Voom Voom Valhalla has been prepping for her first bout as a member of the Superhero Lady Armwrestlers of Portland (SLAP).
She’s assembled an entourage to help with her theatrical entrance. She’s putting together the appropriate costume, including a helmet and some wings.
And, since she’s never really arm wrestled much before, she’s been doing arm-strengthening push-ups at the prompting of her 8-year-old son.
“My son has been getting me to train. He arm wrestles with me,” said Valhalla, who goes by the name Jenna Keys when away from the arm-wrestling table. “The first match is on his birthday, so I wanted to ask him if it was OK. But he told me to go do it. He told me to go win.”
Keys, 35, is a dancer and mother of three who home-schools her kids. She thinks she probably arm wrestled as a child, but has no clear memory of it.
So why is Keys arm wrestling competitively? Well, the short answer is that she is part of a fun, theatrical fund-raising event to be held on Saturday at Mayo Street Arts in Portland.
The longer answer is that fundraising arm-wrestling events and leagues featuring women have sprung up all around the country in the past five or so years. It’s sort of like the women’s roller derby trend — roller girls adopt personas and wear costumes too.
But the arm-wrestling trend seems more accessible. All someone needs is creativity, a fun spirit and maybe a little arm strength.
“It’s a silly, fun way to raise money for something, not your typical gala benefit,” said Blainor McGough, director of Mayo Street Arts. “You just need people who are athletic and enthusiastic.”
McGough and some friends of hers formed SLAP after one of the friends saw a benefit arm-wrestling event in the New Paltz, N.Y., area. McGough investigated the various female arm-wrestling leagues around the country (more than a dozen), and found that the one generally credited as starting the trend is a league known as CLAW — Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers — in Virginia.
That one started in 2007 in a bar, with two friends arm wrestling while having drinks. They continued arm wrestling over time, talking smack before each match, and at one point decided it would be fun to get other women involved. Eventually, it became a fundraising mechanism.
Today, CLAW offers tips and guidance to new leagues around the country. McGough said the ladies at CLAW sent her a “starter kit” of information on how to set up a league and how to get it noticed.
One important element is to have a good name for the league. CLAW is a good name. BRAWL (Broads Regional Arm Wrestling League) is a good name. But what would be a good name for a Portland league? PLAW? LAWP?
To give the acronym some punch, the term “superhero” was added to Lady Armwrestlers of Portland to form SLAP. But the wrestlers don’t have to be superheroes; they just have to appear as some outrageous character.
The arm wrestlers competing in the first SLAP event this Saturday include Awful Annie, Durga the Demonslayer, Queen Elizabeth, Marauding Mama, Lumber Smack Sally, the Blonde Recluse, Big Pimp, Zilla, Voom Voom Valhalla and Great Grandma Gristle.
McGough says there will probably be another SLAP event later this year, but it has not been scheduled yet.
There will be three rounds on Saturday, using a regulation arm-wrestling table, to whittle the eight competitors down to one final winner. For the $5 admission, each audience member gets $5 worth of “SLAP bucks” that can be used to “vote” for your favorite wrestler.
You can also buy more “SLAP bucks” and put them on your favorite, with all proceeds going to Mayo Street and MENSK, a local community-building non-profit. If your wrestler wins, you get the satisfaction of picking the winner.
Keys said she wanted to get involved when she heard about SLAP because the idea of raising funds to help community groups while putting on a show appealed to her.
As did the fact that the event showcases women.
“It’s something that’s empowering women. There’s camaraderie and fun,” said Keys. “And I like theatrics.”
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: