They go by many names—roller derby ‘dolls’, ‘girls’, ‘dames’ and even ‘demons’—but what’s the deal with derbyists? Some say it’s not really a profession, more of a calling, but, as a romance writer, Rhyll Biest felt compelled to dig deeper. Not just because of the saucy uniforms, or the sassy names, but because of the story potential when a character’s hips and booty are their weapon of choice. To find out the truth behind all the roller derby myths, Rhyll Biest sent Katherine Hatter on assignment to interview ‘Lucy’, a roller derby veteran and Queen of the Down-under Derby Domain.
KATHERINE: Lucy can’t be named for legal reasons (do NOT ask), but she was happy to tell me anything I asked during the long, dark drive on a lonely highway returning from derby practice. As we raced by hitchhikers and wayward truck drivers under a full bloated moon and bat-infested sky, derby secrets were divulged...
KATHERINE: Lucy, you not only coach and compete in roller derby, but also set up a new roller derby league in NSW and keep it running. Is this type of high-energy devotion to the sport typical of derbyists?
LUCY: Yeah, it’s typical of people who kind of fall in love with derby and need to have derby in their life.
KATHERINE: So what do you think it is specifically that’s addictive about derby?
LUCY: I think it’s about the independence it brings that you don’t necessarily feel you have in everyday life because of general cultural constructs and the restrictions that people put on you. Or maybe it’s getting argy-bargy, smelly and sweaty and not really caring at all because everybody else is in the same boat. Or maybe just getting to hang out and do something really silly and not caring if you look like a total fuckwit.
KATHERINE: Anything to do with with hittin’ a bitch?
LUCY: Yeah. Smack a bitch. Smack-a-bitch derby. We’re getting away from smack-a-bitch derby these days but I still like a bit of smack a bitch.
KATHERINE: Roller derby competitors are trained in strategy and tactics. Could you imagine this skill coming in handy in romance?
LUCY: Yeah! That was gonna be my initial statement, derby can sometimes make you stop and look at particular interactions you have with people. It did make me do that for a little while, especially in the early days, trying to figure out what advantage someone may or may not have been trying to gain over me and how they were trying to do that and what strategy I could put into place to counteract that.
KATHERINE: Now do you mean in the bedroom, Lucy, or do you just mean in general?
LUCY: I just mean in everyday relationships, however, I do think that bedroom-wise there’s a lot of body confidence that comes with roller derby and, well, you kind of have to let go of your inhibitions and stuff. So in terms of ‘between the sheets’ or ‘on top of the sheets with the lights on’ kind of stuff, you get a lot more comfortable with yourself. Plus, you know, the early day roller derby was all about dress ups so it was a kind of about getting your kink on so forth. I don’t know, you could probably factor all of that stuff in there somewhere. But I do really think that in terms of being able to manipulate your competitors into playing the game that you want them to play, whether that’s in your personal relationships or on the track, is a very effective skill to master.
KATHERINE: Yeah, yeah. I’m gonna ad-lib a question here.
KATHERINE: Do you find that since you’ve started playing roller derby, before you even look at a woman’s face, you’ll check out her booty?
LUCY: I don’t want to say that I do but I think I do! Yeah, I was looking at someone’s arse tonight and thinking, “Jesus fucking Christ, how did that get so high?” I was like, “I don’t understand where your bum…why is it up there? Mine’s not up there. You must SQUAT a lot!”
KATHERINE: Do you ever employ the booty bump outside of the rink?
LUCY: I think I’ve gone and done it in a bit of a, like, flirty kind of way, pretending it’s a derby thing, kind of way. But I don’t think it really got me anywhere. Like I find that a lot of my straight friends and I will have a bit of a random booty bump with each other just as kind of like a sisterhood kind of affection, it’s not necessarily even like we want to get our freak on, it’s just like a ‘hey, how you doin’?’
KATHERINE: It’s a high five
LUCY: It’s a high five with the hips.
KATHERINE: Yeah, well said. Roller derby names are awesome—e.g. Hammer Montana, Vivi Section, Punani Tsunami, Clitty Clitty Bang Bang, and Lady Shatterly. What would you like to see a roller derby character in an erotic romance novel named?
LUCY: AWSOME, Clitty Clitty Bang Bang. Jesus, that’s amazing, that one.
KATHERINE: So what would you like to see a character named?
LUCY: Clitty Clitty Bang Bang! Or… I have a tattoo called Betty Swallows, like ‘Bet He Swallows’ (sinister laughter), because it’s a swallow, a bird and her name’s Betty. That could be a good ref’s name, Bet He Swallows.
KATHERINE: Can you lay some sexy derby jargon on us?
LUCY: I do think about this. I really like, ‘drive her to the line’, and I just REALLY like the word ‘plough’, so you know, plough stopping and stuff, I just love the idea of ploughing. I used to go to bingo in Sydney all the time and they had different calls for different numbers and one of the numbers, I can’t remember which one it was, and I wish I could, was “whip me, beat me, fuck me like you hate me, PLOUGH me like the dirt that I am!” So when I think of plough stops I think of that. And if I could remember what number that applied to I would take that on as my derby number. I just like ‘ploughing’. I like ‘ploughing’ and ‘driving to the line’.
