Published on October 21st, 2011 | by bane-ana0
Exclusive: Roller Derby: The Sensation That Caused A Book, Chapter 2
Editor’s note: Baneana was kind enough to share this exclusive with DerbyLife: a chapter from his book, Roller Derby: The Sensation That Caused A Book, available on sale now at Wicked Skatewear, and available on sale next week at Sin City Skates. (Note: the author will eventually sell on Amazon, but wanted derby-owned skate shops to receive the bulk of sales business from his book). If you’re fortunate enough to attend this weekend’s MRDA Championships, you can watch the Baneana skate for New York Shock Exchange, and pick up a copy of the book as well – maybe he’ll autograph it for you! Enjoy!
RABBLE IN SKATES
Can you imagine that call to the police? ‘Um, yes, I’d like
to report about a dozen girls in short skirts and knee
socks skating around—they must be stopped!’ – BUTTER SCOTCH CRIPPLE
We didn’t always call ourselves The Long Island Roller Rebels. The first name of the league was The Rockabetty Bruisers. When founding member Dirty Gertie quit The Bruisers, she took the name (it was her brainchild after all). While still The Rockabetty Bruisers, the team—no more than a dozen girls—skated on tennis courts, as no skate rink owners wanted to take a risk on roller derby. Other practices took place outside on public skating rinks after the public had retired for the evening. Sometimes neighbors called the cops (those damn Long Island soccer moms!) to come deal with that rabble in skates that made too much noise. The profanity that resulted from rink rash and fish net burn did nothing to strengthen the girls’ discretion, and only further roasted the soccer moms’ hotline to the fuzz.
And then there were the injuries. No one knew if insurance companies would cover roller derby related expenses. When our girls sustained ER-worthy injuries they had to … uh, get creative with the doctors about how they broke this or that bone. Sometimes all the creative language led to more serious charges. For example, Lady of Laceration Holly Cide’s doctor thought she was in an abusive relationship. I remember laughing at that: Imagine someone hitting Holly Cide and she not breaking his face. Even after the team established itself as a serious organization and started to skate at Skate Safe, the owner at the time remarked that his “core business [was] hockey, not roller derby” and moved the Bruisers’ practices to 11 p.m. on weekdays.
Captain Morgan adapted; she stopped soliciting rinks for “roller derby practice” and chopped her request down to the more generic “practice space.” This created confusion and an uncertain future, causing a revolving door of skaters, refs, and officials. I’m sure most leagues go through this: a new member joins, swears s/he is down for the long haul, and disappears within a few weeks, unable to handle the frustrations of skating for a fledgling enterprise and unwilling to be part of a solution. The Long Island Roller Rebels dealt with this monthly, but nonetheless, we were determined to make our league work. As girls dropped out due to one reason or another, new girls stepped up to the skate.
Amid our ranks, several skaters stood out from the rest. One of our most notorious was Anna Tramp—our Roller Rebels ruffian. Her thigh bears a tattoo of one rollergirl pounding on another. “That’s me, the one on top,” she told me as she pointed to her tattoo. Her inked-likeness had the girl on the bottom in a headlock; I was sure I’d seen the image before, but not in a magazine, a comic book, or on TV—no. This was a scene straight out of The Life and Times of Anna Tramp! Tramp was our eviction queen. I don’t recall many a’ bout that she wasn’t ejected from for unnecessary roughness.
She didn’t play nice off the track either. I remember one New Year’s Eve party when Tramp, Fiesta, and Captain shared a house.
Tramp, drunk off her ass, decided to ring in the New Year with boxing gloves and a bathrobe. She pounded her gloves together and went to find Captain, who busily prepared shots in the kitchen. Tramp yelled absolute gibberish and swung drunkenly as if trying to kick the shit out of the air. By accident or luck, she landed several good punches on Captain and then fell into the open refrigerator door. Beers spilt on the tile floor, and someone shouted the obligatory “party foul!” The brawl then spilled into the hallway. Tramp took another series of swings and then, in a state of victorious bliss occasioned by alcohol, fell flat on her rump. To this day, I still remember her garbled “I won, right’s?” as we lifted her up and placed her on her bed; on quiet nights, I can almost hear them.
