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Collection #69

Rollerena Fairy Godmother Collection

Record:69
Date:1948 - 2009 (Bulk 1976 - 1992)
Size:3.5 feet. plus 2.5 inches of photographs and 1 costume box

Provenance

Papers donated by Rollerena between 1995-2009.

Use Restrictions

Video tapes are reserved for research only, commercial use is prohibited. The LGBT Center has permission to show tapes for Center-sponsored events.

Scope and Content

This is the collection of Rollerena Fairy Godmother. It includes newspaper and magazine articles, listing of appearances on radio or TV shows, files about her participation in ACT UP, awards, correspondence and photographs.

History or Bio

Rollerena Fairy Godmother came into being on the evening of Saturday, September 16, 1972 by a young man from Kentucky who put on a gown, a 1950s hat, and a straw basket and skated up and down Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York City. Over time, Rollerena added to her outfit: rhinestone glasses, costume jewelry, a small horn, and a magic wand to bless mortals became regular accessories to her character. She skated in gay neighborhoods, the Easter Parade, Gay Pride marches and in popular discos. The creator of Rollerena did not consider himself a drag queen; instead she became the character of a Fairy Godmother.

The boy who would come to be known as Rollerena was born in Kentucky in 1948. As a teenager, he frequently traveled to Louisville by bus or hitchhiking, earned him the name “the bluegrass belle of the three counties.” At the age of 18, he registered for the draft and graduated from high school in the following spring. He served in the artillery infantry in Vietnam and returned to the States in September 1969. Upon arriving in New York City, he worked on Wall Street and even spent New Year’s Eve of 1969 in Times Square.

He started roller skating to work in 1970 and was often seen practicing his skating on 79th Street and Fifth Avenue. By this time, he was given the nickname “Rollin’ Skeets” and was known to wear a visor, an umbrella on his head, a backpack and a little horn at his waist to alert foot traffic. At the 1971 Gay Pride Parade, he skated around as Rollin’ Skeets. He went by this name for two years, until Rollerena was born.

After stepping foot into an antique store on Christopher Street, Rollerena emerged in her classic costume and began skating around the Village. She then entered a bar and “the whole place went absolutely wild!” It was said that “a crowd gathered like they were awaiting Glinda landing in Oz.” She then officially debuted in the 1973 Easter Parade as “Roller Arena the Fairy Godmother” (later shortened to “Rollerena”). Although her skating was limited to well-heeled neighborhoods, gay spots and chic haunts like Studio 54, she became ever popular. As Rollerena became more well-known within and beyond her community, people began to request her presence at various events. She had a post office box, business representatives, disco events, postcards, and was featured in many newspaper articles, TV shows and radio talk programs. Throughout her history, she collected thirty 1950s hats, costume jewelry earrings, and fifteen pairs of rhinestone glasses.

Various newspapers gave different spellings to the Fairy Godmother and these spellings are used in this finding aid as they appear in the articles. They include: “Rollerina,” “Roller Rena,” “Rolla-Reena,” “Rollerarena,” and “Roll-Arena.”

For a more in-depth history, ask the archivist for an extended timeline.

Folder List

Box 1

1. 1972 Articles
2. 1973 Documents
3. 1974 Flyer
4. 1976 Articles
5. 1977 Articles
6. 1978 Articles
7. 1979 Articles
8. 1980 Articles
9. 1981 Articles
10. 1982 Articles
11. 1983 Articles
12. 1985 New York Magazine Issue
13. 1986 Articles
14. 1987 Articles
15. 1988 Articles
16. 1989 Articles
17. 1990-1991 Articles
18. Miscellaneous Articles (no dates)
19. Articles/Flyers on 1986 Gay Rights Bill
20. ACT UP 1986 Documents
21. ACT UP 1988 Documents

22. ACT UP 1989 Documents

Box 2

23. ACT UP 1990-1992 Documents
24. Awards, 1983-1991
25. Correspondence, 1977-1979
26. Additions, 2003
27. Additions [misc. photos and ephemera] (October 9, 2003)
28. Letters from Peter, 1978 & 1985
29. “Rollerena: Fairy Godmother Exhibit” [speech and clippings used in exhibit] (Oct. & Nov. 2003)
30. Paper, by Mandy Hu (August 2004)
31. 2004-2005 Addition [articles, personal cards]
32. 2006 Addition [articles, personal cards]
33. 2006 Calendar, “The Legends of the Village” (removed to oversized)
34. 2007 Birthday Party & 30th Anniversary of Studio 54

35. Pictures of Rollerena 2007/2008

Box 3

36. Articles about or mentioning Rollerena
37. Event Flyers and Advertisements
38. Letters and Birthday Cards
39. Photos of “Rollin’ with Rollerena ’08” and “Furball ’08”
40. Rollerena’s Birthday Party and The 30th Anniversary of Studio 54 at the Gay and Lesbian Center
41. Rollerena’s Mother’s Death
42. Rollerena’s Birthday ’07 and Dance ’08 with Look-A-Like contest
43. Correspondence 2005/2006
44. Articles

Box 4

45. Box 4 contains a Rollerena costume, complete with a gown and magic wand measuring twenty-five inches long (oversize removed to flat file)

Box 5

46. 1 VHS, Rollerena with Casey on Real People (plus Coal Miner’s Daughter)
47. 1 VHS, Christopher Street After Dark [Oct. 19, 1980]
48. Sony ½ inch tape, 5” reel #1 to #9 (plus duplicate) [June & December 1973]
49. Sony ½ inch, IV 32 8” reel
50. 1 Super 8 movie, film reel of Rollerena 1974 (anonymous photographer)
51. 1 VHS & 1 ¾” tape, Lifetime Achievement Award speech (at The Saint) Heritage of Pride
52. 1 ¾” tape, taped by Bill Sheppard for Brooklyn College Presents [1978]
53. 1 ¾” tape, “Evening Magazine” [October 1980]
54. 1 Betamax tape, “Real People” [June 1980]
55. 1 Betamax & 1 VHS, Tom Snyder interview [August 1979]
56. 1 Betamax, Vietnam 1986 & Barbra Streisand (first TV show)
57. 1 Betamax, Vietnam 1980s (Rollerena served in Vietnam)

Box 6

58. Metal horn 7″ x 3″ (bulb collapsed)
59. Original hat, black
60. Eyeglasses, white pearl with rhinestones
61. Beaded bag with “Kentucky” written on, blue-green
62. Dingleberry ring, orange & yellow
63. Earrings, green & blue bead tassels with pink & lavender stones
64. Rollerskates
65. Name-tag worn by Rollerena, reads “Bon with Teller”
66. Cartoon, “Happy Mother’s Day”
67. 2006 Calendar, “The Legends (of the Village)”

For a detailed list of box and folder contents (including articles and correspondence), contact the archivist for an extended document on the Rollerena collection.