APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979)

April 19: Weird Wednesday — Write about a movie that played on a Weird Wednesday, as collected in the book Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive. Here’s a list.

No less an authority than Jaclyn Smith described Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace as “Studio 54 on wheels.” For the two years it was open (1979-1981), this West Hollywood spot to be was inside a golden-domed art deco building on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Cienega. It was the kind of place where The Go-Go’s would play as the rich and famous skated, often semi-nude as the dress code was pretty much whatever you want to wear. Or not wear. Now, a modern version has been opened in New York (with more coming) by creator Ian “Flipper” Ross’ daughter Liberty.

Skatetown, U.S.A. was based on Flipper’s but was instead shot at the Hollywood Palladium (and you can also see Lawrence Welk’s bubble machine). Between all the athletic skating — Patrick Swayze was a competitive skater in his teenage years — there are plenty of wacky subplots, because for some reason, Hollywood bosses thought the kids wanted to see itching powder, Ruth Buzzi, Joe E. Ross, Billy Barty and Unknown Comic Murray Langston crack wise.

The real story is between Richie (Scott Baio) and Ace Johnson (Swayze) who are competing to win a thousand dollars and a moped. Yes, 1979 did not have big prizes. There are also roles for Flip Wilson, Maureen McCormick (who said “Like a disco, there was a lot of cocaine being done on the set. Many people were open about it,” and by many people, she means her), Judy Landers, Horseshack from Welcome Back, Kotter, a pizza-eating Dorothy Stratton and David Landsberg, who would go on to be in the Cannon movies Detective School Dropouts and Dutch Treat. There’s also a DJ named The Wizard (Denny Johnston) who shoots laser beams out of his hands. Well, one night, Niles Rogers literally roller skated to Flipper’s to do a set. Top that, Wizard.

Director William A. Lavey also made BlackensteinThe Happy Hooker Goes to Washington and Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman. He also wrote the script with Landsberg’s future comedy partner Lorin Dreyfuss and Nick Castle. Yes, a year after Halloween, Nick Castle was pounding the keys to write this roller skating movie.

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