Blonde Bomber

 Posted by at 12:34 pm  2 Responses »
May 252011
 

The Blonde Bomber. I fancy a resemblance between us.

Every single girl who plays roller derby has heard it. “Oh, I used to watch that on TV in the 70′s”.  Perhaps some of you skaters even remember the glory days of disco era derby yourselves (I don’t). My dad grew up in Oakland and talked from time to time about the Bay City Bombers and Joan Weston. In fact, every single person I know who knew anything about derby in the 70′s reminisces on Joanie Weston “The Blonde Bomber”, “The Golden Girl”, “The Roller Derby Queen”.

Several months ago when my home team The Cog Blockers played Death Rattle Rollers I had an awesome run of jams, scoring a hell of a lot more points than I have ever scored before (103). I have to give a huge shout out to my pivots and blockers, because I am not as good they made me look. Even though I know I had a world of help from my teammates, and our opponent was a little less skilled, it felt really damn good to look at the stat sheet and see that number by my name. So I sent a text to my dad exclaiming how awesome I looked on paper. He responded with “Wow. Joan Weston never scored that many points”. Weather or not that is true I don’t know. I’ve tried looking up her stats on multiple websites and archives but haven’t really found anything. While digging around for a statistic history she really piqued my interest. One hell of a broad, I must say.

The most fascinating and inspiring tidbit I found is that she was the highest paid female athlete of the 60′s and 70′s. I know “back then” there weren’t many avenues for women to pursue a professional sports career, but still. She ruled two decades! A natural athlete, she excelled at college softball and pretty much every physical feat she attempted. The surfer in me is pretty jazzed that she was great at that too (and was known to paddle out sans wet suit – my hero). She started skating for the Los Angeles Braves but didn’t really make a name for herself until becoming captain of the Bay City Bombers in ’65. During her career she skated for 19 different all star teams and maintains a reputation as one of the most beloved ladies to ever lace up. The 1972 flick Kansas City Bomber was said to be inspired by (not based on) Joan Weston. This piqued my interest even further.

Kansas City Bomber. I’ve never heard of it. I’m surprised that in my two years of skating I missed a derby movie. So I rented it. Raquel Welch plays K.C. Carr, a skater with a pretty face fighting her way to the top despite constantly being traded! Holy crap, people. I realize I’m way behind the curve here, but if you haven’t seen this go get it now. I’m accustomed to seeing Raquel Welch as a big haired, doe eyed, busty damsel in distress type. In Kansas City Bomber she is a divorced mother of two who unloads her kids on her disapproving mother to make a name for herself in the great wide world of derby. I hear a lot of girls say that they found their “voice” through roller derby, felt empowered, or even in control for the first time. Derby has not done any of those things for me (because I’ve always been the sassy pain in the ass I am today), but in her character I can really see what everyone means by that. She has a rough go of it, but as a talented skater she gets the fulfillment she is looking for and finds the strength to follow her heart. Cat Scrap Fever gives it two thumbs up! Or, is that two elbows to the face?

Kansas City Bomber is a far cry from the game we play today. And Joan Weston passed away in 1997. Roller derby captivated millions of Americans in the past – and its revival is alive and kicking. Looking back makes me so excited for the future! Weston said “All I want out of the Derby, is to make good money, get out in one piece and, years from now, when I say I was in the Roller Derby, I want people still to know what it is.  I want that.”  She certainly succeeded, I imagine, beyond her hopes. We all work very hard to sustain our sport. Who hasn’t wished we had a professional circuit to actually make some cash in? I find it comforting to know that for twenty years, the lady sports hero with the biggest paycheck was earning her keep playing roller derby.

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May 102011
 

Kelley Young has been involved with the sport of roller derby for seven years. Ms. Young and her team- the Kansas City Roller Warriors- won the “Texas Shootout” 2007 WFTDA National Championship against Seattle’s Rat City Rollers in what many derby enthusiasts consider one of the greatest bouts ever played in the history of the league.  In 2008, she showed the derby world her elite jammer status by matching a tournament record (25 points in a single jam), that had just been set by Duke City’s Kamikaze Kim that same year.  Snot Rocket took a year off in 2009, but returned to roller derby in 2010. She decided to skate under her ‘government issued’ name of Kelley Young, which caused some amount of talk amongst announcers and bloggers alike.  She was interviewed late 2010 by fivepointgrandslam.com about the change. Kelley explained- “I decided to shed the name after I came back to skating following a year hiatus, which I thought at the time was a permanent retirement. Snot Rocket as a derby personality had generated so much hype, and I didn’t want to feel the pressure of coming back into that after a year off, having to live up to the same expectations that were hovering over me at the time that I retired.”  She went on to say-
“I wanted a clean slate. I just wanted to come back and skate with my girls, with my team, without all the hype and personal attention. I’m just me, Kelley, on and off the track. Snot Rocket was old news.”

