User Name Origin Stories, #1:

rollerboogie on Roller Boogie

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Why rollerboogie as a screen name, you ask? 

Well, even if you didn’t ask, I will tell you…

Yay! It’s storytime with Uncle rollerboogie!

Musically and culturally, I came of age, in the late 70s. 

Every junior high dance ended with Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”.

As a 12-year-old, I knew all the steps to the line dance from Saturday Night Fever, taught to me by my sister, Patty. My favorite song around that time was “A Fifth of Beethoven”, by Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band, a disco rendering of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

It topped the Hot 100 for one week in October of 1976. 

Tom Breihan gave it an 8.

For my 8th grade graduation, I wore a powder blue polyester suit with a hot pink shirt. Yes, I was a child of the disco era. Somehow, however, I was oblivious to the roller disco craze that was happening right at that time. I had somehow managed never to see anyone disco dancing on roller skates.

Until late one night in 2004.  I was channel surfing and a movie was starting. 

When the words “Linda Blair starring in…’Roller Boogie’ ” appeared on the screen, I was dumbfounded. 

I basically knew Linda Blair from one movie role, the same one just about everyone does- as a green vomit spewing, 360 degree head-spinning, demon possessed 12 year old in The Exorcist.

And now here she was, playing a roller disco queen on the cusp of her college years. I knew I had to watch this. 

I was awestruck by what I saw in the first five minutes.

The male lead character, Bobby, an expert skater, laces up and skates his way out of his apartment, meeting up with Phones, the sole person of color in the main cast.

So named by the fact that he is always wearing a huge set of headphones along with a clunky looking tape player strapped around his neck. 

The two of them start roller-discoing their way through the streets and boardwalk of Venice, California and their numbers continue to increase as they grab people along the way to join them:

Lots of women in bathing suits, people on payphones that just abandon their calls, a couple making out on top of a dumpster (!), a juggler, anyone on skates, which is seemingly every single person in town.

I was mesmerized. It was as if I had partaken in the visual equivalent of the nectar of the gods. 

Where had this been all my life?  We had a roller rink in town growing up, but nobody was dancing like this on skates… at least not while I was there. 

Oh: did I mention that the entire opening sequence is accompanied by a long-forgotten Cher roller disco banger called “Hell On Wheels”? The video for the song consists of Cher roller skating in a zebra print onesie.

She’s followed by a lone trucker, and eventually a menagerie of various men in trucks, motorcycles, a cop car, an ambulance, on horseback, what have you. And there’s a close up of a chicken.

Amazing.

The rest of the movie was what one would expect from a low budget attempt at capitalizing on a trendy dance or pastime. 

In other words, it was totally awesome. 

I became obsessed with it. I learned all I could about it on the internet, including the fact that in a stroke of luck, or divine providence, the movie was scheduled to be released on DVD for the first time, in just a few months. I immediately pre-ordered a copy. I babbled on and on to anyone and everybody in my life about the sheer greatness of this film. 

For one of my concerts to promote my latest CD at the time, I set up two tv monitors on either side of me and had Roller Boogie playing on one of them, with the can-you-believe-this-actually-got-made Star Wars Holiday Special playing on the other, throughout the duration of the concert. 

My unabashed admiration of this movie never waned.

Several years later, I began using its title in various capacities online, such as my Spotify handle.  When I posted for the first time on Stereogum’s The Number Ones comment section in 2019 (to comment on “Dancing Queen”, naturally), I didn’t have to think twice about what my screen name would be. I just knew. 

I had to explain at times that despite the name, I wasn’t an expert at roller disco. 

Heck, I could barely skate at all. I’m just a guy who really, really loves a movie.

Thank goodness on that fateful night, Linda Blair popped up on the TV.
It could have been so, so much worse.

Roller Boogie has only seven reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

All of them rotten.

The brief summaries of the reviews are brutal. (Et tu, Roger Ebert?)

Typically, if a film like this is getting any love at all, it’s usually considered ironic:

The movie is described as: “so bad… it’s good”. 

Does a part of me enjoy it ironically? Yes. I balk, however, at using the word “bad” to describe this movie in any way. 

It may be trashily made, with bottom of the barrel production values, stiff acting, and dialog and a plot that many would call unintentionally laughable.

But those things endear it to me, not make me want to tear it down. 

If you want to call my logic twisted, fine, but it’s a 10 out of 10 all day for me. And this comes from deep in my heart. 

Rewatching this opening sequence gave me chills just now. That speaks of something beyond ironic love.

All of this got me to thinking about what a basic playlist at a disco roller rink circa 1979-1980 could look like

What would I want as my personal soundtrack if I had the coordination to make such an activity possible?

Below is a playlist that hopefully fills the bill. I attempted to sequence it in a way where it ebbs and flows in tempo and intensity, similar to a workout playlist. There are some familiar songs on here, but I also wanted to include songs off the beaten path, some that I either only barely knew or not at all, as an extension of my desire to continually mine the treasures of the genre of disco.   

