Photo by Jack GouldThe Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana began its days as a dinner theater, a classy spot where one might sumptuously sup to an evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein (though I know an actress who once looked up from the stage to see a couple screwing in a balcony box). When Gary Folgner took over the Galaxy as a concert club several years back, he expressed a wish to maintain the room's classy character and decorum.
I had cause to reflect on that wish last week, at just about the time Hoosier Dave Dempsey was smacking a metal trash can upside the head of one Samoan Joe. Man, what a dent it made in that can! You'd think it was made of flimsy aluminum. Joe got so mad that he dragged the fight out of the ring erected in the Galaxy's pit and started whumping on Hoosier Dave all through the aisles. But then Dave's gal pal, who was named Scabby or something, got a chunk of Joe with a folding chair, a sentiment that was immediately reiterated by Hoosier Dave himself as he whipped Samoan Joe with an Ice-T-sized metal chain. I tell you, the shills were alive with the sound of vengeance.
With the encroachment of the Sun Theatre, the new, bigger Crazy Horse and other venues into Folgner's turf, it's a far tougher concert market than it was just a few years back. Everyone is having to reach farther afield to keep their seats filled. The Galaxy has been hosting wrestling events and this past week also featured the Genitorturers, who, last I heard, were performing live genital mutilations on audience members. That was a while ago, so they may have moved on to pancreas removals now. On Tuesday, the Galaxy will have the Insane Clown Posse's take on wrestling, "Stranglemania," promising a "man vs. woman thumbtack death match."
I suspect cockfighting could also be a big hit, or maybe a man vs. rooster tag-team event. You can laugh, but you've never been on the receiving end of a sharp beak and chicken feet. There is no greater humiliation than when a rooster makes you his bitch.
(Attention, Laguna Beach: if you and the Festival of Arts board of directors are so dumb as to let the Pageant of the Masters leave town, you're going to have to do something with the Irvine Bowl amphitheater. May I recommend "Stranglemania"?)
The March 29 event at the Galaxy was under the aegis of Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW), which I gather is some manner of farm league peopled by aspirants honing their act for the majors. Not ready for television, the matches were "broadcast live over the Internet," which is shaping up to be the 21st-century version of paper cups and a thread.
Ringside, we had a dreadlocked announcer named Doc Marley, menacing manager the Big Schwag, and a Miss Delicious, who didn't appear to be so much clothed as dipped in that stuff they make candy apples with—all providing some manner of running commentary amidst prerecorded slag-metal hip-slop.
The first bout was the German Pretty Boy—330 pounds of Kraut, whose signature quote is "America, I hate your country, but I love your women"—vs. Suicide Kid Mike Henderson. Within two minutes, they were out of the ring, battering each other with a trash-can lid. Did I mention that they didn't shake hands first? The ref didn't even notice when the Big Schwag goosed the Suicide Kid with a German flagpole. The ref never notices. They might as well have George Shearing in there. The Kraut had a red heart on the crotch of his yellow shorts, shorts he pulled down to moon the crowd after he won.
Bout two: Dirty Dave Sanchez vs. Smooth Billy D., a man in a dashiki and puffy Afro wig. Smooth Billy had the drop on Dirty Dave until the latter gave the former a back-kick to the nuts. The tykes in the audience liked that. But soon, the Canadian Ballard Brothers—in hockey outfits, of course—waded in, doing a Rodney King on Billy D. Suddenly, there were seven guys in the ring duking it out. That poor ref!
According to the announcers, this and apparently every one of the night's events was a world-championship match. Things began heating up when the robotic muscleman Prototype "from Area 51" squared off against Funky Billy Kim. Lotsa good slapstick here, particularly when the Prototype coldcocked the referee. Next, Rio Storm, a very mannish girl, took on Stretch, and in a decisive moment, she head-butted his groin.
Tag-team time with the Prodigy and Little Cholo—you just know he was doing lots of gang signing, don't you?—vs. Los Cubanitos, who had a flying drop maneuver described by the announcer as "the Cuban Missile Crisis." Lots of great acrobatics and kung fu moves here.
But it wasn't until the match between Smelly and Maddog Mike Bell that the blood started flowing at the Galaxy. The sparring once again moved into the audience, where Smelly pounded Maddog's head on the Galaxy's nice wooden railings. Is that maple? Now I was getting into it. When Maddog's manager tried to call a time-out, I found myself shouting, "No! He's not done bleeding yet!"
They knocked the ref out for good measure, and then Smelly's female sidekick, Looney Lane, dressed in a Catholic-schoolgirl outfit, leapt from the ropes to deliver a flying muff dive to Maddog's face. Evidently no great respecter of virtue, he slapped her down hard.
"Slap the lice off her head!" I yelled, lest someone think I wasn't into it.
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The evening wrapped up with the hockey-stick-toting Ballard Brothers returning to battle Team Hardcore, comprising the Hardcore Kid and a fellow named Just Insane. The latter took such a beating that I'm just glad Ma and Pa Insane weren't there to see it.
I used to watch wrestling on TV a bit when I was a kid, seeing folks like Freddie Blassie, Bobo Brazil and the Three Death Missionaries spar at LA's Olympic Auditorium. Even then it was goofy stuff, but they tried to lend a semblance of realism to the proceedings, with maybe 80 percent of it authentic grappling like you see in high school wrestling and 20 percent of it eye-gouging pretense. Now the "sport" has taken on a sub-cartoon quality. Compared with these guys, Scooby-Doo is the hard slap of reality.
Many of the kicks and blows that had contestants reeling at the Galaxy clearly didn't come within 10 inches of actually contacting with flesh. To accept it as real, you'd have to suspend your sense of disbelief so high it's beyond the pull of gravity, yet millions of people do every week. Why? What's really going on here?
Maybe they subconsciously see a model of contemporary American life in the ring. Assume that the wrestlers represent corporations. They are branded. They belong to teams. There used to be good guys and the dirty-fightin' bad guys. Today, some may have a "good" image—meaning they're handsome—but they will all smack ya with a folding chair, which always seems to be at hand.