That year, she helped her team to advance up to the semi-finals in the ‘Uproar on the Lakeshore’ Championships.

Currently topping the rankings board in the South Central region, Kelley and the Kansas City Roller Warriors are fully poised and prepared to reclaim their number one ranking for the 2011 season.

She graciously took a few moments out of her crazy schedule to answer a few questions I had of my own.

Nomnom: What positions do you play?

Kelley: I play jammer almost exclusively.

N: How long have you been playing roller derby?

K: I’ve been playing since 2004, with a year off in the middle.

N: Day job (aka- what do you do to get the insurance coverage to skate)?

K: I teach Spanish at a local university.

N: What are some of your best/favorite moments in roller derby?

K: One of my favorite moments include the year we got a hockey coach to coach us, in 2007 when we improved a lot.  It was very gratifying to be coached by someone with skating experience, when it seemed that many other leagues were still being coached by friends or random people involved personally, as we had been in the past.

N: Do you have a trademarked or talked about ‘Snot Rocket’ move? If so, what is it?

K: I guess my “talked about move” would be juking.  But so many top level jammers are good jukers…

N: How did you get involved with roller derby?

K: Heard about it at a local rock show on Halloween…some girls were rolling around passing out flyers, ha.

N: Karaoke or After Bout Viewing?

K: Uh, both. I’m probably seen as being just business Kelley, but I can definitely have some fun…although I usually let loose with my closest friends.

N: Do you have an athletic background?

K: Mmmm, somewhat.  I grew up skating for fun, and I was always good at that, but that’s really been the only physical activity/sport that I’ve been really good at.  I played sports growing up, but for example in freshman year tennis and basketball, I was literally the worst on the team.  I’m not just being modest – Hallie (she’s probably not reading – but if she is, hey girl!) and I were the worst on the team.

N: What’s your record for most scoring points in a bout?

K: I don’t remember…I don’t keep track of that stuff.  If I did score a record, it was probably broken like the next week.

N: How did it feel when you found out you made a WFTDA record?

K: Well, if I’m remembering correctly, I only tied the record that Kamikaze Kim had already broken.  Because of the particular situation that year, it felt like somewhat of a vindication for my team, since Duke City had beat us out of our spot to Nationals earlier in the tournament in a game that I wasn’t able to play in.

N: Any plans to attend Rollercon this year? Have you in the past?

K: I attended Rollercon the first year it existed, and it was a lot of fun!  I would like to go more, but my schedule hasn’t permitted me to.

N: If Lucy skates 3 mph and Jan skates 7 mph, when will Jan catch up with Lucy if she gives Lucy a head start of 2 minutes?

K: I was pretty good at algebra and word problems in middle school.  I remember this one my teacher had me do this equation that took up the whole chalk board … one of my proudest 8th grade moments.

 

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Apr 262011
 

Comicpalooza, the annual comic… uh… palooza, takes place in Houston, TX this year from May 27-29 (Fri-Sun). Three sets of exhibition bouts will take place on Sunday (5/30) following Saturday night’s sanctioned bout between the Houston Knockouts and Harrisburg, PA Rollergirls.  If you’ve been waiting all your life, as I have, to skate as your favorite comic figure, register for one (or more) of three exhibition bouts, or email Grrrl Friday at inkslingertl@gmail.com. Registration closes 4/29! Refs are welcome, too. Further details at bottom of article.

When trAC/DC told me I could go to Houston for a comic convention AND skate there as a superhero AND see Houston take on Harrisburg, I nearly crapped my spandex.

See, I’ve had a long and confusing love affair with Captain America since the 7th grade, one that my family finds “interesting” and worthy of exploration. So let’s explore it together. Maybe you and I will look back at our superhero-laden childhoods and find that those old capes and masks laid an early, welcoming foundation for derby. Because, you know, everything has to do with derby.

