Letter from the Editor:
By Aziza Al-Tawil
It was very hard to get back into the swing of things after the devastating events of the last month or so around the world. Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the storms and flooding in Myanmar, Bangledesh, India and other parts of Asia, the heartbreaking Las Vegas massacre – and so many things – that it seemed we were just barely able to stand up from one disaster until we were “pummeled” with something else.
I’m heartbroken to report that Desideria Masheed, last year’s “October Cover Girl” was caught right in the middle of the Puerto Rican disasters-the worst of which was “Maria.” Desideria has been a tireless animal rescue advocate working closely with “Save a Gato” for most of the five years she has spent living on the Island. Her reason for going was a change of pace, to study more dance, and practice natural healing. When the economy went sour a couple of years ago she felt she had to plan to leave the island but this slipped into a “quagmire.”
Trying to survive she was walking miles in the heat just to re-charge a phone. Meanwhile, stores like Wal-Mart started gouging people. All the while people were told at “FEMA” that they could not apply in person for help but had to do it by phone or go online (there was no electricity or internet service!) and, as the Mayor of San Juan was telling the world, food arrived to a place where people had been without food nor clean water for fourteen days and they were not allowing the “National Guard” to distribute it. The National Guard has had years of experience and they were not allowed to do what they did best leading everyone to ask “Why?”
Now, to add “insult to injury” or rather “injury to insult” our beloved Desideria was hit by a car in San Juan as she made her way to Wal-Mart for a folding table so she could vend on the boardwalk. Sadly, it took many hours to be seen by a doctor and now her foot is infected. She noted while waiting in the hospital just how many vulnerable “geriatric” patients were there.
“Egyptian Chick” magazine is trying to help Desideria who is now destitute and injured. No agencies are able to help her with anything. She just wants to come back to the mainland and needs to raise a few thousand dollars. To all who can help her we are imploring you donate what you can. As of this publication she is short of food to eat. There are two ways you can help her GoFund me campaign is here : GoFundMe to Rescue Desideria from Puerto Rico (Moving Expenses for her and her cats)
Or for more immediate help you can send to her “PayPal” at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you so much!
Aziza Al-Tawil, Editor in Chief
How I Fell in Love with Wrestling
By Aziza Al-Tawil
My grandmother’s boyfriend Mr. Felix Holmes used to pick up my Grandma and take her to the “Wrastling Matches” over at the Civic Center in Charleston, WV. There my “Yia Yia” would laugh her ass off and scream stuff, I guess, like “Go get ’em Tiger!” at who I think must have been, if I recall correctly, the likes of Bob Armstrong, among other legends. In fact, now that I’m grown and my fiancé’ Bill (whose Dad was Newark area wrestler “The Big Chief” in the early 1950s) has gotten me, “Miss Peace and Love” into watching the shenanigans out of the “WWE” I would actually give anything to remember just who in the world else my Grandmother and Mr. Holmes used to watch.
A lot of the Charleston area newspapers are probably on “microfiche”-still the handbills or flyers from this area are not too easy to find. Considering my Grandmother passed away in the mid 1980s, unless I hold a “séance,” cannot ask her who some of the legends were. I do think that I recall her mentioning Bob Armstrong though. As far as “local wrestling,” a lot of them came out of the circuit that was in Tennessee.
As far as getting intrigued with modern era wrestling it certainly took me a while.
My mother, a dancer, appreciated the “Greco-Roman” wrestling of the “Olympics” but was not too impressed with the antics of what we know now as “Pro Wrestling.” Although, she really respected the strength of Buddy Baer in his day and at one point she and her first husband Bill were neighbors of Antonino Rocca or “Rocco the Argentinian” on the West Side of NY. “Rocco” was a really nice guy she said. He would get out in the street with the “hardhats” and jokingly have a go at using their jackhammers. (Sadly, “Rocco” died at age 49 in Roosevelt Hospital of a urinary infection in 1977.)
