Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bring in 'da fear

There were many surprises for the Fearleaders when they took the floor during the Cherry City Derby Girls Black and Blue Debut last month.

There was the packed-to-the-rafters crowd.

“That was the biggest X-factor. All the ideas we had changed because there were so many freaking people,” said Shawn “Shawn of the Dead” Cruz, Fearleader captain.

The deejay that started remixing their big dance number on the spot, much to the chagrin of Ben “Money $hot” Wiebe, who was concentrating on screaming out the step count.

“We're not the Jackson Five, we've practiced the dance twice,” Wiebe said.

But it was the spanking that topped the list.

“The first time we ran out toward the screens, one of the spectators reached up and swatted my ass,” said Robert “Torque Smackie” Evanoff, Jr. “Coming back through, she tackled Micah [“Love Hammer” Baker] to the ground and took his helmet.”

Evanoff reached over, took back the helmet and reprimanded her on the spot. Then she asked for a T-shirt.

“She groped a Fearleader, she got her prize,” said Wiebe.

They gave her a T-shirt, too, but Evanoff doesn’t want future derby match attendees thinking physical assault is the secret handshake that scores the perpetrator free swag.

“That’s not cool,” he said.

Dressed as their alter-egos, Cruz, Wiebe, Evanoff, and Baker, along with Timothy “Peaches Valentine” McHatton and Distan “Axl Rod” Baker, comprise the Fearleaders, the Cherry City Derby Girls post-apocalyptic cheerleaders.

None of them has what would be considered traditional cheerleading experience, but they’ve got enthusiasm to spare.

Cruz evolved the idea from experiences he had cheering on his wife as part of the Port City Derby Girls in California.

“A buddy and I were the loudest, most obnoxious people in the crowd and we made it our duty to get the crowd as revved up as we were,” he said.

When the Salem derby faction started getting their wheels under them, Cruz asked Wiebe if he would be interested in starting up a cheerleading squad. When Wiebe brought up the possibility a few months later, Cruz replied, "Oh my God, you remembered! You weren't as drunk as me."

The Fearleaders were born.

“This is a girl's sport, where they are the aggressors, so the guys get to be the frou-frou cheerleaders," Cruz said. "It just made sense."

With an assist from Micah’s mom, the group cobbled together matching costumes complete with skirts, but practice time was difficult to come by.

They chose a big dance number – “Ninja Rap” by Vanilla Ice from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie - and made up the corresponding dance number in a single session. The performance was easily a highlight of the night because the combination of Fearleader seriousness and silliness peaked as they did their best to dance in sync.

“One of the Derby Girls, Roll Model, has volunteered to help so we don't look like a bunch of flailing idiots the next time out,” said McHatton.

While the task of revving up the crowd proved to be it’s own adrenalin rush, the payoff for the Fearleaders came in the wake of the night’s match.

Between kids asking for autographs and adults telling them they were looking forward to the next match and the catcalls and whistles they received on their way to the afterparty, they realized they gained something else unexpected – acceptance.

“We weren’t sure what to expect going into this, but it was well-received and that's going to make it easier to go out and be silly,” said McHatton.

Evanoff even had a co-worker come up during work the following week and do his best interpretation of the “Ninja Rap” dance.

Cruz was overwhelmed by the response, particularly since the CCDG Fearleaders – as far as they know - are the first to attempt a formal cheerleading squad in the ranks of derby culture.

“That's exciting. It would be cool to go on a travel bout and meet up with another group of fearleaders, size them up and ...

“Tell them, ‘Your costumes suck,” shouts Evanoff finishing the statement.

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