Lawrence Herkimer has started teaching soul cheers to America's daughters in his clinics across the country. Soon, one assumes, 15-year-olds from Boise to Bloomington to Bangor are going to be walking home in the evenings and startling their parents with:
We got soul
Now you get some.
In California, things come fast and go fast—even soul. On the California coast the best days of soul are gone, giving away to a strange combination of earnest social protest and high-camp hip. For a time the University of California at Berkeley had a head yell leader who won his office on an antiwar platform. More than 3,000 ballots were cast in the election, and Vietnik Jeff Sokol won by 1,100 votes over his nearest opponent. He was booed into quick retirement after two basketball games by Berkeley crowds that were understandably confused and annoyed by yells such as "End the War, End the War" and "Ban the Bomb."
The present yell leader, Robert Ellsburg, seized power in a reaction to Sokol. A 6'3", crew-cut varsity oarsman, he was revolted by what "that long-hair" (Sokol) was doing to the yell-leading image, so he and some fraternity brothers and oarsmen staged a coup d'esprit. "We told Sokol we were taking over," he says. "I have a hunch he was happy to take a hike."
The new group bases its cheers on a more universally accepted theme than peace, sex. "You've got to give them something risqué," Ellsburg says. He hired a topless dancer for a pregame rally. She wore a Cal sweater and was supposed to have a bikini beneath. When she whipped off the sweater—no bikini. The crowd was delighted, Ellsburg was astonished and authorities were aghast. But, since topless dancers are dished up for breakfast with your eggs and bacon in San Francisco, this hardly amounted to a cause célèbre. Ellsburg's cheers, however, would stir maiden ladies in Des Moines—or even Nob Hill. His "Give me an S, Give me an E," etc., gets the mind off the game if Cal is losing. Another cheer, "Root, Root, Root," has less to do with school spirit than one might think, and though Ellsburg's spoof of USC's Trojans draws howls of laughter in a stadium filled with people, it would only draw howls in a family magazine. Perhaps to mollify some of the older Berkeley alumni, Ellsburg has another kind of cheer, one his grandmother would think cute: What was Calvin Coolidge's first name? C-A-L!
Four hundred miles south of Berkeley is UCLA, the last stop, the today stop or even the tomorrow stop on any tour of cheerleading capitals. At UCLA cheerleading is viewed as a mass medium, an important means of communication on a sprawling commuter campus. It is a stage for testing both people and ideas.
Less than a year after the Watts riots, a flamboyant, quick-witted black, Eddie Anderson, sought and won the office of head yell leader, knowing he could use the medium for his message on race relations. "It is easily the most influential position on campus," he explains. "It is even more influential than student body president, because you can reach so many more people. This, at the time I ran for head yell leader, was a chance to shoot my best shot."
Anderson grew up in Cambridge, Mass., attended The Loomis School in Connecticut, entered UCLA at 16 and now, six years later, is a dynamic, personable and popular figure on campus. He is studying for a philosophy degree, is active in student affairs and politics and was a member of California's delegation to the Democratic convention.
Anderson's deepest concern is equality for black people, which he believes should be achieved, in the words of Stokely Carmichael, "by any means necessary," even if it meant, as it did for Anderson, running for head yell leader at UCLA. Anderson's cheerleading approach was satire.
"Our team was composed of five chocolate chips and one vanilla snap," Anderson says, "and everybody remembered us that way. You know, sorta token integration." He introduced soul yells and soul dancing to the accompaniment of a drummer who hammered out a rock 'n' roll beat. He did parodies on erstwhile pop and soul songs. In protest of the Vietnam war he sang Bomb Around the Clock, a takeoff on the Bill Haley hit. When the Bruin team played Penn State, Anderson and his squad changed it to State Penn and came to the game attired as convicts.