|Pillow Fight League:
Is Pillow Fighting a New Sport?
The Entertainment eZine - Sports
Suzanne MacNevin - January 26th 2007.
Is pillow fighting a new sport?
I even checked it out on YouTube, and frankly, besides the sheer entertainment factor of it, I think it might actually be.
I'm not saying it will be in the Olympics in 10 years, but its certainly better than watching crappy poker on tv.
Professional Pillow Fighting also become a huge sport for GAMBLING on... spectators can gamble with bookies who attend the matches, although frankly how they predict the odds is pretty much up in the air. Maybe they keep a hitting record and a wins record of each player (similar to baseball or boxing).
The Pillow Fight League (PFL) or Professional Pillow Fighters (PPF) even have their acronyms sorted out.
And the fighters are taking it seriously. The old saying "Its all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Then it becomes a national sport!" seems to apply here. These fighters get real injuries from time to time. Usually strains, but harsher injuries like dislocated shoulders are also known to happen. (Thats some pretty rough pillow fighting!)
Just take a look below at the Official PFL Rules:
1. Women Fighters Only. No Exceptions.
2. Fights have a five minute time limit and are won via pinfall, surrender, or referee stoppage. If a fight ends at the time limit with no winner, a winner is declared by a three-judge committee.
3. Punching, leg drops, clotheslines, submission holds, and other moves are allowed as long as a pillow is used to execute the attack.
4. Preventing an opponents' pillow strike by holding her pillow results in a warning from the referee. Judges may choose to include these warnings as part of their judging criteria if a fight goes the distance.
5. No eye-gouging, biting, scratching, hair pulling, or low blows.
6. No rude, lewd, or suggestive behavior.
7. Loading a pillow with a foreign object such as a brick is strictly forbidden.
So if we take into account injuries, the strict rules, the referees and the popularity then Pillow Fighting really is a new sport.
Its just a very unorthodox sport.
PFL: Toronto Beats New York
Some will say the future started when Lady Die pummelled the tough-looking Trashley to the mat with the crazed crowd crying out for more blood – well, okay, some more Bloody Marys from the nearby bar.
Others will remember that great, wrinkle-straightening cry from the ring master: "Let's Get Ready to Slumber!"
Yes sir, the smell the fabric softener was in the air here at the Galapagos Art Space with Toronto's very own answer to a Martha Stewart marathon TV weekend. The Pillow Fight League straightened Manhattan's sheets Friday night with a dazzling display of nutty names – Laura Tunderin-Geezus has to be the winner – and lots of artless combat as pairs of women walloped each other for about five minutes at a stretch with puffy pillows.
No feathers were in those pillows. Feathers can bunch up. Feathers can hurt. And the only hurtful thing for the PFL came after the offer of a $100 amateur prize and the crowd booed lustily when it was further informed, "that's Canadian dollars."
Only three years old, with some 25 hardened pillow-slingers on its roster, the PFL looks poised to enter the pantheon of hot new, in-demand sports entertainment across America right up there with foosball.
Yet dangers lurk ahead. Yes, the Galapagos was packed with several hundred people paying $15 a ticket, $20 at the door. Sure, Fox News was on hand, interviewing just about anyone who moved. But we might well remember what's happened to basketball – a game invented by a Canadian – since Dec. 29, 1934, when the first college game at Madison Square Garden drew a stunning 16,000 New Yorkers. Might the PFL forget its roots now that Regis and Kelly are interested?
Maybe and maybe not. "This is still a first for us," said Stacey Case, the PFL's creator, commissioner and chief myth-maker. "Nobody had ever thought of applying real working rules and regulations to a pillow fight before. And I find that funny."
Funny, yes. But let's go easy on the ideas of "real" and "rules." "Fight Like A Girl" is the trademarked PFL war cry. But as Elly Greene, one bemused onlooker at Galapagos, said, "I had rougher (pillow) fights with my sister when we lived at home."
Yet that's enough for Case, a printer of posters by day and former director of Naked News, to start thinking of the big time. "I feel like the Wizard of Oz," he said at one point Friday.
For him the real fun started late last week when international media started clamouring to be allowed into the PFL space, in the hipster enclave of Williamsburg, that wasn't large enough to hold a small sorority slumber party. Britain's Bizarre magazine was on the phone, as might be expected. But Reuters wanted in on the action, too, as did BBC Radio, the New York Times, a newspaper from Singapore and Japanese and German TV.
The PFL marketing arm was ready for all the attention with stacks of T-shirts and two DVDs of some of the PFL's better dust-ups. Brochures from Toronto's Gladstone Hotel were also available, a reminder of the first PFL appearance there in 2004.
