The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling were just about to make their TV debut at the very end of Season 1 of GLOW. When the Netflix series returns on June 29, the women will have to navigate their rising local fame and consider what it means for their futures. Spoiler warning for the Season 2 finale of GLOW. By the time the second season wraps up, the women are trading TV cameras for casinos, heading to Las Vegas to turn their GLOW (the show within the Netflix show) into a live act. So how does this compare to the story of the real-life Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling? Did the original GLOW have a Las Vegas show?
In the fictionalized telling of their story, GLOW, at least for its first two seasons, takes place in and around Los Angeles. But the actual GLOW was based out of Las Vegas, a setting that was incredibly fitting for the 1980s wrestling show.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that entrepreneur Meshulam Riklis was the main financial backer of the original GLOW. When GLOW premiered in 1986, Riklis owned the Riviera Hotel and Casino on the Vegas Strip. As the 2012 documentary GLOW: The Story Of The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling highlighted, the women filmed their live shows at the hotel and also lived there for some time. Cindy Ferda ("Americana") explained in the documentary that she moved from Los Angeles to Vegas after she landed the GLOW gig. She said the women were encouraged to get rid of their existing apartments. "It all just happened so quickly at that point. And before I knew it, I was packing my bags in L.A. and moving out to Las Vegas to the Riviera Hotel," Ferda said.
Jeanne Basone ("Hollywood") had a similar experience. The Huffington Post reported that Basone, who was the only cast member to appear in the pilot and all four seasons of the show, quit her job at Burbank Medical Center and moved to Las Vegas when she was cast in GLOW. As shown in the GLOW documentary, the cast lived in the Riviera initially before they were moved to apartments down the street from the hotel and casino.
Even when they lived outside of the casino, Lynn Braxton ("Big Bad Mama") said in the documentary that they would eat their meals at the Riviera buffet. And throughout their time with GLOW, the women always had to stay in character. Cast members Lisa Moretti ("Tina Ferrari"), Dawn Maestas ("Godiva"), Cheryl Rusa ("Lightning"), Helena LaCount ("Daisy"), and Donna Wilinsky (one of "the Housewives" and "Chainsaw") discussed in the documentary the restrictions placed on them: For instance, they were required to follow curfew or they were fined. "We would sneak out all the time," Maestas told Inverse. "I was in my 20s and a little bit rebellious and ended up getting fined a lot for breaking curfew."
In Season 1 of Netflix's version of events, the women of GLOW had to live in the Dusty Spur motel, which Los Angeles Magazine noted is a fictional location. Even though the location wasn't an exact match for the real-life Riviera Hotel, Moretti told USA Today Sports that it reflected how immersive the real GLOW experience was. "The first season girls lived in Las Vegas — that parallels with the Netflix show — of us having to drop our lives having to move somewhere so they could have us 24/7 to produce the show," Moretti said.
For some women, filming in Vegas was a benefit. Lauri Thompson ("Susie Spirit") told Nevada's NPR affiliate that she was already working as a dancer six nights a week in the Folies Bergere before she auditioned for GLOW. She noted that one of the reasons she took the job was because it was a TV opportunity that allowed her to stay in Las Vegas rather than fly out to California on her day off.
As the Daily Beast pointed out, the Riviera was an iconic Vegas hotel in the '50s and '60s. Joan Crawford hosted the hotel's opening in 1955, and Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. used to perform there. In Martin Scorsese's 1995 film Casino, the Riviera was used for the setting of the fictional Tangiers Casino.
According to the people featured in the GLOW documentary, the fate of the wrestling show depended entirely on the hotel's owner at the time. When Riklis pulled his financial support after the fourth season (allegedly for personal reasons), GLOW came to an end. In the documentary, GLOW manager Johnny Cafarella said that the show was at height of its popularity when it was canceled. And by 2016, the Riviera was no more since the hotel and casino were demolished to make way for an updated Las Vegas Convention Center. Some of the stars of the original GLOW reacted to the Riviera's closing on social media.
Although the building isn't there anymore, the home of the real GLOW was always in Las Vegas, which fit the over-the-top nature of the 1980s wrestling show. And by the time GLOW wraps up Season 2, it sets the stage for an homage to its original setting.