Confessions of a Roller Derby Queen

Akron Beacon Journal.

In 1952, Joan Kazmerski was 18-years-old when she made her professional debut with the Chicago Westerners in the National Roller Derby League. The Akron Beacon Journal recently told her story in an article called “Confessions of a roller derby queen.”

Remarkably, she had a pro career that last nearly two decades. Skaters earned between $7,500 and 25,000 a year – not a bad paycheck for the 1950s.

According to the Journal: “Kazmerski spent five years with the Chicago Westerners and two years with the Los Angeles Braves. In 1961, she joined the Texas Outlaws in the National Skating Derby Roller Games, a rival league. In 1965, she rejoined the roller derby as captain of the New York Chiefs, where she earned MVP and all-star honors.”

I have spent the last decade as a photographer for the Houston Roller Derby. It is a sport I have grown to love. Of course, roller derby was different than the modern day flat track bout. But, there are some similarities.
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Happy International Clash Day!

I just can’t imagine my high school years without “London Calling” and the song “Train in Vain.”

If I ever end up taking refuge in a bomb shelter someday, this is one of 10 albums that go underground with me – along with five boxes of Little Debbie Nutty Buddy treats and 14 cans of Spam. The cover of Paul Simonon smashing his bass guitar on stage might have been an indicator of my state of mind in 1980 when the album was released. I was trying to process high school, girls and weekends at the Cuckoo’s Nest – nothing notably traumatic, just run-of-the-mill teenage angst and wonderment.

Photographer Pennie Smith reported that the late Clash frontman Joe Strummer, who died in 2002, picked the photo for the cover. Great decision. Iconic.

“The Clash was not only trying to assault the tame, conventional direction of corporate rock,” wrote Robert Hilburn in the Los Angeles Times, “but also break through the limitations of punk by adding touches of everything from rockabilly to reggae.”

Regrettably, the internal band dynamics reflected their combustible band name – especially the break with Mick Jones. Nevertheless, the whole “London Calling” package worked for me – and apparently a lot of other fans. I continue to be grateful for Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper.

Happy International Clash Day.

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Happy Birthday Alice Cooper

Happy Birthday to Alice Cooper, the hilarious and provocative golf-addicted, churchgoer who is most well known as the granddaddy of shock rock. He turns 75 today — and he still owns that stage. For nearly 20 years, he owned Cooperstown in Phoenix — a memorable cross between a Hard Rock Café and an ESPN Zone. Before it closed in 2017, my best friend and I had a great time there. I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Center where kids can learn how to play music for free, as well as take classes on the music business, photography, art, and dance. It has been a great after-school program run by Alice and his wife Sheryl for more than 10 years. Married for more than 46 years, Alice credits his wife with helping find his faith and 40 years of sobriety. From one of the minions, all the best and Happy Birthday!

Archive: Alice Cooper: Twisted Human Nature

By Steve Beard, 2002

It was recently announced that the biggest hit in the 24-year history of MTV is a program called “The Osbournes.” The half-hour show – complete with constant bleeping from excessive foul language – is a curiously fascinating docu-comedy starring the members of Ozzy Osbourne’s family – wife and two teenage siblings (the eldest child bowed out of the show). Ozzy, of course, is the 53-year-old British rock singer acclaimed for his ghoulish heavy metal performances. Continue reading

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Happy St. Brigid’s Day

Mural of Brigid in Dundalk, Ireland. Photo by Steve Beard.

In Ireland, the first day of February is St. Brigid’s Day, as well as the ancient Celtic holiday of Imbolc, marking new birth and the threshold of spring. It has just recently been christened as a government holiday in Ireland (St. Patrick’s Day became “official” there in 1903). The occasion is a celebration for both Christians and those who observe pre-Christian Gaelic traditions.

Over the summer, I was mesmerized by this mural depicting Brigid in Dundalk – halfway between Belfast and Dublin on Ireland’s east coast. After my vacation, I read up on the hagiography of this woman who died almost 1,500 years ago.

St. Brigid is said to be the child of a pagan chieftain and a Christian slave. It is thought that her father named his daughter after Brigid, the Celtic goddess of healing, fire, and poetry. The two-story mural in Dundalk attempted to portray both Brigids.

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Lisa Marie memorialized at Graceland

“This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,” Elvis Presley told reporters on the set of his film “Raceway” in 1967. His wife Priscilla had told him that they were going to have a baby. As he handed out cigars to the cast and crew, he said, “I was so shocked I didn’t think I could move for a while.”

I recalled Elvis’ reaction while watching the livestreamed memorial service today for Lisa Marie Presley at Graceland. Although she knew of her dad’s undying love for her, she was not aware of his exact comments until decades later when she saw them highlighted at a Graceland exhibit. “I had never seen [the quote] before,” she said in a 2018 video interview, “last night was the first time I saw it, so that was really cool.”

“I knew there was a great love there,” she added. “There was a really strong connection there since the minute I can remember. It kind of reinstates what I felt was the truth, which is that I felt like I was the most important thing to him.”

When Elvis saw Lisa Marie for the first time at the hospital, “he was already in love with her,” Priscilla wrote in her memoir Elvis and Me. “He watched me holding her and his eyes misted with happiness.”

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Blue Suede Shoes: Remembering Carl Perkins

“Well, it’s one for the money two for the show/ Three to get ready now go, cat, go/ But don’t you step on my blue suede shoes,” sang Elvis. “Well you can do anything but/ Lay off of my blue suede shoes.” Of course, Elvis popularized those lyrics, but it was Carl Perkins – the guy in the photo with Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Johnny Cash – who wrote the song “Blue Suede Shoes.” He was a rockabilly legend. He died on this day back in 1998.