Best wishes.

And boogie on, children!

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rollerboogie

Music is what brought me here, but I do have other interests. I like ill-advised, low budget movies that shouldn't even be close to good, but are great, and cats too.

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cstolliver
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June 19, 2023 5:53 am

Thanks for the fun playlist and origin tale, RB! I’ve never seen the movie but may have to take a look. (And yes, I too came of age during those years … disco dance class in eighth grade and everything.)

Virgindog
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June 19, 2023 10:59 am

I remember hearing about “Roller Boogie” when it was in theaters and I think this is the first I’ve heard of it since. Still, I thought your handle may have come from it. Roll on, RB, roll on.

LinkCrawford
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June 19, 2023 11:10 am

RabbitsRabbits helped me understand that often we initially love things ironically, but then begin to love them legitimately. Like Muzak for me. But this movie is intriguing. I may have to check it out sometime. It’s on my radar. Thanks for the story!

cappiethedog
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June 19, 2023 2:14 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Rabbits, Link, and you are right. I have more to say. But for now, one word:

Gymkata.

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 19, 2023 12:22 pm

I’ve seen the film!!

I was a child of the 80s, had no interest in rollerskating and growing up on the North East English coast was very different to Venice beach. So it didn’t exactly resonate with me. I saw it on tv as a teenager very late one night. Must have been the early 90s so my memory of it is hazy.

The main plot point that stuck with me was that one of characters was aiming to compete in rollerskating at the Olympics. It was full of attractive young people, some of them wearing not all that much down at the beach. That deals with the question of what kept me watching. I had no idea Linda Blair was in it and have no memory of Hell On Wheels but listening now, you’re totally correct that it is a disco banger.

Thanks for the blast from the past and another great playlist to dig into

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 19, 2023 12:58 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Presumably Rollerboogie 2 would have dealt with his dreams being dashed by the boycott of the Moscow games.

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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June 19, 2023 1:50 pm

With a subplot of whether to accept money from Big Skate.

Ozmoe
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June 19, 2023 2:06 pm

I love this backstory so much! I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Roller Boogie nor wanted to, possibly because I’m still traumatized from having endured the similarly themed Xanadu (although the latter does have a hell of a soundtrack, #justiceformagic). But with your encouragement now, I think I’ll give it a shot.

Logan Taylor
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Logan Taylor
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June 20, 2023 3:03 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Funny that Xanadu has come up since I dated someone who had a Roller Boogie-like fascination for it. I’m not sure most people have seen Electric Boogaloo but all know the title!

cstolliver
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June 19, 2023 4:34 pm
Reply to  Ozmoe

Oh, come on, buddy! When was the last time you saw a movie (aside from The Incredible Mr. Limpet) that broke into an animated sequence?

Ozmoe
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June 19, 2023 9:15 pm
Reply to  cstolliver

Well, of course there’s Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. And Pete’s Dragon, but I could never get through that one. Oh and the Brady Bunch movie sequel.

cstolliver
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June 20, 2023 6:36 am
Reply to  Ozmoe

Bedknobs and Broomsticks was one of my favorite movies as a kid, so thanks for the flashback. And you know I love the Brady Bunch, variety show aside, so …

PeiNews
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June 21, 2023 1:06 pm
Reply to  cstolliver

Does Booksmart count?

cappiethedog
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June 19, 2023 10:46 pm
Reply to  Ozmoe

The seed for Xanadu seems to be in the opening titles sequence. Did you see the mural? I don’t know who; the producer, the screenwriter, or the studio head, quite possibly, saw Roller Boogie, and thought, what if we put roller skates on Gene Kelly?

blu_cheez
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June 20, 2023 6:42 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

I’m very sad that the building that was the exteriors for Xanadu burned down in the late 90s – it’s a very nice rec center in a park now, though.

I also annoy the crap out of my kids everyone time we go down to the Venice boardwalk and dad needs to go “see the Xanadu wall” even though it’s never, outside of a brief moment in 1980, had the amazing mural of the Muses on it.

Last edited 1 year ago by blu_cheez
cappiethedog
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June 20, 2023 9:16 pm
Reply to  blu_cheez

Jeff Lynne seems completely unaware about how great “The Fall” is. It never shows up on ELO anthologies. The Xanadu soundtrack is a rarity. It has hit songs and great album tracks.

cstolliver
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June 20, 2023 9:22 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

I like “The Fall,” too, as well as “Dancin” (see my post today) and “Don’t Walk Away.” Lots of stuff worth listening to, in addition to the five hit singles, on that soundtrack.

blu_cheez
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June 20, 2023 9:41 pm
Reply to  cstolliver

Dancin’ can, legit, be one of the greatest Karaoke songs of all time if you’re willing to find a partner who is willing to commit.

cappiethedog
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June 21, 2023 8:58 pm
Reply to  cstolliver

“Dancin'” is ambitious stuff.