Ahem.

It was a typically disgusting day in Kenner, LA, and I was what’s typically a disgusting age: 13. I sat in my elementary school’s humid cafeteria sweating through my see-through white polyester uniform shirt, looking out at the bayou’s concrete levee walls and the stupid heat-waving blacktop that anyone but a kid would pass out on. As flocks of the fattest seagulls you ever saw positioned themselves above our recess area for shit-on-kids time, I realized I’d had enough of this damn place as I stood in it. I’d been quiet for something like ten years, and though I excelled athletically and got good grades, no kids gave a shit about me. I was too grown up and introspective for my friends. I was always sweaty and only spoke up to stick up for Josh (he had elf ears). They knew me for being… tall.

I stared at my Cheez-It like it was a home video of a windblown grocery bag.

“Hey,” I said, looking up.

I slammed my fist on the cheap linoleum table.

“Hey!”

The Clique looked up from their peas.

I had their attention. What was I going to say?

“I’m Captain America!”

There was a long pause.

They looked at me with a singular question in their eyes, one that I, too, was now wondering. What the hell did I just say?

I thought quick: “Callie, catch this Cheez-It in your mouth and you can be my sidekick.”

I threw it at her. She caught it.

“Julianna, what’s the capital of Mississippi?”

“I don’t know.”

“Good. Me neither. You’re in.”

And so it went. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no control. It was like years of pent up hysteria were pouring out of me, and as long as The Clique thought it was good fun, I was gonna sit back and watch me unfurl.

I commanded that damn lunch and recess. By the end of it, I had five of the cliquiest bitches following me around, waiting for orders, laughing hysterically with me and my alter ego. I was brand new, funny.

“Where did you come from?” Kelli asked me by the end of the hour-long break. “We had no idea you were funny.”

I was smug as all hell.

“You know, my mom’s vagina.” Man, I was on a roll.

But I had no idea where it had all come from. I didn’t even know Captain America was a superhero. I’d seen a patriotic car round town with the words sealed on its rear window, and they had stuck in my brain. My sidekicks got names, too. Derby names sorta. Like Sergeant Stripes, Mr. Flag, and Uncle Sam. I assigned them. We wore secret patches on our gym shorts beneath our plaid skirts. There was a handbook and a handshake. I was dope. I was Captain America!

Now, as a weird, grownass bitch, I salute you, Captain America, for coming out of my open mouth that day, for transforming my peer relations, and scaring my mother. I salute you, today, by vowing to wrap your name and colors around my derby-loving bod at Comicpalooza, even if your blue tights make me look like a sausage.

Thank you, thank goodness(!) I didn’t wait a day longer to get weird. Thank you, Comicpalooza, for letting me honor the kid, the superhero within who propels me forth.

 

REGISTRATION CLOSES 4/29

*$10 registration fee per half-hour scrimmage includes team shirt with name and number!

What: Comicpalooza Derby Exhibition

Where:

George R. Brown Convention Center
3rd Floor
1001 Avenida de las Americas
Houston, TX 77010

When:

Sunday, May 30: 1 pm, 2 pm, 3pm

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Apr 182011
 

I remember my first time and my first one:

I was down in my parent’s basement in Parkville, MO- hunkered down for the latest tornado duck and cover all-nighter. This was like, the fourth or fifth time that month that the sirens blared outside and the ticker tape scrolled across EVERY channel on tv. I was prepared for it though- there was a case of Boulevard beer chilling in the mini-fridge, a windowless room within staggering distance. The basement was partially furnished, so I twisted open a mirth silo, stretched out on the love seat, switched on the television and prepared for an evening of drunken channel-surfing. The only problem was that there was nothing on that I hadn’t already seen or that I had any interest in watching. Frustrated, I looked to the movie choices in my Mom and Pop’s collection and just before relegating myself to watching ‘Out of Africa’, I happened on a local television station that was airing a Kansas City Roller Warriors bout.  I put Meryl Streep back in her place and started watching. The sound quality was shite, the images dark and grainy. But there was something being transmitted through the cathode ray tubes that I could not pull myself away from. I mouthed out the words before trying it out on my tongue and then haltingly, slowly, out loud- “Roller. Derby.”

