I figured with all that meanness and emotion being displayed, these cheerleaders might be better off on some field beating the crap out of kids from a rival school. Wouldn’t that be more fun? OK, so that’s the guy solution to things. So shoot me.
I was talking to Shaggy at the Black Dog Tavern about cheerleading the other day. Shaggy is a cheerleader for the Dallas Derby Devils women’s roller derby league. Wearing a pink mini-skirt, musing eloquently on megaphone skills and how fans show their support by stacking their empty beer cans in pyramids, Shaggy was just, well, glowing. All while pulling a Sharon Stone leg-crossing on the couch across from me.
Did I mention Shaggy is a guy? Who likes dressing in women’s clothing?
The Southlake cheerleader crazoids could learn an important lesson in team spirit from Shaggy. He wanted to be on the roller derby team. League rules, however, said players have to be women. Shaggy didn’t think that was fair, given that most of the roller derby women are bigger than him and he’s not very athletic anyway. But rather than protest as the Southlake cheerleaders did, he asked the league organizers how he could help out. They asked him to dress in drag and entertain the fans.
So Shaggy has a new persona: Trixie TrailerTrash. “Maybe they’ll change the rules next year,” Shaggy tells me. “I just want to be a roller derby girl. But if they want me to be a part of the league by being a cheerleader, that’s OK with me.”
Roller derby is one of those entertainment/sports whose popularity goes up and down over time. Many people remember Raquel Welch as a Kansas City Bomber in the 1972 movie of that name, and they also remember roller derby as a version of pro wrestling on skates. In recent years, roller derby has caught on again, with women mostly beating the crap out of each other, the jammers and pivots and blockers doing whatever they do.
There are now 30 “leagues” nationally in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (not leagues in the usual sports sense), and the Dallas Derby Devils ply their craft at the Arlington Skatium on South Cooper Street. The New York Times weighed in on the sport’s revival last year (“a contagious blend of high performance sport and campy theatrics”), and the A&E network has a popular reality show called “Rollergirls.” The premise is still the same: Chicks – and this is one of the few contexts in which my editor will let me use that word – with names like “Lickety Split-Tail” and “June Carter Crash” wearing mini-skirts and sexy fishnets, spinning around and threatening one another.
The Dallas Derby Devils have their own “league” of four teams that skate against each other about once a month. The next event is May 7, and tickets are $10.
The women in this league are not butchy; Shaggy says most of them would qualify as soccer moms. Shaggy is not butchy either: Trixie TrailerTrash is a girl who badly wants to be a cheerleader. Neither glamorous nor athletic, she has always been put down by the social elite but keeps trying anyway. Spunky, the way cheerleaders from small towns used to be. Or so Shaggy says.
If you’re wondering if Shaggy is some kind of drag queen gay boy, well, it ain’t that simple. He bartends at the Black Dog Tavern, where some of his paintings hang on the walls. “I’m not into this gay or straight paradigm thing,” Shaggy says, crossing his legs again. “Dressing this way feels good and expands my social horizons. Gay or straight? That is so 20th century.”
I don’t understand cheerleaders or Shaggy. But he believes in his version of the old adage that we should “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I’ve always liked that way of thinking – not that I’d dress up to cheer on the roller girls.
Maybe this all makes some sense. Women skating around the track, some in schoolgirl uniforms and others with spikes around their necks, fake blood flying around, and a BYOB beer-drinking crowd egging them on. And in front of them all is this strawberry blond man dressed up in his own mini-skirt, using his megaphone to rile everyone up.
He’s kind of a role model, actually. Denied the chance to become a roller girl, he bloomed where he was planted and is happy using his, um, talents to help the team any way he can. When the Southlake cheerleaders were turned down, they should have asked to join the football team. Or maybe formed their own perverse cheerleading unit that dances around when the emo boys wear their girl pants.
Confused? I sure am. But let’s not get caught up in the paradigms that society uses against us like Bombers blocking the track. That is so 20th century.