Carl Perkins spent his childhood picking cotton in west Tennessee. With a makeshift guitar made of a broom handle and a cigar box, Perkins was just a kid when he was taught by a fellow fieldhand to play a few chords. “Lean your head down on that guitar. Get down close to it. You can feel it travel down the strangs, come through your head and down to your soul where you live. You can feel it. Let it vib-a-rate,” said “Uncle” John Westbrook, an African American guitarist in his sixties.

Perkins picked up on gospel, bluegrass, and country. His big hit was inspired when his band was playing at a school dance at Union University when he overheard a young man yelling at his date near the front of the stage: “Uh-uh! Don’t step on my suedes!” Perkins was stunned. Here was a guy out on a date with a pretty young woman and all he could think about was his blue suede shoes. Inspiration is flying by all the time. The poets and rockers snatch it when it flutters by.
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A Poet for ‘Bruised Evangelicals’

Malcolm Guite. Photo by Betty Laura Zapata.

By Kara Bettis, Christianity Today

On a cool, drizzly summer day in Vancouver, a few Regent College students trailed after their visiting lecturer into a standard American-fare restaurant. But their 65-year-old professor’s tweed jacket, his shoulder-length white hair and full beard, the tap of his black cane, and the sweet, lingering scent of his pipe tobacco seemed to transport them to a smoky British pub where they were slowly imbibing Guinness and dialoguing about theology and literature.

Malcolm Guite tends to create such worlds. Much like the sonnets he writes, he lives wholly in this world yet transports those around him to an ethereal one.

“The teacher in me, the poet in me, the priest in me who’s administering the liturgy, the pastoral counselor in me, it all turns around words,” Guite told me. His calling, he feels, is “to kindle my own and other people’s imagination for Christ.”

Guite is an anomaly that somehow makes sense: He’s an Anglican priest, poet, academic, and singer-songwriter. He enjoys smoking a pipe and rides his Royal Enfield café racer through the English countryside. He meanders on lengthy daily prayer walks and sings and plays guitar in a blues band called Mystery Train.

To read Kara’s full article, click HERE

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Bob Dylan on music, creativity, faith and entertainment

Bob Dylan – Azkena Rock Festival. Creative Commons.

Bob Dylan has always been a bit of an enigma — a genius cloaked in many shades of mystery. His recent interview with the Wall Street Journal is regarding his recent book “The Philosophy of Modern Song.” The discussion can be found HERE.

Dylan fires missiles like this: “You need a solar X-ray detector just to find somebody’s heart, see if they still have one. What’s the gold standard for a song these days? What song will walk off with the trophy? ‘Paint it Black’ is black as black can be, black as a crow’s head, a galvanizing song. ‘Paperback Writer’ sounds good, too. The biographer, the ghost writer, doing it long hand. I can visualize that song; see it in my mind’s eye. ‘Strangers in the Night,’ that, too. A couple of people who don’t know each other on the dark side of things. I don’t know which one I’d vote for. I have sympathies for them all.”

Dylan on entertainment and faith: “I’ve binge watched Coronation Street, Father Brown, and some early Twilight Zones. I know they’re old-fashioned shows, but they make me feel at home. I’m not a fan of packaged programs, or news shows, so I don’t watch them. I never watch anything foul smelling or evil. Nothing disgusting … I’m a religious person. I read the scriptures a lot, meditate and pray, light candles in church. I believe in damnation and salvation, as well as predestination. The Five Books of Moses, Pauline Epistles, Invocation of the Saints, all of it.” Continue reading

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Bono: “I took Jesus with me everywhere and I still do.”

Surrender is a beautifully etched scrawl in the sidewalk of rock ‘n’ roll history – right about the time I was coming of age. Bono was four steps ahead (I just turned 58) trying to juggle anger, loss, love, and a unbearable urge to be center stage. Oh, and there was Jesus. And Ali – his wife of now 40 years. There are enough judiciously placed f-bombs to make sure that this is not written off as a modern day religious tract or Pilgrim’s Progress. There are 545 pages for the haters to hate and the lovers to love. Mock him all you want. He’s heard it all before. But in the midst of the chatter of negotiating with politicians, vacationing with billionaires, and saving the world, Bono still seems to be the flush-face Irishman with both oars in the water, paddling like a madman, still trying to save his soul.

“I’d always be first up when there was an altar call, the ‘come to Jesus’ moment. I still am. If I was in a cafe right now and someone said, ‘Stand up if you’re ready to give your life to Jesus,’ I’d be the first to my feet. I took Jesus with me everywhere and I still do. I’ve never left Jesus out of the most banal or profane actions of my life.”

–Bono, Surrender

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Nick Cave and the search for the Divine

Faith, Hope, and Carnage is a fascinating conversation between singer Nick Cave and journalist Sean O’Hagan. Among numerous subjects, it deals most compellingly with grief, song writing, and faith.

Sean O’Hagan: So, back in your younger, wilder days, when you drew on biblical imagery as a source for your songwriting, was that also a reflection of a deeper interest in the divine?

Nick Cave: Well, I was surrounded by people who displayed zero interest in spiritual or religious matters, or if they did, it was because they were fiercely anti-religious. I was operating in a Godless world, to say the least, so there was no real nurturing of these ideas. But I was always struggling with the notion of God and simultaneously feeling a need to believe in something. Continue reading

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