By Tom “Thunderkills” Underhill
From Print Issue #3
On Friday the 13th of May 2011, Long Beach Roller Derby brought on the power jams under the former Spruce Goose dome. In the shadow of The Queen Mary, the 4th Street Retro Rollers were matched up with the Bixby Rollerettes in this, the second LBRD bout on their new banked track.
Created in 2009 by Angel City Derby Girls veterans Estro Jen and Diesel, Long Beach Roller Derby is gaining fans and new participants, with its fairly cheap ticket prices, banked track roller action, and its open house program that promises, “No experience needed, we’ll teach you to skate”. Kind of like joining a PG-13-rated AYSO; everyone plays, but there’s booze, and no annoying ball and net crap.
League teams Belmont Hot Broads, Terminal Island Tootsies, Bixby Rollerettes, and 4th Street Retro Rollers are populated with players with names like Auntie Social, Evil Dawn Under, Flame Fatale, and Blanche Deathereaux, giving birth to a new golden age in the punk rock tradition of self-descriptive monikers. Team uniforms add to the theatricality – Agent 99 mini-dresses for Bixby, Busby Berkeley-Esque sailor outfits for TITs, and 70’s phys-ed uniforms for 4th Street. Tattoos, fishnet stockings, bad wigs, cheap sunglasses, and cheesecake make the teams easy on the eyes, but it’s the real athleticism, grace, and competitive spirit that make the bout so much fun to watch.
In preparation for their bouts, these athletes have been skating two-hour practices, four days a week, for seven months. Members and volunteers who are not skating the bout still wear skates for everything from ushering to selling souvenirs – solid evidence of their commitment to the sport, and their competitive nature. I, for one, would like to see this sport added to the next Summer Olympic Games. Not a far stretch from days of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan’s ice skate theatrics; equally athletic, but much more entertaining.
You just gotta love a game where the jammer is the human equivalent of a game ball.
The jammer is the team’s sole method of scoring points. Points can be scored after the jammer works her way through the pack of blockers. Once she has done this the first time, each subsequent lap and pass through the pack is scored as a point. Blockers must skate in a pack, and their sole purpose is to stop the jammers and cause major havoc in defensive – and offensive – play. Penalties are given for using arms, elbows, and hands-on an opposing player; there are penalties-a-plenty, major and minor. The Bad Luck Brawl had a record number of ejections for “gross misconduct,” which made for a very entertaining evening.
“We got a power jam!” And what would a full-contact indoor track sport be without color commentary and announcing? The commentary booth was helmed by the dapper Don Pie, the lovely Diesel herself, and the legendary Dump Truck, whose voice is part Harvey Fierstein and part Foghorn Leghorn played on a bad AM radio and amplified through an exhaust pipe. Adding to the atmosphere was the rumble of the audience, stomping their feet on the metal grandstand decking when the jam was on, or when their favorite team scored.
If all of this sounds like your kind of a good time, check out Long Beach Roller Derby at
The next series of bouts at the Queen Mary Dome are:
June 3rd: Terminal Island Tootsies vs. 4th Street Retro Rollers
July 22nd: Belmont Hot Broads vs. Bixby Rollerettes
August 19th: Bixby Rollerettes vs. Terminal Island Tootsies
September 30th: League Bout
November 11th: 4th Street Retro Rollers vs. Belmont Hot Broads
December 9th: Championship