Rolling on the River

They won't hit the track until 2007, but smart marketing has the city primed for Burning River Roller Girls, the toughest (and sexiest) sports league on eight wheels.

They seem at first glance to be a hybrid of punk rockers and recreational athletes. Some sport unorthodox hair colors, tattoos and multiple facial piercings. All of them flaunt campy names such as Kill Basa, MILFinator and Ivanna Destroya.

But don’t be fooled. The city’s new female roller derby league, which has been steadily gaining momentum since its March 2006 inception, counts a scientist, radio personality, insurance underwriter and stay-at-home mom among its roster of 65 Northeast Ohio skaters. And don’t be confused by suggestive publicity photos displaying plenty of thigh — these derby dames are more than just short skirts and sex appeal, and they’ll be the first ones to tell you.

“This is rigorous — we’re sweating our asses off,” says Tina Brugnoletti, aka Stiv Skator. “If it happens we’re attractive while we’re doing it, that’s a by-product — we can’t help that we’re hot.”

These skaters train, sweat and drill in flat-track practices where mishaps draw blood. The league meets twice a week at United Skates of America in Wickliffe for practice so rigorous participants are required to have health insurance before they can lace up. Surrounded by party streamers and arcade machines, they work out as hard as any other athletic team. Suicide runs (without skates), laps and competition-simulation drills are all part of the training, as are missteps, accidental run-ins and injuries.

Unlike past generations of roller derby, where audiences were treated to over-the-top professional wrestling moves on an inclined track, this version is unscripted and genuine. And though it lacks the redneck entertainment value of the occasional dropkick, this wave of roller derby has a much more valuable commodity — authenticity.

The league’s quick leap into Greater Cleveland’s consciousness can be at least partially attributed to its naughty pinup girl image. A Web page, a MySpace profile and a Yahoo! Group have turned the league into a publicity-collecting franchise that has lured an assortment of sponsors and fans long before its first real bout.

But the Burning River Roller Girls will be ready to start their first official season with full force in 2007. Currently the skaters practice as a league, but they have been broken into four teams that will eventually compete against each other. Until then, they’ve been practicing and looking for spaces to hold exhibitions and other fund-raisers such as full-contact musical chairs set for later this year.

“It’s completely taken over everyone’s lives,” offers Natalie Terry, aka Stinkerbelle Rock.

Like similar leagues from as far away as the Cayman Islands to as near as Columbus, Cleveland’s league has attracted a variety of hardcore members who are already strategizing about the upcoming season.

"Let’s use a lot of scare tactics,” says Natalie Sweet, aka Roxie Monoxide. “Like, we’ll eat a lot of onions — then we’ll sweat onion smell.”And true to their retro roots, here’s one a bit of advice: “Don’t insult any derby girl by assuming she wears Rollerblades,” warns Stinkerbelle.

“That’s grounds for being put through the spanking machine.”

Then again, that might be fun.— Tom Kondilas


And Another Thing

Depending upon the dispatches you read, either 200 or 500 members of the Kiss Army rallied at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Aug. 5 for the enshrinement of their makeup-clad rock idols (“Kissed Off,” August 2006). While The Plain Dealer reported 200 people attended, an E! Online story claimed 500 people made the trip. Both numbers are far less than the 4,000 Kiss fans Detroit organizer Paul Carpenter hoped would show for their heroes. But the small march still made a decent footprint, with a next-day Google news search of the event turning up 198 entries. Though the band had no official comment, singer Gene Simmons spent the week leading up to the rally perpetuating the Kiss brand by doing press for his new AandE network reality show — hot off the opening of the new Kiss Coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Oh, how we wish we weren’t serious about that one.


“I was lucky enough to be carried off the field after we won Super Bowl XI. I was told it took like five or six guys to lift me up. Then they dropped me.“
— 2006 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee John Madden — former player and coach, broadcaster and namesake of the megapopular “Madden” video game franchise — recalling the finer moments of his NFL career at his Aug. 5 induction in Canton.


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