Then it was game day. Sunday. Ten a.m. I showed my Nugget parking pass to the stadium guard and was told I could park anywhere but where the helicopter was going to land. Dick Berg was not just whistling "Oh, say can you see" when he told Rawls they would work something cut. He had hired a helicopter, bargained with the A's and devised a James Bond plan that would have Rawls sing in Candlestick at 1 p.m., fly across the Bay to Oakland to open the World Series at 1:25 and then fly back in time to emcee the 49ers' halftime show.
To emphasize the circus theme of the show, animals had been borrowed from Marine World- Africa U.S.A., among them two llamas, a bear, an elephant, a chimp, the water buffalo and a tiger. We would be joined by 25 high school kids dressed in their school mascot outfits and 400 pompon girls from California and Nevada who would compete for trophies.
The animals arrived earlier than most of the Nuggets, and all 400 pompon girls were already going through the routines they had learned when their schools paid $62 for each of them to go to Mike and Bob Olmstead's pompon camps. As I rounded the corner of the end zone, I was bashed in the face with a plastic pompon by a bouncing song leader who never knew what hit me.
By noon the field was packed with bands, a team of national cheerleader instructors, clowns, baton twirlers, rodeo people, microphones and pompon girls. Phil, our accompanist, had yet to arrive, because he was in Oakland playing the organ for his church.
The Nuggets took pictures of each other and tried out the clowns' trick bikes. Dick Berg paced the field with a walkie-talkie in hand. Someone said the tiger was too nervous to be let out of his cage onto the field and might be a late scratch.
We rehearsed our songs into the microphones—among them Talk to the Animals—without the benefit of Phil's piano, and we sounded very bad.
"This always happens," one of the girls lamented. "Then when the real show goes on and we sing well, no one can hear us. They think we're a bunch of no-talents and it's so embarrassing."
Walking to the motorized cable car that the Nuggets use as a combination makeup room and lounge during the game, I found myself beaming at the crowd gathering in the stands. The University of the Pacific band was playing When You're Smiling, the sun had come out and for once my boots didn't hurt. "I'll be a cynic again tomorrow," I thought. "Right now I wish I could do some Rockette kicks."
Ten minutes before kickoff, we were combing our hair, re-applying makeup and inspecting runs in our panty hose. A woman in red from head to toe spied me in the rest room and said, "Boy, we better do it today, huh?" I agreed.
We lined up in front of the goalposts and sang You're a Grand Old Flag at least six times (two or three of them in synchronization) while rodeo riders carrying American flags thundered around the stadium. Lou Rawls sang The Star-Spangled Banner and disappeared.