Sulo King, pictured at top, says Toni Isbelle (left) was a vital part of San Diego’s hard-rock scene.
Shane Zelm was one of the couple hundred friends who paid tribute to Toni Isbelle last Monday at Skateworld in Linda Vista. Tears were flowing as fellow members of the Starlettes roller-derby team paid tribute to their teammate known as “Rockalishous” who had died two days earlier when a plane slammed into the car she was in on I-15 near Fallbrook.
“After we heard about the accident we were on the phone all day trying to get information,” says Zelm. “I went to Palomar [Hospital]. Her family went to Sharp. They found out later she was never brought to a hospital.”
Zelm says Isbelle was a vital part of San Diego’s hard-rock/metal scene.
“I’ve known her for 17 years,” says Zelm, who sang lead in a number of bands in the late ’90s/early 2000s hard-rock scene, including Ghoulspoon and Life Hates Me. “[Isbelle] poached me from a band called Estabrook’s Hurt to join Ring Underground.”
Zelm tells the Reader that Isbelle, 38, was en route to a roller-derby meet up north.
“All her friends saw her make a positive transformation,” says Zelm. “Roller derby really turned her life around.”
Sulo King, frontman for Authentic Sellout, agrees. “Roller derby was a big transformation for her. She looked the best I had ever seen her. She had a very strong personality. She was great at cheering people up.”
King says Isbelle was part of the metal scene that coalesced around Brick by Brick, which he booked for eight years.
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“Everyone in the scene was like a tight-knit family who would hang out at the Brick or Dream Street. Toni was part of that group. While we may have gone our separate ways, there are certain shows we still come back together for.”
“I think roller-derby people and hard-rock people come from the same walk of life,” says Zelm. “Neither group may fit into mainstream scenes. [Isbelle] related to both, I think, because they both have an aggressiveness, a tenacity, and a thrill for life.”
The accompanying photo was taken February 18 at King’s birthday party show at Winston's in O.B. A memorial show for Toni Isbelle is planned at Brick by Brick April 23.