Arizona Derby Dames

Last night I went to the roller derby competition with a bunch of friends. It was my first time. I wasn’t familiar with roller derby except for what I recently read about it in The Advocate but I was interested in witnessing what was sure to be a rock-n-roll spectacle like no other.

If you’re not familiar with how the game is played, here’s a little primer:

The group skate around the track, lap after lap. The “Jammers” (one player on each team with a starred helmet) tries to skate through/around the “pack” of “blockers” (skaters who get in their way) in order to pass them. Every time the Jammer passes the pack, they get a point.

Last night we were there rooting for the Brutal Beauties, a black and hot pink-clad group of skaters. Of them, Phyllis Killer was kind enough to hold us some rink-side seats so we were pretty much part of the action. And that’s another important part of roller derby: names. Along with other team names like the Runaway Brides, the Grave Draggers, and the Bombshells, the team members all have “derby names.” Among my favorites were “Ann Thrash” and “Dr. Mary Lu Botomy,” along with the aforementioned Phyllis Killer.

I had no less than three ladies tumble and slide directly into my chair during the competition, which was awesome. I fared pretty well; another group of people had a skater land on top them, slicing through a series of sodas in styrofoam cups first. Phyllis Killer, in one particularly spectacular fall, got her skate wrapped around my friend Helena Handbasket’s handbag. When she finally noticed, she immediately reached down, untangled the purse strap—and then took out my friend’s wallet as if to skate away with it.

Roller derby is tough, like hockey, but with a decidedly tough-girl edge to it. Many of the team uniforms emphasize the player’s bust and butts, often revealing one or the other as they skate by, bent over:

Beau and I were brainstorming derby names for ourselves. Although we arrived calling ourselves “Judy Gnarl-land” and “Lauren ‘Ex-Con’-rad,” we later decided to create full teams of players. My team is based on famous gymnasts of the past: Mary Lou Rotten, for example. Beau’s team is all named after feminine hygiene products—and the only example I could post in this entry is “Summers Eve.”

Roller derby is gaining popularity around the country. Google your hometown to find out if there’s a match happening near you. At $8, you can’t get more enjoyment out of each measly buck these days.

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