'Margaret Thrasher' the iron lady in US arm wrestling
Amy Smackhouse of the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers (D/CLAW) takes a drag from her electronic cigarette as she faces Dona Diabla during the Summer Smackdown in Washington on June 28, 2014 - by Nicholas Kamm
The tongue-in-cheek event aims at humor and to raise money for charity, but there is a competitive edge of sorts.
In regular life, Smackhouse is called Andrea Kavanagh, and she works at an environmental non-profit organization.
But on stage in the US capital Saturday evening, she dons her satin red, white and blue cape awarded to the national arm-wrestling champion and works to entertain the crowd.
Her bottle of whisky, a cigarette perpetually hanging from her mouth, her heavy makeup and bawdy jokes are all part of the act: a satire of British singer Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011 and was known for her drinking and drug-fueled lifestyle.
"That's funny, since physically we are very different," Kavanagh says with a burst of hearty laughter.
Arm-wrestling contests -- or rather the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers club she helped found in 2010 -- are just for fun, and for charity.
In the fall, Kavanagh will fight for her national title at a championship in Washington.
But Saturday, the eight competitors were battling for the "Golden Biceps" title and to get the audience betting heavily on the outcome -- with all profits going to Knowledge Commons DC, a free community school.
"We've been around for four years, and in 13 tournaments we have raised almost $50,000," said Ashley Evans, whose nom de guerre is "Sailor Slamrock," a rebellious leprechaun-style character dressed in green and ready to rumble.
"It's also about women empowerment. It shows that we're just as strong as men."
- 'Would you wrestle them?' -
Like in boxing, a platform is erected in the middle of the room, on which stands a simple table where the competitors do battle.
Phil Yunger, a gray-haired retiree who bills himself as a tough Army vet, serves as the completely corruptible tournament referee -- who pledges to turn bribe money over to charity.
"The ladies? Oh they're a pain in the ass. They're arm wrestlers. Pinch yourself, would you arm-wrestle one of these people?" he says, tongue-in-cheek.
"Margaret Thrasher" storms onto the stage, showing off her fake Union Jack tattoo, a homage to her pretend British heritage. Dressed conservatively, with her hair in a severe bun, she mimics the high-brow British accent of the former prime minister.
"My technique is very simple," she joked.
"Usually my opponents start by looking down my blouse, but then they realize that I am this old, ugly lady and that's when I give it all."
The technique seems effective -- Thrasher easily defeats "Jackie O'Nasty," a character modelled after the former first lady of president John F. Kennedy.
But maybe Jackie O was saving her strength for another bout.
"Well, I look forward to seeing Marilyn Monroe on stage."