Andrew J. Epstein discovered roller derby through his grandmother, who worked in it–“not as a player but as a concessions bookkeeper,” he says. “We’d watch it together on TV.” In the early 70s Epstein, a longtime Reader contributor, got permission to undertake a photographic study of the game. “Shooting from the infield”–or inside the track–he found his subject: Joanie Weston, aka the Blonde Bomber, the most recognized skater in roller derby history. She celebrated her 25th anniversary in the sport in 1973 and, after retiring in the late 70s, returned to the rink in 1996, at age 61, for one last lap. Weston died the following year of Creutzfeldt-Jakob (better known as “mad cow”) disease. Recently Epstein retrieved his negatives–which he feared had been destroyed in a fire–and restored the images using a computer. The results are featured in his forthcoming book, The Blonde Bomber: Joanie Weston, Queen of the Roller Derby. An exhibit of photos from the book opens tonight with a reception from 6 to 10 at Paper Boy, 1351 W. Belmont (773-388-8811), and runs through July 16.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andrew Epstein.