Blood & Fishnets: L.A. Derby Doll Championship Bout @ The Doll Factory, 12/8/07
6.48pm. Los Anjealous, CA. DF strolls along the streets of Historic Filipinotown* (or, as city officials are trying to amusingly re-brand it, “Hi-Fi”) for a triumphant return to the Valley of the Dolls. On the slate is an event so momentous it would make even the Pope of Rome crap his cassock. You know what I’m talking about: it’s the Los Angeles Derby Dolls 2007 Championship Bout. Fight Crew v. Sirens. Evil Stewardesses v. Bad Policewomen. Truly, an epic evening awaits.
6.53pm I’ve often said an event isn’t really worth attending unless you have to sign a personal injury waiver to enter. The LADD meets that criterion: all visitors have to sign some paper or other saying that in the event they’re hit by a flying rollergirl, they hereby relinquish all rights to blah blah blah (what, you think I actually read it? DF does not read anything – period). You might expect that executing a waiver is not worth mentioning, but in fact it turns out to be one of the high points of my recent life, because as I am signing away rights to god knows what, I am approached by no fewer than three people asking me to tell them various things about the Dolls bout. In a flash, it comes to me: holy shit, they think I work here! Being confused for an LADD insider (albeit just a drone) is the most flattering misunderstanding I’ve ever been part of. It is so awesome that it almost makes up for the time a visiting tourist ran up to me and said to her compatriot, “Hey Paw, take a picture of me with David Hasselhoff!” (To my credit, I strolled away coolly, adding only, “Don’t hassle the Hoff.”)
7.03pm As I sit in the VIP lounge, watching to make sure the security guard does not let any VUPs (Very Unimportant Persons) in, I clock the surrounding spectacle. The championship bout has the flavor of a big heavyweight boxing match, which many spectators engaging in a highly watchable game of freaky-dressing one-upsmanship. My vote for the winner in a very strong field is the woman who sports a long leather trenchcoat with nothing but a bra and skimpy pantalettes beneath.
7.20pm Holiday alert: regardless of religious denomination, the hot gift this year is LADD merch. As my grandmother told me before I left for the match, “Get me some goddamned Derby Doll clothing for Christmas, you son of a bitch, or I’ll punch you in the dick.” Granny has a real filthy mouth. Some attribute this to senility, but I think she just likes swearing. A combination of holiday spirit and abject fear leads me to purchase a hot pink LADD baby-tee for my octogenarian progenitor.
7.37pm I assume a place way in the back of the bleachers, partly to enhance visual perspective, and partly to minimize the chances that an errant skater will fly off the track and smash my face (which is, after all, my meal ticket). The skate-outs set a festive, feisty tone. Evil E announces the Sirens, and as they enter the area, they’re all sporting Lieutenant Dangle-esque (and presumably fake) cop moustaches. It’s a brilliant move that makes everyone laugh to beat the band, with the exception of the Fight Crew, who look on unamused. The Sirens’ moustache gag is a hoot, but it also subtly upstages the Fight Crew, taking a page out of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “Every battle is won before it is fought.”
7.45pm Related, it makes me think that part of what makes the Derby Dolls such a good time is that the event blends a compelling sporting event with a sense of fun. Don’t get me wrong, DF loves the NFL, but the sanctimonious seriousness that surrounds professional football games both bores and annoys me. No such false dichotomies at the Doll Factory. Not only do the Dolls happily blend the sexy and the sporty, they can also crack a good joke at the same time they’re cracking each other’s skulls.
8.01pm Game on! A few jams in, it’s clear that this is going to be a very different match than the last one, when the Sirens built an insurmountable lead over the Tough Cookies by the end of the second quarter. The Fight Crew have hatched a crafty strategy, mixing in smaller, quicker skaters (such as the impossibly tiny Crystal Deth, whose uniform number “79″ must also be the number of pounds she weighs) into the blocker pack so they can better keep up with opposing jammers. The result is a tactical contest. The score remains low, and many jams end early and/or with no points scored.
