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Chyna (Joanie Laurer)

Chyna (Joanie Laurer)


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Posted by Jan den Breejen on June 27, 2000 at 01:25:48:

Chyna (Joanie Laurer)


Here she is, a DIFFERENT KIND of Miss America. Here she is, the girl no one took to the prom, all grown up, all turned out: jet-black hair, high black boots, tight black turtleneck, leopard-print mini. The clothes don't make the woman, though. The body does. In heels, she's six-three, about 200 pounds-all muscle except for the customized breasts, which seem roughly equal to those of the outrageously proportioned Standing Woman, who does her standing here in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In fact, as our girl passes Gaston LaChaise's 1932 bronze, it occurs that she could kick sand in Standing Woman's face. The museum is crowded. People are checking her out. She's A SPECTACULAR MYSTERY to the art students, pale kids with sketchbooks. But the tourists, they've seen her before: on tv; a player in the great American kabuki. "Excuse me," says a security guard. "Yes?" she says sweetly. "Excuse me," he says again, trying to get up his courage. The guard's days are spent in the presence of Matisse's dancers, Picasso's prostitutes, and Lichtenstein's comic book heroines. But to judge from the look on his face - an adoring expression one might associate with the readers of Tiger Beat - he is only now coming into the presence of real beauty. "You're Chyna, aren't you?" he stammers. "I love what you do."

Yes, she is Chyna. Or, as she most likes to describe herself, "an empowered woman who kicks guys in the nuts for a living." Chyna is a professional wrestler: the right girl at the right time, in the right business. It is difficult to overstate wrestling's influence on American culture. Wrestling has been on television since the Nielsen family received its first black-and-white set. Wrestling has survived Ralph Kramden, Walter Cronkite, and Johnny Carson. There would be no Muhammad Ali without a wrestler named Gorgeous George. Jesse Ventura was elected governor because of -not despite- his training as a wrestler. Wrestling is easily the most watched programming on cable. It's the reason a generation of American boys know nothing of Monday Night Football. The day Chyna showed up at the Museum of Modem Art, two of her World Wrestling Federation coworkers were on The New York Times best-seller list, their biographies moving more briskly than the works of a presidential hopeful, a couple of anchormen, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, and the Dalai Lama.

Now, as ever, wrestling nourishes the American desire for bad acting, great stuntmanship, and a brand of vulgarity commensurate with the age. Todays wrestling personas include pimps and jail guards, vampires and acrobats. But their ancestors are archetypes: bleach-blond Heel, barrel-chested Babyface, the Giant, the Midget, and the bikini-clad, hair-pulling Girl. BUT THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A GIRL LIKE CHYNA. There's never been a wrestler like Chyna. Her persona dispensed with wrestling's last taboo: violence between the sexes. It's one thing to beat up on the guys. It's another to get as good as you give. And people can't seem to get enough. Chyna dwells in the vortex of American celebrityhood: on the covers of Newsweek and TV Guide, as a guest of Jay Leno and Regis Philbin, with a recurring role on 3rd Rock trom the Sun. The HarperCollins biography is due out soon. "I see myself as Wonder Woman 2000," she says. "Now women who are fit even wrestling fans look at me and go, 'Wow, cool.' " She's been called wrestling's version of Xena, Warrior Princess, the hit show title character played by Lucy Lawless. This isn't a comparison Chyna particularly likes. All wrestlers have gimmicks, and she dismisses Xena's as "the pseudo-lesbian thing." Neither Xena nor the actress who plays her took the hits Chyna did growing up.

"When you look at Lucy Lawless," Chyna says, "she's not this muscular woman who would STICK OUT IN A CROWD like a sore thumb. I am. When I first started I wasn't cool. I WAS CALLED BEASTLY AND HORRIBLE. Chyna didn't just happen overmight. It took years to literally mold this character into this beautiful kick-ass woman." The metamorphosis of an unhappy girl from upstate New York into Chyna, Wrestling Princess, is heavy with dysfunction, dislocation, and desperate narcissistic desire. "Sometimes I wonder how I ever ended up on the right track," she says. "I've dealt with a lot of problems and rejection in my life. It still affects me. I've reached this pinnacle in my career, but when I look around I'm STILL very much ALONE." Big girls do cry: Joanie Laurer was born 30 years ago in Rochester, New York, the third child in a miserable marriage. "My mom was a nutbag," she says. "My father was an alcoholic." Family lore has the Laurer union reaching its finale as a Hardcore Match between two Heels: Mom and Dad. Mom dropped a plate of spaghetti over Dad's head. Dad stabbed her with a kitchen knife. Dad got out. Mom got custody and, for a few years, public assistance checks. "Joanie was a very easy kid when she was younger," says her mother, Jan Laque. "I loved her dearly." "It was allways a constant fight, wondering what she was going to be mad about," says Chyna. Joanie, as she recalls herself, was a big little girlwith a severe underbite and an unreasonable ambition to be a movie star. "She liked to dress up and do little skits for the family," says Laque. "I was always trying to perform," says Chyna. "It was an attention thing."

