A ground-breaking culture had been emerging, totally influenced by music. MTV launched in 1981 and music videos became the coolest movement of that time. Ronald Reagan, one of the most well-liked presidents in United States history, served from 1981 – 1989. His video puppet starred in Genesis’ music video, “Land of Confusion.” What other president had been cool enough to land a leading role in a pop music video? ‘A World Premiere’ of a music video was something teens couldn’t get enough of. “We Are the World” debuted in 1985, demonstrating how music positively impacted life’s tragedies. Putting together a ‘super-group’ of singers to raise proceeds for Africa was a genius idea. Who didn’t sit in front of their television watching those icons all performing together in one setting? Several artists such as The Beatles, David Bowie, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, and Blondie paved the way for the 80s but the world was about to witness artists like they’d never seen before. Trendsetting musicians were taking over the industry – Michael Jackson, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, RUN DMC, Tone Loc, Bon Jovi, and Boy George, just to name a few. Seeing Michael Jackson perform “Billie Jean” live for the first time on national television had been out of this world. The moonwalk had become a mystery dance move everyone wanted to learn overnight. No average dude could make a glitter jacket, ‘expecting-a-flood’ pants, and white socks with loafers look that hip. When Madonna first performed “Like a Virgin” in her sultry white corset dress, thigh highs and tulle, everyone paid attention. She was every guy and girl’s fantasy. Guys wanted to seduce her while impressionable girls dreamt to look like her. A new breed of big-hair heavy metal glam bands were about to rock the world. Music transformed and divided into different genres. The Grammys didn’t even have a ‘Rap’ music category until 1988 when DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince won for the hit single “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Teens were witnessing history in the making. If you were lucky like me, you experienced the 80s during your teenage years – the happiest, most entertaining decade of all time.
Whether you lived on the east coast or west coast, there had been one place where all walks of life gathered for a good time – The roller skating rink. For southern Marylanders, that rink was located in Waldorf or Lexington Park. The Waldorf rink had been around several years prior to the Lexington Park location. Once the Lexington Park rink was built, there was no stopping the craziness that took over St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Welcome, the Skate Station.
The Skate Station held a very large skating floor, snack and gaming section with several seated areas throughout. A hardwood floor made for the best all-around surface for skating. The line to get in was long, wrapping around the side of the building. Most teenagers were dropped off by their ‘phantom parent.’ A phantom parent was a caregiver who dropped their child off in the far rear of the parking lot. The teen would magically appear out of nowhere, walking toward the building without any signs of previous transportation. A crushed reputation could occur if a teenager was spotted in the passenger seat of their phantom parent’s station wagon, rusted truck or God-forbid a minivan. The unwritten rules were clear if the teenager wanted to be a part of the in-crowd. Upon entering, he/she first paid a five dollar admission fee. Inside, long wavy rainbows and clouds covered every visible wall surrounding the rink. It was comical because the French kissing, cursing and showing off totally ‘contradicted’ the retro rainbows’ wholesome vibe. Chances were great that a teen experienced their first kiss or first attempt at smoking a cigarette at the Skate Station. Needless to mention, if a teenager wore fashionable, expensive shoes and left them in an ‘unlocked’ locker, he/she stood a decent chance at them being stolen. RUN DMC wrote a few lyrics in “My Adidas” forewarning people their Adidas shoes were a theft hazard – “I like to sport em, that’s why I bought em. A sucker tried to steal em so I caught em and I fought em,” but many didn’t listen. Instead, the lyrics were more like, “My Adidas. Walked through -skate station- floors and roamed all over my-back-home floors.” Haha.