KATHERINE: What kind of things do you say when you’re driving someone to the line?
LUCY: I call people ‘sluts’ all the time. ‘Go down, you slut. Fucking, get off, slut!’ I’m really bad. One year, with my old league, I got the Potty Mouth of the Year award. Yeah, I’m pretty bad. But I say ‘slut’ as an endearing term and I say ‘slut’ when I fuck up too.
KATHERINE: Do you think a professional roller derby competitor would make a good romance novel character? Why?
LUCY: Yeah. Fuckin’ oath. Although, you’ll strike up a bit of trouble because they may be in love with roller derby more than they could possibly ever be with another human being. You’d have to be careful how you wrote it because their love for roller derby would trump human love.
KATHERINE: Is there much opportunity for eye-fucking opponents during a match, or is that sort of thing frowned upon?
LUCY: I was talking the other day, when I was on the track, about wanting to twerk on the line but then the girl behind me was really cute and I was like, ‘yeah, can’t do that’. For one, she’s going to see my attempt to shake my arse and be really bad at it and then her attention would BE on my arse and that’d be really bad. There’s not a lot of time to be eye fucking on the track. For me, during warm up, it’ll potentially happen. In retrospect, you think about all the stuff you got to do up close and personal with someone you might be really attracted to, but when it’s all happening you just ‘get in and get it done’. However, that’s a bit like what sex is like to me. It’s like, when business is business, you’ve got to get your business sorted and that’s it! But then, at the after party, you just look at someone and it’s kind of like, you’ve shared something and it’s like, ‘yeah, we did that together, uh-huh, yeah, fuckin yeah. We did that’.
KATHERINE: Have you ever engaged in ‘goating’ or ‘poodling’ during a match?
LUCY: Poodling’s a bit weird, it’s a bit technical, and to do with points. Goating is when, with your fellow teammates, you trap an opposing jammer and the pack is maintained with you potentially gaining more points. It’s a bit less bestiality than it sounds.
KATHERINE: In the US, there’s an annual SpudTown Knockdown held in Idaho. Do you have any name ideas for a similar (fictional) Australian event?
LUCY: I like Battle of the Bent Track. I don’t know. Spank a Bitch? Yeah. Spank a Bitch. Or Driving Miss Derby.
KATHERINE: I’ve heard the whispers about derby ‘boot camps’. I know the rule, that “whatever happens at derby boot camp stays at derby boot camp” but could you tell us whether derby boot camp would be a cool place for heroine and heroine to meet in a romance novel?
LUCY: Yeah, fuckin oath. I know for a fact that happens a lot. Like I said before, you get all hot and sweaty and you’re pushing up against each other and wot not. Imagine boot camp like it’s your first date, you don’t go out on too many first dates, not unless you’re a slut like me. How many first dates do you go on where you get all fucking hot and sweaty and pound flesh with each other? Like before you even have dinner? It’s like, you go and get hot and sweaty, fleshy poundy, knock each other over, pick each other up, get a bit spanky and whatever and THEN you go and have drinks and dinner. It’s like the best date ever.
KATHERINE: Scrimmage. What is it, and is it as filthy as it sounds?
LUCY: Yeah? Maybe? It’s just a practice bout, training with your own team. You often hear calls like, ‘fucking sit on her!’ and the other day I was yelling at someone to get up someone else’s arse. It can sound dirty. And, let’s face it, at some point you’re most likely going to end up with a boob in your hand during scrimmage. You know, we’ve had jokes before like, ‘roller derby stole my hymen’ when you land on your own skate. So yeah, scrimmage can be pretty dirty!
KATHERINE: What are the traits of a good roller derby competitor?
LUCY: Communication, team work, agility and flexibility too. Confidence can be dangerous. If you see someone who’s too cocky and showy, you want to bring them down a peg. In some ways the quiet achiever can really be the one that gets you across the line.
KATHERINE: How do roller derby lasses like to unwind after a hard day of bloodbath by bump?
LUCY: After party. Beer. Cider. Cider is a mad thing in roller derby, like, everyone’s up for cider. I’ve got a couple of mates who always, if they’re away or at a tournament, make sure they get a motel room with a spa. But cider. And dancing. And really bad, really, really bad dancing, like, disgusting dancing. I’ve seen many a Dirty Dancing montage of the ‘run to me and jump up on me’ kind of after party dancing. I’ve seen people dressed as different animal mascots getting it on, in some kind of dancing, love song thing. Anything to do with alcohol and making a dick of yourself basically works. But then you get the geek ones who sit down and analyse every single, little thing that happened. That does happen as well. Unfortunately.
RHYLL: A big thank you to you both, Lucy and Katherine, for so comprehensively answering the question of why roller derby and derby chicks are awesome. And, hell yeah, now I want to write a story about some saucy, kick-ass derby dames who are total terrors on and off the track.