March 26, 1997
By Sllke Tudor
One summer, when I was a child, my favorite cousin's
passion turned, for a time, from classic literature to roller-skating. I don't know if it
was the sunlight and wild parrots in Golden Gate Park that drew her, or if it was Carlos,
an "older man" who my aunt likened to a bullet - small, dark, and hard as steel
(he used to skate down to LA periodically, a feat that seemed just short of superhuman).
|Whatever the reason, I followed her,
and the park has never seemed more full of color and music since. Glittery scarves were in
vogue, as were soul-tinged disco and pink pom-poms (it was that awkward part of the early
'80s when the '70s still bled through here and there). Every Sunday morning the core
skaters - those die-hards who would show up rain or shine - would gather together to show
the recreational "weekend rollers" how it was done. A sweet-natured man named D.
was in charge of sound then, as now.
Today, David G. Miles Jr. is 41 and graying, but
the roller skates are still firmly laced to his feet. He has been providing music for
roller skaters in Golden Gate Park since 1979 when he moved here from Kansas City. While
the fashions may be different - blades have replaced skates and clothes tend to be
gangsta-baggy instead of Solid Gold-tight ---according to D, the vibe hasn't changed at
all."Skating has evolved, but it still makes people feel good. That's what counts.
San Francisco is this great, positive place. When I first came here, the attitude was
completely new to me."
|On his third day in town, after parting
ways with acquaintances "headed down the wrong track" he took a walk through the
Golden Gate Park and saw his first outdoor roller skater. "I'd never seen anything
like that before," D. says, grinning under his black baseball cap. "I mean, we
had roller-skating in Kansas City, but only in roller rinks, never outdoors." The
next day, D. bought himself a pair of skates and soon thereafter joined Skate Patrol, a
group of volunteers hired by Park and Recreation to monitor the nearly 20,000 people who
skated in the park every weekend. This was the Golden Age of Roller-Skating in San
"I got sucked up into the hurricane," says D, looking at the
sun-splattered roller dance circle where 40 virtuosos are presenting an impromptu routine
to Madonna's "Vogue."
"It became a sort of religious experience for me - every Sunday, in the park"
Like most religious men, D. has imparted his understanding to his three children
-12-year-old Melanie, 9-year-old TIffany, and 7-year-old David - who can be seen most
Sundays bustin' out with the best of them (all three were on wheels at age 2).
D currently lives across the street from the park and makes his living from
skate-related ventures. He is founder of the Midnight Rollers, who are responsible for San
Francisco's infamous Friday Night Skate; the organizer behind the Skate Against Violence
benefit, which sends over a dozen folk roller-skating down to LA every year, the president
of C.O.R.A. (California Outdoor Rollerskating Association); and a skating instructor at
||"He's also the keeper of our
history," says Dan Filner, a 27-year-old video-game writer with a half-pipe in his
dining room. "San Francisco is very transient. People move away, but D. has been here
from the beginning. He knows all there is to know." Filner views the skating
community much the same way most night crawlers would view their neighborhood bar. 'This
is one big, happy family. It doesn't matter what color, religion, fashion, or sex you are
- as long as you have skates on your feet." OK, not quite like a neighborhood bar,
but for the people involved, skating is a scene like any other. People meet, play, become
friends, date, and even marry. In fact, last summer two
|skaters married during the Friday Night
Skate (They have since moved to Ireland and are expecting a child). "The only
stereotype among us," says Filner, gold eyes perusing people resting in the grass,
"is that we are all healthy and happy."
Throughout the day nearly 7,000 casual
skaters, families, teens, kids, and goofballs out for weekend entertainment - stop by
Sixth Avenue and Kennedy Drive to check out the antics of D's extended family. Richard
Humphrey, a dance-skate instructor formerly of the Golden Rollers, wears old-time black
spandex, an "In Skate Shape" T-shirt, and custom roller boots. He spins and
twirls lce-Capades style while 24-year-old Jill Prehodka leads a dozen well-toned,
well-tanned bods in a rollerdance routine that would make the Four Tops proud.
Occasionally, D. takes time out from skating with his kids to make announcements about
media coverage (by CNN and In-Line Skate Magazine for starters), upcoming friendly
skate legislation, Mayor Willie Brown is apparently for a pro-street skating law,
and scheduled events (the 26.2-mile Napa run is scheduled for June 21 and Skates in the
Park II will be held on June 22).
"There's nothing like this back East," says Prehodka, who relocated from New
Jersey a little over two years ago. "The skate community between Los Angeles, New
York, and San Francisco is tight, but this is really something special." She skates
off, her white-blond ponytail swinging as she flits past; Donna Norcom, a stunning woman
with black braids and a silver shirt. A flash of silver and a backbeat later, and Norcom
is on the ground, executing a knee-jeopardizing floor routine with two fledgling men in
"Next time, I'm going to do that," says a small, brown eyed boy standing on
the sidelines. "Just like that." He points his scuffed palm at Melanie Miles as
she slices her way easily through a hip-hop routine. The boy's older brother grabs him
roughly and pulls him away. "C'mon, Mom's waiting!" Someone on the lawn notices,
and yells after him, "Come back anytime. We'll teach you."
For groovy skate info, check out D's Website at http://www.cora.org