Just in case you missed it, what with Christmas and New Year's and President Jerry on skis, something happened the other day that will shake up the American way of life forever. Not incidentally, it could cause Dressy Bessy to play out her option, Baby Yawny to declare herself a free agent and the remarkable Rub-A-Dub-Dolly to retire and start a new career in color announcing.
Yes, even before our favorite plastic girls were brightening up the Yuletide, their counterparts in the wonderful world of real women were doing some things in the nearly empty Houston Astrodome that may change the face of athletics for years to come. Male egos may never be the same.
What happened was that Superstars returned, this time with more television gimmickry than ever before, more confusion, characters, unbelievable performances, astounding failures and one broken yellow rowboat. Oh, yes, this time also with women. Women alone, or almost alone, since only 4,500 fans showed up to watch the live performance of this child of video tape, which will be telecast on Jan. 19.
There was Debbie Lawler, the motorcyclist, the female Evel Knievel, the Flying Angel, who wears her terrific flaming orange bra for luck. She broke her back a few months ago, but returned to vroom another day. Fine athlete, right? Well, she got zero points during the competition in which each participant chose seven events from a list of swimming, basketball, rowing, tennis, bowling, bicycling, Softball throwing and three different foot races. Maybe her wondrous three-carat diamond ring got in the way, or perhaps she has been too busy pushing the Debbie Lawler toy motorcycle with "TTP—Turbine Tower of Power." The Flying Angel looked almost as bad in Superstars as Joe Frazier did last year. She didn't drown, but she wasn't exactly smokin' either. "I'm just here to lend glamour to the rear," said Lawler.
And there were swimmer Debbie Meyer, golfer Sandy Palmer and jockey Robyn Smith. Famous sportspersons all, truly legendary Superstars whom we know and love and would expect to clean up in something like this, right? Well, Meyer got sick from jet lag after flying all the way from Manila. Palmer allowed with marvelous accuracy that the only things she was good at were "drinkin' beer and passin' out." And Smith, ever a bust except when it came to hurling a Softball, kept saying, "Sonofabitch, this is a joke."
With the exception of Madame Super herself, Billie Jean King, most of the more famous women tumbled by the wayside. As in the men's competitions of the past two years, it was the unknowns from the less prestigious sports who dominated.
To qualify for the $69,000 finals to be held Jan. 27-29 in Rotunda, Fla., the 23 women were divided into two divisions of supposedly equal ability, with the first six finishers in each earning the trip to Florida. While heavily favored Micki King, the semi-famous diver, won Group 1, most of the excitement and surprises came in Group 2, where 30-year-old Mary Jo Peppier, a tall volleyball player of sultry visage, and Karen Logan, 25, a basketball phenom composed of equal parts freckles and fire, emerged from the pack to fight it out for the $10,000 first prize in their group.
Micki King admitted she had trained diligently, after the fashion of Bob Seagren, who has practically made Superstars his life's work. It paid off when she won four events—swimming, obstacle course, 60-yard sprint and the traditional 352-yard run—to score 58 points, each worth $100, and beat out speed-skater Diane Holum, who won three events, and softball pitcher Joan Joyce for the $10,000 prize in Group 1. That ran King's total winnings to $15,800.
The other group was more wide open. Though Billie Jean and sprinter Wyomia Tyus were the big names, it quickly became necessary to investigate who Peppier, Logan and football quarterback Barbara O'Brien really are.
It turned out that O'Brien, who "mainly splices cables and climbs poles" for the telephone company, is a signal caller for the Dallas Bluebonnets. Although the team paid her the lordly sum of $70 for the entire '73 season and even less this year, O'Brien's owner forced her to sign a contract granting him 50% of her earnings at Superstars. Those came to $2,500 as O'Brien finished fourth in Group 2 with 25 points.