"We wear these masks 'cause we're so damn pretty," says "Senor Spanish Fly," the unofficial spokesman for Chicago's first full-contact bowling team, Los Diablos Guapos. Speaking with the confidence bestowed by his glistening Mexican wrestling mask, he adds, "And we still score every night."
Fly, a photographer, and his cohorts, "Mr. Me Fantastic," "Elefante Gigante," and "Demonio Rojo," make up one of a number of theatrical teams that have made their way into the Pizza and Beer League, which meets every other week at the Diversey River Bowl (the "Rock 'n' Bowl").
The Guapos wear colorful singlets and wield character-specific props like the "elefante spray" that Gigante (a Web designer) uses to exterminate his competitors. They specialize in moves like the "flying space tiger driver" and the "Mexican cartwheel." Competition on the hardwood can be fierce, and while the majority of the team's moves are performed on each other, there is no limit to the amount of verbal abuse and "full frontal pin knocking" that the Guapos inflict on their opponents. Gary Secrest, owner of the Rock 'n' Bowl, doesn't seem to mind: "They say there is no such thing as bad publicity."
Many of the Pizza and Beer League's participants are "not so serious" bowlers who flock to the lanes from the School of the Art Institute and the city's Internet companies. "This is just a fun way for us to hang out and bowl while we have a few drinks," says "Pork Chop," a member of the Choice Cuts team, who dress in butchers' outfits and take their stage names from various cuts of meat.
Midlane body slams and frequent trips to the bar have gained the team a small but loyal fan base, and the Guapos, who have a Web site (www.entertheguapo.com), hope to eventually tour the country as advocates of the hybrid sport.
Though Spanish Fly admits that full-contact bowling is not for everyone, "I feel sorry for the people who adhere to the Brunswick school of thought that bowling is supposed to be boring," he says. "These people suppress the sport--for us it's all about rock 'n' roll."
So far the league hasn't had any casualties, and whether they know it or not the teams have a guardian angel in Secrest. "I let them go as far as they want until it gets too dangerous," he says. "I also know what these guys look like without their masks on."
The Guapos will host a Summer Bowling Mixer & Tournament of Champions at 7 PM on July 15, July 29, and August 12 at Timber Lanes, 1851 W. Irving Park, 773-549-9770. Each night is organized around a theme--"Kon-Tiki Bowl," "Miami Booty Bass Night," "Frat Night"--and eight theatrical teams will compete for awards based on style, attitude, intensity, and skill. It's free to watch.
Starting in September the Pizza and Beer League will meet every other Monday evening at Diversey River Bowl, 2211 W. Diversey, 773-227-5800.