On a chilly Sunday evening, hundreds anxiously waited outside Webster Hall in Manhattan to enter one of the most outrageous fiestas of the year-one that involves saucy stripteasers, flying dwarfs, menacing luchadores, and rib tickling comedians. The circus isn’t in town, but this carnival of mayhem celebrating sexo y violencia has made the crowd ready to rumble. Forget DJs and WWE, patrons would be partying with masked Mexican wrestlers rocking out with oversized tequila bottles and half naked pinups bumping and grinding. By the end of the evening, the audience, hoarse from howling and drenched in sweat, were set for another round.
For eight years, Lucha VaVoom has been captivating thousands across the country, starring in some of the top venues from Los Angeles to New York City. To discover how vixens, villains, and superheroes are taking nightlife by a glitter-filled storm, we spoke with co-founder Liz Fairbairn, partner and burlesque star Rita D’ Albert, as well as wrestling queen Cassandro. They discuss the rise of Lucha VaVoom, how it has impacted Hollywood, and why it’s an action-packed bash that’ll have you screaming smackdown!
nocheLatina: Who first came up with the concept of Lucha VaVoom and when did it make its debut?
Rita D’ Albert: Liz was introduced to lucha libre and through a series of events decided that people in LA would love it. I was producing shows around town so Liz and I joined forces. We created exhibition-style matches where the wrestlers would get in there, do their best moves, and get out while the crowd is still excited. I also thought that it would be more entertaining to have comedians doing the play-by-play. The burlesque was just a natural draw. The combination of sexo y violencia is always a winner!
nocheLatina: When did you realize that you wanted to be a lucha libre wrestler?
Cassandro: I have been a lucha libre fan since I was a kid in Juarez, Mexico. Since lucha libre is the second biggest sport in Mexico, I first became friends with some of the luchadores stars like Rey Misterio Sr., Negro Casas, and Blue Panther. They are my inspirations, mentors, and friends.
nocheLatina: I read that 60’s Mexican lucha cinema was a major inspiration for Lucha VaVoom. What was it about this film genre that made you want to bring it to life on stage?
Rita D’ Albert: We used to go to a store called Mondo Video in Los Angeles. They carried weird movies from around the world. I was drawn to the 60's lucha movies. They are like the original Batman TV series, except more campy and outrageous. The films combined crime fighting and lucha libre, but the star always found time to see a 20 minute dance performance by a sexy lady. So, there is a precedent for the combination of lucha and dancing.
nocheLatina: What made you want to join the Lucha VaVoom family?
Cassandro: I met Liz at a show in 2004 while we were both putting chairs up. She saw my work and it took a while before she invited me to come do Lucha VaVoom in San Francisco where my debut took place. From that day on, I became part of Lucha VaVoom. Now I am also part of the office in terms of being a booker and manager in the lucha libre part.
nocheLatina: Why was it important to launch a show like this?
Liz Fairbairn: We didn’t really know what we were doing. I had discovered lucha libre through my boyfriend that I met working on a film set in Mexico and some of the minis were stunt guys. And then I was also doing costumes for one of the Velvet Hammer burlesque reviews. I was just trying to find a way to bring in lucha because I fell in love with it. I was dragging my friends down to Tijuana to see it. We wanted to mix the two together and it worked out so beautifully. We were only going to do it once, but it was just so amazing. We had to keep doing it.
nocheLatina: Why specifically burlesque and lucha libre?
Liz Fairbairn: That’s the great thing about it. It was just the circumstances. Rita was doing the burlesque reviews and I had access to all the information about luchadores through my boyfriend. It seemed right to us. I don’t know how you would describe the creative process, but it seemed like it would work out really well and it did. There wasn’t as much forethought as you would think.
nocheLatina: Why does burlesque continue to be so popular?
Rita D’ Albert: I think people like to see women strip, but don't necessarily want to go to a strip club and get hustled for drinks or buy a lap dance. Burlesque at its best should be performed on a glamorous stage by a performer who can come up with original concepts, be someone you want to see disrobe, and have great music. It's not easy, but we have pulled together an amazing group of burlesque performers. I'm very picky about who we bring in!
nocheLatina: In your opinion, why are non-Latinos becoming more interested in lucha libre?
