Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators (2023) s01e02 Episode Script

Let the Games Begin

- [pensive music playing]
- [crowd cheering]
[host 1] Now coming up,
the men's Human Cannonball.
Each contender gets
three swings at the Gladiators.
In this case, it's Malibu.
[host 2] He's warping it up.
But maybe not for long.
We had this saying on American Gladiators
that you can't make the fight come to you.
It has to be inside of you.
You don't have a problem
with your ego, do ya?
- [audience booing]
- I got no problem with my ego.
I'm just a wild
and good-looking kind of California guy.
- Yeah. Part Gladiator. Part love machine.
- Absolutely.
[host 2] All right. Good luck.
I remember playing football.
There was this thing where you could tell
if a guy could take contact.
[host 1] Here's a guy
coming off the beach.
You know he's ready for some contact.
When you hit him in the chops. Bam.
If he started blinking a lot,
right away you know, "That guy can't hit."
[host 1] The contender has ten seconds
to knock any portion
of the Gladiator's body outside the ring.
And I'm not too sure that Malibu wants
any part of Craig Williams
[Danny] Malibu's background
was racquetball.
I remember watching him
the first time get hit,
and he started blinking.
And I said,
"This guy is not gonna make it."
[tense music playing]
[whistle blows]
[host 1] Brian Hutson's
third, final attempt.
[audience gasps]
[theme music playing]
[upbeat '80s synth music playing]
[Danny] And after that first day,
even though we were all nervous
Oh my goodness.
We felt like these people
who produce the show,
they would take care of us.
[host 1] These are
the American Gladiators.
And the events
that they compete in are exciting,
visually interesting,
and capable
of producing emotional moments.
The fact that we were gonna get
a TV show off the ground?
That was incredible. We were all excited.
Pretty much everybody
who had been involved in the pilot
was banned from working on the show.
So they had to bring in
a company called TWI.
TWI had a really impressive
sports background.
They, you know,
produced lots of big sporting events,
like golf tournaments.
[commentator] Once again, for the match.
Oh dear, dear.
The first thing that I remember
is that TWI basically set up the events.
[host 1] Next up, the men's Joust.
And the rules in this event,
knock the Gladiator off that platform.
It's worth 100 points.
We invented these bigger-than-life games.
[host 1] It's called a Human Cannonball.
Now, I'm standing on a platform
that's about 20 feet above the ground.
And what the contender will try to do
is they'll grab this rope
and swing from it,
and try to knock a Gladiator
off a pedestal about 30 feet away
while swinging from this rope.
They'll get three chances to do that.
We were trying to come up with stuff
that would make people stop
when they were flipping the dial
and say, "What the heck is that?"
Or, "I wanna do that."
[host 1] The Assault has a course
where four safety areas are located.
At each of these areas,
there's a different weapon
which the contenders can use
in an attempt to hit a target
adjacent to the Gladiator's platform.
There was something
really captivating about it.
[host 1] Coming up now,
Breakthrough and Conquer.
Little bit of football.
Little bit of wrestling.
[Julie] And every episode
finished with The Eliminator.
[host 1] The Eliminator
is a complex obstacle course.
[Danny] That realness, I think,
for the viewers made it attractive.
I think this is what really set us apart
from wrestling and other shows
that, while those guys are great athletes,
it's staged.
We had the Powerball event.
[host 1] The name of the game is Powerball
and the rules are quite simple.
Two contenders.
One with a blue ball. One with a red ball.
Their intent: to score
as many goals possible
in 45 action-packed seconds.
A goal?
Putting a ball inside these cylinders.
[man 1] I will be
in the prevention business.
No balls will go in the hoop.
Piece of cake.
Gemini took this contender,
a pretty boy named Billy Wirth,
who was this actor model guy.
No basket. It's my ball.
[tense music playing]
You're too blunt. You lose, pal.
That was an intentional foul.
I'll let it slide this time.
Billy Wirth. He is exactly what we want.
He's the exact type competitor
who is not scared of size.
He knew I was a little too big for him,
but he still was gonna challenge me.
"I'm not backing down
from you, Gemini. Period."
This guy just wants to win.
He's a competitor.
I remember saying to myself,
"Go after him hardcore."
[Mike] Gladiators mistook
Billy Wirth's confidence for cockiness,
and they wanted
to make him pay the price.
[Danny] And Gemini slams him.
And Billy didn't like it.
Billy was a scrawny kid,
but he was from New York.
He wasn't taking anything.
And he turns around
and just throws the ball at Gemini.
[Michael] He has a temper.
I wanted to let him know,
"He is a little too big
for me to be messing with."
So the next thing I know
is they're over in the corner,
and they're scuffling
and punching each other.
[Mike] Billy Wirth just nailed Gemini
in the head with one of the balls.
