#786: Authenticity VaVOOM

May 5th, 2017

She strode to the center of the ring, her muscles rippling under pounding stage lights that could be described as all-covering and a wrestling singlet that absolutely couldn’t.

Her foe in the faux mustache and all-too-real chest hair laughed at her, pointed and made a Trumpian chuckle-smirk to the audience. He turned to the crowd to flex again, the audience hurling boos at him as his theme song – “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” – piped through the gymnasium.

Then the wrestling began, wedged between the dancing.

On Thursday, I went to Lucha VaVOOM, an L.A.-based promotion that pairs Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling with nouveau burlesque. Between sets of masked good guys and unmasked baddies tossing each other around the boxing ring of the Soho House club in the West Loop, burlesque performers from Michelle L’amour’s troupe displayed their own feats of physical prowess, albeit in a slinkier, twirlier fashion.

We hooted and hollered in the audience, acted the clowns. It was a blast, as artificial and colorful as a swig of cherry cola.

I felt weird after.

I think there are few things my generation wants more than authenticity. The trendometer has currently slipped to that setting at least. We guzzle faux-vintage cocktails in trendset bars designers got paid a lot of money to age and weather. We watch shimmying dancers in styles our granddads knew about, but would never admit they did, but it’s OK these days because the dancers are into it and really that’s just feminism now, right?

And we watch pro wrestling, but it’s OK and cool because it’s like authentic and cultural and stuff. Rudos. Technicos. Masks and stagecraft.

It was black and white and Asian wrestlers pretending to live a Mexican cultural trope. It was women who don’t remember the first few Reagan years pretending to live in a form of stripping popular in the 1950s.

I’m writing a blog that pretends to be a 1920s newspaper column. I know from adopted culture.

I had a blast, but felt a bit bad that I was watching fake fake wrestling. I felt I should be supporting more traditional Lucha Libre, go to some arena where I have no idea what people are saying, give my minutes and money to performers doing it as more than a lark.

Maybe I will. But that will be a different story.

I don’t feel as bad as I should about the wrestling’s cultural appropriation. I have that ability to write off their performance as a corny homage since it’s not my culture being taken. I know no one in that room made a choice that night between their dollars going to Soho House or to a West Side arena where the announcer blasts Norteña music. It’s not a noble thought, but it’s true.

So this, my friends, is a true story about falsity. This is a tale of the purest, most bona fide inauthenticity available. They dressed in tights and colors forged in a different time and culture, they shimmied and grappled in ways handed down from the past, and we hooted and hollered and jested along.

They danced as fakers, but managed to touch something tawdry, rude, shameful but truly, truly true.

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You are currently reading #786: Authenticity VaVOOM by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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