Sex, Scandal and Sisterhood: Fifty Years of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

On a sweltering Saturday in August, seven cheerleaders stood in the tunnel of Texas’ new stadium, just outside the Dallas city limits, wearing a uniform never seen in professional sports: white go-go boots with a zipper down the front. Teensy white hot pants. A deep royal blue short top tied at the chest, just one suggestive move to keep it from untying.

It was 1972 and Vonciel Baker was nervous about the crowd. The 20-year-old was short and thin, and as a kid she used to hang out with James Brown in her living room. She was one of five raised by a single mother in south Dallas, on the wrong side of the tracks in a status-obsessed city, but Baker had a quality you might call brilliance. Earlier that spring, she had heard a radio spot on local station KVIL announcing that the Dallas Cowboys were looking for a new breed of cheerleader—dancers, that was the idea. More than a hundred of them showed up for rehearsals; only seven of them succeeded. (Actually, eight of them did, but the aspiring model dropped out before the season started.) They will become known as the Original Seven: Baker, Anna Carpenter, Rosemary Hall, Dolores McAda, Carrie O’Brien, Deanovoy Nichols and Dixie Smith. Each of them stood in that tunnel, staring at the artificial grass and bleachers of the new soccer stadium named after the country whose glory they wanted to conquer.

The Dallas Cowboys have had cheerleaders before, including a group of high schoolers in stockings and pleated skirts chanting “Run!” They didn’t dance, and they didn’t wear it. It’s hard to remember in our skin-saturated age, but cleavage and bare collars weren’t just unusual back then—they were scandalous. This moment in 1972 marked the debut of a bold experiment, a very Texas hybrid of formal beauty, good girl etiquette and sneaking.

Baker looked up at the sky whenever she got upset, and could see the sunlight fading and the stadium lights flashing from where she stood at the tunnel entrance. Texas Stadium had a hole in the roof, and a design error (plans for a retractable roof were shut down due to cost) turned into an advantage. “So that God could watch his favorite team,” one player famously said.

When the live band’s drums started pounding, seven cheerleaders burst out of that tunnel. “And all of a sudden, we heard the fan noise and we were like, ‘What’s going on?’ ”, Baker told me in her sweet voice. Texas Stadium erupted with a joyous noise that she still hears, fifty years later. “And they point at us. We didn’t know that we had introduced something new to football.”

What they brought was sex and glamor to the gladiatorial arena of modern sports. They set off a wave of copycats across the NFL, creating a blueprint for beauty that’s practically branded into the cultural imagination.

It was a turning point for women, a time when the forces of freedom began to be unleashed, but also clashed. Roe v. Wade made its way from the Dallas court to the Supreme Court, where it would ignite a battle that still rages. It was the year Deep Throat hit American theaters, starting the “porn chic” fad. And it was the year Title IX passed, opening the door for women in athletics.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were also a highlight, combining the precision of the East Texas Kilgore Rangerettes with the class of the Radio City Rockettes and adding a dose of old-fashioned Texas raucousness. “We’re looking for an all-American, sexy girl,” choreographer Texie Waterman told a local news station, biting off the word “sexy.” And this internal contradiction – being good, but also a little bad, being innocent, but also a little dangerous – became an essential part of their brand and their explosion.

To follow the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders over the next half-century is to watch the pop sexualization of women: on television, on billboards and magazine covers, in swimsuit calendars that became DVD-making that became reality TV shows. Although their place in culture is unique, their struggles and triumphs speak to the increasing place of women in the world: how we look, how we behave, who and what determines our worth.

These days they are seen as a heritage, a throwback to another era. Their instantly recognizable uniform was donated to the Smithsonian in 2018, a part of American tradition alongside Dorothy’s slippers and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat. But the team also slipped from the pedestal. Across the NFL, the past decade has brought lawsuits for fair pay, sexual harassment lawsuits and bad press. Professional cheerleaders on other teams are moving away from the sexy sideline dance, adopting more modest uniforms and adding men to their squads. The Carolina Panthers recently brought in their first openly trans cheerleader. (Whether fans want these changes is another matter.)

In February, scandal hit the Dallas Cowboys when ESPN broke the story that the team’s PR director, Richard Dalrymple, was accused of using his phone to film four cheerleaders in their locker room in 2015, resulting in a $2.4 million settlement. The company line has always been that cheerleaders are protected. The sweeping rules introduced decades earlier – dictating everything from how cheerleaders dress to how they behave off the field – were supposedly for their own good, meant to protect their safety as well as their image. Yet here was the team’s PR man accused of creating a PR disaster. For a team that prided itself on “wholesome sexiness,” this was a no-brainer indeed.

The Cowboys and Dalrymple have denied any wrongdoing. But my phone has been blowing up with cheerleaders I met during the year I spent interviewing them for the Texas Monthly podcast America’s Girls. How did this happen? Did it happen a second time? On sports radio and Twitter and in informal conversations, I heard questions that have been bothering me since I started this project: Does the world still need professional cheerleaders? Have we ever?

