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ONCE IT WAS ONLY SIS-BOOM-BAH!
Pat Ryan
January 06, 1969
But now vocal empathy is the kick as collegiate cheerleaders turn on everything from familiar neoclassic fight chants to libidinous exhortation, high-camp hip and unsanctified soul
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January 06, 1969

Once It Was Only Sis-boom-bah!

But now vocal empathy is the kick as collegiate cheerleaders turn on everything from familiar neoclassic fight chants to libidinous exhortation, high-camp hip and unsanctified soul

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On campus the song girls have been called Lawrence Welk's bubble machines. "You have to be uninhibited," says Karen Keyes. "It is not natural for you to smile that much when you get to college."

The girls practice in groups throughout the summer (three are from the Bay Area, four from Los Angeles) and put in 25 hours of intensive drill in the first two weeks back on campus. After that workouts are limited to two hours a week. Using nine basic routines, with such names as Squat, Squirrely, Happy Toes, Stretchy and Kicky, they improvise according to the beat of the music being played by the band.

Two. of the UCLA song girls, redhead Jeannie Wallace, a premed student, and Linda Kako, who is majoring in elementary education, are holders of AFTRA cards and appear each weekend on national television on the All-American College Show. For this they are paid $145 a week.

"These are the worst-looking song girls we have ever had," Mike Levett says, and one of the yell leaders calls them "kinda stuffed shirt. I suppose they feel they must maintain a certain level of dignity. There is the tradition of song girl at UCLA, and they must live up to it. They are regimented and don't want to change their routines."

Sue Conwell says of the criticism, "We don't want to change our image. Most students seem satisfied with what we are now. We get 10 letters a week from high schools, junior colleges and universities—Ball State, Purdue, Oregon, Stanford, San Diego State, Miami—asking us for information." The girls are probably right in their desire not to change and in their belief that their national status is assured. Radio City's Rockettes still look good to a lot of people after 36 years, and UCLA's song girls are more chorines than cheerleaders.

What is the future of cheerleading? One should reflect on the words of a coed from Kansas, Nancy Ensch, a sophomore who worked in Robert Kennedy's campaign. "I am putting all my spare time into what I consider more important and meaningful things," she says. "Any student has only so much time. She must make a choice of what she wants to do outside of the classroom. You can be a nothing. You can go into a sorority. You can make cheerleader or the pompon squad. You can work on the yearbook. Or you can try to do something that might be more meaningful. I am working for Student Voice here at Kansas, a group that is pushing for more autonomy in academic affairs. That's my thing."

Nancy Ensch's attitude, the search for the meaningful, is still in the minority on America's campuses. Sweetie and Linda and Zetta Mae have their thing, which is cheerleading, and in lots of places their thing is the thing. But what is happening in the Southwest, in California and particularly with Eddie Anderson and now Geoff Cooper at UCLA, seems to suggest some future trends in cheerleading and other aspects of U.S. campus life.

"How big is the Big Game?" Eddie Anderson asks. "How big is it when, during the other six days in the week, there is the Big Draft, the Big War and the Big Election? We need to have the kids identify with something more than just the football team. Being rah-rah for the football team is not going to get that identity. But being rah-rah for new programs will. Sometimes cheerleading can combine the two."

It can, indeed, but it's a long rocky way from "Give Me a P" to "Bruin Hair Is Everywhere." And, if cheerleading became all social consciousness, what would the poor University of Hawaii do with such a semi-old-fashioned favorite as:

Banana, guava, passion fruit,
Give that ball a great big boot.

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