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
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 PtrB4@aol.com.