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Looking Back At The Hot 1970s Trend Of Roller Skating

For some, it was just free-wheeling fun. For others, it was an opportunity to strut their stuff in skimpy, scene-stealing outfits. And still others believed it was a new-found means of working out while looking super cool.

Welcome to the 1970s, when roller skating seemed to have more than just its fifteen minutes of fame.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Skating Festivals And Get-Togethers

Roller skating was hugely popular among the young and old, rich and poor; little wonder that it fostered a sense of community and congeniality in cities and towns across the country. Skating festivals became ‘must-see’ events, and entire streets would be blocked off in communities to accommodate skate festivals and races.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, site of one such festival, garnered a world record for “world’s longest skating serpentine.” During the seventies, the famed boardwalks of Venice Beach, California were bustling with roller enthusiasts who joined together to catch some rays while rolling along. In 1979, the mayor of Los Angeles declared Venice Beach “the rolling skating capital of the world.”

Wheeling Down The Wedding Aisle And Celebrities Lacing Up

Why walk down the wedding aisle when you can, instead, don a pair of rollers and skate your way through the day? Roller-skating themed weddings took place long before the 70s, but they became increasingly popular as the decade wore on.

Alas, many celebs of the day were not spared from roller skating fever. They took what was once the playful pastime of children and made it a Hollywood habit. Brooke Shields. Farrah Fawcett. Cher. Patrick Swayze. Some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry decided their stars might glow brighter if they shined up a pair of clunky skates and hit the hots spots, ready for rolling action.

Roller Movies, Music, and Disco

Hollywood has never overlooked what could be a lucrative fad, so it came as no surprise when roller skating was featured in major movie releases. Some of the biggest skating movie hits include Skatetown U.S.A. and Roller Boogie starring Linda Blair. Topping the list of roller movie greats:  Olivia Newton-John’s Xanadu.

But the music industry wasn’t about to be outdone by movies. Roller-inspired tunes were cranked out as fast as you could lace up your skates, and the hits kept on coming throughout the 70s. The melodies still spinning in our heads include “Roller Derby Queen” by Jim Croce, “Roller Star” by Arabesque, and the Beach Boys quintessential “Roller Skating Child.” We’re thinking that Barbra Streisand may want to forget her “Roller Skate Rag,” but it’s a tune we just can’t let go of.


Roller disco blended skating with music and dancing in a way that no one could have foreseen (and that we may never see again). In 1979, ABC broadcasted the primetime special, “Playboy’s Roller Disco & Pajama Party,” which made roller skating history.

Hugh Hefner in a Canadian tuxedo. Playboy bunnies in bikinis on wheels. And a roller disco party at his California mansion. That’s how you rolled in the 70s.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Advertising Spin

Ads began featuring roller skating, even when there was absolutely no plausible connection between roller skating and the product. A Virginia Slims cigarette ad boasted, “When he offers you a low tar cigarette, tell him you’ve got one of your own,”  and featured a woman wearing roller skates with a cigarette dangling casually in her hand. Only in the 70s could smoking while engaging in a cardio workout seem like a good idea.

Roller rinks were the place to be in the 70s, even if you didn’t want to skate and especially if you were a teen. Where else could you hang out away from your parents, groove to the day’s top hits as they blared from loudspeakers, play video games in arcades, and grab a  snack (or two or three…), all while checking out the latest skating moves.

Precision roller skating shed light on just how much some forms of skating required athletic prowess and precision. In addition to showcasing artistic ability, precision roller skating required maintaining specific formations and executing perfect timing within a group of skaters. It wasn’t long before world championships evolved, and roller skating was no longer the purview of just novices and celebrities and Playboy bunnies, but became, instead, an arena for athletes to demonstrate their skills.