Monday, June 04, 2007

Mistresses of mayhem

Roller derby rocking T.O. again with plenty of action and bad attitude By BILL LANKHOF
Bones Brigade wipes out on top of Death Track Dolls teammate Jubilee as Lock 'n' Roll (left) and Alicia Arsenic (right) of the Gore-Gore Rollergirls skate by during Saturday's Toronto Roller Derby League bout at George Bell Arena. The six-team league is just one of several springing up around southern Ontario. (Mark O'NEILL/Sun Media)

Gonna tell you a story that you won't believe ...
The night that I fell in love with a roller derby queen
Round and round, oh round and round
The meanest hunk o' woman
That anybody ever seen

-- Jim Croce's lyrics from Roller Derby Queen
And, the lady -- I think it was the one dressing in the black widow-maker outfit, yells over the babble and dressing room laughter: "Hey, you don't mind if I take my top off to change, do you?"
Welcome to women's roller derby. Sure beats watching Darcy Tucker turn into a puddle of sweat. Already, I'm beginning to understand the, uh, appeal of this sport.
You thought roller derby went out with the hoola-hoop? Well, hold on to your poodle-skirt, Becky Sue. The game that takes sexual innuendo and trash talking and blends it with women who make hair-pulling an art form is making a comeback.
It's loud. It's profane. It's dangerous. It's fast -- the sport, not the women. I think. And, they're proud of it.
It is a weekday evening at George Bell Arena and, in a dressing room, somebody's mother, your little sister and the girl next door are mingling with tattooed ladies and girls with metal rings hanging from their lips -- all of them morphing into the Death Track Dolls, one of six teams in the Toronto Roller Derby League, which opened its season last Saturday night.
Sandra Gilraine, a lovely lass of golden hair by day and captain of the Dolls says: "We have women from all walks of life. When we did auditions, we were looking for girls who weren't afraid of being in the spotlight, who weren't afraid of breaking a nail. We didn't necessarily take the girls who could skate the best.
"Roller derby is a lot about attitude. We can teach anyone how to skate. You can't teach personality."
It is also a lot about innuendo. Opening Night's motto? Cherry Poppin' Bout. You figure it out. We're not going there ... but, a lot of ordinary women are: The teams, with names such as the Hamilton Harlots and Gore-Gore Girls, consist of moms and managers, a bookkeeper, a realtor, waitresses, a musician. There is an astro-physicist by day. By night, they are mistresses of mayhem.
None of the skaters get paid. Money from ticket sales goes back to the league.
"We're a pro league but any money we make goes back to make the sport grow," Gilraine says, irked with any suggestion that getting knocked on to a concrete floor a dozen times a night is a funny thing to do for fun with not even enough of a payback to buy a tube of liniment.
The sport involves women skating on an oblong track. Each team has a skater in the rear who must try to push, swerve, duck flying elbows and hip checks and reach the front of the pack without getting so much as a rip in her fish-net stockings.
Meantime, skaters fall, get run over, curse, grin, high-five and frolic in the alter-egos of the pseudonyms they all adopt. It's a little like pro wrestling -- without the script.
Popular in the 1950s, the sport is enjoying a revival with more than 100 leagues in U.S. cities. Now teams are springing up in places such as Barrie, Hamilton, Windsor, Ottawa and Sudbury. The Toronto league has 80 skaters. The costumes and names are half the fun. At a Toronto league exhibition last week that attracted 500 fans, backers of the Chicks Ahoy team showed up in pirate costumes.
- - -
She was 5-foot-6 and 215
A bleached-blonde mama
With a streak of mean...
You know that I fell in love with a roller derby queen
Round and round, oh, round and round
"You've got to have one (a pseudonym). I mean how scary is (Tracy Ryan). It just doesn't do it in roller derby," Black and Blue Barbie says of her real name.
So, what are perfectly normal moms doing in a place like this?
"To be honest," says Barbie, "just skating isn't much fun unless you get to knock other people over."
