Lesbian author Bett Williams likes to wrestle other women while covered in oil, hence the title of her just-released memoir The Wrestling Party. Her fascination with oil wrestling began as a tool to seduce a girl she had a crush on in Santa Fe, little knowing that the sport would land her on HBO and become the axis of her memoir.
She writes of the first wrestling party, "I took a perverse satisfaction in the injuries of my friends. I imagined that the acid oozing from the striae of their muscles, the blood cells of bruises rising up, a fucked-up leg, a twisted neck, a black eye, and a slashed-up knee were my doomed longing for Anikka written on their bodies."
Shortly after her initial two wrestling parties, Williams was traveling through Austin, Texas, staying with some friends who had done film work for HBO. "So they pitched it to HBO, they ate it up, and three months later they were at my house with a lot of money to do the party," Williams recollects. "It was one of the best wrestling parties we had. Completely innocent and fun. I had a bad wrestling party before that where people were like wanking off and there was a bad aggressive kind of vibe, [but] there was no bad feeling about this at all; it was fucking awesome."
While Williams' first book, Girl Walking Backwards, was a fictional work about teenage lust (lesbian lust, of course), The Wrestling Party is straightahead nonfiction, mixing stories of crushes, stalker chicks and May-December relationships with quirky anecdotes like the quixotic account of her disabled nephew's fixation with Tara Lipinski, and the gonzo story about her experiences at the riot grrrl music festival LadyFest in Olympia, Washington (she had a terrible time).
In support of The Wrestling Party, just released by Alyson Publications, Williams has been throwing wrestling parties after her book readings in various cities, though she's not sure one will materialize after her Phoenix appearance at Modified Arts. She's instigated oil wrestling in Santa Fe, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the HBO appearance, and it's likely only a matter of time before the concept spreads Fight Club-style to all corners of the nation. "I've heard of people putting on wrestling parties since they saw the HBO special. There's definitely more wrestling going on between ladies covered in oil than before," she says, laughing.
Williams isn't sure what her next literary project will be, but she knows what it won't be. "I got an e-mail from my editor saying let's talk about doing another book again, maybe a lesbian manual. Like a comedically focused one," she says. "Little does she know, I'd be like, You're a lesbian, you have a problem, you need to go give a blowjob.' I'm not really the person to write the book that they're looking for."
Williams will be joined onstage by Barry Graham, author of The Book of Man and Before. The night's bill also includes comedy from Modest Proposal and music from The Learning Curve and Bella.