Captain Morgan was no pushover. A powerhouse skater, she sailed as the flagship of our fleet, albeit one that had left her anchor back at port. After meeting her, I finally understood why the finest vessels have historically been referred to in the feminine. Captain Morgan carried the torch for those such as La Marquise de Frèsne and Lady Killigrew—women who have ruled the waves throughout the ages. The scourge of the seven speeds, Captain, unlike her predecessors, has no taste for treasures. She thirsts only for the blood of other rollergirls—a terribly insatiable craving. I am not one to believe the often exaggerated “rollergirl bios,” but Captain’s always seemed plausible to me.
On the track, Captain skated with the power of a cast-iron cannon ball, ripping holes into hauls. Just as the opposing jammer thought she’d made it through the pack, Captain would zero-in on her. I would gasp, cover my ears, close my eyes, duck, and say a novena for the poor jammer. Within seconds, the premature celebration of the jammer would be cut short—Captain having smashed her into the next bout. The poor jammer never saw her coming and soon spiraled down into the dark depths of Davy Jones’ locker. I’d smile. That’s my Captain Morgan; the Jolly Roger on wheels.
Any good Captain needs a crew. Always eager for the next adventure in life, Butterscotch Cripple signed on as first mate. She had just returned from Israel that 2005 feeling that she was missing something in her life. She needed that next voyage. Although she lived in New Jersey, she wouldn’t let distance and geography stop her. She drove at least 400 miles every week (100 or so three to four times a week back and forth from practice on Long Island to New Jersey) and rarely showed any sign of fatigue. Butterscotch and I had an odd relationship. She was my best friend in the league, yet I didn’t even know her real name. It sort of became a running … rolling joke.
When I would speak of her to my friends, they would instinctually ask me her real name. “I have no idea,” I’d respond. Eventually (I think maybe two years after our first encounter), one of our girls slipped and called her by her real name. I fell to my knees and screamed an embellished “Noooooooo!”
During an interview with her university’s newspaper The Chronicle, Butterscotch remarked, “You don’t understand how differently you walk, how differently you view yourself after you get into derby … you know you can take a hit. … That’s really important. I think a lot of women who have been through hell and back, they need that confidence.”
One of our Wicked Wheelers learned this lesson all too well. Carnage Electra had left her boyfriend’s house after a heated argument back on Halloween night 2005. Sitting on a bench in a baseball field, she was attacked by a stranger. Thankfully, several people playing baseball saw the assault and chased the asshole away. “I felt completely disempowered,” Carnage told me. “So, to try to gain back some sense of respect for myself, I needed to take back this confidence … I needed to rebuild me. I didn’t really know what could possibly happen … with what goes with trying to get to that place.”6 Not long after the encounter, a flier caught Carnage’s attention: New York City’s Gotham Girls Roller Derby league sought new recruits. Carnage prepared herself to try out for Gotham, but with the start of the Rockabetty Bruisers, felt that a league closer to home better suited her. This worked out well for the newly rechristened Long Island Roller Rebels—Carnage has been a dedicated skater, and since her ball field incident, become a force to be reckoned with.
We also had Chairman Meow who helped us out on our administrative end—he handled much of “our promotion, sponsorship, made a lot of phone calls, talked to screaming girls and venue owners, and did basically the derby office work.” At first Mr. Chairman (as I called him) didn’t have a derbyname because, “I wasn’t one of the girls, and I didn’t think I needed one.” However, after one of the girls started to call him “Kung Fu Kitty” because of his martial arts background and love of cats, he rethought the name idea, settling on Chairman Meow because, as he says, “I sit in a chair and do paperwork.” Butterscotch’s trips to and from Jersey to practice and back again impressed us, as did Chairman’s travels; a Chicago native, Chairman flew to New York whenever we needed him there. “The distance didn’t matter,” he told me, “I loved my league.”
