By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Courtney Jones seems like a typical college freshman. The 19-year-old student at the University of Texas at Arlington studies hard, pulls in A's and B's, works for the school's newspaper and enjoys socializing with friends in her downtime, either at live music venues or lounging around her Arlington apartment. Indeed, most of her life has been quite normal. She was a competitive cheerleader when a student at Bowie High School in Arlington, and she was no stranger to The Court: Jones played varsity basketball and volleyball.
These days, however, Jones is a Court Marshal or, rather, The Court Marshal for the Dallas Derby Devils, the area's newest and most aggressive organized sport. But men need not apply: The Dallas Derby Devils (or Triple D) are all temptresses.
Triple D is Dallas' roller derby league, a group of 40 hooligans who raise hell and eyebrows on the rink. These aren't your average girl-next-door types: Not unless your address is 667. The Devils are the 1-percenters of North Texas' estrogen-fueled, gritty superwomen, where skating full-throttle and making full contact are the rules.
"We're underground girls," Jones says matter-of-factly, recognizing that her derby persona is decidedly different from the girl who sported pompoms just more than a year ago. "We're not mainstream, and the fact that we're all different is what makes us similar. We're not worried about cool."
The Devils' birth was spawned by a mixture of bravado and angst-filled music. Thirty-year-old founder and mother of three Holly Plant (aka Hollywood If She Could) caught a roller derby match in Austin two years ago--complete with scrums and cross-checks, and choreographed to heavy metal music to boot--and was hooked. She wasn't a born skater; belly dancing was her trade. But she remembered the thrill of speeding around the rink when she was a kid, and she figured that rather than walking around with pent-up anger, releasing rage on another girl who also is looking for a hostility outlet seemed reasonable. The proper mix of sport and therapy, as it were. And what if all this were possible while circa-1980s Cure blared overhead in an echo chamber? Then there was the look. Hollywood recognized that roller derby is inherently sexy. After all, there's just something glamorous about a sport that's one part Jazzercise and one part Thunderdome.
"My whole life, I've looked like June Cleaver with my hair perfectly pulled back," Hollywood says. "Now I can be as creative as I want. I can wear a spiked neck collar and handcuffs on my belt."
In November 2004, Hollywood started telling her friends about her master plan: a roller derby league in the metroplex, complete with five teams, uniforms, fan bases and plenty of attitude. Her inner circle was immediately receptive. Next came a trip into the underworld, which in this case was Club Clearview in Dallas. Hollywood's silver-tongued recruitment spiel made her minions flock to the varnished wood floor of the roller rink like lost sheep to a shepherd. Most recently, Triple D has aligned themselves with 93.3 The Bone, and the vixens are making appearances around town, including a recent engagement at Gilley's in Dallas as part of the Kickstart My Heart bash.
They're still looking for a permanent home, but for now, there's Holiday Skate in Haltom City. This back yard of the bourgeoisie is not the ideal setting for the bad girls who used to smoke under the bleachers. Court Marshal recalls her first practice at Holiday Skate. "We walked in while the high school students were doing the Hokey Pokey," she says. "And here were a bunch of girls in Goth clothing with tattoos in the middle of suburbia. We got some strange stares."
Hollywood holds four practices per week, but most Devils come on Sundays between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. These women are still wrestling with confederation growing pains, but their numbers are growing, and they're not even seriously promoting yet. They're learning the rules of the sport, setting up plays and learning each other's quirks and idiosyncrasies. Come May, they plan on being a complete league with five teams that compete for the public on a regular basis. They also hope to be skilled enough to take on the best and the baddest Texas has to offer.
And in roller derby circles, Texas has the best and baddest in the country.
Austin's Texas Rollergirls didn't invent flat-track roller derby (not to be confused with the oval-shaped banked track of 1970s popularity), but they certainly made it strange and popular. In December 2000, the Texas Rollergirls assembled much like the Devils are trying to now: through word-of-mouth. Theirs was a scene born out of Austin punk rock, and the counterculture amassed in droves. By 2002, Austin had a full-blown league composed of four teams of 15 to 20 skaters.
Much like the Devils, the players came from all walks of life: schoolteachers, university students, rockers, public relations folk. They originally performed in an old warehouse to a crowd of adrenaline junkies, but these days they pack hipsters and families alike into venues like the Music Hall in downtown Austin. The Rollergirls conceptualized the look-tough element of roller derby: They started wearing clothes with skulls and upside-down crosses. They donned spiked collars and ruffled panties atop their spandex.