[host 3] Oh, Gemini didn't like it.
This Gemini just decided
he'd go right after Billy Wirth.
[Mike] Gemini gets the best.
Pins Billy down.
Billy's still looking for him.
I mean, it was awesome. [chuckles]
[Mike] As heated as it gets sometimes,
he walks up and gives Gemini a forearm.
Used to shake hands and slap high-fives.
Now they give each other forearms.
That was the unique thing
about the Gladiators that made it work.
There were some guys out there
that were just dog-ass tough.
[Dick] The stations had all committed
to 13 original episodes.
But they would bury the show
if it wasn't performing.
So the first 13 were critical.
[crew 1] All right. Quiet, on your marks,
please. This is a rehearsal.
Say hi to the camera.
- Hi.
- [cameraman] Hi.
[Dick] As we started shooting
the first 13, everything looked okay.
Everybody was optimistic.
But early on, we realized that
some of the ideas did not work at all.
[whistle blows]
[Julie] TWI had this idea of the referee
who was an executioner.
[Mike] If it's thumbs down
It's thumbs down. It's a disqualification.
[Danny] And after you did an event,
if you fouled or did something illegal,
he would either give you,
like, an up or down,
depending on if you did the event right
or if you were disqualified.
It just seemed off.
[Mike] Thumbs down.
It means he's disqualified.
- Yes, again!
- [audience booing]
That was one of the more extreme ideas.
Yeah, that was a terrible idea.
The things that took away
from the competition being real,
like having an executioner be the referee,
were really detracting from the show.
[Dick] There were other problems.
Some of the sets were rinky-dink.
[laughing] We had this one event
where the Gladiator would fire
a ball at a contestant,
and at one point, the contestants hide
behind, like, little twiggy trees,
and it ju it just looked like,
"How is this supposed to be
legitimate competition?"
[Mike] Does he?
Oh, just gets it in the back.
Lace was almost out of tennis balls.
As little experience as I had,
I had enough to feel like
TWI just wasn't getting it.
In the first 13 episodes, it was
really hard for us to get an audience.
What we would do is we would take people
off the Universal Studios tour
under the guise
that they were going to see
a live TV show being filmed.
And these kids would be stuck
inside for four hours
while we did a set change.
Soon there was this mass exodus of people,
and there was nobody in the stands.
One of the designers painted
little circles in the back of the set.
[Raye] So, we're out there doing our job.
You look up in the stands,
and it's all this cardboard people.
I mean, that's how pathetic
the first 13 shows were.
[Rich] We knew that there were issues.
You'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb
to not know that there were issues.
The first 13 episodes
was dark-age barbaric.
I didn't know
that they called it "The Dark Ages,"
but I can understand why.
[host 4] As he plants that right knee,
it seemed to buckle under him,
and he grabs on.
There was one element
that made the Dark Ages the Dark Ages.
They didn't understand the injuries
that were gonna happen.
[Raye] My uniform,
that was the biggest problem.
We're getting knocked down to the ground.
No pads. On concrete. No helmet.
[Danny] The uniforms didn't do shit.
I remember and I go to
my very, very first wardrobe call,
and I'm pumped up, you know.
And this lady brings out
these, like, little red hot pants
that go across in this,
like, sequined bolero.
So, if you watch first year,
it's bolero things keep falling down.
And I was like, "Oh shit." [laughs]
Every year, we got a little bit better
about preventing injuries.
We learned a lot as we went along.
Things like, you know, padded flooring.
But, you know, that first season
I mean, people can get injured
playing touch football.
I mean, people tear their knees
playing, you know, tag.
So it wasn't that surprising
that people were getting really injured
doing the crazy games that we were doing.
[Dick] You know, honestly,
some of these events
really were only on paper.
And while we were in production,
we had to test them
to see if they would work.
Then dress them, and then shoot them
in a period of one or two days.
[Danny] These events were dangerous.
We were like guinea pigs, trying out
these games and doing these things
that had never been tested
on live human beings before.
The Joust was just an accident
waiting to happen.
It was like a big drawbridge
where you walked out across this plank,
and you jousted the guy,
and if he pushed you back,
the floor would fall out
from underneath you.
And we were hitting our heads
on the wood plank that fell.
I mean, it was a disaster.
I wasn't afraid of losing to the guy.
I was afraid of getting knocked
in the noggin on the way down
by the trap door
and the piece of the wood.
They didn't understand the physicality
of what they were asking us to do.
[Danny] The way they structured it
in the first 13 episodes
is that you would go
and joust 13 people for 13 episodes.
So you'd get up there
and just go over and over and over again.
Then you would put the next event up,
and it was, uh, Human Cannonball.
You would get smashed
by, like, 13 people in a row.
It wasn't like a football game
where you had a week to rest up.
Production costs,
you could never ever survive that.
