Furio: "Being Italian, of course I love women!"

By Rebecca Traister - Lori Leibovich
Published August 31, 2004 12:11PM (EDT)

W stands for women. And wrestling. And weird, if Monday's "Salute to W Stands for Women" late-night fete at the downtown Manhattan bar Pressure is any measure.

The Republican-friendly but not Republican-exclusive party was organized by Lifetime Television, Rock the Vote, and RightNOW! a group that brings together "contemporary women who have an interest in forward-looking, inclusive ideas." By 11:30, the bash had drawn some nattily dressed young Republicans and a passel of World Wrestling Entertainment wrestlers, including Mark Henry, the 6-foot-4, 395-pound "strongest man in the world."

Henry, 33, told Salon that he used to work out at the same University of Texas at Austin gym that President Bush did, back when Bush was governor of Texas. "The president was more than a fan," said Henry. "He was proud that the strongest man in the world was from Texas, and I was proud to be that." Henry's colleague Ivory, a former wrestler whose signature move was the "Poison Ivory" and who now hosts the "WWE Experience" on Spike TV, said she was involved in getting out the vote because she is a "diva" and "the blabbermouth of the WWE." Who knew?

"Sopranos" actor Federico Castelluccio (Carmela's would-be paramour, Furio) said he hadn't yet picked a horse in the upcoming election. "It's difficult to decide right now, but I guess it's getting close," he said. He'd come to the party because, he said, he is "a big supporter of the women's movement." When Salon pressed him on his commitment to the sisterhood, he explained, "Well, I'm a supporter of women's causes and also I've auditioned for Lifetime a bunch of times, so ... you know. And also, being Italian, of course I love women!"

As the night wore on, the bona fide Republican star power increased, and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie stopped by with his wife, "W Stands for Women" coordinator Cathy Gillespie. He told Salon that women's involvement in the Republican Party is crucial "for the same reason that African-American voters, Hispanic voters, Irish-American voters" -- and here he pointed to himself -- "are important. We all care about a lot of the same things: good jobs, quality healthcare, good public schools, winning the war on terrorism." Asked what he feels the party has done for women lately, Gillespie said that the president has "fostered entrepreneurial opportunities for women" and paid attention to family healthcare, an issue that often falls to females. "My older sister is here tonight, and she is the person who has accepted responsibility, out of my siblings, for my father's healthcare," he said. "That's an example of why I think women appreciate the president's support of a prescription drug benefit after the Democrats."

Behind Gillespie was Republican Florida Rep. and 2000 chad-harpy Katherine Harris, a smile splashed on her suspiciously smooth face. She agreed that women might well determine the outcome of this year's race. "Women's votes are really going to count," said Harris, who wore a fitted black suit with funereal black roses sewn on the front and fishnet stockings, and sported a massive emerald-cut diamond ring. "Every vote makes a difference," she told Salon. Unless, of course, you live in Florida.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

MORE FROM Rebecca Traister

Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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