black man on roller skates
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The Resurgence of Flippers Roller Boogie Palace

With roller skating becoming more popular again, we take a brief look at the history of Flippers Roller Boogie Palace.

Roller skating has experienced a surge in popularity during the pandemic. New Yorkers have latched onto the hobby, and even amidst the heat of summer, residents are looking forward to swinging a few laps at what Actress Jaclyn Smith once called "Studio 54 on wheels,” more commonly known as Flippers Roller Boogie Palace.

The inaugural Flippers Roller Boogie Palace, a cherished yet short-lived Los Angeles haunt, holds a special place in the hearts of many. Founded by Ian "Flipper" Ross, the venue existed from 1979 to 1981 but left a lasting impact on popular culture. It attracted an impressive array of celebrities, including Elton John and Prince, who graced its floors with their presence beneath its unforgettable gold dome.

In the book Flippers Roller Boogie Palace 1979-1981, Flipper’s daughter Liberty Ross, immortalizes the roller rink through a series of images and quotes. Inside, Cher is quoted as saying, “Flipper’s was amazing. All the girls would get into their best bojangles and tightest, smallest cut-off tank top. You could go there and lose your mind in skating. Be free to get out of your own head.”

The rink was Los Angeles folklore, largely a “if you know, you know,” sentiment. In recent years, Flippers has since been reincarnated in two additional locales, in New York and London, respectively. It’s the work of Liberty Ross, keeping the Flipper name alive. The rink held a temporary outpost at the Rockefeller Center in 2022, bringing joy to NY rollers. She told the New York Post last year, “Nothing is like getting on the rink at such an iconic and special place like Rockefeller Center, letting the wind blow through your hair, and feeling truly free. It’s a relief to put down your phone these days and be present, which is how we came up with our mantra, ‘less scroll, more roll.’”

Flippers Roller Boogie Palace has hosted more than 80,000 skaters in New York. The venue has become a magnet for celebrities, attracting the likes of Diplo, Tyga, Jordin Sparks, Leon Bridges, and Swizz Beatz. This success of the Rockefeller residency brought Flippers back a second time this year in April.

According to Rockefeller’s website, this year isn’t limited to just skating, but community outreach as well, which includes weekly and seasonal programming that includes themed skate and dance parties, family and kids events, charity givebacks.

“Roller skating is the ultimate equalizer,” Ross told The Center Magazine. “When you strap on a pair of skates, everything goes out the window. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what background you come from, famous or not, you’re all united in the simple, joyful thing that is roller skating.”

There is something cool happening at Flippers every night (tonight Mary J. Blige is expected to make an appearance.) For more details and a schedule, head here.