It’s been a while since I have done an interview here on BHP but I thought I would make it up all you readers out there by creating a super interview. I have been wanting to do this for a while now and thank the fine women who make up the Northeast Ohio Rock ‘n’ Roller Girls.
Seeing women of all shapes and sizes skate as a pack on a oval track is indeed something that everyone needs to see. With music playing, announcers calling out the match, and the fans cheering their team the bout is just as entertaining as any other sport out there.
Just in case you have no clue what I am talking about, I speak of roller derby. Specifically women’s indoor flat track.
If you have not heard of roller derby you are missing out. Maybe you live under a rock or just don’t get out much but roller derby is a pretty big deal. Don’t agree? Check it out live at least once, I promise you will think differently.
Not only do the girls skate their hearts out all season long but they also get involved with charity and local organizations. Honestly, out of all of the sporting events I have been to in my life I have never seen the wholeheartedness that is seen during a roller derby bout. When you go to a match you are also going to a fundraiser of sorts with the money collected from the raffle tickets and beer sales sold by the roller derby grils during and after the bouts.
Last October I attended a roller derby match at the Summit County Fairgrounds. The bout was between the Northeast Ohio Rock ‘n’ Roller Girls and the Buffalo, NY Assault City Roller Girls. Along with a nice sized crowd, I cheered the home team on to a victory. It was actually the final bout of the season so not only was it a pretty important win for the team but also a start to a well deserved break.
For those of you who do not think roller derby is a sport you really need to reconsider. The girls wear helmets just like football players do, elbow and knee pads like pro skaterboarders wear, and mouth guards (do you see what I am going here?). To top that, their playing grounds are flat concrete surfaces where they compete to score points by pushing, blocking, and shoving the opposing team.
I watched girls fall hard on to the concrete that night only for them to get back up and jump back in the game. A couple of them took falls so hard I don’t think I would have gotten up myself but they were in it to win it and brushed themselves off and jumped back in the game. It was an exciting event with the fans going crazy and both teams trying their hardest for a win. When all was said and done the final whistle was blown and the Rock n Roller Girls finished their final bout of the year with a victory.
So who are these girls? Some are moms and wives, some are students, and many carry successful full time jobs. They are people just like us and they do not hide their secret of roller derby status like they belong in Fight Club. They are good people with families and friends with their own lives outside of the rink.
Regardless of what their day gig is or how they live their lives, they all are part of a sport where practice is mandatory and teamwork is key. When the team comes together they become their own supportive family not only helping one another but also helping the community.
Recently I had the privilege to get some questions answered by a slew of the wonderful girls of the Northeast Ohio Rock & Roller Girls as well as a couple of their referees. Instead of interviewing one team member I decided to interview as many as I could. Be prepared, this is a long read…
BHP: I guess what I am most interested in is the history behind the NEO RR Girls… How did it come about?
Scarlet GoDancin: Our league formed in May of 2007, when the league we had been a part of for the previous year dissolved. 13 of us had been part of a start up league that tried to get roller derby up and running in the Akron area. They had given themselves a quota of 20 girls in one year. When that year was up in May of 2007, the two founders basically told us they were done. If we wanted to continue to do roller derby, we would have to start from scratch.
That’s when the remaining 11 of us took over the reigns to form a new league. We all agreed that we weren’t ready to hang up our skates and held a meeting where we picked a new name, new colors, and a new logo. We built our league out of the ashes. The next two years were filled with hard work, dedication, and adversity but through it all we continue to flourish.
What do you look for in a girl who wants to become a derby girl? Is there a certain type of girl you look for? Are tattoos optional?
Vanity Scare:I look for a girl that shows dedication, a mature attitude and a complete understanding of what a time commitment roller derby is. I don’t have the time or tolerance to deal with drama and immaturity.
As far as looks? No hell no!! Some of the most derby looking girls are the least dedicated and totally in it only for the partying. Right now my favorite derby girl on our league is a mini-van driving soccer mom! She’s at every practice, working her ass off and volunteering to help run the league every chance she gets. Tattoos are optional… I guess. But you’re so much cooler if you got’em especially if they’re hot roller derby tattoos!
