She is a swan.
She is long and cool. If she were a drink, she would be sipped from a frosted glass with mint leaves.
She has danced professionally for almost 20 years. Acted on stage and on television. Toured in "The Sound of Music." Sung. Modeled. Posed for Playboy and Oui -- au naturel as they write in the caption, "buck-nekkid" as they say at the pool hall.
In high school she was in National Honor Society, and she uses such words as "elan," corelate," "archetypal" and "negate" as easily as someone with a cold uses Kleenex. The condominium she owns in Chicago is in the last surviving geodesic dome designed by Buckminister Fuller. She knows all about Buckminister Fuller. She knows all about Brahms, Beethhoven and Bach. She knows all about "Tosca" and "Rigoletto." She knows all about Bernard Malamud and Joan Didion.
She knows what she's got and she knows how to use it.
It says Julie on the back of her jersey.
Julie.No. 16. In rhinestones.
Maybe you saw it last night at 7:19. When the camera rested on her back a few seconds after Cullen Bryant's touchdown at the Super Bowl.
She is a Los Angeles Ram's cheerleader. She runs onto the field, waving her gold pompons, and cheers for a professional football team -- yesterday in front of 105,000 live and 80 million on television. The top half of her cheering cosutme is a scoop-neck blue and yellow jersey designed to simulate the Rams' jerseys. The bottom half is a blue bikini. The bottom half of her costume could not cover the cleft in Kirk Douglas' chin.
She says what Americans seem to like in entertainment is sex and violence.
"The football is the violence," she says. "We are the sex."
She loves her work.
Since leaving Chicago two years ago so she could take her shot at becoming a big star, an Ann-Margret type star, Julie Jourdan has lived in her other condominium, in the Hollywood Hills.She has done Carson and Snyder and "Charlie's Angels" and "CHiPs" and an industrial show with George Burns; she does a lot of industrial shows. But whatever fame she has, limited through it may be, has come from being a Los Angeles Rams' cheerleader.
You can talk about the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders all you want. But the Rams' cheerleaders are so much a reflection of L.A.'s obsession with beauty and stardom that, compared to them, every other NFL cheerleading squad is American cheese on white.
The group of 26 women -- many of them "drop-dead beauties" as in what you want to do after you see them -- has been together for two years, and Julie has been there from the beginning.
The fact, the first thing she did when she got to L.A. was try out for the squad, which was then named "The Embraceable Ewes." She was one of some 900 women to do so and the real reason she did it, she says, was so she might meet some other dancers -- the ad in the paper said the Rams were looking for good dancers -- and find out where they took classes, where the work was. It was a purposeful move, and she is a purposeful woman, but she never expected to make the team, especially when she saw that the first two days of tryouts were "strictly face and figure, strictly a beauty contest." Julie Jourdan is a helluva dancer. "After 20 years of lessons I ought to be." She is a striking woman, but she is not a drop-dead beauty.
Still, she made it.
"They needed at least a couple of competent dancers."
And through 13 other originals either chose not to try out again or did not make this year's squad, she is still there, perhaps the best, probably the brightest, doing this work that the public-at-large generally considers the exclusive province of "somewhat empty-headed party girls." In her 25 years Julie Jourdan has tried to stand for artistic and intellectual excellence; mostly, the Los Angeles Rams' Cheerleaders stand for the National Anthem. There is, to say the least, a question that begs askng here.
Julie Jourdan sits on a couch, her back regally arched, her brunette hair ("I was streaked blond last year, but everyone is blond out here and I figured it might help me professionally to go back to brown,") blown dry and falling on her shoulders in waves, her red lipstick so thick it appears to be applied by industrial roller, her green eyes playing tag with the sunlight and anticipates the question. She laughs and the sound is oak.
"People frequently say to me -- what are you doing as a cheerleader? This is the myth I'd like to dispel, that being an attractive lady, being in Playboy, being successful intellectually and artistically doesn't compute with being a cheerleader. What do the two have to be mutually exclusive?
"Why does it have to be assumed that cheerleaders aren't intelligent? Or that an intelligent woman cannot be something as lighthearted and frivolous as cheer? Why does being a bright woman negate being a sexually exciting woman? You can say that our image is approachable, even easy. That's not so horrible. No one would believe me if I said I hated to be thought of as a sex object. I enjoy it.
"Okay, perhaps if a group of men are sitting in a bar watching Monday Night Football and they see us flash across the screen one might say -- 'Hey, how'd you like to get some of that?You know how guys are. But face to face they wouldn't confront us like that."
There is, finally, a pause. A breath.
And then, again.
