Saturday, November 8, 2014

MY Story of The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me if I remembered the 1980's TV show called The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. I'm not sure if she realized that I not only remembered the show, which I was a huge fan of, I am friends with many of the ladies that appeared on the show. When MySpace, Facebook and Twitter became the thing to do, I discovered a community of fans of the show as well as many of the actual GLOW Girls. I never really spoke to many people of my love for the show back when it was on the air, it was considered campy and uncool, though I have a feeling that all those kids that made fun of it were glued to their TV screens when each show hit the airwaves. The amount of weekly viewers were estimated in the millions so someone was definitely watching it, closet case GLOW Fans! The show was cancelled after it's fourth year but remains in the hearts of many.
Season 1 & 2 GLOW Girls
The first time I spoke to the GLOW girl, Roxy Astor, she asked me to explain how I became a fan of the show and what it meant to me. She actually asked many fans the same question around the time the documentary film featuring the story of The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was produced. Unfortunately, I gave her a very watered down version of my story really never got a chance to tell the complete story of how I came to love the show, until now.
The Amazing Roxy Astor
My exposure to wrestling was limited to watching the Von Erichs on the World Class Championship Wrestling show Saturday mornings at my cousin's house and eventually when my sister realized how dreamy Kerry Von Erich was, our house also. I really didn't have a connection with men's wrestling, though I didn't mind the eye candy and I had a little bit of a crush on Kevin Von Erich as well as Rick Rude. The arenas and ring were usually dirty looking, the lighting usually dim and poorly lit for television and the costumes were basic and not too flashy unless the wrestler's gimmick was a bit out there. One Saturday afternoon, I started to turn channels on our cable box and stop on a channel that featured a blue and pink wrestling ring, a black and neon pink sign in the background and a woman wearing camo beating on a woman with pigtails, wearing white and pink tights with hearts and matching boots. My mom and sister both said "TURN IT" I was transfixed but complied. I had no clue what it was but I wanted to watch it, unfortunately we only had one TV in the house so it was not an option that day. The next week, I tried to catch it at the same time and my dad beat me to the TV which meant the Cubs game would be on the duration of the afternoon. While my dad turned channels looking for the game, I did see a flash of the show I was looking forward to watching but it was just a flash. Two weeks in a row resulted in failed attempts to watch a show that I had no clue about, other than it was ladies wrestling and my family didn't like it.