Daytime hours had been available on Saturdays and Sundays. Most kids rented their skates; however, there were some strap-over-shoe skaters. Honestly, toddlers who wore plastic Fisher-Price skates were better off than strap-over-shoe skaters because they basically walked around the rink vice skating on a death-trap concoction of a roller shoe. The Hokey Pokey was in its prime. A boring, lengthy game had been played which involved a creepy furry mouse character skating around throwing big fluffy dice into the air. Numbers were setup at each corner of the rink. When the music stopped, skaters had to pause at a numbered corner. Whoever stood at the numbered corner the die landed on was asked to leave the floor. A painful-to-watch rendition of ‘trios’ had been popular among families. It was like watching a road roller flatten and level a construction site. Kids were falling all over place causing other kids to trip and tumble. Unskillful roller skating parents were stuck holding their kid up by their belt loops giving them embarrassing wedgies. A teenager ONLY joined one of those daytime sessions if (1) Their parents coerced them into attending their sibling’s birthday party, or (2) The teen wanted to practice skating to improve their skills for Friday or Saturday night. The problem with daytime practicing had been the many amateurs rolling around the rink. Teenagers had to weave in, out and between the many struggling skaters. He/she was basically starring in their own real-life ‘Frogger’ game. Furthermore, those kid’s swift moves were unpredictable. A child could be straight-line skating then suddenly dart off the floor for a bathroom break without any warning signal. For teenagers, that was catastrophic if they hadn’t been strong enough to swoop in, lift the little kid up in the air and save them from a bone-breaking collision. If the teen coasted into the kid and knocked him/her down, they instantly gained the title of ‘Douchebag of the Year’ by observing parents. To make matters worse, the DJ would cut off the music so everyone could gather around the desperate child making the teen feel that much more like dog crap.
No other days of the week competed with the excitement of Friday and Saturday nights. Friday night skating hours had been from 7 – 10:30 p.m. Saturday nights were divided with the first half being skating and the second, dancing. Come mid-week, their hyped plans were already in motion of which friend would sleep over, transportation, and what outfit they’d possibly wear. Style mattered more than beauty itself. A teenager couldn’t just roll out of bed with greasy hair, get dressed, and hit the Skate Station feeling confident in their surroundings. Perfected grooming was required before a teenager left their house.
For girls, makeup was essential. It didn’t matter if she had beautiful skin, her face needed to portray the 80s image Madonna had imposed upon our society. Wet N’ Wild cosmetics were the cheapest around but with any luck her mom upgraded her at least to Cover Girl. Blue, purple, pink and green eye shadow colors were typical. Navy blue eyeliner and mascara were a plus over black. HAIR – The bigger, the better. Skyscraper bangs yet curled backward at the very tip. Chances were high she had a spiral perm to go along with her outrageous bangs. At that point, she had to make a hair decision. Would it be a banana clip tonight or hair down with voluptuous curls and hair wings? A banana clip was cute but hair down was critical if she wanted to feel sexy. Most girls were professionals when it came to their hair wings. After using a glob of gel or mousse, the goal was to hold out the side of hair (just above the ear) while blow drying and hair spraying the hell out of it. Then, stop, tease with a big comb, and repeat. Salon Selectives was a far better choice than Aquanet. Her hair needed to smell sensual and Aquanet stunk like Lysol. Salon Selectives gave girls a lettering-system to choose from to determine how ‘concrete’ they needed their hair to be. If she was smart, she went with the stiff-as-a-board option in a green apple scent. If green apple wasn’t available, another hair spray with a fruity scent such as watermelon or strawberry sufficed. The reason hair wings or chick mullets were stylish had been to show off their many ear piercings. If she didn’t have at least two piercings in each ear, she was slacking and needed to coach her parents a little more. Dangle or hoop earrings were essential. Stud earrings were appropriate for the second or third piercings. For attire, an airbrushed t-shirt with her boyfriend’s name on it was sweet. If her airbrushed t-shirt were part of a matching ‘Best Friends’ set she could only wear it if both she and her BFF were skating together on the same night. Most of those creative airbrushed t-shirts came from Kings Dominion or Ocean City which privileged her with ‘bragging rights.’ Rock band t-shirts were another option. A chick couldn’t go wrong displaying “Guns n’ Roses” across her chest. Other tops were cropped, striped, laced, and colorful. LA Gear made a big splash across the nation with their cheesy matching jeans and glitter jean jackets. “Pegged,” also known as “tight-rolled” jeans had taken over. In hindsight, teens looked ridiculous but everyone had been wearing them so no one asked questions. Coke clothing was very popular and almost every teen owned at least one Coca-Cola shirt. A few pairs of colored scrunchy socks were a must. Spray on some Liz Claiborne or Love’s Baby Soft perfume and she was set to go.
