Review of last year’s GLOW documentary that’s now showing on LOGO cable channel (and major thanks to Karen for both discovering that and alerting us)
By Mike Lano (not so much a review as a history of GLOW on my end… all I can say is I loved this docu and you will too. You still have time to catch a replay.)
When GLOW was on the tube and I think in a syndication package with the Pedicino vehicle Pro Wrestling This Week starting around ’86, I of course wasn’t a fan of it (GLOW, not PWTW which was awesome). For any who know me, most of us at the time were and remain grumpy old wrestling purists. We knew after one look that these women were probably quickly trained (I thought not just by Mando but also to a certain extent by Sue Sexton too but maybe I’m wrong) and it sorta showed. But, to a casual or non-Wrestling-fan, who’d know other than some blown spots and green-ity? For the most part, they couldn’t really work like any of Moolah’s trainees through no fault of their own, and as the documentary shows, most were actresses responding to a tv casting call. One that turned into history and longtime friendships and great memories for them. But as an intended parody of wrestling, it was fun and of course we loved the Dave McLane character sort of mocking on and in a low budget way, Vince Jr’s character at the same time in The Whiff.
That said, this documentary is terrific on all levels. I’ve known many of these ladies since their GLOW days and beyond, and went to shoot a few of the tapings at the infamous, low-rent Riviera hotel where Verne also taped at times. And where we had for many years, our CAC meetings each April. The Riv was cheap, but at least on the strip. So in the daytime or when nothing was happening, we could go people watch at other casinos and check out the lobby and grandiose Pirate Hotel, Caesars, etc.
I’ve been friends with some of the performers since then like Cheryl (Lightning and Lil Mo in the LPWA or whatever Tor Berg’s weekly tv thing was called that had legit female wrestlers for that day) Rusa, Dementia (forget her legit name) and Jeannie “Hollywood” Basson and they worked hard to really learn their craft, and Rusa even toured for JWP in the early 90′s as well as doing Thai kickboxing and her major decades of film stunt work. Not that Mando isn’t one of the top top trainers, but I think they also did some finessing with Sexton either during GLOW or after the first season was taped. Rusa and Basson have done lots of tv and movies since the docu says GLOW folded in ’90 and later returned in some markets with McLane returning as POW/Powerful Women of Wrestling which appeared a little more legit athletically. Little Egypt I’ve gotten to re-know in the last few years, and she’s amazing as well as an accomplished globally successful real estate agent for something like 22 years, and now a well-known and in demand public motivational speaker. All three are quality people. Egypt (er uh, not her shoot name of course) is one of the most well-spoken people I know, and she was responsible for bringing Rock legend Billy Corgan to his first Cauliflower Alley either 2 or 3 years ago, and we thank her for that and all she does. The last two years, she along with my pal Kia/Awesome Kong have given 5 star “how to market yourselves in a digital world” type lectures at Cauliflower Alley to attendees listening attentively like the great “Cheerleader” Melissa Anderson, Les Thatcher and many other wrestling people.
I went to cover GLOW around ’87 and came away with a changed attitude at the time that these women are doing the very best they can and doing something fun and unique for wrestling fans. Sure what they were doing was not a Sue Greene vs Toni Rose athletic masterpiece on canvas that we were used to. But it was one of the first parodies of wrestling, and smart in character development which is what this documentary captured so well. I saw a lot of potential in Lisa “Tina Ferrari” Moretti, who of course didn’t let me down and went to WWF/E and was at least a 3X women’s champ there. I digress in remembering that although this docu makes a gentle claim that it was the first to have all the character development; for any of us who’ve covered wrestling since ’66 like me, the first was actually that of Jack Pfeffer’s 50′s and early 60′s one with all the pun names (a fake Len Thesz instead of Lou Thesz, a young Rufus R Jones playing Hobo Brazil, Lenny Montana as “Bruno Sanmartino” and Jackie Fargo briefly playing a Budney Rogers). Pfeffer was not only canny but ballsy, as he’d highjack the mike at certain more shall we say legit wrestling cards, and promo his card elsewhere to the audience cantanting “come see MY freaks instead” before the mike was hustled away from him. And he was kicked out of that particular venue. He and Bobby Bruns. What a pair back then. Fans were duped into thinking they were seeing the genuine article when in fact, they were seeing decent workers. But c’mon – I might not clearly read a Verne Gag-me either. Len Thesz, Verne Gagme, Bruno Sanmartino, Hobo Brazil, etc. Gotta love just the sheet cajones of attemptingn to rip people off that way. In the ripoff that overall is the biz anyway.