I sat, elbows on knees and knuckles under chin, intently watching and squinting and picking up on a name here, a game term there. I reached for my notebook to jot down some of these lessons and that’s when I saw her shucking and jiving through the static and around the pack- “Snot Rocket”.

 

by Joe Rollerfan

 

My first derby game and first derby crush smacked into me like a one two punch.

I heard the awe and excitement in the announcers’ voices when they spoke of her. I too, sat transfixed- stupefied that a human being could have such outstanding control and form and grace and athleticism- all while racing around a polished concrete oval track on eight wheels.

I wanted to jump into the television and be transported to where they were. I wanted to reconnect with my blue sneaker skates from childhood. I wanted to get off the couch, put down my beer and DO something. Yeah, I got inspired, as we all have – to start living Derby.

The program faded out, the grainy surreal canvas was replaced with a blaringly clear update of tornado sightings. I had a flash of hallucinatory doubt. Had I caught a glimpse of some new reality just then? Did the low pressure and Lunar Ale cause a momentary REM state? I kind of shook my head a little, attempting to clear my senses to clarify what I had just seen, felt.

Then I did do something. I got off the couch, turned off the Dummy box and I leaped to the top of the stairs, en route to the office as quick as a hip whip. Oblivious to the wind and rain and lightening, my only fear was that the internet would be down and foil my drive to discover more. Upon seeing it up and ready to go, though- I started my tipsy research towards derby (self) development using words like- roller derby, Kansas City, warriors, snot rocket- until I discovered a link that brought me to an old YouTube video, titled ‘Snot Rocket’s Monster Scoring Run- Jammit 2007’.

All the thousands of thoughts that typically race though my head at any given moment- day or night, stopped cold- fixated for two minutes, forty-eight seconds.  I probably watched that clip a good five or ten times before looking out the window to see the twister that would pick up my parents house and carry it into Oz.

No, I’m just joshing with you. But I did decide that I was going to catch the roller derby train.

Within a fortnight, I made arrangements to move back home to the east coast after a near three-year hiatus. I arranged to transfer within my company and when that was denied, I turned in my two week notice. I reunited with my best friend Sybil Action and began the slow journey towards becoming involved in a sport that at the time, I had seen for less than ten minutes (an hour, if you include all the times I replayed Ms. Rocket’s scoring run from Jammit 2007).

 

The sport of Roller Derby is addictive but more than that- it’s inspirational, it’s motivational and it’s charging in and changing the lives of awe-inspiring women and men every day throughout the entire world.

 

I’m going to talk some more about Snot Rocket my next go-around here at LDG!, because she has inspired me in leaps, bounds and Grand Slam passes. She has also agreed to provide her input on some saucy roller derby questions I have for her. I’m looking forward to interviewing my Roller Derby rock star and sharing the conversation with you. In the meantime though, I’m curious-

When was your first time? Who was your first one?

 

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Apr 172011
 

After reading TrACDC’s piece on derby being the catalyst that ended her marriage I felt compelled to tell my story. Roller derby had in fact saved my marriage. Well . . . we weren’t married then, but it did save my relationship.

Oliver and I moved to Santa Cruz only about six months after we started dating over seven years ago. He had lived here before, as well as in Humboldt and was a tried and true cold-water surfer. I quickly adjusted to waking up alone most mornings, the smell of neoprene and the taste of sea salt every time I kissed him.

He loved surfing. I was jealous. Not that he was spending his time away from me, but that he had passion and a hobby that was all his. Surfing in a way completed him as a person. After he would come home from being out in the water he was always so happy and content. Even if it was a crappy day with small waves, he still loved to get out in the ocean and paddle around. It brought him true happiness and balance.

The first time I saw him surf I was completely blown away. His body was fluid and agile. He almost danced up and down his long board with such grace that it made a ballerina look clumsy and uncoordinated.

WTF life? Where was my passion? What was my talent? This surely had to be some mistake.

Oliver had made surfing look easy, so easy in fact I was convinced I was the next Laird Hamilton, all I needed to do was go out there and kick ass . . . just like that. No big deal, it’s just the ocean. WRONG.