Cowboy history books won’t tell you the true story of the cheerleaders’ origins. “The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders began as the creation of one man: Texas E. Schramm,” says a 1984 book about the Cowboys. No, try again. General manager Tex Schramm, who helped launch the franchise in 1960, was a visionary, a former CBS executive who saw that the future of professional sports was television. And it’s true that he kept the team alive during the years when reborn coach Tom Landry wanted them gone. But the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are actually the creations of several women, whose innovative ideas and contributions have largely been forgotten.

Dee Brock was a woman of the world when the world could be quite small for women. She earned a doctorate in literature from the University of North Texas after marrying longtime Dallas Times Herald columnist Bob Brock, with whom she had three sons. She taught high school English, although she later became one of the founders of the city’s first college, El Centro. She was unusually beautiful – blonde and five foot seven – and was a model on the side. She also had a sense of humor. “I don’t really like girls with that many breasts,” Brock recalled legendary draper Stanley Marcus once telling her while she was getting ready for a Neiman Marcus fashion show. “Well, I’m sorry,” she replied. “But there they are.”

Sometime before the Cowboys’ second season in 1961, Schramm included her in a big idea: beautiful models on the sidelines. Respectfully, Brock told him this dog would not hunt. The models didn’t move much, and it required money, something Schramm didn’t like to spend. Kovala had a different plan. Recruit local high school girls. Pay them a couple of tickets to the game, give them scarves and pom-poms. It’s free! Schramm put her in charge, and she spent the next decade trying to make this formula work, though it ultimately failed. She recruited teenagers for an experiment in college cheerleading remembered mostly for its silly name: Cowbelles and Beaux.

“It’s one of my embarrassing moments,” Brock, now in her early 90s, told me at her home in Tyler. The name was a PR stunt and, unfortunately, it stuck. “My teams were strong. They weren’t Belles and Beaux.” She practically spat out that last part.

Brock has long been a woman ahead of her time. She integrated the team in 1965 with the help of a local black teacher named Frances Roberson. The Cowboys had a few black players by then, but much of Dallas was still segregated. In 1971, half of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders were black.

The following year, a skimpier uniform, an increase in age and an open audition marked the beginning of a brave new era. “I think we need an older group of girls,” Brock remembers Schramm.

“Old?” He wasn’t convinced.

Older, she explained. Eighteen and over. “And I wanted them to have a sexy costume,” she said.

She hadn’t used the word with Schramm, but it was on her mind. Back in the fifties, Brock landed a spot as a “swimming beauty” in the Dallas Summer Musical, where she attracted attention as one of only two women daring enough to wear a bikini. That revealing number made her a household name in local modeling circles. She wanted her cheerleaders to get the same kind of attention. She also wanted the cheerleaders to be dancers. Busk. And she knew exactly who to hire to do it: the other woman who was bold enough to wear a bikini in that summer musical.

Texie Waterman was a petite red-haired pistol with a cigarette perpetually smoldering between her fingers. She was also a dance instructor in Dallas. “When they told me they wanted dancing cheerleaders, I told them they were crazy,” Waterman said, according to the 1982 book A Decade of Dreams, which is still the only history of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders ever published, though it has long since sold out. .

Waterman grew up in Dallas and was a graduate of Highland Park High School and began teaching dance at the age of seventeen. In her twenties, she ran in New York, where she performed in lavish nightclubs such as Copacabana. At the time Brock approached her, she was running the studio with her mother. (A very Texas detail: her mom was also named Texie.) She didn’t like the idea at first. “There is no stage, no lights, no illusion,” she said in Decade of Dreams. But she decided to do it anyway, introducing a sexy and playful dance style that would shape the entertainment in stadiums.

Her starting annual salary was $300. In fact, Schramm didn’t want to pay her at all, but Brock didn’t want to ask the choreographer to work for free, so she split her own salary, which at the time was $600. So there you have it: $300 a year to build a legendary team.

“When they told me they wanted dancing cheerleaders, I told them they were crazy,” Texie Waterman said.

The appalling compensation for the women behind the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders is a reflection of the times and a team known for being cheap. The Cowboys didn’t become all-powerful by giving anything away. That new team of cheerleaders that burst out of the tunnel in 1972? They got $15 a game, $14.12 after tax.

“It was enough to fill up my tank and buy a Slurpee,” Baker said. The money was a joke, but it made sense at first. The cheerleading gig was just a side hustle, but it brought status, sisterhood, a chance to be a part of something bigger.

The Original Seven quickly became local darlings. Fans started lining up after the games to get autographs. Little girls, little boys, grown men who have never before shown much interest in action on the sidelines. More cheerleaders were soon added, as 7 was not nearly enough to meet the crowd’s demand. First 15, then 21. They appeared in car showrooms and got a picture in the newspaper, like the queens of the pageant for their hometown. In those early years it was a modest kind of celebrity.

But cheerleading was about to go global.

It was November 10, 1975, and the Cowboys were taking on the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. At the time, ABC’s weekly broadcast was a blockbuster, with tens of millions watching the same game. It’s been three years since the cheerleaders debuted, and still no other team in professional sports has had a squad like Dallas’. The cameras didn’t let you forget this night either. They continued walking away from those lovely girls, sipping a cup of water, smiling and laughing from the side.

