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President Obama greeted visitors to the White House and the Mexican ambassador, yesterday, with this welcome.

President BARACK OBAMA: Welcome to Cinco de Quatro.

(Soundbite of laughter)

President OBAMA: Cinco de Mayo at the White House. We are a day early.

MONTAGNE: Well, the fifth of May has arrived. And here in Los Angeles they're celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a whole lot of Lucha VaVoom. It's a sort of vaudeville-style performance troupe that's having one of its biggest shows of the year tonight. Reporter Corey Takahashi caught a recent show in Ventura, so he can explain.

COREY TAKAHASHI: Lucha VaVoom has two key ingredients. There's Lucha. That's lucha libre, Mexican masked wrestling.

(Soundbite of music)

TAKAHASHI: The show's wrestlers fly through the air, bounce off the mat and sometimes spill into the crowd.

(Soundbite of bell)

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible) our first match begins.

TAKAHASHI: Then there's VaVoom, the show's American burlesque dancers who wear tassels, peacock feathers, and in one case this evening a giant cupcake.

Unidentified Man: Will you please welcome Audrey Deluxe?

(Soundbite of cheering)

TAKAHASHI: The wrestlers and dancers alternate on the stage of this historic Ventura theater. One of the marquee wrestlers tonight is named Cassandro.

CASSANDRO (Wrestler): We got a little bit hurt out there. It's wrestling. It's not a beauty salon, so we do what we have to do, right.

TAKAHASHI: Got hurt? What happened?

CASSANDRO: Well, one of the midgets wanted to ride on my mouth and I just got my brand-new teeth, because they were knocked out like a month ago.

(Soundbite of music)

TAKAHASHI: This isn't your madre and padre's lucha libre. Lucha VaVoom's matches are shorter than in Mexico. And the striptease and comedy reflect old Hollywood, not Mexico City.

Tonight, one of two English speaking emcees is Dana Gould. He's a comedian and former TV writer for "The Simpsons."

Mr. DANA GOULD (Emcee): I love being backstage at the theater. There's, you know, wrestlers and little people in chicken suits, and burlesque dancers changing, and everybody's in their underwear. And it's really old-time show business. It's as close to vaudeville as I think I will be able to get, unless I find a time machine.

Ms. LIZ FAIRBAIRN (Co-Producer, Lucha VaVoom): It incorporates three very primal things. It's exciting. People get blood-lust, and they get lust-lust, you know, and they laugh.

TAKAHASHI: The show's co-producer, Liz Fairbairn, has a day job in Hollywood. She's a special-effects costume designer.

Ms. FAIRBAIRN: The reason I got into this is because I was dating a Mexican wrestler for like ten years.

TAKAHASHI: Fairbairn followed her boyfriend around a Mexican lucha libre circuit and thought Americans would enjoy the spectacle.

Co-producer Rita D'Albert brought in the burlesque.

Unidentified Man: All right. Hey, how about some more vavoom everybody?

(Soundbite of cheering)

TAKAHASHI: The audience is full of lucha libre and burlesque fans, as well as thrill-seeking hipsters, rockers and artists. Tonight, it's a largely Latino and white crowd, cheering heartily and drinking heavily.

Unidentified Man: How about midget chicken wrestling?

(Soundbite of cheering)

TAKAHASHI: Lucha VaVoom's special Cinco de Mayo celebration and its diverse audience has drawn some historically Anglo-oriented sponsors - the L.A. Weekly paper, KROQ radio and Miller beer.

Porfirio Rodriguez is a Milwaukee-based brand manager for Miller Lite in Milwaukee. He says events like Lucha VaVoom attract an important slice of the Hispanic market. He calls them biculturals.

MR. PORFIRIO RODRIQUEZ (Brand Manager, Miller Lite): They're living in more than one world. And we have to talk to them where they live. If we don't, we run the risk of irrelevance.

TAKAHASHI: At the show in Ventura, Nicholas Sauceda snagged a seat close to the stage.

Mr. NICHOLAS SAUCEDA: Here it takes you away from all the things you have to worry about in life.

TAKAHASHI: Lucha VaVoom bills its entertainment as sexo y violencia. It's a hybrid for hard times. The troupe has already performed in Amsterdam and San Francisco. Now, they are looking for a second home outside of L.A. in Las Vegas.

For NPR News, I'm Corey Takahashi.

(Soundbite of music)


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