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Hasslin' 'n Rasslin'
Ladies' Arm Wrestling Pumps Up the Lower Garden District
Last updated at 3 p.m., 10/22
At a NOLAW brawl, the euphoria of watching female biceps bulge until it seems like cephalic veins are about to pop can overtake all sense of time and place. Then, someone slips in a bribe.
In New Orleans Ladies Arm Wrestling, the bribes aren't stuffed in a freezer, or exchanged in a brown paper bag in the shadows. Instead, like a throwback to those wistful days before the FBI got in the way, graft is out in the open for all to see.
“It happens as the night goes on, it gets a little crazier and people realize there aren't any rules,” explains NOLAW circle of trust fixture Nina Feldman, as she's gearing up for tomorrow night's throwdown at the Half Moon Bar.
When the women's fists are locked, greenbacks and raffle tickets are greasing the skids. Tickets are a buck, with all the Washingtons on their way to charity. The audience is also strongly prodded to place a wager, ensuring the closest thing to absolute mayhem this side of a backroom cockfighting ring.
The NOLAW series is less than a year old, but it's already gained steam after three go-rounds thanks to a one-of-a-kind combination of adrenaline, acuity of mission, and, as ever in this town, ass-shaking. The costumes also help.
Its first inception in January at Mid-City legend Finn McCool's occupied the back corner of the bar in true mafioso style. All who decided to dedicate their evening to the wily event gave their fullest. For the contingent of locals occupying barstools and obsessing over football, on the other hand, it might as well have been a round of croquet.
By the third event this summer at the otherwise-temperate CBD hangout Handsome Willy's, the entire rear patio was a near Mt. St. Helens, sending out smoke signals to broadcast its readiness to erupt – and take whole hamlets of well-meaning plainfolk with it.
In addition to bestowing boundless glory on three champions, the bouts raised more than $1,500 for charity groups like Books For Prisoners and Hagar's House, the domestic violence shelter, organizers said.
Even with all the showboating and shenanigans, the group takes seriously its mission to advocate for women's issues and organizations that support that set of causes around the metro area and Gulf Coast region. Feldman said the group would like to turn a finer focus on women-specific organizations. They would also like to provide the sponsoring organizations with a more outspoken platform for their cause at the brawls, as opposed to simply raising money for them, she said.
All proceeds from tomorrow night's event will benefit the St. Bernard Project's Wellness Center, which focuses on providing mental health services to citizens of Da Parish in the wake of the Big Oozy.
The savage quest that takes place here in NOLA is just one of many ladies' arm wrestling chapters around the county. The concept started in Charlottesville, Va.(CLAW), and has expanded to Taos, N.M., the Hudson Valley Region of New York, and Raleigh, N.C., among other cities.
Feldman said there is talk of forming a nonprofit organization to encompass all of the chapters. That could provide funding, administrative support, and assurance that they wouldn't get exploited by Girls Gone Wild, she said.
But before exchanging money, and even before throwing around superlatives about a femme who today remains merely mortal, there is some serious spectacle to be had.
In addition to the costumed rasslers themselves, each NOLAW brawl brings dressed-to-the-hilt entourages wandering the crowd, celebrity judges, and that two-face of a referee.
The tournament starts with eight competitors, but at the end of the night only one is able to claim triumph.
Tomorrow night's card will see the likes of Baby Brees, the Two-Headed Monster, the Phiery Phoenix and Granny Grinder. They'll also be a special return appearance by celebrity judge Sarah Palin.
We asked the participants about some particulars. Their responses are below:
Name: Baby Brees (I)
Age: 1 (& nine-twelfths!)
Place of Residence: The Teet of Who Dat
Left or Right-handed?: Left
Theme Music: "Black and Yellow" by Rick Ross
Entourage: Blanket Jackson, The Baby That Should've Been Made by Natalie Portman and Devendra Banhart, Bjork and Barney's baby, Pax Jolie-Pitt
Mode of transportation to the brawl: Breesus' shoulders
In-brawl drink of choice: Mama's milk aka 4 Loco
What's your pre-brawl ritual? How do you get pumped?: A little nurse, A little nap, A little sandbox shotput.
Age: 89 1/2
In-brawl drink of choice? Tar Bomb (Jager and Midori dropped into High Life)
Shoutouts? All da bouys in da houseeeeeee
Celebrity Judge Sarah Palin
Age: A young 46
Place of Residence: Wasilla, AK. Just stopping here on my latest book tour!
Current Job: Show mom on Dancing With the Stars, Twitter master, busy grandmother, rogue reality star on TLC!
Theme Music: PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN
Mode of Transportation: ATV
What are your qualifications for this job? America, being American, patriotism, and doin' the best I sure can.
What vicious, adrenaline-filled beatdown-fests do you consume on a daily basis to form your views of ladies' arm wrestling? Well, Kermit, I regularly enjoy shootin' bears, goin' bobsleddin', and fightin' for unborn babies. So I think you can see the clear connections there for yourself.
Can you see any arm wrestlers from your house? I can't see arm wrestlers but I sure can see wrestlin'. The Russian government is trying to wrestle our freedom away from us, Kermit. And yes, I can see wrestlin' Russia from my house.
How can wrestlers make sure you rule in their favor? Write-in Sarah Palin for President in 2012!!
Is ladies' arm wrestling in any way like moose hunting? It's a lot like moose huntin', Kermit. You gotta go for the kill, pay attention.
In-brawl drink of choice? Oh, just root beer. I'm a pretty tame girl. (No but seriously, anything with whiskey or tequila)
Shoutouts: I'd like to thank America, God, my family, the First Amendment, feminism, the Tea Party, America, wolves, God, abstinence-only education, the Second Amendment, the ghost writers of my books, Dr. Laura, and America. God bless you all.
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