"I feel I've been blessed by being pretty all my life, and working hard to keep this body in shape, and I have enjoyed it. There are lot of perks that come with it. As to the thought that cheerleading is slightly pornographic, no, I reject that. Hustler magazine is pornographic. Cheerleaders are sexy. They're come-hither."
An example is necessary.
She looks up, as if to find it written on the ceiling.
"Lauren Bacall has been com-hither all her life and no one said anything about it. No one said she was pornographic when she said, 'You know how to whistle, don't you? Just put your lips together and blow.' We're no more come-hither than that."
What she really finds abhorrent though, are these articles she reads, some written by feminist journalists that condemn the alleged exploitation of these cheerleaders by their employers, since the pay -- $15 per game -- is so low and the reason for putting them out there so obvious. Julie can get absolutely livid on this subject.
"Look," she says, using a tone of voice that could freeze water, I am exploiting the situation as much as I am being exploited. It's a fair trade-off. People who say that are assuming we're a bunch of ignorant pretty girls who need protection. I always thought that 'Women' Rights' meant you had the freedom of choice I chose to be here. No one put a gun to my head."
In the calendar year 1979, Julie Jourdan made close to $10,000 from jobs and personal appearances directly related to her being a Los Angeles Rams' Cheerleader.
"Not bad for part-time, huh?"
There are 26 of them.
"All great gals," says Jody Freund, the cheerleaders' manager. She is 28. This pointed out only because it is rare to hear a 28-year-old woman refer to other women so often as "gals."
"The youngest gal is 19. The oldest gal is 32. The shortest gal is 5-4. The tallest gal is 5-9."
Doesn't a 32-year-old qualify as a woman?
"Oh, come on," says Jody Freund, "we're all gals."
There are 20 whites, four blacks, two Orientals. Of the whites, 14 are blond.
"You think maybe bonds cheer harder?" asks Sis Rundle, one of them who gets some of her color off a shelf. "Just a bunch of California surf bunnies, huh? We do get lighter as the weeks go on, this is true."
There are some students, one woman who owns a word processing company, another who owns a body wrap and nail wrap boutique, a retail clerk and an apprentice film editor. But mostly there are models, actresses and dancers. There are no teachers, lawyers, librarians or accountants. This is not a Dallas where the Cowboys' organization has said, "We do not want starlets." In L.A. everybody in a starlet. Dig it.
"The difference is where we are," says Faye Nuell, who was last year's cheerleader manager and is also a theatrical manager, Julie Jourdan's manager. "Dallas wants their leaders to consider that job the high point of their lives. They don't want women with ambition. In this town the most beautiful women all have ambition, and this town is loaded with beautiful women, okay?
"There is a glamor attached to cheerleading here. Don't ask me why -- I don't understand it. But I can tell you that executives in this town, TV and film I'm talking about, go crazy when they meet one of the cheerleaders. I guess it's what it was like in the old days to have been a Zegfield Follies girl."
Of course that's why they're here, doing something as simpy as cheering for a professional football team. Because that's where the dream starts. That's why you always see them looking right into the red light of the live camera, smiling that smile you think is aimed just at you but really is aimed at any producers or directors who are shopping around for another gorgeous face and body so firm that Saran-Wrap couldn't help it.
Most of these women are so camera-conscious that if you dropped them in the middle of Rock Creek Park on a night so thick with fog that you could't see your hand in front of your face, and once -- just once -- a solitary red light flashed on top of the Washington Monument, they'd not only see it, but they'd be able to flash a full frontal smile and then a profile shot at it. They estimate that 80 million people tuned in yesterday to see the Super Bowl. You think the Los Angeles Rams' Cheerleaders weren't aware of that? You think they weren't aware of what a few precious seconds on solo air-time might do for their careers? Hey are you crazy?
Sis Rundle: "Oh, I see it, boy. I reacted to those red lights. I feel them."
Tonia Smith: "It's the biggest crowd I've ever had. I mean, I am really up for it. I'll be looking for the camera.
Julie Jourdan: "Let me tell you something, I love the camera. And if it happens to find me, I'll play to it."
It comes down to this: Hey Mr. Cameraman, do me a favor, put that lens on me and watch me melt it.
Some cheerleader stories:
Tonia Smith: "In other places maybe you actually have cheerleaders Most of us want to be actresses. I'm working in Vegas now, dancing.I fly back here for the cheerleading rehearsals. Anyway, when I went to try out last year I got up a routine. See I cheered in high school and in college. I love cheering. Well, they said, 'Don't worry about having a routine.' The first try-out consisted of walking up onto a podium and posing. rThey gave us an eight-count cheer, so basic that a chimpanzee could learn it in 10 minutes. The next day most of the girls came back and just stood there. I couldn't believe it. They didn't have a clue.
