If you have been following this column I have to imagine this post seemed obvious. Netflix has finally dropped Season One of GLOW, a fictional take on the very real yet still fictional wrestling promotion from the late 80’s G.L.O.W. (gorgeous ladies of wrestling) So far I’ve watched the first four episodes. It is very good. Not good for a wrestling show, very good period. It has managed to capture the time period perfectly and has done a very good job of giving all of the girls something to do on screen. (not so easy a feat as evidenced by most tv shows not written and directed by women) The team behind GLOW is the same as the one behind Orange is the New Black so the pedigree is well established. There is also Marc Maron which is never a bad thing. This post is not about the Netflix show though; that will come at a later time. I figured that visitors to the site might have no idea what GLOW was and that’s a shame. It was something unique and unto its time. It was progressive and silly and empowering and fun and cheesecake and women’s lib and most definitely pro wrestling.

The story behind GLOW is so Hollywood it’s almost laughable. It goes like this, while working for Dick the Bruiser’s World Wrestling Association David B. McLane got the idea to do a show focused on the women alone. Dick the Bruiser was not supportive of said idea because Women’s wrestling had always been viewed as a novelty act, something for the dads. Undeterred, McLane went to Hollywood and put out a casting call. More than 500 women showed up, most of them knowing nothing of how to be a professional wrestler. They were actresses, stunt women, and regular working people looking to make a change. Twelve women were chosen initially to become the core cast and were thrown into a six week training program first run by Mando Guerrero, yes of THAT Guerrero family, and then by Cynthia Peretti, better known to most as WWE’s Ivory. (peretti also wrestled on glow as pepper) Needing a place to put on his show McLane hooked up with Meshulam Riklis, a business man whose interests happened to include ownership of the Riviera Hotel in Vegas and being married to Pia Zadora. Zadora had recently been in a film called Butterfly, don’t worry if you haven’t seen it no one else has either, that was directed by Matt Climber so naturally he was brought in to direct the show. Climber was a director of somewhat offbeat releases as well as a few blaxploitation films so naturally he was a good fit. (incidentally i’ve seen his work because quentin tarantino said it was good and it is) McLane decided to be the ring announcer and commentator for the show. The original twelve girls moved to Las Vegas and the cast was filled out mostly with Vegas showgirls. Except for Jackie Stallone, yes Sylvester Stallone’s mother, who was brought in to be the “owner” of GLOW and manager of the Good Girls. The show was shot and pitched at the national television conference and it sold. To 30 US markets. And 6 countries. In syndication. It was the fucking dream come true.

Somehow, all of this worked, for two seasons anyway. The show itself ran for four season from 1986 to 1990 but went through major changes. Matt Climber took the show in a slapstick, low brow route which caused turmoil with McLane. In between wrestling there would be skits featuring the girls doing ridiculous things like meeting with plastic surgeons or gynecologists. McLane left with most of the original cast and started a new promotion, Powerful Women of Wrestling, that did nothing. GLOW moved from the Riviera to a warehouse that is now apparently a Harley store. In the middle of the filming of season five, the money disappeared. Riklis pulled his funding because his wife believed he was having affairs with various talent on the show. And just like that, it was gone. There was an attempt at a revival that gained no traction. Only one of the girls went on to have a major wrestling career, Ivory. The rest of them went back to what they were doing or found something new. A few continued to wrestle. Some made bad choices and ended up homeless. None became the huge stars they hoped they would be. And yet, they shared this magical thing together. For a total of 104 episodes GLOW was a thing. A weird, ridiculous, wonderful, absurdist thing that was broadcast nationwide to great ratings. (it beat wwe’s syndicated show superstars almost every week) I adored this show as a kid. I didn’t get how sexualized it was. (not at first anyway) I took it on face value as theatre. Women’s wrestling has come a long way since then, thankfully mind you, and with the current plans for the WWE Women’s tournament this summer, it is about to become even more equal. Most of that is due to the incredible work put in by the current crop of performers BUT, a small piece of it is due to these fantastic women who made this insane show for a brief moment in history. Join me next week as I take another look at why I love wrestling. In the meantime, watch GLOW, both the show and documentary on Netflix, and then google the GLOW raps. Until then…

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