When Chairman was absent, which given the distance between Long Island and Chicago was actually less often than one might expect, we had Heidi Ho-bag to make up the difference. I suppose that most leagues have one or two saviors who can be counted on, whether rain or shine, to make all the ins and outs of derby run more smoothly; Heidi Ho-bag was our messiah as evidenced by her numerous “Unsung Hero” awards that she collected at our Roller Rebel Holiday Party every year. Although I always felt that there was a certain incongruence to presenting an “Unsung Hero” award (after all, one cannot receive an award and be “unsung” at the same time), I will make an exception for Heidi. Her addition to the league was also great for me. She could take a joke and—holy shit!—actually understood my sense of humor. She gave delicious and filling hugs and had some kind of intuition of bestowing them just when my tired soul needed them most.
And then there was Killer Tofu with that deceptive smile. Sporting a disarming look, I knew her to actually be a ruthless calculator and executor of strategies. This dichotomy was evidenced in her name. A vegetarian by trade, she broke her own veggie rules dishing up rollergirl flesh for breakfast, truly earning her moniker, “The Vegetarian Barbarian.” I would often joke about her cannibalistic ways on the track. “Well, they get in my way,” she told me. Meat isn’t murder; Killer Tofu is. Like most other girls in the league, she also had a wonderfully sweet side. When Carnage Electra first joined the league, Tofu held her hand to help ease her nerves at the first bout. Her boyfriend (now husband) Thor became our head ref, though he was more like a god. As Captain remembers Thor:
“We basically tried to copy Gotham’s rules and did whatever the fuck Thor told us to do. We asked him everything.”
We also had announcers unlike any I’d ever heard. Matthew Scott La Rock and Jake Steele made a fantastic duo, fusing sports casting and comedy. They both possessed an iron wit; during some timeouts I couldn’t even do a track run because their remarks had me in hysterics. I wasn’t alone; others have felt the announcer’s wrath as well. For example, Steele would go on to have a bout-stopping moment later in his career. During one bout, the refs had to put the game on hiatus because they couldn’t stop laughing.
The Long Island Roller Rebels looked anywhere for outlets to promote our league, in one such instance even appearing in that Bible of drug magazines High Times (Chairman Meow henceforth called us the “Bong Island Stoner Rebels”). Most of the girls had no palate for the paradisiacal plant but understood the necessity of getting the word of the Roller Rebels into a mainstream “news” outlet. Even the ruff and tumble Anna Tramp, who enjoyed an occasional smoke, didn’t puff before bouts. As she put it, “I like being on edge, even angry, so I play more aggressively.” Jefferee offered a slightly more liberal approach: “I smoke before, during, and after the bout.”
Earning WFTDA status changed all that. The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (or “WFTDA” for short) is the governing body of the modern roller derby revolution, amending the rules as the growth of the sport necessitates. As the Roller Rebels matured as a league, we developed some of our own rules regarding pre-bout conduct. The Wicked Wheelers used to ceremoniously take a team shot of whiskey before every bout; the practice stopped once we sought WFTDA status. We developed a rule that barred anyone from drinking the night before a bout. There would certainly be no more smoking “before and during” bouts. As for the “after,” well, the Roller Rebels became after-party queens, taking on (and down) any and all challenges to our title.
The more we practiced, played, and talked, the more the league became a unit. We would gather at Captain’s house and watch bout footage from a league we were scheduled to play. As the girls studied their opponents’ moves, I asked questions about the rules. Several Roller Rebels told me that I need only concern myself with the basics. But the truth was I wanted to know the rules. I liked … loved the sport and wanted to know the ins and outs of how it worked. Moreover, if I didn’t know the rules, how would I be able to work with them during game time? For example, the girls have only thirty seconds to line up on the track in between jams. If I thought that there was a full minute in between jams, one of my bits might have overlapped into the jam. Mascots, I have always maintained, are not supposed to interfere with the bout itself.
Briefly, I considered reffing. They got to whistle while they worked, and rules regarding ref conduct were already laid out—simply follow them. And it is a more respectable position than a mascot. No one fucked with the “zebras”; bananas were fair game. I even marshaled possible ref names for my transition: Home Reffer, Nick Name, A.C. Skater, Frank Lee Scarlet (the ref who just don’t “give a damn”), Mark Mywords, Carmichael Weapon, Full Metal Jack, and probably scores of others long since forgotten. Captain’s response to my reffing possibilities was simple: “No! You’re our banana!” No one argues with Captain.
Before the Roller Rebels’ first bout, the practices I attended had piqued my interest in roller derby; after the first bout, I was enthralled. I decided to pay league dues. Captain told me that, as a non-skater, I didn’t have to shell out anything. I wanted to pay them though. The Roller Rebels was my league, and I wanted to support it any way I could. Killer Tofu, an inspiration to us all, could “barley” afford her own seeds, roots, tree bark, and whatever the hell else vegetarians ate, yet she too faithfully paid her monthly dues. When money was plentiful (the exception), we donated to various human interest groups13; when money was tight (the rule), we held fundraisers.
One such fundraiser took place at McCoys, a bar far out east in the abyss of Suffolk County. I usually wouldn’t trek that far out east for anything—too confusing. It’s as if the people who live in Suffolk want rustic, but can’t (or won’t) fully commit. Growing up in Nassau at least afforded me a twenty minute drive on the parkway into the greatest city on the planet. Going the other direction seemed … I dunno. Suffolk just always seemed so far away—both geographically and aesthetically.
But in those nascent days of Roller Rebeldom, everyone had to contribute to survive. I walked into McCoys to find what can only be called an outpost for the fleeting Long Island heavy metal scene. The weighty, bearded dude in the Slayer shirt and his local-band shirt-sporting skinnier counterpart sat at the bar—the last vestiges of a dying culture. How sad. I used to love going to metal shows, but the whole thing had sort of dried up. Everyone needs something beautiful in life, and these fellows were hanging onto their skulls and mutilations the way post-70s hippies hang onto being full of shit. Not that I equate the two—I refer here only to the struggle.
On the stage to the back of the bar, Killer Tofu danced in her skates while an unruly crowd cheered on her performance. Behind them, other people danced to the music that was louder than the speakers could audibly amplify. Amongst them, I saw some guy who had his collar curved in such a way that it waved over the back of his neck like a fin. I ordered a drink and said hello to Captain, Tofu, and others. I made my rounds, but kept going back to that dude with the flipped collar. Why would someone purposefully set out to look like an asshole? Then it hit me; Oh … right. Long Island …
In the corner opposite the stage, the girls set up an “arm wrestle a rollergirl” table to make some extra cash for the fundraiser. I decided that if we were truly serious about arm wrestling strangers, we should take off our clothes. “We should get naked,” I yelled.
I took all my clothes off, parked my ass behind the table, and offered to arm-wrestle any takers. The guys declined, but shit did the girls love it. One-by–one, they stepped up to the plate to arm-wrestle the unpeeled banana. It was a lot fun until Anna Tramp almost broke my wrist.
“Uncle!” I screamed in pain, half bent over the table.
“You mean Aunt!” she yelled as she squished my hand.
Dedly Weaponz, a Thundercat, grabbed a thick black marker and wrote “Property of Dedly Weaponz” on my chest. When I protested, she raised her hand like she was going to slap me. I shut up. It took me two days to scrub her territorial scribbles off my chest completely.
These fundraisers weren’t solely about raising funds. They are essential to league building. Working together on the track was one thing; working off the track was something else entirely. Fundraisers, I always felt, served a surrogate role between bouts and the off-season. We all wanted the league to work. We had to—no one else gave a shit yet.
Derbyfolk know that skating is only half the job at a bout. There are also specialized committees such as coaching, promotion, fundraiser organizing, bout production (and many more). I signed up for the bout production committee. I worked closely with Holly Cide, and together, we ensured that our bouts went off as close to “without a hitch” as possible. We solicited bands to play the bouts, set up the track, brought enough water for everyone, set up chairs and merch tables, spoke with special interest groups to donate proceeds to, and did a zillion smaller jobs like simply bringing girls a last minute safety pin or hairspray. I offered my P.A. system for free to save the league the rental fee. Twice, I had my P.A. destroyed by a band we hired to play the bout.
