View more photos in the Derby Dolls slideshow.
Long Island Lolita's skates are a blur.
She tears around the banked track and slams full speed into Kiki Diaz, brutally crashing her into the rail. The pack of tattoo-sleeved rollergirls breaks apart suddenly as Tae Kwon Ho quickly weaves through the sea of fishnets scoring a much needed point for the Varisty Brawlers. The crowd cheers, Tecates are raised and spilled; it's just another day for the Los Angeles Derby Dolls. Now in their sixth year of sexy mayhem, the Dolls have gone from a grassroots group skating in the shadow of downtown to a full-blown phenomenon that consistently sells out their Filipinotown-based facility, the Doll Factory.
On Saturday night, the grape-drink colored uniforms of the Varsity Brawlers faced the San Diegan bumble bees on crank, The Swarm. The roller derby revival is in full swing, bringing back the over the top Seventies sport. The rules are simple. A group of rollergirls in fishnets, skate around a big track and their skirts (and some skorts) fly up as they smash into one-another. Somehow points are involved, which led to The Swarm's crushing victory over the hometown heroes.
The Doll Factory was packed as usual with the loyal conglomeration of rockabilly baristas, Internet daters, middle-aged closest sado-masachists and cargo-short wearing San Diegans, among others. With numerous mentions on cable channels featuring incessantly yelling hosts, and even a Derby Dolls movie in the works, the Dolls are about to blow up. Just like last year, and the year before. Yes, the media (perhaps like this article) often hypes up these tough ladies, but things are different this time. Drew Barrymore, of E.T. fame, makes her directorial debut in October with Whip It, the purported definitive roller derby movie starring that Juno girl, Ellen Page, which IMDb froths as “indie-rock loving misfit finds a way of dealing with her small-town misery after she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin.”
This could be another case of rent-raising, culture-stealing movie effusium if it wasn't penned by Shauna Cross, former Doll and part-time skull crusher, Maggie Mayhem. With Cross (sorta) at the helm, the movie (probably) remains (mostly) true to the spirit of the Dolls, which exists as an organization run for and by women. As the ground zero for the pop culture consumer industry (movies, music, quirky Asian deserts with bearded mascots), Los Angeles sets the tone for pop culture across the country (and world). And the Dolls are not immune; their aesthetic and athletic allure is irresistible. What began as an “only in L.A.” sideshow, has burgeoned into a global phenomenon, with teams spreading from London (the truth) to Japan (a lie) and everywhere in between.
But how can they maintain their inimitable L.A. style without falling victim to the ravenous desires of Hollywood?
Perhaps the best advice come from longtime skater, Tawdry Tempest: “Sometimes you break some ribs.”