When I was a kid in Nashville, I’d watch wrestling on Saturday morning after the cartoons were over. The shows were usually taped in Memphis, but Nashville was part of the territory controlled by Nick Gulas, so I would watch the adventures of folks like Jackie Fargo, Tojo Yamamoto, and Jerry “The King” Lawler, who would let us know that it was time to clean house when he lowered his leotard strap. I’d still watch it occasionally during my college years, but have fallen out of touch with it in the contemporary era.
Meanwhile, pro wrestling has also been a longstanding part of kitsch culture, particularly in its more exotic forms, like the Mexican version known as lucha libre. The masked luchadores, whether in the ring or on the movie screen, have become a frequent motif in the demimonde of irony, hipsterism, and some of the more retro flavors of rock and roll.
But in Mexico, lucha libre remains serious business, tied into notions of masculinity and honor in a number of ways. One of the ways in which this manifests is in the character of the exotico, the flamboyantly gay wrestling character. Perhaps one of the closest American approximations of this might have been in Dustin Rhodes’s Goldust persona. But as I said, in lucha libre, things can get really heavy.
At The New Yorker, William Finnegan profiles Cassandro, the leading exotico in lucha libre. It’s a remarkable piece of writing, and worth your time.