SkateBettys Alaska

Did you know that there was a crew of women skaters in Anchorage, Alaska in the 1980s simply called SkateBettys?! I didn’t either until a fantastic librarian who works at the Seattle Public Library reached out and shared the glorious news and some awesome scans of Warning fanzine (“Alaska’s only alternative music publication”). This particular librarian also hooked me up when I needed scans of Ramdasha Bikceem’s riot grrrl zine Gunk. So, if you’re ever in Seattle take a look at the ZAPP collection and never forget that librarians are here to help, and some of them even skate!

Warning was created by Frank “Bill Bored” Harlan in 1982, as the first punk zine of Alaska, which ran until the fall of 1985. Harlan was a huge promoter of music and in 1984 would share out four hours of music videos from 10pm – 2am, five nights a week on an experimental UHF broadcast TV station called “Catch 22” before he was let go as a late night video jockey. His next project was Bombshelter videos which were broadcast on cable TV as a 30 minute weekly series. Frank moved to Seattle in 1987.

From the July 1984 / Issue #11 of Warning, the SkateBettys were interviewed and their vibe definitely reminded me of the Hags punk girl gang from Los Angeles. The members included Shel (16), Lea (14), Kelly (13), Laura (16), Chris (19) and Die Ann (15). They explained that their logo was a modification of the Thrasher logo, but with fallopian tubes, breasts and skateboards “the only things that matter” according to Shel. Laura expanded on the rationale saying that, “We are proud to be the sexual beings that we are… We’ve been skating together now about 2 years and we started out on the street. We’re basically really hot on the street.” Skating ramp was coming along, and they had one year’s worth of experience riding transition. Lea stated that “We’re getting better.”

When asked about their appearance, which included flannel shirts, mangled jeans and cropped hair, and if anyone hassled them, Shel noted that it was the girls with long hair who had an issue. “I mean, I’ll be skating down the street minding my own business, these girls will give me the finger, they call us names.”

But it was mostly asshole dudes heckling them and Laura explained her theory as to why… “when they see us riding our boards which is a definite phallic symbol, it does upset them.” There was much discussion about phallic imagery! Lea was frustrated with cars honking at her and crude drunks saying disgusting things while she skated. “When they run after you down the road it kind of creates a problem.” Lea and Shel said that at least the local male skaters were supportive. “They are pretty cool, they try to help us out and they give us encouragement.”

The interview was loaded with sarcasm, like how the SkateBettys would critique potential members via a panel of experts to determine if they are hot enough to join, or how they sleep with their skateboards at night and prefer skating nude. Their side-interests outside of skateboarding included plucking their pubes and listening to ABBA. Chris called them out saying that “these girls are all giving you a line of shit. Actually, I like to listen to Suicidal Tendencies… Skate Death [a local band].” This makes sense considering that Warning had just hosted the two bands for a “Rock Against Racism” concert on April 27th, 1984.

The SkateBettys’ special mottos summed up the article at the end with the classic “SKATE AND DESTROY” to “EAT A BETTY.” Overall, the SkateBettys were pretty hilarious, perhaps a tad bored with a bit of pent-up teen energy, but at least they found a common bond and hopefully their skating sessions improved. Within Warning there’s a photo collage of some local skaters, including Laura, Lia and Shell messing around, and having fun.

Photos: Frank “Bill Bored” Harlan

I did stumble upon another Anchorage zine called Bomb Factory and within Issue #3 in 1985 there’s a letter to the editor inquiring about the notorious SkateBettys. “Hey are the skate bettys as hot as I hear? Thats all I ever hear about is the skate bettys and there [sic] beautiful bodies prowling around looking for cute guys to have sex with and in the meantime ride their skateboards and play skaterock? Is it true? Well I must go. Keep sending me your fanzines.”

Hmm, I wonder who wrote that? Hahaha! Sounds like the SkateBettys were pretty hot! Wish I knew full names and had some contacts. Anyone?

*Special shout out to R.V. at SPL’s ZAPP collection – so grateful!

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