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The voice behind roller derby

CHuck Benedict

An early riser who tunes to Glendale’s cable TV Classic Sports channel

59 between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. may find reruns of pro wrestling and the

roller derby. He will know he has found it by the screamingly loud audio,

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typical of today’s TV generation.

But it was yesterday’s generation which originally raised the volume

in these two pseudo sports.

Next time you watch derby replays, turn off the sound, leaving just

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visual action. You will see a strange mass of men and women skating

around an indoor oval with arms, legs, backs, rear ends and skates

flailing in a scene created by ‘meanie’ skaters who have decided to be

‘not nice’ to members of the opposite team.

Skaters fly through the ropes into the arena audience. Referees get

tangled up with coaches and managers and spectators gesture wildly at the

skaters or each other. It is a weird picture.

Now, re-establish the TV audio and your curiosity about ‘weird’ may

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instantly become empathetic tension. You’ll hear as high a level of

sounds as you’ll ever hear on TV. The blade by blade announcer is

screaming at you, his voice desperately trying to be heard above a din

which he, himself, has inspired on the public address system, which also

carries his TV voice.

On most roller derby replays, the voice which whips the crowd into a

frenzy belongs to a native of Glendale, Dick Holway.

Roller derby, like pro wrestling, used well honed athletic and acting

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skills to create a ready box-office, thanks in part to the emotional

opportunism of Holway and his predecessor, Dick Lane.

Holway says, " Dick Lane, the ‘whoa, Nellie’ guy, was the best

announcer I ever heard. My hero. I was proud to replace him.

“I’ve always liked to be verbally influential, beginning when I was

very young and did curbside announcing for the ‘Days of the Verdugo’

parades.

“In those days I worked in a supermarket, where I met a customer named

Mrs. Don Fraser, who told me that her husband was looking for an

announcer for wrestling and boxing at the Valley Gardens Arena.

“I got the job, and it led to doing roller derby and wrestling at

L.A.'s Olympic Auditorium. That’s where I met another of my heroes, ring

announcer Jimmy Lennon. I probably used him as a model when I did work in

the ring for boxing and wrestling.”

The traveling roller derby gave Holway many of his thrills:

“I was the TV announcer for the derby in New York at Madison Square

Garden. What a kick! Like in Los Angeles, New York’s famous people came

to the Garden and I had a chance to meet celebrities who already knew me

from TV.”

There were times when Holway’s ability to create emotion could have

backfired.

“At times the crowd was so incensed over a skater who was playing the

villain that we had to have that skater thrown out of the game so that he

(or she) could grab his things in the locker room and get away from the

auditorium in a cab before the steamed-up crowd could find him and go for

a little vengeance.”

The supermarket job paid off again when Dick met a lady who introduced

him to her husband, Jim Hardy, the CEO of the L.A. Stars ABA basketball

team. Soon, Dick was part of a sport with competitive integrity, as the

P.A. announcer for the Stars.

Holway’s uninhibited vocal enthusiasm had been great at creating

frenzy in the arena, but his softer voice of the Stars days now still

operates in a mode of persuasion.

Today, he acts as a consultant and advisor on many non-violent

competitions among the students of Glendale. Working with the Lions

clubs, the schools and other organizations, he coordinates poetry and

music presentations, works on declamation competitions and, in general,

offers his instinctive ability to arouse interest in such programs and

organize them.

“I love seeing kids and their teachers present creative work. In the

right settings, poetry, oratory and music bring out wonderful emotions

and we need to let talented kids get inside us that way.”

Holway is regarded as one of Glendale’s more aggressive personalities,

which also can work as a plus for the community.

Lions former District Governor Ross Adams and Glendale High School

Theater Arts instructor (and auditorium manager) Gregg Williams agree

that Holway’s theatrical experience, his tendency to persuade, and his

desire to help young students all contribute to Glendale’s dreams for

this generation’s future.

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Chuck Benedict may be reached at 241-4141 (voice mail 974) or by

24-hour fax at 549-9191.

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