[Mike] It's Joanna Needham's turn,
and she is hurting.
In Assault, she bruised her shoulder
trying to break her fall.
We had Breakthrough and Conquer
where you tackled a guy.
[host 3] She exposes her shoulder to Lace,
runs right into her,
and then lands on her back.
And you can see as she lies there
in tremendous pain,
having separated the right shoulder,
and was unable
to continue in the competition.
[Dick] Well, from my perspective,
we were always concerned
about safety from day one.
Because we didn't want any injuries.
We were concerned about the athletes
and the liability issues as well.
[clears throat] That That one gets me
because there was
nothing medical around there.
Maybe some Band-Aids.
Which we learned quickly, we gonna need
more than Band-Aids here, folks.
[Mike] And Shumski just misses there
as Nitro takes him down.
[hosts exclaim]
[Mike] What a collision
between Craig Williams and Nitro.
Nitro is still down. And I think
he's temporarily unconscious there.
[Michael] The producers and directors
pushed aggression.
Make contact.
From the Samuel Goldwyn standpoint,
we wanna see this guy get knocked over.
But they didn't say,
"What if this guy gets knocked over,
gets hurt? What are we gonna do?"
That thought process never got
into Samuel Goldwyn's mind. No clue.
[Danny] The worst event ever.
The Human Cannonball.
[Raye] They fly down on a rope
and knock you off your ass.
It was insane. It was scary as hell.
[crew] Down. Get down, get down.
- [contestants grunt]
- [crew] Damn.
[Raye] So, when people go,
"Oh, that was staged." No, it was not.
Everything was real.
Ludicrous. We'll put it that way.
[Michael] That was the reality check
you had to give yourself.
This is gonna be work.
This is gonna be hard.
But some people just couldn't take it.
- [crew 1] That's awfully
- Also to be worn as a nose-guard.
[crew 2] All this time
we've wondered what colors
I've got a pink one too.
- Two pinkies and a blue one.
- [crew 1] Sorry
[Danny] If you have any doubt
that Human Cannonball
was not the most dangerous
and worst event ever, go watch Malibu.
[Mike] It's Malibu's turn. Each contender
gets three swings at the Gladiators.
In this case, it's Malibu who's
[Deron] I have love letters
from people saying,
"I wanna marry you.
I wanna marry you at the beach."
"You're so beautiful,
and you look like a giant tiger,
and I can see you on the waves."
This and that.
I've never been on a surfboard
in my life, okay? [laughing]
Malibu's on this pedestal
for that damn Human Cannonball.
[Michael] Malibu, let's go.
[Mike] Malibu sets himself.
Brian Hutson's third and final attempt.
[audience screaming]
[Mike] Holy Wow. Malibu is down.
What a shot by Brian Hutson!
[audience cheering]
[Deron] And then he cocked his legs,
and he hit me.
If you look at the tape,
my feet go up off the [laughs]
off the pedestal.
Just hair. Hair and feet.
He goes flying back. Knee hits his head.
Splits his head open
where he has to get stitches.
I mean, I looked at that.
I said, "Oh my God."
"I hope he's alive."
What happened? Did you go to the hospital?
Did you get X-rays?
Well, dude, it's like this.
I saw this guy coming, and I took
the most excellent hit of my life.
[audience laughing]
And the next thing I knew,
I was on the beach
taking in some cosmic rays,
getting healed by Mother Nature,
taking a little brewski,
holding on to a beautiful babe.
And I'm fine today.
In fact, uh, two broken ribs,
a broken thumb, the concussion, of course,
plastic surgery to my face,
I tore my bicep muscle, um
But the concussion was scary
because the doctor basically
was not gonna let me go back.
I had to beg him to go back and film.
[somber music playing]
And I was begging him
'cause it was my first chance
to get on TV.
And he said, "You know, Deron,
you get hit one more time,
even close to that,
and it could be it for you."
And it was like, it's over.
Malibu, you are truly amazing.
He took a licking,
and he is still ticking.
And [poofing sound]
That was it. That was the end of him.
[Danny] He only made it 13 episodes.
I knew that people were gonna get hurt,
and a lot of people did.
[Raye] Sunny, who was a beautiful athlete.
We were in Breakthrough and Conquer,
and I don't know how it happened,
but they raised the Conquer Ring up.
[Danny] It happened once.
But we usually had 'em flat to the ground.
You know, it wasn't safe.
The games were not really
thought out very well.
[Mike] Now, she's working against Sunny.
All she has to do is knock
any portion of Sunny's body
outside of that ring.
Sunny trying to hang on.
She cannot and goes out,
and it looks like
she may have twisted her knee.
Let's hope she's all right.
[Danny] Crumpled to the ground.
[somber music continues]
She blew out her knee that year.
To this day, she's messed up.
And they didn't take care of it.
