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Images capture ’70s roller disco Flipper’s, a celebrity hot spot

In 1978, an Englishman named Ian Ross came to New York City and headed to the Empire Roller Disco in Brooklyn. The Flatbush rink opened in 1941 and remained a popular spot throughout the decades. By the 1970s, it was such a hot spot that Cher throw parties there and skated with the legendary Bill Butler, whose nicknames include Brother Bounce, the Godfather of Roller Disco and other monikers, according to a 2020 New York Times profile on the skater. Ross would open his own roller disco called Flipper’s in Los Angeles in 1979. Above, three skaters embody the decade’s fashion at Flipper’s.

Photographer Craig Cisco Dietz was there to chronicle the scene, which included celebrities, artists, musicians, rockers and wannabes, 'who got in,' he said. Dietz, who was born in LA and attended UCLA, told DailyMail.com that 1979 was a 'very different world. Los Angeles was roaring.' There was a fun spirit that permeated the city, he said. 'It was the last hurrah in many ways.' Above, an image of Flipper's skating rink with its stage, center, where bands like Le Roi and the Lifters, played.

Photographer Craig Cisco Dietz was there to chronicle the scene, which included celebrities, artists, musicians, rockers and wannabes, ‘who got in,’ he said. Dietz, who was born in LA and attended UCLA, told DailyMail.com that 1979 was a ‘very different world. Los Angeles was roaring.’ There was a fun spirit that permeated the city, he said. ‘It was the last hurrah in many ways.’ Above, an image of Flipper’s skating rink with its stage, center, where bands like Le Roi and the Lifters, played.

Dietz said Ian Ross was a casual and caring guy who set the tone for Flipper's. The photographer said he spent over a year documenting the roller disco and did not see fights or aggression. Ross, known for helping to found pirate radio station Caroline in the 1960s, married Roxana 'Bunty' Lampson and the couple has six children, including model Liberty Ross. Above, the couple's eldest son Atticus, a musician and composer who won an Oscar with Trent Reznor for their original score for the movie The Social Network, Bunty and Ross.

Dietz said Ian Ross was a casual and caring guy who set the tone for Flipper’s. The photographer said he spent over a year documenting the roller disco and did not see fights or aggression. Ross, known for helping to found pirate radio station Caroline in the 1960s, married Roxana ‘Bunty’ Lampson and the couple has six children, including model Liberty Ross. Above, the couple’s eldest son Atticus, a musician and composer who won an Oscar with Trent Reznor for their original score for the movie The Social Network, Bunty and Ross.

'I got myself to Flatbush by subway because a yellow cab wouldn't go,' Ross told the New York Times. 'And it was a complete epiphany: a wall of noise, heavy funk/disco type music and probably 900 people going around this wooden rink dressed in gold and silver and glitter and turbans and God knows what.'

‘I got myself to Flatbush by subway because a yellow cab wouldn’t go,’ Ross told the New York Times. ‘And it was a complete epiphany: a wall of noise, heavy funk/disco type music and probably 900 people going around this wooden rink dressed in gold and silver and glitter and turbans and God knows what.’

Artists, rockers and musicians flocked to Flipper's. Above, Chalo (Charlie) Quintana, second from the right, and some pals. Quintana was a drummer for the 'punk band Social Distortion, but he first came to fame as the teenage drummer for the Plugz, the groundbreaking L.A. punk group that was among the first to be started by local Latino musicians,' according to his 2018 obituary in the Los Angeles Times. He died at the age of 56.

Artists, rockers and musicians flocked to Flipper’s. Above, Chalo (Charlie) Quintana, second from the right, and some pals. Quintana was a drummer for the ‘punk band Social Distortion, but he first came to fame as the teenage drummer for the Plugz, the groundbreaking L.A. punk group that was among the first to be started by local Latino musicians,’ according to his 2018 obituary in the Los Angeles Times. He died at the age of 56.

The new book about the rink, Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace 1979-1981, was undertaken by Ian Ross' daughter, Liberty, according to The New York Times. Liberty Ross is a model who is married to Jimmy Iovine, an influential record executive who co-founded Beats with Dr. Dre. 'Obviously, I don't remember anything firsthand,' Liberty Ross, 43, told the Times. 'This thing kept happening, though, that whenever I mentioned that my dad was Flipper, people's memories would come flooding out.' Above, cool kids hanging out at Flipper's.

The new book about the rink, Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace 1979-1981, was undertaken by Ian Ross’ daughter, Liberty, according to The New York Times. Liberty Ross is a model who is married to Jimmy Iovine, an influential record executive who co-founded Beats with Dr. Dre. ‘Obviously, I don’t remember anything firsthand,’ Liberty Ross, 43, told the Times. ‘This thing kept happening, though, that whenever I mentioned that my dad was Flipper, people’s memories would come flooding out.’ Above, cool kids hanging out at Flipper’s.

