As a kid, if I ever dreamed of seeing my mug in the newspaper, I doubt I would’ve pictured it on the front page of the sports section, but here you have it:
When an L.A. Times photographer approached me about doing this piece, I was conflicted. It was an honor, of course, but it also made me a little squeamish. I’ve been a member of the Dolls’ PR committee since joining the league, and for three years, I was its director. It was my job to get reporters and photographers to point their equipment at other skaters. But this girl? The limelight makes me squirm.
As I’ve chronicled extensively here, retiring from roller derby is hard. It’s even more difficult when you’re being tailed by paparazzi.
In the documentary piece that ran on the Times’ web site, there’s a bit where I talk about the unimportance of makeup in the world of derby – yeah, we’re girls, and yeah, we like to play dress up, but the game always comes first. Last Saturday night, as I sat in the makeup chair before my final game, I cried. I had given the makeup artist free range because I was sick with anxiety and couldn’t make decisions.
Her work finished, I stared in the mirror and saw eyes I didn’t recognize as my own, thick with black eyeliner and mascara and hot pink shadow all the way up to my brow line. I looked old. It was the face of a retiree, the eyes of Tammy Faye Baker. Meanwhile, in the vestibule adjacent to the makeup room, the Times’ photographer was interviewing skaters about their reaction to Judy Gloom’s retirement and I could hear every word of it. It was all too much and I broke down.
My performance in the game was uneven, but so was my derby career, so it seems like a fair ending to the saga. In the last jam of the night, Fight Crew leading by only eight points, I committed a major penalty that prevented me from scoring or calling off the jam even though I was in the lead (boo). But…I managed to hang onto that lead while slowing the opposing jammer, successfully preventing her from making a third pass and cinching a 2-pt victory for the Crew (yay). It was one of those dramatic, sports-movie moments and the good guys won.
Photo by Mia More/Susanica Tam
Now that it’s all behind me, I’m really pleased with how the documentary piece turned out, but less enthusiastic about the article (I’m so tired of the “Librarian by Day, Killer Roller Derby Babe by night” media angle. I tried to steer the writer in another direction, but he wouldn’t budge. A quote from his article: “Hell on wheels, this little Glendale librarian.” And here’s the headline from a 2009 CNN article about another derby librarian: “Tiny librarian is hell on wheels.” Oh well).
Most importantly, the Derby Dolls made it on the front page of the L.A. Times’ sports section – above the fold! – and this is my crowning achievement as the former head of PR. I just never imagined it would be my helmet and specs in the photo.
Photo by Robert Gauthier/L.A. Times