Then came the moment: A cheerleader named Gwenda Swearengin shakes pom-poms above her head as she faces the court between plays. She is the former first runner-up of Miss Corsicana, her long brown hair falls over both shoulders and the camera zooms in so much that the white sweep of her movements is barely visible at the top of the screen. As the clip continues, she does something no cheerleader has ever done. She looks straight into the camera — and winks.

“I think she was doing it for you, Frank,” host Howard Cosell snaps to his co-host, Frank Gifford.

“She was very effective,” Gifford replies.

Shy, but flirtatious. The perfect tease. A beautiful woman shines her light on every viewer in an armchair in their living room.

“The wink” has become part of Cowboys mythology, a way to explain the team’s meteoric rise over the following years, and like many myths, it’s about half true. The moment was a brave breaking of the fourth wall – the cheerleaders had largely ignored the cameras before. And that game raised their profile, as did their performance two months later on the brink of the 1976 Super Bowl. But even before he blinked, cheerleaders were already an integral part of an enterprise that casually turned everyday sports fans into armchair voyeurs — not in one moment, but over the course of a televised game season.

The explosive popularity of soccer during the 1970s had a lot to do with the TV set moving into the center of American households. The cheerleaders went on a ride with them. Waterman designed the team to play in huge stadiums, where their exaggerated movements could be seen high in the stands, but television reduced the distance, with close-ups that were stunning in their intimacy, almost as if the cheerleaders were performing in your living room too.

“Honey shots” was the industry term for those cutouts, an invention of Andy Sidaris, a former Dallas television man turned ABC sports director. “I got the idea for honey punches,” he said in the 1976 documentary Seconds to Play, “because I’m a dirty old man.”

That same year, Dee Brock left the cheerleaders. Eventually, she landed a job as a senior vice president in public service, where she developed educational programs. Waterman stayed, but the demand created by the massive TV exposure proved too much for one person. And so Schramm asked his secretary, Suzanne Mitchell, to lead the cheerleaders “in your spare time,” a diversion that would soon dominate her life.

As the story goes, when Schramm first interviewed her for the secretary job, Mitchell had returned to Dallas after a stint in New York, where she worked in publishing. He asked where he saw himself in five years. “Your chair looks quite comfortable,” she told him. He hired her on the spot. Soon, he will turn the fledgling group of hot side dancers into a polished media machine.

She was ruled by fear and never pretended otherwise. Full hair and make-up had to be done for the rehearsal. No appearance in uniform around alcohol. No chewing gum. Cheerleaders have always had rules. “No fraternizing with the players” was the gospel from day one, an attempt to keep the players from being distracted (and the women from the rebellion). But Mitchell was the daughter of an army man and she introduced the boot camp mentality, making the rules a way of life. Libra appeared in the studio. The cheerleaders were rebuilt in a new image, like soldiers enlisted in the glamor army. She expanded the team, eventually stopping at 36, and shaped a kind of Spice Girls of the seventies: there was that sporty, darling, beauty queen. The idea was for every girl to see herself – and for every man to see his fantasy.

In 1977, cheerleaders landed on the cover of Esquire, one of the most sophisticated and influential titles of the magazine’s heyday. “The best thing about the Dallas Cowboys,” it read. A cheerleader named Debbie Wagener, the dead Blondie singer Debbie Harry, stands with her hands on her hips. The Cowboys’ merchandising department took off quickly after that: cheerleading calendars, playing cards, frisbees, even toy vans appeared.

By 1978, the annual auditions had grown to more than a thousand applicants, with swarms of beautiful, talented women competing for the same 36 spots. “You can be replaced in a second,” Mitchell told anyone who crossed the line, though most didn’t. These women weren’t about to jeopardize their first taste of fame.

“We were put on a pedestal,” said Shannon Baker Werthmann, who joined the team in 1976. “You had to pinch yourself.” During the late seventies, her Farrah Fawcett hairstyle and killer high bangs made her the poster girl and cheerleader who always got the most fan mail. It’s easy to forget how young these women were when they exploded into the zeitgeist. Werthmann was seventeen years old when she tried her hand at cheerleading for the first time. The rule was that you had to be eighteen, but she didn’t want to wait, so she lied on her application.

In 1978, the team was flown to Utah for their first major TV spot, a special hosted by the Osmond Brothers. “We were treated like princesses,” Werthmann told me. “We drove in limousines. A large offer of food was waiting for us.” This was a dream. They even toured Donny and Marie’s home. Marie, a teenager at the time, had a pink bedspread and a collection of dolls, a detail that stuck with Werthmann. “She was a girl, just like us.”

Tami Barber was also there. The only child of the hard-nosed Cowboys, Barber came from a small town in Nebraska and made the team in 1977, at the age of nineteen. She suddenly became known as “the one with the donuts” and started signing autographs. She recalled appearing on Jerry Lewis’ telethon in Las Vegas. “I got to see Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra and Dionne Warwick,” she said. “I mean, I was a fan at that point.”

But for many at home, these events were in stark contrast to reality. The cheerleaders never got a share of the proceeds from the sales, and the $15 per game pay didn’t budge until the 1990s. Rehearsals could be as frequent as five nights a week, sometimes lasting until midnight, in an unair-conditioned studio that was supposed to prepare them for the Texas heat. Many of them were penniless, struggling to earn rent, falling asleep at their desks during work or school. Wagener was a controller at Tom Thumb when she appeared on that Esquire cover – ringing up the glossy magazine she graced and quietly slipping it into someone’s bag.

