‘The intersection of roller skates, violence, and women—you don’t see it very often,” says Lefty Leibowitz. If the Web-design entrepreneur and co-founder of Gotham Girls Roller Derby has his way, that will soon change. With leagues popping up in Texas, Arizona, and California, roller derby—the contact sport that in its seventies heyday was basically a female WWF on wheels—seems poised for a nationwide revival. How else could Leibowitz and Karin Bruce, a fashion designer, have independently come up with the idea of a New York derby league at the same time?
Having joined forces through Craigslist, they now have a Website, gothamrollerderby.com, and are actively recruiting would-be derby queens, who’ve been practicing at the Empire Roller Skating Center in Crown Heights, a relic of the disco era. Interest has been strong, though to judge from a recent meeting, male “referees” (including Leibowitz) may outnumber competitors. “It’s one of the only sexy sports that’s out there,” recruit Janine Fleri says. “And you don’t need skating experience. I’m so not a jock,” adds Bruce, who zips around in striped leg warmers and signs her e-mails “Hey! Ho! Let’s roll!”
Bruce and Leibowitz envision four to six neighborhood teams (think “Lower East Side Lolitas”), and games—with live rock at intermission—that won’t be a series of staged catfights. “I’m not looking for people punching each other,” says Bruce. “But I do want the girls to have a lot of badass attitude.” Kicking ass is certainly part of the appeal for freelance fashion designer Cecilia Anton, an enthusiastic participant: “It’s about being cheeky and getting dressed up. It’s also about being able to beat someone up—legally. How great it that?”