Last week, the ladies of Speed Rack — the nationwide competition for female bartenders that raises money for breast-cancer charities — were engaged in a brutal face-off. But instead of racing each other to see who could create the best gin fizz in under two minutes, these pro mixologists were speed-skating around a roller-derby track in Los Angeles. Speed Rack partnered with the 10-year-old L.A. Derby Dolls and Sailor Jerry rum to treat these top-notch bartenders to a two-day derby training camp at their massive Doll Factory facility near Echo Park.
“We’ve always called Speed Rack the roller derby of cocktail competitions,” says Lynette Marrero, one of Speed Rack’s founders. “Both are female-empowering activities that flirt with the ideas of femininity and masculinity, all at once.” She says teaming up with Sailor Jerry, whose bottles feature a ’50s Hawaiian pinup girl, was also a no-brainer. “The pinup was also a movement of female empowerment during the real Sailor Jerry’s time, when the repressed housewife was the norm. These ladies expressed their personality and individuality, too. So it all makes sense.” Roller derby’s also the fastest-growing female sport in the U.S. (amazeballs but true), which made the whole event a pitch-perfect, lady-friendly bonanza.
The first day of training, the heavily tattooed Speed Rack gals suited up with pounds of padding, helmets, and mouthguards before taking some tentative laps around the track. Some hadn’t worn skates since childhood, and some were former derby racers, so emotions ran the gamut from psyched to plain-old terrified. But the Derby Dolls trainers — Purrfect, RegulateHer, Shady Hawkins, and Trixie Biscuit — made sure that even the newbies felt at home. The trainers went through some explanations of the basic derby concepts, including the proper stance, correct falling technique, how to stop (way harder than it looks), and foot placement. After the trainers delivered up plenty of encouragement, and some no-nonsense real talk about not wimping out, the skaters hit the banked (curved) track with a vengeance.
After they’d headed back to the hotel to ice their injuries and gussy up, the Speed Rack ladies got ready for the main event, a party at Harvard & Stone. There, the Speed Rack mixologists took turns behind the bar and served up some fairly spectacular cocktails.
Best of all, there was a do-gooder component to all that boozing: 50 percent of the proceeds from the bar went to the BustedFoundation, an L.A. breast-cancer charity.
Bright and early the next morning, the Speed Rack ladies were back on the track, a little battered but ready to roll. They’d discovered muscles they didn’t even know they had, and the second day of training involved a shit-ton of stretching and pep talks before things got started. Then the real ruckus began.
The skaters learned about blocking and jamming, earning countless new bruises in the process. Then the ladies were broken up into two teams and the scrimmage started.
It was a rip-roaring ending to a bonkers two days, and after a crap-ton of friendly elbowing and congratulatory hugs, the Speed Rack ladies said goodbye to L.A. and flew home bruised, battered, proud, and with a slew of new lady friends.
Season four of Speed Rack starts Nov. 10 in Washington D.C. and continues on to N.Y.C., Dallas, L.A., Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Chicago; check out their site for the full event schedule. And if you live in L.A., stop by one of the Derby Dolls’ matches — that is, of course, if you can handle it.