Arts & Entertainment

Roller derby women ready to bring the pain

By day, 30-year-old Franny White is a gentle spirit who was once a Peace Corps volunteer in Central America.

Laila Ghan, 31, is another tenderhearted soul who devotes her daylight hours to caring for the infirmed.

Ghan is a nurse and White is a communications specialist at Battelle.

But put a pair of roller skates on either of these two, toss them onto a roller derby course and they become a gruesome twosome who call themselves Franny Pack and Schawana Boom Boom.

White and Ghan are members of the Atomic City Rollergirls team, which will perform an exhibition bout Oct. 23 titled Fright Fight as they take on the Walla Walla Sweets at the Toyota Arena next to the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

"There is something about slamming your body around that brings inner peace," Ghan said. "I really don't want to hurt anyone, I just want to spread them across the floor. I absolutely love skating my heart out and knocking girls down."

Sadly, White mangled a couple of bones in her left leg during a derby practice and won't be able to participate in the Halloween bout.

"I broke two bones in my left leg at a June roller derby practice," she said. "I had surgery and am healing well but I don't have clearance from my doctor to play derby yet."

But that won't stop her from cheering on her teammates from the sidelines at this weekend's event.

"The Walla Walla Sweets just started skating in 2009 and we've been proud to watch them grow," White said. "They're Atomic City's sisters and neighbors, but come 6 p.m. Oct. 23 all that will go away on the track."

Ghan said she never even knew roller derby existed until about five years ago when a friend introduced her to the sport.

"The first time I experienced roller derby, having grown up without a TV, was in Portland," she said. "I had no idea what was going on, but I fell head over heels in love. I figured I can run fast, I can fall down and I don't cry easily so I could do it. I just had to find other girls in the Tri-Cities who wanted it too."

White fell for the sport just as passionately.

"The sport is truly amazing," she said. "Simply put, you never know what to expect in roller derby, except to be completely surprised. Sure, there will be action. Yes, rollergirls will hit each other with incredible determination and take large, dramatic spills. But the game is so fast-moving that a team that's winning can just as easily lose big in the second half."

Ghan believes just as many women love the sport as men. "I think women love to watch roller derby because it is such an empowering sport," she said.

She adds that the novelty of seeing women not being nice and instead knocking each other down is invigorating. And doing all that while heavily padded and wearing a helmet and fishnet stockings is just too good to miss, she said.

If you're ready for the rumble in the arena, then you might want to snatch your tickets early because these roller derby events usually sell out fast.

Showtime is 6 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Ages 6-12 are $8 or $10 at the door. Kids 5 and younger are free. Tickets at the coliseum box office or at the arena day of show.

The Atomic City Rollergirls will donate $1 of each ticket sold to the Habitat for Humanity Tri-Cities, Gahn said.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;