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(44,471 posts)
Tue Jun 11, 2024, 10:29 AM Tuesday

Folklore Versus War


Recently, I came across a set of undated photographs that I can say with certainty were taken in August of 1999. I can situate the images precisely because my hair is straw-like, bleached platinum blonde, and I have on a shirt that I only wore once in America. I purchased it that July from a shop in Tokyo during my final tour as a model; it stopped making sense as soon as I got home. I look happy to be back in New York in every single image, drinking beer with my childhood best friend, Pokey, and often gesturing ecstatically towards an enormous and shoddy outdoor wrestling ring that had been erected in the middle of Frost Street in Greenpoint.

I wouldn’t say that we ended up at this event to support a friend, but we did know one of the headliners: he was a bouncer at the Bushwick strip club Pokey danced at, a man who at the time seemed relatively unremarkable outside of his ability to remain seated for extraordinarily long periods as he surveilled the club from a lawn chair. I remember thinking it was outlandishly weird when we found out this man had a second life as a wrestler, though I couldn’t tell you why now. I must have thought it was seedy in a way that was hard to relate to, but if it were a cynical sociological fascination that inspired my attendance, you would never know it from the photographs. Most of the documentation I have of that day shows a version of me who is young and thrilled and almost too enthusiastic, arms raised, mouth agape, eyes widening, as I register the split-second a bar stool makes contact with the bouncer’s head. I don’t find it difficult to understand why ultraviolent wrestling appeals to people. I remember how satisfying it felt to witness the flash of ignition, to encounter the moment when our barely suppressed death drives stopped wandering aimlessly and finally found purchase in the atomized dust of an exploded fluorescent tube. The match reminded me of the hardcore matinees I attended in the early 1990s, and if the ring here supplanted the stage, the circuit between the action and the audience was absolutely analogous.

For as much as we like to qualify this type of entertainment as a subcultural expression of classically masculine transgression, it also functions as an important release valve, subverting the surveillance of our collective superego by probing the membrane that quarantines real-life mayhem from its make-believe proxies. Looking through the images in photographer Nick Karp’s new book, VISITORS, I remembered how thrilling it can be to watch, how life-affirming it is to believe without calculation that we are witnessing a person exposing their interior, stripping bare the parts of themselves that we are not supposed to see.

Karp’s images provide an intimate glimpse of the men and women who joined Game Changer Wrestling’s post-pandemic performances at Tokyo’s legendary Korakuen Hall, a space that accommodates all kinds of wrestling but that many identify as the non-plus-ultra heart of the death match. I learned during a cursory investigation of the venue that it has served as the primary host for gorescapes since the mid-1990s, which means that its reputation as a no-holds-barred forum for blood sport began during the grip of the AIDS crisis and has continued through every subsequent public health disaster since. Though VISITORS certainly offers an intimately panoramic perspective of fans and wrestlers both in and out of the ring, part of the power that rattles through its pages is the service it pays as a document of displaced public anxiety. The percussive quality of Karp’s images is both underscored and redoubled by the historical moment in which they were taken: immediately following mass public trauma, state-mandated lockdowns, and the panic that fomented in the wake of Covid, these photographs deny death by showing bodies unafraid to cozy up to its perimeter.


Alissa Bennett

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Folklore Versus War (Original Post) Celerity Tuesday OP
Is that you in the posted picture? flying_wahini Tuesday #1
No, I am a mixed race black cis gendered female, and I was still 2 years old in August 1999 Celerity Tuesday #2


(44,471 posts)
2. No, I am a mixed race black cis gendered female, and I was still 2 years old in August 1999
Tue Jun 11, 2024, 11:57 AM

Btw, the bottom picture of the author is far newer than 1999, it is from 2016.

Here is a 2020 article about Alissa Bennett:


The Curator and Podcaster Giving the C-Word a Makeover


It's hard to find glamorous people in New York. You wouldn't think so, but it's true. Manhattan is now a retailpocalypse of influencers and activations, where creative freelancers teeter precariously on the verge of extinction, too stressed to embrace the bygone excesses of sex, shopping, drugs, and divorce. We're forced to fantasize about high-flying figures of the past to inspire our mood boards and make us feel as though in some reverberative way, we're along the same strand. Alissa Bennett betrays this famine of style, speaking every sentence like she's telling you a shocking secret. Her voice is a dragged-out variant of valspeak, less a vocal fry and more like someone slowly coiling a wad of bubblegum around her finger and then yanking it in your general direction. Every sentence lands. "Have you been friends with lots of people who've just slid off the face of the earth?" She asks me. I tell her yes. "These kinds of stories are why I never really went for anything in my life."