We signed a waiver. "You get hurt
see ya."
That was the scary part.
'Cause I got hurt a lot. We all did.
[Danny] Look, we just wanted a job.
But when we started
to see our fellow soldiers go down,
that's when we started to say, "Hey, guys.
Can we have these be a little safer?"
[Brian] I don't think anybody can realize
how tough this thing is,
and some people went home.
And, uh, so the last couple of weeks,
it's been real tough,
but it's been a great experience
that I'll always remember.
There were so many other things
going the wrong way,
that, you know,
that was just another flame on the fire.
[Danny] The show was gonna go on,
and I was holding my breath
because we had no idea
what was gonna happen next.
American Gladiators
is an hour-long weekly show.
It debuts this weekend in syndication.
[American Gladiators theme music playing]
[Dick] We put them on the air
in fall of '89.
What was something that we were
really excited about in the beginning
became something
that we're kind of embarrassed of.
Like, "Oh my God, what did I do?"
[Rich] When we first introduced the show,
the backlash was, like, overwhelming.
[reporter 1] Contestants from around
the country face the Gladiators
in little kids' games.
It is such a wild, wild show,
and they hate you.
They hate you on it.
[Tom Brokaw]
Nobody ever went broke underestimating
the intelligence
or taste of the American people.
Everyone said, "You are the demise
of not only television,
but of civilization."
We didn't know what was gonna happen.
Goldwyn wasn't happy with the show.
We were tracking the ratings,
and it wasn't getting the ratings
it needed to for a long life.
So, after the first 13, we took a hiatus.
[Julie] Sam Goldwyn
didn't understand why TWI,
the sports production company,
couldn't figure out
how to make Gladiators work
as a sporting competition.
It took Eytan Keller,
who was not a sports guy at all,
to come in and see what we needed to do
to make it really work
as a believable competition.
[camera assistant]
Two cameras, common marker, take one.
I'm Eytan Keller, and I was the producer
on American Gladiators.
So, I walked into the office. I met Sam.
The show just wasn't
where he had hoped it would be.
He was trying to decide
whether he was gonna move forward
with American Gladiators or not.
[Dick] But we really didn't know
how to make it better.
So, I said to Eytan, "Come up with a plan
'cause there's not too much I can do."
The sense of the responsibility on my part
was more than just come in,
and come up with a couple of new ideas,
and be a a show doctor, so to speak.
It was really
the future of this franchise,
and first thing I said to Sam was,
"I don't think you're gonna like
what I'm gonna say."
And he said, "No, tell me, please.
What do you think?"
I said, "You have a fantastic concept,
but the execution is terrible."
He said to me, "You keep on talking
about all the great things
that could be done.
Well, give me one example."
And I said, "The Joust."
I said, "I would make one change,
and I think a very significant change,
that would make it an incredible event."
"I would put them up on pedestals,
maybe eight feet off the ground"
[whistle blows]
"with a diameter
at the top of that pedestal
no more than four feet wide."
And that single change
transformed The Joust
from something that was ho-hum
into something that became iconic.
And that really began
a whole hour-long conversation
about the show, about the Gladiators,
about the look of the show,
about the ethos of the show.
Again, Sam decided
to roll the dice and support it,
and we decided
to go into marketplace, saying,
"We're going to relaunch
American Gladiators
for the second half of the first season."
[upbeat '80s synth music playing]
Coming back from the hiatus,
everybody was optimistic.
We had spent months in pre-production
for the second half of the first season.
[cameraman] Top of the things
for The Joust. One there. The other there.
They run up this here. It's gonna take
the players to the ball right here.
We designed new challenges.
[host 4] Imagine what it's like
to be a human pinball.
You've really got to be on the ball.
They learned from their mistakes.
They had more glare,
more flair with the games.
There was more lights.
We had red, white, and blue uniforms
with glitter.
Everything was really magnified
from a glamour standpoint.
And then the biggest change we had
was taking care of those injuries.
Having a medical team on set.
Some of these sets were extremely heavy.
Like, three and four tons.
Eytan devised a way
of having some of the elements
propped from the ceiling.
So, instead of taking us three hours
to change one event to the other,
it could be done in half an hour or so.
It looked like an event.
And it looked like a party.
And it looked like someplace
that you would want to go to and be at.
And I said,
"As far as directing is concerned,
we need to find a director
who understands covering action."
[potato chip bag rustling]
My name is Bob Levy,
and I was the best director
who ever did American Gladiators.
[thrilling '80s synth music playing]
The first 13 episodes of Gladiators
didn't feel like a show.
Bob was a character, but he also brought
a real sports sensibility.
I had had all the right kind of experience
at NBC Sports doing everything.
[Julie] He really, I think, helped us
with making the show stronger
from an athletic standpoint,
and stronger in the coverage.