Later was El Titanes En El Ring circa ’72 with a black and white mummy, a race car driver, “Pan” the baker (pan means bread en Español), a widow all in black and more. And they sold wrestler entrance themes on vinyl at the time on a listed number to call, along with toy versions of the characters. Sheik and Joyce as Detroit promoters after taking over from legendary Bert Ruby there at Cobo, crafted a 70′s promotion years before Vince Jr. had any idea to do the same. All sorts of amazing characters from Sheik himself, Firp, Abby, JB Psycho (who played a Lonnie Mayne crazy and was originally and allegedly the Farhut’s gardener) all sorts of goose-stepping German heels at all times, cowboys like Tex McKenzie, Tony Marino briefly under a Batman cowl, and tons more. Again, years before the so-called “genius” of Vince Jr.
I give it 5 stars and as Karen knows, it repeats on LOGO and may be on it’s VOD function too depending on your cable system. I highly recommend you take it in. You will be moved by the climactic, Mountain Fiji in her wheelchair straight from her hospital bed coming to their reunion which made this old f’er tear up. The love these women continue to show for each other as family and “wrestling sorority sisters” could melt any geezer heart like mine. But then with years of friendship with some of these ladies, I already was sensitive to that.
Great great great. Even if you hated GLOW, you’ll enjoy and love this docu.
I had the producer or director on my radio show and afterwards, they sent me a press link to watch this docu privately online last summer. I’m sad now I didn’t make the time to watch it then but I did today and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Karen! This docu had ALL the characters still living on-air (I think the only one who isn’t around is the irascible Aunt Kitty and whoever played her. But they had Big Bad Mama, the Nanotchka character, who of course isn’t Russian and speaks with no accent normally, and even the beautiful Godiva character who is no longer blonde and I guess wasn’t even British. Shows they were all great actresses, because her accent sounded cockney and legit at the time). Also present are the two housewife characters with vanishing cream all over their face, the two punk characters, basically everyone. Matilda the Hun who graces us at CAC each year and is a sweetheart and tough but grand broad.
The camaraderie was better than what one often has seen (me) over the years in the oft-petty world of regular women’s wrestling. By that I mean it’s not the fault of the lady wrestlers, but the situation they were put into, or the divide and conquer nature of the 60′s on where cattiness and infighting seemed the norm. The GLOW girls (I don’t mean using “girl” with any disrespect either) seemed not to have any petty jealousy for one another, no heat for each other, although some of the men behind the scenes were of course total a-holes; as I’ve often seen elsewhere. That’s a bonus here but the whole promotion or show was about WOMEN. The pettiness of and for say more “legit” female wrestlers often comes up when there’s just a few on-air spots for example, and they’re all made to feel they’re fighting one another for those spots. You know, in the locker room or at tv. “Why is she on tv and I’m not. Why is she getting so much time and we’re not?” I never saw that at any of the GLOW tapings and it doesn’t appear to have happened, maybe because none of them came up like many. Always wanting to be a wrestler, most watching it as kids, etc. I might’ve blinked and missed Dave McLane but he doesn’t appear to have participated. I last talked to him a few years back and he was trying to get at NATPE I believe it was, syndication for some kind of women’s vollyball league.
The documentary has a lot of heart throughout. It focuses primarily on the ladies before, during and after their GLOW experience and culminates with a reunion I believe occurred before their first Cauliflower Alley mini reunion some 3 years ago. Besides going back to all the girls they could as talking heads, they’d showed Mountain Fiji at the hospital with her major knee problems as they led up to the emotional climax reunion. Everyone was there and then Fiji was wheeled in and there were a lot of tears and happiness. Maybe not for some of the sexist males behind the scenes, running the show which could’ve been explored a bit more, but I’m quibbling. Fiji sang her part of the GLOW song and it ends with a few more well-done talking head segs during credits. They talked about the GLOW song coming after the Chicago Bears attempt at RAP (The Superbowl Shuffle) and how they were amongst the first to utilize that (well Blondie was the first in 1979 with Rapture after RAP began with The Sugarhill Gang and other legends. Once you hear that GLOW theme song again, it, like this docu, will stay in your head long after the credits have rolled. Someone should do something like this with the stars of ECW or… (wait-someone already did?!)
– Article and photos by Dr. Mike Lano