The third week, I got up early to watch cartoons. I flipped through the channels and saw a commercial for The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and I guess, by luck, an episode of the show actually started. It was on the same channel, WPMI channel 15, but at an earlier time. I was excited and transfixed. The show featured girls of all shapes, sizes and appearance wearing some of the coolest and craziest outfits in bright colors. Some of the girls had brightly colored makeup and others had a massive amount of glitter on their faces, bodies and in their huge 1980's hair. This was a show that could have kept the Aqua Net and Rave hairspray manufacturers busy. They sang, they fought and they even did comedy skits. This show was hysterically campy and theatrical and I loved every minute of it. The last match of the episode was "FOR THE GLOW CROWN" and featured Tina Ferrari against the Russian Ninotchka. Tina looked amazing in her purple costume with silver glitter and Ninotchka looked...well...Russian. The match was like riding a 20 minute roller coaster, both ladies were great when it came to selling pain. I didn't know if wrestling was real or fake but this match looked real. The announcer kept mentioning the US vs. Russia element and for all I knew, this match could have been the beginning of a war between the US and Russia, I was a kid and didn't know any better. The outcome was not so much a proud patriotic moment, Ninotchka won the crown and the show was over. The following week, I tuned in again in hopes of seeing a rematch but it seems it was replaced with something else. I grabbed the TV Guide, read it from front to back and found no mention of the show. I did find a couple of videos in a video store in Pensacola called GLOW 1 and GLOW 2 which featured the pilot episode as well as other matches from season 1 which I became obsessed with.
Season 3 & 4 GLOW Girls
A few months later, I am watching He-Man on WJTC channel 44 and a commercial for THE NEW Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling beginning Saturday at 6pm only on WJTC. OMG it's THE SHOW!!! My ass was glued to the living room floor in front of the TV at 5pm, intent on NOT missing the show. When the show began, it had a slightly different look to it. The show featured a different group of girls. A few from season one and two were there in the opening credits including Hollywood, Mt. Fiji, Sally the Farmer's Daughter, Vine, Ninotchka and Dementia, though she looked different. This episode seemed to have a lighter feel to it than the episode I saw months before. The first match featured a bad ass British woman named Godiva that beat the crap out of a woman with a gold glitter fetish with an annoying laugh named Tiffany Mellon, in later episodes we find that she and her tag team partner, the amazing Roxy Astor, are the rich girl replacements for the season 1 and 2 tag team Tina Ferrari and Ashley Cartier. The second match featured Babe the Farmer's Daughter (Sally's NEW sister) with Tulsa against Hollywood and a new bad girl named MTV. It was definitely weird seeing Hollywood team up with someone else that wasn't Vine but MTV was entertaining also. The next match was an arm wrestling matching which featured Mt Fiji and the new giant replacement for Matilda the Hun, Big Bad Mama which ended up being an arm wrestling match featuring the manager for the Bad Girls, Aunt Kitty against Jackie Stallone. Incidentally, Jackie Stallone (though not technically a wrestler) was the first GLOW girl I met. Jackie actually gave me a not so accurate life reading based on feeling my ass...NO JOKE. The next match featured two new girls Zelda the Brain and a girl from the land down under with no Australian accent named Beastie the Road Warrior. The last episode featured Sally the Farmer's Daughter and was for the GLOW crown, now held by Ninotchka. Ninotchka kept the crown until later in the season when she gave it up and turned face to become a good girl leading to the Run for the Rubies tournament. All in all, I loved the NEW GLOW. It was different but still the same as the other episodes I'd seen.
Beastie the Road Warrior
As season 3 progressed, new characters were introduced and some older ones were totally phased away. Vine appeared once, Little Fiji came back for one match and then she was gone again. One of the strangest character changes happened with Dementia. For those of you that didn't realize, Dementia from season 1 and 2 was a totally different woman. Season 3 Dementia, played by Nancy Daley, seemed to have a second personality that surfaced halfway through the season known as the Widow Woman, also played by Nancy. From what I have been told, the appearances of Dementia during season 4 were actually taped during season 3. The final episode of season 3 ended with Cheyenne Cher winning the GLOW crown after beating Godiva thanks to interference from Roxy Astor. To this day, Godiva and Roxy are still holding this grudge. ;-) After this episode, I waited patiently for season 4 to begin but the stations in my area opted not to air season 4. The closest station to me that aired season 4 was in Mississippi at 2am on Saturday nights/Sunday morning. We got NO signal from there so whatever became of the show after Cheyenne Cher won the crown became a mystery to me for years until I hooked up with GLOW fans on Facebook and YouTube.

To fill the void of no GLOW show, I tried to watch other wrestling shows but nothing came close to the entertainment value I found in GLOW. After GLOW, ESPN in it's still early days, aired a ladies wrestling show really late on weekend nights but it was gritty and the production value was poor and eventually dropped from the lineup. I got REALLY into WWF for a while and my next door neighbors took me to see some of the matches that were held at the Pensacola Civic Center. Men's wrestling seemed to appeal to me more at this point, puberty kicked in and I was a muscle loving twink. After attending the live WWF show, I was a bit disappointed because what I saw looked nothing like what I saw on TV, everything looked practiced and the wrestlers just couldn't sell pain but I kept watching WWF on TV until Doink the Clown made his first appearance and I was done.
Doink the Clown
Many years passed, I still vividly remembered GLOW's 3rd Season as if it were yesterday and as embarrassing as it may be, I remember a lot of the girl's individual pre-match raps. When I began befriending people on MySpace and Facebook, I stumbled upon Beastie the Road Warrior's personal page and friend-ed her. I was working as a telephone psychic at the time and offered her a free reading. That free 10 minute tarot reading was the beginning of a four hour phone call that ended at 3am when my phone's battery finally called it a night. The most amazing aspect of meeting up and befriending a GLOW girl is certainly a unique experience. When you are friends with a GLOW girl, they seem to come as a package deal. My connection with Beastie led to friendships with a few other girls as well as friendships with a massive amount of GLOW fans.
The fans of GLOW are probably as unique and fun as the girls themselves. Michael Karr, Richard Hughes, Adam Soper and GLOW fan Mike Rand are just a few names that you'll most likely see on many of the girl's pages. Mike Rand's YouTube channel is chock full of GLOW moments. Some of these fans have been turned into GLOW girls via the creative artwork of Gener de Vera.