8.35pm One might think that with only three teams in the league, the fight for the championship would hardly stir emotions. Well, I’ve never met this “One”, but if he does think that, then he’s clearly retarded. This blue (Sirens) v. red (Fight Crew) donnybrook may be not have the quite the intensity of a crips v. bloods turf war (and far less gunfire, despite the Sirens’ menacingly waving fake pistols during warm-ups), but the crowd is evenly and vocally split between Sirens and Crew loyalties. Members of the Dolls’ odd team out, the Tough Cookies, sit interspersed through the crowd, full-throatedly leading cheers for the Sirens. (NB: DF is barracking for the Fight Crew, because he comes from a long line of stewardesses.)
9.13pm As I watch the second half, the fog of my roller derby novice’s ignorance begins to lift and I actually begin to follow the action and strategy a bit more. The Sirens dominated the previous contest I witnessed in large part because their jammers scored points on the Tough Cookies’ defense at will. Not so for the Sirens’ jammers this time around, and the reason appears to be that the Fight Crew took a cue from the 2001 Superbowl, when the Patriots took out the Rams’ fleet receivers with a highly sophisticated “hit the living shit out of them” strategy. The Crew gets very physical indeed, taking even the fleet Mila Minute down hard a couple times, and while the Sirens hang in there with the Fight Crew, neither are they as effortlessly dominating as they were against the Cookies.
9.29pm The prize for Derby Doll Who Scares the Living Crap out of DF is easy to award. The Fight Crew’s Tara Armov (see pic above) has a well-conceived character that incorporates old Soviet imagery and faux-Cyrillic lettering, but despite that she really reminds me mainly of Jaws from the old 007 movies. Perhaps for this reason, I develop the suspicion that if eating opposing jammers alive were a legal move, Tara would happily resort to this tactic. In the fourth quarter, Tara is ejected for foul accumulation, about which she seems more proud than disappointed during a defiant post-ejection lap around the track.
9.47pm The late-game action comes fast and furious. My recollections are scattered, as always, but it went down something like this: Well into the fourth quarter, the Sirens cling to a narrow two-point lead, but the Fight Crew claw their way back into a tie and then a two-point margin. At some point, a Doll is blocked into and over the railing, falling hard onto the concrete below, whipping the crowd into even more bloodlust. One jam remains. Sirens top scorer Kung Pow Tina grabs a couple points to tie, and then in the final seconds, takes advantage of a fall or a block or something weird and accumulates two more decisive points. The crowd erupts. Barren women give birth to sextuplets. Bald men sprout massive afros. Newborn infants give erudite disquisitions in Cantonese. Joy and sorrow reign in equal measure. When the delicious chaos clears, one fact is undeniable: the Sirens stand alone as 2007 champions.
10.45pm The Derby Dolls make much effort to clarify that their bouts are real and unscripted. True this may be, but it’s hard to imagine that one could script a conclusion as dramatic as the one that decided the 2007 championship. And what, dear reader, were you doing this past Saturday eve? I can assure you that it was nowhere near as much of a punk rock good time as those of us at the Doll Factory had. These crazy bitches are on hiatus for a month, but the ’08 season begins late this January. Be there or be [draws square in the air a la Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction].
*A kind Losanjealous reader wrote in to inform me that the Doll Factory is located in Historic Filipinotown, not Echo Park (as I wrote in my previous LADD feature). Part of me was irked that I’d failed to notice all the historic Filipinos around that should have tipped me off to my actual locale. More importantly, though, I feel compelled to point out the borderline-obvious point that DF’s work is, by design, lacking in anything like serious journalistic integrity. I make much of this shit up to amuse myself, and also possibly others, so it’s a friggin miracle that I get any facts right, let alone all of them.
1. Amber Alert! hip checks Leia Mout as Apocalyptica looks on
2. Judy Gloom jams
3. Tara Armov takes out Kung Pow Tina
4. Sirens celebrate 2007 championship
Photo credit: Flickr/rinkrat. All photos (c) 2007. Do not use without owner’s permission.