365 Days of Brutality Preview- Pillow, the Badass She-Beast of Bodybuilding and Nerdlesque
This is just one of the many entries in my magnum opus, 365 Days of Brutality, which is onsale in both print and ebook formats. 365 Days of Brutality is not your typical “repackage the same old shit,” overpriced training ebook with terrible formatting and a tiny size- this thing is a beast the likes of which you’ve never seen, and entries like Pillow’s are why.
As I mentioned previously, freaks and geeks are what built the world of strength sports. From Sandow, the epic male prostitute (and occasional bodybuilder), to weirdos like Gypsy Boots (who would piss on his feet in the shower to clean them because “urine is sterile”), to maniac biker neurology PhDs with a national record in powerlifting like Oliver Sacks, to comic book nerds, the strength sports world is where the weirdest outcasts on the planet have collected for decades to surround themselves with like minded people… and look good doing it.
You also had the straight up geeks, like Aaron Baker, the 90s bodybuilder who loved Batman so much he would do guest posing routines in a sort-of Batman costume; Kai Greene, the only nerd solipsistic enough to create a graphic novel starring himself as the protagonist; and an entire generation of kids who started lifting to look like the dudes on Dragonball Z. None of them, however, holds a goddamn candle to Pillow, aka the She-Beast, who is perhaps the single coolest person of whom I’ve ever heard.
Pro burlesque dancer, cosplayer, Renn Faire enthusiast, fluent speaker of Klingon, and one of the first successful women’s heavyweight bodybuilders, the She-Beast was the living embodiment of the “keep it weird” ethos for which the lifting world was famous before rich suburbanites ruined the shit out of the scene. The progenitor of “nerdlesque,” which is a badass mashup of anything Comic-Con with burlesque, Pillow was likely the source material for many a nerd’s wet dream long before she stepped onstage and became that source material for bodybuilding fans as well.
Though her name seems like one of those ironic nicknames given to guys who look like Bigfoot but get called “Tiny” in the bar, it was her original stage name as a dancer because her physique was apparently what Gabriel Iglesias would describe as “fluffy”. In her words,
“Pillow was my stage name from a long time ago when I was doing rock and roll equipment handling and I looked like a great big squishy pillow, like the Michelin tire gal with a goose down jacket with feathers leaking out of it and duct tape patches.”
Pillow’s physique after she started bodybuilding was anything but squishy. Renowned for conditioning that was crazier than a necrophiliac at a clothing optional zombie party, Pillow was featured in Pumping Iron 2 after winning the 1983 Gold’s Classic and coming in fifth at Nationals in a heavyweight class so insane that legendary Cory Everson took second. Though she quit competing, her physique remained utterly insane throughout her dancing career- video of her on Youtube ten years later shows her bone dry and jacked as hell as she danced to win Miss Exotic World 1995.
If you’re ogling her quads and considering adding another squat day to each week, you’re not the only one.
In 1997, she leveled up to “there is only one god, and her name is Pillow” as performed as a goddamn Klingon, with two male Klingon escorts wielding bat’leths. At this point, calling her an absolute legend as a bodybuilder or an exotic dancer would not do her justice, but there is no word in the human language that can accurately describe the level of awesome that this woman reached. As such, Klingon will have to suffice- qeylIS ta’be’ (God Queen). Not only that, but she’s still dancing at 62 and looks better than 9/10 of the chicks at your local “hardcore” gym (I don’t know many chicks or 62 year old men or women with visible vascularity on their biceps), so she’s clearly still smashing weights.
This ravenous She-Beast got started on her path to her unique brand of awesomeness as any weirdo worthy of scamming on chickens at a bar with Gonzo does- by having no friends. Whereas I spent fifth grade reading the goddamn dictionary and doing wind sprints, she spent hers (being immeasurably cooler) watching Star Trek and reading Robert Heinlein. Fast forward to age 20, and she was working as a stage hand at a burlesque show when she discovered that the dancers were making $5 a night more than she was, so she ditched the backstage shit for the spotlight. A few years later, she started competing in bodybuilding and for a while was a superstar in bodybuilding, getting the cover of Muscle and Fitness and a couple of now-defunct mags, and was a favorite face of Gold’s Gym while that badass maniac Pete Grymkowski was still running things.
These days, she spends her time tearing up the parties at Renn Faire as a pirate lass, performing as a drag king, cosplaying like what (sexy Master Chief, anyone?), and is a member of a “dry-docked” Klingon Assault Group, which is some kind of charitable club for people who cosplay as Klingons. Having grown up in a staunchly Star Wars household, I was surprised to find there is such a thing, since I always thought Trekkies were middle-aged shut-ins who spent their time practicing their makeout techniques on Worf masks. I stand corrected.
Tragically, I could only locate her twice a week offseason leg workout, which is better than nothing given the paucity of information about her training online. Bear in mind that women’s bodybuilding at the time was really more of a modern bikini competition, so Pillow was already off the upper end of acceptable muscularity. Had she squatted, she’d likely have had muscularity that would make the modern physique chicks look sadly underdeveloped by comparison.
Leg Press– 5 x 6-12
Leg Extension– 4-5 x 8-10
Lying Leg Curl– 5-8 x 8-10
Standing Leg Curl– 5-8 x 8-10
Cable Abduction– 4-5 x 8-10
Cable Adduction– 4-5 x 8-10
And as anyone who has been a fan of this site knows, I’m hardly the touchy feely type. That said, I realize my approach doesn’t always reach everyone, and me telling people to grab their balls and listen to some beatdown hardcore doesn’t always work. Thus, I figured I’d pass along a story Pillow related about being true to you and bucking the trends.
Pillow was supposed to meet a friend at some kind of group therapy and accidentally walked into the wrong room. She realized too late that it was some kind of AA group for gay people, but before she could leave, they tagged her to speak. Having the type of massive brass bull balls that allowed her to do whatever the hell she wanted throughout her life, she stood up and spoke.
“My name is Pillow. I walked into the wrong group. I’m not gay… I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m here for some fellowship. I train at a gym where all these people do steroids… I don’t do steroids. I work at a strip joint where a lot of people do stuff I don’t believe in… and I don’t do them. And I feel like I don’t fit in, anywhere.’
At which point a gay dude who appeared to be in pretty rough shape (cancer or AIDs or somesuch), leaned over, put his hand on her knee and said,
“‘Honey, if you don’t fit in anywhere, YOU FIT IN EVERYWHERE!‘”
So, there you have it- Pillow, the She-Beast. Bodybuilder, cosplayer, burlesque dancer, innovator, and giver of so few shit she’d have to get them financed if she was forced to give some. The strength game doesn’t have to be one big inbred Bangbus, no matter how hard these milquetoast Instagram superstars and super srs “science” dickheads try to make it one. There’s always room to do your own thing, buck the trends, and blaze your own trail.