April 20, 2005

Spring Breakdown

Chocolate-syrup wrestling funks up San Francisco.

David Downs

What makes a normal, rational girl, a girl with a college degree and a great body and arguably no self-esteem issues, strip down into a bikini and climb into a pool of ankle-deep muck and choke and wrestle another girl in front of 350 screaming drunks?

As we near the end of Spring Break, the national question must be asked: Wherefore do good girls go wild?

the scene
Eric Lister

The medulla oblongata reigns once a month at San Francisco's premiere viscous-liquid T 'n' A wrestling event. See more of Lister's illustrations in the accompanying gallery.

Two answers throw themselves around a 15 foot-wide plastic inflatable pool on the night of March 31 at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco. More than 150 gallons of Hershey's chocolate syrup splash at their feet. I name the girls Money and Hard Liquor.

Money is 5 foot-7, 155 pounds of beefy stripper in a black thong bikini stalking around the pool at the center of the two-story cement club, which, when it's not covered in plastic, is a swanky affair with internet hookups everywhere. Her pale face is totally black, covered with chocolate syrup except for the whites of her wild eyes and a set of gleaming, snarling teeth.

Hard Liquor weighs maybe 120 pounds, counting the syrup she's marinating in. She's Fiona Apple-thin and feisty, and she showed up at the converted club with no intention of taking off her jeans and top and trying to chokehold the Reigning Champion of Chocolate Syrup Wrestling—the most-coveted title in a monthly city bash.

"Bite her tits!" the crowd of North Beath hipsters, Mission district rats, and Haight Street alt-girls yell as Hard Liquor goes for Money's bikini and yanks off the top. This is a textbook move and the crowd goes Tijuana dog fight-crazy.

"Spank the bitch!" dudes snarl over the house music.

"Tear her apart!"

In the back, leering old men from the night's Giants game watch the girls fight on a huge video screen reflecting live feeds from the ringside camera. It looks like Nine Inch Nails meets Girls Gone Wild-Cancun, and it's primordially hot.

Not boner hot, but something deep down responds to the lithe limbs thrashing about, play-fighting like they're too innocent to understand lesbianism. They look like fully formed newborns flopping around covered in goo. The guttural attraction is cut short by warm blasts of chocolate musk and cheap booze. I dry-heave and keep writing:

"Money spanks Liquor. Hard Liquor flips. 350 people chant spank her. spank her spank her. Debris in pool. Spank her! Goons/fiends pump fists in air. This is the MD Max + thunderdome"

Two more girls jump in and the crowd surges at the railings. Bouncers push people back, yet one fully clothed male manages to dive in.

Money and Hard Liquor are now choking each other. "Come on, bitch, come on," Money says, until Liquor backs off, rushes and falls. She hates this big fucking stripper; to Liquor, Money's a step backward for all women, a pure object who loves the attention. Like powderpuff football before it, Chocolate Syrup Wrestling suddenly gets very personal. It becomes the archetypal high-school fight between the alt chick and the skeez, and everyone loves it. (See a gallery of illustrations.)

Twenty-five year-old professional promoter Micah Byrnes didn't really plan on the third installment of his event getting this atavistic. The first two events were more-private affairs with invite lists based on Byrnes's and his friends' extensive cellphone trees.

He hired Hustler Club girls to get the first party in January started, but he was amazed at how many amateurs went at it. "They're basically party girls. They see their friends get the attention and they want it too."

"It's mostly friends, and friends of friends," says Byrnes's female partner, Asher, a leggy 20-something in a pinstripe micro-miniskirt, suit jacket, fedora hat and black chunky boots. Asher goes club to club the week before fight night, handing out flyers and giving her cellphone number to potential amateur wrestlers. She offers no pay and no excuses. "We just get them wasted. Tequila's good. A lot aren't sure but I tell them, 'Come down and watch it,' and sure enough, they want to do it. Some are so wasted they can't even wrestle."

Two hundred people at 10 bucks a head show up for the first two events and Byrnes sees an opportunity. Most of the entertainment doesn't have to be paid, and amateurs make it much much hotter than some stripper sideshow. This is something your girlfriend might do. Who knows which girl walking down the street is capable of getting liquored up and trying to full-nelson another chick as the DNA Lounge webcasts it to the world.

Women are now liberated enough to do this shit of their own volition, and for free. New Feminism, wee.