[Mike] The unsung hero
of this game of Assault.
You've been hit in the ankle, the shins.
You've been hit in places
we're not allowed to talk about.
That's right.
- And you're still surviving.
- The only way I can show how hard it is.
Some of the games
could be really confusing.
And he was really good
at setting up innovative ways
to follow the action.
[Mike] Gemini here
may look like Captain Video,
but this contraption on top
is a terminal for this camera,
and what we're gonna be able to do
is give you a bird's-eye view
of what it's like for the Gladiator
chasing the contender up this mountain.
Just made it a better show.
He wanted to put the viewer
in the eyes of the contestant.
So, it was the first time,
as far as I knew,
that we actually had cameras
on their helmets.
Κinda like a GoPro before GoPro existed.
We need to capture what it's like
for that contestant
to be flying through the air
and hitting that Gladiator.
Then the Cannonball becomes a real event.
It becomes experiential.
I would never say
that I invented any of that.
But I think we were able
to use that stuff to a degree
that people hadn't really done before.
We put these little cameras on poles,
so that instead of having a big handle,
you'd be able
to take a pole and and shoot.
Which was unheard of. And it worked.
I think it worked very, very well.
The show was definitely still evolving.
We only had six Gladiators
for the first half of the first season.
Which was brutal on them.
I mean, it it just It wasn't enough.
They were so banged up.
I mean, it became, you know, pretty clear
that we were gonna have to have more
to be able to survive the season.
[reporter 2] The Los Angeles Rams, a team
that prides not on glitz but on guts.
[football players grunting]
[epic music playing]
[Jim] Making the roster for the Rams
was just a dream come true.
I did not care
that I was a replacement player.
I was in the NFL.
[Dan Rather]
In spite of the NFL players' strike,
the NFL management council today said
Thursday night's scheduled game
has not yet been canceled.
Unfortunately, it ended quickly.
We were playing the Saints
in the Superdome,
and I ran down on the kickoff.
Guy just caught my arm, just perfectly.
He broke my shoulder,
punctured a lung, and crushed my larynx.
I lost my voice, and it took a long time
to heal up from that injury.
But fortunately, uh, for me,
I met Dan Clark, who became Nitro.
Before I got Gladiators,
the Rams were on strike.
It was a football strike.
And they called me to play football.
I remember being in the locker room,
and there was this guy,
and he was built like an Adonis,
and he had these arms on him,
and I figured, "If he looks like that,
I want him as a friend."
And we hit it off. He and I ended up, uh,
getting an apartment together.
And we became the fastest of friends.
["Everybody Have Fun Tonight"
by Wang Chung playing]
[Jim] We lived off my settlement money
for the injury.
We didn't really have jobs.
And I don't even know how we survived.
Trying to pay the bills,
you know, being an extra.
I think I even wrestled Jim
in a Speedo for 250 bucks.
Fortunately for Dan and I,
we met some people in Hollywood
that got us
into some commercials and acting.
And we were making money on the side,
thinking, "Hey, this is pretty cool."
You know, you meet hot chicks,
and we're showing our bodies,
and we're doing commercials.
Everybody have fun tonight ♪
Everbody have fun ♪
[Jim] Dan landed this show
called American Gladiators.
Well, I didn't get an interview.
I didn't get a call.
I was really upset,
thinking, "You you snake."
I mean, like, "Why wouldn't you
tell your buddy about it?"
But he redeemed himself
because they got rid of Malibu.
They were gonna find another Gladiator.
And I said to Julie Resh, "You don't need
to do a nationwide search."
"I got the dude for you right here."
There's nothing faster
than a laser beam. Nothing.
[laser firing]
They also brought in another Gladiator
named Dave Nelson, who played Titan.
[thrilling music playing]
[Danny] That guy was huge.
He was probably only 5'10'',
but I think he was close to 290 pounds.
And he was a good, good Gladiator.
He had speed,
he had quickness, he could hit.
[host 5] And to knock him off,
it's gonna take something special.
And obviously JC didn't have this.
Titan made short work
[audio fades out]
[Danny] And then there was Blaze.
She had wheels.
They called her "Blaze"
because that girl [whooshing sound]
She could fly. She was fast.
You are proof positive
that it never pays to mess with Blaze.
That's right.
That's why they call me Blaze.
- I'll put you in a daze.
- [both laughing]
[crowd cheering]
[Sha-Ri] "Too hot to touch"
would be my tag.
I used to write that autograph
for kids all the time.
When I was growing up, I was skinny, okay?
Guys used to tease me.
They used to call me
string bean, pinto bean.
I was cute, you understand,
but I was just skinny.
'Cause the other girls, like,
"Oh, they're thick," or they had a
Can I say that word?
Butt. [laughs] Whatever.
By the time I got to high school,
my physical education teacher
introduced the class to weight training.
