the dallas cowboys cheerleaders -- 7/14/14

Today's selection -- from The Last Cowboy by Mark Ribowsky. In the 1960s, as the NFL's Dallas Cowboys emerged to become the self-styled "America's Team," they were coached by the brilliant but reserved and prudish Tom Landry. But the owner, Clint Murchison Jr., and the general manager Tex Schramm, who ran the business operations of the team, were both known for a much more free-swinging lifestyle. During that era, if an NFL team had cheerleaders, they were in the mold of conservative high school or college cheerleaders. The Cowboys' old-style cheerleaders had been known as the Cowbelles until 1967, when Schramm made a change:

"The vibe in Thousand Oaks at summer camp in 1967 contained a strange brew of old and new currents. The Cowboys' first winning season had taken the team so far that it accumulated almost mythical properties in Dallas and the exigency for a grander scope. Clint Murchison Jr. relocated the Cowboys' offices again, now to the Expressway Tower, an opulent fifteen-story glass structure at 6116 North Central Expressway that Murchison built on property he had bought expressly for the purpose. He put the organization on the eleventh floor, its picture windows offering sweeping vistas of the city. He also rented out a ground-floor space to the Playboy Club, which catered to the same upscale, male-dominated crowd that Murchison hosted in the Cowboy Club at the Cotton Bowl during home games. Not for a minute did Murchison consider that his coach might be embarrassed to have as neighbors cleavage-displaying young women wearing bunny ears and cottontails. The Cowboys were the hippest party in town, and the juxtaposition fit. Neither did he mind if players repaired to the Playboy Club after a hard few hours at the practice facility, which was under a big bubble behind the building. Landry already had the squares' allegiance; could it hurt if they were balanced by Hugh Hefner's ideal of 1960s American manhood?

1967 Squad
1970 Squad
1972 Squad the first to wear the now famous uniforms

"Tex Schramm, for one, saw no downside to that equation. Working from the same idea, he junked the Cowbelles that off-season and created a new cheerleading squad, one that would remind no one of high school girls in hoop skirts and sweaters. Instead, the Cowgirls were professional go-go dancers hired to shake their pompoms while wearing hot pants and tight vests, showing off ample racks and bare midriffs. When Landry learned of it, he nearly had cardiac arrest. Years later in his memoirs, he was still exercised, saying that while the Cowgirls 'transformed sideline entertainment,' and that it was an example of Schramm's lust to foster 'a high profile image of style, flair, and maximum visibility,' it also 'sexually exploited the young women by pandering to the baser instincts of men.' [Tom's wife] Alicia Landry says he had another worry. 'Tommy wanted the Cowboys to be role models. He wanted the little boys in Dallas to emulate the players, not think about ... other things. I guess he didn't think football and sex mixed.'

"He took his case to Schramm, who brushed him off. While Landry never would change his mind, he also realized Schramm was right -- football and sex did mix. Still, to appease traditional morals Schramm would send the Cowgirls to perform at charity functions and USO tours all around the world. When the notion arose that there was a rivalry between the Playboy Bunnies and the cheerleaders, he produced a virtuous member of the latter to attest that 'we're not stewardesses, hookers or Playboy Bunnies.' Virtuous T and A became a key to marketing success. No Cowboys vestment ever returned a higher yield or caused greater proprietary zeal than the cheerleaders. When the porn movie Debbie Does Dallas was being made a few years later, word came that the lead character was a Cowboys cheerleader, dressed in the official garb with the Cowboys' emblem. Aghast, Schramm sued, successfully, to prevent such infringement. But Schramm got what he needed from the movie, not only in its wink-and-nod PR value but also for a moral justification of the Cowgirls, most of all for Landry. Schramm once amusingly told of arguing with the coach about the image of the cheerleaders, Landry's objection being 'all the flesh they were showing.'

"'Tom,' Schramm said, 'just go to the beach and look around.'

"'Well, they're not wholesome.'

"As Schramm recalled, he happened to have a copy of the skin flick in his office. 'I put the tape on the machine. It was a scene in the shower, with all these guys and girls going at it, an orgy in the shower. He [Tom] stood there looking at it in disbelief,' though apparently he didn't turn the machine off. Finally, Tex turned to him and said, 'Tom, this is not wholesome.' Concluded Schramm: 'He nodded and left and never said anything about it again.' "


Mark Ribowsky


The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry


Liveright Publishing Corporation


Copyright 2014 by Mark Ribowsky


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