Slip 'n' Slide

In which we discover the dark side of Jell-O wrestling

Ten p.m. Friday. All over town Dog Bites' peers are pounding down cocktails at bars, flirting in the kitchen at house parties, or finishing up end-of-dinner cappuccinos at candlelit restaurants. But us? We're sitting on a sofa awaiting our turn to wrestle in a baby pool filled with Jell-O.

Now, to some this might seem an exotic pastime, but to Dog Bites it's almost commonplace. Because, like repeatedly riding our bike into a Holiday Inn swimming pool, we've done this before.

The first time was back in 1995, when we were new in town and, due to the recent soul-searing breakup of our long-term relationship, looking for frisky experiences to take our mind off our suffering. We convinced a friend who was soon to move out of a Lower Haight rental to let us lug a baby pool into her back yard, fill it with gelatin, and host a party around it. Though Dog Bites had pictured a scene straight out of Tom Jones, with attractive folks writhing in passion-red goo, it ended up being more like a tense clamming expedition, as uncomfortable people rolled up their pants and waded gamely through the sludge, grown frigid and stiff under a windy, 60-degree S.F. night. Though Dog Bites cavorted and squirmed mermaidlike in the pool, we were unable to coax anyone else to do the same.

Our second gelatin outing was much more fulfilling. For reasons known only to themselves, the editors of the now sadly defunct Fnord Magazine elected to feature Jell-O wrestling at a 1999 benefit, and, even more mysteriously, got the also-defunct North Beach bar Club Cocodrie to agree to host said melee. Dog Bites arrived late, drunk, and dressed like a giant baby with a comically enormous pacifier and rubber pants. We were the first one on our feet when the MC asked for wrestling volunteers, issuing belligerent challenges to the ladies and gentlemen in our row. "C'mon, you pussies!" we shouted. "Who's going to take me on?" Dog Bites asks you to remember that we are not used to strong drink and had consumed several Slippery Nipples that evening in anticipation of our public display.

When we finally gained a wrestling partner and slipped into that gleaming cherry-flavored pool of goop, it was like diving into a big, wet French kiss, only about half as sexy and twice as sticky. The two of us rolled, slipped, and tittered in the mess, finding it almost impossible to gain purchase on each other's slick flesh. The Jell-O was everywhere. Our hair was slimed with it. It gurgled and bubbled between our toes and crept into our bra. When Dog Bites started laughing like a mental patient, our opponent slapped Jell-O into our mouth, sending thin ribbons of the stuff spurting through our teeth and out our nose. At the peak of the combat, when we were finally just about to force our nemesis' shoulder down in the muck, a Peachy's Puff girl wandered into the bar, spied the slithery spectacle, and gaily sailed into the soup herself -- tray, fur skirt, high heels, and all.

This was more like it! But, just as every rose has its thorn, the Jell-O extravaganza had its dark side: the resultant mess. A giant mess, a gargantuan mess, a mess that could have had entire Broadway musicals written about it. Though amiable Cocodrie employees hosed the wrestlers down in the bar's kitchen, reportedly our antics left muck everywhere. Floor. Walls. Ceiling. Tracked into the manager's office, handprinted on the bathroom walls, blood-red stains ground into the corners. Since Dog Bites used to dye our hair with Jell-O powder (no Manic Panic hair coloring to be found in our tiny Florida hometown in the '80s), we could have told the Cocodrie folks they were looking at a horrifying cleanup. As it was, our nubile body remained so covered with red stains post-match that people on the bus on the way home stared at us as though we might be returning from a Santeria sacrifice.

Thus we're pretty amped for tonight, when Dog Bites' $20 entry fee has bought us an evening of spoken word, smutty cabaret, and a chance to swim through the strawberry-banana Jell-O quivering in giant-size lasagna containers at a SOMA benefit for the women artists' organization Femina Potens. We're excited all right. But even as Dog Bites listens attentively to chanteuse Cherry Terror (who's forthrightly singing about her desire to be loved by you, and you, and also back there in the last row, sir, you), we're noticing a fly in the ointment.

With just a scant square of plastic duct-taped around the Jell-O-ready kiddie pools on the concrete floor, Dog Bites is concerned about the extreme lack of goop prophylaxes. We have, of course, come prepared: wearing clothing we're not afraid to mess up, carrying a backpack full of towels, and draping a plastic-backed tablecloth (formerly used for a giggly "kitchen torture" scene at the Power Exchange) over our car seats.

We needn't have worried, as it turns out. The night's entertainment draws to a close, and the time for the main event is at hand. "And now there's supposed to be Jell-O wrestling," says the fabulous Tina Butcher, the architect of tonight's event, glimmering onstage in her form-fitting beige nightgown. Dog Bites strains in our seat with anticipation. "But it's gotten really late -- I don't know. Does anyone want to Jell-O wrestle?" she asks plaintively, looking toward Dog Bites, who had earlier expressed a fervent wish to do just that. We are sheepish: It is late. It will make a monumental mess. We might even feel guilty enough that we'd have to stay after and help clean up. Dog Bites is not getting any younger, you know. So we tell the fabulous Tina that it's OK. Don't go to any trouble for us. Dog Bites will find a way to make a story out of this. And as you can see, that's just what we've done.
-- Joyce Slaton

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