Feelings of exhaustion came in waves. I found that the more I involved myself in roller derby, the more complicated my life became. This seems to be the one “universal” of all derbyists, and nearly all will freely tell you about the hell that derby has made of her or his life (just keep the shots coming). Boyfriends, girlfriends, jobs, careers, families, friends all will eventually get in the way and you will constantly have to make choices between the enumerated and roller derby. It is a truism that most derbyfolk are forced to live two lives: professional by day, derbyist by night. Derby awarded me the opportunity to juggle four lives: derbyist, (not-so) gainfully employed American, graduate student, and bandleader. Eventually all four of these roles collided. I remember one particularly disastrous weekend well: After a night of cramming for a midterm, I took said midterm, went home, packed up my guitar and amp gear, and played a gig at The Bitter End in Manhattan. From there, I went home, took a shower, lay awake in bed for all of three hours, got up, and went to work. After work, I reloaded the band equipment into my car, drove out to a Roller Rebels’ fundraiser, played an awful set, and after two hours of sleep, woke up Sunday morning hung over and went back to work. This hectic routine, more or less, was my life until I graduated.
Some of the girls (and guys) in roller derby have certain songs that they listen to ritualistically before a bout. The songs are usually (but not always) fast, aggressive, and—like the girls who listen to them—hard-hitting. Adrenaline-spiked punk rock, warrior-esque Goth-Viking black metal, or bone-crushing hardcore could be heard bursting out of car windows as girls arrived to the venue. I don’t have any such play lists. When I arrive at the venue, I’m usually so nervous that I say as little as possible (which is good because I talk too much anyway). After set up, I patiently wait for the back “locker” room to empty before I slip into my peel. When the cacophonous mix of girls and heavy metal has vanished, I turn out the lights and sit there.
I don’t meditate or anything like that; I don’t pray or contemplate; I don’t do anything at all; I disappear. It can be a scary thing—to not exist, to be just awareness—but a piece of me embraces such feelings as part of the natural order. Any music or sound would ruin these fleeting moments before a bout; tapping into the certainty of mortality demands complete attention. Retrospectively, I cannot think of a single reason I did that other than needing those moments of silence to appreciate the gifts of all that was about to commence. I tried to remain there for as long as I could. No grind of a song could ever pump me up more than the silent recognition that I will be dead one day. It forced me to be wholly alive while I was there.
Outside my little world, Furious George and I decided that our job was not only to amp up the crowd but also to act as a bridge between the audience members and the skaters. Bring them as close to the action as possible without, say, one of the girls swan diving into a trackside onlooker.14 I don’t know what possessed us to think we were even allowed to do this. Upon reflection, it seems kind of like a dick move—were we overstepping our boundaries? I could just hear the heads of WFTDA scrambling in a meeting shouting, “Who authorized these idiots?!” Happily, we weren’t that important or known to the larger derby world to be on anyone’s radar.
Or maybe the answer to why no one cared lies in the difference between old roller derby and the roller derby of today? Before WFTDA, the hits in derby were theatrical; the outcomes, predetermined. We figured that since the girls were all business on the track (and not fake at all), we mascots should keep the old theatrics alive. Nostalgia never goes out of style. Following the model of the Texas Rollergirls, we kept the theatrics off the track and relegated it to the sidelines—a sideshow. That way fans could separate the sport of roller derby from the aesthetic of it.
Besides the fact that “every cliché has a morsel of truth” is itself cliché, its cousin, the courageous, all-American “practice makes perfect!” also discredits it; for the latter is without truth—at least for Furious and me. The more bouts we attended, the more we started to wonder how soon the crowd would grow weary of our antics.
