Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Roller Derby Queens: Short Skirts, Fishnets, and Full Contact. Inside the Lesbian Underground of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Roller Derby Queens: Short Skirts, Fishnets, and Full Contact. Inside the Lesbian Underground of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls

Article excerpt

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My first time watching roller derby comes on May 3 in a Los Angeles warehouse packed full of beer-drinking rockabilly kids and dykes of all stripes. Tattooed girls with tree-trunk thighs fly around a dangerously sloped track, shoving each other out of the way. Spills are frequent and brutal. The players' motions are fluid, and they seem to be able to do anything four wheels will allow--zigzag, skate backward, vault fallen bodies, and strut their stuff for the appreciative crowd.

I'm hooked.

You may remember roller derby from the televised bouts of the 1960s and '70s. Then, it was a WWE-style mock sport staged by men and women wearing roller skates and full-body spandex.

Today's roller derby--documented on the recent A&E reality show Rollergirls--is a whole other animal: unscripted, underground, and all-women (though, thank goodness, still campy).

I'm not alone in my appreciation of derby's return. In the past seven months, reports out film director and die-hard derby fan Liz Lachman, the number of dykes in the crowd has swollen to the point that the games feel considerably like gay bars--"in a good way," she hastens to add.

It makes sense. First, roller derby is the ultimate expression of something lesbians have long known: Women playing sports are hot. And players get up to all kinds of sexual antics during games. One Doll loops around the track offering her ass for fans to slap (many men and women accept). Both teams pile on top of a fallen skater and playfully hump her. (Imagine for a moment this happening during a football game) It's also hard not to be sexy when you're leaning over in a short skirt pumping your legs-especially when your ass is toned by hours of roller skating every week. (In fact, the bent-over view is so risque that the Derby Dolls instituted a "panty check" for players before games.)

Derby's open sexuality stands out at a time when mainstream women's sports have an uneasy relationship with sex. Basketball and soccer players face pressure to look sexually attractive in spite of their athleticism rather than because of it. The Chicago Tribune reported that the WNBA, at this year's league-wide rookie training, taught makeup application along with jump shots. "You're a woman first," WNBA vice president Renee Brown told the Tribune. "You just happen to play sports."

For roller derby players, there's no either/or. "We feed off our hotness," says 25-year-old Kristen Adolfi, a.k.a. Krissy Krash. "There's some connection between that sports high and sexuality. When you score five points, that is hot."

That synergy is evident on the rink. Krissy is 6 feet 1 inch of sheer muscle and undeniably hot, especially when skating. Her victory laps, with her chest puffed out, send the crowd into a frenzy.

If I am a hearty appreciator of Krissy's turns, Lachman is a heartier appreciator of the laps of Mila Minute, an obscenely fast former Junior Olympic figure skater. "She kinda wiggles a little bit," explains Lachman, "like 'I'm sexy, I'm cool, I'm hot, everybody loves me.'"

But it's clear that I'm not the only one with a Krissy thing. At an after-party at a local bar, women line up to talk to her, and Krissy eats it up. She whirls by me and yells, "I've gotten, like, five numbers!" (The next day, she admits it was only three.)

Surprisingly, Krissy is one of the few openly gay girls on the team. Besides her, they include Kasey Bomber, Laura Palm-her, Laguna Beyatch, Mila Minute, and a handful of others among the 70-some members of the Derby Dolls.

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Alex Cohen, a.k.a. Axles of Evil, 35, thinks the small number is actually a reflection of the broad spectrum of people roller derby attracts: "There are girls who are out, and there are girls who are completely and utterly straight and would never kiss a girl, and I would say 90% of us probably fall somewhere between those two poles. …

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