I think I’ve said this before (like everything), but when I’m asked what’s my favorite weird sport, Kaiju almost always comes right to mind.
I’m stoked that Kaiju, one of my very first weird sports photo ops, will be represented in my upcoming book. But it’s not too early to start thinking about Weird Sports: Vol. 2.
And when I saw this intergalactic big battel for control of the universe crashing into unsuspecting Las Vegas, the mothership of superheroine TBrown, I felt it was a Gots-To-Go-Scenario.
I’m often hesitant to revisit fabulous photo ops. Will I have as much fun the next time? Sure, it never hurts to make more photos of the same sport. But with each of these outings, for me, it’s also about having new experiences. There’s a surreal factor that exists the first time I find myself at something like Kaiju. Not only am I the photographer, but I’m also the fan, witnessing something magically squirrelly with fresh eyes. Can that special feeling be recreated with a second pass?
I’m not saying that’s a healthy way to approach photography. It’s not. Skimming the surface will always be just that. But I realize that one of the things I love about this project is that feeling of: Holy Shit! How in the hell did I get here? How did I find this? If I could be in one place at this moment, this is it.
So with all that going through my neurotic process, I still wanted more Kaiju in my life. Yeah, it’s that good.
The spectacular lineup this night: Sun Buster vs. Hell Monkey. Steam Powered Tentacle Boulder vs. a younger version of the time traveling Super Wrong. The Macho Man Ref taking on both Yarsminko and Cycloptopuss. And how will Dr. Cube affect the delicate balance between good and evil?
One thing that was very different for me on this night was the access. During the Brooklyn Big Battel, I was asked nicely not to photograph the performers backstage. And maybe that’s why it was magical for me: I was a photographer and a witness. I had no idea what was coming next.
In LV, though, Tiff and I wandered backstage and were greeted warmly. I got to meet one of my favorite wrestlers, Dusto Bunny, above center, who is covered with baby powder before his Kaiju Fighto. Makes for a nice/sneezy special effect.
We learned that many of these performers have remained the same characters throughout their Kaiju life. So, the Dusto Bunny I met in Vegas was the same cat I photographed back in Brooklyn. For some reason, since we never see any human faces, I imagined the performers performing different roles as needed. Not so.
Kaiju, which is based in Boston, has a strong following on the East Coast. In Vegas, not so much. I was more than a little stunned.
I talked a little with TB about this. She said that many events that are a hit outside of Vegas arrive to little fanfare once they arrive in Sin City. And I bet the same is true when LV shows venture out of the desert.
I also spoke with one of the organizers backstage. You could tell he was disappointed in the meager turnout at the Plaza Hotel & Casino. In fact, it seemed many were there waiting for the 2nd act that night: a burlesque show. (Of course.)
But that’s what art is about: doing it for yourself first and foremost. And Kaiju is pure art.
A wonderful surprise was the appearance of one of my favorite wrestlers, Kung Fu Chicken Noodle, who was a no-show in BK. He was a star in this video I saw 4 years ago, so it was a thrill to finally see him kick ass live.
The Brooklyn venue, The Warsaw, was special for several reasons. Aside from the Polish pierogies and piwo, the passionate fan base was able to watch the action ringside. In Vegas, the ring was on a stage, with the fans scattered around the sparse showroom. Felt more like watching than interacting, one of the things that makes Kaiju, to me, feel unique. But I had a great time again. TBrown said she could hear my distinct laughter from backstage.
The cleanup crew for Kaiju was amazingly fast. In no time flat, the burlesque dancers were on the same stage where only minutes before American Beetle defeated Number 13 to win the Kaiju Championship belt.
Like I mentioned early, I love questioning how I found myself present for such amazing moments in this world. One of the Kaiju cats, chilling out of costume backstage, was muttering the same thing while his intergalactic force was taken over by barely-bare babes.
Special thanks to Tiffany Brown-Anderson for joining me this night. I always have way more fun – and feel safer – interacting with intergalactic champions when I’m with friends.