BRING IT: MEET THE GORGEOUS LADIES OF JAPANESE WRESTLING
Professional wrestling has a long, storied history in Japan. Active cultivation of the sport was started following WWII as the country was collectively mourning and recovering after the horrendous bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing approximately 200,000 people and other wide-spread, war-related devastation. The sport became hugely popular, and sometime in the mid-1950s wrestlers from the U.S. would make the trip to Japan to grapple with the country’s newest star athletes including an all-female “Puroresu” (professional wrestling) league, All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling Association, formed in 1955. Just over a decade later, the league would become All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW), and instead of going at it exclusively with American or other foreign wrestlers, the sport started to pit female Japanese wrestlers against each other which is just as fantastic as it sounds.
All-female wrestling in Japan in the 1970s was a glorious wonderland full of tough, athletic women happily defying cultural and gender norms. Matches were broadcast on television and a duo going by the name The Beauty Pair (Jackie Sato and Maki Ueda) were huge stars. Teenagers themselves, Sato and Ueda, were inspirational to their young female fans leading to the pair (and Sato as a solo artist), to be signed by RCA, producing several hit singles. They starred in a film based on their wrestling personas and sales of magazines featuring The Beauty Pair and other girl wrestlers were swift. The masterminds of the AJW--Takashi Matsunaga and his brothers—knew their ladies-only league was now unstoppable.
Female wrestling in the 80’s and 90’s in Japan was reminiscent of American producer and promoter David B. McLane’s magical GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), and introduced more theatrics into the sport by way of heavy metal makeup, wild hairdos, and eccentric individual personas. In the 80s, televised matches would glue an estimated ten million viewers to the tube much in part to the insane popularity of The Beauty Pair’s successors, The Crush Gals. Both women had signature closing maneuvers; Chigusa Nagayo was known for her Super Freak and Super Freak II, and her partner, Lioness Asuka often finished off her opponents using one of her go-to moves like the LSD II, LSD III and the K Driller (a reverse piledriver). Like their predecessors, The Crush Gals were also musicians and put out a few singles during the 80s, often regaling viewers with songs during matches. Other ladies of the AJW such as Bull Nakano, Dump Matsumoto, Jumbo Hori and others had their own personal theme music. And since lady-wrassling was such a sensation (as it should be), the theme music created for various stars of the scene was compiled on a neat picture disc called Japanese Super Angels in 1985. Video games based on the goings on in the AJW started making the rounds in the early 1990s with titles from Sega and Super Famicom.
So, in the event all this talk about Japanese female wrestling has you wondering if it is still a thing in Japan, I’m happy to report it looks to be alive and well. I’ve posted loads of images taken from Japanese wrestling magazines, posters, and publicity photos from the 70s, 80s, and 90s featuring some of the ballsy women which took on the game of wrestling in Japan and won. Deal with it.
CASTRATION SQUAD: THE UNSUNG HEROINES OF ALICE BAG AND DINAH CANCER’S EARLY DEATHROCK BAND
Back in the Canterbury Apartments days of Los Angeles’ punk scene Alice Bag, of the Bags, met neighbor Shannon Wilhelm whom she eventually ended up living with. After the end of the Bags—and more or less the end of the seedy Canterbury Apartments—Alice Bag was recruited to play bass for a new band called Castration Squad.
This early deathrock band was made up of Shannon Wilhelm (vocals), Mary Bat-Thing (vocals), Tiffany Kennedy (keyboards), Alice Bag (bass), Tracy Lea (guitar) and Elissa Bello (drums). The fairly unknown band was comprised of some quite legendary female rockers. All female bands were still quite a novelty at this time so it’s noteworthy that not only this was a proto deathrock band but also that there were six women in it. Mary Bat-Thing was known as “Dinah Cancer” as part of 45 Grave; Elissa Bello joined after a brief stint in the Go-Go’s and Tracy Lea was in Redd Kross. Lesbian folksinger Phranc (who’d been in Nervous Gender) also played with the group
If you want to talk about badass “squad goals” for Halloween…. you and your gal pals should consider dressing up as Castration Squad. These ladies, led by the late, ever so stylish Shannon Wilhelm all donned uniquely goth outfits adorned with crosses and religious medals. You could even play “Wild Thing” on the jukebox and change all the words to “Bat Thing”!