I imagine not everyone out there can just slap some skates on and get in the game. Do you have tryouts or is there an initiation that takes place?
Chrissie B. Hynde:The end of this month (Oct 31st) will be the end of our Open Recruitment [sadly this has closed since the interview but Jan. 6th there will be try outs, scroll down further if you are interested]. Since the beginning of the league we have taken skaters from all skill levels all year long. Starting off our third season we will have a yearly recruitment drive in the month of October. During that time we will still take girls of all skill level[s]. However in the month of Jan., we will have a “GOT SKILLS” tryout where skater’s who already have skate skills can tryout and make the league just in time for our pre-season training. Once a skater joins the league she has 3 month probationary period to pass. During this period she has to attend 75% of the practices, pay dues on time, attend mandatory events and pass the WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) minimum skill requirements. Then she will be able to use her derby name and be eligible to bout.
Are the skater names used in Roller Derby assigned or made up once someone joins the team?
Phantom Fox: Skaters get to choose their own names once they have joined our team. There is an actual list of names that are already taken by derby girls all over. This list is called the master roster. It is put together on a volunteer basis to ensure that all rollergirls feel rewarded for their creativity by maintaining exclusiveness for their names. To get an official name, your choice must be unique and approved.
Is your team part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association or any other organizations?
Taking Names: Our league was just accepted as a WFTDA Apprentice League and we can’t be more excited about this! Since day one, becoming a member of WFTDA has always been our goal and this puts us one step closer to achieving this.
How do the bouts work, is there an off season?
BF Goodbytch: Bouts are set up in two 30 mintue periods with normally a 10 or 20 minute intermission between. During the bouts you have jams, which can last up to 2 minutes, or until a lead jammer calls it off. So the number of jams during a period can vary.
This is the first time we are having an off season for two months, after two straight years of non-stop practice and two bout seasons. Though the off-season this year is for the veteran skaters while the fresh meat will get their bearings. Typically roller derby is a sport where you really can’t have an off season, off season would normally be the time that you are not bouting, but are still practicing.”
So I am aware of how the scoring works but to someone who has never been to a derby bout can you explain to them how once scores points?
Boney Danza (ref): Scoring in Roller Derby is actually quite simple, although that’s not to say it’s easy.
There are eight skaters (4 per team) that constitute a pack. They have to stay in proximity of each other and skate around the track playing offense and defense. There are two (one per team) “Jammers” that race around the track in “jams” that can last up to 2 minutes. After the first pass through the “pack”, a “Lead Jammer” can be declared. She has the privilege of stopping the jam whenever she wants.
From that first pass on, each additional time through the “pack” each “jammer,” regardless of “lead” status, has the opportunity to score one point per opponent she passes legally. That’s where the offense and defense come into play. Clearly, each team wants to help their jammer and hinder the opposing jammer, so they can score more points. If a “jammer” passes an opponent illegally, she doesn’t get the point and could get penalized for an infraction (i.e. she can’t elbow a girl to get around her). If one jammer completely laps the other jammer, she gets a point for that as well. If a jammer gets all four blocker points and the lapped jammer point in one scoring pass, it’s called a “Grand Slam.”
There’s no limit on how many points a skater can earn in one jam, so if she can skate like a demon and she’s got good blocking from her teammates, she could score 20 points or more, but that’s no easy task. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Anyone on the team take the lead in penalties?
AL B. BACH (ref): I think that would be Amy Warhol N. because she actually got ejected in Naptown, IN. However per our stats, Suicide Blonde and Chrissie B. Hynde spent the most time in the penalty box.
It kills me to think that there are folk out there who do not take this sport seriously. What do you have to say to those folk out there that think this is just an act?
Pepper Insult: They obviously haven’t seen the real thing. Come on out and watch an actual bout. I don’t know how you could possibly stage half of the stuff that goes on out there.
Can you tell me about any local rivals you might have out there?