Just like every other sport / hobby I tired, I truly sucked at surfing. I did not have a natural desire to be out in the cold-ass water on a huge board dodging angry locals, marine animals and thinking about great white sharks. Every time I went out, the anxiety of drowning would consume me. Which is ironic because I am an excellent swimmer. It just wasn’t for me.

Who was I before derby . . .

This is an important part of the story.

I had given up on women. I had a few close friends, but on the whole I had been backstabbed and left heartbroken too many times to want to trust any female friend again.

I was competitive to almost an insatiable degree. I had no outlet and could not recognize this trait in myself as competitiveness. I came across to most people as arrogant, defensive and bitchy with a hint of always-something-to-prove.

I was also pretty convinced at this point in my life I was not good at anything. I had no passion. No drive. Yeah I was a good student and excelled in my journalism program, but it was not enough. Along with my adventures in surfing I had tried: running, basketball, water polo, softball and in high school I pretty much sucked my way through every performance art group I could sign up for. I was crap at it all.

As a result of all this suck, my unsung competitiveness and my lack of faith in the female sex, I had developed a very low self esteem. Our relationship suffered as a result. I was discontent with myself and would take out my insecurities on him. I’m lucky he stayed with me . . . looking back I know I was not a fun person to be around.

And along came derby . . .

I knew from the first second I saw roller derby I was going to do it. There was not a question in my head. I was a derby skater.

Oliver was encouraging. I think he was concerned that I would get hurt (which I eventually did) but he really encouraged me to try it. So I tried out and made it. I don’t blow smoke up my ass very often and when I do I’m usually joking, but I was a natural. I’m not a crazy good athlete who understood the fundamentals of strategy and blocking from the get go, but I was and always have been a good skater.

I come from a modest upbringing, so although I had shown the aptitude for skating at a young age, my mother had to pass on the idea of paying for figure skating classes when I was kid. K sera sera . . .

I was instantly in love with derby. I loved going to practice, learning new things, getting my ass handed to me and really getting in touch with the tough girl inside me that had been trying to breakout for so long.

Oliver was there every step of the way. He would make dinner for me every night and wait until after practice so we could eat together. He would go to every bout, fundraiser and social event. This was not easy for him. Oliver is sorta a shy guy and he would time after time put himself out there and go to these events even though I could tell it would make him anxious. I loved him more for it.

I thought this was normal. It was not until a couple years into this derby thing that I started seeing the turn over in derby widows. Perfectly normal seeming dudes would turn into these controlling, oppressive douchbags. Women would turn into self-confident super heros and their guys could not hang. Lame.

Oliver celebrated my new found inner light. He loved and continues to love everything about it. He has never once complained about me having to go to practice, or any time spent away from home. He has never complained about the money I spend on derby and always gets me derby stuff for my birthday, Christmas etc. Above all he is always there for me. He lets me cry on his shoulder when I have a bad practice or game and encourages me to get back out there and try harder.

I think the pinnacle for me was when I had knee surgery. I expected him to persuade me to stop playing. The one thing that was a hot button for Oliver was the potential for injury. He did not like seeing me with ice packs all the time, hobbling around our apartment questioning whether or not this ache or pain was worth calling the doctor for. Once I tore my ACL and knew I was going to have to have surgery, I thought this was it, the support ends now.

What actually happened was he became my champion. He pushed me to do the physical therapy and to keep my eyes on the prize. He let me vent to him my constant frustrations and fears, and held on to me emotionally while I went through the darkest time in my adult life.

Recipe for Success

One of the main reasons, I’m convinced I’ve had such a good run at derby and my relationship is because the two are not meant to meet and that is the way I like it. Derby is mine and surfing is his. He comes to games, cheers me on, but does not make it about him. Game day is about me and what I need / don’t need and he gives me that. He never tries to tell me what I should be doing out there, but does give me an honest assessment if I ask him.

I know what I have is a fluke. I look around at the girls who I have been skating with for almost four years and only one other girl still has the same spouse she came into derby with.  Now those are some odds.

I appreciate Oliver’s support and I think that is the other part of our magic derby chemistry. I know what we have is special and I try to appreciate him everyday.

When Oliver and I got married last September as part of our wedding vows I gave him a skate wheel and he gave me a bar of surf wax – symbols of our unity through our individuality. Today they sit in a wood box on our mantel to remind us everyday to appreciate and support each other.

Roller derby saved me and my relationship.

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