Missi Kroge of the Secret Servix all-girl scooter club on the birth of Mile High Mayhem
The women of Secret Servix in San Francisco.
As a founding member of the Secret Servix all-girl scooter club in 1995, Missi Kroge and her friends made a place for women on two wheels where previously there hadn't been much room. Although Kroge has since gone from a college kid hang-about to a business professional with an MBA -- a certified grown-up -- she says her love for vintage Lambrettas and Vespas hasn't waned.
In advance of tonight's opening of the Mile High Mayhem weekend scooter throwdown, Kroge spoke with us about the origins of the Secret Servix, and the group's first impromptu rally that turned into the fifteenth annual party.
Westword: How was the Secret Servix scooter club formed?
When we started our girls scooter club back in the day, there were a couple of clubs -- like Ace Scooter Club, and a club that's no longer around called the Pub Scouts. I was actually in that club for a little bit -- it was just about finding different people that were into scooters. There was no shop, so there was a lot of making your own parts and trying to put your bike together as best you could.
As far as the Secret Servix, there were a couple of girls here in Denver (who were scooter riders.) Scooters were really big in San Francisco, and we were all going to a scooter rally out there called Scooter Rage. I think it was ever before our first rally, like '94 or '95?
There's a big club there called the Secret Society Scooter Club, and they wouldn't let girls into their club*. So we decided, if they're the Secret Society, we'll be the Secret Servix and we'll be a girls' club. I wanted to call it something related to Audrey Hepburn, but Secret Servix was more of an "in your face" to those guys.
My friend Chrissy Hyatt (then Chrissy Hyder), who lives in Georgia now, sort of spearheaded the Secret Servix. We all lived in a house that used to be the Pub Scout scooter club house, and before that was the Blue Smoke scooter club house. Ironically, it was at 1330 York Street in Denver, across from Alcoholics Anonymous. It's sort of where it all started.
Fast-forward to now, there are quite a few girls in the club -- around twenty. It's vintage (scooters) only, and we kind of pick and choose who's in the club. We've got members in New York, California, Florida, Georgia, all over the place. Back then, most of us were in school or just hanging about. Nowadays, we're stay-at-home moms, interior designers, photographers, nurses and contract negotiators. We've got some girls that are married, some are single, some with girlfriends -- we're a diverse group.
Did you feel this "boys-only" attitude was just the SF scene, or the scooter scene in general?
No, but there are definitely more girls clubs now. But back then, you'd here about scooter clubs like the Hell's Belles up in Portland, or later on, there was an all girls' club in New York that formed. So they started to crop up, but back when we started there weren't as many girls in the scene -- which was fun, because you just palled around.
How did Mile High Mayhem come to be?
Our first rally was for our birthdays. Normal rallies we saw were kind of like, do a ride, go to a club later on. So we did a ride and ended up at Coors Brewery and did a tour. That night we did a "formal evening" -- we all wore prom dresses and suits. One of the things we did for the rally that we still try to do now are "style awards." We have these little "Secret Servix Style Awards" ribbons, and we go around and give awards for "best smile," "best sunglasses," "cutest couple," cheesy stuff. We give out, like, a hundred of them. Everyone walks away with a little ribbon and memory of the rally. [Laughs.]
We saw good success -- we started talking with other scooter kids, like, all of these other cities are starting to have their own weekend rallies. Let's make ours bigger than this one rally, and make it a city rally. We were trying to decide what weekend to do it, and we thought, why not use the same weekend that we did the Secret Servix ride? It kind of morphed into the first Mile High Mayhem (in 1997).
It's gone through quite a few hands -- people like Pamela Anderson-Reike of Ace Scooter Club and Cindy Shattuck were big at helping to continue the rally. Phil Lombardo, he's kind of considered "The Mayor of Denver," has always done crazy hair for the rallies. There's been a lot of people involved over the years.
*Missi says the Secret Society now has one female member of the scooter club.
Missi and husband Jon's wedding at the Euro Lambretta scooter rally in Assisi made the Italian papers in 2003.
What is it about group riding, or in general, scooter riding, that is special to you?
I was never in a sorority, or anything like that. But I imagine it's kind of like that: a group of friends with a common denominator of enjoying scooter riding. And enjoying each other and having something to do, planning events, doing things together. There are a lot of creative girls in our club, so it's fun to get together.
It's such a great feeling to be able to get on your scooter and just ride. It's the freedom of being able to go anywhere -- and look cute doing it. [Laughs.]
Why did you get into scooters in the first place?
The style. Scooters are unique. Most of the time, scooters are one-of-a-kind; you can't just go to the store and buy one. You have to find one, and it's kind of the thrill of the hunt. My favorite scooter I own is a 1959 Series 1 Lambretta -- it so happened that, as the internet was getting started and I was living at the pub scout house, a farmer from Nebraska called the house and I happened to answer the phone. He had seen (a posting on the Internet) about the scooter club, and said he had one of these scooters, and offered to sell it for $500. For $50, he drove it to Denver. I still have it today.
You have multiple scooters -- Do you know what you'll be riding for the rally? I have a friend coming out from San Francisco, and she's going to be riding my Series 1. I might ride my Starstream Labretta, or I have a Vespa 150 with a 135 engine in it, or talk to my husband (Jon Kroge) into letting me ride his Lambretta DL. I married my mechanic. [Laughs] My husband runs Jet200, which focuses mainly on Lambrettas and Lambretta parts. I don't mind working on my own scooters, but it's nice to not to have to sit in a (work) meeting nowadays and be digging the dirt out from under my nails. [Laughs.] I guess that's a sign that I've grown up.
You and Jon got married in Italy at a scooter rally, right?
We had both been into scooters for a while, and we were planning a trip to Euro Lambretta in Italy in 2003. A friend who is originally from Italy and was going to be traveling with us said, "Hey! Why don't you just get married while you're in Italy?" It's a ton of paperwork to make it legit over there, but luckily, we had some people helping us out. There's nothing like getting married at a scooter rally with all of these people. [Laughs.]
We were in Assisi, and Vittorio (Tessera) -- who runs Casa Lambretta, a company that makes reproductions of Lambretta parts -- pulled out an old car that was previously used to tour the Lambretta factory. The last person who rode in it was Prince Philip, so it had, like, the British flag all over it, and a clear plastic roof. I drove up in that, and my husband drove up on the scooter -- which we now own. We got married there, in the middle of town, and the press showed up. It was weird.
We then caught up with the scooter rally, so it was like having a really big wedding reception with a bunch of people from all over Europe who didn't speak English. [Laughs.]
Mile High Mayhem begins tonight, with a ride kicking off at 8 p.m. from GB Fish & Chips, 5325 East Colfax Avenue. Riders will continue down the main strip, picking up scooter clubs along the way, and eventually meet up at Nallen's, 1429 Market Street. For a full schedule of Mayhem events running throughout the weekend, visit the rally's official website.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.