Last winter Cooper and another TV major, Lloyd Schwartz, decided to test themselves—were they savvy and sharp enough to make it in the entertainment industry? "We wanted to see if we could work together," Lloyd says. "We were completely withdrawn from the power structure of the school. Geoff was unknown on campus. We decided to run him for head yell leader."
Cooper and Schwartz settled on the theme of the old engineer—the locomotive was so out it had to be in. Last May, in custom-made blue-and-gold coveralls, Cooper opened his campaign on Election Walk. "The first day I tried to give away handbills, but no one would take them," he says. "The next day Lloyd and I began chanting, 'Pornography, sex.' That helped." Cooper became a campus phenomenon. At noon students would gather to listen to an hour-long show of wit and patter from the Old Engineer. At other times he would sit in a red rocker, his Borden belly, as he calls it, protruding like Santa Claus'. "Come up in my lap and tell me your problems," he would say to coeds.
To the consternation of such authoritarian souls as Football Coach Tommy Prothro, he was elected. However, after he came to know Cooper, Prothro began to feel better. "You don't fit my stereotyped image of a hippie," he once said to Cooper. They are friends now, though one of the most popular skits in the yell leader's repertoire is a devastating satire of Prothro's TV show.
"I have to use innocence to combat my hippie image," Cooper says. "Because of my long hair I am supercareful about the things we do. My only political cheer is the one that I call my nonviolent yell:
Lean to the left
Lean to the right
We use wholesome humor. I tell them not to gulp their milk and not to boo. Engineer Geoff's express is steel wheels rolling along on steel tracks, clickety clack, clickety clack, down that track to victory."
Before the crowd, Cooper applies theories he is learning in an audience-analysis course. His theatrical approach to cheerleading has led to the custom of guest appearances at halftime. At the season's first game a UCLA alumnus (class of 1937) sang a fight song he had written. It was to have been a love song when he began the composition several years ago, but it developed into something called Fight, Fight Bruin Baby. At the Penn State game Pat Paulsen appeared at halftime, running for President, and he got his laughs with a script written by Schwartz. Once Quarterback Bill Bolden's mother was to have led half-time cheers, but did not when her son was injured early in the game.
At UCLA school spirit is not a valid concept outside of the Coliseum or Pauley Pavilion, where Lew Alcindor plays. If it is not convenient to get involved in pep rallies, the students stay away. UCLA has been called Berkeley with mothers—a student doesn't grow a beard because he lives at home and his mother tells him, "You're not going to school looking like that!" Motorcycles and cars fill concrete acres and triple-deck garages. "The university has become awfully irrelevant," says Mike Levett of the Daily Bruin. "Kids are concerned with being, as I put it, communitarian. They are concerned with getting the university into the ghettos. To thrust it there. It is irrelevant to ask what are the issues on campus. There are only community issues."
Fraternities, which are the spirit organizations elsewhere, are breaking down in California. (At Berkeley only 519 of 4,303 new students pledged the school's 58 houses this year.) The song girls at UCLA do not wear sorority pins because they feel teaching assistants will hold membership against them and their marks may be affected. Though they are widely imitated at other schools, UCLA's seven song girls are by no means celebrities on their own campus.
"We are recognized on a national scale more than locally," says Head Song Girl Sue Conwell. After out-of-town appearances they receive fan letters addressed to "the tall brown-haired song girl on the end of the line," or "the blonde with the pony tail."