Thursday, March 18, 11:30 p.m.
"To the left, to the left…” Fans of NASCAR might disagree, but the Down & Derby roller-skating party is quite possibly the best thing to have ever happened to that sinister, misunderstood direction. Seriously, going left has never been quite so much fun!
Of course, much of that fun happens long before you ever touch one wheel to Rain’s smooth wooden dance floor. Richard Alexander and Vince Masi started the party in Beauty Bar’s backyard in February of 2009, then moved it to Rain that December. As the party is monthly, one has plenty of time to consider costume choices. I initially was going for a kind of demonic roller-Barbie—think Rainbow Brite, only darker—but settled instead on a sexy, female A Clockwork Orange getup that employed a derby hat, vest and cuffed white shirt, a cravat, red garter belt (purely for color) and lead character Alex’s iconic black lashes, which I, of course, apply to the incorrect eye. Somewhere, I’m sure, Kubrick felt the sting.
I follow the masses into Rain’s VIP bar, where, instead of serving up drinks, the chipper gal hands me two brown skates. It’s been decades since I was thusly mobile. My fingers are shaking as I lace them up, so anxious am I to get rolling. In fact, I think I forget to pay the $5 rental fee (sorry! IOU!).
Strapped in, I instantly acclimate to the herky-jerky movements of rental skates on sticky club carpeting, then pick my way down the stairs to the floor where about a hundred people are circling beneath Rain’s fire-breathing lighting rig like oddly dressed worshippers.
From between their bodies, the high-boy tables and the VIP booths, skaters newly-born and practically professional shoot on and off the dance floor like meteors pulled into or ejected from a star’s orbit.
At the churning center of this galaxy, those ringers conduct a limbo contest with an inflatable Harlem Kruiden Liqueur bottle. This will later become a sort of totem for the flame worshippers to hoist up and parade around, the potent Harlem itself providing the fuel, most likely. But for now, it’s just a bulky limbo stick that inevitably knocks down most of the competitors.
As excited as I am to try the black, Dutch herbal concoction, I opt instead for a simple vodka soda. “Is that… a sippy cup?!” I stammer. The bartender nods proudly, as if he’d thought of it himself, and hands me a purple plastic toddler cup and straw to keep my vodka contained and off the track. He may as well have strapped a jet pack to me—I’m off!
All the preparation, gearing-up and liquid courage comes down to the moment of truth, when you take your first step—or rather, your first roll. For first-timers, this must be nearly paralyzing. For me, it’s exhilarating. And for the vast number of Sin City Roller Girls and roller-skating proficients, it’s got to be just like breathing—natural, necessary.
“More people need to roller skate and more people need to play for the fabulous Sin City Roller Girls!” says SSRG Vy O. Lator (aka Dayla Lawson), ever promoting her rough-and-tumble band of cutthroat, pin-up-style roller derby league-mates. A few of them are in the crowd tonight, giving the rest of us something to shoot for.
The next few hours are a mad whirlwind, one that sweeps ever left, except when DJ Robert Oleysyck gets a wild hair to send us to the right. The girls, when they fall, collapse in heaps and puddles, laughter spilling out of them along with the contents of their purses. When the guys bite it, it’s more like a belly flop with no splash. And of course all to the tune of “Catch Me (I’m Falling),” “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” and other hits of yesteryear. Even the accursed Chicken Dance rears its ugly beak and though I don’t join in—I can't, I simply can’t—I sing along.
At 2 a.m. I discover the art of peeing while wearing skates, a feat that involves one toe-brake, a sturdy bathroom stall and lots of upper body strength.
Shortly thereafter, I am literally the last person on the floor, and much to security’s chagrin. “I’m sorry, Miss. Time to go,” he says, not actually very apologetically. I bust out the faux-pout and make for the skate-bar, but do so feeling so childlike and free you would think a Carvel ice-cream cake was waiting for me.
Was it good for you?
"It was like going back to being 12 but with drinking. So just as much fun, but a little less coordination." - Stephanie, bar manager
"There’s no violence, no fighting, everyone’s out to have a good time." - Mario, air conditioning installation
"Hot girls, hot guys. This is the only thing you can come to—in a club—in skates, with good music.” - Jessica, video game critic