Dynamite Doll

The Herald | Dynamite Doll

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Story by Olivia Ingle
Photos by Daniel Vasta and Sarah Ann Jump

When Joanie (Nelson) Mundy decided to join the Demolition City Roller Derby league three years ago, her husband, Mike, joked she was having a mid-life crisis.

The Huntingburg woman was about to turn 40 after all. And she was joining at an age when most women were retiring from the decidedly contact sport.

But one of Mike’s friends had mentioned his girlfriend had a roller derby bout, and it sparked Joanie’s interest.

Luckily, Demolition City has a Fresh Meat program that teaches new players the game, and a new round was about to start. Joanie was in.

Joanie bumps Brandie Gilliam of Owensboro, Ky., known as Ded Pixi, out of bounds during Demolition City Roller Derby practice at Metro Sports Center in Evansville on June 2.

“I love the physical aspect of it,” the now 42-year-old says of roller derby. “In no other [women’s] sport can you hit people and it be OK.”

Growing up in French Lick, Joanie, remembers skating in her parents’ basement with her blue Smurf skates. When she was old enough, she spent all of her time at the local roller rink. She also spent her time playing volleyball and softball, and running track.

She’s continued to play church league softball and community league volleyball much of her adult life.

Mike was excited his wife wanted to try something new.

“I tell you what, she’s hardcore,” he says, proudly sporting a T-shirt with “Trophy Husband” across the front.

Even though she’s in her third roller derby season, Joanie admits she was a little nervous when she walked in to Swonder Ice Arena in Evansville June 8 for the Demolition City Dynamite Dolls’ first home bout. The Demolition City league also has a second team, Damage Control, that is co-ed and serves as the league’s B team. That team played prior to the Dynamite Dolls’ bout.

The theme of the night was “Blitzkrieg Bout” —  Blitzkrieg is described as “an intense military campaign intended to bring about a swift victory.”

The bout was anything but swift — two 30-minute halves. The players train to skate the distance, but it’s taxing.

Intense, on the other hand, was a warranted adjective.

The term “roller derby” dates to the 1920s, according to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the governing body of women’s flat track roller derby. The association represents more than 450 leagues on six continents, including Demolition City Roller Derby. WFTDA currently ranks Demolition City 186th of 354 ranked teams internationally.

According to WFTDA, roller derby was originally just marathon roller skate races. But in the late 1930s, it began to evolve into “a more physical competition emphasizing skater collisions and falls.”

The sport continued to evolve, and drew increasingly larger audiences. More and more leagues began to pop up, “some of which emphasized theatrics more than sport.”

Eventually, popularity dwindled and several attempts to revive it included staged actions and storylines, which Joanie says is how many people perceive the sport today.

While each skater does have a unique derby name and some do have a persona they portray to some extent, Joanie says none of it is staged. It’s pure sport.

“My friends always say, ‘I remember watching roller derby as a kid,’” Joanie says. “I say, ‘It’s nothing like that.’”

While Joanie enjoys the sport of roller derby, she also enjoys the places it takes her. For bouts, she’s traveled to states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois and Alabama.

She’s known in the roller derby world as “Hi Maintenance.” “Hi” for short.

She decided on the name after she once ran out of shampoo in the shower. When her husband brought her some, he jokingly said, “You’re so high maintenance.”

And the name stuck.

Everyone’s derby name is unique. Other Dynamite Dolls include names such as Slaughtermelons (she carries a large watermelon hammer because she’s “smashin’ through the pack like Gallagher’s hammer”), Kimmie S’more, Jetsy Rockette, Traumahawk and Chas the RipHer.

The people behind the names are just as unique, which is what both Joanie and Mike like about the sport.

Joanie cleans the wheels on her roller skates before roller derby practice on June 2.

Mike considers himself a comic book nerd. He’s a big Star Wars fan, dresses up like Obi-Wan Kenobi and goes to Comic-Con. Typically, he wears a kilt to Joanie’s bouts.

“She was embarrassed at first,” Mike says of his comic obsession. “But this culture [roller derby] is a lot like the comic book [culture]. There’s a lot of different types of people here, but it’s a safe place.”

