If you were a child in the ’90s, there’s a good chance you tuned into the TV show “American Gladiators.” After that, you may have stood on a couple chairs in your backyard with your brother and hit each other with hockey sticks you put pillows on the end of. You know, a makeshift version of the game Joust. You know, theoretically.
If you are not familiar, the original series of “American Gladiators” was a production of the Samuel Goldwyn Company, now part of MGM and Four Point Entertainment. It ran from 1989 through 1996 and brought weekend warrior athletes to Los Angeles to try their hand at battling with themselves and the show’s cadre of male and female gladiators.
The gladiators mainly were a collection of bodybuilders with some athleticism who were given garish costumes and nicknames. Some of them had events they became synonymous with as the show went on.
What became of the gladiators once they hung up their blue-and-red spandex outfits, though?
Here are some facts that we know about the original cast of the TV series. We define “original cast” as gladiators who appeared in the first season. That means some notable gladiators like Turbo (Galen Tomlinson), Sabre (Lynn Williams), Siren (Shelley Beattie) and Hawk (Lee Reherman) are not included.
What Was “American Gladiators”?
Here is the gist of “American Gladiators.” There were four contestants on each episode of the game show/athletic competition, two men and two women. These “contenders,” as they were called, would face off against the gladiators in a series of events to accrue points.
The number of events changed from season to season. If you won your episode, it meant a chance to continue in a tournament where you would face winners of other episodes to become the Grand Champion of the season.
The events were designed to test speed, strength, endurance and in the case of Atlasphere, to roll a giant hamster ball around really well?
Some events were definitely a better watch than others. Hang Tough, for example, saw contestants try to get across a field of gymnastic rings. At the same time, a gladiator attempted to stop them.
A lot of them would end up with a gladiator just wrapped around a contender. It wasn’t great. The Wall also was not the most exciting thing.
On the other hand, something like Joust was always fun (and easy to imitate at home for a child). A contender and a gladiator would swing pillowed pugilism sticks at each other and try and knock them off of pedestals.
Powerball was like a take on football from the year 2250. Assault was great, and if they could turn Human Cannonball into an Olympic sport, we would love every second of it.
Every episode would end with The Eliminator, an obstacle course that saw the contestants go head to head in a race for victory.
The play-by-play announcer for the entire original run of this pseudo-sports competition was Mike Adamle. Adamle was a former NFL player who had worked for NBC Sports before getting the “American Gladiators” gig. Later in his career, he would join WWE as an on-screen personality.
The first color guy that Adamle worked with was Joe Theismann, who had a lengthy announcing career after his NFL career came to an abrupt end. He did not stick around “American Gladiators” very long.
The primary second banana for the heyday of the show was Larry Csonka. Csonka was a former Miami Dolphin who would declare a contender had been “Zonked” if they were hit particularly hard by a Gladiator.
OK, now it’s time to get our end credits of “Animal House” on and tell you what happened to the original Gladiators.
Where Are The Original “American Gladiators” Now?
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Gemini (Michael Horton) was considered the “team captain” of the Gladiators, for whatever that meant. Gemini’s primary claim to fame was that he was the best at the Joust. After the show, he put together a one-credit IMDb page as an actor for playing a security guard in “A Night at the Roxbury.” He became a fitness consultant in Los Angeles, and his son Wes Horton became an NFL player.
Lace (Marisa Paré) picked up the last name “Paré” from marrying the actor Michael Paré, though they were divorced before the show began. She appeared as herself in an episode of the TV show “Clueless,” but she has pretty much fallen off the radar since then.
Malibu (Deron McBee) was only on the show’s first season, but he lived up to his character’s Hollywood vibe. Since the turn of the millennium, he’s been in episodes of “Walker,” “Texas Ranger,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Veronica Mars.” He’s also done work as a graphic artist in recent years.
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Nitro (Dan Clark) was living the ’90s dream. In addition to being one of the most famous Gladiators, he appeared in an episode of “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” as a martial arts instructor that all the girls want to get with. Standing at the edge of tomorrow indeed. By the final season of the original run, Clark was serving in the announcer role alongside Adamle. He also served as a consulting producer on the 2008 reboot of “American Gladiators” hosted by Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali. It did not stick around long.
Alas, things have not always gone great for Clark. You can read all about it in his first book, “Gladiator: A True Story of ‘Roids, Rage, and Redemption,” and his second book, “F Dying,” which is about the heart attack he had in 2013.
Sunny (Cheryl Barldinger) did not leave us much of anything to go on. She was injured during the first season of the show and did not return. Her whereabouts are unknown. Hopefully, she’s doing well.
Zap (Raye Hollitt) is last alphabetically of the original six Gladiators, but not last in our hearts. Zap posed for Playboy while on the show and had a couple acting roles after her time on “American Gladiators” ended. She’s now known as Raye Hollitt-Olson and is a personal trainer, massage therapist and snowboard instructor, according to her Instagram profile. We imagine there’s a good chance she updated that herself.
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Those are the original six Gladiators. Here are a few others that appeared in the first season.
Gold (Tonya Knight) was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2011 and has her own hair and makeup company in Kansas City.
Titan (David Nelson) was fired after going after a referee on the show. As such, we don’t know much about what happened to him.
There you have them. The first season Gladiators. There were other notable names from later seasons, of course. We’re talking the likes of Ice, Elektra, Viper, Dallas, Storm and Tower. However, they all followed in the footsteps of this crew. They were, indeed, able to Hang Tough.