The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader documentary movie you have heard so much about (from me!) comes to Dallas’ USA Film Festival this SUNDAY, April 29, 7:30 pm at the Angelika Theatre. Be there!
A long time ago, I wrote a book on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. It was called A Decade of Dreams: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, written with the approval of the Dallas Cowboys, and published by Taylor Publishing. The book is now out of print, Taylor is out of business, and I could probably finance a small home with my copies: I’m told they are a whopping $100 to $500 apiece now on Amazon. When I wrote the book, I was a new mother to my first child, and fairly new to Dallas. The world of performance, augmented breasts, and glamour was a little foreign. My last stop before Dallas was Columbia University, where the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) took over the administration building, Hamilton Hall, in 1968.
But I was a journalist, and fascinated by these women, all of whom were exquisite with perfect bodies. I spent hours just outside of Tex Schramm’s office in the Cowboy Building on Central Expressway, seated in Suzanne Mitchell’s office, learning about the cheerleaders. As I left the building, I’d occasionally see someone like Tom Landry or Gil Brandt. I even interviewed Mr. Schramm, the brilliant marketing mind he was — as the New York Times put it:
In 1972, he introduced the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to pro football. They formed a touring troupe that took them around the world.
I attended one week-long Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader try-out, wandering from the seat next to Suzanne to the frenzied bathroom where everyone was spraying hair and applying makeup. I attended countless rehearsals. I interviewed Texie Waterman and her mother. I flew to Houston to interview a former DCC turned professional, to LA to interview Tammie Barber who was creating an acting career post DCC. About the only thing I didn’t do was fly with the entertaining troupe to Turkey. The book turned out to be just what Suzanne wanted; if it hadn’t, she would have fired me and hired another writer — I was number three. She wanted a book focusing on the wholesome nature of cheerleading Dallas-style, the dedication and the rewards, a book that would inspire young girls for years to come to try out for the most respected squad in the world and perpetuate it.
There was no dirt.
Last year, as my run for Dallas City Council was winding down (I lost), I got an email from a filmmaker named Dana Adams Shapiro. He was making a movie about the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, had read my book, and wanted to interview me. Had he talked to Suzanne Mitchell, I asked? He had, he said: he had her last interview before she died in Fredericksburg, Texas.
That’s how I knew he was real: few people knew that was where Suzanne had retired as colon cancer progressed through her body.
I agreed to the interview, and we did it at the Stoneleigh Residences — thank you, Mehrdad Moayedi — in the beautiful bar lounge. I did not google Dana before the interview; I got my hair done.
When I arrived, I was concerned: the entire lounge was filled with equipment and lighting — this was not amateur night. These were those expensive lights that make you look softer, younger, and there was audio and more cameras. I sat down and just chatted about the book, what I could recall 34 years later, and about the women’s movement, the irony of me being plunged into the Cheerleading world after Morningside Heights.
If I have five seconds in that movie, I thought as I left, that will be a miracle.
By the way, do you know there are at least two fantastic Realtors in Dallas who are former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders? One is Courtney Jubinsky with Dave Perry-Miller, who is a mother of three, brilliant, and can still do hand-stands and cartwheels: she did them on a trip with me to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Geni Manning is another, out of the Frisco Keller Williams office: beautiful, super accomplished woman.
So when Dana and his producer, Carra Greenberg, called and told me I had a few appearances in the movie — I made the cut! — I had to see it when it debuted at South by Southwest in Austin.
See it I did, and it was fantastic. It was moving, and relevant, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
I hope you will see it in Dallas this coming Sunday, April 29, 7:00 pm, at the Angelika Theatre
The film explores the decade in which cheerleaders were part of the DCC and how the team fits into the culture of the sexual revolution.
It’s the DIRT! The inside story that no one knows, the story I couldn’t write (because I was writing for the Cowboys) or perhaps was too early to write. The movie revolves around how an iconic image was created by one super strong cookie who was very unknown to people outside of Cheerleader Circles, a woman who ruled with an iron fist but who loved her girls dearly, dearly. And they loved her.
Her story is fabulous, a little sad.… and a secret (that I long suspected) is revealed.
And Dana zeroed in on topics that are incredibly relevant to today’s discussion of #metoo.
This is the untold story of the original women who created the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and their director, in a time when women had just been handed their sexual freedom: The Pill. But did that make us truly free or even more victimized? I always thought that the messages we were given during the “heat of the movement” were conflicting, like a double edged sword.
I admit I came in to the book with an attitude, but I lost it real fast when I did my work, my research, my digging. I saw these were real people from backgrounds perhaps not as intellectually gilded as mine. Who was I to put them down for trying to make their mark on the world in the way they knew how? When the entertainment troupe appeared at Fresno State University, the “feminists” there shouted “Hearts and Minds not Bumps and Grinds: DCC go home”
But the biggest component missing from the Women’s Movement, I felt, WAS heart. That prettiness and girlie things like, yes, cheerleading, had no place. I used to say at Gloria Steinem rallies (I like Gloria because she at least did her hair) feminism doesn’t mean we want to be like men, we want to be what we are, feminine!
Just give us equal power.
April 29, 7:00 pm at the Angelika Theatre, 5321 East Mockingbird at Central. For the 2018 USA Film Festival schedule, look here.