Gold Coast Roller Rink, Fort Lauderdale
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Check out photos of last night's final Intoxiskate here.
When Gay Skate/Intoxiskate promoter David Rohrig first started working at Gold Coast Roller Rink, the place was filled with a dozen gay, white, middle-aged guys. "It's not a gay guy night anymore." Rohrig said. "It's for everybody." And last night showed that. He turned Tuesday nights at Gold Coast Roller Rink into a fucking retro Utopia with many of the skate jams that Roll Out's Lauren "Lolo" Reskin had touted so highly.
But lately, the crowds weren't coming out. The rink's closing this Sunday, and Rohrig knew the day was coming. "When I was 17," he says, "it was the only gay place you could go underage." Three to four years ago, after the bar was added, the weekly event that mixes booze with skates took off. Then Rohrig got burnt out from doing all the promotion himself, and he took on help. With aid from a DJ friend, the monthly hip-hop night turned into the most successful Intoxiskate yet.
Last year was downright tragic. Skippy, who kept up the personal appearance of the place, passed away. "Since then," Rohrig says, "nobody took care of it like him." Also last year, Rohrig's partner committed suicide. His partner was known to come in drag and skate around and be a real presence. "These circumstances really hurt the dynamic here," he adds.
It's unfortunate that an ending is what got us all out (myself included, as a first-timer), but it was victorious. Guys, girls, straight, gay, skin tones aplenty, all charging in circles around the rink. Next to the rink, a gay couple made out intimately, tongues pressing firmly against each other. This is not typical behavior found at other rinks down here. Just holding hands would be unsafe and not tolerated, Drag It Out's Tabatha Mudra told me. She saw fights break out elsewhere, but, at Gold Coast, she said, you can be serious about your relationship.
In the rink, dudes handled other dudes' butts as they skated by. My friend had his ass grabbed firmly by a male stranger. While M.C. Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" was playing, a guy skating effortlessly beside me said to me "You can't touch this" as he rolled right past me. Basically, the mode is to flirt by crashing into people. At one point, a girl slowly positioned herself in front of me right at the first turn inside the rink. I had no choice but to -- as gently as possible -- collide into her, my arms grabbing her hips. After I gave an apology, she smiled, and we carried on a brief conversation on wheels. Clever.
People fell. A girl ran into the trash barrel. It was incredible.
While green, blue, red, and orange lights blinked on the corner where the walls met the ceiling, everyone skated to the rhythms of "Rapper's Delight" and Freak Nasty's "When you dip I dip we dip" and Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" (the majority of songs were danceable hip-hop and snap music). Two dudes did "the donkey" one lap and hip-shook another. A guy pushed another guy by his waist, then by his buttocks. Other folks laid on their backs in the middle of the floor with their skates in the air. A guy did humping-air push-ups, and a Justin Timberlake song compelled me to teach myself how to skate backward in the middle of the rink.
"People like roller skating," Mudra said, "because it's nostalgic." This venue is all that and then some. A giant "Snack Bar" sign hangs over the snack bar, which also serves as a liquor bar. This is next to the rental-skates spot: The roller skates are 25 years old. (Someone complained of his wheels rattling, especially when a wheel would get stuck.) Two medium-sized disco balls full of sparkly silver squares and a mini disco ball covered in multicolored bulbs hung from the ceiling. There's hideous-patterned starchy "seating" attached to the side wall. This place is wonderful and will be dearly missed.
As the night wore on, there were more males talking in groups and much more stumbling. And it was rearing toward the end when, for the couples' song, it got real, real dark. Gay and straight couples skated together. Three people held hands as they sailed the floor together. There was a guy circling the middle by himself because he couldn't get out -- each time he tried to make a breakaway, his skates would turn him right back around into the circle. A straight couple embraced on the back wall inside the rink. Only the red lights were on as Roxette singer In-memoriam moment: Were you watching the news when they talked about the closing of the rink at 11:15 p.m.? We were too... at the rink. Everyone stopped skating for this. It got silent. Only the voices on the television could be heard.
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Overheard in the crowd: "Are you doing this on purpose?" to someone skating backward. "They should threaten to close every month." Response: "Yeah, but that threat would wear off."
By the way: Gay Skate night started 43 years ago during the summer, and I almost face-planted after my first three steps.