Off Hollywood - Jeanne Basone
Professional Wrestler and Stuntwoman
“Hollywood” of Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling
One morning in 1986, my mother came barging into the room I shared with my sister, insisting that we get in front of the television. “I think I found the greatest show on television,” she exclaimed. “It’s called the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling!”
We crowded around a tiny television and within seconds we were cheering and picking out our favorites. I was 14 at the time and these women were the absolute coolest role models a teenager could ask for. Not only did they wear fantastic outfits while they smashed someone’s head against the turnbuckle, they put feminine stereotypes in a chokehold as well by celebrating the many facets of women using strength and humor. Growing up with a single mom in an all-female household, this was exactly what we needed.
At a Los Angeles screening a couple weeks ago of G.L.O.W. the Movie, a documentary about this wonderful anomaly of a show, my whole family showed up to see it. And because we grew up in the heart of Hollywood, I introduced myself to the wrestler who took the name of our hometown and showed the world that the name “Hollywood” isn’t only about glamour—it’s also about being tough.
VICE: How did you become a professional wrestler?
Jeanne Basone: I was working full-time at Burbank Medical while a bunch of my friends were doing extra work. When I heard how much fun they were having, I started to do a little bit of it as well and signed up with an agency called Atmosphere Casting. Through them I was told about an audition for a women’ssports show.
Luckily the audition was after work because my boss at the medical facility was not having it. He kept asking me, “Do you wanna be an actress or do you want a real job?” When I arrived a ton of women were there, but when David McLane informed the crowd that it was going to be a show about women’s wrestling, a bunch of them grabbed their stuff and took off. I thought, My goodness I don’t know anything about wrestling but I’ll try it. I had never been on camera before and it was my first audition ever. It was scary but I did it. Not long after the audition I got a call back.
Wait a second, G.L.O.W was your first audition? That’s incredible.
Yes! And I didn’t call them back for two weeks because my boyfriend at the time thought it was stupid so I just let it go. Thankfully, my roommate, Rick, encouraged me to call them back. He said, “You never know, it could turn into something, and if it does you will regret that you listened to your boyfriend.”
I called back, and a week later I was down in Watts training in a ring with Mondo Guerrero.
I remember walking into this shady place and seeing girls take a forward roll, a backward roll, and I thought, This is cake! I can do it! I got in the rink and never looked back.
When did you tell your boss, “Hey I’m leaving the medical field and becoming a wrestler”?
I didn’t tell him at first and because we trained Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights and it didn’t interfere with my work schedule. I was 21 years old and I would show up to work with a sore back and bruises from learning how to fall. I learned years later that the reason I finally got the job was that one day during practice Mondo asked, “Which one of you ladies can ram her head into the turnbuckle and then quickly spin around and land on your back?” and I was the first one to raise my hand. It was then that I realized I wasn’t afraid anymore. Two months later, 20 or so girls remained and we went off to Las Vegas to film the pilot.
In the G.L.O.W. documentary, I was surprised to learn that Matt Cimber, the director of the show, named all the girls. Why do you think you were named Hollywood?
To this day I do not know why, but he took one look at me and said, “OK, you’re Hollywood and your partner’s name is Vine.” I would love to know what he saw in us that made him think we looked like punk kids from the streets of Hollywood.
That’s what I loved most about you and Vine! You didn’t represent the glamorous movie industry Hollywood, you represented the reality of the city. Back in the 80s, Hollywood Boulevard was full of runaways, hookers, and drug dealers. It was a scary place. So here you two were, threatening to pick pockets and kick ass.
Yeah! We were street fighters and we liked to fight dirty. The first outfit they gave me was pink and black and it wasn’t as glamorous as Tina and Ashley. I started buying other outfits. I liked rock ‘n’ roll a lot, so I started wearing corsets, belts, and necklaces, and although my character was still a street fighter I turned my character into more of a rocker than a punk. I had the coolest wrestling boots. They were pink with white skulls on them. I don’t know where they are! Well, I know where they went: in a white trash bag I gave to the Goodwill.
Oh no! Somebody out there has Hollywood’s boots! So were you responsible for your crimped hair too?