In 1977, the cheerleaders released their own poster: five neon-lit glamazons with smoke billowing around their ankles. At the center was a brunette named Suzie Holub, her eyes smoldering as she stared straight into the lens. “Damn if that’s not the look that’s going here,” Tex Schramm told photographer Bob Shaw when he saw the picture, a shot that would sell about a million copies and turn cheerleaders into the hottest pinup girls in the country. But this popularity comes with a dark side.

That year, after a show in Wichita, Kansas, the cheerleaders were walking back to their bus when fans descended on them like never before. “A few girls started running, then we started running, and then the crowd started running,” Tami Barber recalled. “It was our Beatles moment. We were saving our lives because these people were grabbing us.” Barbir was sitting in the bus while strangers hit his hips. “My heart was beating so fast and it was the first time I thought, ‘Why are people crazy? We are just us.’ ”

Visibility brought threats that even Suzanne Mitchell couldn’t handle. One night Barber picked up the phone in the apartment where she lived alone. “Good night, Tami,” said an unknown male voice. She hung up, but he called another night, and she was so scared she moved. She wasn’t the only one. “You’re going to have to have a number that’s not listed,” Mitchell instructed the cheerleaders, but often that wasn’t enough. A cheerleader named Billie Mitchell once opened her eyes in the middle of the night to find a stranger standing by her bed. She kicked him out, and then she moved too.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have become a real world sensation. They starred in the hit 1979 made-for-TV movie; they became part of the story in the two-part episode of The Love Ship; they faced some Cowboys football players on Family Feud. And along the way, Mitchell had the impossible task of managing these internal contradictions: she had to keep the cheerleaders safe while presenting them as endlessly accessible; she praised their uniqueness in public while privately stifling their egos. She had to control this forest fire at the same time as fanning the fire.

Cheerleaders across the NFL began copying the Cowboys, with more than two dozen teams transforming into sexpot dancers seemingly overnight. Sports Illustrated called it “The Great Cheerleading War of 1978.” The Cowboys became the most visible and valuable franchise in the NFL, and a big part of the brand was those hot women. It was a match made in marketing heaven: in the center of the field, Captain America Roger Staubach, and on the sidelines, 36 Miss Americas in the famous tarty uniform.

In 1978, an adult movie actress named Bambi Woods donned that glorious uniform (or at least an imitation of it) in a not-so-great scene. Debbie Does Dallas was a shoegaze porn movie that, so to speak, followed a young woman with a dream to root for a certain legendary football team in Dallas. A marquee outside the New York theater where he made his debut falsely claimed that Woods was a “former Dallas Cowgirl cheerleader,” and the Cowboys—presumably angry that the “wholesome sexiness” they advocated had been exposed—sued for trademark infringement, resulting in the deliciously titled lawsuit Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders v. Pussycat Cinemas. Newspapers and TV stations have swallowed this saga. The Cowboys ended up winning the case. But the media frenzy turned the night-time blockbuster into a blockbuster.

Cheerleaders, on the other hand, doubled down on their wholesome image. They launched a children’s clothing line that included a little satin jacket and developed a new logo of a doe-eyed cartoon girl dressed as a cheerleader and looking all seven. By then, the young girls had become a large cheerleader fan base. But the sexual teasing introduced by the team was difficult to bottle.

In the same fall of 1978, five women dressed as cheerleaders posed for the Playboy column. The group was an outlaw group called the Texas Cowgirls, a rival agency based in Dallas founded by women who had quit the Cheerleaders (fed up with the rules, exhausted by the demanding schedule and low pay) or were kicked off the team at auditions. became bloodthirsty. Cowgirls appeared in places cheerleaders wouldn’t dare go, often at events where alcohol was served. Their fees are split evenly among the members, unlike the cheerleaders, whose fees for occasional appearances went to a select group of favorite team members, and who didn’t see a dime from the team’s many merchandising deals.

Texas Cowgirls’ splash debut in Playboy was a riff on Cheerleaders’ best-selling 1977 poster, five glamazons in a triangle, except for one detail. This time their tops were untied.

Despite the controversies of the late 1970s, cheerleaders rarely faced any kind of public backlash. But in 1982, they arrived at Fresno State University in California to practice for their halftime show, and when they entered the campus they were greeted by a large white sheet hanging from the building’s window, spray-painted with the words “Hearts and Minds, Not Punches.” and grinding.”

Cheerleaders transformed culture in the previous decade, but so did second-wave feminism. Magazine Ms. debuted the same year, 1972, as that iconic uniform, and the awareness publication co-founded by Gloria Steinem helped popularize ideas about sexual objectification and the male gaze during a decade when legal victories like Roe v. Wade and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act from 1974 changed women’s lives. By 1982, feminist language had entered the American vocabulary the same way hot pants and jiggle had entered network programming, and on the sidelines of Fresno State, the two forces were about to collide.

The drumbeat of protest grew all week. A PE professor named Rhita Flake started a petition, which was quickly picked up by the media, calling cheerleaders “demeaning to women” because their primary function was to “provide sexually suggestive entertainment to male sports fans.”

