My Razzle Dazzle is an unforgettable trip of a lifetime. Beginning in the 1960s in a rural Wisconsin town, Todd Peterson captures every outsider’s candid, moving, and often hilarious coming-out story that will tear your heart out before putting it back together again. His adventures are set against a backdrop of the cultural events of the 1960s and 1970s and a burgeoning gay Mecca that changed our world forever.
Todd Peterson became an outsider at an early age. Ostracized and bullied by his peers at school, a disappointment to his father and brothers, Todd struggles with trying to fit in and prays to be normal. Todd’s only real enjoyment in life was watching Roller Derby on TV, where he identified with the athletes who were outsiders like himself. Todd dreams of a life of adventure and a place where he can belong and find acceptance and love. But was there such a place?
After graduating college, Todd hitches rides across country with little more than a suitcase, money in his pocket, and a dream. Arriving in San Francisco, Todd experiences triumphs and tragedies, both in his personal and professional life as a roller derby athlete.
This story is an autobiographical account of Todd Peterson’s life. Unlike most memoirs, this book reads more like a historical/contemporary novel as Todd relates events that occurred during his youth and young adulthood, coupled with a modern reflection of those events.
Like most memoirs, the social and cultural events play a significant role in the storyline as they help to shape each and every one of us. In this story, Todd’s life was shaped by the mores of the American 1960s and 1970s where the norm was laborer father/stay at home mother; religion and prayer; and homosexuality seen as a psychological disorder and deviancy. Yet, times were changing during this tremulous era. The Civil Rights movement, Kennedy’s assassination, the draft, the war protests, drugs, music, and HIV were changing the fabric of America.
Todd delivers readers a heart wrenching story about how he was bullied (and beaten) by his peers because he was different – except Todd didn’t know why he was different and prayed constantly for God to help him. When the other kids were calling him names he was unfamiliar with, he looked up the words at the library only to find out that he was a “deviant.” I have to say, some of this was heart wrenching to read.
Roller derby plays a starring role in this story. The athletes themselves were outsiders and Todd felt a connection with them. Muscular and tough, Todd saw this sport as a means of gaining acceptance as something other than a “sissy,” both from his peers, but also his family.
San Francisco also plays a very important role in this story. As a Mecca for homosexuals in the 1970s, Todd finds both acceptance and discrimination here. Yet, surrounded by others like him, Todd begins to accept who he is as a person and thrives.
My only issue with this story is that I never really knew whether this was entirely true or whether it had been fictionalized. Regardless, it really didn’t matter to me because I was hooked from the first pages.
Overall, this was a wonderful coming of age story that had me tearing up, laughing hysterically, and rooting for Todd from start to finish! I highly recommend this story!