Yes! I love crimped hair. A few years ago I found a crimper at a thrift store and I grabbed it and said, “I’m buying it!” To this day I own two crimpers and went all out the last time I went to Oz Fest.
You say you are into rock ‘n’ roll… what bands did you like?
I love 80s rock ‘n’ roll like Ratt, Ozzy Osborne, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, and my all-time favorite band, Kiss. The boyfriend I lived with, the one who didn’t want me to do G.L.O.W., also discouraged me from going to see Queen and told me that they have sex in the aisle! Instead he took me to see the Kinks, and I was like, “Everyone here looks like a nerd.”
Did you go to some of the famous metal clubs in LA like Gazzarri’s?
Oh yeah! And the Rainbow and the Roxy, and I practically lived at FM Station in North Hollywood.
So when you became Hollywood the famous wrestler you must have been very popular with the 80s metal crowd!
Ha ha! Yes, it was awesome when people started recognizing me. You can’t imagine what the power of television does. However, the show kept us tightly wrangled. They didn’t give us our fan mail, and we had a midnight curfew. If we were caught out later than that, they would dock our pay. I believe the system was designed to keep us and our heads in check and to keep us from asking for more money. Many of us had no idea we were famous.
The majority of the fans of G.L.O.W. were girls aged 14 to 17.
I remember we were in Houston, Texas and these two girls saw me and they just started screaming and wanting an autograph. I thought I had better pinch myself. It was such a wonderful thing seeing all these young girls inspired by the show. In contrast, and probably because I was into the rock ‘n’ roll thing, I would also have guys in bands rush over to me and give me their demo cassette tapes and say, “Can you give this to somebody in Hollywood?” I’m sorry guys, but I never gave your cassette to anyone.
How did it feel to go from working in the medical field to suddenly signing autographs? Did the fame impact your life at all?
It was very exciting but you know, I never took it for granted. It must be the way I was brought up. My folks never bragged that their daughter was on TV. They believed in being humble and down to earth. You want to know a funny story about being “famous?” I had let my car registration expire and had gotten several tickets and warnings until one night I got pulled over and they threw me in jail for 18 hours. It was really scary. I was up on the top bunk and couldn’t sleep. People were screaming for drugs. It was insane. So on our way to court the next morning a girl with chains on her ankles, because she runs, looks at me and says, “You’re Hollywood! You’re on G.L.O.W., that TV show!” I begged her not to tell anyone because I didn’t want to get challenged to a fight. Can you imagine? I did scribe Hollywood in a chair while I was there.
What did you do after G.L.O.W.?
When G.L.O.W. ended it was devastating. It was my job for four years and I knew I didn’t want to go back into the medical field. I suppose that is what goes along with fame. You have to be strong enough to have the rug pulled out from under you.
The WWF started auditioning girls, and unfortunately I was two months into a broken leg. I have seven screws and two plates in my right leg, so during the audition when they started asking me more and more questions, and seeming interested, my leg was so atrophied I was honest and told them I was healing from a broken leg. The audition was over immediately. So in showbiz maybe it’s not such a good idea to tell the truth so much. For a while, I was a flight attendant on a private jet, which was also something I always wanted to do, and through a fellow G.L.O.W. gal, Lightning, I started doing stunt work for the film industry.
After G.L.O.W. there was a new generation of wrestling where companies would put out VHS tapes of underground wrestling. There was no rink, they would just do it in an apartment. But when I kept being hired by the same company over and over again and realized they were making money off of me, I started my own business, and that’s what I do today. I own my own wrestling video production company called Hollywould Productions.
You seem to be a real lover of life. How do you stay so positive?
I just try to see the good in everything. I know it’s a tired saying, but never judge a book by its cover. There are always two sides to a story, and when someone points to my boobs and says, “Are those real?” I laugh and say, “Yeah! Real expensive!” This life is for living and I have been very lucky. Things just seem to have fallen into my lap and I’m grateful. Every time I get on a plane I say a little prayer that we all land safely, but I also think, If this is it, I’m proud of what I have done.
Previously - Off Hollywood - Gabe Bartalos