Joanie felt neglected compared with the miniature schnauzers her mother took to raising with her new husband. "I think she was better able to show her love for those puppies than for me," Chyna says now. The dogs were raised in the basement, where the new husband had built a kennel. "Just a chain-link fence around a bunch of two-by-fours," says Chyna. But it also served as a makeshift wrestling ring. Joanie would watch from the top of the stairs as her older brother and his friends staged matches. The boys would gladly roll around in dog crap just to pretend they were Bruno Sammartino, Sergeant Slaughter; or Killer Kowalski. "I used to laugh, thinking, there goes my brother doing his stupid stuff," Chyna says. Stupid or not, wrestling inspired a kind of exuberant
amusement rare in Joanie's house. "I remember being very young - must've been in the fourth grade - and my mother taking us to one of these matches at the Rochester War Memorial," Chyna says. "It was very dirty, you could hear the sound of beer sticking to your feet. I don't remember who was wrestling or who was who. But the thing I remember most was my mother's demeanor changing. I remember her being rowdy, yelling and screaming and laughing and having a wonderful time."

That never happened, says Laque. "I never took Joan to wrestling. Wrestling is not my style." You wonder, though, about the emotional grappling between mother and daughter. It intensified as Joanie reached high school. She began as a great student with a facility for languages. She sang in the chorus. She played the cello. She starred in high school productions of Die Fledermaus and Grease. Then one day Joanie came home from school and found her mother trying to move in compliance with Jane Fonda's instructions. Joanie figured if her mother could do it, so could she. If Mom did Fonda's aerobic routine once, Joanie did it three times. In repetition she found a kind of recognition, "a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment I wasn't getting anywhere else." Soon her fondness for Fonda became something more intense: a desire that led Joanie to the gym. She started lifting weights. As it happened, physical fitness did nothing for her relationship with Mom. Nor did it make her popular. Chyna remembers most kids IGNORING the big girl with the underbite. She recalls none of the usual "kid things." She had NO BOYFRIENDS. She remembers emphatically saying no to drugs.

Of course, Mom remembers different. "She was like a ZOMBIE," says Laque. "We didn't know what to do." So they had a sit-down: Joanie, Mom, Mom's new husband, and a psychologist from an outpatient addiction clinic. "One of the things she told us is that she was doing mushrooms, whatever those are," says Laque. "We just weren't getting along, so my mother's obvious excuse was I must've been a drug addict," Chyna says BITTERLY. "That was the only reason her daughter could be SO ALOOF and such a nasty girl." At the psychologist's recommendation, Joanie went to live with her father and his new wife. Dad had stopped drinking. He could be charming and funny. But Joanie was never quite sure what he did for a living. Sometimes he'd advertise himself as "Dr. Laurer." Occasionally, he'd insert a "Von": Dr. Von Laurer. It would have made a great wrestling name. Once, as the bills started to mount, she remembers, her father pulled the car over and chucked the keys into the river. He said he was going to Eastern Europe,where, he told bis daughter, he would be "teaching people about capitalism."

