Is GLOW's Fan-Tan Hotel & Casino Based On A Real Place?

Photo: Courtesy of Ali Goldstein/Netflix.
In season 3 of GLOW, out August 9 on Netflix, the gorgeous ladies of wrestling have to throw away any semblance of a work-life balance — that is, if they hadn't already.
After the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling relocates from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in season 2, the wrestlers live in the same casino where their show is put on, night after night. Ruth (Alison Brie) keeps careful track of each performance, which hardly vary.
But there's one tangible upside to the monotony: sweet digs. The Fan-Tan Hotel and Casino is downright plush when compared to the ratty California motel where the wrestlers used to live. So, can fans of GLOW make a pilgrimage to Vegas and pretend to be Liberty Belle (Betty Gilpin)?
Not so fast. The Fan-Tan Hotel is not a real place in Las Vegas — but it is based on one.
Netflix's GLOW is inspired by an enormously popular '80s TV phenomenon The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, which ran from 1986 to 1990. The original G.L.O.W. was filmed in Las Vegas' Riviera Casino, an equivalent to the Fan-Tan. For the show's first two years, the wrestlers lived and filmed in the the casino.
After two years of swimming pools and all-you-can-eat-buffets at the Riviera, the women moved to a house called GLOW House (now a Harley Davidson dealership). At GLOW House, the women were split up into "good girls" and "bad girls" camps, and interacted only with fellow heroes or villains.
The Riviera Casino was famous even before the extravagantly dressed women of G.L.O.W. started roaming its halls. The 2,075-room hotel and casino was built in 1955, and once featured acts like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Barbra Streisand. In recent years, the casino's lit-up typeface could be seen in movies like Casino, Austin Powers and The Hangover.
Above all, though, the Riviera was especially legendary for being the last vestige of Las Vegas' years as a hub for organized crime. In an interview with CBC, Nevada historian Michael Green called it the "last true mob structure on the Strip." Reportedly, the Riviera was the cause of mob-related murders.
G.L.O.W. is woven among the Riviera's already storied history. Meshulam Riklis, an Israel billionaire who bought the Riviera Hotel and Casino in 1973, also financed G.L.O.W. Riklis was also behind the show's unexpected cancellation in 1990. But was Riklis forced to end G.L.OW. for personal or financial reasons? As one story goes, Riklis was having an affair with a wrestler, and his then-wife, Pia Zadora, gave him an ultimatum to end the show. Another version pins the cancellation on Riklis' financial trouble.
Eventually, the Riviera would meet a similar fate. In 2015, after 60 years of being a fixture on the Strip, the Riviera closed. The following year, the 24-story hotel was demolished in two explosions. Eventually, Las Vegas' new convention center will be built on the Riviera's old site.
Nothing G.L.O.W. can stay.
Advertisement

More from TV

R29 Original Series