Photos by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete
My whole life, I’ve been told I should be scared. As a broad, and a “petite” one at that (five-foot-two, rather frail, lungs weakened by cigarettes and with little-to-no upper-body strength), it is my cross to bear.
People react incredulously when I tell them I walk around Los Angeles, regardless of the hour. I shouldn’t do that, they say. I should be more careful. Living in fear, however, is as exhausting as talking about the subject itself. I resent it. I resent the fact that I should be expected to worry. I resent the implication that, if I were to be attacked, the onus would partially be on me for not being “careful” enough to prevent it. I resent the fact that I am literally the trillionth woman to have voiced this resentment.
I was attacked once, walking down the sidewalk in Issaquah, Washington. A man sprinted up to me and pounced; my immediate reaction was to crumble into a ball and let him do his worst. There was, and is, no fight in me. There should be, though, if I ever want to get this fear-fuelled monkey off my goddamned back. Which is why I, and other weak women of my ilk, could learn a lot from the fearless women of LA LAW (Los Angeles Lady Arm Wrestlers).
The women of LA LAW, the Los Angeles branch of CLAW (The Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers), are strong (obviously; they’re arm wrestlers, for fuck’s sake). They’re smart. They’re sharp tongued. They don’t take no guff. They are what lily-livered lady cowards such as myself should aspire to be.
On a Monday night, in a nondescript bar, I watched them brawl. The doors opened before the sun had even set. The garish light of day gave everything – a table filled with trophies, a “boutique” selling thrift store clothing screen printed with LA LAW’s logo, women wandering around in prom dresses and satanic nun costumes – a wholly bizarre air.
I had never attended an event like this. I had no idea what I was about to witness. A trio of spandex-clad excitables came up and asked my support for “The Hammer”, who I assumed was one of the wrestlers. The ringleader informed me that “[The Hammer] beat two men in arm wrestling yesterday. And as you know, men generally have more upper body strength than women.” I concurred.
Shit was about to go down. Lana Bootay, the host, climbed the steel ramp to the stage. A testament to truth in advertising, she was a tall, well-endowed drink of water. Flanked by her co-host, a gelled-haired man wearing sunglasses indoors, she immediately told the audience to “shut the fuck up”. This was the first, yet not the last, time she commanded the audience to do so. She was large and, quite literally, in charge. We obliged. The show began.
Crystal “Double Stuff” Hills, gussied up like a deranged prom queen, was the first contender. Crown glistening, middle fingers raised, she paced across the stage. A member of her entourage, a dame sporting a sash that read, “Will cut a bitch,” followed, dramatically dabbing her eyes with tissue. The pageantry of it all was not unlike that of real fake wrestling; trash talking, swearing and showboating abounded.
Hills’s competitor, Maria Juana (get it?), waddled up to the stage swathed in an enormous joint costume. Baking powder “smoke” billowed. Flanked by cholas, one of which lasciviously licked her costume, the broad knew how to make an entrance. As she and Hills did battle, a dude in the back yelled, “Get it, queen!” The term “queen” could have applied to both women.
Ultimately, however, Maria Juana smoked Hills. (Cough.) And one by one, the competition breezed through.
Sister Patrician Pistolwhip, the aforementioned satanic nun, rode deep with her sacrilegious entourage, the faces of which were covered in blood and upside-down crosses.
Her competitor, Dirt Diggler, sporting a construction costume and orange tit cones, had a generous dollop of canned whipped cream sprayed in her mouth by a male member of her entourage before their bout. It was, devoid of hyperbole, one of the most empowering things I had ever seen.
Sister Patrician came out victorious. Later that evening, Dirt was awarded the “Worst Loser” award.
Wayne Fucking Kramer (he of the MC5 and founder of Jail Guitar Doors, the organisation the night’s proceeds were going to) played a set during the show’s intermission; afterward the crowd bowed in unison, “We’re not worthy”-style.
Lady Angelica, a sword-toting woman in white, bought the judges off with marshmallow angel food cake and white chocolate kabobs. This, however, did not save her from getting beaten by The Hammer.
The Hammer, wearing gold lamé Hammer pants (natch), did the Hammer dance after besting Lady Angelica. She lost overall, but won Best Entourage.
Less Slim More Shady, the reigning champ, was introduced as someone who “literally isn’t good at anything else”. According to Bootay, she had “impressed the ladies so much last time, she got a girlfriend" (pictured above).
The only way the plot line dictated she’d be able to keep said girlfriend, however, was if she won.
She won. As she hoisted her trophy in the air, a man next to me shook his head in awe. “She’s unbeatable,” he said. “She’s unbeatable.”
Now, as you know, men generally have more upper-body strength than women. But these weren’t your average women. They were extraordinary. At the end of the match the organiser, Amanda McRaven, announced she was “super proud to be in a sisterhood with them.” I was super proud to be privy to their sisterhood, if only for an evening. Seeing their feats of strength made me feel strong by proxy, like a sickly Phoenix rising from cigarette ash. They’re brawling again in October. I’ll be there with fucking bells on.
For More Megan Koester: