Counter Culture

Alas, it has been a long time since I have sat on this site.  I am firmly back in Canada having traversed most of the continent last month (more on that later).  I feel the need to give one last LA post before I start addressing life in my home town.

Just before I left LA I managed to take in two very amusing bits of entertainment. The first took place at Largo at the Coronet (a trip through these postings will confirm that I do love this venue).  I went to see John Waters in an informal interview setting, there to talk about his life and the launch of his new book “Role Models”.

John Waters is the director of such cult film classics as “Polyester”, “Hairspray” and “Cry Baby”.  He is on a book tour around the country but makes his permanent home in Baltimore.  As he said: “The people in New York and Los Angeles like to think that they are really out there, but the reality is they are all pretty normal.  The thing I love about Baltimore is that everyone there thinks they are normal, but they are all completely crazy”.  Waters is openly gay, a feminist and an active champion of the underdog.  I have to confess I am not a great fan of his films but he is utterly charming in person. You might suspect that his attraction to the marginalized members of society is exploitative but hearing him speak you realize that it absolutely is not.  He loves these people for their idiosyncrasies and feels a compelling need to let them have a voice.  He has cultivated very real friendships with people like Divine, Tracy Lords (the former child porn star he feels has been horribly abused) and Leslie Van Houten, one of the Manson family women who was convicted of murder.  Van Houten has been incarcerated for forty years (“she was a nice girl who met a madman”) and Waters regularly visits her in prison.  Waters is charming, polite and well spoken and I very much look forward to reading his book.

My second little jaunt took me to see the LA Derby Dolls in action.  The Derby Dolls are, as one might expect, an all women roller derby team.  They play on a banked track (faster and more challenging than a flat, evidently) to pounding music and are loud, raucous and fun.  The players sport excellent monikers like “Venus D Mauler”, “Laguna Beyatch” and my personal favorite “Heidi Evidence”.  It was one of those times in my life when I contemplated strapping on skates and leaping the barricade.  I can absolutely see myself doing this, despite my rapidly advancing years and the fact that I cannot skate at all on any surface.  A small hurdle, I think.

I have a friend who is an enforcer (referee in common parlance) for the Derby Dolls.  By day she is a relatively demure schoolteacher called Anna, but on the weekends she transformers herself into Annapocalypse Pow.

Roller Derby has a reputation for being rather sordid but from what I witnessed the members are all a fiercely loyal sisterhood.  They are women from all walks of life – therapists, lawyers, teachers, bankers – who come together to blow off some steam.  There are parents of small children, a mother daughter combo and fans both gay and straight.  Pretty much a happy little village of truly supportive friends.  Not a bad example to be giving.

Now all I need is to learn to skate and to come up with an excellent pseudonym.  See you at the track!

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