LUCHA VAVOOM - Summer Nacionales 2008
Poster and photos from the event dedicated to 'Saucy Striptease and Mexican Wrestling.'

Here's the article I wrote for Maxim Magazine in the UK:

VIVA LA LUCHA!
A goat-sucking Chupacabra smacks me in the face with his hoof as he is hurtled through the air by a pissed-off member of the fighting Undead. The ringside audience is scattered, as chairs smash and cans of beer pump foam across the floor. The crowd roars with an approval equal to their shock and disbelief. To the booming sound of Mariachi music, a corseted ring-girl waves a Mexican flag and bounces with glees as the monstrous sweaty hand of a Luchador lifts me to my feet. My benefactor is not rewarded, for a skeleton arm swiftly splinters a 6-string guitar across his skull and he crumples into a twisted heap.

This is Lucha VaVoom, where wrestling from south of the Californian border collides with saucy striptease and satirical comedy to create the wildest, real-life Technicolor Tex Avery cartoon in sparkly spandex the world only dared to dream. Over the course of three nights in the summer heat of Los Angeles, thousands of people will leave with faces beaming, minds permanently altered, though possibly with a few bruises too. For with flying midgets and three-hundred pound Luchadores crushing those fools that thought front row seats were a great idea, it's unwise to take your eyes from either the stage or wrestling ring.

Since it’s unveiling in August 2002, Lucha VaVoom has spread Lucha love with one-off specials to Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Toronto and Amsterdam. Three series of capacity-packed performances of the mammoth production occur every year in L.A., and tonight is the first of the ‘Summer Nacionales’, which sees the show assume a 60’s dragster theme and these performers certainly arrive in Grand Prix style.

With a mob of fans surrounding the entrance of the exotic Mayan, adorned with South American décor of the Ancients, the sound of a thousand wild ponies thunders around the corner. Cassandro and Pimpinela Escarlata sit astride a souped-up dragon, engines revving, brought to a halt by a wave of the chequered flag. The glittery pink and yellow wrestlers, who top the bill in the battle for the Mexican Cup, wave at the screaming crowd, blowing kisses and hopping out from their custom car into the temporary safety of the building. A dozen motors follow in furious pursuit, each carrying wrestlers, midgets and burlesque beauties, all equally as colourful and animated.

I jostle with clambering hands from behind the rail to speak with Dirty Sanchez, one of LVV’s most popular characters. With a handlebar-moustache and a ‘toupee’ over his ghetto groin, the wifebeater-wearing wrestler bounds around the sidewalk and gees the crowd like his match has already started. I ask him what he thinks of his opponent’s chances.

‘I aint gotta say much,’ he sneers heading for the ring. ‘I just gotta stick my hand down my pants and show them what they have in store.’

All must surely make sense soon as deep inside the Mayan theatre, the lights slowly fall and the revving of thunderous engines reverberates the darkness of the auditorium. A spotlight hits two comedians dressed in tuxedos, escorted onto the stage by the Poubelle Twins in Japanese schoolgirl outfits.

‘Lucha!’ hails Dana Gould into the audience, voice artist from The Simpsons.

The house lights flood the theatre and a thousand-strong chant of ‘Va-Voom!’ is thrown right back at him.

‘We have a tradition here at Lucha VaVoom. I’d like you all to raise your right hand and repeat after me,’ barks the waif-like Blaine Capatch, who accurately introduces himself as Harry Potter. ‘I, state your name, do solemnly swear that I will not believe what I am about to see.’

The audience responds verbatim, knowing the gag. The madness is unleashed and the sensory overload begins.

Screeching onto stage bound The Buxotics, a dancing troupe led by Rita D’Albert (co-creator of Lucha VaVoom), all decked in couture motor racing overalls and pumping pom-poms into the air, strutting the floor with high kicks and cheerleader splits. Joined by two majorettes with ‘Lucha’ and ‘VaVoom’ embroidered onto the respective backs of their costume, the ante is officially upped with a spectacular marching band striptease to the sounds of Wooly Bully, ending with a rapturously received double display of nipple tassel-twirling.

Gasparin, a rotund ring announcer from Mexico takes to the mic to introduce the first Lucha match. He speaks only in Spanish, and lends authenticity to the rich Lucha Libre history that is on offer this evening. For the Mexican brand of freestyle wrestling is a perfect blend of art and sport dating back to the 1930’s that involves fighting techniques such as judo, jujitsu, grappling and kickboxing. Traditionally, Rudos are the villains and Technicos are the heroes in a masked comic book world filled with breathtaking acrobatics and incredible athleticism, all mixed with drama, pageantry and a physical comedy that is uniquely Latin in origin.

With great gusto, Gasparin introduces the Rudos as El Presidente & Lil’ Cholo, who will be squaring off against the Technicos Dirty Sanchez & Disco Machine. The wrestlers all parade like peacocks to the crowds, brandishing the flavour of their characters. Disco Machine dances like its Saturday Night Fever when he performs a great move against his opponent, while sleek El Presidente is a rotten cheat, offering a gentlemanly handshake to Dirty Sanchez only to twist him into a flip that lands the Technico flat on his back.

‘I came up with the character because we needed a bad guy,’ explains Rita D’Albert, shouting in my ear, now back in overalls and watching the action ringside with co-creator Liz Fairbairn. ‘I thought, who’s a badder guy than Bush? And so we have El Presidente, who comes to the stage with a mix of Hail To The Chief and Darth Vadar’s Imperial March.’

