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The song girls don't sing anymore, except occasionally in the shower, on their own time. An attempt was made a few years ago to change the name to the "dance team," but it just didn't sing, and it was ignored. People didn't want an all-girl glee club, after all; they wanted dancing. And so they got rhythm, they got music, they got their girls. And who could ask for anything more?
And yet there was one thing more, one very important thing that probably had more to do with making UCLA's song girls the sideline sirens they have become than all the pompons in Christendom. From 1948 through 1975 the Bruin basketball teams of John Wooden won 667 games, lost only 161 and won 10 national championships. When Jody Hammond was a song girl (1970-72), UCLA didn't lose a single home game. Hammond, now a reporter for KNX all-news radio in Los Angeles, says that those days were also a special time for the song girls. "Whenever we went to away games," says Hammond, "we always got a terrific response from the home crowd, probably because we were a little more Hollywood than most cheerleaders. People would come up and ask for our autographs, and we just weren't used to that at home. Maybe it was the California Girl mystique, the allure of the girl who is athletic, energetic and always has a big smile on her face."
In 1971, while Hammond was still on the squad, Lyle Timmerman, now special assistant to the vice-chancellor, became the group's new adviser. Tim-merman's first few years in charge of the song girls were stormy ones. "Rah-rah wasn't one of the high campus priorities at the time," he says. "In 1972 I was running the tryouts for the dance team in one room of the student union building and between girls I had to run into another room to deal with the leaders of the strike committee that had the whole damn campus shut down." The early '70s were years of increasing militance on college campuses, and as Timmerman learned only too soon, even the glamorous UCLA song girls weren't immune to that.
In the 1971-72 and '72-73 school years the song girl squad consisted of six white girls and one Oriental, some say the Oriental girl being a concession to pressure from Oriental students. "We went through a period when all the girls were about five feet tall because they wanted a squad that was balanced in size," recalls Miller ruefully. "Once you mixed the Oriental girls in there—they were so short—it brought the size of the whole group down."
Attempts at tokenism did nothing to appease the increasing anger of black students, who knew that there had not been a black song girl for years. At the 1972 tryouts five black girls who had auditioned unsuccessfully for the squad formed their own group, demanded and got their own uniforms and performed at games the following year. The regular song girl team was integrated a year later when Charlina Chandler tried out and was selected, but the events of the previous year had created such hard feelings on both sides that for three years thereafter the number of girls trying out dropped sharply.
Meanwhile, there were troubles on another front: competition for America's affections from the USC song girls across town. "The rivalry with UCLA was always very much in the air," says Dolly Zachary, a USC song girl in 1975-76 and now a Los Angeles Laker cheerleader. "They had better dancers, but we always had the best-looking girls."
Timmerman has suggested that USC plagiarized some of UCLA's dance numbers, but Zachary denies it. "They stole routines from us," she says indignantly. "We didn't even like their routines. Hey, their first white sweater was in 1975, and USC had been wearing white sweaters for ages. There was a little friction when they copied that from us."
It isn't surprising that so many former song girls have gone on to successful professional careers. In addition to Hammond, who just won a Golden Mike for her work at KNX radio, Joanne Ishimine ('70-72) is making airwaves in L.A. as a news reporter for KABC-TV. Esther Friedman-Sinclair earned a Ph.D. in psychology and is teaching at UCLA medical school. Amy Grossman (1973-75) is a theatrical agent in Hollywood. Jane Dale, who was discovered by her agent when she was a song girl, has a part in an upcoming Muppet movie and was a dancer on NBC's The Big Show before it was canceled. And who will ever forget the euphoniously monikered Delight Slotemaker de Bruine, who recently appeared in an L.A. production of Annie Get Your Gun? Some of their careers undoubtedly were launched by their having been song girls, others helped by it not at all, but it's something that they are all remembered for. "It's really hard getting away from the song girl image," says Hammond. "Somehow being a UCLA song girl and a news reporter don't really go together. It's something I'm very proud of, but there is a certain stigma attached to it. People who know about it expect you to be real rah-rah and very ail-American, whatever that means."
Hammond and Ishimine were on the same squad in 1971, the year the song girls rocked the NCAA final four by being ejected from the Brigham Young University student store for wearing hotpants that were deemed too risqué for Mormon eyes. But hotpants were just the beginning. Soon they were wearing leotards and long skirts during their half-time dance routines, and finally—perhaps inevitably—came last year's spectacularly décolleté uniforms. "You really can't dance with a heavy sweater on," says Hayek. "Leotards reveal anybody's body, and one thing we're known for is our bodies."
The song girls' return to prominence might never have happened had it not been for a Dec. 24, 1979 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED article entitled "The Bruins Are In Ruins," in which the author wrote, "Now UCLA is just a team, Pauley Pavilion is just a building and the song girls are just cheerleaders." Well, when that came out several of the girls actually said, "We'll show him." referring to the smart aleck who had written the article, and that week they went out and bought the low-cut yellow tops and blue satin shorts that brought them fame and a fortune in men's eyes.