IF YOU'VE EVER SEEN THE SHOW ROLLERGIRLS ON A&E YOU KNOW THAT THOSE CHICKS DON'T PLAY. ARMED WITH BOTH GUTS AND GAMS, THESE WOMEN CAN (AND WILL) BEAT YOUR ASS. OUR VERY OWN HELLKAT IS A FELLOW ROLLERGIRL, SO PUNKY BRUISER DIDN'T ROUGH HER UP TOO BADLY DURING THIS ONE-ON-ONE PHONE INTERVIEW.
Hellkat: First, I just wanted to thank you for talking with me today.
Punky Bruiser: Oh my goodness, this is fun! I get to talk to someone I've never met before.
H: I am really excited about this interview with you because I recently got into roller derby myself. I joined Milwaukee's new roller derby team, the Brewcity Bruisers.
PB: Oh my God! So, are you going to practices and stuff?
H: Yeah. I just started about a month and a half ago.
PB: That is so awesome! The Brewcity Bruisers.
H: I knew I was the staff member from tastes like chicken to do this interview! I get together every Monday with the other Brewcity Bruisers to watch the show, and we have so much fun!
PB: I love hearing that all the different leagues are watching.
H: So, can you tell me about how you first got into roller derby?
PB: Well, I work at a restaurant called Texas Chili Parlor, and the two commentators for the derby worked there as well. A couple groups of us from work would go to the games together. I went to only two games before I actually became a member of the league. Both times that I went, I had to be physically stopped by my friends from going out to the middle of the track.
PB: I knew that I was on the wrong side of the track. I needed to be on the other side of the rail!
H: What do you think makes a girl want to do roller derby? I ask because when I first heard Milwaukee was starting a league, I knew right away that I had to do it.
PB: That's a great question. That is something we've been asking ourselves too, and we are still trying to figure that out. Lux [from the team Rhinestone Cowgirls] and Chola [from the team Putas del Fuego] were talking about what makes a girl want to do roller derby. We are all so different, but it's like there is something in our DNA that makes us want to do it. There's never been a doubt for me when it's come to derby. I knew from the start that I had to do this. It seems as though that's been everyone's underlying reason for joining. I saw it, I heard about it, and I knew I had to do it. It's kind of like a light that just goes on.
H: I completely understand what you mean! (laughs)
PB: It's just something inside of you that tells you, "Yes!"
H: And it's not just for girls who are aggressive or who've played contact sports either. There are girls involved in it that are totally sweet and shy, people who wouldn't normally be seen as a rollergirl, but are so into it.
PB: Exactly. Helena Handbasket-- who's on my team, Holy Rollers-- is so tiny, nice, and proper. She doesn't even talk very loud, but she does derby. And it's so funny! Not everyone out there is a tattooed and pierced rollergirl, yelling and screaming. We have all types, shy and loud!
H: What were some of your fears and anticipations before you started? Were you scared or apprehensive at all?
PB: The only thing I really remember feeling when I first joined was feeling intimidated by all the women that I was surrounded by all of a sudden. You know? They were very loud, outspoken, and strong! I don't mean just strong physically, I mean strong-willed. These women work very hard to make our league happen. They don't let people stop them, like people who says things like, "You group of girls are going to start a roller derby league?!? Yeah, right! I wanna see that happen!" I felt intimidated, but I think that was just me projecting onto them. As soon as I started skating and working the bouts, all I received was support and acceptance. Even though they didn't know me, they supported what I did. They accepted me for who I was, and that's pretty powerful.
H: A lot of people ask me if roller derby is fake. Do you get tired of explaining to people that it isn't? What do you tell people?
PB: Thankfully, I'm not tired of it yet, because I get asked that all the time! I laugh, especially if people ask if we have stunt doubles. It's like, "No. It's really us eating crap out there on the track!" Or, "No. That is not my stunt double who is getting her leg broken. It's actually happening!"
H: What's the worst injury you've received during a bout?
PB: During a bout? I injured my hand once. I've never gone to a doctor to see what happened to it though, so it's kind of permanently altered.
PB: I can't make a fist or anything, and it hurts when it's cold. A skate hit my hand. Besides that, there hasn't been anything too serious. In this last game we just had-- the Cherry Bombs versus the Hellcats-- I think we had two girls who broke their noses, and another who had a rib come out of place. She had to get it popped back in! And then there was another girl who broke a couple of ribs.
H: Have you ever inflicted an injury on somebody else?
PB: No. And that's the thing, you always want to be safe out there. You hope you never really cause somebody who you love injury. You can't take it too far, although sometimes it gets pretty aggressive.
H: Are there any rituals or superstitions you undertake before the bout?
PB: No, but I try to say hi to all the girls that I'm playing against. I think sometimes that kind of bothers them. I had no idea until I talked to them how serious they got before a game. They are in this mind frame: "Don't talk to me! We're about to go out there and fight against one another!" And I say, "Well, yeah. But we're still friends, and we still need to have fun! We're not on the track yet!"
H: My team hasn't broken up into teams yet and we're all still practicing together. Everyone's becoming really close, but I wonder if it's going to be strange once we're up against each other. I hope we all remain good friends.
