Photographs by Tony Ward, Copyright 2023
Tune In, Freak Out, Get Beaten
I know you have read about my evening at the Satanic Temple last Halloween; and what I have been up to the past 15 years that led up to reuniting with Tony for our “Night Swim” shoot in 2021. Now let me shed some light on how Mr. Ward and I came together for our very first shoot. Women’s Extreme Wrestling; that’s how. Anyone in Philadelphia knows that wrestling is just about as die hard as the fans, especially in these parts. I had been working for a few years in the sex industry locally at that time; and had become fast friends with Annie. Man, as I sit here and type, I am literally smiling from ear to ear thinking back on it all. What a wild time; we were off the rails and getting into all sorts of mischief. We became as thick as thieves and chasing all sorts of adventures together; as well as on our own. Annie had proposed that we join forces and create one hell of a tag team. She had already done some matches and training, and I was always one to dive in head first. We started training together and the birth of “HELLS BELLES” had ascended from the pits of the slums you told your kids to stay away from. (or so we felt) If you had ever watched GLOWW in the 80s; we def were the hardcore version of the heavy metal duo, Chainsaw and Spike meets a hint of ECW’s Sandman with a dash of Stone Cold.
Women have always had a place in the sport. The public’s appetite for professional wrestling was enormous and had been gaining since the 1930s. Exaggerated movements giving rise to over the top body slams, and costuming and masks. This emphasis on entertainment developed as the years wore on, moved on from live events to television. And what better way then to implement the presence of bosomy bombshells in bathing suits and flamboyant costumes to add to the circus. A documentary entitled Lipstick and Dynamite provides a wonderful portrait of these early female pioneers of the wrestling ring. As far as the matches go this is purely staged choreography and the winner IS in fact decided prior; but the hits are very much so REAL. That is the part which suck a lot of viewers in, THE BEATINGS! What no one else sees is also the vicious cycle of training. Throwing yourself on your back a hundred times in a row perfecting “taking bumps”. Training is all about the repetition of the moves to get them down and perfect for showtime. In some way, it def contributed to my sado/masochism cause I very much so enjoyed the pain as well as dishing it out. Honestly, another reason as to why I was ready to dive in head first to the idea when it was first proposed to join a tag team.
At that point we were gearing to do a lot of projects, pay-per-view events, random appearances etc. One in particular was our guest spot on the “Howard Stern Show” which was coming up in the early spring of 2006. One day my tag team partner, AKA Annie Social; said that she had received an opportunity for us to shoot for Hustler Magazines Taboo for the January 2006 print edition and that we would be working with Tony Ward. We wound up shooting at our training facility in the ring we took hits in on a regular basis. The issue came out and we were on such a high from the exposure to the fans and everything in between.
Here’s were this story takes a turn. It was better for me physically but worse for my wrestling career; you see, “it’s a mans world”, or at least it was way back when. It was so hard to be taken seriously by our colleagues, folks we did matches with and shared the ring with. Why? There will always be a stigma; or at least back then, that women in wrestling are just ring rats with ZERO talent. Ring rats are just groupies of the wrestling world for those who are familiar with the lingo. For a woman like me with the temper I did have in those days, that type of ridicule was not flying. And just like that, as I speak of “flying”; I had done a match were I jumped off the top ropes and wasn’t caught correctly and suffered a pretty decent injury to my neck and upper back. Nothing was taken care of medically cause the waivers for a lot of indy matches left you up to your own “you wanna take hits then take em” vibe if you catch my drift.
Do I regret it? ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY NOT! I would do it all over again and not trade any of it in for the world. Every path I have journeyed down has taken me to where I am right in this moment. Everyone I’ve met along the way and all of the experiences both good and bad kept paving the way to today. I definitely back what Hunter S Thompson said in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; “No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride… and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well… maybe chalk it up to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
About The Author: Diana Desiderio is a motion picture production manager based in Philadelphia. To access additional articles by Diana Desiderio, click here: https://tonyward.com/night-swim/