Have you ever noticed that the best originals always seem to come in groups of six? Hockey teams. Nike Air Force Ones. United States frigates. But the title of best original six-pack "“ quite literally "“ belongs to the muscle-bound men and women who made up the first cast of American Gladiators. (I'll award a six-second head start in the Eliminator to anyone who can name all six off the top of his or her head right now.)
If you somehow came up with Malibu, Lace, Gemini, Zap, Nitro, and Sunny, please stop reading this and immediately Facebook friend me, as you are my new hero(es).
There are all sorts of interesting where-are-they-now stories about former Gladiators and contenders from the show. Kristi Kropp-Wagner, the former contender wearing yellow in this video, is now the faculty advisor for the co-ed badminton team at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. On a sadder note, season four women's champion Cheryl Wilson was murdered by her husband in 1997.
As for the Original Six Gladiators, here's what we know:
1. Deron McBee (Malibu)
Emperor Commodus probably would've given the laid-back surfer dude with the flowing blonde locks two thumbs down for his pretty boy appearance, and most film critics did just that in their reviews of 1997's Mortal Combat: Annihilation, in which McBee starred as Motaro. McBee, who trained at the Billy Blanks World Karate Studio, has appeared in more than 30 other movies, including such blockbusters as The Killing Zone and Enter the Blood Ring. Curb Your Enthusiasm fans might remember McBee's guest appearance during the second season as former pro wrestler Thor Olson, who Larry becomes convinced slashed his tires after the two men got into an argument. McBee's late wife, Drzan, an aspiring professional wrestler, reportedly died after complications from surgery in 2003.
2. Marisa Pare (Lace)
After appearing in 59 episodes from 1989-1993, the ironically Canadian-born Pare, or Lace #1 to American Gladiator fans, made one appearance on the TV show Renegade with fellow former Gladiator Michael Horton. According to imdb.com, she resurfaced in 1997 on an episode of Clueless. Pare, whose given name is Roebuck, married actor Michael Pare in 1986. In 1987, she appeared as a fashion show coordinator in The Women's Club, a movie in which her then-husband starred, before the two were divorced in 1988. Pare was one of two Gladiators to pose nude in Playboy.
3. Michael Horton (Gemini)
Creatively named for his split personality "“ calm one minute, violent the next "“ Horton served as team captain of the American Gladiators during his 80-episode stint on the show, which spanned four years. His greatest claim to fame since hanging up his spandex "“ besides his aforementioned appearance in Renegade, of course "“ was his role as the security guard in Night at the Roxbury. What is love? Pounding the living daylights out of a contestant with a foam jousting stick.
4. Raye Hollitt (Zap)
The Wilkes-Barre native played a reporter in 1997's Letters From a Killer, starring Patrick Swayze. She has scored several other small roles in movies and television shows, which, coupled with her 1996 appearance in Playboy, make Hollitt one of the more ubiquitous American Gladiators. She runs an online florist business from her personal Web site, rayehollitt.com, which is borderline NSFW and states: "Sex, drugs, rock and roll....Isn't that part of life. Well, it was for me!" At one point, Hollitt hosted a women's strength competition called Radiant Pro at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. The overall winner received $3,500.
5. Dan Clark (Nitro)
The former San Jose State standout defensive lineman announced the plans to revive American Gladiators during a chat on ESPN.com in 2007. For more than five years, Clark has been a mentor in the Young Story Tellers Foundation, an organization dedicated to increasing literacy among inner city youths. Born in Toma, Japan, Clark was a contestant on Ty Murray's Celebrity Bullriding Challenge on CMT, riding for 8 seconds with a strained groin during one episode. He also appeared on Walker, Texas Ranger and his voice is featured in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Want to know more about Clark's life? Visit his MySpace page here.
6. Cheryl Barldinger (Sunny)
Barldinger is like the Chicago Blackhawks of this original six in that she kind of disappeared after suffering an injury during her first and only season. A post on an American Gladiators message board indicated that she recently worked as a spokeswoman for Up-time Nutrition.
Did anyone catch tonight's relaunch of the American Gladiators franchise? What'd you think?
Scott Allen is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com.