Name: Brew Haha
Role: President, Media Chair
Teams: Sisters of No Mercy, Shakers All-Stars
Her Story: Brew Haha spends every waking moment working for the derby. The mother of the league, Brew credits her father – a former member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – for her business skills. “He helped me a lot when I started the league here in Utah. He gave me sound advice and references that the league still uses to this day.” Running the Salt City Derby 24/7, Brew maintains a small booking company on the side and does her best to keep a nine-to-five schedule, even if she never takes a day off. In her spare time Brew plays with two different bands, providing vocals for XOLOTL and bass for a derby girl band, the Derby Misfits. She also loves shoes and boasts a collection well over 90 pairs.
SLUG: So when was the league started here in Utah?
BH : Around 2005. I had a friend, Iron Rack, who skated in Kansas City and when she came back she said, “You know, I really think we need a roller derby league here.” And I felt the same way. I was involved in promotions and stuff, and I really like the growing nightlife here in Salt Lake. SCDG took off in 2006 when we started having bouts. The first public bout we had sold out in four days – a crowd of 500. Even at that time we really didn’t know it was going to get so big. It’s just grown so much since its inception. Although I started the league in all the business aspects, everybody who comes in contact with it just keeps it going. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s not like any other sport, I would say—there were no basic guidelines or rules. So a lot of the people who have had a direct hand in this have given it new life, given this industry something new that I probably wouldn’t have thought of.
SLUG: They’re calling this a “derby revival.” How is this different from what it used to be?
BH : It totally kills me how everyone thinks it’s a staged thing – it did start off that way and fighting happened. It wasn’t necessarily staged, but there was a certain strategy to it so you could fuck somebody up. Some of it was fake, but that’s what the original roller derby was. So when you’re looking at something from that angle, thinking, “let’s do roller derby,” you start realizing what it really was and that it didn’t really work out. So why not make it real? Make it better? You have to just go with the times.
SLUG: What’s this about a derby convention in Las Vegas?
BH : Yeah, Roller Con! My god, it’s crazy. It’s a huge convention in Las Vegas all about roller derby – nothing but roller derby from every aspect. It will be amazing: thousands of derby girls from all over the world all coming to Las Vegas for an entire weekend of seminars, scrimmages and a lot of drinking.
SLUG: With the derby suddenly getting more and more attention, where do you expect it to go from here?
BH : I think the best way to really understand is by looking at what’s going on nationally. You’ve got the WFTD A (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) working with the other leagues, and that really is made up of all the girls in 2003 who started this whole foundation. They did it themselves, on their own, with all their different educations and backgrounds. To think about what it’s becoming today – we’ve got leagues from all over the nation, popping up in other parts of the world: England’s got a league, Canada, New Zealand, and so on. That to me demonstrates how big this thing really is. Yeah you can come to a home game here in Salt Lake and think, “Wow, there are a lot of people here,” but there’s somebody in Germany right now. She’s strapping on skates, going out there and kicking somebody’s ass.
SLUG: It’s gone international?
BH : Yeah, as we’re talking about the goal and the future for derby? I mean, I don’t know. The question what is the WFTDA going to do about it? I mean, it’s no longer just the “United States” – it’s world-wide. Right now we’re at the point where all these leagues are trying to turn this sport into something legitimate, it’s creating a whole new breed of athlete: all these women who would normally never be in sports are suddenly on a team. Roller derby is something that if you really want to do it, you can. That’s what this whole sport has been based on: if you really want to do this, you can and you will.
Name: Medusa Damage
Teams: Bomber Babes, Shakers All-Stars
Position: Jammer /Blocker
Details: Medusa Damage has been skating since a very young age, and hasn’t got off the rink since. This mother of three doesn’t describe herself as athletic, but found herself drawn to roller derby through her passion for skating. “I always thought it would be great,” she says. “When roller derby was gone, I was really bummed. I always liked roller sports. So when I was at the Gallivan Center and I saw the derby girls there, I was sold.” An accountant working with local/ regional contractors by day, by night Medusa Damage dons her skate gear for the Salt City Derby Girls. She says it’s the perfect outlet for her mild-mannered job, and she gets to have fun and rough people up in the process.
SLUG: How does roller derby work?
