Women’s arm-wrestlemania sweeps into ‘Bonedale
July 22, 2006
It’s late Friday night on Main Street in Carbondale and a most peculiar scene is unfolding outside of Phat Thai, the town’s chic Asian eatery and bar. A rowdy crowd slinks out of the door and down the sidewalk, while music pulses from the bar’s open windows.Inside, past the doorman charging $5, past the hip 20- and 30-somethings lined up at the bar ordering drinks, in the back of the restaurant where it’s standing-room only, two women are locked in mortal combat – or so it seems.Bommer looks like she’s in trouble. That’s Dominique Jackson, the 31-year-old on the right with the jet black hair wearing the faux leather Wonder Woman outfit. The Tick – the Bommer’s first-round adversary – has her on the ropes. Above the din of screams and whistles, and amid the competing scents in the room – sweat, evaporating deodorant, designer perfumes and spilled beer – a prevailing aroma hangs in the air. It’s the sour smell of impending defeat. Bommer had hopes of reaching the final, of taking home the trophy and some extra cash, but here she is, right biceps flexed, forearm flexor throbbing, fingers clenched, trying to fight off a pin.Wait. Do you see that? The Tick is suddenly fading. Bommer was just being coy, tiring out her competition to set her up for the kill. The agonizing expression was just strategy – just showmanship. And now the Tick’s in trouble as her arm swings in the opposite direction, fighting to maintain leverage as Bommer strains, face contorted, cheeks flushed, to finish her off.
Finally, after an agonizingly long 20 seconds, the back of the Tick’s hand strikes the pad on the side of the table, signaling the end of the match. Bommer leaps up from her chair, arms in the air, inciting the crowd, while the Tick stalks off to find her drink.Who knew women’s arm-wrestling could be this intense? Who knew it could be this fun to watch?Mr. Vail knows. That’s Andrew Bisharat, the fast-talking host of this party. He’s the one wearing the over-the-top curly blond wig and eye liner -ala Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister – and the hot-pink Lycra jumpsuit accented with fishnet patches. Bisharat’s services have been procured by community radio station KDNK, which is taking home all the proceeds from tonight’s competition.The last time Mr. Vail and his friends hosted women’s arm-wrestling, in Glenwood Springs, it attracted people to the bar the way Paris Hilton attracts camera lenses.Forget mud wrestling. Forget a wet T-shirt contest. For contestants, women’s arm-wrestling is more empowering. For spectators of the opposite sex, it’s arguably just as arousing. “It’s intense,” says Alicia Wanner, aka Blonde Bombshell, a 25-year-old Carbondale resident whose ring name is befitting of her smoldering looks. “Just all the people, the adrenaline. The crowd plays a pretty good role in it.””I don’t care what people say, it’s for fun and everything, but you get up there and it’s intense,” says Barb Jacksa, a 46-year-old architect designer and avid road biker from Carbondale who calls herself the Croatian Princess.
Jacksa, who competes in a sleeveless tiger print dress, black stockings and black Doc Martens, ventured out to the first event in Glenwood Springs completely unaware that she had a natural talent.”I came in totally blind,” she says. “I came in off a winter where I blew my knee out, so I was working my upper body all winter. I just showed up, drank some Jack Daniels, and won the whole thing.”The Croatian Princess might actually consider a professional career in the sport, if there was such a thing. Behold those impressive arms -the downfall of so many willing challengers. Bommer might have escaped the Tick, but she’s no match for the Princess, who gives her a death stare across the table from behind her wraparound sunglasses, before slamming Bommer’s hand down for the pin. The Princess’ trademark technique is to get the jump on her opponents, then never let them up for air. Other, less-experienced combatants get themselves deadlocked with a weaker opponent for long stretches and tire themselves out for their following matches.”These younger girls don’t know how to do it,” says the Princess, smirking.Such is the fate of the Blonde Bombshell, who finds herself in a stalemate with Switch Hit and, in desperation, torques her shoulders for extra leverage. Blonde Bombshell had the lead before the move, but the ref rules the shoulder twist is illegal and disqualifies her, handing the win to Switch Hit.
The crowd is livid, as is Blonde Bombshell who argues the call, then storms off with her boyfriend in tow.”I think the ref is gay,” says Bombshell.Which brings us to another point: Women’s arm-wrestling isn’t without controversy.Just ask John Poneta, the ref who made the call. Poneta’s Chippendale’s outfit – black plants, no shirt, bow tie and thick brown hair slicked up into a fauxhawk – might have incited the homosexual remark, although the swarm of available girls around him suggests he’s straight. But that’s beside the point. Poneta’s job isn’t an enviable one. Multiple times he has to stop the action because combatants have broken the rules.Torquing the shoulders. Lifting the elbow off the starting pad. They’re both red flags, and Poneta is a stickler for detail.When one match disintegrates into arguing between the two wrestlers over unfair play, and the crowd grows restless, Mr. Vail steps in to get things back on track.”Just pinch the ref’s nipples, and let’s get on with it,” he yells.
Women’s arm wrestling isn’t necessarily always fair, either. Just ask Whitney Boland, aka Mighty Mouse, who, at 5-foot-3 and a compact 90 pounds, has to go against Switch Hit, an adversary who outweighs her by 50 pounds.”She was huge,” says Hansen, a rock climber from Lexington, Kentucky. “I tried my best, but there’s no way.” Consider also the matchup between Megan Hansen, a taut 24-year-old blonde who goes by the moniker Streak of Steel, and Dottie Wright, the 70-year-old manager of the local Veteran’s Association down the street.Streak of Steel pins Wright – aka Western Woman – but not without a fight. “When I was younger, I would have kicked her ass,” Wright says.Finally, after the Croatian Princess crushes The Cleavage Crusher in the semifinals, the match everyone wants to see arrives: the defending champ against the last woman standing, La Gata Caliente.That’s Spanish for “hot cat.”
La Gata’s real name is Bethany – “just Bethany,” she says smiling, “from California.”Bethany from California is English for “hot date.” Earlier in the night, the toned 23-year-old auctioned herself off for charity – and nearly brought in more than the take at the door. Up on the bar, wearing a form-fitting white tank top and hip-hugging jeans, dancing to Kelis’ “Milkshake” while a crowd of jackals whistled and shouted from below, the price for the date just kept going up.La Gata eventually fetched 300 bucks from some guy she never got a clean look at.”Hey, it’s for charity,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if he’s cute.”As for the showdown in the finals, the Princess never lets La Gata have a chance. She pounces as soon as the match starts, and despite the crowd’s cheers for the challenger, pins her in less than 10 seconds. The trophy – a bizarre statue adorned with deer antlers and action figures, all tied together by black duct tape – stays with the champion.
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Until the next time, at least.”I’m gonna go back and do some training,” La Gata says. “I’ll be back.”As will everyone else.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.