I have a lot to be thankful for in my life.
But today I will confine it to Roller Derby.
It has been a great thing for my life. I took over the game my father invented, and further developed it as a great entertainment for America, Canada, and Mexico. It was a business built to entertain the public, but along the way I met and employed some of the greatest men and women athletes that I could have known, was a real fan of the game and enjoyed with the audience the fury and excitement and speed of these great banked track skaters.
And I made a living! Actually not as good as when I became part of the ticketing industry, but at 26 I worked for myself and employed a hundred people, and saw America and met so many people in so many regions. Our games were seen on 110 tv stations, we played at (and sold out) all the major arenas and some of the major stadia. And I made one huge mistake: running this enterprise as a family business with no partners and when the economy sunk us, I had no one to turn to for additional resources, so I had to shut it down.
I am proud that all the skaters and employees were paid; we supplied all uniforms, skates, per diem and medical injuries coverage (paid while off), transportation and hotels when on the road….a decent salary for the 60’s and 70’s, and probably the first sport to have profit sharing for the employees…..when we shut down, the skaters and employees (to their surprise) received a payout of anywhere from $5000 to $60,000, depending on their pay scale and length of employment And our ticket prices: $1 to $3. Larry Smith started his business with his pay out…..some blew tens of thousands of dollars partying…and this was 1973.
So I went into the ticket distribution business (never scalping), and what I learned in promoting Roller Derby carried over into BASS Tickets and eventually Ticketmaster. And including Brown Paper Tickets (the best!), that covered the next 40 years of my work life.
So 10 years ago Gary Powers, after starting (and maintaining) the National Roller Derby Hall of Fame, hosted the 70th anniversary of Roller Derby dinner in Chicago, and who showed up for the evening but dewy-eyed Val Capone and the fledgling Windy City Rollers, and we all saw their game the next night, and that started a period of revitalization of my life and association with Roller Derby.
I felt so welcome and was invited to Rollercon in Las Vegas (and Judi provided over 300 pair of her Bonjour Fleurette flower slippers,featured on Sex and the City and Oprah), and Loretta Behrens and I addressed the attendees about the old and new days…..then I was invited to WFTDA nationals in Portland (my home and the home of my father, the creator of Derby and once again the welcome mat was out.
I was invited to the Bay Area Derby girls games and went when I could, and of course to Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sacramento for area games. And the nationals in Chicago (where I had gone to college) were a real treat.
Then the bottom kind of dropped out with weird instances that I have no desire to relate. I found I was resented (and even hated) by some (most I didn’t know) because I represented THAT Roller Derby, I guess. When I got over the incident, I just continued on seeing and supporting the people in the game, and they know who I am and how I relate to today….I have over 12,000 friends and followers on facebook and twitter and many more on my blog.
But this is not about me and my travails. I have seen very specifically in the last few months statements by at least one person that I completely respect, that modern derby has no relationship to Leo or my game, and was created by the women as a flat track game that empowers women in sports…..and guess what, I have no argument with that. I have no claim on the game as it exists today. For whatever reason if that is important, then I gladly acknowledge what you believe……I guess I am surprised that the name Roller Derby was attached to the game.
But I am an individual who loves the sport my father created. I am a fan. If there are aspects I don’t enjoy, I will say them. Understand, I have no power to influence or change anything, but I do have the right to express myself.
roller derby is on the greatest growth spurt in recent years; the issue in many leagues appears to be decreasing attendance. I am not the enemy. I advise skaters. I would love to help everyone increase attendance and other aspects of the promotion of the leagues. That is one of my functions of work and the seminars at Rollercon. and why Brown Paper Tickets encourages me to work on community projects like the blood drives (in three major areas next year!).
You have every right to not like me or want to be a friend…but please make sure you are not tilting at windmills. I love you all.
rules of the game, 1970
(click on link above)
Almost all of you know Ann Calvello, who in the 50s through the 70s was the Suzy Hotrod of her day (or is it the other way around?)
Well, Ivy King was the first Derby superstar. She skated in the very first Roller Derby in Chicago and for the next 15 years.
She was tiny, wore glasses, looked sweet as Shirley Temple, but was a real pisser. A terror on the track, and funny, foul-mouthed and a great woman into her 90’s.
The perfect connection between original Derby and modern Derby, and that is why the Windy City Rollers named their championship cup after her. Please read the great piece from Chicago.
Two loves of my life: Ivy King and Val Capone…….I am definitely trans Derby.
When I first heard about the revival of Roller Derby by women, I really didn’t pay any attention….Over the years there have been “outfits” popping up in Florida, Texas, California, all who thought they could emulate the original Derby with a crappy “game” with an excessive amount of wrestling moves…..and frankly I thought that’s what the modern Roller Derby was all about.
Then in 2005 I met Val Capone (my current Derby wife) and about a dozen other women from the Windy City Rollers, as I mentioned in a previous post about the 70th anniversary dinner in Chicago. And frankly when we went to the game at the Congress Theater the next night, I didn’t think this was much difference: Cross dressers for coaches, strange races when a skater was penalized, etc….But the crowd at the facility was on to something. This was a neo-punk event, and they were really into it.
As we know, the game evolved, and grew, and then you realize that today many of the original players are still involved and the skill level just gets better and better.
I am hoping that a tier system comes into being soon, similar to English soccer, so the level of play equalizes. Hopefully, that 86 point average disparity between the winning and losing teams that exists today will gradually shrink, allowing the teams to be more competitive with each other….and the ranking system will be changed so beating up on a weaker opponent is not a benefit for getting into the nationals.
It is a great game, it will continue to evolve, and I have little doubt – in spite of those who don’t want it to happen – it will become a major arena event in at least 2 dozen cities….
But that won’t affect the other leagues any more than major league baseball or NBA basketball affects the thousands of other leagues.
It’s not the worst thing that can happen to one of America’s original sports.