“Sex objects” — that was the slur that followed the team, even as cheerleaders and many fans saw themselves as something more: role models, goodwill ambassadors, talented performers. In 1979, they even began conducting USO tours to visit troops in Korea and elsewhere overseas. So when director Suzanne Mitchell heard about Flake’s comment, she shot back in the press: “The first thing I’d like to ask her is what has she ever done for her country? We arrive at the DMZ by helicopter.”

Things turned ugly at the show later that day, when protesters gathered outside the stadium. Dana Presley Killmer, who joined the team in 1981, remembers the ominous atmosphere. “It was so nasty that the faculty at the university had to build a human fence on either side of us so we could get off the bus and onto the field without [protesters] throwing rocks.” What was confusing for the cheerleaders was that the performance was a charity event to raise money for the college’s athletic department. But in the heated battle of the sexes, the cheerleaders were now on the wrong side.

Cheerleaders may have been seen as eye candy for men, but they became a lightning rod for many women, and still are today. Their popularity has raised complicated questions about female beauty and sexuality – how do you glorify these qualities without being defined by them? “Exploitation” is a word often used by cheerleader critics. But who decides that these women are exploited if they say they are not?

“We were really doing what we wanted to do,” Killmer told me from her home in East Texas. “Nobody forced me to be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader.” Quite the opposite – she beat more than two thousand women for her place.

By the end of the decade, the cheerleaders’ tightly calibrated mix of sweetness and licentiousness was about to face an entirely different challenge—the team’s new owner.

One Saturday in early 1989, Mitchell’s assistant, Debbie Bond Hansen, arrived at the office to find all sorts of unknown men roaming the halls and rummaging through papers. “There were all these suits,” Hansen recalled. She called Mitchell, who was at home. What was going on? The evening news will soon tell them. An Arkansas oilman named Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys. There was a new sheriff in town.

Hansen had been with the cheerleaders since 1979. For much of the next decade, she proved to be a reliable assistant to Mitchell. Once, after hearing a rumor that a hopeful was working as a stripper, Mitchell sent her to visit every strip club in Dallas. “I’ve never been to a strip club, okay?” Hansen said. “I was hiding in the corner because I didn’t want anyone to recognize me.” She was sneaking around in oversized sunglasses and a fur coat. Since her last name was Bond at the time, this detective work earned her the nickname “Double-Oh-Seven”.

Mitchell and Hansen took cheerleaders out of the scandalous late 1970s and the feminist comeback of the early 1980s by relying on the rules. Rules were used to keep things stable and predictable, but they also offered instruction about a certain kind of Southern womanhood. “A lot of people don’t know that — we were a grooming school, too,” Hansen told me. When to wear heels and what fork to use with a salad might seem like trivial concerns, but those questions can be burdensome for small-town women who hope to be something more. The ultimate goal of each cheerleader was clearly stated in Mitchell’s photocopied brochures, which were given to the recruits: “A Girl Becomes a LADY.”

Jerry Jones doesn’t seem to be a fan of the rules – at least not theirs. He fired Coach Landry. He sidelined Tex Schramm until the legendary manager walked away from the ballpark he built, and the ever-loyal Mitchell quit soon after. “They were America’s team,” she told a reporter after she resigned. “[Now] they’re Jerry Jones’ team.”

Mitchell installed Hansen as her successor, but the scene changed in harrowing ways. “I’d have a rehearsal at the dance studio and Jerry Jones would come down with his friends and his cocktails,” Hansen said. Before that, cheerleaders were always strictly confined. They entered and exited through a different door than the players and were often only seen on the field. Under Jones, the atmosphere of the girls’ school turned into a strip club. The owner was there, “rattling the ice, watching the girls practice,” Hansen recalled. “I thought, ‘God, this isn’t like the old days.’ “

According to Hansen, Jones brought her into his office and explained that he was relaxing the rules. Have the cheerleaders date the players, have them show up with alcohol. Who cares? He also wanted to change his uniform. At least that’s what Hansen told reporters who met her in the office a few days later from an ambush. In the news clip, she speaks in a solemn voice as the microphones gather at her chin. “I received pressure from the office to add bike pants and halter tops to the cheerleaders during the summer months.” She tells reporters how this Jones character responded to her remark that cheerleaders shouldn’t be seen in unwanted scenarios. He told her, “Debbie, alcohol is here to stay.”

Hansen quit her job, and she wasn’t the only one. Fourteen cheerleaders quit, though Jones sweet-talked them back, saying it was all a misunderstanding. He brought in his Stanford-educated daughter Charlotte to help him straighten out the PR mess, and she eventually became the president’s cheerleader and a major player in the Jones family business.

This particular conflict evokes a tension that has existed in women’s lives for generations. The old regime wanted to protect women, but strict rules also restricted their behavior – and placed all responsibility solely on the shoulders of women. Cheerleaders were kicked out for dating the players, who never suffered. Cheerleaders were kicked out for much less, really – drinking in uniform, wearing a salty Halloween costume, any behavior deemed unladylike. Suddenly the new regime wanted to loosen the corset, giving women more freedom – but what to do? One cheerleader, a two-year veteran named Cindy Villarreal, said she quit after receiving an unusual request to appear with another cheerleader on Jerry Jones’ private jet. (The Cowboys organization declined several interview requests. A team spokesman disputed Hansen’s and Villarreal’s accounts but offered no details.)

