The Mission City Brawlin’ Betties have launched their fifth season of full-contact roller derby in Santa Barbara. They might have been a curiosity when they got started, but now they are a staple of the area sports scene. They held a bout last Saturday evening against the Inland Empire Derby Divas on their home court, the roller hockey rink at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Here is a primer on the Betties.
THE FOUNDER: Dita de los Muertos chose her derby name because “I wanted to have a mix of femininity, violence, death, and mystery.” An artist by profession — she creates the signage at Trader Joe’s on Milpas Street — she took her experience as a skater for the Ventura County Derby Darlins to create her hometown derby team in 2009. De los Muertos does indeed project a sense of mystery — alluring on one hand, “don’t mess with me” on the other. “Anytime you put women in aggressive situations where they’re competing against each other, men want to watch,” she said. “I don’t see it as sex appeal. I see it as liberation.” She resembles her namesake Dita Von Teese, a famous burlesque performer, but when De los Muertos swings her hips, instead of cymbals clashing, an opposing skater goes flying. Then she smiles sweetly and pumps her fists. The Brawlin’ Betties are a reflection of Dita’s passion, said Booty Ninja, a former Bettie who competes for the Angel City Derby Girls in L.A.: “This is her baby. It’s her blood, sweat, and tears. She gave us something very special. It gave us a platform to express ourselves.”
THE ROOKIE: The Betties’ roster is full of professionals and graduate students. Viva Violence! — in previous seasons, their all-star jammer (the skater who scores points by lapping the opponents) — earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering at UCSB. The Betties need to reload with new skaters every year. Cristina AppleSKATE, a busy real estate agent, made her debut Saturday. “My mom thought of it for me,” she said of her name. “My dad wanted Vagakill. If I get a prominent position, I don’t want to be stuck with a vulgar name.” De los Muertos commented, “One year we had five different references to vaginas.”
THE MOM: Old School LOC wants to play up her local roots. She grew up in Santa Barbara and participated in gymnastics. “After that, I never found anything I loved,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.” She was busy enough as a preschool teacher, wife, and mother of two daughters. She discovered roller derby at a party in Ventura. “Being on a team, working together as a team, I didn’t learn that until now,” LOC said. As one of the Betties’ top jammers, she is a model of strength for her daughters, now 8 and 10 years old.
THE REST: The cocaptains are Semper Fatale (“My dad’s a retired Marine”) and Queefer Madness, a powerful blocker. Mary J. Yma (constructed around a backward “Amy”) is a dynamic jammer. Other derby veterans, some new to the team, include the following: Miss Hisssss, Havoc Your Way, Bitz-O-Fury, Scarlett O’Heretic, and Joan of Arkham. Helen Back is a second rookie to make the lineup.
THE FAN: Matt Damon was a spectator at Earl Warren two years ago, but he was rooting for the other team. The Betties’ No. 1 fan is Bob McDermott, vocalist for the band Tequila Mockingbird and creator of their anthem, “Brawl with the Betties!” Before the start of Saturday’s bout, “Brawlin’ Bobby” sang the national anthem. A crowd estimated at 800 showed up.
THE BOUT: The Divas sent Bambi Beatdown out as a jammer, and she got beaten down by the Betties’ blockers. This was no Disney show. “I didn’t look at the other team,” AppleSKATE said before her first turn on the stage. “I didn’t want to psych myself out by seeing who’s big and who looks mean.” She scored points in her very first jam. Later, she took a spectacular spill, and McDermott remarked, “That was like Jennifer Lawrence going down at the Oscars!” Thanks to a huge jam by Old School LOC, the Betties led, 159-75, at halftime. “We’re eating their souls,” De los Muertos said. “When I slam the jammer, it feeds my belly.” Not everybody got off clean hits; sometimes there were more women in the penalty box than on the floor. Morrigan McTerror tried to rally the Divas in the second half, but the hometown team put the visitors away, 245-219. Then the Betties had to pick up the chairs and sweep the area clean. Their injury report was, thankfully, clean. “At our last Christmas party, we raffled off our X-ray pictures,” De los Muertos said.
NEXT UP: There will be an orientation for new skaters Saturday, March 16, at 2 p.m. on the Earl Warren hockey rink. The Brawlin’ Betties have one more scheduled home bout — Saturday, April 6, against the Bakersfield Rollergirls.