Furious would chase me around the track or jump on my back and together we would run around the sidelines for fans, ending with a wrestle. Other than waving pompoms and screaming, we didn’t have much else to go on. But the crowd never seemed to bore with it, so long as we timed our antics properly. Any comedian will tell you that delivery is key; same rule holds true for mascoting. You need to know how much space to give the girls, the refs, the fans. You need to know when to scream and when to shut the fuck up. Before every bout, I would find the head refs and let them know that Furious and I would always be aware of them and they needn’t worry about us. If we ever seemed like we weren’t paying attention, we were—it was all part of the act.
Sometimes, the whistle would blow after a timeout before Furious and I made it back to the Wheelers’ bench. At that point, we would jump into the crowd and cheer from behind them. We never had to be told not to run around the track while a jam was in session; we simply figured as much. Sometimes rollergirls would chase us down and give us a good walloping; I started to look forward to them because the crowd always responded so loudly. I never cared about getting hurt, only about applause.
On some particularly scary occasions, Furious wouldn’t be able to make a bout, and I would have to go alone. Since no one gave me any ideas or advice (the girls, after all, had their own bout necessities to worry over), I decided that the roller derby mascot’s job was open to interpretation. Girls often told Furious and me to just “get out there and do your thing.” Only I didn’t have a “thing” without my mascot counterpart.
But there was hope. Other than getting picked on in high school, fifteen years of writing will also accustom someone with the fine skill of wordplay; thus, I gave small comedic bits a try. I made up goofy sentences that revolved around a single word and recited them to audience members: “Joan of Arc cross dressed so she could cross swords all for the glory of the Cross, then she was burned by men of the Cross who were cross with her because she crossed them,” and “We’re aware of where the werewolf’s wares wear and tear”; others that revolved around a single idea: “Did the stool pigeon rat on the loan shark to the big dog for playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with the pigs? Or was the little weasel so chicken he cowed and felt sheepish?” and, “I make pillow talk about putting blanket statements concerning cover bands that use sheet music to bed”; and puns, too: “I quit deli meats … cold turkey”; “I have a scab … I made it from scratch!”; “to stop Queens from going to shit, keep Flushing!”
I would directly interact with audience members, a tactic that an internet search of “mascot etiquette” deemed against policy (if an audience member asks you a question, you are supposed to just stay silent, and shrug your shoulders like an asshole). I never was good with convention—mascot or otherwise—and whenever I saw someone at a bout wearing a yellow shirt I couldn’t help but approach them, in full banana garb, and say something smugly to the tune of, “Pfft! What kind of an idiot wears yellow?” When someone would ask why I dressed like a banana, I’d reply, “Well, it has ‘a peel.’” Later, I added, “Although it has ‘a peel’, sometimes I feel like a fruit.” One of my favorite things to do was spell my name out for derby fans the way a receptionist spells a name (let’s say, Adam) over the phone: “‘A’ as in ‘apple’;‘D’ as in ‘dog’ ….” I’d say: “Bane-ana. That’s ‘B’ as in ‘Botulism in Belfast; ‘A’ as in ‘Ane-bana’; ‘N’ as in ‘Nigerian freedom fighters’….”
Taking a bathroom break became “draining potassium.” Autographs became “slaughter-graphs.” Every slaughter-graph that I signed came with some kind of positive message for balance: “Stay in school, Bane-ana”; “Live life to its fullest: Bane-ana”; “Keep an open heart and mind: Bane-ana.”
On the more risqué side of things, if my banana hood limped over my head and someone commented about it, I would say, “I know, I know, I ran out of Viagra this morning.” This joke helped me out a great deal, as wear on the outfit made keeping the hood upright almost impossible. Likewise, on the odd chance that the hood behaved itself by staying vertical, questions like, “How does that thing stay up?” were met with an, “I remembered to take my Viagra this morning.” Kids got the ‘G’ rated answer: “Cause I’m full of hot air.”
The problem with the jokes was that they only worked before and after the bouts and during halftime. I needed something physical to do during the thirty-second jam hiatus if Furious couldn’t make a bout. With the following spring came not an answer, but a start towards one. Spring 2006 saw another season of kickball. My friends and I had played kickball for years and eventually joined Brooklyn Kickball July of that year. I had emerged from winter a fully rested beast, woken from my decades-long slumber via roller derby. At McCarren Park, where we played kickball, I happened upon a youngling—about 13 or 14 years old—doing front handsprings, backwards somersaults, cartwheels, and other amateur circus tricks.
