By Jim Phillips, Senior Editor – Classic Wrestling
Welcome back everyone, to this look at the early careers of some of my wrestling friends and family, and the routes they took to make it in this rough and tumble business. This week I sat down to talk with one of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling about her introduction into wrestling, what it’s like to be a part of that organization’s history, and what she thinks about the strides that womens wrestling has taken in the last few years.
Growing up as a child in Auburn, Washington, Tracee Meltzer never had wrestling on her radar. She was more likely to be found laying in the floor on Saturday mornings watching Bugs Bunny and Road Runner, than the Portland Wrestling program that was on her local Seattle television during the early Seventies.
After graduating high school, the aspiring young hair stylist decided to head south to the City of Angels to seek her fortune. She piled everything she had into her little 924 Porsche, cranked her favorite Pat Benatar, and headed out. She thought for sure that she would land a job behind the cameras, working in the make-up side of show business, but as so many young hopefuls find out, the dream and reality don’t always meet in the middle. Roxy talked about this time when she first got to Los Angeles.
“I moved to California to restart my life after a bad break-up. I got obsessed with Flashdance and just wanted to get to California, get my own place and this was the way it was going to be… but it was not like that. So I ended up sleeping on my sister’s couch, or floor, or whatever it was. Just to be able to stay in L.A.”
As history seems to repeat itself, she found herself in front of the television on a Saturday morning. Drawn to the good looking men in their tight trunks, she had tuned into the WWF product being broadcast on the West Coast at that time. It was followed by a new program that instantly took hold of her:
“All of a sudden this show came on called GLOW, and I’m watching like, ‘What is this?’. It’s glitter, it’s big hair, they’re beautiful, but they’re not perfect. This is for MEEEE!! So I can actually relate to a lot of the GLOW fans, because I had the same feelings that they did. I loved it.”
Once bitten with the wrestling bug, she kept tuning in, week after week, to learn about the characters and storylines. Fate intervened one particular Saturday morning when a banner came across the screen that read Do you want to be a GLOW girl, and she knew immediately that the answer was yes. She placed a call to the number provided and set up an audition at their Sunset Blvd. office. She was going to make it work one way or another. As we spoke she closed her eyes and let her thoughts fall back to that time:
“I wasn’t physically fit and my hair looked like crap, but I knew I was going to try no matter what. So I thought, I’m a hairdresser. I’m gonna perm my own hair, and bleach my own hair, and I’m gonna rat it out two feet. I thought I was Eighties, you know, I’m rockin’. It’d be cool to be a GLOW wrestler, and maybe I’ll fit in. I just knew I wanted to do this.”
Hair properly poofed, she donned a black outfit and strode into the office with her best bad girl attitude in check. She slammed her hands on the desk and acted as much the part as she knew how, thinking that they would be wowed into handing a part to her. The only sign of wow was the expression on Matt Cimbar’s face. She left not knowing whether or not she had just blown her chance.
One day turned into two, and then three, and she was starting to give up what fleeting hope she had left in the tank, but on day four she got the call. They told her they wanted to see her in Las Vegas at their facility there to tryout for season three of the show. She was about to learn his first lesson about the business. There would be no plane tickets, or bus provided to take her there. If she wanted this break, she had to make the sacrifices, and really on her own strengths to see her through. She loaded her little 924 and hit the road to Sin City, and an uncertain future. That lesson of self-reliance that she learned on Interstate 15 still stick with her:
“It was so exciting. This is something so out of who I was. I had no idea where I was going. Now, I recommend to every to follow their dreams. If there is something that you really want or feel like you have to do…then do it. Indy wrestlers, anyone, I tell them do not let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, because I did.”
She arrived in Las Vegas not knowing anyone, and went to the address that the office had provided her. She came to an apartment building that was full of tryouts. Close to a hundred girls of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life had gotten the call to show up. With up to four girls per room, they began to size each other up quickly. Some girls decided straight away that this was not going to be for them and a few started to trickle out the door before the first audition ever took place. This only served Tracee well, because with every girl that left, her own chances of getting picked up slowly ticked higher. Just feeling out the lay of the land was her starting point.
“I’m just like, I don’t know how or where I’m going stand out, but I’m going try. I kinda played it neutral, and I was just so happy to be there, that I didn’t care if I had to room with eight girls, and they stack us, I will be there. You did whatever it took to be there if you wanted it bad enough. Some just left or if they caused drama, Matt cut them. He didn’t have time for that, and I just remember, I was like, Yeah, yeah, more room for us.”
Like most of her fellow trainees, and most students for that matter, the first day of training hit her like a Mack truck in twelfth gear. With each bump wearing on, and days feeling likes weeks, that made minutes ache like months, she began to condition her body to working sore. The in-ring training went all day with acting lessons taught in the evenings after dinner. Debi Debutante put them through the paces of hitting the ropes, doing three quarter rolls, and learning to lock up and do basic mat work. Even the most basic stuff can be frightening sometimes when your’e not used to doing it.
“I have to say one thing that really scared me, even though it was such a simple move. It was nothing that anybody did wrong, but when Mountain Fiji picked me up for a body slam, and I wasn’t ready. I curled my back, and didn’t land flat like I was supposed to, and I thought I had broken my back.”
