July 1997
s m u g
ear candy
by William Repsher

An Open Letter to Cher and the Makers of the Motion Picture Roller Boogie

Dear Cher and the makers of the motion picture Roller Boogie:

I am writing to ask a favor of both you. Recently it has come to my attention that a fad which for the past few years has been slightly annoying has now become a full-blown national affliction. What fad is this?



I've distrusted it from its inception. (Any fad which a Kennedy has a bead on I want no part of, unless it involves sex or alcohol abuse.) It started in Central Park, and no doubt was already a few years old at the time on the beaches of Venice. Soon people were rollerblading through traffic - to the gym, and then to work. Rollerbladers wearing ties.

Now kids in the outer boroughs and suburbs are doing it all over the place. If high schools were to bring back donkey basketball, they would be on rollerblades.

Even older people are doing it, looking as awkward as they did learning the macarena, which, thankfully, blew out much quicker than I thought it would. (Perhaps sparing us from the grisly visage of middle-aged people rollerblading to the Macarena at weddings.) To please aficionados of the trend, I've tried it and have found that much like roller-skating, I can take it or leave it -- a good work-out which often annoys the hell out of those not "in synch" with the blader's wide, side-to-side swayings and high-speed downhill rolls.


But a key word appears in that sentence, roller-skating, and this is where both of you come in. Rollerblading is basically roller-skating with a smaller wheelbase and more coordination. For the culturally impaired, the connection between both of you and roller-skating needs no explanation. But for those with more taste and a higher intellect, allow me to explain.


After The Exorcist II, it was slim pickings for Linda Blair. A strange thing happened to this wonderful childhood actor -- she grew a pair of breasts that would have made Bizuzu's head spin. This was hidden to great effect in Exorcist II via the use of night gowns and an emphasis on the Richard Burton character. I honestly don't recall what other screen appearances she made, but there was one that certainly towered above all others, perhaps because it was one of those god-awful B-movies that Home Box Office showed five times a day for weeks on end: Roller Boogie.

How to describe Roller Boogie: it made Xanadu look like Citizen Kane. Xanadu itself was a piece of work, featuring cigar store Indian-like performance from leads Michael Beck and Olivia Newton-John, and a vaguely disco soundtrack courtesy of Electric Light Orchestra. Gene Kelly was coaxed out of retirement for this, and I imagine his agent from the time is probably at the bottom of the East River. Roller Boogie had a basic "boy meets girl" plot line, with the catch that boy and girl were champion disco roller-skaters (if there ever was such a thing) trying to "get it together" for the big contest at the movie's end, where their love for each other is saved after much trial and tribulation, and they bring home the gold, baby.

The money scene had to be Linda and her partner "figure roller-skating" to Supertramp's touching ballad "Is It Mine?" off their then wildly popular "Breakfast in America" album. A tender moment. I can't recall the male lead, but Scott Baio must have been asking too much. He had nice hair and some wonderful outfits that would have made Dick Buttons gush.


Speaking of wonderful outfits, it's time to discuss Cher. As with Linda, the late 70's weren't kind to her. Sonny and she had parted ways, the show was over, and while she did have success with the disco song "Take Me Home" (the album cover of which featured her wearing something that looked like the gold-plated handlebars of a Harley Davidson covering her head and breasts), the future was not looking very bright. (She did wow critics with her excellent role opposite Meryl Streep in Silkwood, but it would be a few years before she made her mark again with Mask.)

In a wild bid to claim the fickle disco roller-skating audience of the late 70's, she released her own roller boogie song. I can't even recall the title, so I rushed out and bought "Cher: The Casablanca Years." The song was "Hell on Wheels," and I just wasted $18 at HMV.

A bad song? Bad is a relative term when the pinnacle of the woman's recording career is"Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves." I consider it an average song in this context, nowhere near the level of "Bang Bang," but better than "We All Sleep Alone." Howling guitars, a throbbing backbeat and lyrics equating the search for love with disco roller-skating. The only thing it didn't have was a mellow Fender Rhodes piano intro. Dig this:

Well I'm hell on wheels
I'm a roller-momma
I can slide down places that you never knew.