Meanwhile Joanie kept lifting. NOTHING COULD STOP HER. Not the kids who called her "beast.". Not the stepmother who asked if she were a lesbian. Sure, she'd go home, close the door, and get a good cry. But then she'd go right back to the gym. "Why stop?" she asks. "I felt ugly anyway. I didn't have a whole lot of friends. So what did it matter? It wasn't going to make it any better if I stopped. At least in that little gym world there were people who were starting to notice. "I liked the looks I got. Guys in the gym would see me lifting this ungodly amount of weight. Or maybe they were just looking at my body, and I liked that. The more I lifted, the more people would look at me. You could just tell what they were thinking: 'Oh mi God, she's so big. So strong.' " In those days MOST GIRLS wanted to look like Olivia Newton-John, or as if they'd stepped out of the movie Flashdance. Not Joanie, though. Suddenly, Chyna says, "I FELT UNIQUE." Around this time she met her first "real boyfriend." His name was Ron. He was an alcoholic. They met in AA. Joanie didn't have an alcohol problem herself; she just attended meetings with her stepmother. Dad had convinced her that AA was a perfectly worthwhile interest for a young lady. "Like an extracurricular activity," she says (she seems to look like her father; both a little strange; jdb). Ron was 18. But he wasn't like any of the boys at school. He never issued any cruelties, never called her names. "He had issues of his own," she says. "He had hurt of his own." Joanie spent her senior year in Madrid, having won a United Nations scholarship for students with special prowess in languages. When she retumed to Rochester, Dad told her she'd won another scholarship - this one to the University of Tampa. She remembers his saying he was taking care of everything, "all the paperwork." "My muffin," he told her, "I knew you could do it." Looking back, Chyna says, "I don't know how he did it." She graduated from Tampa after four relatively happy years. When she wasn't studying, she was working out. By graduation, she had built the muscular foundation for the character she'd later become. Her financial prospects were less robust. "People started suing me for my student loans," she says. The problem was, Joanie hadn't known she had any student loans. She says her father never told her. "She said the student loan money went to me instead of the school," says her father, Joseph Laurer. "That wasn't true." Dad continues, "I was an investment banker with VLGP," otherwise known as the Von Laurer Group, an investment firm that secured financing for "developing countries around the world." When not brokering international deals, Laurer says he took on extra work as a bookkeeper and landscaper to finance his youngest daughter's education. "Not to mention I did her homework from time to time," he says. "I don't know where this is coming from," Laurer says when asked about Joanie's portrayal of him as a debtor and a con man. "I'm sorry that she's doing all of this. It's something she'll have to deal with later in life. It's going to be psychologically devastating later on."

Mired in debt and indecision, Joanie found herself waiting tables in Key Largo. She had a degree in Spanish literature and she was serving chicken wings and beer at a place called Melons."


'I LOVED ALCOHOLICS," she says. Then Joanie got a call from her older sister Kathy, who was living in New Hampshire. Kathy told Joanie it was time to grow up. Kathy got her sister a job selling beepers and cell phones in Lawrence, Massachusetts. For Joanie it was great having family again. She loved hanging out with her sister. She became one of the best beeper salesmen in the country. But it wasn't enough. The big girl with the underbite still wanted to be a star. She wanted to be on tv: She wanted to be seen. Joanie started training for the fitness pageants then airing on ESPN. That's how she met Gerry Blais - a bodybuilder at World Gym in Londonderry, New Hampshire. He was doing his routine when he spotted Joanie, then a redhead, working on her legs. "It's a weird feeling I can't put into words," Blais says now. "SHE JUST STOOD OUT. She had an energy. It radiated off her. I loved her instantly. I loved her inside out: personality, physique, her ambition, her sense of humor." Joanie liked Blais's dense musculature, his thick black hair, even the gap between his teeth. But more than that, she saw in Blais an expertise she could put to great use. She asked him to train her. He was only too willing. Soon they were living together. ly.

"He just saw something in my body that other people didn't," she says. "Gerry thought I was the coolest thing. I loved the way Gerry loved me. He just cherished me." Their relationship was a BIZARRO production of pygmalion. He taught her how to eat, how to carry herself, and how to get really big. Joanie was 155 pounds when they met. Blais's method would add 30 pounds of muscle. It wasn't the look fitness pageants wanted. She even received a letter to that effect. "Just to piss 'em off, I'll get bigger." That's what Blais remembers her saying. Then, as Joanie prepared a belly-dance routine for the next contest, she asked, "Who do you think they'll remember: the bimbo blonds bouncing around to the Mortal Kombat soundtrack or the FREAKY 185-pound redhead with a sword dancing to Arabic music?" She didn't win. She didn't even place. "She didn't care," says Blais. "She was noticed." Her urge to perform could not be discouraged. She even got a gig doing singing telegrams. "I would have these panic attacks, like, My time is running out," she says. "I was supposed to be a star." She would come home, dead tired, thinking, I can't continue selling beepers. On one of those nights Kathy and her fiancÚ were on the sofa eating frozen yogurt. It was just af ter 9 p.m. on a Monday. The WWF's Raw Is War was on the USA network. It the school," says her father, Joseph Laurer. "That wasn't true." Dad continues, "I was an investment banker with VLGP," otherwise known as the Von Laurer Group, an investment firm that secured financing for "developing countries around the world." When not brokering international deals, Laurer says he took on extra work as a bookkeeper and landscaper to finance his youngest daughter's education. "Not to mention I did her homework from time to time," he says. "I don't know where this is coming from," Laurer says when asked about Joanie's portrayal of him as a debtor and a con man. "I'm sorry that she's doing all of this. It's something she'll have to deal with later in life. It's going to be psychologically devastating later on."