Bouncing Betty: Local rival? I guess I’d have to say our sister league in Cleveland, the Burning River Rollergirls is a friendly rival. I’d also consider Ohio Rollergirls’ B-Team (Gang Green) as a rival, since they’re the only team we lost to during this year’s home season. We didn’t make winning easy on them; the score was really close right up until the end of the bout. Isn’t that what a rivalry is about? Two well-matched teams duking it out for a win? Either way, we have a great network of derby sisters in Ohio that we consider friends, rivals, and generally awesome groups of women on and off the track.
With the movie Whip It out in theaters have you seen an increase in interest in the sport?
Sass E. Wench: I’ve definitely noticed an increase in awareness of the sport. A lot of people I talk to hadn’t heard about the resurgence of derby before, but with the movie and its attendant PR, they now know that derby is back and, once they know that, they’re excited to hear that they can see it close to home.
What is your favorite thing about Roller Derby?
Evalynn Discretion: Favorite thing about derby… It would have to be the amazing feeling of being part of something so huge. strong women, together, acting as friends, teammates, mentors, and even a shoulder to cry on. i was never in any groups, teams or club in high school and it is amazing to be involved with such an amazing group of women.
This is a full contact sport, have their been times where there were any major injuries?
Teeny Houdini: The most common injuries have been sprains and bruises, but major injuries such as broken bones, etc. have happened.
While competing do many of the players act a certain persona while in full gear?
RoxxZilla: I can’t answer for any of the other girls, because I didn’t know a single one of them before I joined the team, but as for myself, I am pretty much the same person on the rink as I am off of it. Always been pretty outgoing so it would be pointless to be someone else in skates. What would I do…be shy? That wouldn’t work in roller derby!!!
What is life like outside of Roller Derby? What do you do for fun? What do you do to pay the bills?
Twin Pistol: Outside of derby I am a wife and mother of my wonderful 2yr old Noah. I work in an office as an accounts receivable clerk during the day and for fun I get to play my sports. I play softball most of the year on multiple teams and volleyball here and there. I also love to go out and spend time with our friends when I have the chance.
Do you have anything to say to that certain someone out there who really wants to be a part of the team?
Amy Warhol N.: Joining and being a part of the NEO Rock n’ Roller Girls requires serious commitment and a genuine effort on many levels.
Women of all lifestyles and experiences work together by committing their time, emotions and physical efforts into making themselves and team successful. We all have different talents and strengths, but collectively put forth a very powerful effort to accomplish a common goal. Roller Derby is a great sport and just being a part of it allows every woman to experience an evolution of personal and physical growth. Teamwork isn’t always easy, but focusing on an utmost goal and knowing that your individual effort reflects directly on you and your team is very motivating.
What about the folk who never gave roller derby a chance. What do you have to say to them?
Kitty Black: F*ck you and the pony you rode in on. It’s your loss. When you come to your senses, let me know.
Recently some of you were involved in a bust of sorts for charity [ha ha]. Can you explain?
Suicide Blonde: Bustapalooza, our Bout for Breast Cancer, was held on August 29, 2009. It was the first-ever charity event of its kind in Ohio and I am very proud that our league could do something so amazing.
Twelve of our skaters had their busts cast in plaster. The busts were then given to local artists such as Leandra Drumm, Derek Hess, Christian Harwell, and Erin Mulligan, along with eight others who turned the busts into amazing works of art. During the halftime of our August bout, the busts were auctioned off raising $4,385. That money was then donated to Stewart’s Caring Place which is a local cancer resource wellness center. Stewart’s provides all manner of assistance, free of charge, to those fighting cancer and their families. Since this was our bout for breast cancer, we asked Stewart’s to dedicate our funds specifically to their woman’s programs.
Since our league formed in May 2007 we’ve organized and participated in several charity events but this was by far our most successful. It is extremely rewarding to know that, through the sport of roller derby, I can help give back to the community in way that I never could do on my own.
Watch our website at NEORollerDerby.com for info on Bustapalooza II to be announced for our 2010 season!
Is there any other charity work you wish to mention? Has a lot of money been raised due to your more than kind efforts?