Now it really was Jones’ team. And over the next decades, that team would win three Super Bowl titles, cause a bunch of tabloid scandals, and become the most lucrative brand in sports, valued at more than $6 billion.

We really wanted to make this year’s calendar special,” head cheerleader Kelli Finglass told an ESPN film crew on a windy Caribbean beach in 1999. “We wanted it to be classy and elegant and show the cheerleaders as the main group of women in everything. sports.”

“Expose the cheerleaders” – was it a cheeky joke or a slip? The swimsuit calendars, first published in the early 1990s, certainly exposed these cheerleaders: over time, the bikinis got smaller and smaller, and the poses got more and more risque. Women were busy keeping up with the culture gone wild. The 1990s saw Victoria’s Secret Angels and MTV Spring Break, all of which meant a lot of soft-core porn on cable just as real porn was taking over the Internet. It was now commonplace to see a nearly naked woman rolling in the sand in an ad for watches, cologne—anything, really.

Finglass was a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys from 1984 to 1988, when her last name was McGonagill. Growing up in the small town of Lindale in East Texas, she was known for her outgoing personality and bright smile. She studied marketing in college, and Jones eventually hired Finglass in 1991 as its new director. Turns out he shares his boss’s marketing acumen and penchant for corporate partnerships. Every detail on these cheerleaders got a sponsor, from their Lucchese boots to their visit to Planet Tan.

Swimsuit calendars have become a permanent fixture on the display tables at Barnes & Noble, next to Sports Illustrated pinups and Far Side desk calendars. Their reach was further expanded when ESPN decided to tape those specials from the swimsuit-making calendar, hoping to fill programming on the growing cable network. It was one long hour of behind-the-scenes moments: cheerleaders applying make-up, cheerleaders posing next to rocks as waves crash against them, all accompanied by tropical club music. A few years later, the Cowboys produced their own swimsuit special, which they sold on DVD.

But in 2006, exposure for cheerleaders reached a new level: they got their own reality show. The creation of the team was the brainchild of writer and producer Eugene Pack, whose many credits include the Miss USA pageant. This was a high tide for reality TV, a genre that exploded at the turn of the century with Survivor, Dancing with the Stars and American Idol, shows that allowed viewers to judge from the comfort of their couches. Like those hits, Making the Team followed an audition process each year, as the judges—led by the ever-poised Finglass—were away hundreds of hopefuls. The series had built-in dramatic tension: only 36 women would (metaphorically) survive. Exciting competition, tearful eliminations and plots drawn from real life (injuries, heartbreaks, personal tragedies) became part of the narrative.

Unlike shows like The Real Housewives, Team Up didn’t deal with cat fights and was serious in a way that drew you into the hopes and dreams of these women. Regardless of whether the producers were scheming behind the scenes to increase ratings (several crew members told me they weren’t), the women who made the film seemed to be chosen because they were the best candidates, not because they would stir up drama. Although the early seasons featured a certain mean-girl swagger and casual body-shaming endemic to the era, the show began to move away from that. Perhaps the most surprising thing about making the team—with all the cleavage, hips, and hair-tossing—was how cute it could be.

“I watched it when I was high in college with my friend Suzy,” New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino, who grew up in Houston, told me. “It was the kind of thing that we thought maybe we were looking at in a sarcastic, we’re-going-to-laugh-at-these-people kind of way, and then we said, ‘I would die for these women.’ “

Hidden away on a cable channel called CMT (Country Music Television), it was largely ignored by the media even after it caught on with a die-hard female fan base, many of whom may never set foot in a football stadium. If the honeymoon shots reduced the cheerleaders to sex objects in the cutout, the reality show expanded them into true talents. Dance became a central theme, from the opening cattle call, when groups performed a number in front of a panel of judges, to long studio exercises, as beginners struggled to perfect their high kicks and jumps. The most entertaining segments were the solo performances, when the women discovered finesse for pirouettes and grand jetées that seemed to surprise even them. The early seasons had an American Idol-esque tendency to mock less talented performers, and the threat of reality show cameras may have reduced the number of auditions, causing fewer hopefuls to try, but the women who did appear were top notch. The making of the team became one of the longest-running and most popular reality series in CMT history and turned women who had long been anonymous into characters whose journey viewers could follow throughout the seasons.

But there was another reality show along with the show, but this one didn’t get an appointment. In 2014, two Oakland Raiders cheerleaders filed a class action lawsuit against their team, alleging wage violations. The suit ended in a $1.25 million settlement for the cheerleaders and set off a wave of litigation across the NFL. For decades, low wages have been the standard in the industry, and some have even argued that this is a good thing. “You get a better quality of girls who are not doing it for the money, but for the love of the dance,” Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders choreographer Judy Trammell told E! News from 1996, when the salary was still $15 per game.

A new generation of young women, steeped in social media activism, discovered that this tradition was something completely different: against the law. Similar lawsuits followed with the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, while those alleging body shaming and discrimination hit the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints. A chill runs through the NFL.