In all seriousness, Castration Squad was an extremely original group during their era. As Alice Bag said in her book, Violence Girl:
“Castration Squad anticipated the styles of death punk, goth and riot grrrl.”
Mary Bat Thing and Shannon’s deadpan vocal performances created a spooky aura that paired well with Bag’s gothy bass lines. This live performance of “A Date with Jack” really captures their overall vibe well. While they never released an album, their song “The X Girlfriend” is on the Killed By Death #13 compilation and “A Date with Jack” was released on Alice Bag’s Alice Bag: Violence Girl compilation in 2011.
How punk and reggae fought back against racism in the 70s
Syd Shelton’s photographs capture the Rock Against Racism movement that confronted racism in 70s and 80s Britain.
When Syd Shelton returned to London in 1977 after fours years living in Australia, he was shocked at how much things had changed. "The recession had really hit and the Callaghan government had attacked living standards for working people - very similar to what's happening right now," he explains. "Whenever that happens, there's always a rise of something like the National Front." Syd was desperate to fight against the hatred and was lucky to meet one of campaign group Rock Against Racism's founders, Red Saunders. Before long he was their unofficial photographer and designer for their newspaper/zine Temporary Hoarding. With an exhibition of his work from that period opening up at Rivington Place next month, we caught up with Syd to hear about some of Britain's most tribal and transformative times.
So what were the main messages of RAR?
Putting black and white bands on stage together was a political statement in itself. We didn't go on stage shouting "smash the National Front" and all that sloganeering, but we did want to extend the argument and talk about Zimbabwe, South Africa and apartheid, Northern Ireland, sexism and homophobia. We wanted to go, "Look, the National Front is not just against black people, they're against all of this as well."
Why does the exhibition just cover 1977-1981?
Like Jerry Dammers said, two tone took over the baton, so in a way we'd succeeded because bands were multi-racial. And the chemistry was starting to fall apart a little bit. We were all exhausted. We'd been doing this for five years. Of course, the fight against racism never goes away, as you can see with the anti-refugee situation at the moment. We're not born racist - we learn it and it takes a lot of looking at the Daily Mail to get that in your head. You have to argue against it.
NYC Cab Driver Spends 30 Years Photographing His Passengers
In 1980, aspiring photographer Ryan Weideman landed in New York City from California, looking to make a name for himself. But he soon found himself focused on more practical matters, like paying the rent. Thanks to his neighbor, who was a cab driver, he found himself riding along in the taxi one night, and by the next day, he'd found both a way to pay the bills and the perfect outlet for his creativity.
Over thirty years, Weideman would continue working as a cab driver part-time, photographing his clients to view the changing city in a new way. “After the first week of driving a taxi I could see the photographic potential,” shared Weideman. “So many interesting and unusual combinations of people getting into my cab. Photographing seemed like the only thing to do. The backseat image was constantly in a state of flux, thronged with interesting looking people that were exciting and inspired, creating their own unique atmosphere.”
Not wanting to waste time turning around to capture the action, Weideman found himself both as subject and photographer. Acting as a visual narrator in the scenes, his appearance speaks for the viewer who is also looking in, observing the lives of strangers. From 5 pm to 5 am on weekends, the interior of his cab became is his studio. Weideman studied the backseat scene intently, just waiting for the right time to pop the flash.
Sometimes he asked permission, sometimes the flash “accidentally” went off. Notable passengers include Allen Ginsberg—famed Beat Generation poet. The photo now belongs to the Brooklyn Museum. Other passengers simply made an impression. Weideman sharpened his skills to understand who was interesting—or not—over the years. And occasionally, he would spot a face on the street he remembered photographing.
He recalls seeing a voluptuous woman walking down the street who reminded him of Ruby Duby Do. Running to catch up with her, he asked if she remembered being photographed in the back of a taxi, and to his delight, she did. “I told her to meet me on the corner of 9th and 43rd the next day and I would share my pictures of her. She was thrilled, and so was I. When I gave her some pictures, she thanked me, and as we parted. I watched her show the photos to the passersby as she walked away.”
Some fun vintage tabloid covers.
Sexual Innuendo in Vintage Comics