MD : There are five players from each team on the track at any given time. There’s the pivot, who controls the pack, three different blockers and then the jammer: the one with the star on her helmet. She scores the points. We all line up, both teams with the pivots and the blockers together and the jammers in the back. When the refs blow the whistle, the pack goes first, then a few seconds later, the jammers join in. The goal is to block the opposing team’s jammer, keep her from getting through the pack and to aide your jammer in getting through the pack. And we have to do that in legal ways. We can’t just hit each other out; there’s no tripping, no elbows. It has to be hip checks, shoulder checks, things like that. And once your jammer gets through the pack, the second time she gets through the pack, she is able to score one point for every person she passes. Once she passes, she also gets points for people who are out [in the penalty box] or on the ground that she’s passed. So that’s how we score our points.
SLUG: I know there are a lot of rules in the game, and they even get updated from time to time. How do rules change over time?
MD : You know, I think they’re progressive. When it first started out, it was anything goes. You watch roller girls and they’re grabbing elbows, they’re throwing people down, all that. So it’s progressed to keep everyone safe and to help us play a better game. The rules are a bit harder in some areas, but overall it makes total sense.
SLUG: What is the most annoying rule you’ve come by?
MD : It used to be in the old rules that if you even touched somebody with your hands—or anything, incidentally—it was a minor penalty. When you’re in a pack, moving and skating, you touch. It just happens, not that you’re meaning to be aggressive or anything. But it was a minor penalty. Fortunately in the new 3.0 rules, they have corrected that so if you’re touching someone or doing something like that, it’s not a minor penalty unless you change their trajectory or move them in some way. The next most annoying penalty, one that’s still around, is elbows. We all do them, sometimes it’s a natural part of this— your elbow will pop out just a tad, bump someone by accident, and you’ll get called on it. Elbows are still really frustrating, but necessary.
SLUG: So how does the penalty box work?
MD : If you get four minor penalties like elbowing, back blocking – which is if you run in behind someone and move them forward or knock them down in any way.
SLUG: What happens if someone gets tripped?
MD : Tripping is a major penalty, but if you get four minor penalties or one major penalty, you get sent to the box. You’ll sit for one minute, and then you’ll get to go back out. There can only be two blockers and one jammer in the box at any given time.
SLUG: So jammers can get sent to the box, too?
MD : Yeah. Jammers can get minor penalties for going out of bounds, hands, running into people, stuff like that, and after four minor penalties or one major, they’ll get sent to the box as well.
Name: Dirty Pirate Hooker
Role: Bout Coordinator
Teams: Leave It To Cleavers, Shakers All-Stars
Her Story: Dirty Pirate Hooker has been with the league for two-and-a-half years, almost since its beginning. She heard about the tryouts and decided to take a stab at it. “I hadn’t skated since junior high,” Pirate says. “So the night before the tryouts, I went to Hollywood Connection. I got me some skates, went out on the rink, and I was just amazed how quickly I picked it all up again. I guess it’s kind of like riding a bike.” Pirate has watched the league grow from practicing in parking lots to forming a true amateur league. In time, Pirate was adopted into the Leave it to Cleavers and is currently the team’s co-captain. While the Cleavers’ captain (Miss Disco Bliss) may be Pirate’s “derby wife,” Pirate tied the knot for real last October with her husband (who the girls have dubbed Mr. Fister). Pirate works as a massage therapist at the Finnish Touch Day Spa and on Tuesdays and Fridays moonlights as a bartender for the Canyon Inn. Dirty Pirate Hooker sat down with us to talk about the gear that keeps the other girls from getting (badly) injured by her.
SLUG: Where do you get the gear you girls use? Is there a special shop or something?
DPH: No, there’s not. Because we’re so new, we have to kind of get it where we can. Our coach, El Brujo, actually owns a shop called Skate Now where a lot of us girls have been buying our wheels and skates, and I’ve been able to pick up a few things from Sports Authority. A lot of us like to go through Salty Peaks because they give the derby girls a discount. It’s nice because this can get kind of expensive, and you always want to keep your gear up-to-date. I actually got a knee injury once because I didn’t have very good pads. I took a fall and really hurt myself. It happens, but you definitely want to do what you can to prevent it.