The potential of a "wardrobe malfunction" during a bout – and the PFL is definitely a female-only league – provided much of the attraction for the U.S. media interest. Well, too bad for them, insisted pillowista Boozy Suzy (a.k.a. Suzanne Carte, a Toronto gallery employee). PFL fighters take it seriously and "work out two days a week," she said.
"This is a community and a group," says Case. "If you're a woman who wants to join the league and sexualize what we do, you're in the wrong community. With us the commodity is the sport. The commodity isn't the women. These are real women having real fights."
No softies in Canada's Pillow Fight League
TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's College Street bar district has seen its share of late-night fights, but a recent scrap was a bit out of the ordinary, as a financial journalist in a '50s housewife get-up tried to wallop the daylights out of a 35-year-old part-time waitress -- using a pillow.
The crowd of nearly 500 did little to interfere, as they had paid to be there.
Welcome to the Pillow Fight League, which has been drawing growing crowds in Toronto since it formed early last year, and is now set to export its campy fun to New York City.
The league is the brainchild of 38-year-old Stacey Case, a T-shirt printer and musician who came up with the idea that people would pay to see young women in costumes beat the tar out of each other with pillows -- and that women would volunteer to whap each other in front of a crowd.
The seeds of the idea came from a New Year's Eve show Case's band played in a Toronto bar just over a year ago. As a local burlesque troupe entertained the crowd by staging a mock pillow fight, they were shocked when women from the audience came forward looking to join the battle.
"It was really, really fun, and really funny that they were actually fighting for real. I woke up the next day, and I was like, "Oh my God, that was awesome," he said.
A few ads in a local newspaper later, and Case and some friends were booking events at local bars. Now they have a stable of 22 dedicated fighters, a growing fan base, and ambitions of turning the PFL into something bigger.
However, they're quick to point out it's not really just about young women in revealing costumes tussling in front of a largely male audience. Well, maybe it is a bit.
"People all have a conception in their head of what a pillow fight is all about," says Don "The Mouth" Lovranski, Case's co-investor and the big-voiced announcer for the shows.
"When they come to it, though, they see it's not hot blonds in negligees; the fights are real, and there's some fun to it. I think that's what the appeal is."
Case himself is league commissioner, a role that becomes part caricature once the ring lights brighten and the pillows come out. As the boss, he has to play the heel. Another cohort, Matt Harsant, becomes Matt Patterson, a throwback-style referee complete with a bow-tie and limited patience.
But it's the fighters that make the show, and they come in all shapes and sizes, with names like Sarah Bellum, the smart one, and Boozy Suzie, who enters the ring with a beer that referee Patterson confiscates with a stern wave of his finger.
Lynn Somnia staggers to the ring in a hospital gown with electrodes dangling, apparently released from her sleep-deprivation chamber.
Top contenders include Betty Clock'er -- by day a financial editor and by night a cushion-swinging housewife who brings a plate of cookies to ringside -- and Polly Esther, billed as the waitress from hell ("And somebody's gonna get served!," The Mouth bellows as she struts toward the ring).
While the personas are all good fun, the action in the ring is real, and as Case is quick to point out, unscripted.
The rules are simple: women only, no lewd behavior, and moves such as leg drops or submission holds are allowed as long as a pillow is used. After that, it's up to the combatants.
For the fighters, there's a small stipend, and a chance of fame if the popularity of the league continues to grow. But it's also a hobby, and maybe even has a therapeutic appeal for players like Polly Esther, who got her snarky waitress persona the hard way, during 20 years of waiting tables.
"All the people I've served over the years, the bad customers, the bad tips, Polly doesn't take it." she says. "She lashes out. She hates everybody, but she's not going to leave her job."
This past weekend, Polly didn't disappoint, torquing her long arms to deliver punishing pillow blows to Betty Clock'er in a fight to decide who will travel to New York this week to face PFL title holder Champain, an event Case is hoping will give an adrenaline shot to the league's profile.
The bigger picture involves a TV deal. Case says he has already turned down bids that didn't offer the mix of attention to the action and characters that he says makes the league more of a draw to the arts community than the mud-wrestling crowd.
The scene this past Friday would seem to bear him out, as the nearly 500 screaming fans looked more like an art-house movie crowd than a boxing audience.
The cheers reach a crescendo as Betty Clock'er fights off Polly Esther's roundhouse hits, then unleashes a well executed pillow-leg takedown and pins Esther for the three-count.
"I'm prepared for it to tank," says Case. "But I hope it doesn't."
"A glimpse of the future of sports..."
- ESPN Magazine
"It's the fighters that make the show..."
"A glimpse of the future of sports..." - ESPN Magazine
"It's the fighters that make the show..." - Reuters
Pillow-fighting women no featherweights
Sarah Bellum is trying to put me out of my mind.
The small but agile fighter is on my back -- hoping to break me like a stubborn mule.
