Fishnets stockings, tattoos, and girls with names like Judy Gloom and Kelly Kaboom may be what you’d expect to find at your favorite rock club, but you’re more likely run into this kind of thing at a local Roller Derby match. The sport, known for its participants taking on flamboyant personas and names, has been around since the early 20th century, but only recently evolved from “sports entertainment” into a legitimate (if somewhat brutal) form of athletic competition.
It will also be the focus of Whip It, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, which stars Ellen Page and Juliette Lewis, and opens in theaters this fall. The script was authored by LA Derby Dolls founding member Shauna Cross, and is based on her book Derby Girl. Flavorpill asked Ms. Cross to give us some of the ABC’s of the game so we can act like we know what we’re talking about next time we’re at the track.
Flavorpill: So Roller Derby is for real right — no scripting — no acting?
Shauna Cross: It ain’t choreographed like pro wrestling if that’s what you’re asking. When a girl goes down, it’s for real. The acting, if any, is within the personas the girls create for themselves.
FP: What was your Roller Derby persona’s name?
SC: Maggie Mayhem.
FP: What’s the difference between a banked track and a flat track?
SC: Banked track is a wooden track that’s ramped on the sides so players get a lot of speed and power going around those turns. And when you take the rail, you go flying over what is sometimes an 8-foot drop. Flat track is derby on a flat surface that can be set up anywhere, outside, on a skating rink, etc. It’s fun as well. When girls are knocked out off the track, they tend to go flying into the audience’s lap. It’s a crowd-pleaser.
FP: What does a ‘jammer” do for the team?
SC: The jammer is the person on each team who scores by passing members of the opposing team. They’re the stars.
FP: What’s a “whip?”
SC: A whip is when you advance a teammate by holding out your arm or leg to “whip” her ahead of you. It gives the “whippee” and extra boost of speed.
FP: OK, what about “getting railed?”
SC: That’s when you get knocked into the rail by a skater on an opposing team.
FP: Which may result in a “track rash?”
SC: A rash usually happens on your ass or thigh. It results from falling on the track. It’s the derby version of carpet burn. Sometimes it’s fishnet patterned. That’s hot.
FP: Who was your arch nemesis on the track and why?
FP: What was the worst brawl you ever got into?
SC: My league skates hard and for real and that’s much more dramatic than taking time out for a silly fake cat-fight. We don’t do that. However, watching Iron Maiven face plant on a kick rail and lose her front tooth – that was pretty legendary. There was lots of blood.
FP: Are there a lot of hard feelings off the track after the action, or do you all go get a beer and hug it out?
SC: During a game, with your adrenaline going, you truly want to destroy the other girls with your bare hands, but the second that final whistle blows, and it’s all over, it’s all make up and make out. You’ve never seen a tighter group of broads. It’s so much fun.
FP: Are fishnet stockings really necessary athletic gear?
SC: In the game of life, one should always dress their gams to the finest. Roller derby is no different. But individual flair is half the fun, so if fishnets aren’t your bag, there’s no hosiery police that’s going to wrestle you to the floor and put them on you.
FP: What are your favorite injuries/scars?
SC: I have a little moon-shaped scar on my knee. It’s not very bad ass, but it’s my only scar.
FP: Any moments you were particularly proud of on the track?
SC: Just being relentlessly aggressive. I’m much more low-key and girly in my real life, so it’s fun to discover this other ballsy side of myself. I can take some bitches down; that’s always fun and it’s given me confidence that extends to other parts of my life.
FP: How similar is this to Fight Club for girls?
SC: It’s aggressive but that’s where the similarities end. First of all — what’s that rule about Fight Club — don’t talk about it? In derby, we never shut up about it. We’re chicks after all.
FP: What do your family and friends think of all this?
SC: They were terrified at first, but now they’re all digging it. I was one of the original twelve girls who helped form the LA Derby Dolls, so it is a huge source of pride to see how much the sport has grown. Huge.
FP: Did Hollywood do you justice with Whip It?
SC: Hell yeah! So much amazing talent. I can’t wait for everyone to see it!
FP: Who’s your current favorite roller derby team?
SC: What? I love them all! But lately, I’m rooting for the Varsity Brawlers in Los Angeles. They’re new upstarts, so they need the fans.
FP: So if I asked you out would, I get thrown over the rail?
SC: Totally, unless you like that kind of thing. Then I charge.