This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine:
It was in 2013 that Liberty Ross first delved into the history of the famed LA venue that also holds the key to her own family history: Flipper’s roller rink, which from 1979 to 1981, at the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica boulevards, was the after-dark destination of choice for a huge cross section of LA cultures. Presided over by her father, Ian “Flipper” Ross, and mother, Bunty Ross, with several small children in tow, the roller rink was where you’d find people from all surrounding neighbourhoods and backgrounds under a single, glorious roof: from a young Laura Dern to Jane Fonda and Nile Rodgers, skating to live performances by the likes of Black Flag, the Go-Go’s and Prince. Now, as the pandemic lends outdoor activities a new cultural significance, there has been a noticeable roller resurgence, which makes the forthcoming release of Ross’s new book, Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, feel joyfully meant to be. Under her creative direction, the book will be published by Idea this autumn.
“I was 24 when I first moved back to LA and I would tell people how, when I was a little girl, my parents owned a roller disco called Flipper’s in the city. I can’t have been more than about three when it closed but, even 20 years later, I kept meeting people with incredible stories about their experience there. That’s what led me to want to know more. The process of putting this book together – digging through photos, seeing how people dressed at that time, how they behaved – has been amazing. We found dedicated Facebook pages and Instagram accounts I was able to tap into. I met people online who were so happy to share their memories – ‘I had my first kiss there,’ ‘I had my 13th birthday party there,’ ‘I met Cher there.’
“It’s a family story – it comes from something very real and truthful. Without really knowing anyone, my parents shacked up in LA and opened Flipper’s in 1979. I was a baby. I have five siblings and our childhood was bohemian, I suppose – unconventional. Making this book has been very meaningful for us all. Connecting with my brothers and sisters, asking them about their memories, has brought us closer. And it has been incredible for my parents. They had no idea of the impact they had. When I think about my dad specifically, about Flipper’s but also the fact that he gave rock’n’roll a voice in England from his ship in the Sixties, it makes me realise that a passionate motivation to merge different cultures has always been part of who he is. [Ian ‘Flipper’ Ross ran the pioneering pirate station Radio Caroline, designed to skirt the record companies’ monopoly over regular music broadcasting.]
“Flipper’s was a place where everybody felt safe – everybody was family and everybody was included, no matter where they were from. There’s something about roller skating. You can be really bad at it or really good at it, but no matter what, you’re smiling when you put your skates on. If nothing else, roller skating forces you to put your phone away for a few hours, to get into your body and have some fun. It’s all about being present and connecting with yourself and those around you. Still today, all the rinks are community driven, which makes it even sadder that they’re slowly closing down.
“I have been going to this one remaining rink, in Long Beach, with my husband. We go three times a week. One of the guys there is 73 and he’s been skating his entire life. When I told him about Flipper’s he was like, ‘Oh my God, that place.’ He remembers the sound system, he remembers how you would hear music there that you’d never heard anywhere else – you’d hear and experience things there for the first time. A few weeks later, he’d put two and two together – he said, ‘Wait a second. Are you Lettice Lark?’ Those are my two middle names. Apparently he had met me when I was a baby, when my dad used to carry me around the rink at Flipper’s in his arms.”
Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace Book is published by Idea, and out on October 14.
This article appears in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which will be on sale internationally from 7 October 2021. Head here to purchase a copy.