Enough -- I'm already poking around for that Indian head dress in my closet. Suffice to say, it wasn't a hit. The only reason I recall it is that I'm a 70's freak and have vague memories of seeing a promotional video of her roller-skating to the song on Dance Fever.


So now that we've had a history lesson we'd all like to forget, here's my proposition. I beseech both of you, Cher and the makers of the motion picture Roller Boogie, to form a creative alliance which will produce both a movie and a soundtrack concerning a heart-warming story of two competitive rollerbladers finding victory in the games of life and love. It is my firm belief that both of you played major roles, via over-exposure and bad timing, in killing off the disco roller boogie trend of the late 70's, and that you could do the same for rollerblading in the late 90's.


Am I evil for wanting this? Yes, all men are evil. But on a recent Sunday afternoon run in Central Park, I came across four separate accidents, two of which involved rollerbladers knocking over pedestrians, one involving a rollerblader and a bicyclist, and the last two rollerbladers colliding at the bottom of a hill. All in under an hour. This did not take into account the numerous rollerbladers I encountered who seem to delight in cutting off their side-long sways just before colliding with wide-eyed, oncoming pedestrians.

Cher and the makers of the motion picture Roller Boogie, we need you now more than ever. We could get Rob Camiletti for Cher's love interest (who, by the way, was the object of one of the best New York Post headlines ever, concerning his leaving of Cher: "Bagel Boy Rolls On"). We could get a new tasteless outfit for Cher's rollerblade finale, something that showcases her wonderful tattooed ass again. Get the Counting Crows, sort of a Supertramp for the 90's, to do the climactic rollerblading ballad.

And I see Raquel "K.C. Bomber" Welch and James "Rollerball" Caan in cameos sending up their 70's roller-skating movies. Let's throw in Rip Taylor while we're at it.


If this wouldn't help to kill-off the burgeoning rollerblading trend, I don't know what would. Trends operate on the sense of "cool" they impart to their followers, and there would be nothing cool about a movie like this. Allow me to state that I am not interested in the total obliteration of rollerblading as a form of exercise. Just as there were stubborn roller-skaters who never gave up the sport they love, I understand there will be those who will never give up rollerblading.

You know the type I'm referring to: 48-year-old white man with a 32-inch waist. Single, has a great place on the Upper West Side, a great job, is active in his community and co-op board, is heavily involved with intramural basketball, volleyball and softball leagues, has dozens of friends, started rollerblading at 42 because it made him feel even more vivacious, knows his opera and can slam dunk, his nieces and nephews all think he's cool, albeit strange because he isn't married and lives in New York.

Boy, am I jealous. Were a cab to run him over while he rollerbladed home and I were to read these details of his life, I'd lower the paper and ponder: "Such a shame. Such a great human being. So alive. So young in his own special way. What an inspiration. Think I'll watch videos, doze and masturbate all afternoon." He could no doubt write a major treatise defending and justifying his love of a silly trend which would read like Ayn Rand were she still alive to rollerblade (Atlas Bladed).

I can respect people like that, and even the refugees from a Mountain Dew commercial who would read something like this and crow, "You're a dick, dude" if they weren't too busy mapping out illegal bungee-jumping tours. What I'm into is skimming off the trend-hoppers, allowing them to move on to whatever the next big thing in physical fitness will be. Get rid of the people who are moving too fast with no control -- surely there must be other ways to "feel young," whatever that's supposed to mean.


I'm thinking Lambada: The Forbidden Dance. I'm thinking hula hoops and pet rocks. I'm thinking commercial suicide. But done in the interest of making our streets and parks safe again, or at least tolerable to the point where, as in the old days, the biggest assholes were arrogant cyclists who think they're in the Tour de France, and not a crowded park. Besides, something tells me a movie like this would go over big in South America and Europe.


William Repsher, c/o staff@smug.com

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