Mike spent virtually every weekend at the Palace until he was 13, when the rink closed down. Then Vivian LayPort began spending her weekends driving her sons to other rinks in the Los Angeles area. During the week Mike went through the process of getting educated. He learned to tap-dance at Hollywood Professional School, where he was one of four in a class of 35 who were neither in television nor the movies.
Of all the movie stars who showed up at the school, the one Mike really longed to see was Mickey Rooney. Rooney had played the part of Johnny (Fireball) Casar, a Roller Derby hero of the '40s, in a film entitled The Fireball. It is still Mike's favorite movie, one that he has seen, thanks to television, 18 times.
Mike next went to John Burroughs Junior High School in Los Angeles, where he was the only Methodist in an overwhelmingly Jewish student body. At Los Angeles High School, he played strong-side tackle and was one of only 10 whites on the 50-man squad. After two years at Los Angeles Valley College, Mike dropped out and joined the Marines, which gave him a chance to skate at rinks in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore. He also wandered through Thailand looking for a rink built by missionaries; he had seen its picture in a roller skating magazine. He found it at the end of a three-mile footpath, surrounded by the jungle. Unfortunately, he didn't have his skates with him.
The Sunday practice at the Skate Ranch over, Mike Lay Port drives home. Sam, the Labrador, greets him at the door, holding what was once a basketball in his mouth. Mike's wife, Donna, is in the kitchen fixing dinner with his mother. They ask him how the practice went. LayPort goes to the refrigerator, takes a Bubble Up to the solarium and switches on the TV. There are trophies on the walls, medals won in races he was too young to remember and boxes of photographs from days at the Palace, the Bakersfield regionals and the 14 national meets he has skated in.
He is watching the Roller Derby on Channel 5—a match between the Detroit Devils and the Los Angeles T-Birds. "People ask me why I don't skate the Derby and make some money," he says. "Raspberries! You couldn't pay me $20,000 to do that stuff. I'd get bounced around until I looked like Sam's basketball. When my legs go I'll probably play goalie on a roller-hockey team. But you know what I'd really like to do someday? I'd like to be a sportscaster—any sport, not just skating. The trouble is, my voice is too high. But if I had my adenoids removed...." Like Big Red, the rooster, the competition is wanting and the world is closing in.