"We're all just a bunch of gorgeous girls. They don't pick us really to cheer. I wanted to do it so I could get some exposure -- but I was afraid to put that down on the application. What I wrote was that I was supportive of the team."
Sis Rundle: "I guess I've gone backward. I'm an actress who wanted to become a cheerleader. Yeah, I double for Cheryl Ladd in 'Charle's Angels.' I'm fulfillin my wildest fantasy going to the Super Bowl. I can't believe that I'm acutally going. I'm living adream Beyond a dream, if you really want to know. I grew up watching football. God, I used to wish I was a boy just so I could play it. I used to watch Lenny Moore work out with the Colts, and it was like I ran those workouts with him. This is as close as I'll ever get to playing in it.
"I'm 31. I've got a kid. I guess I'll have to think about retiring from this soon. I remember last year when we had girls who knew nothing about football. They were aliens. From Pluto. They put on lipstick on first downs and cheered when we fumbled. You think some of us are sexy? The players are far sexier than us. That's one of the great treats -- all those tushes walking around. They have far better bodies than we have. I tell my friends how great this job is. Two free tickets. Fifteen bucks. A hot dog and a coke at halftime and all that pro booty."
Jeanne Gambrell: "I was Miss Oklahoma in the Miss America pageant in the early 70s. That was so much fun. I finished 11th. Do you want to know what I did with my scholarship money? I took two postgraduate degrees at the University of Tulsa, one in psychology, one in classical ballet. You know, I wanted to do classical ballet in the pageant, but my coach talked me into doing modern dance. I think I could have done better if I'd done classical.
"I just love football. When I was a kid I once punted a ball 46 yards. I swear. And Howard Twilley, he was an All-American receiver at Tulsa, he taught me how to catch a pass. I can throw like a boy too. But you know, I was never a cheerleader, and I always wanted to be one. A year ago I was at the Rose Bowl with my boyfriend -- he was blocking back at USC for O. J. Simpson -- and I was watchingg the cheerleaders.I said to him: 'God, I'd love to do that.' Do you believe in self-fulfilling prophecy? To be a cheerleader has always been one of my most No. 1 things. I guess football is a big part of my life. I admire Roger Staubach too. But you just wait. Vince Ferragamo is going to be a great one. I'VE BEEN IN 'BJ and the Bear' and 'The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo.' I have a portfolio in the car. Would you like to see it?"
On Friday night they held the "Ram Jam" at Tiffany's disco in Encino, one of the 35,000 parking lots that make up greater Los Angeles. The owners knew that no rams could show up because the team was sequestered 40 miles down the freeway in Costa Nesa, so they hired three cheerleaders to make the personal appearance, sign autographs, pose for pictures, maybe dance a little. Julie Jourdan came. So did Jeanne Gambrell, who is a dead ringer for Mrs. Ted Baxter -- face, figure and speech. And Phyllis Wanger, a 60-year-old woman who stands just under five feet tall, called "double Grandma" and is known as Pom Pon Mom. Pom Pon Mom is easily the most beloved of all the cheerleaders, perhaps because there is so much of her to love.
She is straight out of "The Gong Show," but she can draw a crowd, and she is sweet as sunshine. They were scheduled to appear from 10 until midnight and when they walked in wearing their uniforms (Mom gets to wear a dress) some 50 people ran up to hug Mom, and the remaining 2,000 line up in vintage singles-bars style to check out Julie and Jeanne.
As one heavy breather put it; "Only two of them really showed up. I don't count the old lady, you know. Who's gonna take a run at her. Orson Welles?"
That guy said he was from New York.
It seemed that every guy there was from New York.
Then again, it seems that everyone in Los Angeles is originally from New York.
A guy in his mid-20s with about 40 different brands of colognes smeared over his body like sauce bernaise said he'd like to take a run at Julie Jourdan. He said, "everbody's gonna rap to the cheerleaders, man, cause they're the cheerleaders. I mean they're foxy. They're good lookin'. Everybody's gonna rap to them. I'll take my shot, man, but it won't happen for me. It's all a game." This guy, of course, said he was from New York.
His friend then offered to translate that into English, saying "You'd be crazy not to. Dig it, when you dress chicks up like that, you get what you ask for."
They all must have gone to John Travolta High School.
You stand in a place like this long enough and you begin to grow gold chains where your neck should be.
Julie Jourdan and Jeanne Gambrell were a smash. Being professional dancers they went right to the floor. Jeanne's style was somewhat anachronistic, more like go-go then disco, but Julie was shaking it like it came in an unbreakable carton. There was an arrogant confident to the way she moved, an icy quality that froze those around her.
