Rita D'Albert Talks Lucha VaVOOM, The Rolling Stones , Iggy Pop and More
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 12:10:58
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"This isn't about reality," exclaims Lucha VaVOOM – Sexo Y Violencia creator and producer Rita D'Albert. "It's escapism in its purist form."
That's the beauty of Lucha VaVOOM's elegant hybrid of Mexican-style lucha libre wrestling and traditional burlesque. There's nothing typical about it. The show is an unforgettable experience that appeals to our base id brilliantly. Lucha VaVOOM thrives off sexy action that's as classic as it is clever. D'Albert and her team of wrestlers, dancers and midgets bring attendees into the warm embrace of madness, providing a ton of laughs and a badass soundtrack in the process. It's grittier than your favorite rock band and more bombastic than any big budget films in theaters. This is the sexed-up kick in the teeth modern pop culture desperately needed.
Rita D'Albert sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Lucha VaVOOM, how important rock 'n' roll is to the show, the cross section between sex and violence and so much more!
How did this marriage between burlesque and wrestling come about for Lucha VaVoom?
Maybe it was a subconscious thing to merge sex and violence because it works so well…To be honest, we wanted to bring Lucha Libre to the hipster crowd. I was already in a burlesque show. I was producing it and doing some other productions around town. It was a way to entice people to see wrestling because burlesque was pretty rare back then. It's this mind-boggling thing you know you're going to love [Laughs]. That's how it came about. The comedic commentary can be a really great component of the show. It keeps this Mystery Science Theater 3000 element going, which is a show I love. We didn't know it was going to work the first time; we really had no idea what was going to happen. Then, we just freaked out at the results. It's never stopped being spontaneous like that.
So the spontaneity really ignites that flame for the show?
Definitely! We do the show more and more every year. I don't know how many hundreds of times we've done it, but every time I watch it, it's like I'm seeing it for the first time. We feature different combinations of wrestlers and bring in different dancers. For instance, last night we had the Wau Wau sisters, and it was my first time seeing their trapeze act to "Highway to Hell." It just blew my mind, and it was fantastic.
It seems like the gap between Mexican wrestling and burlesque isn't that wide. They seem like they may be disparate, but they ultimately make so much sense together.
I think so too! I feel like I'm pretty cultured. I'll go to the opera, and I always end up going to the ballet. However, I'm guilty of having a short attention span, which I feel bad about. If I go to a show that's all Lucha Libre, it begins to get boring. They let the matches go on for too long, and there's nothing to mix it up. The same could be said for going to a straight-up burlesque show. To be honest with you, how many pairs of tits can you absorb? [Laughs] It gets to be too much! After the first number of one of those Las Vegas shows, I get it. By mixing the two, each one is a palette cleanser for the other. I think it keeps it really fresh, and it gets you ready for the next thing.
You oscillate what's going on. You can never get bored because by the time your mind adjusts to the burlesque or wrestling, there's something else in front of you.
That's exactly what I'm saying! I feel like I've done my job when the people in the audience see a little mini chicken who last night was a ghost version of himself because it's Halloween. We have to assume that adorable little chicken everyone loves somehow met an untimely end. He's played by this amazing mini-wrestler. Then there's a woman being the Bride of Frankenstein, but the thing giving her the electric charge is her pole. It's a barrage. It can't just be fast-paced. It has to be really good, solid material so people can latch onto it. I'm as proud as I can be of this show. It's all I can really think about.
How important is music to what you guys do?
It's really a key component. We've had Senor Amor for years. He's one of my favorite DJ's. He has a show on KXLU called "The Molotov Cocktail Hour." He just has this extensive record collection, and it was so great to bring him in. He plays the really weird South of the Border versions of "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones. You're going, "What's song is this?" because it's such a weird twisted version! People really love it. We put out some of his soundtracks too. Now, we've branched out. We've found there's a great movement of DJ's who use '45s across the country. In San Francisco, we use a DJ named Sergio Iglesias. In New York, we use Jonathan Cuban. It really makes the show come alive. The music that the dancers use is really cool. We used to try to be really esoteric and unearth something no one has ever heard so you could really own that piece. Then, we had a dancer do a Kabuki striptease to "Anarchy in the UK," and it totally changed my perspective on it. The audience loves that song. It's part of everyone's lives already. To have these girls do this death-defying trapeze act with no net adds a really neat dimension. Those are both sides of the musical coin.
Dancing is obviously a crucial element, tying in with the music.
I love go-go dancing. If you take me to a '60s dance club, I'll dance for five hours straight. At the Fillmore in San Francisco, we're taking over The Cramps traditional spot. They did it for twenty years. When Lux died last year, we were saying, "There's really nothing better to carry The Cramps' torch than Lucha VaVoom." We love all the same stuff. All of our dancers are influenced by it. Last year, we did a tribute show, and the strippers danced to The Cramps. This year, we're doing a Cramps tribute as well. We created a little mini wrestler called "The Green Fuzz." We're so excited to do it because we're such big fans.
Do any songs or artists define The Lucha VaVoom experience for you?
That's really interesting. I think for every person in the show, it'd be a different thing. Iggy Pop is my person. He's so ballsy, yet so intelligent. He's so intelligent that you don't really expect him to be such a great performer that can switch off his brain and be primal. However, that sums up the experience for me. We also have dancers in the show who dance to current stuff. There's a girl who has choreographed everybody you can imagine from Janet Jackson and Lady Gaga to Kanye West now. She brings more of a hip hop element to the show, but she combines it with classic burlesque. It somehow works with everything everyone is doing.
Did you grow up a big music fan?
Rock 'n' roll played such an important part in my life. For everyone we work with, I was in a band called The Pandoras. I came from music. I saw The Rolling Stones with my dad in the late '70s, and it felt dangerous. It smelled like pot. There were Frisbees getting thrown, and people were passing out. The last time I saw the Stones, there was an E-Trade banner and everyone was getting searched. I thought, "Rock 'n' roll doesn't feel dangerous anymore; it feels very corporate." Of course, I'm always searching for that experience. If I have to create it, I'm willing to do it. I love that danger of the first time I saw a punk show. I guess that's what keeps us all pretty immature [Laughs].
Where is that cross section between sex and violence?
It feels like Fight Club to me. Every show is a learning experience. People are so desensitized and protected. Kids have to wear helmets when they ride bikes. My experience was careening down a hill in a little red wagon, falling over and running over my fingers because I was trying to stop the wagon [Laughs]. I don't think we're meant to be so desensitized from computers and such. There's that Fight Club element to Lucha VaVOOM where people want to feel alive. I did this act that was based on an Ursula Andress Italian movie. At the beginning, she does this striptease, but she goes out into the audience and slaps people really hard in the face. David Arquette was in the audience with Paul Reubens. I thought I'd be smart and go smack him. I did a theatrical smack because he's famous and I don't want to just smack people—I don't think I'd like it [Laughs]. It turns out everybody I smacked was like, "I really wanted you to smack me hard!" I was a little taken aback. People pay extra to be in the front where the wrestler's slam. I think they want a little contact. I can't imagine what the Roman Coliseum was like, but I understand people would get bloodlust and they'd get very overcome sexually. This is as close as we can come in society today without being really gross. I'm not into Ultimate Fighting or anything ugly. This is all done very theatrically, and they look like superheroes fighting good vs. evil. I think that's what makes it acceptable. I don't want to see blood, a guy on steroids or tribal tattoos. I want to see stuff I saw in comic books or fantasy movies like Flash Gordon. I love color and spectacle. If you can get a little body slam thrown in, it's pretty cool.
Have you seen Lucha VaVOOM yet?