Greetings and salutations, fellow Fridge Nukers! New NTF writer, Rob Bradfield here. Of the many things I’ve got planned to write about here, and the many things I geek out over that I’m dying to share with you, Lucha Libre is a recent passion of mine. And my first experience with (live) Lucha, Rita D’Albert and Liz Fairbairn‘s Lucha and Burlesque revue, Lucha VaVoom, without exaggeration may be the best show I’ve ever seen. And with a new show coming in February (14th, 15th & 16th), now seemed like the perfect time to talk about it. So without further ado…
Downtown’s Mayan Club: Los Angeles’ home for Lucha VaVoom
I left the term Greatest Show on Earth out of the headline for fear that it might be copyrighted. The reality however, is that, if it were a title, rather than a slogan, Lucha VaVoom would have the Ringling Brothers shaking in their clown shoes. It is pure, unadulterated entertainment. In Los Angeles, where spectacle is commonplace, Lucha VaVoom is everything an Angelino could possibly ask for in the way of a reason to leave the house.
Being a critic is a tricky thing. Sure, part of my purpose is to evaluate whether or not a show is “good,” but there’s always the underlying element of encouraging people to buy a ticket, should the show under review be worth their time. This is a round-about way for me to say that the following review is for the last Lucha VaVoom show, which took place over two days in late October. By the time I could get out a review, the show would have been over – and there’s been a little more than three months between Los Angeles shows. [To say nothing of this being my first article for NTF.] Further, even if I could have hastily thrown together a couple hundred words under the gun, as one of the few events in Los Angeles area that routinely sells out, it would have been a little irresponsible, even cruel, to psych people up for the show of their lives, only for them to be turned away at the door on the one remaining night in October 2011. Rest assured however, that, after looking at pictures/footage of shows past, and having spoken to other converts to the Church of Lucha, what I witnessed the night of October 26th was the norm – for a show that is far from “normal,” that is.
In a world where boxing has become so blasé, and wrestling so repetitious, that many fans of good, ol’ fashioned blood and breaking bones have “jumped ship“ to MMA, I’m surprised that Lucha Libre is still relatively obscure in the States. Especially when the biggest complaint about wrestling, in particular, is that the sport has grown relatively tame since the glory days of the 80’s and early 90’s – that there aren’t any great personalities/characters left. The growing cross-market popularity of Spanish-language programming (evident, for one, in Univision’s recent announcement that they would start adding English subtitles to several telenovelas) should be further proof that mainstream America is ready for Lucha Libre.
That’s the great thing about Luca VaVoom: while the matches aren’t league play (no title bouts and the like), the event brings together some of the best and biggest names from the world of Lucha Libre and even American wrestling — and luchadores who’ve worked in both arenas like Matt Classic — in the heart of LA. The matches themselves are a good representation of the super-gymnastic, highly-bombastic action you’re going to get in the most serious of official battles; the eternal war between good and evil boiled down to, and personified in, a wrestling ring and acted out by some of the most insane wrestling characters to come down the pipe since the Iron Sheik hung up his head-gear.
To that end, the “cast” of a VaVoom show is populated by heroes and villains that look and act as if they’d jumped straight out of a comic book. For example, the evening’s main event featured an epic bout between técnicos [“good guys”], the high flying Cassandro, and the one-man Weapon of Mass Destruction called Bombero; and rudos [“bad guys”], the man-monolith known as Pirata Morgan, and the bogeyman from many a folktale — in human form — the dreaded Chupacabra. In lieu of a blow-by-blow description of the action, which might end up going a little long, let me just say that, as long as I live, I will never forget the site of a man in thick pancake makeup and a turquoise and pink onesie [The great Cassandro is classic provocateur in the tradition Gorgeous George and Adrian Adonis.] scale a tower of four huge JBL cabinet speakers, then hurl himself from the top, crushing his enemies waiting below him. Check and mate, Ultimate Fighting!
And that’s just one image from one match. Every battle was a unique, and incredibly entertaining way to watch larger than life characters beating the holy crap out of one another.
Buxoticas: Putting the ‘VaVoom’ in Lucha
Then there are the burlesque dancers – Las Buxoticas. Beauties to balance out the beasts. The spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine (or violence) go down. And so on. To attract a wider crowd (from the growing popularity of burlesque reviews) Lucha VaVoom producers/creators, Rita D’Albert & Liz Fairbairncreate the perfect intersection of sex and violence by interspersing the high-octane action with some serious libido-candy. Not unlike the luchadore lineup, Lucha VaVoom attracts some of LA’s– the country’s, really — best burlesque dancers, as well.
Diamondback Annie, as a female incarnation of rock-god Paul Stanley, performed a sultry striptease to KISS’s Black Diamond – and along the way, figured out a few ways to use pyrotechnics and confetti that would floor even Gene Simmons. Ecdysiast and model, Lucy Fur — who I believe has a time machine, and spends her free moments in the 1950’s as a pinup model — made pretty much every man in the room (and I’m sure a few women too) jealous of a piece of rope. Leigh Acosta raised the bar for every pole performer in the Thirty Mile Zone. And finally, the gender-defying Karis literally jumped through hoops as a shiny, winged unicorn. I don’t think I’ve ever uttered WTF? so many times, with a bigger smile on my face.
And then there was Trixie and Evil Hate Monkey – a contortionist team from New York, who even after a constant parade of incredible beauties (both the buxoticas and the luchadores’ “ring girls”), managed to bring down the house. What can you say about another “pinup” beauty lip-synching with a maniac in a handle-bar moustache to Total Eclipse of the Heart – with him sometimes serving as a “pole” to her burlesque dancer? I don’t know. Madly inspired genius?!
But Wait! There’s Still More!!!
To begin with, when in Los Angeles (slowly but surely, the show is making it into other cities and countries), Lucha VaVoom is held at perennial favorite nightspot, The Mayan. Local comedians — such as Patton Oswalt, SNL’s Fred Armisen, and the Roastmaster General himself, Jeff Ross — keep things going with commentary, jokes, and play-by-play. [Comedians for the February shows include Dana Gould, Tom Kenney, Blaine Capatch, and Jeff Davis.] And of course, there’s the crowd – another crucial part of the Lucha VaVoom experience. At no other venue in town will you see such a vast and diverse cross-section of the people who make Los Angeles the great city it is. From hipsters to wrestling fans and all tastes and interests between, all are united under the roof of Lucha VaVoom. Peace through “war.”
Tickets are still available [both through the Lucha VaVoom site and Ticketweb, plus you can buy them in person at Brat.], but don’t wait until the last minute, or mark my words: you may find yourself on the outside looking in! For first timers, and those who, after this little love letter, are still unsure – I recommend going with the $35 tickets, but get there early to stake out a table. If the tables are full, there is still a little standing room, and plenty of seating in the stands above the main floor. For those with $55-$65 for a ticket, I can not recommend ringside seating enough. Believe me, if you’ve got the money, you’re going to kick yourself for not coughing up a little extra to get nice and close. It’s worth every penny and every moment.