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Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008

Mondo Lucha Variety Show @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Sept. 27, 2008

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   Saturday night's Mondo Lucha Variety Show transformed the Turner Hall Ballroom into a B-movie flick, a wild carnival ride that featured luchador wrestling, sideshow acts and burlesque, all tied together with the switchblade-brandishing tunes of the Uptown Savages, Milwaukee's seven-piece rockabilly band.

  The crowd was enthusiastic and seemed to appreciate the uniqueness of the show. They cheered all the acts, catcalled the ladies, oohed and ouched at the painful moments and booed the bad guys. Many of the performers got standing ovations.

  The Uptown Savages opened the show with a greased-back version of Ray Charles' "Mess Around" and played a couple of short, two-song sets throughout the show. Singer Jon Ziegler belted out the rock while wearing a red sparkly suit.

  Burlesque star Lola van Ella sang a jazzy, tongue-in-cheek song called "I Don't Want to Show Off" as she stripped down to her pasties, prompting a dad in the fourth row to remove his wide-eyed young sons from the show. A burlesque duo named Gravity Plays Favorites followed, performing an acrobatic routine using a portable strip pole they nicknamed "Dickie." Their first act was a sexy romp through Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand."

  The Dead Man's Carnival provided antics throughout the night, including a cartoonish boxing match between a giant rabbit and Uncle Sam. They also pulled off stunts that involved a bed of nails, broken glass, smashing cinder blocks and a straitjacket escape.

  Bella Sue DeVianti and Ava Von Sweets of the Alley Cat Revue each did a number. DeVianti danced with giant ostrich-feather fans to Tom Waits' "Pasties and a G-String," and Von Sweets did a routine dressed as a frulein, throwing pretzels to the audience as she lost the lederhosen.

  Of course, one of the star attractions of the show was the wrestling. A parade of masked oddballs fought each other in the ring, one on one, in a three-man challenge and in a wild, six-man, tag-team battle royale.

  The last contest was a grudge match between a wrestler, the K.G. Beast, and a team of four Brewcity Bruisers. The crowd went nuts as the roller-derby gals bashed the Beast.

   The show then ended with a "Saturday Night Live"-like finale, as the cast of performers joined the Uptown Savages onstage, dancing and waving to the crowd.

Photo by Lynn Ann Allen