Published: July 12, 1991

THIS IS an uneasy time to be an American. As a nation, we might not be able to build a decent car or teach our kids to read, but it's a comfort to know we are still winning the culture race.

Consider female oil wrestling. This emerging performance art genre is a prime example of how far the rest of the world is going to have to come before they catch old Uncle Sam. You simply cannot get G-string clad vixens-of-the-ring in Riyadh. It is not possible to apply petroleum byproducts to living, breathing Malibu Barbies in Moscow. And you certainly can't get a $5 dry-hump -- performed right at your table, sir -- in Tokyo. It's an American thing.

Mark (my designated ogler) and I were eager to take in some performance art -- and we found it on a recent Tuesday night at Zapp's.

The California Hardbodies Team is a traveling show featuring six lithe, doe-like young women. Three nights each week the team spends several hours harvesting garbage bags full of cash from the outstretched hands of eager men. By 9 p.m. a good-sized crowd of 75 T-shirt-and-baseball-cap- type guys in their 20s and 30s had filled virtually every seat in the rowdy, roadhouse-style joint.

At 9:30, the vintage boxing videos ceased and the canned rap music started. A garrulous young master of ceremonies armed with a wireless microphone strode onstage and laid down the ground rules: "This is your chance to get to know the girls up close and personal, at your table. They're gonna take off as much as they're allowed by law. That's right. You can go one- on-one, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, with one of these gorgeous young women right at your table." I had envisioned -- you know, some sort of Greco-Roman girls-only grudge-match kind of scene, and now it sounded like they were going to go from table to table mauling these hapless men and leaving a trail of crushed egos and ruptured testicles in their wake like an enraged pack of premenstrual Amazons. But pretty soon it became apparent this exercise didn't have anything to do with figure- fours and full-nelsons.

Kayla, who my designated ogler assured me was the most attractive woman on the fight card, strode onstage, quickly shed the quasi-military uniform that covered her very brief thong bikini, and performed a little dance that had not much to do with the tyranny of the military/industrial complex. Before long, she waded out into the audience, trailed by a muscular bag-man armed with a huge Maglite high-powered flashlight and a white plastic sack. She worked the room like a bee servicing a shrub.

The exercise was always the same: She'd straddle a man's lap and ride him as if he were one of those coin-operated mechanical ponies. She'd peel away the tip, hand it to the bag- man, give the tipper a hug and a couple kisses and move on to service the next customer.

My designated ogler decided to try the $5 dry-hump service -- purely for the sake of journalistic research. The result: three kisses and a 20-second rub from Kayla. He pronounced it "worth about $3.75 to $4." This is consumer research you won't find in the Bay Area Consumer's Checkbook.

The beach bunny parade went on for hours. At 11 p.m., the scratchy "Wide World of Sports" theme blared from the speakers and the emcee began auctioning off chances to "oil a girl down." This entailed standing at the edge of the stage and using a pressurized garden sprayer to apply oil to a woman's intimate parts while she writhes around a plastic mat. One man felt the need to oil down two for $50, earning a round of high fives from his buddies.

Finally, at 11:20, almost two-and-a-half hours after the posted start of the show, the first match began. It consisted of four fast one-minute rounds. The women emerged from the ring looking like cats who had just been run through a dishwasher. For the record, Lacey from Santa Rosa lost to her little sister, Neriah, in three falls out of five in the main event.

When the designated ogler and I took off at midnight, we were pretty sure we knew who the real losers were.

307 Orchard City Drive
Details: Oil wrestling monthly;
$5 cover
(408) 374-4000

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