As far as more recent female wrestling, I have not gotten into the clips from the “Sable” era-in fact-Stacy Kiebler on “Dancing with the Stars” several years ago was all I was exposed to. The gals in the 80’s were sexy like Wendy Richter (and also most of the women in “Glow-Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” the campy TV show which ran from 1986-1989 and featured acts with fun and provocative names like “Sally the Farmer’s Daughter,” “Palestina,” and “Spanish Red”) and if they ain’t inspiration for a good work out or two at the gym or the dance studio I don’t know what is-yet it seemed the latter era got a little more racy with “novelty” acts stripping down to thongs in front of crowds including kids. The girls now are sexy, and in good shape, but don’t seem to cross over into the “Adult Realm” as they seemed to do for a while.
As far as “Adult Realm,” I guess the biggest shock was the Joanie Laurer foray into hardcore porn and then her death at a young age from an overdose of drugs and alcohol. “Chyna” as she was known, seemed to represent the unbearable tragedy that can come about from a very competitive lifestyle in a tough and sometimes “unforgiving” business.
I swooned over “Rowdy Roddy Piper” in a couple of movies he made and found myself missing the 1980’s and the way we all used to look and maybe the last era where we really worshiped the “charismatic” male.
My favorites from today are entertaining to me because they have a certain “Golden Age of Hollywood” quality like Roman Reigns (The “Second Coming” of Victor Mature), or Dean Ambrose with another “Quasi Hero” quality straight out of the James Dean/Marlon Brando “playbook,”- or are straight out full of laughs like “The New Day” tag team.
“Pro Wrestling,” and all it’s idiosyncrasies, is the epitome of a “guilty pleasure.” How long I stay interested in something I couldn’t do myself if my life depended on it-I don’t know. Just know that now I oft think of a quote by someone-not sure who-who said, “The people who like Pro Wrestling are either fools or geniuses.”
I’d like to think I belong to the “geniuses!”
Wrestling Fashionista: Costume Looks from the Past to the Present
By Aziza Al-Tawil
Whether it’s Chris Jericho and his “scarves” (which Braun Strowman so unceremoniously tore in strips recently!) to Naomi and her neon “glow in the dark” spandex outfits, wrestling has been an exciting “arena” of styles for a long time. Years ago there was “Gorgeous George” and his “primpin” then there was “The Godfather” and his “Pimpin.” There’s a special place in my heart for ole “Rowdy Roddy Piper” and his “kilt. “
“Jungle,” “Tiki,” and “Tribal” looks have been around in different forms since the old days. “Leopard Print” bathing suits/costumes on lady wrestlers (Like “The Fabulous Moolah”) back in the 1950’s (and on male wrestlers like Enzo Amore who touts the “Gucci” look also), to Bone Necklaces on “Matilda the Hun” and leis and tropical prints on “Mountain Fiji” only lent more “mystery” to these amazing tough gals.
In fact the “exotica” look has certainly not been reserved for women. “The Ultimate Warrior” and “Papa Shango” come to mind right away. Nods to “Natives” would certainly be “Kamala the Ugandan Giant” and the many incarnations of Indian Head Dresses that have shown themselves over the years including “Chief Jay Strongbow.”
Representing the Middle East we had Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, also known as “The Iron Sheik” and before him, “The Original Sheik” (Ed Farhat from Michigan) known first as simply “The Sheik,” and a poster that looks to be from the 1940’s or 1950’s says a “Laurence of Arabia” is going to appear at “The Hollywood Legion.”
It’s also in the 1980’s that a lovely Turkish and Italian belly dancer was a wrestler on “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” AKA “G.L.O.W.” Angelina Altishin actually entered the arena belly dancing and it’s cool to see the audience, some wearing ball caps, try to dance with her the “sinewy moves” of her alter ego “Little Egypt.” Her costumes often had a skirt but once in the ring she did her thing in “Harem Pants!”
So after so many conflicts in the last generation including the devastating events of 9/11, who carries a torch for the belly dancer look in wrestling these days?
