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The L.A. Roller Rink Where the Years Glide By

As a companion to T’s 212 series about New York institutions, the 213 column highlights beloved landmarks in and around Los Angeles.


On a dark night in February, east of the 5 Freeway, south of the 134, down the street from the so-called Gentlemen’s Club, glows the blue neon sign: Moonlight Rollerway. These are the industrial hinterlands of Glendale, a tidy enclave in the rambling city-state that is Los Angeles, and here, among plumbing supply warehouses and an Amazon delivery van lot, sits a squat cinder-block building, an unexpected portal.

Under the white overhang, signage abounds: “No In & Out Privileges,” “No Fast Wild or Reckless Skating,” “Be Neat & Clean.”A lengthy passage politely, firmly reminds visitors that risk of accident is inherent in the sport. “If you are not willing to assume that risk,” it reads, “please do not roller-skate here.”

Like any Los Angeles icon, the rink has its share of screen credits, appearing in TV shows — “Euphoria,” “The Good Life,” “American Horror Story,” “Modern Family” and “GLOW” — and movies like “Beginners,” “Roller Boogie” and “Straight Outta Compton.”Credit…Abdi Ibrahim

Risk assumed, the 30-some customers ahead of me move steadily up the cement ramp to the box office and flash their tickets for the clerk behind the window. Those who’ve brought their own skates — about half the crowd — present them for inspection (no fiberglass wheels, no micro wheels; they can gouge the floor). Then a door slams behind us and we are somewhere else, in the land of motion.

Nostalgia comes fast, from all directions — the black carpet patterned with fluorescent zigzags, the buzz and trill of a Ms. Pacman game, a whiff of some sugary confection being heated at the snack bar — but most of all from the rink, where, beneath two disco balls, skaters revolve, some gliding, some wobbling, one pressing herself against the red-carpeted wall while Donna Summers asks, “Could it be magic?”

Built in 1942 to manufacture airplane parts during World War II, the 70,000-square-foot building on San Fernando Boulevard was converted to a roller rink in 1956.Credit…Abdi Ibrahim

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