She remembers the spandex and hair spray, bravado and bikini tops. They called her Little Egypt.
Those were the days when she would bash opponents over the head with trash can lids. She would tie a rope around their necks.
Little Egypt pulled hair, gouged eyes, bit into knees. She would take a running leap and kick Colonel Ninotchka in the solar plexus. Then, the music would start and Little Egypt would take a break to rap lyrics like, “When I start with my belly dance, the other opponents don’t stand a chance. I’ll beat them with Arabian style. I’m the hottest thing this side of the Nile.”
She remembers, too, her last match, the horrible end to the performing career she loved.
Angelina Altishin, who now lives in Laguna Beach, was once one of the featured performers on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (known as “GLOW”), a wacky, low-budget, titillation-fest that aired on television from 1986 through 1989. The performers had names like Dementia, The Brat, Debbie Debutante, Matilda the Hun and Godiva, who wore a beige body suit with strategically placed flowers and rode into the arena on a horse.
And now it’s all flooding back to her, thanks to the new Netflix show “GLOW,” which features the exploits of a group of women wrestlers trying to learn the difference between a piledriver and a powerslam, attract a television audience and not kill each other in the process. The new show starts Alison Brie (“Zoya the Destroya”) and Betty Gilpin (“Liberty Belle”) as fledgling wrestlers whose outside-the-ring relationship is as fraught as their matches.
Altishin is the host of the GLOW podcast on AfterBuzzTV.com. She does interviews with stars of the new show and the real wrestlers from the 1980s.
“I learned how to be brave, confident and independent,” Altishin said.
Altishin was 19 years old, working at a T-shirt shop in Las Vegas when G.L.O.W. wrestler Emily Dole (known as “Mt. Fiji”) made a purchase. At the time, Altishin was a college dropout with little direction in her life.
“She said I should come try out for the show,” Altishin said. “She believed in me before I believed in myself.”
Altishin went to an audition, and two weeks later, she was on television as Little Egypt, dancing barefoot and wearing veils and a bikini top.
She was tiny, but always fought hard.
“I always went down swinging,” Altishin said.
Dawn Maestas played “Godiva.” She was waiting tables in Santa Monica when she was asked to try out. She appeared on seasons 3, 4 and 5 of the show.
“I had never heard of ‘GLOW,’” Maestas said. “My first thought was this doesn’t even sound legit. Then it was so fun. I was having a ball.”
The casting on the show was black and white. Wrestlers were either good or bad. Little Egypt was good – Godiva, not so much.
“I was a bad guy,” Maestas said. “I got to do the hair pulling, eye-gouging and hitting people with a chair. My character was arrogant and self-centered.”
Maestas, who lives in Mission Viejo, said wrestling was tough work. “I got thrown out of the ring and landed on the announcer’s table,” she said.
But the lifestyle was tougher. They started at a base salary of $350 per week (they were paid more for public appearances), and they had strict curfews.
“For me, that was the downside,” Maestas said. “I was in my rebellious youth.”
Little Egypt got to hit people with weapons, too. But she did it along with the cheers of the audience. Godiva got the boos.
The show lasted five seasons with 500 matches in 100 episodes. They said they were never felt like celebrities because they lived in a “flea bag” hotel in Las Vegas and the show wasn’t aired in that market.
They didn’t feel like stars until they hit the road for the touring show.
And that was the problem for the show. Several of the wrestlers doubled their money by taking the show on the road, so they split away from GLOW and formed their own wrestling company. With much of its cast leaving, the show died quickly in 1989.
Altishin won’t forget her last fight. She was performing one of the easiest moves in wrestling – the head-butt. She got her foot caught in a gap in the pads. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.
The problem with real injuries in scripted wrestling is this: No one knows you’re hurt.
“People thought it was part of the show,” Altishin said.
Altishin became a successful real estate agent in Las Vegas, and never told anyone about her past as Little Egypt.
“I knew wives would be jealous,” she said. “I didn’t want it to hurt my business.”
Maestas appeared as a wrestler on many televisions shows and posed in Playboy. She then shifted gears, working as a fundraiser for non-profits like the Discovery Science Center. Then she got a job as an outreach coordinator for Saddleback Church.
Many of the GLOW wrestlers were reunited in 2012 when a documentary called “GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” was shown at Comic-Con in San Diego.
“So many girls have come up to me and said, ‘I wanted to be you,’” Maestas said.
And the secret to the success of the new show?
“People love the ’80s,” Altishin said.
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