SI Vault
December 14, 1998
Locked-out CheerleadersPom-Pon Circumstance
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December 14, 1998


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*Davis versus bottom 10 defenses: 140.5 yds/game
†Davis versus top 10 defenses: 102.3 yds/game

Locked-out Cheerleaders
Pom-Pon Circumstance

We're losing about $200 a month," says Portland Blazerdancer Sara Post, "and we all miss the thrill of performing for NBA crowds." Post and her fellow pro cheerleaders may pine for their old jobs—they earn from $50 to $80 per game—but the lockout hasn't sidelined them entirely. Dance units around the league have been performing at conventions, fund-raisers and even private parties. The Blazer-dancers cheered up fans at a recent University of Portland game. The Phoenix Suns Dance Team has stayed sharp by rehearsing four times a week and performing at street fairs, nursing homes "and every charity event you can imagine," says their director, Kimberly Lewis. Power n' Motion, the New Jersey Nets' ensemble, will entertain sailors at the Earle Naval Weapons Station in Leonardo, N.J., next week.

Members of the Sacramento Kings' FastBreak Dance Team, one of the few troupes being paid during the lockout, were delighted to get a gig at a recent high school alumni game. "The girls were so desperate to perform they treated it like a Kings game," says Wendy Fresques, Sacramento's manager of game operations. As amped as those creaky alums were that night, though, their lockout story can't match that of Adam Grant's.

Adam, 13, had a few surprise guests at his bar mitzvah last month: the Laker Girls. The cheerleaders' visit to the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles was a secret until two of them carried the 95-pounder to the dance floor on their shoulders. "I sort of tumbled a little, but I held on," says Adam. The Girls, he says, "had on their little bras and their suits. They danced with me, and everybody watched."

"People's mouths dropped open," says Randi Grant, Adam's mom, who considered the cheerleaders' $350 fee a bargain. The Laker Girls were swarmed by autograph-seekers after their hour-long performance, and on the following Monday, Adam was surely the most popular kid at Horace Mann Junior High. "Everyone kept saying, 'Great party'," he says.

Money and Murder
The Royal Family Jewels

The 1998 Asian Games, which opened last Saturday in Bangkok, were plagued from the start Mosquitoes swarmed through open windows to attack gymnasts and weightlifters. Ants invaded athletes' dorm rooms. Dead insects by the thousands kept turning up in the swimming pool.

The games' real controversy, however, concerned 105 guests who didn't show. Last month Saudi Arabia, which had planned to send 66 athletes and 39 officials to participate in seven events, withdrew from the competition. The Saudis cited their nation's centennial celebration and the onset of Ramadan, but the full story also featured stolen jewelry, political corruption and murder.

In 1989 Kriangkrai Techamong, a Thai working in the palace of a Saudi prince, stole several sacks of jewelry, including priceless Saudi royal family heirlooms, and shipped them to Thailand. After the thief's arrest in 1990, Thai police returned the loot to its owners with great fanfare, but the Saudis soon discovered that most of the returned jewels were fakes. Later—amid rumors that corrupt Thai politicians and police were involved in the scam—the wife and son of a Thai jeweler who supposedly knew the gems' fate were kidnapped and murdered. Bangkok newspapers ran photos of the wives of high-ranking Thai officials wearing what appeared to be the stolen baubles.

The friction between Saudi Arabia and Thailand runs deeper than the dispute over stolen jewelry. In 1990 three Saudi diplomats were gunned down in Bangkok, possibly in connection with kickback schemes involving the export of Thai labor to Saudi Arabia. Incensed, the Saudis recalled their ambassador and sent a special envoy, Mohammed Khoja, to investigate the jewel heist and the murders. Khoja left the Thai capital last summer with no answers. His replacement, Waheeb al-Sehli, told guests at a recent embassy function, "Thailand might have forgotten about the slaying of the diplomats and the jewelry fiasco. The Saudi people, on the other hand, will never forget."

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