Lipstick & Dynamite: The First Ladies of Wrestling

Rated NR 75 minutes 2004

This chronicle shines a spotlight on the forgotten first ladies of the ring who traveled carnivals and sideshows of the 1940s. Gladys 'Killem' Gillem wrestled women, men, alligators and bears. At 18, Ida May Martinez took to the road to flash the only thing she knew -- how to kick, punch, and defend herself. Narrowly escaping date rape at 16, Penny Banner trained for survival. Still kicking butt at age 80, 'The Fabulous Moolah' and 'Johnnie Mae Young' live together with midget wrestler sidekick 'Diamond 'Lil' and continue to take bumps with World Wrestling Entertainment. In the documentary, each woman reflects on her own remarkable life with fond and bitter memories, reconciling a wild, flamboyant youth with the reality of getting older and fading away. It follows Moolah, Johnnie Mae and the girls for 60 years. Many bumps and falls later, we listen in as they discuss the money, the old days and what it's like to be a 'lady' in today's favorite guilty pleasure: spectator sport.

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Ruth Leitman

Writer: Ruth Leitman

Producer: Ruth Leitman, Debbie Nightingale and Anne Hubbell

Cast: Ella Waldek, Gladys 'Killem' Gillem, Ida May Martinez, The Great Mae Young, The Fabulous Moolah, Penny Banner, Bill Cosby, Cyndi Lauper and Groucho Marx

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