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October 23, 2014

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A painful roller derby wreck

Ron Kantowski on how Mother Nature gave the Outhoummountry family a cross check to the gut

Image

Photos Courtesy of Patrick and Lali Outhoummountry

The vintage banked roller derby track in the back yard of Patrick and Lali Outhoummountry of Las Vegas was destroyed by a freak windstorm during the week of June 9.

Updated Monday, June 16, 2008 | 11:15 a.m.

It was about 4 p.m. on that windy Wednesday when the pilot of Southwest Airlines flight 2001 originating in San Diego landed the Boeing 737 in which I was riding in the manner of a bank shot in billiards. The wind was so bad he had to use three cushions on the runway to bring the big bird to a grinding halt. But he managed, and the opinion of all on board was that it was a heck of a job, even if the landing gear now resembled a Slinky.

“I’m glad I’m not playing golf,” I thought after my carry-on bag tumbled from the overhead compartment, crushing the makeshift rosary of peanut beads I had been nervously working as Otto Pilot did his stuff.

“Or roller derby.”

Actually, I didn’t think that, but it was true.

At roughly — and that’s putting it mildly — the same time our plane was bouncing across the runway two weeks ago, Lali Outhoummountry, the captain of the modern-day San Francisco Bay Bombers, heard her 6-year-old daughter scream.

Lanoe Outhoummountry had been playing in the back yard, near the high-banked roller derby track, one of the few that still exist. Her mother and father, Patrick, purchased it after it was used in the opening sequence of that “Charlie’s Angels” movie a couple of years ago.

“I ran to the back door when I heard her scream,” Lali Outhoummountry said. “And out of the corner of my eye I saw something coming, this dark wind with rubbish, that was spinning, like a tornado.”

The giant dust devil went right for the roller derby track. Outhoummountry said the boards started to writhe as the metal framework holding them together began to yield. The way she described it, it must have looked like that famous film clip of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington, known as “Galloping Gertie," literally twisting in the wind.

One, twice, three times, she said of the track lifting and bending.

Then it just flipped over with a sickening splintering sound and died.

Then, and only then, did Mother Nature put her hands on her hips and call off the jam.

•••

Outhoummountry said the track had been subjected to high winds before but always held up. Not this time.

“It was like watching the movie the ‘Twister,’ ” she said. “That track must weigh 1,500 pounds.”

It still does, only now it’s in piles instead of one piece.

Last year, when I was working on a story about the resurgence of roller derby, or at least a version of it played by women with outrageous costumes, tattoos and body piercings on a flat track, I learned of the Outhoummountrys, and the old-school roller derby track they had assembled in the back yard of their home in northwest Las Vegas after razing the horse stables that had been there.

The night I went out, some of the flat track girls were skating laps and having a blast. They weren’t old enough to remember Joanie Weston and Charlie O’Connell and the stars of the original roller derby, but those are the images I had upon seeing the track for the first time.

It was the real deal.

It was almost like if I squinted my eyes just right, the Midwest Pioneers were going to show up in their satin shorts and those jerseys with the perforated piping.

And now the track looks like the aftermath of a train wreck, minus the locomotive and Fox News cameras.

Outhoummountry said she and her husband had about $25,000 invested in the track and want to rebuild it. It won’t be easy on Lali’s salary as a PBX operator at the Golden Nugget and Patrick’s as a porter at the Bellagio, because the only revenue the track generated was whatever the skaters who used it dropped in the coffee can on their way out.

Maybe the insurance company will write the couple a check. At least I got Lali to laugh when I asked what the adjuster said when she wanted to file a claim on a roller derby track.

If they rebuild it, will they — the skaters who had grown accustomed to using it — come back? Sure. But the Outhoummountrys would love to sell the track, preferably to a hotel, which could then bring old-school roller derby back to Las Vegas. That’s the dream, anyway.

But if they do rebuild, there will be a new rule:

No more match races with Mother Nature.

Editor's Note: This story has been modified. The original version referred to a famous film clip of the Golden Gate Bridge literally twisting in the wind. The clip actually was of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington, known as "Galloping Gertie."

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