Name: Carly Bogen, aka Straight Razor of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Location: New York City
Occupation: Language Services Quality Manager/Vice President, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Even though Carly Bogen played guitar in her bedroom for years, she never got the guts to join a band. You’d think that someone who was too shy to rock out on stage wouldn’t become a trash-talking, bruise-giving, point-snatching roller derby icon, but that’s exactly what happened.
Originally from Long Island, New York, Carly’s daytime persona is the quality services manager of a language services company in Manhattan. She spends her working hours typing at lightening speed and relaying the latest tales of her other life at the roller derby as Straight Razor, which is Carly’s nickname on skates. Growing up, she wasn’t the athletic type, though she dabbled in various sports, she never got involved on any deep level. “I ended up as a pretty sedentary teenager. It wasn’t until my college years that I became physically active and discovered how awesome it feels to be athletic and competitive,” she says. These days, one of her biggest challenges is making up for that lost time. Many women in roller derby grew up playing sports and being physically active, so Carly struggles to attain the same level of athleticism and endurance.
“I have two main challenges these days,” she says. “Finding enough time in my life to run a non-profit business, practice three times a week, hold a full-time job and still manage not to lose my mind. My other main challenge is to continue to improve at the sport despite the injuries and the constant physical and mental challenges it presents.”
Carly didn’t grow up on skates, or have a starry-eyed relationship with the sport before competing. In fact, she didn’t know a thing about roller derby before she saw it with her own eyes. “I met Lemony Kickit, a now retired Gotham Girl, at a party about a month before her first bout in early 2007. She suggested I come check it out. I didn’t have any idea what she was talking about, but it sounded cool, so I went. I feel immediately in love, bought skates, and started training my ass off!”
She isn’t the only one to have been in the dark about the sport. In fact, most people only have only heard about it through pop-culture, or their older relatives’ memories of its earlier notoriety. [Note: The author of this profile only had heard about it because her late aunt had competed in a league back in the ’70s, much to her family’s chagrin.] Even though Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page recently brought attention to roller derby with their film Whip It, the sport has been around for years. Back in 1922, the Chicago Tribune coined the term roller derby in an article about multi-day, flat-track roller skating competitions. The thing is, this article was citing the banked-track roller skating marathons written about in The New York Times back in 1885 an 1914. The roots of the derby run deep.
Over the years, promoters began to highlight the physical contact that came with the sport, as well as the element of teamwork. Although they were known as being endurance competitions, the sport of roller derby went through cycles of popularity throughout the twentieth century, even being broadcast on the radio and television during the 1960s. Towards the end of the last century, the attention and enthusiasm for roller derby waned, until a bunch of women came together to start a grassroots, non-profit league in California around the year 2000. Suddenly the sport began to catch on, its emphasis on campy humor, brutal physicality, and a do-it-yourself spirit it attracted a host of new players and veterans alike. All across the country non-profit leagues started, practicing together and competing against one another. The bouts had rules and refs, the players had outfits and protective gear, and the teams and personalities had names that combined some wicked wordplay. When Carly Bogen began skating, a transformation took place.
“I was at Nationals in Austin in 2007, asking everyone around me what I should be called,” she remembers. “I wanted something that wasn’t your standard pun. Someone suggested Straight Razor and I went with it. Robin Drugstores from the Philly Roller girls has one of my favorite names. In fact, the entire Liberty Belles team has some pretty incredible derby names.”
Although the names are hilarious and the outfits (at times) scandalous, there’s much more to roller derby than simply girl-power and ferocity. Many people don’t realize that it is a non-profit, which means that scraping together pennies for practice areas, transportation, and, yes, those very outfits, requires ingenuity and hard work. Straight Razor knows about this all too well.
“We practice at a warehouse which we pay a huge amount of rent for,” she says. “There are no roller rinks in New York City, so it’s a fight for us to find a place to skate. We practice four times a week, from February through November.” That’s nine months of rent to find a way to afford.
The Gotham Girls league was founded back in 2003 and consists of four teams: the Bronx Gridlock, Brooklyn Bombshells, Manhattan Mayhem, and Queens of Pain. The league is part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and not only do they play one another, but they play out of state WFTDA teams as well. The Gotham Girls also consist of two inter-league teams, the Wall Street Traitors and the Gotham Girls All-Stars. The Gotham Girls All-Stars compete in the sanctioned WFTDA inter-league matches, and points from those bouts count towards national rankings. The Gotham Girls league even has a team of rookies, known as the Meatpacking District.
As a 501c3 non-profit organization, the Girls rely on ticket sales, donations, merchandise, and sponsorship to keep the machine of their league running. The players are unpaid when it comes to money, but get rich with their rough-n-tumble reputations and near rock-star status among roller derby groupies. In fact, the Gotham Girls are one of the country’s top-ranked teams.
Of course, roller derby is known for being a contact sport, and contact can easily lead to injuries. “I broke my front tooth at my very first scrimmage,” Straight Razor recalls. “With my mouth-guard in! I also had to sit about four months early last year due to tendonitis in my hip flexor. There was also a minor separated shoulder last November, but that healed up quick. Injuries are part of the game, but I consider myself lucky – I still have two good knees…knock on wood!”
Her passion for roller derby is what helps the bruises to hurt less, and running the Gotham Girls has helped every bump and scrape feel like a badge of honor. “I don’t keep it a secret,” Carly says about her roller derby fervor. “I’m proud of it. I love it. I spend more time playing roller derby and running the non-profit beast that is Gotham Girls more than I do anything else.”
For reviving the sport of roller derby, and helping the Wall Street Traitors and Manhattan Mayhem skate to victory in 2010, Straight Razor is one Cool Girl!
If you’d like to witness some derby madness in your area, look online and see who your local teams are, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association site (http://wftda.com/) is a great resource. For those of you in the New York metropolitan area, the Gotham Girls Roller Derby website (www.gothamgirlsrollerderby.com) is the place to find out where the next match up is taking place, and to donate. Remember if you go, to cheer on Straight Razor!