Or, if you insist on a more cerebral explanation for risking limb, if not life, Gilraine explains: "For many of us it's about being a woman and being empowered; that we can succeed and excel at a sport."
As for the sexual undertones, no apologies. It's part of the program, Gilraine says. "I'm a woman and we show off a bit of leg. It's really not much different than the things the Raptors do during breaks. It's entertainment meets sports."
Which explains Kinky K. She is the team's bad girl, her helmet emblazoned with "I'm A Bitch" just in case anyone forgets.
"The day I tried out, I had a bad breakup with my boyfriend," Kinky says. "I didn't even want to go, but (friend and teammate) Miss Tress Nightmare told me if I didn't get out of bed she'd drag me out and all the way over here with my mascara all over my face. I went. Now it's my anger management program."
Not to mention she gets to wear fishnet stockings and knock the crap out of anyone messing with Bonky Kong.
Bonky Kong is really Bianca Rooney and in real life she's the one with the pleasant smile who works for Dominion groceries as a bookkeeper and supervisor.
"I used to watch roller derby on TV when I was a kid and remember thinking it would be really cool to get flipped over the rail. My great aunt thinks what I'm doing is the coolest thing ever," she says.
"This is really me. I've got a job where I can't be telling people off even if I'm thinking: 'I can't believe you're bringing that back for 10 cents.' I never get mad at people. I'm the type to hold it all in. This is a great emotional release ... I can just let everything out."
- - -
Things looked kind of bad
Until the day she skated into my life
... She's my big blond bomber
My heavy handed hackensack mama
Round and round, oh round and round
There is animosity, even in the practice between the Dolls and another club called the D-VAS.
"We equate what we do with hockey. Fights aren't allowed but it is beneficial to your team if you can knock the other guy down." says Gilraine. "It's not like pro wrestling in that everything is choreographed. We don't plan who wins. It's like hockey in its intensity, speed and violence. That's the appeal ... and, oh yeah, the short skirts."
There are rules. No grabbing or tripping is allowed. Clothes-lining draws a penalty. So does elbowing. No fighting. Still, stuff happens. Girls will be naughty and the guys dressed up as referees have about as much chance of winning this debate as that time at home when they ended up sleeping on the couch.
Last week, says Amanda Caskie, they lost two players to a broken wrist and a torn ligament. She is a member of a three-piece, all-girl metal band called Cougar Party and looks like the girl next door. Then she saw a show called Roller Girls on A&E and heard about the Toronto league and figured a sport in which the worst penalty -- unofficially -- is for not looking good, can't be all bad.
"Mostly," she says, "its just such fun. It's hot chicks on skates kicking each other's butts."
(Derby jargon)
- Flat Track - A track outlined on a flat surface in an oblong oval shape. This is what the Toronto Roller Derby League plays on.
- Jammer - The girl from each team weaving her way through the pack, this is the only person who can score points for her team
- Blocker - a skater who tries to block the opposing jammer from coming through, while assisting her own jammer to get through.
- Jam - The rounds played during a period.
- Lead Jammer - The first jammer to legally make her way through the pack.
- Pack - The two groups of blockers and pivots skating in a pack and blocking the jammers
- Pivot - The skater who sets the pace for the rest of the pack. This role is crucial in formation of the pack.
Tickets: $10 at Soundscapes, 572 College St.; Rotate This, 620 Queen St. West, or the website. At the door, $15.
Teams: Bay St. Bruisers, Chicks Ahoy!, Death Track Dolls, Deady Viper Assassin Squad (D-VAS), Gore-Gore Girls, Smoke City Betties.
Bouts: George Bell Arena, 215 Ryder Ave. at 7 pm.
On the schedule: June 16, Smoke City Betties vs. D-VAS; June 30, All-Star Game; July 14, Chicks Ahoy! vs. Bay Street Bruisers; July 28, Death Track Dolls vs. Smoke City Betties; Aug. 4, Bay Street Bruisers vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls; Aug. 18, Chicks Ahoy! vs. D-VAS

1 comment:

tokyo tintin said...

YOU KICKED ASS!! Way to go Jenni!