"When I dance," she said, "what I'm about is a teasing quality. It's flaunting. You can look. I want you to look. Look close. But God help you if you get close." On the dance floor she was thoroughly approachable and totally unavailable, an Ice Queen.
Still, there were the runs. The guys coming over for a little arm-around-the-waist-and-hey-honey-pose-for-me because what the hell it was Friday night and the Rams were in the Super Bowl. And always Julie was cool. She would pose. She would pout. But if she was playing Betty, it was clear from the get go that none of these geeks was her Bogey.
Jeanne, on the other hand, was saying things like: "Are you coming to the Super Bowl? Oh, I'm so glad. Will you wave to me? Oh gosh, sure, the Rams will win. I think our uniforms are neat, don't you?" And every once in a while there was a look in her eyes, as someone backed her into a corner, of sheer, unadulterated terror. Tulsa was never like this.
"Is it what you thought it would be?" Julie asked.
She smiled. A job's a job.
Then, at the stroke of midnight when they were no longer being compensated for their services, Julie Jourdan and Jeanne Gambrell, No. 16 and No. 9, put their coats on over their cheerleading costumes and got in their car to go home.
You didn't think you wouldn't get anything on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in this, did you?
Tonia Smith: "We're prettier than Dallas. By far. That's a fact. It's really a shame they get all that publicity."
Sis Rundle: "We're a helluva lot better than they are. Better looking. Better dancers."
Julie Jourdan: "My feeling about them is that they reflect their community and we reflect ours. They have simpler routines that stress symmetry and precision, but their routines aren't especially difficult. In a way I was jealous of them having those made-for-TV movies, but they've been around much longer than we have. Then, in a way I wasn't jealous -- because the movies were so dreadful. We're as good a group as they are, if not better. We're professional and I think they're strictly amateurs. My impression of them is that they're saying in the organization: 'Although we have these lovely ladies in scanty costumes, don't think of them as sexy because they're not. They're wholesome, nice girls.' It's like they don't even say it, let alone do it."
On thursday night the Los Angeles Ram's Cheerleaders held their last indoor rehearsal before Super Sunday. They met at a studio in Hollywood, limbered up for 30 minutes -- back, two, three, four, and stretch, two, three, four, now up, two, three, four, and kick, two, kick, four -- then went through their routines for another 90 minutes. To the person not actually doing the exercises, it's heaven to watch, like being backstage at "A Chorus Line."' But to the women it's a gruelling and necessary part of the job. There isn't one tunic that isn't soaked through with sweat when it's over and there isn't a dancer that would trade a film or TV offer for a long, hot shower.
Nancy Gregory, the choreographer, was a woman of few words that night. Mostly she called out the excercise cadence then told the women what routine they should practice next. There was, however, one word she used regularly.
"Remember," she would say.
And she would pause.
And then say, in capital letters "SMILE."
On Sunday morning Julie Jourdan, born Julie Jourdan Witbrodt, daughter of a General Motors executive raised in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Ill. where she was a cheerleader for the Hinsdale Red Devils, a Devilette to be sure, (a damn sight better than being a Deviled Egg) woke up and looked to the window for the sun.In a few hours she would be on her way to Pasadena for the Super Bowl where her team, the Rams, would play the Steelers of Pittsburgh, who have no cheerleaders because the Pittsburgh ownership thinks that cheerleders detract from the purpose of football, which is football. If she was fortunate, during the telecast of the game, some of CBS camera would find her and she would have those precious few seconds of solo air-time before a viewing audience of 80 million people.
A few days before, as she sat in her living room comtemplating that situation, she said, no, the number wouldn't mean anything. I wouldn't thrill her. She wouldn't even be conscious of it because she had a job to do. She was a line captain for one of the Rams' four cheerleading lines, and it was her responsibility to keep that line together and in sync with the music and the routines. But then it was suggested to her that if she got on camera solo, and if she was sufficiently spectacular, 80 million people, or certainly the men at least, might be looking at her with a little lust in their hearts.
Julie Jourdan laughed loudly.
"Now that," she said, "would be kind of fun."
Three hours after the Super Bowl was dead and gone, Julie Jourdan was back in her apartment. No, she hadn't known she was on the air. "I was really wrapped up in the game," she said. And then, media-wise, "even when you see the red light, you can't be sure. There's 18 cameras feeding into the trucks and you never know which one they punch up."
She had been on the sidelines crying with the others. Some of them made it on screen. "Isn't that how it is? she asked. "You never get a camera when you want it, but when you're crying they're all over you, like vultures." But it was exhilarating: "You sit in a rocking chair when your're 80 and regale your grandchildren with this.What a great experience. I tell you, it thrilled me to my toes."