The Doc's thoughts on Apartment Wrestling
or "It's my website and I'll say what I want! So there!
I've been interviewed a few times about Apartment Wrestling. I've also read other's thoughts on the subject. And I've had the opportunity to post a few thoughts on various forums and bulletin boards.
And I'm constantly amazed at both the perceptions and hypocritical condescension that come from those who denigrate this "genre." In fact, I used that very word one time when discussing apt. wrestling with someone. He burst into laughter and gave me the "Are your serious" look.
Webster's defines the word genre as: "1: a distinctive type or category esp. of literary composition." I would say that both the stories and photography of apartment wrestling, specifically the classic material, fits that description to a T.
The G.C. London Publishing Corp. began playing around with the concept in the early 70's. If you were too young, or not even born then, you cannot appreciate what the world was like in those days. Images, concepts, and societal mores that are commonplace now, were unheard of at that time.
Something like catfighting or any type of female combat was so far out there, that anyone who spoke of it would get blank stares in response. Raquel Welch's brief tussle in "One Million Years B.C." caused a stir that you can't imagine if you had not been there. Then some years later with "Kansas City Bomber", well there was quite a bit of tongue clucking, to be sure.
Professional wrestling was the sole domain of male wrestlers. Big, lumbering sweaty fat men. Oh there were a few exceptions, but it was nothing like what you see today. Why do you think wrestlers like Billy Graham and Kevin Sullivan caused such a commotion when they broke in? I grew up near Tampa, the capital (and don't let anyone tell you different!) of wrestling in the southeastern U.S. All the big name wrestlers worked or lived or visited down here.
A professional men's title match frequently had a sixty or ninety minute time limit. SIXTY OR NINETY MINUTES! Can you imagine that?! And it was typically ten minutes of actual wrestling and the rest of the match was two fat guys laying on the canvas in duelling armlocks. And we thought that was exciting!
And women's wrestling -- forget about it! It ranked right up there with midget wrestling. Frankly, pro wrestling gave more push to the midgets than the women. And bluntly speaking, though they were wonderful athletes, most of the female wrestlers were patently unattractive. The few that had some physical beauty about them were pariahs in their own sport, as the veterans resented the attention paid to the pretty newcomers. Sadly, that is the way of the world, then as now. Who would you rather see selling women's underwear -- Bea Arthur or Cindy Crawford? And just to be honest here, that goes the other way too. Would women rather see Pete Sampras selling Fruit of the Loom's or John Goodman? Exactly.
So the wrestling guys decided to sex-up their magazines a bit. They told one of their photographers, Theo Ehret, to hire some pretty models and photograph them wrestling in his studio. They played around with several different scenarios, trying to get the right bit of chemistry. Using the girls known as Gloria & Valerie, various storylines were floated through London's different publications.
But the first real splash was in the Dec 1973 issue of Sports Review Wrestling. The pic on the cover shows two girls, Judy & Janet, on the floor, their faces covered in blood. It was a pretty shocking image. They kept playing around with the background stories until they hit on just the right magic: a rich entrepenuer starts an underground women's wrestling empire.
Admittedly, the whole scenario has a distinct "Caligula-esque" feel about it. Rich, wealthy men in penthouse aparments watching beautiful women brawl until one submits or cannot continue. And yet, this is not like some "boom-chicka-boom" super 8 movie shot in dismal lighting in some guy's garage. Ehret did his best to make his sets approximate the lush surroundings that were described in the stories.
And the photography -- breathtaking! While we had to suffer through the pulpy, grainy quality in the over-the-counter magazines, the composition was as artistic as you could hope for. In interviews, Ehret has pooh-poohed his work in this area, and that's a shame, because artists shouldn't look down on their work. Even truly great and famous artists had to do work that they would rather not have, but they still put their hearts into it. And it shows. There's a style and feel to Ehret's work that is distinctive. It isn't simply "point and shoot." Trust me, I know about this personally. After three years of taking my own pics, I still struggle to find 15 to 20 images out of over 100 that I think look good enough to publish.
So when I hear or read where people say the images or stories conjure up some seamy, dirty atmosphere, I have to wonder if these critics have even read these stories or done more than glimpse at a few images. Perhaps they are simply incapable of looking at anything more than the most superficial aspect of apartment house wrestling.
I've often heard the remarks about how ahw objectifies women and serves only to retard their advancement or societal improve-ment. And I would be inclined to give these comments their due if they weren't being promoted by those who wax effusive about . . . oh, let's say "mud wrestling" for instance -- "Oh, I find apartment house wrestling offensive and denigrating to women, but the sight of two women rolling around in a tub of chocolate pudding, their clothes torn to shreds, in front of a crowd of drunken, drooling, screaming bar patrons is such a beautiful and wholesomely sensual thing!" Of course, how could I argue with that logic?
There are those who look at a producer who makes hard core porn, rape videos, bukkake, etc., as a creative and artistic person, but look down their nose at this little slice of the female fighting world like it's something that needs to be scraped off their shoe. Oh yeah, a wonderfully composed picture of two women locked in competition with each other accompanied by the melodramatic caption beneath is crap. But if we tie the women's hands behind their backs and have three guys ejaculate on their faces . . . well, now that's art, baby!