I don’t think Roger Ebert ever made a correction to his original review. He credited “Dancin'” to ELO.

Pauly Steyreen
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June 19, 2023 3:24 pm

My favorite (non-Exorcist) Linda Blair film is its sequel, RePossessed. Of course I haven’t seen Roller Boogie yet so I reserve the right to change my opinion.

https://youtu.be/A1kMj19UbNU

cappiethedog
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June 19, 2023 11:06 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

I had to look Repossessed up. It only received a limited release. Maybe the Zucker brothers interfered with distribution? I thought it was a Zucker/Abraham/Zucker film that flopped. They must have been a little peeved. The filmmaker poached Leslie Nielsen.

Repossessed suggests Exorcist II: The Heretic with a new title. The trailer scared me so much as a little kid, I never got around to watching it.

Edith G
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June 19, 2023 6:51 pm

Thank you for the story , I think that I heard this movie’s title over there along the time, but I’ve never watched it. You make us feel like maybe it’s an entertaining movie, no matter what, if I would found it someday I’ll give a watch.

lovethisconcept
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June 19, 2023 10:12 pm

Love this story, but your comment on the mother ship has me wondering. Has anyone heard from Bixmeister or RabbitsRabbits lately? I haven’t seen either one of them in a while, although I no longer read every single comment as I once did.

DanceFever
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June 19, 2023 11:12 pm

Bix dropped by a couple of months ago and Rabbits is still lurking about
but I would love to hear what they are up to now.

dutchg8r
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June 20, 2023 5:15 pm

I did catch how mt threw out that RabbitsRabbits bait the other week in an article when a certain Mr Bachman had his picture featured…..

Don’t know if it worked though.

DanceFever
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June 19, 2023 11:09 pm

I had a sneaky idea of where your name came from, Roller, and now it’s confirmed.
My guilty obsession from that time period was “Skatetown USA”, playing at all your favorite drive-ins.
The “stars” were Patrick Swazey, Scott Baio, Maureen McCormick (yes, her),
Flip Wilson (yes, him) Billy Barty (“Wizard of Oz” anyone?) Dorothy Stratten (yes, her) and Dave Mason (yes, him).
It’s as cheesey as it sounds but as someone who cannot stand on skates, it was mezmerizing.
There is a whole sub-genre of Disco at the movies at the time and maybe we’ll have a deep dive into why some of them worked and most of them
have faded into obscurity.
Damn. mt58, I’ve got another homework assignment.

cappiethedog
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June 20, 2023 1:12 am
Reply to  DanceFever

I just watched the trailer for Skatetown USA. Mark Wahlberg’s character in Boogie Nights seems partly based on Patrick Swayze’s look.

dutchg8r
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June 20, 2023 5:10 pm

Ooh, fun origin story! Never heard of the movie before; totally dig Disco Cher.

79-80 was my kindergarten years, I think I may have been 10 or so (1984) before I first set foot in a roller skating rink. And oh my goodness was I jealous of those who could skate well. I was one of those wall huggers. I tried to get the feeling for it, but I didn’t ever have much luck. I think the last time I was in a rink was a friend’s birthday party (the 3 destination birthday parties as a kid – roller skating, bowling, or Chuck E Cheese). Fell on someone’s skate, my knee hit their wheel awkwardly, it swelled up like a watermelon, so I figured that was as good a time as any to quit the roller skating scene.

Roller blades really disappeared from the scene to, haven’t they? One of our days off while working at that summer camp in Cali, the group thought it’d be a great idea to rent roller blades and check out the rail to trail along Cannery Row in Monterey. Of course, they were all pretty skilled at it – I was a total newbie. They left me in the dust after 2 minutes. I’m tottering along like a newborn gazelle, just trying to make some forward momentum. Didn’t get very far when I encountered a family of 4 in their bicycle cart heading straight at me. I tried to stop, swung around 180 degrees, lost my balance, and went splat on the trail in front of the cart, like I was being quartered, appendages in all directions.

Once I assured them I was OK (thank goodness for knee pads and wrist guards…), they continued on. I proceeded to take the skates off sitting in the middle of the trail, walked back to the rental place in my socks, and was like, here ya go, no thanks. Can I have a bike please?

That was a MUCH more enjoyable way for me to travel along the Pacific shoreline.

Last edited 1 year ago by dutchg8r
blu_cheez
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June 20, 2023 6:38 pm

I’m still struggling to find this online (sorry – I’m not buying this on DVD) – will take up the search again. This movie looks squarly in my wheelhouse.

Aaron3000
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June 21, 2023 12:16 am

Never seen it, but I’m intrigued.

Also, even without the disco soundtracking the opening sequence, you can tell it’s late ’70s by the guys in short shorts and striped tube socks. (Unfortunately, young Aaron was stuck wearing this fashion until well into the ’80s.)

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