Lipstick & Dynamite – The First Ladies of Wrestling

Posted on 21 January 2011 by

Lipstick & Dynamite shines a spotlight on the forgotten first ladies of the ring. Gladys ‘Killem’ Gillem wrestled women, men, alligators, and bears. At 18, Ida May Martinez took to the road to flash the only thing she knew – how to kick, punch, and defend herself. Narrowly escaping a date rape at 16, Penny Banner trained for survival. Still kicking butt at 80, The Fabulous Moolah and Johnnie Mae Young live together with midget wrestler sidekick Diamond ‘Lil, and continue to take bumps with World Wrestling Entertainment.

Each woman reflects on her own remarkable life with fond and bitter memories, reconciling a wild, flamboyant youth with the reality of getting older and fading away. Lipstick & Dynamite follows Moolah, Johnnie Mae and the girls 60 years, many bumps and falls later as they discuss the money, the old days and what it’s like to be a ‘lady’ in today’s favorite guilty pleasure: spectator
If you recognize names like the Great Mae Young, Gladys “Killem” Gillem, and the Fabulous Moolah, then you long ago discovered the simple pleasure of watching women beat the heck out of each other. If not, then let Lipstick & Dynamite introduce you to some of the saltiest personalities ever to grace the wrestling ring, including the outspoken Ella Waldek, a former farmgirl turned roller derby jammer turned wrestling queen, who declares, “Whatever the referee didn’t see was legal.” This documentary mixes interviews, photos and film footage of actual bouts, and clips from shows like To Tell the Truth and cheesy movies like Racket Girls. There’s some social commentary about the changing roles of women and society, but the real engine of this movie are the girls themselves, holding forth on angels and heels, sleazy producers (like the legendary “promoter of flesh” Billy Wolfe), fixed matches, the loneliness of the road, and much, much more. “Being tough didn’t mean a damn thing,” comments Gillem, who went on to wrestle lions and alligators after leaving the ring behind. Maybe not, but these tough old ladies are delightful company. Featuring a great soundtrack with songs by Neko Case and others. –Bret Fetzer
Lipstick & Dynamite – The First Ladies of Wrestling

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