MARCH 15, 1979

What has eight wheels, padded antlers, and wears pink satin shorts?


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"Once I'm able to stand up", Suzanne Luskypromised, "I'm going to like this".

"Both of us get a lot of exercise this way", said Graham Beaumont, left, who was walking his dog , Demeian. At right it was Theo Offenbacher's first time on skates, but Jay Kubakawa was willing to teach her a few tricks

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SFChron3-15-79-6.jpg (43524 bytes) Steel wheels clicked in rhythm against the asphalt when Gene Kelly, roller skates attached to his pumps, danced in the MGM musical, "It's Always Fair Weather". As whenever he danced, it looked so easy.

"It was easy", he said the other day. He had done lots harder dances on wheels. He also insisted the skates weren't anything special. "We just picked them up at the hardware store".

In 1955, Kelly's skates, the adjustable clump-to-the-shoe variety, probably cost about $11.89. These days that would get you one wheel.

It would be polyurethane of course. Nobody skates on steel wheels anymore. The cheapest pair of skates you can buy at Skates on Haight, the City's biggest roller skate operation, is $30. But the most popular skates are $90.

At Macys, which only recently, began stocking regular roller skates," the best sellers are about $70. The featured attraction of. recent weeks has been the $38 Pop Wheels, convertible shoe-skates with wheels that retract up into the sole.

While fast movers such as Municipal Court ,Judge Lucy McCabe, who purchased a pair to get her around between chambers ("Only I have to practice a bit more first") have seen the possibilities, these aren't for people interested in rolling around the park.Today's skates are a real investment and lots of people are making it. Skates on Haight sells about 400 pairs a month. Some of these as expensive as $130. Douglas Snyder is the Rolls Royce of skates. $400 a pair but Lee Cole of Skates on Haight says these are impractical: they're made for indoor speedskating.

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Even if you can find a pair of the old fashioned skates, at a flea market or in your attic, you aren't ahead of the game financially. First of all, it can be very difficult to find that most essential of tools, the skate key. Nobody seems to make them anymore.

Then you have to have the skates converted for modern use which cost $47.50 including 8 new polyurethane wheels. If you find it ridiculous to pay that much, to recondition a pair of $1 skates, Cole points that you then got yourself a pair of $90 skates.

Skates come in a variety of shoe styles. The most popular are the familiar rink boot (in leather or vinyl). There's also the jogger shoe or, if you like, you can take in your favorite shoe, and have skates attached.

"Most of be people skating at Golden Gate Park these weekends are renting their skates from Skates on Haight, which has 100 rental pairs ("we sometimes turn them over 4 times on a good Sunday") or from entrepreneurs in rented trucks parked along Lincoln Way . The going rate is $1.50 per hour, $5.00 per day.

But the skates are only part of' the outfit. Knee and elbow pads and gloves can also be: rented, but, the rest of the costume is up to the ingenuity of the individual. Skating is an activity that seems to bring out the exhibitionist in it's participants.

Last fall, Macy's in New York City opened a roller skating boutique in it's Herald Square: store, where, among the usual array of satin shorts, brash slogan T-shirts, wild knee socks and leotards, you can buy hats with padded antlers (to turn you into a Viking) or wings (Mercury) and a neon bright tulle tutu.

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There's also an outfit design for a human sized bumble bee (with wings and antenna)

While Macys here just brought together it's buyers suggestions for the fashionable skater, the possibilities aren't as avant gard (Disco roller dancing which seems to inspire particularly wild outfits, hasn't caught on here yet, in all of the indoor roller skating rinks, which require harder wheeled skates then does asphalt, are still confined to the suburbs.)

Some of the skaters in the park the other day carried radios or had them strapped across their chest. A few wore headsets, which seems the quintessential way to dance to your own drummer. Two skaters who were giving a demonstration of their dance skating skills discovered that it helps if both partners are tuned to the same station.

Roller skating, it advocates insist, is good for you. "You can burn 360 calories an hour skating" according to Sharon Boorston, the author of Keep On Rolling, The Definitive Guide To Skating. Ex-joggers dwell on how much more fun it is to skate.

Werner Erhard has reportedly recommended roller skating to his EST graduates as a Zen experience.

Not everyone, however, gets a boost for the psyche or the physique by skating Ambulances from the Central Emergency cart away about a dozen skaters every Sunday. Most of the injuries are minor, but last weekend, a skater zooming down a hill from Stow Lake was seriously hurt when he collided with a tree.

"Skaters," San Francisco police lieutenant Bill Colville has deduced from observation, "are about as crazy as skiers