A story in Monday's Washington Post incorrectly identified the musician for Sunday afternoon's street and roller skating party at 19th and Q Streets NW. Mark Dinsmore of Prime Unison provided the music. CAPTION: (NEW-LINE)Picture 1, At yesterday's Dupont Circle party on 19th Street NW: "The whole skating phenomenon has just exploded....It all happened so fast...." By Douglas Chevalier - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Young street skater takes a tumble at yesterday's party, which called attention to the summer's new fad. By Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post; Picture 3, Gliding to the music, Raymond Gibbs practices juggling while skating. By Douglas Chevalier - The Washington Post
The thumping, driving sound of disco music brought a crowd of hundreds back again to Dupont Circle yesterday for the craze that has taken Washington this summer: street roller skating.
From noon until dusk would-be-poets, young office workers, lawyers, journalists, college summer interns, gays and straights and the usual Dupont Circle hangers-on came trendily dressed in casual costume for the fun at a big disco roller skating party on 19th Street NW, just north of Dupont Circle.
They sat along the curbs in their Calvin Klein jeans, silk and satin gym shorts and straight legged Levi's to don rented boot skates while popular radio station WKYS pumped the air full of disco.
Guests at the Dupont Plaza Hotel and its starched linen restaurant, Stephanie's, peered from windows at the crowd, glide-stepping, twisting and often tripping and falling to the music of Donna Summer wailing "Hot Stuff."
On the other side of the street, at Kramer Books and Afterwords, a bookstore and European sidewalk cafe that sponsored the event, late afternoon diners watched the sakters with a mixture of curiosity and amusement. Some of the diners would get up and skate from time to time, unseated by the spirit of the music and boosted by a daring sense of confidence.
The sponsors called the party "roller madness."
With arms and knees covered in protective padding, Don Free, blond and 23, whizzed by, his open white shirt and thin navy blue necktie flapping in the breeze. Gliding by him came another man, wearing a diamond stud in one ear lobe, blue satin trunks, an athletic T-shirt and sneaker-top skates.
Barbara Kaye, a Dupont Circle area resident, lurched timidly forward on her skates, assisted by her 20-year-old daughter Jane.
"It's all my daughter's fault," said Barbara Kaye as she stumbled toward the curb. "I came by here and it looked like fun. I haven't skated in more than 30 years, back when I was a child."
"It's somewhat of a fad that seems like it's been growing for the past couple of months," Kaye said. "I saw one woman skating on the way to work. At first I was startled, but later when I thought about it, I said, "why not?" "
Through the big WKYS speakers on the sidewalk, Diana Ross was belting, "I was all right until love showed me who was the boss," and Raymond Gibbs, skating to the music, juggled Indian clubs. Free skated nearby, practicing a cross-cut glide.
Free, a skater for only about a month, gets up at one or two o'clock in the morning and polishes glides and turns on the dark streets of Washington. Free said he skates from his apartment off Dupont Circle to his office on Pennsylvania Avenue where he works for a law firm. He said he skates to the supermarket but takes them off inside because the manager does not want him skating around the aisles. Free says he picked up his enthusiasm from the New York disco skating craze. With the energy crunch, he said, "It's a good way to get around."
"I can get a sense of mobility when I street-skate. I like the fact that I can cut across traffic circles and not have to go around them. But you have to watch out for the bottle caps, the twigs and the rocks."
Ed Butler, an off-duty WJLA-TV (Channel 7) cameraman said, "Oh man, skating is the closest thing to flying. The flow of motion on skates is incredible. To know that you can have control over eight wheels is something."
Butler, who brought his own portable safety wrist casts, his own skates and enough enthusiasm and energy for the afternoon, dodged the novice skaters, by skating backwards, sideways and in twisted circles, shifting his body side to side to the music.
David Pike, a reporter for U.S. News and World Report, skated slowly along the sidewalk, greeting friends and seeking safety from the crowd of street skaters circling around and around. He was grabbed from behind by red-haired Susan Stewart, who lunged forward when she tripped on the sidewalk, almost sending both of them to the ground.
""A few months ago, street skating in this city was almost nonexistent," said Mark Fleisher, a spokesman for Hot Skates, one of three companies renting skates at the party yesterday for $2 an hour.
"The whole skating phenomenon has just exploded," he said. "In the past eight weeks, we've seen six new rental and sales companies open up in the area. It all happened so fast, there are no rental agencies for street skates listed in the yellow pages. Now there are 10 in the area."
Roller skating is a fad in this city this summer that appears to have no bounds of either geography or class. During rush hour, men in three-piece suits whiz on skates along K Street downtown and Connecticut Avenue north of Dupont Circle, weaving in and around the throngs of office workers hurrying home. Students at the University of Maryland skate to classes. Late evening diners at Gusti's restaurant and other sidewalk cafes and bars around 19th and M streets NW are sometimes startled to see fashionably dressed couples in evening attire emerging from nearby nightclubs and discos to roller skate leisurely along the sidewalks and street corners.
There is outdoor roller skating on the mall on weekend evenings, at Pierce Mill in a lovely clearing in Rock Creek Park, other rinks in Fort Dupont Park and Anacostia Park in Southeast Washington and in Rockville and Alexandria. Guests roller skate to artsy Adams-Morgan parties this summer, leaving clusters of tangled skates at the door.
A thin, black man in an upturned white Panama hat and rows of colored beads and chains stood watching the skaters at yesterday's Dupont Circle party. He called himself "the Spade" and looked alternately bored and bewildered. He said he had been a regular around "The Circle" since 1967, but that this was different from the circle he fondly remembered. Gone were the congas and songs of protest in the park on a summer Sunday afternoon.
"Half the people I used to know when I played bongos and conga drums in the Circle are dead now, dead from overdoses," he said as the crowds of well-dressed skaters glided by.
"More money is coming into the area, and THE PEOPLE have moved out, man, all of the colorful people like Big Jim, my guardian angel, are gon," he said.
"It's like general decadence here, they got the money and they got their games," he said.
For years, Dupont Circle has been something of a bellwether for the city. Many of the dominant currents of the city pass through the area: the burgeoning, moneyed new downtown to the south; changing neighborhoods once held firmly by the poor on the east; the grand old stone houses and apartment buildings along Connecticut Avenue NW to the north, and Georgetown to the west.
It has been Washington's answer to Washington Square in Greenwich Village, San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, Chicago's Lincoln Park.
"There has always been a matter of outrage here," said Spade, his big mirrored sunglasses picking up a panorama of the disco roller skates.
"What is in, is general decadence, man," he said. "Something big time is going to go down soon. Something like this always happens before the collapse of something."
Spade turned away, his attention captured by the sight of a pretty brown-haired woman in tight red, draw-string pants. She spurned him, and Spade drifted off, searching for the friend who had promised him a bottle of beer. In the background, the disco speakers boomed strains of the song "Good Times," by the group Chic: "Good times, these are fun good times, leave your cares behind."