And there was this machinery.
I had never seen it before.
I'm like, "What is this?"
So I got on it, right?
Then I start pressing,
I'm like, "Hmm. This is good."
I began running track and field.
My goal in life was to someday
be able to compete in the Olympics.
That was my goal.
[orchestral fanfare playing]
[Sha-Ri] 1988, right?
That the Olympics were gonna be held.
We're doing the trials.
I ended up straining my hamstring.
So I didn't make the team.
But at that moment,
I get a call from my agent
who was saying that these people
at Samuel Goldwyn are interested in you
trying out for this show.
[Jim] Of all the girls through the years,
Blaze was a real, true athlete.
And very good at every event that we had.
We were just happy as heck
to have someone like that on our team.
[Julie] I was involved
in auditioning the Gladiators,
and you couldn't have just somebody
who looked like a Gladiator.
They had to be a combination
of a really good athlete,
and have some charisma
and personality on camera.
And that wasn't just anybody.
[Lori] I sat down one day,
and I was watching television,
and this show came on.
- [thrilling music playing on TV]
- [crowd cheering on TV]
And I was just so intrigued
by watching this show.
Because it was athletic.
There was female bodybuilders on it.
You know,
you'd get that [vocalizes]moment.
You know, like, "I can do this."
[rock music playing]
Hi, I'm Lori Fetrick, and I played Ice
on the American Gladiators.
Walking onto the set
the very first time was
It was life-changing. It was amazing.
The feeling was overwhelming.
Growing up, playing basketball
in the backyard with my dad,
and he takes me in the garage
and shows me how to build things,
and build my bike, and
I'm sure my dad wanted a boy,
but instead he got a tomboy.
Lori Fetrick. Ice.
She's dynamic, tough, charismatic, smart.
She is absolutely one of my favorites.
[host 5] Ice crushes them all.
As a competitor, Ice had that,
"I'm gonna knock you in the chops,
I'm gonna take you down,
and I'm gonna smile at you after
and shake your hand."
Don't get in her way.
She's one I would not wanna go up against.
She's like a pit bull.
But she's got the best smile and some.
[Jim] She rounded out that field.
She was dynamic.
I was part of something
that I always wanted to be part of.
It was my dream.
[Julie] I couldn't remember
seeing anything, aside from the Olympics,
where women were on an equal footing
with men in a competition.
And I was proud of that.
And I really fought
to keep that a strong element of the show.
There were times when we talked
about having cheerleaders.
And I felt like, "Why?"
It's not like we didn't have
enough skin on the show already.
Was I treated differently
as a female Gladiator?
I never felt that way.
We got to set,
got in the uniform, got taped up,
and then we were all Gladiators.
The males and the females
were all on equal playing fields.
So the games were exactly alike.
They didn't change the game
to make it easier for the girls.
Powerball was Powerball.
It didn't matter. It was girls and guys.
That's what I loved about this show.
[host 5] Folks, um
Guy in the center of the floor
walking to camera,
that's our director, Mr. Bob Levy!
[audience cheering and applauding]
Bob Levy and Eytan Keller working together
created what we know
as American Gladiators.
[audience chanting indistinctly]
[host 5] Come on!
[audience cheering and applauding]
But Bob was a freak. [laughs]
[man] Bob Levy says
you look great, Raye.
- Where is Bob?
- [man] He's in a truck somewhere.
[Julie] It's just a different time.
You know, Bob used to have
these toy jumping penises,
and, you know, all these wind-up sex toys
that he would have arrayed
in front of him in the control truck.
And I was in there all the time,
and I was used to it,
but when we'd have
dignitaries or whoever coming in
[Julie chuckles]
It made Bob comfortable.
[laughing] I can't say it.
I almost killed him.
He had this VHS porn collection.
I don't know why I'm whispering. [laughs]
I'm a ridiculous adult films advocate.
Is that too honest?
His wife didn't appreciate his collection.
He came home and found it
in the pool one day. [laughing]
He lived up in the Hollywood Hills.
He would have
these legendary parties at his house.
And I went to one. One party.
And I can tell you,
it was the wildest, craziest night.
Girls running around naked.
I mean, I'm a guy from Montana.
I'm thinking,
"What did I just get myself involved in?"
They were great.
The police came four times.
Too loud.
[Jim] It was crazy.
I'm convinced that a good sex life
is one of the keys
to long life and happiness.
[Danny] Sometimes it takes freaky
to be genius.
Did Bob date any Gladiators?
I I don't know.
But I know Bob loved women
that were big and strong,
so use your imagination.
I don't know what happened.
[humorous music playing]
[Bob] I think dating the Gladiators
wouldn't have been a problem.
But we had standards and practices,
and all that stuff you have
when you do game shows.
And they were worried
about it getting out that
I might have been giving
favorable treatment to this hot woman.
