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.

 

 

Hollywood,Cheryl Rusa, and Ivory - photo by Dr. Mike Lano

Jeannie “Hollywood” Basson, Cheryl “Lightning” Rusa, and Lisa “Tina Ferrari” “Ivory” Moretti – photo by Dr. Mike Lano

 

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.

 

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Matilda the Hun, Gremlina, and other GLOW stars at the CAC reunion – photo by Dr. Mike Lano

 

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

2 Responses to “Lano – LOGO Scores Hit with GLOW Documentary”

Mike Lano

March 24th, 2013 - 8:24 pm

I wanted to add a few more thoughts but didn’t want to bother our web bossstress with the most for yet another addition. This documentary really has and shows a lot of heart. The love and respect amongst the performers/the ladies. Some of the important climactic scenes are when Suzy Spirit during a match where a spot goes wrong, has her elbow and ligament pop out of her skin which I believe caused her early retirement. Of course Mountain Fiji who I guess was the star of the show although I thought Lisa/Tina was portrayed as the star at least in season one. The reunion put together by Egypt/Ms A as a result of the docu. Riklis(the multi-millionaire husband who married a young former Penthouse model turned Z actress in Pia Zadora who allegedly had him pull the plug on GLOW after 4 seasons because he was allegedly fooling around w/ some of them)’s director Matt Cimber who was said to be an a-hole plus made GLOW campier than MclLane ever had wanted. The fact that Cimber and McLane declined to be interviewed for the docu. Although Matt was mellow at the reunion(not sure if it was in Vegas or L.A. but the emotional thing of Fiji at her pretty bad nursing home making it to the reunion, wearing the GLOW crown and refocusing the heart of the docu on her. I really enjoyed the serious, shoot comments from her, Ninotchka(who’s now a Vegas costume designer) and really all of them. Very nice quiet music underneath especially at the end segment showing what they were doing now both in vocals and graphic. That the vanishing cream, curler-wearing Housewives tag team somehow morphed into Spike and Chainsaw, the punk rocker team. I’d kind of lost interest after season one. But now sad I didn’t watch more. Now I know why some left so early(they were injured pretty bad-possibly because they didn’t have enough training at the start IMO) to last as long as some of the legit Moolah’s girls, etc.

One negative and not her fault although she should know- was Mathilda the Hun saying on-camera that she thought GLOW was the only all-women’s wrestling show when circa 1990, Tor Berg started his own all women’s LPWA syndicated tv show with more traditional, serious women. The best indie ones not signed to WWF including many close pals of mine from Brittney Brown, Madusa, Mimi, Cheryl Rusa this time as the Lil Mo accompaniment to Big Mo/Reggie Bennett, Debbie Combs, Candy Devine, etc. Back to the GLOW docu, wonder if Larry Z got a payday for talking about GLOW? I have to tease him about this cameo. Also chuckled when I saw Mtn Fiji(called by some the Pineapple Princess) has Dole as her legit last name(Mary Dole). She appears to be the genuine article and a real sweetheart. I hope she gets thru her knee reconstruction and is able to finally walk again. She was in fact outstanding in her role and the sad thing as she said was when Riklis pulled out the money(ala Jerry Selzer pulling the plug on the more legit Roller Derby in ’73, killing it) and ended GLOW; none of the girls had any warning. No chance to say goodbye, have a g’bye party, last match with one of their friends. Nothing. Nada. Thankfully, Little Egypt provided that closure for them, but also reuniting them.

Again, pretty amazing docu even if one didn’t care for GLOW. These women were pretty amazing even if they were just answering a casting call for what they would find out was “female wrestling.” Now we’re lucky to have groups like Shimmer, Shine…these promotion names seem to focus on the adjective of “glow” or glowing which is the polite thing to call what a lady does when she sweats. She glows, shimmers or “shines.” P.O.W.!

Mike Lano

March 25th, 2013 - 9:50 am

A few more things. Got a nice email back from Little Egypt who I think would make an outstanding possible board member to our CAC as like this docu, she’s 5 stars in all aspects we look for. She made positive contributions to our industry and beyond, she ‘s been super successful again as a real estate person as well as motivational speaker and she cares about and helps others. Anyway, this week they’re releasing this documentary in it’s entirety with lots of special features on DVD which should be a must-have Easter or Passover gift, etc. I’m bugging her to come back on my radio show (LegendsRadio.net for archives) maybe this Wednesday when I have back on former WCW/NWA announcer and my old 900 hotline partner along with Terry Funk in Chrispy Cruise as well as Monkees legend Michael Nesmith.

Still have q’s about the docu in needing more info on how the GLOW wrestlers felt about and interacted with Dave McLane and when exactly he left his brainchild creation and if it was influenced by the early 70′s wrestling promotions that were full of characters in The Sheik/Detroit/Cobo Big Time Wrestling as well as Argentina’s Titanes en el Ring tv show which was syndicated in the U.S. starting in ’73. How and why Jackie Stallone came into the GLOW picture. I’d probably, and I’m only nitpicking, would’ve had listed under their kfabe and legit names when they were talking heads, the years they were in GLOW. Something like Cheryl “Lightning” Rusa, 1987-1990 because I kind of stopped watching GLOW after the first year or when they introduced the hammy voiceover guy (I think in season two) and lessened McLane’s equally hammy, but more fun and spoofy commentary. I had no idea until watching this docu, that gazillionaire Riklis who allegedly “bought” that Golden Globe award for best newcomer for his too-young bride Pia (a rumor still murmured in HWood today), was the “money mark” behind GLOW. Or that GLOW was at its peak in viewership, ratings, etc. and even doing live shows around the U.S. when the plug was pulled after only 4 fun-filled GLOW years. Again, the most important thing is whether you liked GLOW or no; that they are in fact our family and part of pro wrestling. Many of them hurt themselves with lifelong injuries just like anyone else, female or male in the biz. And I think I was wrong about Sue Sexton’s possible involvement as a co-trainer with Mando. I do know those that wanted to further train themselves after GLOW like Rusa, had more training with experienced Sue who trained so many. Of course Mando, having learned how to train the best with the absolute best in my former boss, Judo Gene Lebell; was a superlative trainer and did the best he could with these women, in the short period of time he was given to do so. Kudos to m’go, Mando who should be back with us also at Cauliflower Alley, from April 15-18 in Vegas. Go to CauliflowerClub.Org because it’s going to be another amazing annual get together there. Hoping the great Betty Nicolli is back with her sweetie in Akio Sato from Kansas City. She is the one who did ALL THAT WORK in getting the ban on women’s wrestling finally lifted in New York. Vince Sr and Moo Moo swooped in and took the credit for Betty’s years of lobbying and hard work. Ask Betty and she’ll give you the 411 big time. Dr Mike, over and out

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