Shortly after I began speaking to Beastie, she shared an idea of a television show that she wanted to kick around and get produced. I was all ears and ideas and helped her further develop the concept. I spent a week at her home in Tennessee writing the package for the show which would star not only herself, but 8 or 9 other GLOW Girls including Daisy, Roxy Astor, Ashley Cartier, Hollywood, Lightning, Corp Kelly 2, Little Egypt and Evangelina. Unfortunately, the show's concept was not well received. We first pitched it to Matt Cimber, the original director of GLOW, who in turn turned us down. The concept was great for the time but the truth was that we were pitching a show that had a theme similar to other shows that were on the tail end of a fad which seemed to be winding down. Though the show never happened, the fact that I was able to work on something related to a show I loved as a kid was awesome in itself.

So I guess all of the above can be considered the answer to the first part of Roxy Astor's question...How I became a fan of GLOW. The answer to the second part of the question is much shorter but nonetheless, complicated. What GLOW meant to me? For the most part, you will hear the girls speak of their involvement with the show as empowering, not only for them but also for young women in general. What the GLOW girls didn't realize was their power of empowerment wasn't limited to just women. I was a shy, nerdy kid that had no creative or assertive bone in my body and I was bullied and made fun of. I didn't really learn any effective fighting moves...the closed fist rule doesn't apply to real life fights, the Buckingham Bounce doesn't work when you've got no turnbuckle and a sunset flip ends before it starts when someone kicks you in the balls. The theatricality of the skits and matches opened up my mind to accept "out of the box" entertainment. Had it not been for GLOW, I probably wouldn't have been as receptive to musical theatre in my teens. The bright colors and even the GLITTER, which I'm still obsessed definitely show in my current creative and artistic abilities. The show's mix of oddball characters made me realize that it was OK not to live an existence of trying to blend in and fit into what others believe to be as normal. If you take a look at the other fans of the show, you will see this is a common trait we share, most of us have strong personalities.

Beastie and I in the truck on the way to Knoxville.
One more question that many of the girls have asked me would be..."Who was your favorite GLOW Girl?" To be completely honest, I didn't have a favorite GLOW Girl. I was a fan of the Bad Girls AND the Good Girls. I did have favorite matches, Roxy vs. Dementia, Beastie vs. anyone because she would usually pulverize them and get disqualified. Evangelina's matches were fun because her character was like a grownup refugee from the Children of the Corn and her methods of teaching the gospel were certainly of an unholy a good way. I loved watching Sally and Hollywood go at it because I knew on some level, there was something more going on behind the scenes and when they were in front of those cameras it seemed very real. Picking one favorite out of the 4 seasons would be like handing a kid a case of candy and telling them that he could have just one piece. Each girl brought something unique to the show.

BTW check out the amazing documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. It's on Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and pretty much every online streaming movie place. It's definitely a great little blast from the past and gives some amazing insight on the inner workings of the show that we didn't get to see as viewers. Babe the Farmer's Daughter aka Ursula now owns the rights to GLOW. She's tried to get the promotion started back up but it seems the stars have not yet aligned for it to happen. Over the years, Babe has been released DVD's featuring episodes from each season but unfortunately she doesn't have access to the complete archive of GLOW footage...yes it does exist and maybe one day an arrangement can be made to get them all out on DVD as complete season releases or even on Netflix or Hulu.

Many people may remember GLOW as an 80's cheese fest or a T&A show. Some people just didn't get it, my partner is one of those people. For me, as well as a few others, GLOW became a part of who we are. Not as wrestlers, though I did a little pro wrestling training. GLOW gave us the power to transform and bring the oddball characters we knew we were on the inside to the outside. So that's it, my long and drawn out story of how I became a fan of GLOW and what it meant to me. Call me a freak, I don't care, no matter how many years have passed, those 4 seasons of GLOW are still magical to me. I could ramble on for days and it seems that I already have. So which GLOW girl was YOUR favorite?

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