Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders – Kick Line (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Carol McFadden
Carol McFadden is manager if the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC) is the National Football League cheerleading squad representing the Dallas Cowboys.
The original cheerleading squad was a made up of a male-female group called the CowBelles & Beaux. The group made its sidelines debut in 1960 during the Cowboys’ inaugural season. Local high school students made up the squad, which was typical of other high school and college cheerleading squads throughout the 1960s, rarely getting much attention.
During a game between the Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons at the Cotton Bowl during the 1967 season, the scantily clad, well-endowed Bubbles Cash, a stripper by profession, caused a tremendous stir in the crowd that turned to cheers when she walked down the staircase stands on the 50 yard line carrying cotton candy in each hand. She became an instant public sensation in Dallas, and Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm noted all of this. Understanding the importance of the entertainment industry to the Cowboys’ profitability, Schramm was inspired to form a cheerleading squad dressed in similar fashion to Cash.
In 1969, it was decided that the cheerleading squad needed a new image and the decision was made to drop the male cheerleaders and select an all-female squad from local high school cheerleaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It was at this period that the CowBelles & Beaux became the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
Preparing for the 1970 season, Schramm decided to change the Cheerleaders’ image to boost attendance. At first the main change was to create an all-female squad and change the uniforms and style of cheerleading routines to be more primarily dance and less like traditional acrobatic routines like that of high school or college cheerleading squads. The ten local high school cheerleaders that were selected for the 1970 season were also involved in the task of totally redesigning the uniforms and creating new dance style cheer routines under Dee Brock’s direction and with the help of a choreographer. In 1971, the qualification rules changed to allow not only local female cheerleaders to compete for a spot on the squad, but also high school drill team officers. Then in 1972, Texie Waterman, a New York choreographer, was recruited and charged with auditioning and training an entirely new female squad which would all be over 18 years of age, searching for attractive appearance, athletic ability, and raw talent as performers. And since the 1972 squad consisted of adults, this allowed the possibility of again redesigning the uniforms to introduce a more revealing, sexier look closer to what we see today. This modified squad first appeared on the sidelines during the Cowboys’ 1972 season.
Even greater national attention came in 1978 when the squad appeared on two network TV specials, NBC Rock-n-Roll Sports Classic and The Osmond Brothers Special on ABC. In 1978, the Cheerleaders had their own one-hour special, The 36 Most Beautiful Girls in Texas, which aired on ABC prior to the season opener of Monday Night Football (which coincidentally was a game that the Cowboys hosted).
On January 14, 1979, the made-for-TV movie The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (1979) aired. Starring Bert Convy and Jane Seymour, it had a 48% share of the national television audience.
On January 13, 1980, a sequel to the original TV movie called The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders II (1980) aired. Throughout the years that followed, the Cheerleaders have made many other TV appearances; and their likeness has been featured on various merchandise, such as posters, T-shirts, bubblegum cards, and calendars.
The Cheerleaders have also toured throughout the US (on and off field) and overseas. Included in this are regular appearances in United Service Organizations (USO) tours. This started in the Christmas of 1979, for US troops stationed in South Korea. Since then, it has remained a regular function for the squad.
1990s and beyond
The Cheerleaders release an annual swimsuit calendar.
Held a ceremony inaugurating the second game of 1994 FIFA World Cup between Spain and South Korea.
Former DCCs Kelli McGonagill Finglass and Judy Trammell are the squad’s director and choreographer, respectively.
Since 2006, the Cheerleaders have had their own reality television series, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, which airs on Country Music Television (CMT). The series follows the auditioning process of the annual squad.
The Cheerleaders received the FIFA delegation to promote the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The uniform itself is a carefully guarded trademark and may not be duplicated in any way without the written permission of the DCC. The internationally recognized ensemble of blouse, vest, and shorts was originally designed by Paula Van Wagoner.
Since first introduced with the formation of the squad in 1972, the basic uniform has been modified only six times:
In May 1989, the original “go-go” boot had gone out of style, and a more western oriented design was selected.
In 1991, the large buckled belt was left behind in favor of shorts with a more flattering cut.
In 1992, a cowboy-style boot was introduced to the uniform
In 1993, crystals were added to outline the fifteen stars on the vest and shorts.
In 1994, a more western shape to the blouse lapels was incorporated.
In 1999, crystals were added to the fringe line of the vest.
In 2002, a western styled belt with a large buckle was added to the shorts.
Each modification has been approved by Director Kelli McGonagill Finglass and implemented by Leveta Crager, who for twenty-four years made and hand tailored every uniform worn by a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. Upon her retirement, at the start of the 1996 season, designer Greg Danison was selected to continue the tradition of individual craftsmanship.
Off-field television appearances
The squad has appeared on variety of TV shows and specials, as performers, guest acting roles, and game show contestants. Some of the shows they have appeared on include:
The Love Boat, Episodes #62 and #63 – One cheerleader has an unwanted admirer stalking her on the ship. Another is hit on by her mom’s fiance. As a group, the Cheerleaders perform their signature routines.
Family Feud – Five of the Cheerleaders participated as a team on a celebrity special for charity against five of the Cowboys players on the week of June 30 – July 4, 1980.
Harry and the Hendersons – Guest appearance.
Billy Bob’s New Year Special for CBS.
Nashville Palace Show (1981) – The Cheerleaders appeared as guests alongside the Oak Ridge Boys.
Hard Knocks (2002)
Saturday Night Live.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Late Show with David Letterman.
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? – Participated on a celebrity special for charity in 2008.
The Cheerleaders have also appeared on a number of country music awards shows and specials since the late 1970s.
In addition to these guest appearances, the organization has produced the reality television series Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team each season since 2006. The series, which airs on CMT, chronicles the audition process and performer selection for each season’s squad.
Notable DCC alumni
Many former DCCs have gone on to achieve fame in show business or succeeded in other notable endeavors. They include:
Tina Hernandez (1977–78), actress, CHiPs TV Series (1982–1983)
Tami Barber (1977–80), actress
Janet Fulkerson (1980–82), actress
Judy Trammell (1980–84), Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ current choreographer, mother of current DCC Cassie Trammell
Kelli Finglass (1984–89), current director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Sheri Scholz (1985), Miss Texas Teen USA 1983
DLaine Gutmann (1991), actress/model, medical technical adviser for Dallas TV series (2012-2013)
Willa McFadden (1993–94), reporter of KTVT
Jill Marie Jones (1993–95), actress, plays Toni On Girlfriends
Michelle Parma (1993–94), actress, MTV’s Road Rules: Europe. She died in a car accident in Texas on October 19, 2002
J Wilhelmina McFadden (1996), actress/model
Sarah Shahi, (1999–2000), actress, plays Carmen on The L Word, second season. Most recently on NBC’s “Life”. Now stars in USA Network’s Fairly Legal
Alexander McFadden (2000), director and coach of the NY Jets Flight Crew Cheerleading Squad, former New Jersey Nets Dancer, former New York Knicks dancer
Kristin Holt (2000–01), television personality, entertainment news correspondent
Jenni Croft (2002–05), contestant on The Bachelor Season 11
Micaela Johnson (2003–05), Miss Nebraska USA 2008
Starr Spangler (2005–08), winner of The Amazing Race 13
Melissa Rycroft (2006–08), ABC’s Dancing with the Stars contestant and Winner then runner-up on The Bachelor Season 13
Erica Kiehl Jenkins (2007–09), singer, member of The Pussycat Dolls
Abigail Klein (2007–10), actress