Celebrities like actor David Naughton, above with a friend, also came to Flipper's. Naughton was on a short-lived 1979 TV series called Makin' It. He then portrayed one of two American backpackers who tangled with a supernatural creature in England in the film called An American Werewolf in London, which was released in 1981.

Celebrities like actor David Naughton, above with a friend, also came to Flipper’s. Naughton was on a short-lived 1979 TV series called Makin’ It. He then portrayed one of two American backpackers who tangled with a supernatural creature in England in the film called An American Werewolf in London, which was released in 1981.

Dietz called Ian Ross, known as Flipper, 'the man.' The roller disco was Ross' dream and passion, Dietz told DailyMail.com. Ross, left, is above with some friends at his place. Dietz said he had the owner's permission to take pictures and he got the job through Flipper's publicist, Nan Miller. 'Flipper's was a beacon for diversity. I went there to take pictures and have fun'.

Dietz called Ian Ross, known as Flipper, ‘the man.’ The roller disco was Ross’ dream and passion, Dietz told DailyMail.com. Ross, left, is above with some friends at his place. Dietz said he had the owner’s permission to take pictures and he got the job through Flipper’s publicist, Nan Miller. ‘Flipper’s was a beacon for diversity. I went there to take pictures and have fun’.

Dietz was the informal house photographer for over a year and he estimated that he took around 1,500 images. He told DailyMail.com that black and white was the perfect medium to capture Flipper's. Dietz went to the rink without his camera as well but said he had better access with it. He then sent the contact sheets to Nan Miller, the publicist, who would then mark which ones she wanted him to print with a colored grease pencil, which is the blue seen above. Above, Le Roi and the Lifters with a woman. Dietz said they were a local band that played often at Flipper's.

Dietz was the informal house photographer for over a year and he estimated that he took around 1,500 images. He told DailyMail.com that black and white was the perfect medium to capture Flipper’s. Dietz went to the rink without his camera as well but said he had better access with it. He then sent the contact sheets to Nan Miller, the publicist, who would then mark which ones she wanted him to print with a colored grease pencil, which is the blue seen above. Above, Le Roi and the Lifters with a woman. Dietz said they were a local band that played often at Flipper’s.

'I was able to shoot with a minimal flash,' Dietz explained about his process. He did not sneak photographs and noted that some people were reticent. 'I would never just walk up and stick my camera in someone's face.' Flipper's had a mirror with its name and Dietz said he saw people either coming or going. He would approach people and tell them: 'I like the way you're dressed, let's snap a picture.' Above, a couple in front of Flipper's mirror.

‘I was able to shoot with a minimal flash,’ Dietz explained about his process. He did not sneak photographs and noted that some people were reticent. ‘I would never just walk up and stick my camera in someone’s face.’ Flipper’s had a mirror with its name and Dietz said he saw people either coming or going. He would approach people and tell them: ‘I like the way you’re dressed, let’s snap a picture.’ Above, a couple in front of Flipper’s mirror.

Above, Smutty Smiff, Jerry Nolan and Dibbs Preston at Flipper's. Smutty and Preston were part of a band called the Rockats, which hailed from England and were part of the punk scene in New York City that included CBGB and Max's Kansas City. Nolan was the drummer for the influential punk band the New York Dolls. Smutty, according to the New York Times, was one of Andy Warhol's favorites and was invited to the Factory, and Robert Mapplethorpe took photographs of him.

Above, Smutty Smiff, Jerry Nolan and Dibbs Preston at Flipper’s. Smutty and Preston were part of a band called the Rockats, which hailed from England and were part of the punk scene in New York City that included CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. Nolan was the drummer for the influential punk band the New York Dolls. Smutty, according to the New York Times, was one of Andy Warhol’s favorites and was invited to the Factory, and Robert Mapplethorpe took photographs of him.

LL Cool J once rapped: 'Don't call it a comeback.' While interest in skating and rollerblades has increased during the pandemic, many who already engage in the activity say it never went away. Sales of roller skates and rollerblades have increased. Dietz told DailyMail.com that a revival of Flipper's may open next year. Above, a woman wearing white gloves chats with a fellow skater at Flipper's.

LL Cool J once rapped: ‘Don’t call it a comeback.’ While interest in skating and rollerblades has increased during the pandemic, many who already engage in the activity say it never went away. Sales of roller skates and rollerblades have increased. Dietz told DailyMail.com that a revival of Flipper’s may open next year. Above, a woman wearing white gloves chats with a fellow skater at Flipper’s.


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