Blood on the Banked Track: L.A. Derby Dolls @ the Doll Factory, 9/13/2008

V Lee w backlighting

4.29pm. September 13, 2008. Hollywood, CA. Countless readers have written in asking how DF spent the just-concluded roller derby mid-season hiatus, and the answer should have been obvious to all: rehab! But the twist is that this time DF’s addiction du jour was not Pez, or Yoo-Hoo, or even Scotch eggs, as in so many times past, but something even more powerfully addicting: the L.A. Derby Dolls. But DF is happy to report that the rehab was a complete success. He is completely cured of his derby addiction, and as such will not, repeat NOT, be attending tonight’s bout. And he is feeling calm and serene about it. Totally. Completely.

5.50pm. Still more or less calm and serene. Except for that shortness of breath. Remember: utter surrender to the Higher Power. And yet I’m still kind of breaking out in a sweat here. Be cool, DF, remember what they said in all those meetings: you must not worry about what you cannot control.

6.44pm. Control waning. Serenity evaporating. All right, that’s it. GET ME TO THE MOTHER-SHITTING DOLL FACTORY RIGHT GODDAMNED NOW!!!

6.47pm. With the unfettered glee of the addict who has abandoned himself to the most shameful of binges, I hop into the DF-mobile (which is, to answer several reader inquiries, a 1996 magenta Monte Carlo with 160k miles and extensive body damage; I’ve recently removed the “Keep on Truckin’” bumper sticker because I resent the implication that I would ever stop truckin’), and cruise Doll-ward.

7.11pm. Sitting in the traffic blockade that is the southbound 101, I am astonished as always that my repeated, extended honking has not caused the various vehicles blocking my way to part and let me pass. Don’t they know how important tonight is? It’s not only the long-awaited terminus of the achingly long mid-season LADD hiatus, but it’s also a rematch of the famed 2007 Championship Bout. While it’s true that nothing official rides on the outcome of this match, because 2008 bout will feature the Sirens and Tough Cookies regardless of tonight’s game, the bad blood between these two teams all but guarantees that something gorily awesome will go down.

7.31pm. HiFiTown, CA. I arrive at the Doll Factory and inhale deep of its peculiar olfactory atmospheric (a bit fusty with the vaguest soupcon of skate grease). Man, that was one long hiatus. At the front desk, I introduce myself with the requisite, “Hello, I’m DF and I’m a derby-holic.” At the Factory, this mantra earns me press access rather than overly sincere attention and a lot of bad coffee. The derby access is unfathomably superior.

7.53pm. For some it’s the pop of a beer can being opened, for others it’s the acrid whiff of tobacco smoke, but for DF it’s the sound of quad skate on track that does it for me like nothing else. The relatively modest cohort of refs whistles for the first jam and all is right with the world. Mila Minute opens the proceedings with her patented combination of grace and furious speed, and racks four points. Ah, who was I kidding? I could never give this up.

Pileup on Turn 3

8.17pm. The Fight Crew have battled injuries all year, and for this bout they welcome back three jammers—Jihad, Vulvarine, and Judy Gloom—all of whom have recently overcome injuries of varying gruesomeness. But the Higher Power can be kind of a dick about these things, and just as the Crew solidified their jammer lineup, they lost three key blockers, in Tawdry Tempest, Kubonator, and Broadzilla. By contrast, the Sirens are more or less at full strength, with the dominant Mila Minute/Kung Pow Tina jamming combo backed up by a blocker lineup anchored by stalwarts Haught Wheels and Amber Alert (!). The Sirens carve out a narrow first quarter lead, and ride the consistently fine jamming of the MM-KPT axis, with ample assistance from V. Lee, to a 28-19 halftime lead.

8.47pm. Just as the halftime whistle blows, my cellphone rings. Perhaps Bea Arthur is finally responding to all my romantic overtures? Ho, crap—it’s my sponsor! Think fast, DF. I answer: “Hey, Lindsay! I am loving your mom’s TV show. Am I at the derby bout? Not even close! I’m on a … scrod-fishing expedition … in the Adriatic Sea.” That’ll do. Now to seal the deal: “So the din you’re hearing is not a cheering crowd, or the sound of rollergirls colliding at high speed, but rather … the distinctive yet unfamiliar death cries of … countless Adriatic scrod. Bye now!”

Fighty and Vulvarine spar9.07pm. Perfect; she won’t suspect a thing. I turn my attention back to the track, where the Sirens have tacked on twenty four points in the first six jams of the third quarter to turn a single-digit lead into something approaching a blowout.

9.19pm. When Siren Roxy Cotton ties an LADD record by rocking a ten-point jam late in the third stanza, it looks like buh-bye for the Fight Crew. These stewardesses aren’t quite ready to clean up the cabin yet, though. Vulvarine celebrates her comeback with a five-point jam. Crystal Deth escapes the pack several times by performing a peculiar but very effective run-skate hybrid high at the rail. It’s an unorthodox technique but one that earns her plaudits as the game’s high-scoring jammer.

9.33pm. The score may not be close, but the ill-will contest remains finely poised. Someone is ejected for a post-whistle foul so egregiously violent it could only be Tara Armov. Then, to my surprise, Bombshell Betty gets the boot because … um … okay, here’s the truth: my derby dependency has caused me to attend god knows how many games in the past year, but I still have no idea when or why or how fouls happen. Apparently there are sanctioned versus non-sanctioned ways to engage in high-speed, full-contact brutalism.

PITA and Vaganus

9.45pm. By the advent of the third quarter, it has been pretty clear that the Sirens have put the game out of reach. But they continue the beatdown, LAPD-on-Rodney-King-style, and pile up the points to make the final score a pornographically disparate 69-38. Ladies, I don’t have my police manual on me just now, but that’s gotta be an excessive use of force. Dayum. Somebody alert the ACLU.

10.03pm. Exiting the Doll Factory is always a time for reflection. The derby itself was as compelling a spectacle as ever. The Sirens seem to be gaining momentum just in time for their Championship showdown with the Tough Cookies. On the down side, though, my recovery from LADD addiction took a hit as I fell off the wagon in a big way. But then again, why the hell is that the down side? Looking back, being on that wagon sucked. Not only could I not watch my beloved roller derby, but I had to apologize all the time to everyone and pretend that I believed in some low-rent, nondenominational Higher Power. Truth be told, I’m glad I recovered from my recovery. And none too soon: now that I’m a full-fledged derby-holic once again, I can binge on next month’s match, where Fight Crew will seek to avoid an oh-for-2008 season against the newbie Varsity Brawlers. And as if it needed to be said, of course DF will be there, using, boozing, abusing, and cruising with wild abandon. Join him, dear readers, lest ye be deemed squares or narcs. Laters.

Civet perform in vendor village


1. A contemplative V. Lee ponders something

2. Sirens skate out to the strains of “Theme from Miami Vice”

3. Pile up on turn 3. Q: don’t all the falls make the track gross & slippery? LADD should get those professional sweat-wipers like in the NBA

4. Fighty and Vulvarine battle-dancing; IMO, they both do “The Robot” equally well

5. I sincerely have no idea what “Vaganus” is about; nor do I really want to know

6. Civet performs at halftime ’neath the neon skate

All photos (c) 2008 by Rinkrat. All rights reserved.