As they progressed in their ring training, and evening acting classes, Matt Cimbar kept a close director’s eye on his troupe. He had his own vision of what he was looking for and once he was satisfied that he had found it, he called a meeting to announce the new additions to the GLOW family, and gave each girl her name and character. Tracee was now Roxy Astor, the Park Avenue Knockout. Her hope of being a heel was dashed, but she later found out that she was getting the spot that was made for Tina Ferrari, who had just left to seek her fortunes at the WWF as Ivory. It wasn’t long after that Cimbar put Roxy with a tag partner, in Tiffany Mellon, and they continued on as The Park Avenue Knockouts, with Jackie Stallone on board as their manager. Stallone had become a fixture at GLOW by Season three, and she was a natural fit for the two ladies and their rich girl personae.
“She kicked me in the head and you see my eyes roll back, and they cut to the audience really fast. Steve Blanch told me I was out for nearly thirty seconds, and they didn’t know if I could finish the match or not. They didn’t know what I was going to do, but, I pulled like a Rocky Balboa, got back up and finished the match. I don’t know how I remembered it, but I finished it, and they were so shocked. Watch the match and you can see how pissed off at her I was in my eyes. That was real. We really sold it though. There were times when we just beat the crap out of each other, but we didn’t care. We’d get to the back and be breathing hard, but so excited about how much fun we had just had in the ring. We were just going for it.”
Around age twenty five, Roxy stepped aside for a short time to have a baby in 1988, and focus on her life for a bit. There was talks of a GLOW movie in the works, and she returned ready to get to work on that. The movie never came to fruition, and Dave McClane left to form his own vehicle in women’s wrestling and started his Powerful Women of Wrestling promotion. He worked with Dick the Bruiser in Indianapolis, and several of the GLOW staff went with him in that fracturing of the crew.
Roxy was GLOW to the core and had no aspirations of working for any other promotion. She carried on with Johnny Cafarella, and the remaining GLOW crew, but things began to change. The show went off the air abruptly in 1990, with a short pay-per-view type airing a year later, that never got the original brand going again. The GLOW chapter of Roxy’s life was far from being closed, it would see a re-birth a little over two decades later.
Roxy raised three children during the years that the brand was in hiatus. Her middle child, Kayla has chosen to follow in her mother’s footsteps. and get into the wrestling biz. Roxy is the only member of the GLOW roster that has a second generation wrestler in the family. Kayla has worked for Wrestleliscious as Juvi Hall, and has her eyes set on the NXT Performance Center in the near future. She has went through the tryout process, and met with Dusty Rhodes, and a few of the WWE staff while she was there. I expect to see her on the roster of one of the top tier female promotions, or in NXT sooner than later.
The launch of the GLOW Netflix series has revitalized the brand, allowing all the original Gorgeous Ladies the opportunity to get closure for themselves, after the way the brand just ceased to be in the early Nineties. It must be gratifying to see all her hard work come full circle and allow newcomers in the acting world, like Alison Brie, and Britney Young, to use GLOW as a platform to launch their own careers. It’s a great story all the way around.
Recently a few of the GLOW girls were given the backstage tour and walkabout with referee John Cone, where they met Women’s Champ Nia Jax, Kurt Angle, and several of the ladies in the women’s division. They also had the surprise run-in with several of the Netflix GLOW series that day as well. You just never know who you’ll see backstage at a WWE event.
“We really have a good relationship with the Netflix cast. We had no idea that they were going to he there that day. We were like, ‘Hey!, It’s you.’, and they were doing the same thing. It was really great. I love Britney Young. She’s so amazing in person. I told her that Mountain Fiji would be so proud of the job she’s doing, and it almost made her cry. I love her story that she was a production assistant and this was her big break. You go girl! I’m one of her biggest fans.”
It makes your heart smile to hear stories and to hear about deserving people actually get rewarded for their hard work. That’s one of the main reasons for doing this series.
Roxy has since branded her AfterGLOW idea, and used that platform to bring recognition to the original GLOW brand, and allow their fans to have a closer with their favorite members of that crew. She organizes fan meet and greets, and they do an annual cruise that is full of activities, and really gives the fans that one-on-one, individual experience as opposed to just waiting in line for an autograph and picture.
“The whole thing with the AfterGLOW, is that were going do the movie, and that never got done. I’ve always kinda been the type of person that likes to finish what I start, and go all the way with an idea. When I worked as a designer for nearly sixteen years, I sold clothes to Kris Jenner and her Sax Fifth Avenue store, and did all that, but my heart was still with GLOW. We tried to revive it with Ursula in the Nineties, but it just never went. So I decided to try again and tell our stories of what has happened with us wince the promotion closed, and you have AfterGLOW. I wanted to put things on a good note and the only way I could do that was to get the girls together.”
The success of that idea only confirms the popularity of the GLOW series after all these years. The television show is also opening the eyes to an entire new generation of little girls that can now more easily follow their dreams of being a wrestler, actor, surgeon, or world leader. That is only possible because of the hard work and sacrifice made by women across the board, like Tracee and her fellow Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. The young ladies who are able to strive for the stars and finally be able to reach them need to take a minute to recognize the women that have been ridiculed, underpaid, and laughed off as unequal for so many years. The sun is shining brightly on them now, and I hope they never lose sight of the women that were kept in the shadows so that they can be able to reaps these benefits now.
I wanna thank Roxy for sharing these memories with me and letting us all in on the story of how she took a chance opportunity and turned it into a lifelong passion. Be sure to be on the lookout for the new season of GLOW starting on Netflix this Friday, June 29th. The crew is having a huge premiere party and Roxy is beyond ready to go for it. I’m happy to see the success that the GLOW girls and then new series are receiving. They earned every bit of it and more. Be on the lookout for further AfterGLOW projects in the future and follow the brand at the links below.
Well that does it for another week, until next time; Bruthas, Sistas, Marks, and Maniacs…..no matter what you do to get your foot in the door, when you’re given the opportunity, break it down!! Peace.