Cynara!
 

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The very name oozes eroticism!

She was THE female fighting pin-up of her day, as close as anyone came to the status of icon after Bettie Page's photos had disappeared from the public market-place (although, we assume, not from the closets and desk drawers of legions of men).

That she appeared in only a handful of magazine photo spreads, mainly in Sports Review Wrestling Magazine during the early 1970's, matters little. Because her name and image endure in so many minds today, she can justifiably claim a major role in awakening and enhancing the female fighting fantasies of an entire generation of men.

She is, without question, a fantasy icon.

To place this historically, Sports Review Wrestling was a publication covering the pro wrestling scene of the day, featuring articles about...well pro wrestlers (almost always male).

In one issue, however, an article slipped in, purportedly a true account of a recreational wrestling match between two women (illustrated by a few photos).

The reaction was apparently overwhelming and the publication began doing more of these "girl fight" spreads occasionally for the next few months, using models in fighting poses to illustrate them. As the reaction intensified, SRW realized that this was the the vein of gold and it came up with an idea to "legitimize" its coverage of what was basically a sexual fantasy: the creation of a "league" of female apartment wrestlers.

The scenario was powerfully alluring: a circle of rich men and women would gather in their own apartments to watch two beautiful, scantilly clad women fight without rules in matches procured and organized by a man named Dave Moll. The text recounting such matches was extreme and the photos often didn't even illustrate the precise moves described in that text. Indeed, those photos were so posed and the techniques so unbelievable that it's difficult to imagine any man being lured into believing that any of this was real.

But that didn't seem to matter. Soon SRW was THE largest circulation wrestling mag and the coverage of apartment wrestling was its primary story in every issue.

Cynara was probably a major reason. Beautiful and obviously conditioned, the model personified the proto-type for the apartment wrestler: a breathtaking beauty who would don a bikini and fight a no rules catfight for the pleasure of the rich and famous.

Reality was much less exciting, of course. Cynara was "played" by a model whose photos demonstate absolutely no fighting technique and who, as far as I can tell, never appeared in any videos or filmed matches. In short, the woman who became known as Cynara was NOT really a combative woman at all.

But reality wasn't the issue here. Those seeking real fighting could easily find it elsewhere. Several companies, the most prominent of which was California Supreme, offered films and photo sets of real wrestling matches between real women. The films of Mildred Burke and soon after Judell DuLong were already available and, around the same time, Joan Wise and Jo Bray soon began offering similar real fare.

This was something different: a fantasy readily available on any newstand rich with erotic underpinning but clothed in the "respectability" of an "acceptable" publication.

Cynara and her world of apartment wrestling conjured the ultimate fantasy: rich people, elegant surroundings, beautiful women with no fear and no reluctance, fights that were unconscionably vicious and no one ever maimed.

During the next couple of years, the monthly "apartment wrestling" stories became more elaborate: fighters lured into the matches by conflicts over men, jobs, even once an apartment for rent; women who were battling age or depression or life crises and sought their remedy in these fights. Desperate women. Cruel women. Mysterious women. Only one fact united them: they fought.

These were gladiators in an arena of fantasy. While there were grudges and rivalries, these were secondary. These women fought for one reason and only one: rich and powerful men wanted to watch them do it.

To some of us, these rather silly photos seem the stuff of nothing more than harmless fantasy. But I wonder about that. Cynara and her combative colleagues in this fantasy world of Dave Moll's were probably the first introduction of so many young men to the world of combative women and it would be surprising if the imprint of these images and the accompanying text didn't remain with those men for their entire lives.

And I wonder if so much of so many men's misunderstanding and impossible expectation about female wrestling (and the women who do it) wasn't molded by this experience. Something tells me that if, rather than seeing this, they had seen Judell DuLong's videos, we would have a healthier more realistic view of female wrestling in this society. Who knows? Maybe that's wishful thinking on my part.