Sunday, November 27, 2005


Fan of the Century

Combing the internet for pieces of my past, I started searching for names of the prominent skaters who were competing when I was a kid in artistic roller skating. Again and again, as my only option, I came upon the Web pages of one Susan A. Miller, who has amassed a comprehensive press and oral history on roller figure skating during the 1970s and 1980s (apparently this is known as the "Classic" period of artistic roller skating). Again and again, I found pictures of faces I remembered, including dozens of glamorous older skaters I idolized and a couple of my first "girlfriend," a national champion from Orange, and links to events I skated in, and articles about old friends...and I welled up with appreciative tears. It was as if I had been given an entire part of my history back to me in one appealing cyber-chunk, and I want to say thank you, Susan A. Miller, for that gift.

Susan says (we exchanged e-mails) she was never a skater herself, but got interested in it while a young girl on Long Island. After a few ill-fated lessons, she became the sport's most vehement, and, by all evidence, most faithful, follower.

On a complicated but joyous note of semi-ironic fun, Susan maintains the world's only Roller Boogie fan site, and keeps the candle burning for ex-teen-heart-throb Jim Bray with a radical set of Appreciation Pages. I knew Jim Bray slightly as one of those older, glamorous, idolized champion skaters I mentioned above; he sometimes said a few words to me, which I treasured the same way I did the interactions I had with all my childhood idols. But Bray was special because I do believe I also had my first sexual fantasies about him--I'm sure if you've looked at the link, you can see why. Susan, in an e-mail, said she'd heard [source unidentified] that absolutely everyone wanted him back then (when he was 16, 17, 18), and that he was a "real player" in those days. And I would say that was a fair assessment. Miller's wacky sense of sarcastic humor takes the main stage in her hilarious Roller Boogie drinking game, which should get you well smashed past caring about what an abysmal film it actually is.

If you don't know anything about roller figure skating, check out Susan's wealth of material and acquaint yourself with a sport that I believe is made for mass consumption (i.e. television), but has never quite made the grade for Olympic or mainstream status. The closest it ever got was when the indominatable and inimitable Natalie Dunn (of my hometown, Bakersfield, CA!) appeared in a few highly entertaining National Television spots during her reign as World Champion in the mid- to late-1970s. Since then, enthusiasm about its possible upgrade has waned, though the sport stays just as vital. Natalie herself, along with her father, Omar, remains a dedicated powerhouse to the art and craft of artistic roller skating. She's perhaps the most important and most enduring of my childhood figure skating idols, and after much careful thought, I do believe she is the best skater of all time. More on that wild claim in a future post.

Till then, boogie on.

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OMG... you are too much! Thanks for being so kind :-)

-- Susan Miller
I found you via Susan....I was also a competitive roller skater during the mid 70's to early 80's, skating out of Roller Towne in Clovis. Good stuff! And yes....Susan did a FANTASTIC job in putting her site together! :)
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