She's twisted an empty cotton pillowcase into a garrotte, wrapped it around my reddening neck, and is hauling on the reins with enough force that I hear her exhale a loud grunt.
"Bring him down," I hear someone say off to my left.
It may have been the ref, Matt Harsant, who uses the last name of Patterson when he's in the ring.
Wheat-thin and circling us, he looks like a '70s wrestling judge, with a black bowtie, long sideburns and apparent blinders to fair play.
If he's looking out for rules being broken, the state of my neck isn't among them right now.
Serves me right, I reason through my fog, while thrashing back and forth to try to knock Sarah's 109 pounds off me.
After all, I broke the first rule of Pillow Fight. I was born a man. And we all know, men don't have pillow fights.
"Women fighters only -- no exceptions," the newly created Pillow Fight League mandate points out -- the first of very few bans in an entertainment-sport which doesn't allow you to eye gouge, bite, scratch or load your pillowcase with a foreign object. But almost anything else goes in a wacky -- in all ways -- roller derby-quality spectacle which debuted last night at a Queen St. cafe-turned-fight-arena.
What once was the sweet dominion of teen sleepovers -- and dirty old men's dreams -- has been torqued, redefined and marketed into a flashy show that spectators pay a $7 cover charge to see.
"It's not about implants, oil or spaghetti wrestling," says the league's founder and now commissioner, Stacey Case.
"These girls come to fight. It's all out, and no one knows who'll win until someone's pinned or the ref stops it."
Stacey is a 38-year-old poster and T-shirt screen printer by day, but a promoter, musician and entertainer by night. We're 'rasslin in a part of his shop he's fashioned into a red, white and blue practice arena. Smells like victory. And ink.
"I've spent two years thinking about this," he says.
His band's first album was titled Apartment Wrestling -- an ode to fleshy, bikini pictorials in 30-year-old fight rags, which featured women "caught in the act" of duking it out in their own homes.
Pillow wrestling isn't so overtly sexual, he insists. Instead, he sees it as a cheeky collision of art-house chic and adult entertainment with spectacular fighting skills.
For my colourful debut, I've worn my favourite lucky Hawaiian shirt and a stupid grin.
Oh, the woman clinging to the back of that shirt -- taking my breath away? That's Sarah Bellum -- whose real name is Sarah Kurchak.
Like wrestlers and radio DJs, the girls -- 14 have signed up so far -- take on alter-ego names and personalities. Beware the 6-foot-plus-tall Eiffel Powers. Be shocked by the Persian Princess' final move of planting a kiss on her conquered foe. For Sarah, it's this strangling move.
The 24-year-old freelance writer -- at half my weight and a foot shorter than I -- is the size of my teen daughter.
"How big are you ... I want to know so I can brag afterward," she asked before all hell, and man-made fibres, broke lose.
Rather than alluring, the tartan school-girl uniform she fights in -- she tossed her glasses and hair-tie aside before the pillows flew -- is making me a little uncomfortable.
Or perhaps it's just the choke hold she's pulling tighter.
So many thoughts. So little breath left. Can barely see the old Mexican wrestling posters on the far wall. Hola Masked Marvel, me llamo Thane! What was in that liability waiver I signed? Why do I hear my wife's voice? Why is she so upset?
Pretty lights. Turn off that ringing please.
Sarah, still on my back, has long been a fan of wrestling, though she still harbours grudges against famed grappler Hulk Hogan after a boy she once babysat hit her square in the face, trying to emulate his square-circle champion.
She spent a month in another local women's fighting club, but found they wanted skimpy underwear and flying feathers. Her first trial match with the Pillow Fight League was two months ago, when she bested Digit Jones. It was good she remembered to take her asthma puffer before that one.
"Magic," she recalls of knocking the stuffing out of Digit.
While used for camp value, the pillows are much like boxing gloves -- they dampen some of the leg drops, clotheslines and submission holds used during the five-minute matches. But only so much, as I found out when Sarah put her fist into the pillow before lashing out.
I wonder aloud what's the ultimate goal of a pillow fighter -- how long can the novelty, which creator Stacey hopes to market to the internet (www.gopfl.com) and TV, last?
"To be champion," Sarah reasoned before kicking me in the shin. Again and again.
When I asked founder Stacey why no men compete, he offered the obvious: "Would anyone want to see that?"
As part of the agreement to be the first and only man allowed to face the power puff girls of the Pillow Fight League, I promised not to hit Sarah. I'm now reconsidering.
But it may be far too late. The pillowcase is tightened.
And the grappler on that Mexican poster is laughing at me.
"Bring him down," I hear again.
It's not the ref. I swear, the pillow talk is my wife's voice.
Nighty night. Sleepy time. Buenas noches, amigo.