[whistle blows]
[Danny] I wanted to excel at everything.
I wanted to win. So I would practice.
We used to have a guy named Sarge.
I can't even remember his real name.
We just called him Sarge
'cause he was this marine guy,
and he came in,
and he taught us how to joust.
My name is Rodney Mitchell.
Uh, they call me Sarge.
I was a technical advisor
on the American Gladiator show.
I came on the second half
of the first season.
He was a drill instructor in the marines.
And he taught the pugil sticks.
Hand-to-hand combat.
[Michael grunts]
[indistinct chattering]
Aw, man. This what the marine's gonna do?
He was built like a Gladiator.
He was a badass.
Is that your leg?
It's gone. It's gone again.
[Rodney] The Marine Corps was contacted
by the American Gladiators show,
and they explained
they had this event called The Joust.
What the Gladiators were doing,
they were more so pushing.
Pushing, so it wasn't really exciting.
And they wanted him to come down to train
the Gladiators and the contenders.
So he comes down.
We hated each other, right?
First sight. Didn't like him, right?
Because he didn't like the Gladiators.
He thought we were fake.
You know, the steroids.
Didn't like that look.
We hated each other.
You gotta imagine, me being a marine,
I would look at 'em each differently.
Nitro was a pretty boy.
Laser was a cockstrong country boy.
Zap was strong-minded.
I saw Blaze, and was very impressed
by her [chuckling]her, uh,
um, glutes.
[upbeat music playing]
We really didn't hit it off all that well.
He trained the contenders,
and he wanted the contenders
to have an edge to beat the Gladiators.
Yeah, we were definitely
on the contenders' side.
Whenever we saw them really take
the Gladiator out, it was great.
We loved that.
That validated what we taught them.
[Sha-Ri] So he's giving them tricks
that we don't know about.
"Okay, this is what you do.
Jab them in the stomach."
"Uppercut," or, you know,
"Side of the head." Those type of things.
And 'cause we're not used to fighting,
we don't know
what to do with these things.
We're just swinging for our lives.
But they became kinda, like, proficient
because he told 'em what to do.
[host 5] Then she came back
doing a little counterpunching of her own,
and knocked Blaze off.
The contenders got really good at it
because they were getting
this sound advice.
We wanted to know,
"Okay, what did you teach these people
that they're up there knocking us
off these pedestals and things?"
On a bust stroke. There you go.
I believe it was Gemini
who first came to me and said,
"Why don't you teach me the moves
you're teaching these contenders?"
"'Cause we're tired of getting whooped on,
and we wanna do some whooping ourselves."
Gemini, you've been working with marines
in your hand-to-hand combat.
It showed these last two bouts.
[Michael, as Gemini] Worked effectively.
Once we did that, oh yeah. It was on then.
So Sha-Ri trying to learn how to fight.
She's screwed.
She just a little told me this.
[Sha-Ri laughing]
And so what I did, I go,
"Gimme your number. I wanna call you
because I wanna learn how to become
more proficient in this joust."
She was good already. Don't get me wrong.
She probably best one out there.
But she was like, "I wanna get better."
I was like, "Okay."
So he goes,
"Okay, just call me when you're ready,
and come down to San Diego."
[Rodney] Boom, good. Good vertical.
That's a good vertical bust stroke.
That's gonna help you.
I make a phone call, and I took
my brother with me, right? [laughs]
He go, "Scared to come down?
Why'd you bring your brother with you?"
[Rodney] That kinda blew a monkey
in the wrench for me a little.
Her brother at the time was 17,
so he understood certain things.
So I had to be very professional.
And then I got the nerve up to say,
"Hey, you know what?"
"Um, why don't we take this to dinner,
so we can talk more about the joust?"
He thought I was coming down
to flirt with him.
I was coming down there
to get instructions.
[woman] Dan Clark.
I have this theory
that you don't crap where you eat.
So for me, I've never dallied
with, you know, the girl Gladiators.
I'm gonna call bullshit. I'm sorry.
Nitro's very confident.
And it seemed that
he was very confident with the ladies.
You know, so I always thought of Nitro
at that point in time as the ladies' man.
Like, "I'm cool, yeah. What's up?"
[laughing] You know?
Nitro. [laughing] He was a scoundrel,
I'd say. You know what I mean? Yeah.
He was just a scoundrel.
I am an admirer of the human physique.
[Lori] I think I was very safe to Nitro.
Because I was gay,
and I was the only one on the team
that if he thought he wanted,
he couldn't have.
I like that word. Gladiator.
I like going out and kicking butt.
[upbeat '80s synth music playing]
[Danny] So I had this huge crush on Raye.
And one night we did a promo together
right in the beginning of season one,
and her and I went out.
We had a couple of drinks.
She seemed like she was vibing on me.
I felt like she was out of my league.
