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Original Issue

Under Review

Spunky and feisty only begin to describe octogenarians Gladys (Killem) Gillem, Lillian (The Fabulous Moolah) Ellison and "The Great" Mae Young. In Lipstick & Dynamite: The First Ladies of Wrestling, which opens in New York City on March 25 and throughout the country in the following months, Gillem, a stocky blonde, recalls wrestling men, women, bears and alligators. Young, a self-described "dirty" wrestler and a "tough son of a gun," had rotten eggs thrown at her in the ring, but she persevered and was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. When biting, scratching and hair-pulling failed to do the trick, Moolah--the longest-reigning champ in wrestling history (29 years)--would pull a spoon handle from her bra and jab opponents' eyes; she went on to manage girl wrestlers while wrestling into her 80s. (In 1999 she won the WWE women's championship at age 76.) Lipstick uses outrageous archival footage to paint a vivid portrait of the women who worked the circuit in the 1940s and '50s. They appeared at carnivals, worked hard to be considered ladies outside the ring and negotiated a world in which promoters expected sexual favors in return for bookings and kept half the women's earnings. But make no mistake: These women gave as good as they got. --Nancy Ramsey