For guys, it was as simple as having a clean image and wearing cologne such as Drakkar Noir or Obsession. It was sexy for their cologne to linger as they sped by the ladies. Black, stonewashed or ripped jeans were hip. A rock band t-shirt or any colored shirt paired with a jean jacket worked. Logo shirts such as Adidas and OP had become hot on the scene as well. At that time, feathered mullets were in but they weren’t a ‘must’. It wasn’t uncommon to spot a comb in a guy’s back pocket of his jeans to keep his mullet in check. Rat tails were no longer cool. For a teenage boy it was more about his ‘status’ vice looks. Two separate all-male skate gangs named ‘The Midnight Express’ and ‘Playboy Express’ had taken root. Both consisted of four to six males who wore matching jackets displaying their gang’s title on the back. Both gangs wow’d the girls with their ‘in-sync skating.’ The Playboy Express took championship as the most popular, cutest guys with the best in-sync skate moves. In comparing the two skating gangs, it was like a ‘Phil Collins / Jon Bon Jovi analogy.’ Meaning, both artists sang brilliantly and had numerous Number 1 Billboard hits but would a girl rather wake up next to Phil Collins or Jon Bon Jovi in the morning? The answer was simple – Jon Bon Jovi…in essence, the Playboy Express beat the competition. If he wasn’t a member of either gang, his second vote of popularity came if he was a ‘Calvert County’ boy. Of course St. Mary’s County had many good looking boys but most girls knew them already because the town was so small. However, dating a St. Mary’s County guy had its perks. It was easier and more convenient. A long distance phone bill had been associated with calling Calvert phone numbers then. The Calvert boys were new meat which most St. Mary’s County girls found stimulating. There wasn’t a boy-toy ‘Samantha Fox’ or ‘Vixen’ rocker babe rolling around the rink for a guy’s eye candy pleasure so they learned to love the pretty St. Mary’s County girls. It was a win-win.
The DJ held the biggest role in the place. He controlled everyone’s happiness. If his music sucked that night, so did their night of skating. The DJ booth sat very high on a black platform making it near Impossible to request songs without looking like a total idiot. Every once in a while a random teenager would jump up and down in front of the DJ booth trying to grab his attention of which he usually ignored. He played the necessary grooves for the Playboy Express could show off their moves such as “Casanova,” “Rock Steady,” “Lean on Me,” and “Sardines and Pork and Beans.” Cliques felt justified gathering in the center of the rink to scream out the last lyric of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock!” It was hilarious. Teenagers began associating songs with their music videos to a point that listening to “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake prompted thoughts of a seductive Tawnie Kitaen spread across the hood of a car. It was no different when the crowd heard “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael, then suddenly petite Asians in hot lingerie dashed through their minds. Teens learned of the word ‘Monogamy’ because he wrote it in lipstick across an Asian’s bare back. Also, the curiosity of what Slash’s face looked like under that huge hat and piles of hair was a guessing game. There was no Internet so Google wasn’t an option. Any information a teenager learned about music typically came from the ‘Can’t Stop the Music’ store in Lexington Park. Even 80s tragedies had been hilarious. Every teen boogied down to Milly Vanilly’s “Blame It on The Rain” and “Girl You Know It’s True.” Nobody knew it wasn’t actually them singing. Moreover, no one wanted to openly admit to liking two skinny shirtless guys wearing matching spandex shorts with suspenders.
