A trio of young singers performed a song dedicated to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Jan. 13 at a rally in Pensacola, Fla. (Reuters)

 

About 20 years ago, Jeff Popick took a long hard look at his life in Los Angeles. He’d been a stunt driver, appearing in shows such as “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “The Fall Guy.” He’d wanted to get into producing, but things hadn’t exactly gone that way. And flipping cars for a living can be a tough business.

“Even when you’re working, you’ve got to know what’s happening tomorrow, so you’re always looking for work even though it’s kind of through the grapevine,” Popick wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1987. “You’ve got to know what’s out there or what’s in development. These days, the kind of shows like ‘Dukes of Hazard’ or ‘The A-Team’ are pretty much gone. There’s ‘Miami Vice,’ but that’s not in town. A lot of the shows aren’t heavy action shows now.”

So, in 1994, Popick set off  in search of another adventure. He moved to Florida. He dabbled in real estate and construction, weathering the Great Recession. And he started a family — including daughter Alexis Popick, now 8, who strutted her stuff Wednesday at a Donald Trump rally in Pensacola, Fla., as part of USA Freedom Kids. She’s the short one in the front, pumping her fist. Popick, 53, is the group’s manager.

“To me, freedom is everything,” Popick said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “That’s what this group is about. That’s what I’m about. Freedom for everybody. That’s the inspiration.”

[Nothing can prepare you for this Donald Trump rally video]

USA Freedom Kids isn’t your typical girl group. They lack the rebel image of, say, the Shangri-Las — or the Spice Girls, for that matter. And the lyrics to “Freedom’s Call,” the song three members performed for the Republican front-runner, show that Popick may have more scruples than Colonel Tom Parker.

“I love my daughter, I love spending time with my daughter, I love my country, I love patriotic music,” he said. “Most people who set out on this crazy journey would have folded. I considered it a win-win no matter what.”

Ready to rock their television interview.

Posted by USA Freedom Kids on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Popick with USA Freedom Girls.


 

The lyrics of “Freedom’s Call,” as rendered by The Washington Post’s Philip Bump:

Cowardice!
Are you serious?
Apologies for freedom?
I can’t handle this.

When freedom rings, answer the call.
On your feet! Stand up tall!
Freedom’s on our shoulders, USA!

Enemies of freedom, face the music.
Come on, boys, take ’em down!

President Donald Trump knows how to make America great.
Deal from strength or get crushed every time.

Over here! (USA!)
Over there! (USA!)
Freedom and liberty everywhere.

Oh say can you see, it’s not so easy,
but we have to stand up tall and answer freedom’s call.

USA! (USA!)
USA! (USA!)
We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave! (USA!)

The stars-and-stripes are flying,
Let’s celebrate our freedom.
Inspire proudly freedom to the world.

Ameritude! (USA!)
American pride! (USA!)
It’s attitude, it’s who we are, stand up tall.

We’re the red, white and blue.
Fiercely free, that’s who!
Our colors don’t run, no-sirree.

Over here! (USA!)
Over there! (USA!)
Freedom and liberty everywhere.

Oh say can you see, it’s not so easy,
But we have to stand up tall and answer freedom’s call.


 

Alas, as #Ameritude became a hashtag, not everyone received USA Freedom Kids with enthusiasm. Weren’t these young girls — aged 8 to 11, according to Popick — being exploited in the name of fame, money and/or reactionary politics? Do kids belong in politics at all?

[This Ted Cruz booster is 13 and black — and just shredded Obama on clock kid]

“In an apparent bid to land on the military’s torture playlist, three young girls on Wednesday performed a creepy song-and-dance routine in honor of Donald Trump at a scheduled rally in Pensacola, Florida,” Inae Oh wrote in Mother Jones. “Check out the crowd clapping (almost rhythmically) in the background, and try to figure out which of these patriotic adults are the proud, Trump-supporting parents of these ‘Freedom Kids.'”

The Huffington Post also landed blows in a piece called “Hey Trump, You Know Who Else Held Rallies Where Kids Sang About Crushing Their Enemies?”

“After another verse and a few awkwardly choreographed dance moves, the troop, all members of the aptly named USA Freedom Kids, finished their act,” Nick Wing wrote. “Then Trump took the stage, where he bragged about his position atop the GOP primary polls and called a sound technician a ‘son of a bitch’ and a ‘bastard.’ Hopefully the kids were gone by then.'”

Popick didn’t just have to endure Hitler Youth references from snarky reporters. While he said the “lion’s share” of feedback after the Trump performance was positive, there was also the hate mail.

“I had a message from somebody who sounded either like he was half-drunk or all-drunk and called and said your girls are ugly, the song is stupid and you’re wasting your time,” Popick said. “… For me, it just shows this country needs more of what we’re doing.” He added: “It was somebody maybe smarter than me who said a child shall lead them.”

A screenshot of the USA Freedom Girls website.
A screenshot of the USA Freedom Kids website. (Courtesy Jeff Popick)

Asked about the birth of USA Freedom Kids, Popick said the group coalesced over the past two years, and the current lineup started performing in earnest about six months ago. Building up momentum wasn’t easy.

“When you’re dealing with kids, there are all kinds of issues,” he said. “There are family issues. Parents have agendas. There’s soccer, and on and on and on. This really required a meaningful commitment … We went through several girls.”

The USA Freedom Kids team, according to Popick, includes the three performers; two girls who, like Brian Wilson, are “really strictly in the studio”; five dancers; and “vocal coaches, music producers, music engineers and choreographers.” And though Popick won’t say how much the girls are paid for their appearances, he stresses that they “are compensated.”

“It really was quite somewhat of an arduous task,” Popick said. But: “These girls live for this.”

Popick was pretty quick in setting up a few gigs, including one at a Miami Marlins game in September. He also reached out to “almost all the campaigns,” he said.

“With some candidates, I could not even get on first base,” he said. “The Trump campaign stepped up.”

Popick, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” who, according to public records, has been involved in more than a dozen businesses, said he has been a fan of Trump “for decades.” The campaign’s warm response to USA Freedom Kids only further demonstrated the candidate’s capabilities.

“It confirmed that he knows what he’s doing,” Popick said of Trump. “You can absolutely take that as an endorsement.”

USA Freedom Kids, with a version of the National Anthem, a danceable cover of the Marines’ hymn, the original “National Anthem, Part 2,” a collaboration with Walmart, and an album on the horizon, were already busy. But now that they are Trump-famous, “Inside Edition” is calling, and the sky’s the limit.

“We’ve got lots of things going on,” Popick said. “And it’s all great for the country.”

 

The "USA Freedom Kids" made their grand debut at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally in Fla. on Jan. 13, but they've been practicing for some time. Here's a look at their session in a recording studio in August 2015. (USA Freedom Kids)