We're sitting in the sapphire-lit lounge of New York City's Algonquin Hotel, a fitting atmosphere to talk with Bennett, whose specific charisma can best be described as conspiratorial. Her dayjob is that she's a director at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery, but she moonlights as the co-host of Luminary podcast The C-Word with Lena Dunham, and has authored a series of gonzo trauma zines, published by Heinzfeller Nileisist that have afforded her the self-identified distinction of being a "historian of bad behavior." There's Bad Behavior (self-explanatory), Dead Is Better (paying tribute to fallen icons), I Expected Something Nice ("About disappointments...I think it's pretty good," she says), and Pretend You're Actually Alive ("About people with double lives...that one's pretty good, too" ). Bennett's essays are first-person direct, perverse love letters to figures as tragic and desperate, conniving and misunderstood, as Milli Vanilli, GG Allin, Andrew Cunanan, infamous Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, and my favorite, Paula Abdul. "You were FREAKED, Paula," Bennett writes in her signature hysteric prose, reminding Abdul of a creepy bouquet of flowers she received from her stalker, American Idol contestant Paula Goodspeed: "but this poorly executed floral Trojan horse did not even begin to prepare you for what was coming. On November 8, 2008, Paula Goodspeed drove her devastated Toyota Camry to your house, parked it two doors down, and killed herself with a mega overdose of about 700 different types of medication."

i-D, March 1998 - The Ego Issue. Top Image: Alissa wears Junya Watanabe coat and Balenciaga earrings.

I don't know Bennett's age but she has Gen-X energy, cutting a figure both unassuming and urbane. She dresses like someone raised on a culture diet of Melrose Place and John Hughes. Today she's wearing a striped cashmere sweater (vintage Balenciaga), an overcoat (Maison Margiela), faded jeans (GAP) and lived-in white sneakers (Keds). Her hair is coiffed to the side, a blasé redux of something a 60s socialite might have requested at Kenneth, and her earrings are chunky, vintage gold hoops. "I always think of my look as Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote on a bike in Maine," Bennett muses. The comparisons don't end there: just like the fictional Fletcher, Bennett hails from coastal New England (Rhode Island), and is also a writer, trafficking in tales of murder, savagery, betrayal, desperation, and other felonious ventures of the down-and-out, once-famous, infamous, sometimes-unknown, probably-forgotten-about, better-off-dead, or banished-into-the-ethers-of-time. "My general interest is that I'm obsessed with fandom," she tells me. "I'm always curious about how that brain circuit works. It's what you like about a person and what makes you relate to a stranger." She asks me if there's a celebrity death that truly shocked me, and we discuss, for a bit, Anna Nicole Smith. "Is she somehow you, but under different circumstances?" she asks. Smith was unapologetically herself and yet misunderstood, I say: a big part of fandom is the feeling that you understand someone better than everyone else does. "I agree," Bennett says. "Do you know what her favorite song was? 'Lady In Red!' That was her song that she danced to while looking for a rich husband!'"

Vogue Paris, February 1998.

Bennett's essays are filled with such vivid details, which she addresses to victims and perpetrators alike. Whether her recipient is dead or alive, she confronts them directly with their darkest choices, memories many people would understandably prefer to keep buried in the past. Whether it's a suicide victim, serial killer, adult film star, or Hollywood casualty, Bennett retraces each figure's steps with a forensic lust, often sourcing details from the abject fan forums and message boards of Web 1.0. "I don't know how much you frequent these fan forums online," she says, citing FindADeath.com as a personal favorite. "A thing that comes up again and again is that whenever a Brad Renfro dies or a Jonathan Brandis dies, the conditions of possibility for actually meeting that person are gone. You're ultimately blocked from meeting them and so it brings the fan and the object of desire closer, somehow. The death has a kind of accordion effect: women go online and pretend to have known these people and they write this very complicated fanfiction about them. People love to be friends with a dead person! Suffering makes people feel special. Tragedy, snobbery...it's very common." Is that what draws Bennett toward these dark corners of the Internet? "I don't think I'm a sufferer," she laughs, "just an enthusiast."

Alissa wears Junya Watanabe coat and Balenciaga earrings.


i-D, November 1998 - The Extravagant Issue.
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