Comments & Curiosities -- Peter Buffa

I tried to lay off. Really, I did. Stay out of it, I told myself.

Everyone between here and Brea has stuck their snoot into this thing.

Emotions are running high. Don't go there.

Sound advice, without question. But I can't help it. I just can't. I

would never forgive myself if I passed this up. That being the case:

"Gimme an 'L.' Gimme an 'O.' Gimme an 'O,' a 'P,' a 'Y!' What's that

spell? Loopy! Yeaaaa...Loopy!!"

Let's be honest. We've seen some full-tilt weirdness over the years

here in the land of Newport-Mesa. But do you remember anything to match

the Cheerleader Riots of 2001? Nor do I. It's been an utterly fascinating

demonstration of just how dazed and confused people can be.

We expect teenagers to be whacked out. That's why we love them. From

moment to moment, they have a hard time distinguishing between the

significance of death, and a zit. Which is more important -- a cure for

cancer, or cute sandals? Hmm. Could you repeat the question?

Be that as it may, would someone like to explain the behavior of the

fully-grown people appearing in this passion play? Anyone? No? Let's


Late November in Newport Beach -- a pleasant autumn in a perfect

place. Cheerleading tryouts at Newport Harbor High are done and the

results are announced. Some make the team. Some do not. There is laughter

and there are tears. Congratulations to the ones who made it, condolences

to those who did not. Thank you so much. Great effort, everyone. Let's

move on.

But then, an odd thing happens. Lisa Callahan, the Harbor "cheer

coach" states that she personally witnessed "irregularities" in the

judging, which skewed the final results. Callahan further contends that

Jennifer Cilderman, the "cheer advisor" -- not to be confused with the

cheer coach -- wrongly and willfully influenced the final results by

speaking, discussing and otherwise interacting with the judges, which is,

apparently, a really bad thing to do.

Ba-boom! This is the big one, Edith. Grab the kids, set the livestock

free and get everybody into the storm cellar. We're talking about force

5, with a funnel-cloud that stretches from Balboa Island to John Wayne


At that point, Newport Harbor Principal Michael Vossen makes a

critical mistake. He gets involved. The principal didn't ask for any

advice from the former mayor, but here it is anyway. The next time you

look out your window and see a small crowd of girls sobbing in each

other's arms and shrieking that their lives have been ruined, surrounded

by parents who are arguing loudly and poking each other in the chest --

never, ever, ever admit you are the principal.

Even if they chase you to your car and say "Hey, aren't you the

principal?" -- always say, "No, I am not." Use a quiet but firm voice,

get into your car and lock the doors as quickly as possible. If they

pound on the windows and say, "Then who is the principal?" -- say, "I do

not know," then drive away slowly, being careful not to hit anyone.

Alas, Principal Mike not only blew his cover, but decided to clear the

whole mess up. It did not go well. If the rush of announcements,

reversals and changes in directions that followed were made in an SUV

with Firestone tires, no one would have survived.

First, Principal Mike voided the decision of the judges and said every

girl who tried out would get pompoms. But some of the parents of the

girls who made the original cut had a shmoo. OK, fine.

Vossen appointed an ad hoc committee of deep thinkers to sort things

out. The committee thought deep thoughts for a while then decided the

selections of the original panel should stand. Another shmoo.

Principal Mike then announced that the 17 unselected girls would have

to try out again. A big shmoo! Vossen then may or may not have said

(opinions vary) that the girls could circulate a petition and vote on the

selections among themselves. That was in the works when Vossen declared

the petition and the voting were out, but he would accept input from the

cheerleaders, selected and otherwise.

Uh oh. Big, big shmoo, as in rapidly approaching Defcon 4. Then, just

days ago, the final (and we use the term loosely) decision was announced.

The 17 girls would have to try out again. Well OK then. Some may consider

the entire affair over and done with, but I say it is not.

In my humble opinion, there are a number of intriguing mysteries that

remained unsolved. When cheer advisor Jennifer Cilderman (not the cheer

coach -- that's Lisa Callahan) whispered in the ears of the original

panel of judges, thus skewing the results, exactly what did she say?

Also, there were allegations that one or more of the selected girls had

cheated in the tryouts.

Exactly how does that work? I've got to know. To a male, the fact that

anyone could actually do a split and live to tell about it is hard enough

to grasp, let alone that there are legal and illegal ways of doing it.

Finally, am I the only one wondering why one, very important name

hasn't been mentioned in all this? "Wanda Holloway." Doesn't ring a bell?

Try this. Holly Hunter. Now it's coming back, isn't it? Wanda Holloway

was the exceedingly strange Texas mom who would do anything to help her

daughter make the cheerleading squad -- including hiring her former

brother-in-law to kill the girl who is her daughter's main competition.

The story quickly became an international media circus, and Holly

Hunter was brilliant and painfully funny as Holloway in a 1993 TV film

called, "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas

Cheerleader-Murdering Mom." Beau Bridges played Hunter's dim-witted

ex-in-law, whose wits, fortunately, are just bright enough to run to the

police and tell all before anything can happen.

Hunter utters the film's most famous line when she takes a long drag

on a cigarette then sighs wistfully, "The things you do for your kids."

How true. I gotta go.

* PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays.

He may be reached via e-mail at

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