As a kid, I too had dabbled in minor acrobatics. Not because I aspired a future in gymnastics, but because I wanted to duplicate the nimble moves of Jackie Chan and the elegant ass kicking of Bruce Lee. My brother Frank and I used to rent their movies and slow-mo the fight scenes in order to learn exactly what they were doing. We didn’t play video games and opted to make our own kung-fu movies with our friends instead, “borrowing” our dad’s video camera while he was at work. We were young and made of rubber. Back then, learning a front handspring didn’t take long at all; I simply convinced myself that I could do one and did it. Ahhhh … youth.
Moving forward to summer 2000 aught 6, I strutted into my backyard on a particularly sunny day, convinced that I could still execute a front handspring. But my 26-year-old body was not the same as my prior 13-year-old one, and on my first attempt, I promptly broke my ass. Okay. What about a cartwheel? These I could still do, albeit sloppily; a problem that a little practice would straighten right out. I sighed with relief and stubbornly refused to accept that I couldn’t execute a front handspring anymore. After my muscle memory sobered up and a few days of tenderizing my derriere, I was able to perform a front handspring again. I practiced over and over so as not to lose it and even pulled off a one-handed handspring as well.
Although handsprings and cartwheels wouldn’t be enough, sadly, that was all I could do. To make up for this, I added pompoms, and Jenna Fiesta also gave me little black and green Wicked Wheeler flags, one of which I whitened-out with whiteout. If The Wheelers’ had a substantial lead in the game, I would hand the flag to a member of the opposing team so that she could “wave the white flag.” At one of our later bouts, one of the skaters from the Thunder Cats snatched the flag from my hand, snapped it in two, and threw it at me.
The Roller Rebels, eager to play other teams outside of New York, arranged our first interleague bout against Boston Massacre that summer. I was anxious to try out my modest acrobatics. As I ran around the track, I broke the predictable routine that running around the track had become. Instead of just plopping myself back on the Roller Rebels’ side, I decided to end my short journey with a handspring. I was sure I could do it! Just when I got around the third turn of the track, without slowing down even a tad, I tried the handspring and fell flat on my rump. I felt embarrassed, but the audience cheered. I guess they thought I had meant to fall. I hadn’t. Or maybe they preferred that my move didn’t work? Seemed more likely. Whatever the reason, I got a reaction and made my way back to The Wheelers bench and waited for a good run. I didn’t have to wait long. Allison Chains took lead and had a spectacular jam. Going on my new insight into roller derby fan psychology, I did a cartwheel—something I could certainly land—and “unintentionally” fell into some audience members. Did they get mad? No, they cheered! I looked into the eyes of the girl I fell into and asked, “Am I a banana in your lap or are you just happy to see me?”
She resonated with the most heartwarmingly intoxicating sound that the gods had ever concocted—the female giggle.
As time went on, more and more girls would attack me and give me a walloping. One time it was Toxic Shock, the next time it was Sissy Facekick; another time it was both. Then, one night, a young girl—a relative of our best jammer C-Roll—started punching me in the leg. I went with it. Her friends ran over and they started beating me up too. I fell to the floor clutching my knee tightly and screaming in exaggerated pain. Later, at the after-party, The Rebels informed me that the kids enjoyed beating me up and convinced me (i.e. poured shots down my throat) to go along with it. Thus began a staple prepubescent flogging at every bout.
Sometimes Furious and I simply improvised. During halftime at the 2006 season opener (Thunder Cats vs. Wicked Wheelers), Furious, Chairman Meow, and I swept up the track as the Wheelers talked strategy in the backroom. Sensing an improv-ortunity, we didn’t just brush track rubbish into the dustpan, but instead kneeled on the floor, turned the brooms around, and like pool-sharks, shot the empty bottles and loose papers into the pan. At first, no one noticed. Then a few disparate chuckles could be heard from a few audience members. After several good shots, we managed to get applause out of the crowd every time we sunk a piece of trash. I turned the broom back around, bristle-side down, and now had my very own putter. I continued to knock more pieces of trash into the bin.
