Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Moonlight Rollerway Jubilee

Roller skating rocks. Even if you're terrible at it like me, there's something incredibly fun about strapping on those well-worn rented skates and risking life and limb on the thickly-varnished skating rink floor. So when we learned our favorite histo-tainer and Kodachrome King, Charles Phoenix, was planning an entire night of activities surrounding this fading pastime, we were all over him like a bad suit!

Jon, Tim and Amy at Glendale's Moonlight Rollerway. (05/17/2008)
Jon, Tim and Amy at Glendale's Moonlight Rollerway. (05/17/2008)

The event — dubbed the Moonlight Rollerway Jubilee — was a roller skating show spectacular featuring: A Charles Phoenix retro slide show celebrating the history of roller skating; a live Hammond organ performance by roller rink organist Dominic Cangilosi; A live skating show featuring a cast of more than 60 costumed skating performers; and an after show all-skate party. And did I mention free ice-cream and punch?

The Moonlight Rollerway's rules and dress code. (05/17/2008)
The Moonlight Rollerway's rules and dress code. (05/17/2008)

The event was held at the Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale. Even though I hadn't been there before, walking up to the door instantly brought back memories of elementary school birthday parties at the Golden Skate in San Ramon where I grew up. My little sister Anna, age 8, still attends birthday parties there (here's a blog post about my first time taking her there).

The world's greatest roller rink organist, Dominic Cangelosi. (05/17/2008)
The world's greatest roller rink organist, Dominic Cangelosi. (05/17/2008)

We arrived a few minutes before the show, quickly grabbing our seats for the slide show. While we waited for the slides to start, we were treated to the musical stylings of Dominic Cangilosi, a roller-rink organist who has held that profession since the late 1940s (apparently he's the only organist to be inducted into the Roller Skating Hall of Fame).

Charles Phoenix whizzes by in his gold lamé suit. (05/17/2008)
Charles Phoenix whizzes by in his gold lamé suit. (05/17/2008)

It was the perfect appetizer for the roller-skating themed slide show. Like previous Charles Phoenix slide shows, this one was educational and hilarious at the same time. I was particularly fascinated by a photo of a now-demolished skating rink in Santa Ana called Skate Ranch. According to Phoenix, it was Southern California's most stylized rink, looking like a big red barn (it has been said they even had live chickens wandering the grounds).

A skating champion and her seaman. (05/17/2008)
A skating champion and her seaman. (05/17/2008)

The highlight of the slide show were photos from a 1940 wedding where the entire wedding party — including all 18 bridesmaids and groomsmen — was on roller skates (the bride and groom had met at a skating rink). Imagine our surprise when Phoenix told us that the bride in the photo was in the audience! Gramma Cookie Gantz, as she's now known, stood up and waved to the wildly-applauding audience. What a great moment.

Grandma Cookie Gantz and Charles Phoenix. (05/17/2008)
Grandma Cookie Gantz and Charles Phoenix. (05/17/2008)

After a break for sugary snack bar treats, the show continued with amazing performances by the Moonlight Rollerway's reigning United States champion skating performers, Team In Sinc, and other skating stars. For the next hour plus, we were dazzled as the performers took us through every major decade of skating's golden era, from the 1940s to the 1970s.

James and Charles Phoenix. (05/17/2008)
James and Charles Phoenix. (05/17/2008)

The performances, especially those by the older teenage troup, were stunning. They were not only well choreographed, but also fully costumed. No shortcuts for these guys. I tried to get some photos of the event, but they didn't come out so hot. But I did manage to get a few good video clips.


Disco Inferno on Skates. (05/17/2008)


The evening culminated with the all-skate party. Tim and Amy were the definite stars of the night, making several rounds around the rink. Meanwhile, Jon and I each made it around once. But it was enough to satisfy our skating fix for the near future.

So as Charles Phoenix would say, here's to roller skating and YOU!

3 comments:

beastandbean said...

Been to the Moonlight Rollerway a couple of times, and loved it, but OMG, I totally wanna hit the Golden Skate in San Ramon now too!! Sounds so fun!


Love Charles Phoenix's crazy gold lame suit, and good for you Grandma Cookie Gantz! You didn't mention if she hit the rink herself though? Would have loved to have seen that cool old broad skate circles around your slow ass!

Ha! Just kidding. Looks like you guys had an awesome time though. And remember, if you and Anna ever wanna hit that Golden Skate together, let me know and I am so there!!

James said...

No, Grandma Cookie didn't put on the skates herself that night, at least not that I saw. Even though she's an expert skater, at her age a fall could have some pretty bad repercussions.

Although I did read that when she and her late husband celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1990, that they renewed their vows ... again on skates!

Another thing I didn't mention ... Grandma Cookie's granddaughter, herself a former competitive skater, was a choreographer of some of the group numbers we saw.

beastandbean said...

Oh, I think I saw Grandma Cookie's grand daughter in some of your Flickr pics, she was a really tall, super busty blonde woman in a sparkly pantsuit...was that "her"? :)