Not your mom's Pillow Fight League

This tough semi-pro sport isn’t for feather weights: get ready to throw down at the Paragon, Wednesday night.

Concussions. Black eyes. Lost teeth. Split lips. Bruised kidneys. These aren't injuries from that pillow fight with the girls last night.

But ask the ladies of the official Pillow Fight League and they'll disagree.

Pillow fighting is no more the goofy, giggly, pathetically uncompetitive activity synonymous with slumber parties and 11-teen-year-olds. No sir. It's now a semi-professional sport with a league of its very own. And recently, they've played to packed houses in Montreal, Quebec City and even the Big Apple.

Next stop? Halifax.

The Pillow Fight League is slated to throw down at the Paragon on October 6. "We'd like to have the place filled to the rafters," says The Mouth, the event's MC. "It's definitely a show that requires a large group of people."

"Whatever you're thinking, it's at least 1,000 times better," says PFL co-founder and commissioner Stacey P. Case (could it be Pillow Case?), who insists these women have mad skills. "You do anything for three nights a week and you'll get really effing good at it."

"It's everything you're not expecting," says 25-year-old Theresa Cartwright, who fights as Napalm Dawn. "It's the attitude of roller derby and the cheese of WWF wrestling."

And it's not about sex, says Case: "That's not what we're selling."

"Anyone who's ever going in looking for T&A, that's not what they find. And normally they're very happy," says Cartwright. "It's extremely badass."

Today, the PFL begins its inaugural tour. For the next 10 days, 22 PFL members---including fighters, judges, referees, announcers, filmers and drivers---will light up venues from Hamilton to Halifax. "I'm just tickled pink," says Case, who's invested $7,500 (earned from footage sold to US television network HDNet) to take the show on the road.

October 6 marks Cartwright's homecoming and first-ever fight on home soil. "It's going to be really exciting. I can't wait," she says. Cartwright grew up in Lower Sackville, but now calls Toronto home. "I'm kind of a jack of all trades," she says.

Somewhere between her PFing exploits, Cartwright keeps her bills in check slinging drinks, modelling and baking cakes.

At this stage, the league is not making money. So like Cartwright, each fighter has a day job. There's an architect, a student, a marketing manager and even an online trader. Case tells his fighters to think of the PFL as a band; everyone involved must be committed to the PFL dream.

Cartwright is no exception. "I've always been one for a challenge," she says, explaining it was another fighter who turned her on to the PFL last March. "Seemed like a great way to get a new network of people."

And a new network she got. She now fights amongst the likes of ladies named Dinah Mite, Apocalipstick and Olivia Neutron-Bomb.

• • •

The PFL was formally launched in 2006 at a goth bar called The Vatikan in downtown Toronto. But a year earlier, the dream grew out of an impromptu pillow fight at a New Year's Eve rock concert. From there, Case and a few friends got together to launch the PFL, which has its own rules.

To start, the League accepts female fighters only. There must be a pillow at each point of contact. A pillow with a foreign object inside is strictly forbidden. Normally two women fight, but three have been known to step up for what's been dubbed the "damage à trois." And if a pillow fight ends at the time limit with no winner, a three-judge committee settles the match.

"This is a functioning legitimate business with an insurance policy and a charter of rights," says Case, who wants people to take the PFL seriously. "Everyone thinks they're all tough and cool until they start swinging a pillow for two minutes," he says. "Pillows are heavy."

Naturally, the fighters must train to swing those heavy pillows. Three-hour practices, three times a week at a secret studio in downtown Toronto help fine-tune their step-over toeholds, triangle chokes and body slams. And to top it all off, they're training in improv, character development and public speaking.

To join the ranks of Olivia Neutron-Bomb and Napalm Dawn, aspiring pillow fighters should keep their eyes peeled for newspaper ads calling for tryouts. Otherwise, it's word of mouth that connects rising stars to their next calling.

Pillow fighting is not threatening to be the next Olympic sport, but it may just be the next reality TV craze. Creators of shows such as The Biggest Loser and Survivor have already scooped up the rights.

"But they were selling something that [the PFL] actually aren't," says Case, who has since severed ties with said producers. "People have always wanted to turn the Pillow Fight League into boobs and buns. But that's not what we are."

For now, OUTtv is airing a four-episode series about the PFL. In the meantime, Case says he's looking for a weekly slot, for which he may have just the producer. "And of course, it's a woman," he says.

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