PB: You will. As long as you remain close and together, your league will succeed.
H: What's the biggest rush for you? Is it being a part of something that is empowering, or is it just the physical act of going out and skating on the track?
PB: I would have to say both. I can't tell you how many times during the first season I just stood around and was awestruck. It seems ridiculous to some people, and they'll say things like, "Oh, yeah, your little championship game...." But you know what? It gives us some kind of purpose to our lives, and we've all worked so hard to get to that point in the season. It's a big deal to us. It's a big deal to be out there with all of those people watching us skate! It's not like 50,000 people or anything, like back in the day in the Seventies, but it's still pretty damn cool! Especially when there's people scalping tickets outside, and it's just roller derby!
H: The last bout I went to in Madison, Wisconsin was sold out. People were really disappointed that they couldn't get in. It was wild, crazy, and such a great time! On Rollergirls I saw a part where an Austin radio station announced bouts and scores on their morning show. It seems to be really popular there. Or it appears that way on the show.
PB: (laughs) Yeah, it appears that way on the show. I remember watching that part and being like, "What?!?"
H: So it's not like that? I was surprised because I didn't realize it was so popular.
PB: Yeah, I didn't realize that either. I mean, we do go on radio shows the Friday before games to promote them. And we do a little trash talking to get people into it, but that's about it.
H: So, how has being a Rollergirl changed your life?
PB: It's given me friendships that I never thought I would have. It's given me something to do in my life that I never thought I would be doing. I remember working and wanting to find an outlet for myself, but not knowing what it would be. I never imagined in a million years that it would have to do with skating and using my body to stop people from getting past me. I never thought in a million years that I would be playing a contact sport. I never thought I would be on a national TV show. I'm still shocked by that, actually.
H: Derby really appears to be growing in popularity. Many people I know are watching Rollergirls, and most people I know have at least heard about it.
PB: Yeah, I think we were kind of naive when we went into it. We kind of thought, "Let's do this so we can get more people to come to our games!" One of our mission statements is to promote roller derby, our own league, and other leagues across the country. That's one of the reasons we agreed to do the show. We knew that if we did it we would give more exposure to roller derby. It would help us out, and it would help other leagues out, too.
PB: But we really didn't realize that we would end up doing interviews and other things like this.
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H: After it's all said and done with the show, do you think your league will be glad they did it? Do you think everyone was represented well?
PB: Yeah, I do. Completely. I think the league was represented well. The people who came and wanted to do this show with us, the Auerbachs, love roller derby. Gary is so funny, and Julie, his wife, is one strong bitch! They are both incredible people. They both love derby and love powerful women. That's why they wanted to do this show, because they like things that are bit counterculture. It's in their best interest to make us look as good as possible. Right now we have no complaints, and we're just happy to be getting more exposure.
PB: And that's what we wanted.
H: Do you think this sudden surge of popularity for roller derby is a short-term trend, or is it the start of something bigger?
PB: I hope it's the start of something bigger. I'm sure it is, maybe in ways we don't even really realize right now. I know there are little girls out there watching the show. And I know we get criticism for partying, which I think is ridiculous. We're not out there allegedly raping people or hiring hookers on boats and stuff! There are things we're not really thinking about now, but in the future we will be able to see how derby was an influence. I think that's pretty cool.
H: Do you feel like you've achieved some sort of stardom from being on the show?
PB: No! Give me a break!
PB: My mom's friends were telling her that I was making $60,000 a year! You know we don't get any money for the show, right? I told my mom not to worry, because I still make $2.00 an hour, plus tips.
H: I read that you work as both a waitress and in retail. Is it difficult for you to balance your working life and your ass-kicking roller derby life?
PB: It is, because the more involved you become in derby, the more it consumes you. I'm hooked right now. I spend a lot of time on derby, more than I do at work.
H: If a league of professional rollergirls were created, would you quit your job and do it for a living?
PB: That's a nice idea, but I would need to read the fine print before I can say yes. If it's owned by Vince McMahon, hell no!
PB: If I was able to remain part owner and operator of my league, if derby was still something that I put my blood, sweat, and tears into, and if I still felt passionate about it, then hell yes!
H: The fact that your league is owned and operated by the members is really cool. Do you guys own the building where you hold games?
PB: No, we rent it. We would love to though, and owning our facility is one of our goals.
H: But you guys are still lucky. I'm sure there are many teams across the country who would love to be where your league is at now.
PB: Yes, we are very lucky.
H: Before we end the interview let's do some word associations. I'll say a word, and then you say the first thing that comes to mind, okay?
H: Holy Rollers.
PB: Lunch meat.
H: Cherry Bombs.
H: Rhinestone Cowgirls.
PB: Hail Mary.
H: Smarty Pants.
H: Punky Bruiser.
H: Axle Rosie.
H: Hades Lady.
PB: Stay high.
H: Horror Show.
PB: Give me a whip.
H: Miss Conduct.
PB: Get lower.
H: Mz. Behavin'.
PB: The red line.
H: Sissy Spank-It.
H: I have one more question for you that we try and ask everyone we interview. The question is, do dogs have lips?
PB: Depends on the dog.