Byrnes decides the third installment will take over a club with a capacity of 1,200 people and a possible gross of $12,000—not bad for a night's work after moderate expenses. There'd be merchandise and sponsorship opportunities. Flyers were made up. T-shirts screened. Amateur girls petitioned at clubs.

A mix of pros and ams show up Thursday night and it's obvious who's who. Amateurs have no experience peddling ass, and since audience applause determines the winner, the spanking and leering strippers win every time.

Their classic showboating includes big splash moves that send waves of slaughterhouse runoff cascading at the audience. Whereas the all-amateur Round 2 was all technical and brutal; just takedowns and holds, crocodile-rolling, and exhaustion. Even with the makeout breaks, the ams here have to dragged from the pool, totally exhausted.

"It's really, really tiring in there," says announcer Roy Hellen, who is known for MCing robot battles in full armor. "You don't think it would be, but you can't even stand up. Three-minute rounds is about all most of them can handle."

The Round 4 Battle Royale between Money and Hard Liquor doesn't really conclude so much as devolve into Lord of the Flies-style chaos.

The crowd speaks in tongues and launches drinks at one another. Bouncers slip and fall into the pool and people jump the railing. "Chocolate wrestling is not easy!" Roy froths into the mic as the house music thumps and the lights flash. "Chocolate wrestling is not easy!"

"Tear her eyes out!" people yell.

"Drink her blood!"

"Fuck her!"

"Fuck her!"


And underneath it all, there's Liquor's head below the frothy surface. Little bubbles pop by her ears.

Someone fishes her out and people let out a collective, "Awww!"

What happened to the drowning!? We wanted blood!

Hands under her armpits drag her from the goop. They let go and she collapses into the fetal position on the plastic-lined dance floor. Her slick corpse flashes disco red, green, and blue. She's Thursday night roadkill.

Money prances around the ring buck-naked, flashing labia as eyes spin like slot machines and camera phones wink.

Wherefore do people go wild?

The money.

The booze.

The attention, yes.

But the whole thing really starts with boredom. Namely, Byrnes and his club-kid friends hanging out at bars, wondering how to pass the time.

This is the true source of all the glory holes and burlesque shows and caged stripper acts. What the fuck are we going to do tonight that's not like every other night in our supposedly awesome early 20s?

"We were just bored kids looking for something different to do," says Brandon, the young owner of the Element Lounge where the first matches debuted. "We're all city loners looking to connect. Maybe have a good time."

A good time indeed. There are lots of ways to drop $10 on a cover in San Francisco on a Thursday night, and very few offer free T 'n' A on top of cheap booze.

"It's a good way to pass a Thursday," a girl says out front.

After Round Four is all over, announcer Roy walks out of the backstage dazed. "That was the worst I've seen it," he says. "That was just nuts."

What about Hard Liquor, dragged backstage like a caveman prize? "I saw her eyes and they didn't roll back into her head or anything. There was no concussion. She just collapsed.

"She was there, she just had nothing left. This girl must've had like a slice of pizza like two days ago and a bunch of booze tonight.

"We need some type of screening process for these girls," Roy says, and walks away.

That will be the final round for Chocolate Syrup Wrestling this month. Byrnes decides to use only pros from now on. Less liability.

People hang out in front past 2 a.m., smiling and covered in flecks of what looks like dried blood.

Fight Club has let out.

"In the end there were no winners, and no losers," Brandon reflects, "but in the end, it didn't matter."

I again try to ask a wasted girl, "Why do you do it?" but this skinny Persian's got alcohol madness in her eyes and sinus cavities full of coco.

She knocks the notebook out of my hand, jumps on my back, and starts violently gnawing on my neck. I grab her by the hands until she calms down.

"Stopwritingfucker," she slurs, and staggers off.

Related in Gelf

•See a gallery of Eric Lister's illustrations of the chocolate-syrup wrestling.

David Downs is a full time freelancer with Wired magazine and the East Bay Express. He's based in San Francisco and can be reached at Eric Lister is a full-time artist when he's not editing gay pornography and snowboarding. He can be reached at

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- Nightlife
- posted on Apr 22, 05

Sexy. Disgusting. Chocolatey. Mention of the hindbrain. It pretty much covers all of my personal requirements for good solid journalism.

Article by David Downs

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