“Viva la SLAW!"
That battle cry echoed through Cock and Bull bar in October, when the Sarasota Lady Arm Wrestlers (SLAW) took over the place for their third-ever arm-wrestling match.
As music blared from speakers, costumed women—“goddesses,” in SLAW parlance—took turns making their way to an outdoor stage. “Florida Woman” was carried out on an inflatable green alligator, wearing camo, flip flops and a sun hat. “Jersey She-Devil” flaunted an aggressive spray tan and sequined Spandex shorts with an American flag print, her jet-black hair swinging behind her and her middle fingers flying. “Chicken Butt” pranced out in a French maid costume, with feathers glued to her derriere.
Several other women followed, each with her own elaborate costume, soundtrack and personality. The crowd, which ranged from college students to retirees, raised overflowing cups of beer, cheering the women on.
SLAW pits its members against each other in arm-wrestling competitions, all in the name of fund raising for charitable causes. Fans pay a $10 cover charge to attend a match and are encouraged to bid on silent auction items. They’re also given fake money—SLAW bucks—that can be used to bribe the hot-pants-wearing male referee who oversees each match.
Things get wild—fast.
Although some might call their sport downscale, SLAW’s goals are high-minded. “Our mission is to support women, support equality and support freedom of expression in order to save the world,” explains Madame von Drumpfanator, SLAW’s founder and mistress of ceremonies, a few days after the event.
Von Drumpfanator insisted on staying in character, agreeing to be interviewed only if we did not reveal her real name. By day, rumor has it that she toils in business garb at a local nonprofit; at wrestling matches, she sports a black wig, bright-red lipstick, sunglasses and a military hat.
Her online bio states that “Madame von Drumpfanator is a proud immigrant from Trumpsylvania, where the national greeting is grabbing people by the privates,” and she does her Trump imitation with full swagger. The Cock and Bull event was a few weeks after President Trump visited hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, and Von Drumpfanator strutted onstage to Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” tossing rolls of paper towels to her screaming fans.
The first SLAW event benefited Planned Parenthood and was held at a private home; when it raised $2,500 in an hour and a half, the team knew it was on to something. The next event—at Growlers, benefiting ALSO Youth—raised more than $5,000. The October event brought in more than $6,000 for UnidosNOW, which works to empower the Hispanic community through education and civic engagement.
SLAW—a sister chapter of the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLAW)—began as a conversation between friends in Madame von Drumpfanator’s kitchen. “We were talking about how we wanted to use our creative talents for the causes we hold dear,” she says.
The women also wanted to present an alternative to black-tie galas for the social set. “We want to democratize fund raising,” she says. “This town is so fortunate to be driven by philanthropy, but SLAW matches are a way to engage a much wider audience.” The wilder the night gets, the more engaged people become, she says. “The goddesses behave so badly and the language is so foul. Most people are a little shocked.” That shock value can be liberating, she says.
“You can’t overestimate the need to laugh until you cry.”
The next SLAW brawl will take place March 24. Info: facebook.com/SLAWSRQ.