Angelina Altishin, GLOW Female Wrestler, on GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
If you were a baby of the '80s, you'll know that, while boys went nuts for Hulk Hogan and Macho Man "Randy Savage," we girls had our own burly heroes in Sally the Farmer's Daughter and Vine. Yes, GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) was a groundbreaking television show that ran four seasons, from 1986 to 1990, and featured female wrestlers who, we now learn, were actresses, models, dancers, and/or stunt women hoping to break into show business any way they could.
But what happened to them?
Director Brett Whitcomb takes us into the lives of this tough group of women in his documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling from the initial open-call auditions, to the grueling training with wrestling legend Mando Guerrero, to overnight success and global recognition, and the show's unexpected cancellation. 92YTribeca is hosting a screening of this documentary Saturday night. This includes a Q&A with original GLOW girls Gremlina, Little Egypt, and GLOW referee/writer Steve Blance. Comedians and GLOW fans Glennis McMurray and Matt McCarthy moderate the discussion. We caught up with former GLOW girl Angelina Altishin, known as Little Egypt, who has since become a successful real estate agent. Right before she caught her flight to New York, she took the time to chat with us about being a GLOW girl, life after GLOW, and the touching reunion with the rest of her wrestling team mates.
Village Voice: When did you first hear about this documentary?
Little Egypt: I was one of the first girls to get interviewed for the documentary. After hearing that the documentary guys were traveling to Los Angeles to conduct interviews and there was a chance I might be able reunite with some of the girls from my past, I jumped at the opportunity.
Voice: You said the reunion process took two years. What was the process like?
Little Egypt: When I got to Los Angeles, I first saw Hollywood who looked amazing and as upbeat as ever. Shortly thereafter, Matilda drove up in her van and I saw her motor out in her electric chair. This giant of a woman with a wonderful heart was needing physical assistance. It kind of took me by surprise.
Shortly after seeing Matilda I heard that she had been visiting with Fiji in her nursing home and I learned about how difficult life was for Fiji after GLOW both physically and mentally and how she had spent years in a nursing home unable to walk. It was devastating news to hear, because it was Fiji who encouraged me to try out for GLOW. She spotted me working in a t-shirt store in a local mall and said I should give wrestling a try. So I did, and two weeks later, I was cast as Little Egypt.
Learning that so many women were still missing, I was committed to finding as many girls as possible so the GLOW story and the history of the work we did could be preserved.
The task was extremely difficult. With a handful of contacts I went about putting together a GLOW roster.
I created a Facebook character profile Glow LittleEgypt, a Facebook Page: The Official Page of Little Egypt and a Twitter account as @LittleEgypt so any fans or possibly missing girls looking for any of us would be able to have access to me.
Then I would post and re-post names of girls that were missing along with what I believed were their real names. I would get leads from the fans who knew more of the back stories of certain girls better than I did, then I would follow up on the leads with calls or letters. I pulled tax records of family members to try and get messages to missing girls.
I helped the girls create character profiles and many were open to connecting with fans which helped me draw a bigger online community. I have found over 40 of close to 60 some odd girls that were cast for the show.
Voice: What did your family think of what you were doing back then?
Little Egypt: I was 19 when I became a GLOW girl and I remember calling my dad for his advice, and he highly encouraged me to do it. I remember him telling me that '20 years from now when you've raised your family you will one day look back and realize that you had an adventure of a lifetime.'
Voice: What was it like living at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas with all of the wrestlers?
Little Egypt: Surprisingly, the majority of the girls got along great. We first lived together two to a room at the Riviera hotel and later the GLOW house. We worked on matches together sometimes several matches a week. So our ultimate goal was to work together successfully so the end result would be the best match possible. My personal favs to work with were Chainsaw and Spike, the California Doll, and the legendary Matilda the Hun.
Voice: What was life like right after the cancellation of the show?
Little Egypt: The cancellation was a surprise to all the girls. The end of the fourth season came and girls were never called back for the fifth season. No one had the chance to put together their last match or have any type of going away celebration. They were just let go.
Voice: The documentary shows how the women had reservations with seeing GLOW director Matt Cimber again because of the verbal abuse they endured while on the show.
Little Egypt: Many girls had reservations towards Matt which came from their past history with him. For me personally, I learned how to stay out of the line of fire. I come from a large Italian family, I get the whole yelling thing, terrifying or not. My mother is Turkish, I get it! I give Matt a lot of credit for coming to the reunion knowing he may not be greeted with open arms, but the friendship he and Fiji shared was more important to him than our possible reactions.
Since the documentary Matt has reached out to us and cares about the work we did as much as we do. I see Matt as part of our GLOW family not just a part of our GLOW history.
Voice: What did your son think about you being a GLOW girl?
Little Egypt: I showed my son a match of mine on YouTube about 4 years ago, he was 15 at the time, and he loved it and wanted to share it immediately with his friends, but I swore him to secrecy for his own sake.
Voice: Do you keep in touch with the rest of the women on the show?
Little Egypt: I continue to work every year at bringing the GLOW girls together to celebrate our sisterhood and the love and support we have for each other. We reunite in Las Vegas at the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion. It's an opportunity to greet fans and to also celebrate the work we did in the ring with other wrestlers in the industry. This year Lisa Moretti "Tina Ferrari" of GLOW was honored with the Female Legend Award for her incredibly successful wrestling career. There was a huge show of support from our GLOW sisters and Lisa surprised us by bringing the GLOW crown which she had lovingly restored.
Over the last few years, I have become very involved not only with my quest to find all the women of GLOW but I have since become an advocate of female wrestlers, a spokesperson and a speaker. I have taught several seminars for young wrestlers looking to promote and brand themselves through social media.
I'm still very active in keeping them in the loop on what's new with GLOW and the documentary. I want to make sure no girl is left out and just because the documentary is 'in the can' that doesn't mean my journey is over. I will continue to look for all the girls because it's our story and we share it equally.
At 7, Saturday, 92YTribeca, 200 Hudson Street, $12.
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