I didn't care who he was,
but he was handsome.
[Danny] We went back to my apartment.
We get out of the car,
and I think to myself,
"Oh, maybe this could be the night.
Nitro gets a little Zap, or something."
"At least we have
a good make-out session."
And we're walking up the driveway,
and I say to her, "Hey, do you want
a piggyback ride into the house?"
I I guess
he gave me a piggyback.
That first season, I was pretty big.
[Danny] So she jumps on my back,
she wraps her legs around my waist,
and she whispers into my ear
[whispering] "Do you wanna see
how strong I am?"
[in normal voice] And I was like,
"Yeah. Let me have it."
She starts to squeeze her legs,
and the next thing I know,
the world starts to go black.
And I'm like
[straining] "I can't breathe."
[in normal voice]
And I'm like, "I" [grunting]
And finally, boom!
She was so strong,
and I remember it scared me.
[chuckles] It scared me.
And it completely changed my idea
of what was gonna happen that night.
It's a bunch of bullshit. [chuckles]
Yeah, I think he made it up in his mind,
'cause back then,
he was doing a lot of drugs.
[upbeat '80s synth music playing]
[Danny] And I stuck out my hand,
and I shook her hand, and I said,
"You and I are gonna be great friends."
And that was our brief dating experience.
And then he moved on
to the next woman Gladiator.
[playful music playing]
If pro wrestling is not violent
or colorful enough for you,
maybe you should try American Gladiators.
In the early days,
it seemed kinda phony-baloney to me,
but I can see that
there's real athleticism involved,
and this is a real physical challenge.
We were watching the premiere
of the second half of season one
with the back 13 after the Dark Ages.
I remember calling Nitro up and saying,
"What's gonna happen now?"
"I don't know. We just gotta wait."
[Eytan] You always hope
that whatever you're producing
is going to resonate with an audience.
- And you really never know.
- [crowd cheering]
We got lucky. I'm not gonna say "lucky."
People just loved the show.
[crowd cheering]
[Danny, as Nitro] You are the best crowd
we've had yet!
They let the magic happen.
It was raw. It was authentic.
And I think that is what made it
so appealing for people.
[Dick] The second part
of the first season,
the ratings took a jump.
It was a good enough jump,
so we could say with a lot of confidence,
"Yes, it's a go for season two,
and we're going to put
more resources against it."
[crowd cheering]
People were sensing
that there was something special
that was happening
with the rebirth of the show.
[host 5] JC taught me
about pushing a little harder.
The fans actually pulling
for the Gladiators.
Nitro and Laser have developed
quite the following.
[Danny] The roar of the crowd,
running out onto the arena floor,
the fans erupting.
You know, I kinda felt like a star.
[interviewer] Tough out there.
Thanks. I think I got, uh, Laser power.
Right over there. I'm here.
You realize that maybe being on TV
had something to do
with people recognizing you.
All of a sudden, it started to feel
like you're a star on a TV show.
At that point, they were starting
to wine-and-dine us a lot.
They were sending limos and stuff
to our houses to pick us up,
so some of these guys was like,
"Whoa! We're stars," overnight.
Whereas I knew better. We weren't
that big of a deal at that time.
But it certainly was growing quickly.
[host 5] Both Blaze and Zap go over
and take their bows, and
Oh my! Losing a little hair as well.
I would say
the success of this show, for me,
was marred by one of the incidents
exhibited by one of the Gladiators.
[host 5] As we head into the second swing,
Titan takes on the pedestal.
Titan was a guy
that just wasn't a polished guy.
The guy was a great athlete.
He was strong as Hercules.
But he just had that hairpin trigger.
On the Human Cannonball,
Titan goes up there.
- [crowd cheering]
- [contestants grunting]
[Danny] The contestant comes
flying down into Titan,
and he leads with an elbow
that catches him under the jaw.
He was not happy with the ruling,
with the attitude that a judge had.
And he flipped his lid. He just went off.
And then he starts charging at the ref.
And the ref was a little guy.
Titan charged up
into the stands after the referee.
It took about three of us
to hold him back.
I really didn't know what was going on.
And it was a scary feeling.
[tense music playing]
That's called roid rage, right?
[Eytan] And then I was walking
into the dressing room
that the Gladiators use,
and saw that there were syringes
and needles lying around,
and knew that we had to address
the possible use of steroids.
[Danny] We got a call
from Gladiator brass
that they wanted
to have an impromptu meeting.
And they don't want impromptu meetings
unless something's wrong.
[Eytan] We were going to start testing,
and if the tests came back positive,
that person would be fired.
[Jim] A random drug test.
If I tested positive,
I would have been off that show
and probably likely forever.
[dramatic music playing]
[closing theme music playing]
[fire crackling, sizzling]
[upbeat music playing]
[crowd cheering]
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