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Published on September 5th, 2012 | by The Rev

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Why Derby Needs Suzy Hotrod

As a kid I grew up on comic books.

So I had a lot of superheroes to choose from. Spidey, Captain America, Xmen. Take your pick. I also ran around the house with a towel around my neck pretending I could fly like superman or I would spread my cape like batman and stalk the cat around the house long before Beetlegeuse was “ Batman” and a few pairs of chopsticks made me into an instant Wolverine. Also a bathrobe and some old Xmas wrap tubes turned me into a Jedi Master. Unfortunately I had a hard time pulling off the Human torch and Colossus was a tough one to pull off as well.

I didn’t have many heroes besides my mother and grandmother which I didn’t realize were such heroes until later in life. So I looked to the next best thing which was a fantasy hero. Spiderman would swing on a web, catch villains, smart talk the whole time while kicking some serious butt. While on the other hand I had Captain America who stood for truth, justice, oh wait. Wrong hero. Cap just beat up Nazis and then was frozen for 50 years.

My point being is that the world needs heroes, or for the most part. Superheroes. How does this fit into Derby you may ask? Well lets take a good look. Whip It came out with the tagline “BE YOUR OWN HERO,” which is a really great way to find yourself but you really cant be a hero unless you have something else to base it on. So where do we being to find ourselves unless we have something or someone that we want to be or for the lack of a better word, what superpower do we want the most.
Flying, invisibility, super strength, super intelligence. Sure superheroes have those but then again there are the others such as Batman, Iron Man, who are both billionaire geniuses who rely on things to augment themselves like a suit of armor or gadgets and martial arts. By now you are reading this and wondering where this fits into Derby. Well, Derby has superheroes. It has incredible people that put on the suit ( or uniform) and become that superhero and people go to bouts to watch them fly, spin and hit.

One in particular that I would like to take a look at is my friend and fellow skater Suzy Hotrod. I had a chance to chat with her via the interwebs and we finally managed to get some Q & A out so here is what happened.

Rev-What got you started into derby and in the beginning what was your inspiration for wanting to play derby?

Suzy – When I started derby it was 2004. I didn’t know what roller derby was. Shit, not many people outside of Austin knew what it was. I though my sister and I had seen it on tv once where there was a giant spiked wrecking ball thing. (As a derby person now, I can only assume this may have been Rollerjam?) Anyway, I played in a pickup band with CC Bullets, who was probably the first recruited roller girl in NYC, as she designed sweaters at the desk across from Karin Bruce, aka Chassis Crass, our league founder. By this time they had many 10 girls max? CC told me about it. I was intimidated because I could not skate, and she told me it was getting very serious, “They are wearing pads and helmets.” But I was out of college, my all-girl band of many years had just broken up and I was thinking since I was 23 now, I should probably start exercising. So what the hell. There was no inspiring moment, derby just found me at the right time and I helped make derby in NYC.

Rev – At what point in your career did you decide it was time to go to the next level as far as physical fitness and athleticism?

Suzy – My league decided. I didn’t personally. It happened organically. Every year we upped it from the ground up, Fresh Meat to All Stars. Coaching committee yearly improvements. We built a structure where hard work is fun. Dedication is fun. Less than 100% is unacceptable. The most public product the world sees is our All Star team which has strong leadership and dedicated teammates working together with that guidance. After the Portland 2008 Championships, I remember Buster was discussing with Bonnie that she should consider doing team captaining. The 2 of them have worked immensely hard together over the years (with the help of other rotating co-captains and co-managers) and the skaters on the team respond by giving 100% of themselves at all times no matter what we’re asked, whether we agree or not. When you’re in an environment that is so hardworking, it’s infectious in a great way.

Rev – When did you realize that you weren’t just playing a game anymore, and decided that you needed to take it all the way to the top?

Suzy – I’m still just playing a game. Haha. But this game did slowly become the core of my life. Before derby I ate Chinese food and cheeseburgers like on a daily basis and I when I started dating my boyfriend I would skip practice to hang out with him, and here we are 6 years later and I live on quinoa and spinach and yearly decide not to move to Philly to live with my boyfriend because we both agree that derby is an important part of our lives and so is me playing with Gotham. So yeah, I take roller derby really seriously. My interpretation of “I just want to skate and have fun” is to work as absolutely as hard as possible alongside my team almost every day to not just play some roller derby but to help build my team, my league, my region, my sport. And that means doing shit I don’t think is as fun, like making sure I get on the message board and attending lots of meetings and doing non-skating derby events.

Also I think it’s great that roller derby can offer different opportunities that are less “crazy” where a mom can still manage her family and clock in her practices and be a great leaguemate. Derby offers a wonderful community and fitness outlet for everyone, and I think many leagues offer what works for their members lives. Roller derby is getting bigger and bigger and I don’t think it should all be like what I participate in, but I do truly believe than when any roller girl walks in to the practices she’s able to make that she is working her ass off and that if she’s not at practice it’s because she has a reason, she’s not home just eating Chinese food like Hotrod circa 2004.

Rev – Your name is recognized everywhere. Where did it come from, because Suzy is not your given/government name? ( I won’t have you put your real name for, well you know why.)