Cassandro: Lucha VaVoom is all diversities coming together. It’s a whole new type of entertainment and fans just love it. It’s very different from the usual soap operas you see on American TV.
nocheLatina: What were some of the challenges you faced in launching Lucha VaVoom?
Liz Fairbairn: So many things, let me tell you. Just trying to make deals with luchadores in Mexico and getting them up here. There’s also the financial side, such as the flights. At our very first show we didn’t have masquaras and we didn’t know if we were going to make a penny out of it.
nocheLatina: You embrace glamour in a male-dominated sport. Why was it important for you to show this different side of lucha libre?
Cassandro: It has been a journey for me, especially to be the star I am today. I have been ‘The Queen of the Ring’ since I first started my career 21 years ago. Many doors where closed in my face and I experienced discrimination and rejection from many promoters and co-workers. However, I have a calling and I stuck around to prove to myself and others that I had the skills regardless of my sexual preference.
nocheLatina: How has Lucha VaVoom changed since it first started in 2002?
Liz Fairbairn: It’s become a more serious business. We are represented by CAA, which is probably the biggest agency in the world. Our agent is the same as Bob Dylan’s. And we have also developed our own popular characters, like the Crazy Chickens and Dirty Sanchez. We don’t bring so many stars from Mexico anymore. Instead, we bring one or two of the mini stars. We have tightened the show up a lot. You know we have access to the best performers around too, because everybody in Mexico loves the show.
nocheLatina: How have some of your celebrity fans responded to Lucha VaVoom?
Rita D’ Albert: David Arquette in particular loved the show. Garry Shandling called me once and we talked for about three hours. He had a million questions and it was very interesting.
Liz Fairbairn: David Arquette actually brought Peewee Herman with him. Jack Black got up on the mic and Billy Zane used to come to the shows all the time. Jack Black actually gave us credit for inspiring Nacho Libre.
nocheLatina: You recently performed in Paris. Could you talk a little bit more about that experience?
Cassandro: I still keep opening doors around the world. I was invited in June 2009 to wrestle in Paris at the Louvre Museum for the first time ever in a match versus Hijo del Santo, the greatest legend in Mexico. I am now called ‘The Queen of Europe’ since the most famous luchador is Cassandro the Exotico. Fans in Europe are very open-minded because they see me as a luchador and nothing else. That's why I’m the world champion for the last three years. I’m doing all of this to represent Mexican lucha libre.
nocheLatina: For those who aren’t familiar with lucha libre, what’s the code of the mask?
Cassandro: Lucha libre is the good versus the bad, or the baby face vs. the evil. Traditionally, Mexican wrestlers use the masquara to cover their face everywhere they go and the mask represents something that has to do with their luchador name. About 80% of the luchadors wear masks.
nocheLatina: What made you want to leave behind music for theater, specifically Lucha VaVoom?
Rita D’ Albert: I still sing and play occasionally, but Lucha VaVoom is the perfect extension of my work. It adds the theatrics, danger, and energy of rock ’n’ roll. We also do other projects, like the Girlie-Girl Catfight Show, The Bollywood Follies, and the Heino Happy Hour, just to name a few. We will continue to use our expertise to present shows we believe in.
nocheLatina: Talk a little bit more about the other famous lucha libre wrestlers from Mexico in Lucha VaVoom.
Cassandro: Lucha VaVoom has had legends like Mil Mascaras, Hijo del Santo, Blue Demon, La Park, Mistico, Magno, Estrellita, Xochitl Hamada, Mascarita Sagrada, Octagoncito, Pimpinela Escarlata, and many more. The best of the best have been in Lucha VaVoom.
nocheLatina: Why is it important to have a show like Lucha VaVoom available to audiences?
Liz Fairbairn: People crave something different and a lot of stuff has been done, like Cirque Du Soleil, which is amazing, but sort of a calm adult show. At Lucha VaVoom, you can lewd at the girls, boo the rooter, cheer at the technicos, get drunk, and it’s all okay. I just think that people need that kind of release and hopefully we are providing that for them. At Lucha VaVoom audiences just go nuts. People walk in prim and leave with their hair all messed up. We show them one thing after another that they can’t even believe they’re seeing, like flying chickens, midgets, and sexy dancers. People don’t have the chance to recover from one act before they are hit with another.
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