The metaphor is more literal inside the ring as El Presidente jumps from the top rope, crashing into Dirty Sanchez who is illegally held by Lil’ Cholo and sends him flying. The Rudo clenches his hands together and cheers his triumph but the crowd isn’t happy. We all start to chant ‘Dir-ty! Dir-ty! Dir-ty!’ and the flattened Luchador responds, springing to his feet. Ferreting in the back of his tights, he pulls out a pair of faeces-filled underpants and holds them aloft. Everyone in the theatre starts booing, laughing or stands dumbstruck trying not to vomit, as Dirty Sanchez chases his opponent around the ring, stuffing the gooey garment into El Presidente’s face who flees into the crowd. Dirty Sanchez brandishes his prize at the elderly referee, who responds with a stunning dropkick to the jaw. Everyone is grappling on the mat and somehow in the chaos, the Technicos are held for a three-second slam of the palm, showing that good does not always triumph in the theatre of the ring.

‘I myself wasn’t sure about Lucha VaVoom at first,’ admits Liz Fairbairn as the dazed, sweaty masked fighters stumble backstage, one of the few women wrestling promoters in the business. ‘But then I went to a Lucha match and between the first and second half, a drag queen climbed into the ring and started lip-synching to a tape. Then someone ran in and pulled her wig off. I thought, if they could do that, then we could mix burlesque with it.’

Rita provided the VaVoom element from her experience co-producing the Velvet Hammer Burlesque, a vintage striptease show that was instrumental in the revival of the US scene during the nineteen nineties.

‘I was standing watching our first ever show and I thought to myself, we have to do this all the time,’ she explains. ‘It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever been part of and it’s just grown bigger and bigger. I just don’t understand why we haven’t conquered the entire world yet, ya know?’

Lucha VaVoom’s anarchic spirit attracts plenty of cult celebrity attendees that have included Jack Black, Kat Von D, Pee Wee Herman, Elvira and tonight, I even snap a shot of Billy Zane lurking in the shadows. The production itself follows the simple format of Lucha followed with a little VaVoom and hits repeat. Yet there’s plenty of scope within the diverse range of acts, supplying a constant stream of fresh entertainment with the audience participation transcending everything to a giddy level.

Lucha virgin Laura Ramirez, an insurance broker from the OC, is one of hundreds of formally sane people now doing the chicken dance. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It’s relentless. You don’t want get a drink or go the bathroom in case you miss something. The Crazy Chickens are just wild. I just wanna go give Lil’ Chicken a big hug,’ says the new Lucha VaVoom convert referring to the diminutive wrestler covered in yellow feathers and orange-beaked mask. Commentating, Dana Gould had remarked earlier that witnessing the mini wrestlers fight is, ‘almost like watching a Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman sex tape.’

‘I love what they do here,’ declares Sugarpie, the pink-haired ex-member of The Cramps, hanging out in the smoking patio. ‘I like the inexplicable and this is right up my alley. It’s totally absurd. I was first sucked in by Lola La Cereza’s matador act because I’m particularly fond of matadors and I’m particularly fond of tits. Her routine was a fantasy dream come true.’

For tonight’s performance, Lola La Cereza has conjured-up an ethereal belly dance that hypnotises the audience into a breathtaking hush. Karis has the opposite reaction, presents a truly show-stopping gender-bending striptease that fools half the whooping audience. The slender artiste is so convincing a woman that he is now the spokesperson for Phillips Ladyshave, but the revelation that what we’re seeing is actually a man is not the finale to his act. Karis is a world champion hula-hoop artist, truly putting the Va in VaVoom and tops anything you might have seen on Roy Castle’s Record Breakers.

‘It’s one of the few times of the year I can be kinky in public and people actually cheer me on,’ says Karis backstage, where it’s just as much a circus as the ring itself with film crews interviewing, photographers shooting and semi-clad performers buzzing with intent. Wrestlers are getting warmed-up by masseurs and minis are riding the shoulders of their Luchador teammates, as air cooling fans battle the rising body heat.

‘Lucha VaVoom is one of my favourite places to let loose because it’s so rock and roll,’ continues Karis. ‘I try to show people with my act there’s more to me than being a boy or girl, that whatever I’m doing that night, there’s actual beauty and awe.’

Amidst the chaos, I hear the screams of a performer desperately needing some double A’s for her flashing bra-piece. I delve into my camera bag to save the day and it’s a lucky thing, the Wau Wau Sisters, still fresh from William and Harry’s infamous ‘Christmas sex party’, give a dazzling display of aerial acrobatics. Watching striptease on a trapeze 40ft in the air without a safety net really has wow power and gets the crowd lubed-up for the fantastic Lucha finale.

With three pairs of competitors, complete with lunatic entourage, all eyes are on the cup. Team America falls first and the audience must split it’s loyalty between Team Mexico and Team Gay Pride, but with cart wheeling Cassandro at the helm of the flamboyant rainbow corner, there’s little hope for the green, white and red. With a smack of his lips, Team Mexico are dazed and confused, easy targets to pin down for the count. An explosion of confetti covers me in colour, as the entire cast hits the stage and the Mayan Theatre erupts with one last dancing hurrah.

After six years of lunacy, nobody seems to be tiring of this uniquely Californian hybrid, and future plans for a Lucha VaVoom Las Vegas residency or TV show look promising. With this perfectly balanced evening of sex, comedy and comic book violence, the populace of the Earth deserves nothing less than a global tour. For everyone deserves a little VaVoom now and then for the Lucha in their life.


www.luchavavoom.com
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