So much of what allowed Cowboys cheerleaders to become a global phenomenon—the armchair voyeurism, the one-time payments, the strict weight requirements that ensure a supposedly ideal body, one that can be dissected by cameras—has begun to clash with the #MeToo era, as the treatment of women occupied a central place. Troops began wearing more modest costumes, adding men, swapping hip moves for the kinds of back-and-forths seen on Netflix’s Cheer, moves that were less “all-American, sexy girls” and more Cirque du Soleil.

In 2018, the Cowboys were also hit with a lawsuit. Erica Wilkins was a star on the team that appeared on the cover of Cowboys Star magazine’s swimsuit issue in 2016. It was her highest-grossing year and, according to her complaint, she earned a total of about $16,500, including game day and appearance fees. The most damning detail found in the complaint is that Rowdy, the team’s mascot, was making about $65,000 a year during that same period.

Although Wilkins filed the lawsuit as a class action, no other cheerleaders joined her. High-profile veterans, including Real Housewives of Dallas star Brandi Redmond, instead circled the wagons on social media. “I would do it all over again for free,” she wrote, a sentiment common among cheerleaders but not really relevant to the legality of the contract. According to Wilkins’ lawsuit, the Cowboys classified their cheerleaders as employees but did not earn minimum wage. They were paid $200 for game day and $8 an hour for rehearsals. Seventies girls might have died for that kind of scratch. But even with the pay raise, Wilkins said, her pay often fell well below minimum wage after she worked all the hours. She settled her lawsuit out of court, and although no cheerleaders ever joined her, it still benefited them. Game day pay has reportedly doubled to $400.

Meanwhile, most of the media, which once treated cheerleading as the ultimate fantasy, began to treat it more like a nightmare. “Ponzi scheme in hot pants,” read the article on Deadspin. “So, uh, why does the NFL have cheerleaders again?” asked the Ringer. What was once new and sexy now seemed outdated and sexist. And yet, every May, hundreds fought for that honor.

Last November, the cheerleaders performed a sixtieth-anniversary halftime show at AT&T Stadium, known as Jerry World (replaced by Texas Stadium in 2009), where the Miller Lite and Pepsi logos were displayed just below the American flag. The number sixty was actually a bit of a surprise. For a long time, cheerleaders associated their beginnings with 1972, when the uniform debuted. But now they were taking it back to the very beginning, 1961, the year Dee Brock founded the team.

I bought a cheap, standing-room-only seat and fought for a better view as cheerleaders from every decade—the gray-haired ladies of the 1970s, followed by the long-haired ladies of the 1980s, and the long-haired women of the 1990s—took the field for a choreographed routine, one dance hit after another. And then they all took the field together for the finale, “We Are Family,” by Sister Sledge.

Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders have always been family. At least that’s what the people I interview tell me. And so the scandal that broke out in February was more than just an alleged transgression. Because the insult came from home.

PR expert Rich Dalrymple unexpectedly retired earlier that month. He was greeted with hosannas by the local sports press, who didn’t seem to notice that it was very strange for the organization to quietly disappear one of Jerry Jones’ top advisors without any announcement on their website. A few weeks later, seasoned investigative reporter Don Van Natta Jr. broke the story on ESPN. Dalrymple was accused of secretly filming while four cheerleaders were changing in their dressing room.

It was shocking, but not surprising. During the postgame show for a 2001 playoff game hosted by the Philadelphia Eagles, the sports announcer revealed that the visiting players, whose locker room was adjacent to that of the Eagles cheerleaders, had been caught peeking at women while they undressed and showered. A lawsuit followed, alleging that such behavior had been going on for nearly twenty years, that female spies were “common knowledge throughout almost the entire National Football League,” and that they were “considered one of the special ‘perks’ of the visiting Eagles team.” More recently, the Washington Football Team (now the Commanders) had its own voyeuristic scandal after a former executive was accused of forcing the staff to make an indecent video that spliced ​​together slips and other risque B-roll footage from their cheerleaders’ swimsuit shoot.

Cowboys officials have claimed that an investigation into the Dalrymple incident, which took place in 2015, found no wrongdoing. However, the team still paid that $2.4 million confidential settlement. At the time, my cheerleading podcast had just finished and I went to the Dallas Ticket sports station. One of the questions I pondered was how to protect against toxic voyeurism, when, as I explained on air, “hidden voyeurism is part of their brand.” I noticed that in 2013, fans were invited to pay $6,999 to travel to Mexico and watch a swimsuit calendar shoot in person. Among the listeners that day was Kelli Finglass, who later messaged me on Instagram, where we occasionally exchanged direct messages. Kelli praised my work on the podcast (although she declined to participate), but she wasn’t thrilled with me that afternoon.

“Your comment that DCCs are designed for modest voyeurism made me gasp,” she wrote. I felt a twinge of guilt for a moment, wondering if I had misunderstood the story. But I’ve often suspected that many cheerleaders don’t fully know their story, and that modern audiences haven’t fully grasped the extent to which we’ve all become voyeurs—watching the grand spectacle through the screens in our lives, the rooms that have become our bedrooms, that have become our laptops, which have become phones in our palms.