The skaters in the Demolition City league all have different backgrounds — there’s a Harley-riding professor, a stay-at-home mom of triplets, a student, a librarian, an engineer, a bartender and more.

Joanie has worked at Meyer Distributing in Jasper for 13 years, and is the company’s director of data management.

Demolition City skaters hail from places all over southern Indiana and northwestern Kentucky — Evansville, Owensboro, Henderson, Newburgh, Huntingburg, Mount Vernon.

The league has three practices a week — Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Metro Sports Center in Evansville — and members make it to the ones they can. While they don’t always get to scrimmage at the practices, it’s a chance for them to get some conditioning and hone their derby skills.

When Joanie learns new roller derby skills, she can’t wait to try them out. And with derby being a contact sport, she naturally turns to her son, Leyton Lauderdale, who plays for the Southridge High School football team.

“I’m like, ‘Hit me,’” Joanie says. “He’s like, ‘No.’ And I usually get an eyeroll and a ‘C’mon, Mom.’”

Joanie’s happy her kids support her roller derby venture. The Mundys have a blended family — Joanie’s kids, Leyton, 16, and Anicia (Ashby) Kessler, 24; and Mike’s, Ethan Mundy, 19, and Karrah Mundy, 23.

Some of them even came to support Joanie Saturday night when the Dynamite Dolls battled the Chicago Outfit.

When the announcer introduced the Dolls, with the lights dimmed and about 200 fans in attendance, Hi Maintenance was called and Joanie skated out onto the track to join her teammates. She was wearing her black Demolition City tank top with her self-chosen number, 311, on the back, her blonde ponytail dangling from her helmet. To get in the “Blitzkrieg” spirit, she wore midnight blue lipstick and eyeliner.

In addition to roller skates and helmets, the Dolls also wear knee pads, elbow pads and mouth guards, all required by WFTDA. Besides their tank tops, the rest of their attire is up to them — flashy makeup, fishnet stockings, plaid skirts, shorts, leggings. Nothing is off limits.

Finally, it was time for the bout to begin.

The Dynamite Dolls huddle up at halftime during the Blitzkrieg Bout on June 8.

In roller derby, each team has 15 skaters on the roster. Five skaters from each team are on the track at one time. Four are considered blockers and one is the jammer. The jammer wears a star on their helmet.

The goal is for the jammer to get through the opposing team’s blockers before the other jammer does. Once through, the jammer skates around the track and tries to pass the blockers again. For each of the opposing team’s blockers the jammer passes, they earn a point for their team. The jammer continues this cycle, and after two minutes, the round — called a jam — ends and a whole new set of skaters comes onto the track for the next two-minute jam.

Skaters can block with their hips, rear and shoulders, but any other hits are considered illegal and will draw 30-second penalties for skaters.

Joanie is typically a blocker for her team, as she was June 8.

Joanie’s first jam was the second of the night. It was a success for the Dynamite Dolls, with a jam score of 4-3. Add that to the first jam’s score, and the overall score after two jams was 5-3.

Demolition City Roller Derby bouts are about more than just the sport, though, they’re an experience. Everyone, including fans, was encouraged to dress according to the night’s theme, and the event also included a kids’ bucket relay, a half pot and even an air guitar contest.

The Dynamite Dolls kept the lead for the entire bout, but things started to get close in the last couple of jams. Skaters hit the floor left and right, and it was easy to sense the mood inside Swonder intensify.

The Dolls fought hard until the end and maintained their lead, defeating the Chicago Outfit 172-146.

And, despite a Chicago skater wiping out and receiving medical attention with about 10 minutes left in the bout, there were no significant injuries.

Besides some pretty dark bruises, Joanie hasn’t had any injuries during her time in roller derby. Just some aches and pains.

Mike says Joanie threatens every year that the current season is her last.

But he doesn’t take her seriously. He knows she enjoys it.

“I do wish I had found this 20 years ago,” Joanie says.

Joanie receives a kiss from her husband, Mike Mundy, after the Blitzkrieg Bout on June 8.

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