It was definitely the Best Show in Town this past Friday evening as BRAWL took its outsized and outrageous concoction of cabaret, theater and arm-wrestling into the courtyard of the Water Street Market in New Paltz. A couple hundred people thought so too, as they packed the little courtyard to watch MC’s Lady Thumb-Prince and Bodacious T open the show with an unusual version of that old Tom Jones nugget, “It’s Not Unusual.” And from then on nothing was.
BRAWL (Broads Regional Arm Wrestling League…the name does kind of resonate) puts their show on around the area from time-to-time and always, ALWAYS, does it for something besides just having a fun time. This time around it was for the Breast-Feeding Initiative, a group that educates the population about the advantages of breast-feeding those many babies out there. Other shows have benefited Family of Woodstock, the Pregnant Teen Center, Planned Parenthood of the Hudson Valley, the Grace Smith House (a domestic violence agency), the YWCA of Kingston and Celebration of the Arts (COTA) of New Paltz. So BRAWL knows its audience.
Each of the eight wrestlers brought an entourage (kind of like Halloween night in New Paltz), with finalists The Wolf and Her Pack (complete with a sacrificial “lamb”) off a farm in Chatham and Kotton Kandy and her Traveling Circus (complete with “Dr. Cavity”) from New Paltz. The two fought to a foul-plagued draw, as called by the referee, Mr. Stripes. One of the more intriguing bouts pitted Kandy against “old-timer” (in the words of Thumb-Prince) and veteran wrestler Magenta Delecta and the Pinkettes (a troup of young girls dancing to the music of “Flash Dance”) and her mother, Pink Delecta, who, when Magenta lost due to technical fouls (the wrestling part IS serious, as Thumb-Prince told me beforehand, “We’re the only group without a broken arm”) grabbed the microphone and renounced her daughter and claimed Kotton Kandy as her own. It was a definite high-point to the festivities and brought howls from the overflow crowd.
On hand at the start of the show was surprise guest (and honorary Judge) and CLAW (Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers) co-National Champion, New Paltz’s own Heather Weizen, who flexed for the crowd and was given the famed BRAWL cupcake to light, signifying this Olympian moment. Weizen had battled the notorious take-no-prisoners Amy Smackhouse to a smack-down stalemate in June in Charlottesville, Virginia (think Thomas Jefferson, who I’m sure would have approved of the proceedings), bringing glory to the local BRAWL community.
BRAWL originated in 2009, an alliance of theater and philanthropy, as a way of empowering women and to strengthen their local communities. And looking at the hordes present on Friday night at the Water Street Courtyard it looks like they’ve been pretty good at doing just that.
Here’s to the next BRAWL.