“Everybody threw-fucking-down tonight,” says an exhausted Jessica Hanna to her entourage.
Hanna ought to be exhausted — she is, after all a champion. Just minutes before, she had bested a handful of other ladies in an over-the-top spectacle feat of strength — and ok, some finesse — in what was billed as L.A.'s first ever competitive ladies arm wrestling championship.
In the final, Hanna crushed Ladystache, who wore the shame of defeat on her fake facial hair while her conqueror raised an arm with Rosie the Riveter-level pride.
LA LAW — the local permutation of the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestling, or CLAW — was brought to the Bootleg Theater Wednesday night by local theater geeks Amanda McRaven and Elle Spencer, along with a large cohort of their fellow thespians. McRaven likened it to professional wrestling or roller derby, where most of what goes down is pure fun. “Oh, but the wrestling is real, though,” she emphasized.
Mostly though, it had the air of a Ziggy Stardust garden party or John Cameron Mitchell b-roll. There were half-naked, glitter-speckled dudes, awesomely bawdy broads of all shapes and sizes — and y'know, vice versa. Mingled among the spectators were the competitors' entourages — because everyone needs an entourage.
At the evening's opening, each wrestler had a one minute entrance with their entourages, each of which was made up of members of a specific local theater company supporting their competitor. For instance, there was Circle X Theater's Sex-bots and Scientists supporting Droid Rage, aka Samantha Zyck; Opera del Espacio's Matador / Cuadrilla Crusaders there for Kickass Carmen, aka Christina Estrada; and cARTel's Fucking Hipsters (aka Ironic Tee's) supporting Ladystache, aka Laura Cheek. Fighting for the Bootleg itself was Lotte Bootay, who in a nod to classic wrestling, was taken out by a chair to the head and replaced by Hanna, the theater's Producing Director — a move that seemed a bit fishy to us.
It was hardly a clean and fair competition all around, though a trio of hack judges maintained little civility. “You guys had the best bribes,” said Judge Meghan Brown to a losing team. The “judge” then brazenly listed-off the collection of liquor and candy bribes she received in exchange for favorable rulings. “All of that stuff helps in a tie-breaker situation,” she winked.
“We tried to psych them out,” admitted Melanie Keller of Opera del Espacio. “We had the whole gross out thing going — we covered ourselves in whipped cream, chocolate syrup…” Just one example of the no-holds-barred approach that some teams took.
All told, eight troupes / wrestlers competed for 40% of the evening's take, and the winner walked home with the remaining 60%.
“We're going to do four of these a year,” said McRaven after the competition. She sported an out-loud green wig and looked pleasantly worn out at the end of all her hard work. McRaven, 36, saw CLAW in action in her native Charlottesville, VA and brought it to the L.A. theater scene as a way to bring her fellow thespians together outside of conferences — and, naturally, to raise money.
“It got a lot of people together and it really turned into performance art — a hybrid event. I mean, look at Alyson [Schultz, fighting for Sacred Fools]. She's a theater tech, and she's never going to get on the stage — but she can arm wrestle,” McRaven says. “I really love the grassroots nature of it all. But the goal is to give women who want to have this other persona that outlet.”
Co-producer Spencer echoed that sentiment. “This is like taking girl power to a whole new level…to have these women with these entourages and other personalities,” she says. “It also gives them a physical outlet that women don't normally have.”
Hanna also added her two cents. “We're always trying to find ways to get theater groups together [in] fun and exciting ways,” she says. “Usually only one or two groups are excited, but this time everyone we talked to was on board.”
To accusations that she was a ringer, given the dubious circumstances of her last minute addition to the card: “When you're in it, you know. You understand.” Whatever that means.
Fair or foul, clean or dirty, we're excited to see what happens in the world of L.A. Ladies Arm Wrestling next — will Ladystache avenge her honor, in a bold Rocky II -like stroke of ferocity? Or will it be KickAss Carmen, or Droid Rage? We can't wait to find out.