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Fine dining and Chyna at Prego
Brawn is beautiful, says Joanie Laurer



By MIKE STROBEL -- Toronto Sun
Joanie Laurer, known to World Wrestling Federation fans as Chyna, tickles the ivories at Prego while The Sun's Mike Strobel enjoys a glass of wine during a lunch date. -- Craig Robertson, Toronto Sun

  I'm lunching in Yorkville with Joanie Laurer. Who? you ask.

  Well, you'd know her by another name, but she can't use it. Her old boss owns the trademark.

  So I'll give you a hint: Rhymes with China.

  Another hint: Her breast implants are called Chyna 2000s.

  Another hint: If she doesn't like this column, she could snap me in two like a twig.

  Last hint: Look at the picture.

  The Amazon formerly known as Chyna (to heck with Vince McMahon's trademark lawyer) slides into a booth at posh Prego on Bloor St. W.

  The Chyna 2000s are housed in a black, low-cut Playboy T-shirt. She wears a gold bunny pendant, a gift from Hugh Hefner. She's in designer jeans and Reeboks.

  A bandana tops her dirty-blond head. No, wrestling fans, her hair is not really jet-black.

  Nor is she 200 pounds, as a lot of the clippings say. She's 165, on a 5-foot-10 frame. She turns 29 two days after Christmas.

  She has arms like Yule logs.

  And an uncertain future.

  McMahon's World Wrestling Federation released her in May after six years as dominatrix Chyna.

  "Look at this," she says holding up the current Playboy. She's (barely) dressed as a warrior on the cover.

  "It says Joanie Laurer and, as proud as I was of the success I had, all the stereotypes I broke, I don't want to live my entire life behind the character of Chyna.

  "My name is Joanie."

  Anything you say, Joanie.

  Waiter Paul McNally, 42, takes one look at her and suggests the pasta. It's ravioli stuffed with sweet potato and Gorgonzola cream sauce.

  How's Hollywood, Joanie?

  "In its own way, it's as big a farce as the wrestling world," she says, sipping mineral water.

  "They all think I'm some butch chick who kicks guys in the nuts for a living."

  Her voice has a slight little-girl squeak.

  She has her big, dark eyes set on a superheroine role.

  She carries a Wonder Woman purse, with the words "Beat It, Creep" stamped on the side. I shift nervously.

  For now she settles for guest bits on such shows as Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Relic Hunter.

  Her meatiest role has been on a celebrity episode of Fear Factor, the gross-out reality show.

  They stuck her head in a glass cubicle, then dumped in a bucket-full of worms, millipedes and scorpions.

  Her warm-pink lips purse in disgust at the memory.

  She survived three minutes, doing yoga breathing, to move to the next round. She eventually lost to rapper Coolio.

  That's showbiz.

  Joanie has shot one film, Frank McKlusky CI (claims investigator), due next spring. She plays an outlandish secretary.

 
Joanie Laurer. -- Craig Robertson, Toronto Sun
Dolly Parton has a cameo.

  You can come up with your own jokes.

  Why the Chyna 2000s, Joanie?

  She laughs. Thank goodness.

  "I had the muscle, but I didn't have the cleavage," she says. "I wanted to be more feminine."

  Where'd you get those arms and shoulders?

  "My parents were freakin' kooky and I didn't have much identity," she says.

  "So I spent hours in the gym and pretty soon I was known as the girl with muscles and I liked it. It gave me an identity."

  The steroids question irritates her. Healthy living, not drugs, was her ticket, she says.

  She glances at her Rolex. Gino Empry, her Toronto rep, is touring her around town, plugging the Playboy spread.

  She is tender, articulate and polite for someone who used to pile-drive large men into mats.

  She tells me she's newly single and lonely.

  She tells me she sat crying in her living room when the WWF said goodbye.

  She figures she's still women's champion, since she never lost the belt in the ring.

  Is there a comeback in Vince McMahon's script?

  "I know a lot of wrestling fans are expecting it ... but it's not going to happen. I've moved on."

  Lunch over, Joanie Laurer sits at the piano in Prego's big front window.

  Cello is her instrument, but she's no slouch at a keyboard.

  Her hands, on those Amazon arms, are small, feminine.

  The tender chords of Killing Me Softly fill the room.

RELATED LINKS
  • Chyna story archive


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