Scarlet GoDancin:Almost $10,000 has been raised and donated to organizations such as Pedal-with-Pete, Polar Bear Jump for Akron Food Bank, [Rainbow Babies &] Children’s Hospital, Red Cross of Summit/Portage Counties, Alyssa’s Hike for the Heart, March of Dimes, Cade Bethel Benefit Fund, Stewarts Caring Place, Breast Impressions, Battered Womens Shelter, and the NEO Girl Scouts.
In addition to donating to those organizations we’ve sponsored a section of Rt. 91 (Canton Road) in Akron’s Springfield Township as our way of proudly supporting Akron’s “Adopt-a-Highway” Program!
This league is primarily all women correct? What can the guys do to help?
Rowdy Cougar: Yes, primarily all women. What the men can do? Stay out of the way, but be supportive.
Who usually announces the matches for you? Have you ever had a guest announcer?
Dirty Mary: Panick and Ms. Ghoul announce our plays and commentary during our bouts. We have had several guest announcers, some accompanying our competitors for the current bout; others include the spokesperson representing the group or organization we are fund-raising for. Caesar from the Ohio Roller Girls and Kent Smith from the Burning River Roller Girls were a great addition to our bouts!
As is that mega-interview was not enough I decided also to ask the team their favorites. I myself always get a kick out of asking people what their fav band, movie, food, and hero is. Seeing how I had their attention I decided to find out…
Band: The Killers
Movie: Young Frankenstein
Food: Chocolate & Cupcakes
Hero: Martha Stewart
Chrissie B. Hynde
Band: The Pretenders of course, their first album changed who I was & who I wanted to be.
Food: ICE CREAM, I have never met an ice cream I wouldn’t try. I’ve even had coconut ice cream with corn at an Indian restaurant and I love red bean ice cream.
Hero: Wow, Hero- I’m still working on that one. I can think of so many people who have influenced my life but that singular person who sticks out above & beyond all others is a tough one. I guess I would have to say my mother. She taught me to be confident, strong & self supportive (although I haven’t been doing the best at the third lately.)
Movie: Too difficult, I don’t have one I have several: Harold & Maude, Hedwig, The Last Supper & two Hal Hartley films; Trust & the Unbelievable Truth.
Band: The Presidents of the United States of America
Hero: My Mom
Band: Pink Floyd
Hero: Our troops
Movie: Stand By Me
Band: I am a musician and music lover so picking a favorite band is rather tough. I do prefer to listen to whole albums over iPod singles. There’s a lost craft in making albums and I’m holding on to the hope that it’ll make a comeback. I’m not saying no one’s doing it, just not enough good albums are made anymore. You may get one song worth listening to and the rest is just filler. When people are downloading mp3s, it makes sense, but we’re losing a greater art. Just think if people started to only look at Mona Lisa’s eyes and disregarded the rest.
Food: I’m not a foodie. I am usually content with the same thing day in and day out. I really enjoy Mexican food a great deal; it’s like origami with tortillas, beans and cheese. But the one food that has nourished me from my days as a wee infant to present is Peanut Butter and Jelly. When I make a PB&J I always weigh the PB side down and go light on the J, but not too light. I’m ok with crunchy, but prefer creamy and typically use grape jelly.
Hero: I’m really not one to idolize people living or dead. I admire many people for their contributions great and small, but there’s no one person that sits at the top of my list. I’m always amazed at how resilient and brilliant my son is, but it sounds trite to say that he’s my hero. On a side note, I do dress up as Captain America and play cover tunes in a band (the Superband).
Movie: I am a movie geek. It’s an incredibly easy way to get me off topic. I love horror/suspense movies. There’s something about them that is necessary to sane living. It’s like preemptively going through emotions just in case you find yourself in situations beyond rationality. I’d have to say the one movie I could watch a bazillion times over and never get bored would be Young Frankenstein. It’s old school horror mixed with brilliant humor… “What hump?”
AL B. BACH
Hero: The Invisible Man. If you can’t be seen then you can’t be blamed…
Band: Too many to mention…
Food: Sushi, especially spicy tuna roll!
Movie: Repo Man
Hero: Dorothy Parker
Band: No Doubt
Movie: Any of the National Lampoon Vacation movies.
