America's Sweethearts: "If Our Friends Could See Us Now"


Sideline Supreme

The animation above derives from the ratings-topper movie Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, which was filmed during the era when the phenomenon known as America's Sweethearts began. Contrary to public opinion, the Dallas Cowboys have always had cheerleaders since their inception into the NFL in 1960. The early squads consisted of high school girls and boys, yeah boys, from the Dallas area. They were known as the CowBelles and Beaux, and were directed by Dee Brock, but their appeal, if any, was merely local.

In 1972, a year after the Cowboys moved into Texas Stadium, then General Manager Tex Schramm, one of the greatest innovators in NFL history, decided that the reigning world champions (Super Bowl VI) needed to add something that would distinguish them even further from the rest of the league. He thought that professional models who were taught to dance would add a spark to the Texas Stadium sidelines. However, this idea fizzled as the models did not possess the athleticism necessary for difficult dance routines in the Texas heat.

Undaunted, Schramm hired famous choreographer Texie Waterman to help select a group of beautiful young women with dancing skills and physical stamina. Thus, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were born.


Now that the idea was a reality, someone had to lead the first professional cheerleaders in world history. That someone turned out to be Suzanne Mitchell who was Schramm's secretary at the time. The first few years, Mitchell was able to juggle her secretarial duties with the not-so-demanding task of coordinating the relatively unknown group. But all of that changed in 1976.

As legend has it, it was during Super Bowl X when the camera drifted to the sidelines and paused on a lovely young woman clad in white and blue stars. With a smile and a wink, she caused an entire nation to fall in love with this unique troupe who represented the feminine side of American football. The requests for appearances started pouring in to the suprise of the Dallas Cowboys Football Club. The demand was so great that Schramm hired a new secretary because Mitchell's duties had become full-time. She was now Director and Vice-President of the most famous cheerleaders in the world.

Mitchell was a perfect fit, enforcing rules and etiquette that still persist to this day. DCC are not allowed to smoke, drink alcohol or chew gum while in uniform. All public appearances must be in groups of at least two and chaperoned by at least one club official. Dating players or anyone else in the organization is strictly prohibited, the penalty being permanent dismissal from the squad. If a cheerleader misses a practice, she will not perform in the next home game. If she misses multiple practices, she will be removed from the squad. These rules may seem harsh, but they are the reason the DCC are regarded so highly all over the world.

Mitchell's legacy was carried forward by her successors, Debbie Bond, Leslie Haynes and, currently, the highly-innovative Kelli Finglass, creator, narrator and overseer of the popular DCC annual swimsuit calendar and everything else America's Sweethearts are involved in. Finglass was a DCC for five years before serving as Assistant Director in preparation for her present role.


Of course, none of this would be possible without a drop-dead gorgeous uniform for the public to identify with. A little known fact is that the DCC uniform was designed by a woman named Paula Van Waggoner. Almost as unknown is that Leveta Crager was the first person to hand-craft the famous white shorts, white vest, blue blouse and blue stars of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. She did so for 24 years, before turning the labor of love over to Greg Danison who has hand-crafted every uniform worn by the world-famous women since 1995.

Choreography is a component that many people probably take for granted. The aforementioned Texie Waterman was not only a judge of talent for the first DCC squad, she was also the original choreographer, conducting practices in her own dance studio. Waterman is noted for bringing Broadway-style dancing to the 50-yard line. That recognizable kickline wouldn't exist if not for Texie's genius. Waterman died of cancer in 1996, but her legacy lives on.

Those who have helped keep the legacy alive include Waterman's successor, Shannon Werthmann, and current Choreographer Judy Trammell who is renowned for her tough-as-nails approach to keeping the DCC fit and in step.  Trammell does a great job of keeping the DCC up-to-date and enviable.  The DCC perform everything from Broadway style shows to Hip Hop medleys. Of course they are appreciated for their trademark country/western routines, but they're even more revered for those high-kick, jump split finales that numerous other NFL squads have adapted.  Trammell's legacy will be one of variety and attention to detail.

It takes former DCCs such as Finglass and Trammell to continue the hard-earned reputation of sexy girls-next-door.  While other NFL squads have resorted to nudity and other tasteless endeavors for attention, the Dallas dolls have maintained their family appeal.  Everyone from toddlers to senior citizens can identify with the Cowboys Cheerleaders as they are truly ambassadors of goodwill.  They have entertained the troops overseas more than any other entity (73 times and counting), which garnered them the Spirit of Hope Award.  And their brand name has remained strong  through the decades.  They now have sponsors including Planet Tan, Jay Johnson's Boot Camp Fitness, Adventure Tours USA and Lucchese Boots .  And several other companies have jumped at the chance to be associated with the DCC.

All of these accomplishments mirror the charismatic, world-renowned team that they represent - the Dallas Cowboys.  Just like America's Team, which has made a record eight Super Bowl appearances and won an impressive five, the DCC remain trendsetters.  Their annual swimsuit calendar has gone from photo shoots at local mansions to huge productions in tropical settings, such as Punta Cana, Cancun, Costa Rica and St. Kitts.  ESPN aired the DCC calendar exclusively for 15 years.  The special now  airs on The NFL Network.  And the Country Music Television (CMT) network features the DCC in an annual reality TV series, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders:  Making The Team.  The show depicts the rigorous training camp of the world-famous group, complete with boot camp, etiquette lessons, interviewing skills and, of course, rehearsals. The next season will begin airing on September 6, 2013, so check your local listings.

A lot of things have changed in the sports world since the DCC came on the scene, but one thing remains a constant:  The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are still the most recognizable group of women in sports.  There is great pride in wearing the Blue Stars and Crystals of America's Sweethearts.  As every DCC is apt to utter:  "If My Friends Could See Me Now."







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