Non other than former body builder and wrestler Melissa Coates who, after a knee injury, decided to manage “Sabu” and follow in the footsteps of his Uncle Ed Farhat’s habit of having a female “valet” dressed in “harem regalia.” Melissa Coates these days is known as “The Super Genie” and performs on tour with him mostly around the UK. His style of wrestling is not for the faint of heart though-it’s “extreme” “hardcore” violent as he was trained by his uncle “The Sheik” who was known for bringing that into vogue
The handsome, talented Dolph Ziggler has recently created an uproar by doing a series wherein he lampoons the “gimmicks and costumes” used by his contemporaries. However, it may be a long time before crowds will want to give up the kind of exciting imagery and accessories that go along with the crazy world of “pro wrestling.”
From the Vedas to the Present: The History of Indians in Wrestling
By Aziza Al-Tawil
In today’s crop of American “Pro Wrestling” Indian and Pakistani, we have Jinder Mahal, “The Bollywood Boyz”-Gurv and Harv Sihra who are now Jinder’s “posse” and call themselves “The Singh Brothers,” “Prince Mustapha Ali,” and of course, “The Great Khali.”
Yet, if we take a look, it would blow your mind just how far back the sport of wrestling goes in that region of Asia. The form of wrestling known as “Malla-Yuddha” is thought to have been practiced in South Asia as far back as the 5th Millennium BC. It is thought to be the precursor of what they call “Kushti” now and predates the invasion of the Aryans. “Turko-Mongolian” descendants, the Central Asian “Mughals” conquered Northern India in the 16th Century bringing into the picture their style of wrestling which had roots in Mongolian and Iranian (Persian) style wrestling. (In fact there is no shortage today of Middle Eastern and Iranian origin wrestlers here in the United States including Araiya Daivari (Iranian), Seth Rollins, (Armenian), Sami Zayn (Syrian), Noam Dar (Israeli), Rusev (Bulgarian), and, if the rumor is true, the adorable Bayley is part Armenian!).
As far as the “Vedas,” wrestling is indeed mentioned in the “Mahabharata.” My personal interest in the “Vedas” came from childhood exposure to the “Hare Krishnas” in NYC taking the free “Back to Godhead” magazines they handed out and sampling the delicious vegetarian food they served from carts just like hot dogs. In fact, when I read that the royal sponsors of ancient Indian wrestling made sure to treat their “warriors” of “grappling” with “milk, pulses, sugar, and delicious sweets,” I was not surprised as that tactic seemed to work well for the Swami Praphupada building the “Hare Krishna Movement” based on luring sad, addicted youth to the pleasures of the “non-narcotic” dessert “Gulabjuman.”
He had called the deep fried donut balls that were soaked in rose water syrup “Iskcon Bullets” as they were so effective in preventing the troubled youths from the outside “malaise” of the “Hippie Era.” (Over the years, I truly loved the “Hare Krishna” vegetarian food served in other cities too like Boston, but, not being a “joiner” by nature I was never quite moved enough to go join a commune! To quote the great Cole Porter, “Don’t Fence Me In!”
Of course, special exercise regimens were used to keep the athletes fit as well, what with all that “Gulabjamun!.”
During the “Colonial Period” wrestling was a favorite spectator sport of the “Rajputs” in Punjab. (Both Jinder Mahal and The Great Khali hail from Punjabi backgrounds. Mahal’s family being of the “Sikh” religion and Khali’s of “Hinduism” respectively). At one point, being wrestlers was encouraged to help prepare for attempts to free themselves of British rule.
In the last couple of hundred years we saw the rise of the “Great Gama” class of wrestlers in India and what is now known as Pakistan. We’ve seen the continuation and growth of tournaments and participation in the modern “Olympics” era.
I could go into more specifics about the wrestling history of this region but it’s so vast you might do better to do some more in-depth research on your own. For me, I’ll keep watching the matches and eating those yummy Indian desserts!
Bizarre use of “Middle Eastern” theme and imagery, “The Clash” – “Rock the Casbah” (1982)