That sound in the background is me clapping my hand to my forehead in the classic "Jeez, now I get it" move. How could I have been such a dumbass?!
Of course, there is also the whole "If it's not real, it's crap" crowd. Which is their opinion and they are entitled to it. But I wonder how many of these fans, producers, and wrestlers themselves realize that if Sports Review Wrestling had not brought female fighting into the mainstream, they wouldn't have anything to enjoy today? Think about it. When apartment house wrestling hit its stride in the mid-seventies, that was also the time that female fights began to creep into open society. I do not believe this was a coincedence. You had the occassional catfight on TV, girls battling in James Bond movies, and of course -- Charlie's Angels. Do you honestly think Aaron Spelling would have launched that show if he hadn't thought society would accept hot women fighting and being aggressive on television? Simply the jiggle factor alone would not have kept the show on the air. And Spelling knew it.
As the Seventies rolled into the Eighties you had Dynasty with its yearly, ratings sweep timed catfight. There was a women's pro-wrestling TV show on briefly as well. And so on until today with Alias, Zena, Buffy, Dark Angel, et al. The people who green-light and/or produce these projects grew up in this evolving female fight culture. And it started with SRW and apartment house wrestling. Without them there would be no female fight websites or havens. If the women who wrestle today were still inclined to do so, they'd be shooting in some crappy warehouse on a stained carpet with lousy production values and a much more limited audience. So get off your high horses already!
I believe that part of the problem or complaint with the old apartment house wrestling stories is the actual story itself. I've got to admit that even back then, as a teenager, the stories were cringeworthy. The bestial similies were a bit hard to take. Women didn't have fingernails they had claws or talons, sprung on their prey like jungle cats, and so on. If you've never actually read one of the stories, let me give you a basic synopsis: Women are these etherial, gentle creatures who float through our world like gossamer angels beautifying all existence until they find themselves in an apartment wrestling match. Then they become snarling, vicious jungle cats, tearing at the throats of their attackers like any lioness would do to protect her young. THEIR INNER BEAST RELEASED, THEY WAR WITH BRUTAL PASSION! REDUCED TO THIS MOST PRIMI-TIVE FORM OF HUMANITY, THEY . . .
I think you get the point. It's overwrought melodramatic prose written by pro-wrestling writers . . . hello! And not completely unusual for the world back then. It was thirty years ago, folks! We weren't quite as evolved as we are now. That is one of the things I've tried to correct with the stories I write for my magazine. I try and emphasize the athleticism and intelligence of the fighters, portray the sport as an outlet for women who want the thrill of competition with a more tangible and satisfying conclusion to the contest.
And while I say that is a correction to the old stories, I don't condemn them for their style. I don't understand our compulsive need to apologize for our past. It is pointless and useless self-flagellation. Yes, women should have been voting from the get-go; nope, should have never had slavery in this country; but to constantly beat ourselves up over what happened hundreds of years ago . . . why? Look, we grew up, let's get on with things. Don't re-write the past to spare our consciences or satisfy the lastest political wave. Our futures are better served by learning from how we were than wasting time trying to hide our faults or assigning blame for not being as perfect or evolved as we are now. Or think we are.
Take the old stories for what they are: a little snapshot of the past. You've got women seeking their rights -- Oct 79, Iola vs. Callie, the girls refuse to fight unless certain conditions are met improving the life of the wrestlers; recession -- May 79, Lannie vs. Ruth, two women do battle over a rent controlled apartment; in what would be a preview of an upcoming real-life boxing event Tara defeats Salome then virtually throws the belt away stating there will be no more champions of the sport until the women are treated properly. And so on. Unemployment, drug abuse, mental illness, unscrupulous promoters, and the timeless themes of aging, infidelity, seeking fame and fortune in the big city . . . all nifty little looks into the world through the bizarrely tinted lens of wrestling. I mean seriously, where did you think they got their ideas from?
And those old stories are somehow supposed to be worse than the hundredth re-imagining of Supergirl vs. Batgirl? Or another "Bitch, you stole my _______" fill in the blank with the usual -- dress, shoes, boyfriend, etc. Or another fight where the only purpose of having the women do battle is to get them in some sort of lesbian encounter. Now I have actually witnessed two spontaneous brawls in my life and in neither case did the combatants drop to the floor in the middle of the fight and begin making out. Not that I'm suggesting that the ahw fights are rooted in reality, of course not. And for the record, the two Carolina Panther cheerleaders were making out first before the punches were thrown.
Look, here's my advice: lighten up! Apartment house wrestling is just another channel on the dial (let's you know how old I am). In my opinion, it has a bit more relevence than fans give it, but that's okay. It's the variety of the female fight culture that makes it fun. There is pretty much something for everyone. Find what you like and enjoy it. Sample everything at the buffet, who knows, you might just find something else you like. But cut my girls, Mr. Ehret, and SRW some slack -- you wouldn't be reading this page or any other fem-fight page without them.
Don't like my opinion, want to give me a piece of your mind (if you can spare it)? Then drop me a line, you know the address.