The Roller Derby Invades SXSW

Video killed the radio star, but television revived the Roller Derby. A much blathered about contact sport, today associated with tough girls, tattoos, and tantrums, the Roller Derby owns a tortuous history, which begins in the Thirties, when film publicist Leo Seltzer was hard up for a new pastime to broadcast. With dance marathons and walkathons rolling into the boredom gutter, Seltzer seized upon the emerging roller skating fad and dreamed up cross country roller-skating racing. Decades later, the popularity of the sport oscillated, as it slowly transitioned from a professional, male-dominated sport to a predominately amateur, grassroots, and all-female fringe sport.

The Roller Derby came back in vogue in part due to the national attention Rollergirls received, the short-lasted A&E reality-TV series that depicted the lives of Austin’s one-of-two Roller Derby leagues, the Lonestar Rollergirls, who play on a banked track. By mid-August of 2006, there were more than 135 Roller Derby leagues nationwide – compared to 50 in 2005 – who were inspired and assisted by Austin’s two trailblazing leagues. The Lonestar Rollergirls and Austin’s other league, the Texas Rollergirls, who lap one another on a flat track the first Sunday of every month, command a large, motley crowd every bout. Both leagues are managed and owned by the skaters and consist of strong, talented women eager to win, sometimes eager to fight, but always playing with respect and amiability.

Despite the surplus of entertainment available this weekend, out-of-towners and residents should not miss the Lonestar Rollegirls’ rollicking bout with Arizona’s Renegade Rollergirls, Thursday, March 15. On Sunday, March 18, the Lonestar Rollergirls resume their regular schedule when the Cherry Bombs will try to block and lap the panties off of the Holy Rollers, as they compete for the 2007 Calvello Cup Championship, coming up June 23. If you can’t make it to the track, Bob Ray and Werner Campbell’s Roller Derby documentary, Hell on Wheels, which spotlights both Austin leagues, is a must-see and screens during the South by Southwest Film Festival at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, Thursday, March 15, 4:30pm and Saturday, March 17, 4:15pm. For Marc Savlov's story on Hell on Wheels, click here.

Both Lonestar Rollergirls matches will take place at the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez. Doors open at 7pm; tickets are $15.

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