SLUG: With the derby just now making a comeback, do you have certified “derby gear” or do you borrow from other sports?
DPH: It’s still all from other sports, with one exception. One of the derby girls has actually started making and selling butt-pads: pads on your butt, but specifically made for where you fall in roller derby. I know a few of the girls on my team have them. I haven’t tried them out yet. I figure I’ve got enough padding already.
SLUG: So what other sports does the equipment come from?
DPH: You know what? I don’t even know. All I know is that the shops have them. It probably comes from rollerblading and skateboarding. I don’t think it all comes from any one specific sport, and that kind of makes it rough. Fortunately, we only need the things that they are already selling for other sports, rather than anything super-specific, so it’s not too hard to find.
SLUG: So what’s all the gear you have?
DPH: There’s a lot. They really want us all to be safe, so we’re required to have a lot of gear. We all have to have a helmet, and our helmets are the ones you tend to see on roller blades and skateboarders. The biker helmets tend to be long and pointy, but ours are the flatter round ones. In addition to our helmets, we have to have a mouth guard and we all wear elbow pads, wrist guards and kneepads. Those are all required for us to compete
Name: Sassie Lass
Teams: Death Dealers, Shakers All-Stars
Details: “I’ve always been kind of a loner,” says Sassie. “But roller derby has changed all that.” A 10-year belly-dancing veteran, Sassie Lass has danced with several local groups and was one of the founding members of Blue Lotus. While taking a break, Sassie went back to school to get her associate’s degree and has been working in legal assistance since 1995. After graduation, Sassie found herself looking to pick up a hobby again, maybe belly dancing, but that’s when Sassie found the roller derby. “It’s amazing to be part of such a great group of girls,” she says. “Women from such diverse backgrounds coming together as one – you can spend two hours together and laugh, sweat, cry and hit each other, then go have a drink. I’ve never experienced that in anything I’ve done before.” It’s these girls who Sassie came out to talk to us about.
SLUG: What kind of commitment goes into being a derby girl?
SL : A lot more than I ever thought when I joined. Basically, everything that we are able to do is because of the girls. Right now, the league practices twice a week. Teams generally practice once a week, sometimes more or less depending on the team and the season. Along with that, we require all the girls to be part of a committee. These are what form the league and what actually keeps us going and makes us work.
SLUG: What are the different committees?
SL : We have a bout committee, an interleague committee, a compliance committee, an events committee, sponsorship, media, public relations – the girls can join one and can draw from their backgrounds and experience and help with their different committees.
SLUG: So, you also do all the behind-the-scenes work?
SL : Exactly. When you come to the bout, the girls who are not playing are putting it on. They’re selling and taking tickets, helping security, reffing and helping take score. Everything that has to be done, we do. Basically the Olympic Oval has an empty rink, we come in, tape down our track, put up our signs and make it home. That’s what all the girls are doing when they’re not skating.
SLUG: So you guys even have to set up your own rink?
SL : Exactly. We do everything. And what we can’t do from within, we rely on volunteers. We have a huge fan base that has been wonderful with volunteering to help in the different areas. That’s what makes it all work.
SLUG: So how does one go about becoming a derby girl?
SL : We actually have tryouts coming up in September. All the details will be on the website soon, and will be updated as we get closer. The most important thing right now is to realize that we are looking for girls who already have a basic skating level. On the website there are links that tell you what we are looking for. We also talk about gear and other things for when you first come in for tryouts, and we have open skate sessions. You can come and skate with us and we’ll give you pointers so you can know where you’re at and what you need to work on before you come to tryouts.
SLUG: One more thing: how does a derby girl go about getting her name?
SL : It’s personal preference. There’s actually a database nationwide, and your name has to be approved before you can officially use it. There are thousands of names on there right now, and it’s getting harder to choose your name. Some girls find it really easy. I found it really difficult. I had to think about it for a while. The name can describe a part of the girl’s personality that they want to play up, or maybe just something fun and out of the everyday norm. Being the board secretary, I love it. I mean, we have lots of girls in the league with the same regular name. Nobody has the same derby name. And it’s kind of a rule that everyone has to go by their derby name. Nobody goes by their regular names, and half the girls here don’t even know each other’s regular name.