Tiny, black-haired Gina Valladares had just taken a spectacular fall, but not one of the onlookers helped her outendash not even her parents. As she struggled to her feet, her mom and dad simply shouted, "Go! Go! Go!" only to see her get whipped around, tripped up and knocked down.
We're in Pomona in what used to be a bowling alley, watching a training session for a hoped-for replay of Roller Derby, the flamboyant spectator sport that faded away in the '70s but was so hot in the '50s and '60s that it once attracted 60,000 people to the Rose Bowl. Valladares is the daughter of Ralphie Valladares and Honey Sanchez, stars of the old L.A. Thunderbirds and coaches of what they hope will be a new generation of banked-track bruisers.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 2, 1995 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Page 11 Times Magazine Desk 3 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Ralph Valladares, who for 35 years has been associated with the Los Angeles Thunderbirds of Roller Games International, is not affiliated with Bert Wall, Bob Venter or Roller Derby Inc., as was implied in "Roller Derby Redux." Author Raphael says that Valladares' daughter Gina, a skater for Roller Derby Inc., had informed her that her father, along with her mother, fellow T-Birds legend Honey Sanchez, were coaching her, and that Raphael incorrectly assumed that the coaching was being done in an official capacity.
This would-be sequel is Roller Derby Inc., headed by Bert Wall, a 30-year Bay Area Derby star and retired computer analyst who is hoping that the time was right for the game--part racing, part pro wrestling and wholly silly--to take off once again.
Wall recruited T-Bird legends like Valladares, Sanchez and John Hall to act as coaches and trainers and sought out young skaters from around the country. One such hopeful is Pam Schwab, 30, who gave up an accounting job in San Francisco to work at a restaurant to pay the bills while she "comes down here to get beat up four nights a week."
If all the pieces fall into place, the '90s Derby will have 24 teams. Fornow, there are but three, all local: the Thunderbirds, the Aztecs and the Bombers. They'll make their debut next month in a series of exhibitions at the Orange Pavilion in San Bernardino, followed by others in Reno, Sacramento, Oakland and Stockton.
Though they still don't have a TV contract, Derby officials are optimistic. "The time is right," says Bob Venter, manager of the three teams. Hockey is still recovering from its labor woes, he notes, "and baseball's on strike. TV needs a new sport."