The CLAWs come out in Charlottesville's all-female competition

Bridge volunteers paint car tires, reminiscent of artist Allan Kaprow’s “Happenings,” to promote the annual Revel fundraiser.(Photo by James Ford)

Charlottesville gained national attention in recent years as the home of the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLAW), the women’s arm-wrestling league that spawned a wave of similar movements around the country, in which legitimate competition comes packaged in wild, punk-influenced DIY style, and charity organizations are the beneficiaries. The next CLAW match, set for June 16 at The Jefferson Theater, will be a SuperCLAW event in which Charlottesville’s arm-wrasslin’ ladies will compete against representatives from similar organizations around the country.

But arm wrestling isn’t the only tough-girl craze that’s gone viral in recent years; competitive roller derby, once considered a passé fad of the 1970s, has seen a revival with the growing popularity of all-women’s roller derby matches and like all worthy underground crazes, has even been crowned with its own exploitation film (the Drew Barrymore-directed Whip It).

The Charlottesville Derby Dames began rolling in 2007, but were unable to make their hometown debut until November of 2009, due to the lack of a proper rink in Charlottesville. They now alternate away-meets with home games at the Main Street Arena, and the May 5 “Cinco de Mayhem,” event will see the Dames compete against two Baltimore teams, the Charm City Rollergirls and the Junkyard Dolls.

Although competition is often fierce, there’s a strong undercurrent of solidarity between the teams; not only do the rollers need competitors, but events tend to be fundraisers for local charity organizations. The local bond of sisterhood between the Derby Dames and CLAW is strong; the Dames have traditionally served as Security at CLAW’s potentially rowdy events, while the colorful CLAW competitors will serve as “fear-leaders” for the Derby Dames’ upcoming matches. The May 5 event is the first of a season of competitive bouts for the Derby Dames and more info can be found at

Get your motor running
Cinco de Mayo is traditionally a day of revelry all around town. Appropriately enough, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative will be holding its fourth Revel on Saturday, an annual fundraising event for the local arts non-profit.

The one-story brick structure, located prominently at the foot of the Avon Street Bridge, first held art on its walls in 2004, shortly after Zack Worrell purchased the building. Recognizing both a need to support local artists and a desire for philanthropy, Worrell and Greg Kelly soon founded the The Bridge PAI.

Early events were charmingly casual and chaotic (full disclosure: This reporter was once an employee of The Bridge). But over the past eight years, the Bridge has grown into a legitimate and successful non-profit organization with 30-some volunteers, and a staff of three, with program assistant Ross McDermott and managing director Maggie Guggenheimer joining Kelly at the helm.

The Revel is not only an annual fundraiser, but typically a wild private party, in which patrons and millionaires mix with bohemians and working artists. In addition to auctions of work by local artists Bill Wylie, Pam Pecchio, Clay Witt, Edward Thomas, John Sheridan, Carolyn Capps, and Sam Abel, tickets include an open bar, and music by Grits ‘n’ Gravy. Tickets start at $50, but “starving artists” will be admitted to the after-party for $20.
This marks the first Revel held at a separate location—Black Market Moto Saloon. Kelly anticipates a crowd of over 200, and there was a need to host a larger number of attendees in a smaller space. “We’ve streamlined a lot of things [from past years]; the space, the food, the music and the booze is now all under one umbrella,” Kelly notes. “It’s a great opportunity to support a business we love, as well.”

When I saw tires, bearing painted advertisements for the Revel, I assumed the Moto Saloon was the inspiration for the automotive theme (the Saloon bills itself as “Charlottesville’s only biker bar”—although owner Matteus Frankovich is probably one of the more eccentric motorcyclists you’re likely to encounter). The tires made sense as soon as Kelly mentioned Allan Kaprow, the 1960s artist who staged “Happenings,” in which he would invite visitors to the gallery for ongoing, open-ended, interactive performance art. A famous early Kaprow happening involved filling the gallery with car tires. “We’ll have a recording of him explaining his work at the entrance,” Kelly explained. “Maybe some people will just say ‘what the hell is that?,’ but for others I think it’ll click.” With his work breaking down barriers in the gallery and inviting the community to participate in the art-making process, Kaprow seems like a natural choice as a patron saint for The Bridge.

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