Sometimes the DJ soured a teen’s mood by playing dreadful songs that no roller skater wanted to hear such as “La Bamba,” “The Lady in Red,” and “Breakout (Swing out Sister).” Although many teens loved Madonna, none of them wanted to hear her annoying “La Isla Bonita” lyrics. Even worse was hearing “Beds Are Burning” by Midnight Oil or “Stand” by R.E.M. Even their music videos were lame. A total DJ brain freeze resulted in a song like “Luka” – One of the worst songs of late-80s…”I live on the second floor. I live upstairs from you. Yes, I think you’ve seen me before.” “Shoot me now,” a teenager thought to themselves. Who cared where Luka lived or her drama? Perhaps the DJ purposely played those songs to push the crowd out the door sooner knowing they’d all head to Nicolletti’s to hang out.
Trios allowed teens to cut loose on the skate floor and I learned that firsthand. There was nothing more daring or foolish than having a muscular teenage boy inner trio, a middle person, then a boney stick-figured 13 year old girl (me) on the end. When the inner person, Chris, stopped mid-way and swung me and the middle party, Kristi, forward, it was the embodiment of ‘SKATE or DIE’. Kristi let go of my hand and I flew so fast that I was incapable of slowing down let alone stopping. I literally felt my speed skate wheels shaking and vibrating as if the bearings couldn’t keep up. It’s every skeletal girl’s worst nightmare – flying into a pack of other trios not knowing if you should wipe a few out on the floor or try another means of stopping. I decided to drop down and slide. I felt the horrendous road rash skinning my butt and thigh alive. Trios were in front of me and a big wall to the right of me. One was about to become my up-close-and-personal-date in about three seconds. The last I remember had been waking up to a huge group of teens circled around me, no music, and blood all over my face and shirt. My first reaction was, “Where are my teeth?” Thankfully my teeth were still intact but the gash in my chin was a disaster that needed immediate medical attention. Eight stitches later, I was out of the skating arena for a few weeks which totally sucked. My social life was ruined until I returned.
There were plenty of song opportunities for teenagers to show off their skills or looks – Skating for Ladies Only, Men Only, Backwards Only. Usually the ladies chatted among their friends as they skated around the floor. The mood was completely different for Men Only skating. They were competitive and only the expert skaters dared to enter the rink during that song. A line of guys would soar by at a high speed, selectively slapping the hands of girls that anxiously stood on the sidelines. It was a subtle way of flirting for both parties without having to exchange words.
Slow songs had been a romantic way of ending the evening with couple’s skating. The last slow song gave everyone a chance to communicate or ~make out~ before departing for the night. The DJ would bust out Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You” song starting with, “…and this song goes out to Christy and Bobby, Michelle and Kevin, and Jessica and Mike.” It became apparent that many couples were suffering near-breakups and tears were about to roll. Side-by-side hand holding wasn’t chic but it served its purpose. If a teen wanted to look super-cool, he/she had to skate backward in front of their companion during the song while holding only one of their partner’s hands. “Angel” by Aerosmith, “Anything for You” by Gloria Estefan, “Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone)” by Cinderella, and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison were all well-liked. The only song a teenager didn’t want to hear during couple’s skating had been “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. Yuck. It was the most non-romantic, depressing slow song of the late-80s and it only surfaced when the DJ had suffered another brain freeze.
Virtually everything about the 80s was over-the-top – the fashion, the hairdos, the music, and the movies. We have to appreciate the cheerfulness and bright colors that decade brought to our childhoods. I definitely think the 80s had been one of the most iconic decades for music thus far. As an 80s teen, I’m thankful the Skate Station played such an awesome role in a lot of our memories.
Shout out to our roller skating posse:
Kristi, Tania, Andy L., Eddie A., Chris L., Kelly Y., Toot, Chris B., Ronnie, Kevin M., Kevin L., Bobby R., Sheri R., Christine and Tammy.
Such good times! Thanks for the memories!