Do you remember this poster?
If you do, then you know what the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders meant 40 years ago, to the Cowboys, to football, to sports, to America, to men and women young and old, but most importantly, to teenage boys.
This poster was released exactly 40 years ago and it is credited for sparking the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to what they are today, an iconic brand in sports. But they were never more of a sensation than 40 years ago and the years that immediately followed.
The poster hit the streets at the very end of May in 1977. What followed was an October article in Esquire magazine about the cheerleaders. Soon after, the Cowboys cheerleaders were featured in every magazine from People to Newsweek. They appeared on three separate network TV specials within a year. And other NFL teams mimicked the Cowboys with provocative outfits for their own cheerleaders.
There was some backlash at the time, but the Cowboys cheerleaders proved unstoppable. They issued their own calendars, then their own swimsuit calendars, then their own "behind the scenes" reality TV shows. In the early '90s, Score and some other card companies issued trading cards of the Cowboys cheerleaders.
But back 40 years ago, there were no TV shows or trading cards. There was a poster, one or two small photos in a magazine and a glimpse of the cheerleaders in a game.
This was not going to do for a 13-year-old boy.
The late 1970s/early '80s also happened to be the period in which I ordered cards through catalogs and magazine ads. One of my favorite catalogs was from Larry Fritsch, which I've written about before. His catalog came to my home a few times a year.
During one glorious day at the dawn of the 1980s, I spotted the following ad in the catalog:
That's a newer version of the ad, but it looked basically the same. I couldn't believe my eyes, 5 x 7 photos of all the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders?
I sent away for the cards (they weren't $24.95, I never would have been able to afford that as a 15-year-old) and they arrived in their glossy glory.
This was the peak period for glossy cards. Topps was issuing glossy photos of baseball players that were the same size and they were quite popular. But, even better, the cheerleader glossy cards contained girls.
Then, sadly, something happened. My set of 30 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders cards disappeared. I don't know what I did with them. Perhaps they got thrown out with a bunch of stuff when I moved out of the house, but that never should have happened. I missed those girls. I missed those glossy cards.
For years I've intended to re-order them: not through Fritsch Cards because $24.95, man.
Recently, I did order them, for a much cheaper price on ebay. And the girls are now back with me.
Here are the two photos featured on the ad. The cards are in great shape, although you know what happens to glossy photos over time if they're not religiously protected: the glossiness fades to a pseudo-matte finish. I'm sure there's a technical term for that, but I don't know what it is.
The cheerleader in the first photo is Angelia. I know that because she's mentioned on the back of her card. To get the rest of her name, I found the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader roster from 1980.
Angelia Parnell is the first girl in the top row, one of the veterans.
She is also the only cheerleader in this set to get two cards of her own.
That is the other one.
That's what the back looks like. The write-ups are rather generic and include lots of exclamation points! You can see at the bottom that they were created and distributed by Topps.
Some of the card backs identify the cheerleader on the front by name, so I was able to go to the roster and find the full ID.
That is Cheryl Balderas
That is Stephanie Scholz
That is Sonia Patterson
That is Judy Trammell.
Trammell is now the head choreographer for the Cowboys cheerleaders. Here is a little "now" action from her Twitter account.
That is a helpful reminder (other than the dated hair and makeup) that all of the cheerleaders in this set are in their late 50s or early 60s. Yikes!
There is also a reminder of how times have changed on one photo card in particular. You can read what some would now consider alarming on the back of the photo:
My guess is they still want Cowboys cheerleaders to be "neat and trim" but hopefully they're not as obsessed about it.
Also, today's Cowboys cheerleaders seem to be, shall I say, more "well-developed" than the cheerleaders in these photos. Not that I'm complaining. There's plenty to like whether it's then or now when tied-off blouses and short-shorts are involved.
Here are some more 5 x 7s of my personal favorites from the set from all the way back when I first received these in the mail in 1981:
Most of the cards and photos that I accumulated during my first collecting period from 1975-85 were strictly baseball. There was a little football and hockey mixed in. And there were the nonsports items, such as Wacky Packages and Star Wars.
But the 5 x 7 cheeleaders? They were definitely unique at that time.
I owe it all to that poster.