Hero: Kermit The Frog
Band: Tool/A Perfect Circle Pretty much anything Maynard James Keenan does. Fun fact; he’s from Ravenna, so… kinda local!
Food: varies depending on my mood, but I am quite fond of breakfast. Flury’s at 13th & Sackett in Cuyahoga Falls has AMAZING eggs Florentine!. Indian food; curried chickpeas & samosas, home-made if possible, and sushi. But… really, I’ll eat just about anything.
Movie: Ok, so the truth is that I hate choosing favorites for anything. For every “favorite” I’ve named there are about 6 other things I’d feel equally comfortable listing. That said, let’s talk movies: I love The Big Lebowski – most things by the Cohen Bros, if I’m being honest. I love silly end-of-the-world movies like The Day After Tomorrow [as well as] 2012. And I tend to like well-made kids’ movies – Wall-E comes to mind.
Hero: Bill Nye the Science Guy. SCIENCE!!
Sass E. Wench
Band: It changes hourly, but I’ve been in Ani DiFranco mode lately.
Food: Steak, rare
Movie: 28 Days Later
Hero: Jennifer Crusie- I would punch my mother to write dialogue as good as hers. And I like my mother!
Band: Nine Inch Nails
Food: Stuffed peppers and anything that has mushrooms in it.
Movie: The Jrk with Steve Martin – followed by anymore with Steve Martin in it (laughs).
Hero: Derek Hess and Kent Smith. They are like superheroes in my world!
I don’t have a favorite band or hero…
Band: Of all time? The Guess Who
Food: I love food. so…everything but fish.
Movie: Nostalgic? Wuthering Heights. Comedy? Robin Hood Men in Tights. Horror? Carrie or 1408. I’m not much into sci-fi or drama.
Hero: Any strong, independent woman, but i think a lot about my great great aunt daisy, who I’m told was the first woman in Ohio to have her motorcycle license! I proudly come from a long line of strong & independent women.
Band: don’t have one listen to just about anything.
Food: anything with pasta.
Movie: I watch just about anything,I love movies.
Hero: would be my mother for raising me and my twin sister on her own.
Amy Warhol N.
Band: The Pixies
Food: Cheese Enchiladas
Movie: American Beauty
Hero: My best friend, Karrie. She is smart, honest and sincere.
Band: Massive Attack
Food: Steak Sarpaccio
Hero: Caesar Chavez, Dr. Seuss, and my mom. My favorite superhero is Batman- he has no actual superpowers and manages to be a superhero just by being wealthy and inventive with a sense of vigilante justice.
Band: Hmmmm, toss up between Coldplay and SuperBand
Movie: Anything with Brad Pitt except the one with Angelina when he cheated on Jen
Hero: My grandfather, he was a saint.
Band: Bon Jovi
Hero: Demi Moore (of course she’s a Cougar!)
Movie: The Goonies
Band: I just cant answer this. It is always changing. Jethro Tull is my consistent fav for music though
Are you still here? Good. I thought I should mention that all the photography included in this interview was taken by myself when I attended that October bout. Photographing those girls in motion was quite the challange but I am happy with the results. There are some more photos I took below. I hope you enjoy!
Big thanks to all of the NEO Rock ‘n’ Roller Girls for taking the time to make this happen.
The 2010 bouts start in May. Do yourself a favor and attend a bout, you will love it.
For more info visit NEO Rock ‘n’ Roller Girls
4 thoughts on “Interview: The Northeast Ohio Rock ‘n’ Roller Girls”
Thank you for coming out to the bout and writing this – it turned out fantastic!
See you in May, right!?
I *so* want to join the Roller Girl movement. Too bad I’ll miss the meeting being on vacation in January. I’ll have to pay attention to future meetings/tryouts.
This is a great interview, B! Thanks for “introducing” us to some of the girls. 🙂
This is probably my most favorite article I’ve read about our league thus far. Thank you so much for taking out the time to interview and write about us!
Great Article, you made the spirit of NEORRG come alive, they are a fantastic group and love what they do, plus they have raised a lot of money for women’s causes… Thanks for a great article! Edna