Originally published at Dope Magazine
BY SHWA LAYTART - OCTOBER 10, 2018
Producer, entrepreneur, announcer, manager and comedian—always the entertainer, creating culture, is what Jerry Seltzer did. The man behind the scenes, promoting our American life.
Jerry was born in the middle of the great depression. His father Leo Seltzer was also an entrepreneur and during a time when everyone was trying to make a buck, Leo had to be creative. Based on his interest in Walk-a-thons, Leo created a contest with people on skates and thus the sport of roller derby was born. Roller derby, in the height of its season, packed arenas all across the country.
During this epic time, roller derby—a truly American-made sport was headed by the one and only Jerry Seltzer.
Seltzer is a promoter at heart and once he closed the International Roller Derby League, retirement was the furthest thing from his mind. His years of traveling the U.S. with roller derby had allowed him multiple opportunities and taught him where to work, when to work, and most importantly, who to work with. Being the promoter of one of the most popular sports in America, granted him some privileges and introduced him to most of the famous entertainers of the era. It didn’t take long for Jerry to become one of the biggest music promoters in the U.S.
Jerry Seltzer Achievements
From 1959 to 1973 CEO of the International Roller Derby League
1974 Co-founded BASS Tickets
1970s to1980s he promoted some of the largest and most successful bands and events in the country
1983 became the VP of Marketing and Sales for Ticketmaster
1985 San Francisco Mayor declared November 18th, Jerry Seltzer Day for his work with the teenage rehab center, Thunder Road
1997 Cofounded the Sonoma Film Festival
Board Member of the Bay Area American Red Cross holding blood drives throughout California
Now known as The Commissioner of modern-day roller derby
More beach-boy than cowboy, Jerry has helped promote and build some of the most notable and respected country western performers, like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard—to name a few. Seltzer has worked with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and The Rolling Stones. Not to mention comedians like Robin Williams and the one-an act, Smothers Brothers.
I met Jerry in 2014 when I invited him to come to see me announce my daughter’s Jr. derby team as well as the adult roller derby bout. Once I found out that the Commissioner lived in the county, I knew I needed him there for support. Funny thing is, I almost had to sneak him into the game because the young volunteers didn’t know who he was. Luckily, I did my best to entertain and the next day Jerry sent me a message, “You’re a pretty good announcer.”Coming from one of America’s most successful promoters, I was honored and we became friends. I went on to announce another two years of roller derby after that.
His kindness and generosity won me over instantly. But it was his wit and sense of humor that made me a huge fan.
To this day, even on oxygen, Jerry can whip out Facebook posts that bring tears to my eyes. His sentiment is always hilarious and poignant.
Some of the funniest stories and thoughts from a man who’s worked with some of music and sport’s greatest legends. A man who has smoked weed with Willie Nelson and turned down cocaine from the Hell’s Angels, according to Seltzer. One of the greatest gifts Jerry will leave behind is his blog, RollerDerbyJesus.com
These days, we’re all just elated to see a social media post from Jerry. Recently he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. I spent a morning with Jerry the day after his 86th birthday. Bright eyed with a wit and memory that kept me on my toes, I listened to Jerry tell tales, remembering stories he hadn’t told anyone. He spoke of his wife Judi’s battle with cancer and how he was the old dog that was supposed to break on through to the other side first. We also joked about cannabis finally becoming legal in California, barely giving him enough time to enjoy it! (wink)
Currently, Jerry is using infused coconut oil and CBD to help get him through the day. The hardest part for Jerry right now is not having enough energy to entertain. It doesn’t stop him, it just slows him down.
Behind the scenes, Jerry Seltzer has always been a part of America’s fabric and there is no doubt that he will always reign the champion of a pivotal chapter in the cultural landscape of entertainment.
“I know he’s in his 80s but really he’s like hanging out with one of the kids. Just full of life. And living it. Jerry Seltzer happens to be a super interesting human being with lots of great stories he’s just… well, really cool. I’m glad to have met him and call him my friend.” -Shannon Modar AKA Country Bizcutz, Sonoma County Roller Derby