“Nice shot, Tiger,” yelled a fan, making a loose reference to the golfer.
“Your compliment is too late!” I said in an imposing voice. “It’s not a golf club, it’s a croquet mallet.”
I placed my foot on an empty water bottle, arched back, and wound up to hit it. I swung the broom passed the bottle, 360 degrees, clunked myself in the noggin with it, and fell down on my bottom. The crowd still cheered as Furious, Meow, and I walked into the back meeting room.
“Is the track ready?” asked Butterscotch.
“‘Twas a sweeping success,” I beamed.
But it was at this bout that I also made my first big mistake. Upping the ante for The Roller Rebels’ season opener, I bought two bags of confetti and threw handfuls of it at the crowd. Not everyone, of course: derby-crazed applause was spared; those sitting quietly received the full onslaught of my confetti wrath! I would keep dowsing them with my pixie dust until they cheered; then I would move on.
While The Thunder Cats held the lead, my confetti nonsense didn’t seem to bother anyone, save a few shy folks who didn’t like being egged on to cheer (one girl rather angrily told me to “fuck off already”). Once The Thunder Cats started to trail behind The Wheelers’ by a little, Thunder Cat captain Raven Madd flipped on me.
“My skaters can’t skate with you acting like an idiot all the time! They’re gonna break their necks on your stupid confetti!” she blasted at me.
She was right, and I knew it. I hadn’t thought about that. A girl could easily slip on the confetti and hurt herself, so I discarded the bags until after the bout. It was important for me to consider the skaters’ safety when contemplating new gags. Raven sort of did me a favor there; she stopped me from causing an injury.
Also at this bout, the drinking had started to spiral into problems. No, not my drinking—the audiences’. Usually, drunks in the crowd were merry and often conveniently blinded by their beer goggles to the un-necessity of mascots. Other times, I’m less enthusiastic to report, a sauced spoilsport would shout a loud “these guys suck!” at us. I’m fully aware that my attire makes for an easy target. To combat this, I would usually hang around the parking lot before the bout killing any would-be heckler with kindness. I hate to admit it, but a little bit of profiling did go into play. If fans were already drunk and loud in the parking lot, chances were good they would be even drunker and louder inside where the action was.
Get them while they tailgate—everyone was happy then; their team hadn’t lost yet. During ½ time, I might even buy ½ wits a beer at ½ price in a ½–hearted attempt to cut their ill-will towards me in ½. I also started carrying around a lighter. If I saw someone pulling a cigarette out, I’d run over and unexpectedly light it. This would not only assure heckling-silence but also would get her or his friends—whose cigarettes I often lit as well—on my side. Then we would take a picture, I’d sign a flyer or a program and badda boom badda bing, I could rest easy. Buy ‘em a beer, smoke ‘em out, do whatever it takes.
Our audience turnouts grew with each bout and we needed a bigger after-party bar to house all the fans. Resting conveniently down the road from Skate Safe, El Loco Donkey was a spacious bar that could easily fit all the skaters, refs, support staff, and all their friends, family members, and fans. Only problem was that the owners didn’t bother to tell the league that there was a dress code for the guys (not the girls, mind you) and some of us were denied entrance into the bar. Furious and I stood outside in the rain frantically calling Butterscotch, who enjoyed herself inside, unable to hear the ring of her phone over the music.
We watched dudes with hedgehog haircuts (lame), pre-ripped store-bought jeans (lamer), and popped-collared shirts (the absolute lamest) douchebagingly stroll into the bar. Apparently, Furious and I didn’t look enough like jackasses to get into El Loco Donkey. When Butterscotch finally received our frantic call, she rounded up what girls she could find, gave a “thanks but no thanks” fuck you to the managers of El Loco Donkey, and we all sped off to Mr. Beery’s, a bar more suited to our tastes.
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