Mired in debt and indecision, Joanie found herself waiting tables in Key Largo. She had a degree in Spanish literature and she was serving chicken wings and beer at a place called Melons."


'I LOVED ALCOHOLICS," she says. Then Joanie got a call from her older sister Kathy, who was living in New Hampshire. Kathy told Joanie it was time to grow up. Kathy got her sister a job selling beepers and cell phones in Lawrence, Massachusetts. For Joanie it was great having family again. She loved hanging out with her sister. She became one of the best beeper salesmen in the country. But it wasn't enough. The big girl with the underbite still wanted to be a star. She wanted to be on tv: She wanted to be seen. Joanie started training for the fitness pageants then airing on ESPN. That's how she met Gerry Blais - a bodybuilder at World Gym in Londonderry, New Hampshire. He was doing his routine when he spotted Joanie, then a redhead, working on her legs. "It's a weird feeling I can't put into words," Blais says now. "SHE JUST STOOD OUT. She had an energy. It radiated off her. I loved her instantly. I loved her inside out: personality, physique, her ambition, her sense of humor." Joanie liked Blais's dense musculature, his thick black hair, even the gap between his teeth. But more than that, she saw in Blais an expertise she could put to great use. She asked him to train her. He was only too willing. Soon they were living together. ly.

"He just saw something in my body that other people didn't," she says. "Gerry thought I was the coolest thing. I loved the way Gerry loved me. He just cherished me." Their relationship was a BIZARRO production of pygmalion. He taught her how to eat, how to carry herself, and how to get really big. Joanie was 155 pounds when they met. Blais's method would add 30 pounds of muscle. It wasn't the look fitness pageants wanted. She even received a letter to that effect. "Just to piss 'em off, I'll get bigger." That's what Blais remembers her saying. Then, as Joanie prepared a belly-dance routine for the next contest, she asked, "Who do you think they'll remember: the bimbo blonds bouncing around to the Mortal Kombat soundtrack or the FREAKY 185-pound redhead with a sword dancing to Arabic music?" She didn't win. She didn't even place. "She didn't care," says Blais. "She was noticed." Her urge to perform could not be discouraged. She even got a gig doing singing telegrams. "I would have these panic attacks, like, My time is running out," she says. "I was supposed to be a star." She would come home, dead tired, thinking, I can't continue selling beepers.......


- 'what made her an OUTCAST in real life made her an natural in the ring'
- 'I would clothesline guys until my arms were black and blue' she remembers
- 'I saw myself as this super-heroish female with the muscles'
- 'I wore a pink bathing suit...I was so nervous and so excited I couldn't hear anything; such was my adrenaline rush'
- she had surgery changing the complete structure of her face (like M. Jackson!)
- 'I'm telling women, 'It's ok to be different, you don't have to be that stereotypical beauty-and there I go and get jaw surgery'
- 'Joanie speaks DREAMILY of bringing her IMAGINED child to Smackdown! Or Raw; like Madonna or Pamela Anderson Lee carting their babies on the set'
- she's described as 'smart'


+++ Jan's analysis
Kicking strong wrestling guy's in the bud, unrealistic dreams (which by incident came true), a strange remembrance of what happened in history (strong imagination/fantasy), just doing what she wants; not being influenced by what others think, being aloof with few friends (introversion); this female The Hulk faced ridiculed 'weirdo' is likely to be a strong Idiosyncratic character. Some relevant Oldham descriptive words: self-styled, non-conformistic, freaky, eccentric behavior, considerable achievements at college, gets ridiculed, 'kooky', anxious in groups (her 'adrenaline rush'), problems with getting a shared emotional experience (being not understood), curiosity, unusual, much time for special interests, life in own inner world, uniqueness, different, unconventional dress (need to show that they are different/exotic), lack of close friends, bizarre fantasy, consumed with own desires and idea's, changes the rules (female/male wrestling), doesn't try to fit in, builds strange, eccentric life style., unusual, al little 'off', strange, follows her own inclinations: breaks with tradition/convention, visionary (with regard to own future.)

Jan



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