Cheerleaders started texting me, eager to talk but wary about it. The team inspires fierce loyalty (some might say trembles with fear) and it’s unusual to hear cheerleaders openly question the integrity of the organization or gripe about the current leadership, but few relaxed that day. “Don’t tarnish the star” was a mantra these women took to heart. They followed the rules, worked hard for next to nothing – and it turns out the people who tarnished the star were the ones in control all along. “Every decision I’ve made in my life, I’ve thought about that team,” Tami Barber, now 64 and staring at a cancer diagnosis, told me. She was one of the few who didn’t mind being quoted. Her heart will always be with the cheerleaders, she said, but with the Cowboys? “If I was in AT&T Stadium today, I’d throw up on a star.”

It’s been a long, dark offseason for the Cowboys. In March, news broke that Jones was sued by a 25-year-old woman claiming he was her father. (She later dropped the lawsuit.) Later that month, Making the Team was quietly canceled. The reason wasn’t given, but it was hard not to speculate that the scandals stopped CMT cold, or that the cheerleaders, trying to control the story, felt the reality cameras carried too much risk. The Cowboys continued as if there was nothing to see here. Later that month, there was a big NFL draft party outside the team’s practice facility in Frisco, with cheerleaders high-kicking and shaking their silver and blue pompoms.

Of course, the franchise has been anything but bulletproof. By summer, talking heads were debating when (if?) they would win the Super Bowl again, and Jones won a bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in his giant stadium. On the other hand, the future of cheerleaders was less clear.

Cheerleaders changed the world. And the world is changing. They flew out of that tunnel and changed the way we saw sex and beauty, commerce and culture. But as our perspectives change, so do our heroes. Women no longer want to be on the sidelines. Sexiness in the service of men’s sports seems painfully outdated to many. The erotic contagion that cheerleaders sent through the NFL is now going in the other direction, with many teams reinventing themselves as more college-oriented, more athletic, more family-oriented. Can All-American Hot Girls survive in a landscape that seems to be falling apart? The landscape they helped build? I wouldn’t bet against them.

Still, fifty years is a long time to stick to tradition. Several of the women who shaped this phenomenon have passed away. Texie Waterman died in 1996, Suzanne Mitchell in 2016. But the original architect is still there.

On a sunny afternoon in early June, the Cowboys team bus pulled up to the curb in Tyler. Eight current cheerleaders came out in summer dresses, followed by several former cheerleaders in jeans and sparkly Cowboys jerseys. They all made their way down the sidewalk and into the home whose entrance led to a comfortable room with books. Sitting in the armchair was Dee Brock, 92 years old, but with the same fine bone structure, long white hair pulled back in a ponytail. Brock was unable to attend the 60’s reunion, so the cheerleaders brought the celebration to her.

“Dee knew how to get people’s attention back in the day,” Finglass said after everyone had gathered inside. So her gift, she explained, should be just as attractive. She pulled out the Lifetime Achievement Award, a white leather football encrusted with rhinestones that caught the light as Brock turned the ball around in her hands, before happily tucking it under her left arm, as if about to run for a touchdown. Her central role had long been forgotten, so it seemed like a sign of institutional health to honor her, as if the present could shake hands with the past.

The young cheerleaders lingered by Brock’s side all afternoon like long-lost grandchildren, leaning their heads against the chair she sat in, soaking up her wisdom, holding her hand, almost as if they never wanted to let go. The team started as just an experiment – but what an experiment it was.

This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Texas Monthly under the headline “A Half Century of High Kicks and Hot Pants.” Subscribe today.

What happened to Courtney Season 8 DCC?

He says that we may remember that she had to leave boot camp in Season 8 due to an unexpected medical reason. She had a big setback, but she recovered. See the article : Banner day at states for Colgan, Brentsville cheerleaders. She returned home to Utah after retiring from cheerleading and will graduate from the University of Utah this year.

Which DCC cheerleader passed away? Suzanne Mitchell, 73, died; Made Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders a Global Brand – The New York Times.

Why did Holly get fired from DCC? Holly quit after being confronted about her relationship with the player. They told her that she was not going to Canton and that she was on probation.

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Why was Hannah cut from DCC?

At the end of training camp, Hannah Anderson, who was DCC for two seasons, wrote on Instagram that she was kicked from the team and stated that the reality TV show prioritized the safety of women. See the article : College teammates Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield reunite and other notes before Cardinals play Panthers.

How many years has Brennan tried DCC? I tried it for a total of four years. I was in boot camp for three of those years. It is a laborious process. My second year in training camp, I was cut near the end and I didn’t know I was going to come back, because it was devastating.

Does jinelle Esther work for DCC? He makes his last appearance as a DCC in the NFL draft. Although retired, she returns as an employee.

Has CMT kicked out DCC? According to the team, the cheerleaders will be featured on the new platform. FRISCO, Texas â The next time you see the latest journey of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, it will be on a new platform.

Did Holly get fired from DCC?

Holly quit after being confronted about her relationship with the player. They told her that she was not going to Canton and that she was on probation. To see also : Where are they now? TE Matt Schobel. She chose to leave. At first she denied everything until they showed her the evidence.

In what season did Holly quit DCC? Season 12 At the very beginning of the episode, Kelli reveals that Holly has resigned.

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