Imported Mexican luchadores, tassel-twirling sex kittens, and biting blow-by-blow commentary. No, it’s not your last crazy Saturday night: It’s Lucha VaVoom, a super-hot Los Angeles entertainment extravaganza that regularly sells out 2,000-seat theaters and has a rabid fan base.

The brainchild of co-producers Rita D’Albert and Liz Fairbairn, the nine-year-old show is a wild-and-unpredictable mix of lucha libre and saucy striptease, topped with a liberal sprinkling of comedic commentary.

Its Mexican masked wrestlers, or luchadores, are recruited and flown up for each show.

“They’re all so wonderful,” says D’Albert. “They’re mostly from Mexico City and Monterey, some from El Paso; we’ve got some from Tijuana—they’re a bit weird, like everything from Tijuana.”

Lucha VaVoom’s founders are not lucha libre’s traditional constituency. Artist, stylist and rock musician (notably in popular L.A. all-girl band the Pandoras), D’Albert, for example, was introduced to the athletic spectacle in a rather unusual venue.

“I worked in a gallery,” she says. “We sold vintage postcards of them and I became really curious about these masked men.”

Her first live lucha libre experience, in 2002, was transformative. “I didn’t know how much I would love it,” she says. “The thing that really struck me is that the characters transcended every culture—they’re like the Three Stooges. The other thing I love about the whole luchador culture is it’s passed down from father to son, generation to generation.”

Soon after, D’Albert and her partner Liz Fairbairn put together the premiere Lucha VaVoom show, adding a dose of burlesque to the masked fighters’ contests of strength. The spectacle’s tagline: “Sexo y Violencia.”

Over the years, the Lucha VaVoom team has also layered on some comedy: As the luchadores grapple, a panel of wits comment on the match. Big-time comedians such as Dana Gould, Fred Armisen, Patton Oswalt, and the Sklar Brothers have added snark to past shows.

At a Lucha VaVoom show, each of the four wresting bouts lasts between ten and fifteen minutes. In between, the stage is then taken by a curvaceous lovely who performs a strip-tease. These eye-popping acts range from highly athletic trapeze-swinging beauties to kittens-with-whips. An especially beloved performer is Lucy Fur, whom D’Albert describes as “a great tassel-twirler, but her act always has a touch of the demented; she’s like a ’50s girl come to life with a weird, modern twist!”

There is a vintage feel, especially, to the burlesque part of each show, but the producers don’t want stale performances. “Every burlesque performer must equal the energy of four luchadores wrestling in the ring,” says D’Albert. “Everyone does a high-octane strip-tease, it’s an art form that needs to be moved forward.”

The audience drawn by the show has evolved over the years. “When we started, we were appealing to the low-end art crowd and the vintage-car crowd and fashion crowd,” says D’Albert. “It took us a while to cross over to the Latino crowd. Now, for example, at our Cinco de Mayo night show it’s 60 percent Latino, which is awesome.”

“The unifying factor these days is that it’s people that really want to have fun,” says D’Albert. “It really warms my heart to look out and see a multicultural crowd, the hipsters, office workers. It gives me the goosebumps to watch the low-rider parade at the before each show. People know to dress up—girls wear their best vintage clothes.”

When they’re not on the road (Lucha VaVoom has played San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, among many other cities), their home base is the Mayan Theater, an elaborate, 1927-built former motion-picture palace in downtown.

Their next L.A. show is on August 18, and the show may soon become big—really big. D’Albert and Fairbairn are in negotiations with a Las Vegas producer to bring Lucha VaVoom to Sin City.

Lucha libre represents a cool superhero style," says D’Albert. "I love it; we don’t have anything like this in American pop culture." 

The next Lucha VaVoom show: August 18 at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles; luchavavoom.com.

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