“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 stock.xchng.com.

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 (www.sonomafilmfest.org) 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 http://www.sonomafilmfest.org.  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 http://www.sonomafilmfest.org.  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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Count the Stars

There is an interesting story brewing in the city that is the capital of coffee stores.

KING-TV has a contest for the best of everything in Western Washington.  And Rat City’s Re-AnimateHer was nominated in the category of best pro athletes.  There is a lot of competition:  Felix Hernandez  (Cy Young award winner) and Ichiro  from the Mariners,  Sue Bird from the pro basketball team, Kasey Kahn, and even the great old quarterback (Warren Moon) and several dozen others.

Cecilia Hanley (Re-AnimateHer) Photo by Joe Schwartz (Joe Rollerfan)

Well Cecilia Hanley (Re-AnimateHer’s other name) jumped into first place.  Then KING decided to disqualify her because she didn’t fit in the category of “pro”, but then several of the others didn’t in the strictest sense.  Well Derby skaters and fans immediately drew up a petition and within a matter of hours had 550 signatures and sent it to the station.  By then, Cecilia had fallen into 4th place as they weren’t counting her votes.  So worried about a backlash, the station put her back on and at that point she had 10% of the total votes, a highly respectable figure.  But at the end of the day as a result of the posting by all who had become aware of it (from the leagues around the country and the world), she was in first place with a tremendous 24% of the total votes, over double that of Mr. Hernandez in second place.

Wonderful, so why all the fuss?

Now it has the making of a national story and maybe a major awareness boost for all of Roller Derby, ironically in the weekend with the regional tourneys which are so important to all of us, and of almost no concern to most of America, have begun.

This is no longer just about Cecilia, although she certainly deserves the attention.  It is about getting one of our leading athletes out of the underground (well, you can scarcely call it underground in the Derby-aware greater Seattle area) and making her a winner in everyone’s eyes.

And this brings me to another point:  virtually all major sports draw fans to their games because of either the stars playing on their team or the opposition.  We must start calling attention to the stars who are skating.  This will not draw away from the team aspect of the game, but will enhance it.  Now that there is a strong PR page on facebook (Roller Derby PR), that should be one of their main publicity efforts.  Features should be written about the exploits of Re-animateHer, Suzy Hotrod, Val Capone, Tara Armov, Pia Mess, Lucky 7, Brandy Rettig,  and the hundreds of others who have become famous within our circle.

And you may not like this, but we should also feature their non-skating names; remember Julius Erving was Dr. J, Ty Cobb “The Georgia Peach”, Wayne Gretzky “The great one” and on and on.  Better press with real names.  Still include their skating names.

If you want to vote for Cecilia, go to best.king5.com.  The contest goes until October 9, and you know that it will get closer as the contest draws to the end.  Everyone is eligible to vote.  and I noticed a tricky one today (Elwood, please check this one out), when I went to the site to see if I could vote, the words “best amateur athlete” came up…..Uh Uh……we can’t accept that now.  I just went again and they only list her as amateur…..However, go to the list of pro athletes and you can write her in if you are willing to.

And oh by the way, Leo’s mother’s name was Celia.