Suzy – Suzy Hotrod was me before roller derby. That was my band stage name which I chose when I was younger, hence it being zero clever and rock and roll cliche sounding. I was in an all girl punk band and when we started it was the first time I felt like this was the person who I wanted to be. I just loved it, I was so fearless and excited, despite barely being able to play my instrument and not really knowing all that much about music even. My roots started in playing shows. I feel confident wearing red lipstick and black eyeliner and it doesn’t make me any less of an athlete. I spend normal days with no makeup and in tee shirts, but I love dressing up and being in that invincible stage mode. I do feel an extra strength and confidence when I do it. You do a little bit become someone else, or rather you release an inner side of you.

In a band you beg and beg people to just come see you play. You DIE for people to be there, to buy a tee shirt, to come to more than 1 show. The audience, the fans, are why you play in public for God’s sake. This is part of roller derby for me, that energy of exciting people, making them yell and scream. Having this “derby fame” as it were is something I encourage because at heart I’m a girl in a band desperately giving out flyers to people who don’t give a shit. Isn’t it awesome that people give a shit about what I’m doing? Cause we certainly have worked hard creating it. If people are looking for someone to be their hero, or take photos of, fuck it, I’m ok with being that person. I feel comfortable that I’ve worked really hard and it’s great that people are excited about me. It’s important to me to say that I never would have been anything without my league. I really attribute my life at Gotham to me being the person I am today.

Rev – Who is your favorite superhero and why? You mentioned “Be your own hero.” How did you first start to realize that you wanted to be your own hero and suddenly, bam! you became a superhero to so many others?

Suzy – Jim Henson is a superhero to me. Kermit is my hero because he is a dreamer, a leader, a hard worker, and a team player. He’s never disappointed me with self-destructive abusive reckless behavior like so many of the musicians I am fascinated with. He’s never taken performance enhancing drugs like so many athletes. A piece of felt and ping pong balls is my moral compass.

Roxy Rockett from Carolina Rollergirls was the first skater I was inspired by. She stopped on a dime and she was able to hit people in the chest with her shoulders. She was the best skater I had ever seen and I wrote once “learn to stop like Roxy Rockett.” I set a goal, I was realistic and I worked really damn hard on learning to stop better. I didn’t say “Be Roxy Rockett” because I wasn’t, I was going to be me. I think that’s an important distinction you need to make. A hero should inspire you to improve yourself, you need be the best version of you that you can be.

Rev –
In a previous discussion you mentioned that at a game you become Suzy Hotrod, or are essentially Suzy Hotrod but after the game on a Monday or so you said that sometimes it feels nice to slip into the crowded streets of NY and go unnoticed and anonymous. Can you explain more or more to the point do you feel that its the “superhero” in you taking off her costume and assuming her secret identity, or is it the other way around where you were always the superhero.

Suzy – I have a stage styled life when I put on my makeup and my uniform for our big public bouts. But part of being who I am is joking with myself and realizing that the “I’m kinda a big deal” (haha) is only in a very niche world. Outside of roller derby no one gives a shit about Suzy Hotrod as she rides the bus, clips coupons, and has jury duty. There are no paparazzi outside my house. At roller derby events now it is hard to avoid being approached by people wanting autographs and photos taken with me but “roller derby world” is a small part of “The World.”

In the grand scheme of the thing, I am insignificant and that’s great. I sign no autographs on Monday morning except my work expense reports, so no, I don’t get tired of signing autographs because I do it like 1% of the year. I feel flattered but undeserving to be called a hero because to me, we’re on the same page. We’re no different–us skaters, we all pay dues, we all go to practice, we all have dirty gear, we’re all here playing the same game. Although I do guess it’s kinda cool if someone chooses a derby skater as a hero because it’s a wonderful accessible world. I’m a real person you can come right up and talk to.

Its always a little weird to me when people tell me they love me. I mean, we’ve never met…so…that’s kinda weird? Ya never know, I could be a horrible monster? Ok, I am not a horrible monster, in fact I’m quite nice if I do say so myself despite my tough looking exterior. Haha.

Rev – Last but not least, let’s talk about your powers or more to the point your abilities. Some people watch you and are blown away by what you do. I try to explain that years and years of hard work, practice and training can make someone into their own superhero ( much like we talked about in Whip It) How did you go about telling someone where to start from?

Suzy – I had only really skated at birthday parties before roller derby. I’m still still learning a lot and I started in 2004. I constantly struggle with improving my edge work, my scrum start passes, and keeping out of the penalty box. There is no magic formula, it’s about the amount of hours you spend on your skates. I have a little magic “Chemical X” or something (remember the Powerpuff Girls?) because I was able to take to roller derby pretty quickly and that likely is because I have some dumb luck genetics. But genetics don’t do anything without the hard work to take you to the next level. Honestly, my teammates and I created something incredible from years and years of hard work together. When we all started we were pretty rag tag. I remember when Bonnie Thunders tried out wearing jeans and brown rental skates!

So in essence what it takes is yourself and that inner strength that each of us possess in one way or another and transforming ourselves on the track into heroes or superheroes. As skaters we all have friends, family, fans, fellow skaters and loved ones who look up to us for what we do and with the rise of Junior Derby we give the younger generation a chance to look at someone to empathize.

Does Derby need Superheroes? I think it already has some skating alongside us.

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