Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Aug 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Roller Derby meets Hollywood

KansasCityBomberOn October 2nd, Fox Searchlight will release WHIP IT, featuring Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristin Wiig and Juliette Lewis. (Daniel Stern, utterer of a favorite movie line, “If hate were people, I’d be China,” makes the crossover to father figure, making me feel both old and comfortable somehow.) Although not a Mark Mothersbaugh bio-pic, as the title might imply,  it is the much-anticipated directorial debut of Drew Barrymore.  However, despite all of the glitter and fuss, the real star of the movie is…roller derby.

WHIP IT, based on the 2007 novel “Derby Girl” by Shauna Cross (aka Maggie Mayhem) formerly of the L.A. Derby Dolls, is a fictionalized account of experiences skating with the Texas Rollergirls, nicely wrapped in teen-vs-parent-angst-plus-rock-‘n-roll-love story. Got that?

We’ve come to expect that any sport depicted in a movie is a crapshoot at best. (Crapshooting depicted in movies, on the other hand, is usually awesome.) Basketball games are decided by single 3-pointers at the buzzer; football games are played at night, in the mud, in slow motion; baseball games are merely metaphors for the American experience. Even “Grand Prix,” the best racing film ever, suffers interminable plot lines in between awe-inspiring F-1 footage.  However, no sport has suffered more free-handed artistic license by Hollywood visionaries than roller derby - deservedly so, owing to its admittedly checkered past. WHIP IT gives modern roller derby its due, but let’s peer into derby’s dirty celluloid past. What could be better that a rainy afternoon roller derby film fest! Here’s a list to keep handy.

The Fireball, 1950 Mickey Rooney, Pat O’Brien, Marilyn Monroe) An obvious rainy day choice – Mickey Rooney on roller skates.  Mickey is Johnny Casar, an orphan who runs away and makes it big in roller derby, only to be stricken down by polio. Laugh, cry! Have it all in this film! Tough film to find, so keep your eyes peeled on those movie channels.

Unholy Rollers, 1972 (Claudia Jennings, produced by Roger Corman). This B movie follows Karen, a cannery worker who wants more out of life. And where do you get more? Roller derby! Karen becomes a star, makes enemies along the way, and for a skinny kid who can’t skate, that’s quite an accomplishment! Clips on YouTube, full film tougher to find (and to watch).

Kansas City Bomber, 1972 (Raquel Welch, Kevin McCarthy). The image of Raquel Welch as K.C. Starr is iconic, while the film itself…not so much. Once again, our heroine is a roller derby star embroiled in turmoil - her team, her family and her love life. Lucky for us, she looks fantastic and the derby action is really entertaining. Old school derby fans will recognize stars on the track. Notice the odd mishmash of roller derby and rollergames played out on the track. Available on DVD.

Rollerball, 1975 (James Caan, John Hausman) While I admit that Rollerball is to roller derby what Gwar is to smooth jazz, I would be remiss in leaving it off of this list. James Caan as Jonathan E. takes the skating protagonist from spunky go-getter to Orwellian hero, fighting (literally) for his life. Most of us in derby consider every aspect of the sport to be life-defining and culturally relevant. Rollerball is the game we’re playing in our head. Aren’t you glad you’re on the outside? Available on DVD.

Whip It, 2009 (Ellen Page et al, see above) Ellen Page, as Bliss Cavender, forced by her mother to participate in the beauty pageant circuit, finds her true calling in banked track roller derby as Babe Ruthless. The tag line, “Be your own hero” accurately projects modern roller derby’s DIY ethic and self-empowering stance. Go for the derby; stay for the story (and the soundtrack). In theaters October 2nd.

You hear plenty from today’s skaters that modern roller derby is real, different than the past, not an assault on anyone’s intelligence. I wholeheartedly agree, and am the first in line to spout the laundry list of facts and figures supporting our legitimacy.  But turning our back on the old days of derby isn’t real either. It’s akin to locking crazy Aunt Ethel on the back porch because she’s embarrassing. We have to admit, distant or not, we’re related. Let’s have some fun.

This week’s photo: Raquel Welch as K.C Carr (Kansas City Bomber, 1972)

This week’s video: WHIP IT trailer. See it. Then see some live roller derby!
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.