did she not get paid, but she and her husband made a great cash contribution), then for the final performance, the unbelievable Etta James.

Even then Etta was not feeling well, but her voice, song selection and total command contributed to a performance that could never be captured on discs  But her best performance was earlier in the day.

At each of these benefits it was arranged that about 15 of the Thunder Road teens who had done well at the facility were brought to the club to see the sound checks of the various performers. Although I was not on hand, Judi was when they came to hear Etta.  She had them sit in front of her and spun a tale of her own transgressions with substance abuse that were so personal and terrifying that it obviously had an impact on all who were there.  She told them whatever they had done, she had done worse to herself and only through the grace of God was she still here.

I know the kids all got the message.  And that is the best memory that Judi and I have of the incomparable Etta James.

My very own Boswell


A number of years ago when I was operating BASS Tickets in the San Francisco Bay Area (a regional computerized ticketing company), I wandered into our phone center and was introduced to a new phone operator, Keith Coppage.

Most of our agents were young: a first job or a transition to what they really wanted to do.  Keith was definitely not in that category, and I felt I had met him before.

As time went by I occasionally saw Keith in our main office, which was not unusual.  He was an excellent agent, although the hours he could work were limited.

Then I started receiving notes at various times  (“September 7th is the anniversary of the first championship playoffs in 1959 at the Cow Palace, when the Bombers lost in the finals to the Chicago Westerners”, etc).  Needless to say, it piqued my interest, so I got to know Keith a little better.

Keith’s father took him to see a Bay Bomber game when he was just 9 years old at the Antioch (Ca) Fairgrounds, certainly not the best venue we ever played; outdoors by a grandstand over dirt, but it grabbed Keith and he forced his family to take him to games at the Cow Palace, Coliseum and watched every Sunday night on television when Roller Derby was on.

Now Keith is no trekkie, he went to college and became a teacher at a high school in Concord, CA; not the classiest high school in town, but the one servicing the needs of the newest and poorest residents of the area (I am generalizing again).  I guess he teaches English and is also in charge of drama and his students – past and present – adore him.

But he never let go of the obsession.  He kept up with Roller Derby and has one of the great collections in America.  He is friends with hundreds of other Derbyites.  He attended Joan Weston’s training school so he could learn the game better and be near one of his idols.

And he took the odd hours job at BASS to observe me.

Now Samuel Johnson was a man of letters in England, whom a lawyer named Boswell shadowed quite closely and wrote the definitive 2-volume biography of him.  I guess there was no Roller Derby at that time because the book never mentions it.  But maybe to Keith, I was the Johnson of the 70’s.

I got to know Keith better and realized what a complete person he is; and his writing was amazing.  When Rollerjam started, the famous Rolling Stone Photographer Baron Wolman, who had taken some wonderful artistic photos of Roller Derby in the 60s and 70s and I decided to create a book (Baron operates Squarebooks publishing, go to it and see his stuff on rock and roll and the world).  So who better to write it than Keith.

And all who read this book (Roller Derby to Rollerjam, the authorized story of an unauthorized sport), realize how the great and humorous story of the game is captured by Keith.  see for yourself at http://www.rollerderbycommish.com.  Frank Deford among others has given it a glowing review, and you feel Keith on every page.

So yesterday I read a post on facebook by Keith how someone broke into the high school the night before and stole the piano.  This district has no money for a new piano; Keith mounts his productions on a shoestring and gets glowing reviews.  And to his surprise, so many people responded that Keith posted the following (my summary) “your response is overwhelming, I had no idea how many chums, alums cared……it is so important to me at this time of my life”.

The piano was electric, and he is hoping to get another one donated, or he is really unable to mount the shows…..if you know of any available pianos please friend him on facebook and let him know.  Keith, like so many teachers, is not rich, but his love for teaching has been his life’s work.

Keith has just completed a new book on the history of Roller Derby in the San Francisco Bay Area, from 1937 to modern day.  It should be out in Spring for Arcadia Press.   And he emailed me today, that if he gets any money out of it he would like to donate to the children of the Derby woman from the South Bay Rollers who was brutally killed by her husband last Saturday night.