The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are arguably the most famous cheerleading squad in the NFL and have been since the early 1970s. They debuted in 1960 as a co-ed squad called the “CowBelles & Beaux,” and by the late 60s, the Cowboys’ then-general manager decided an image makeover for their cheerleaders was needed to boost game attendance. The male cheerleaders were dropped in 1969 and in 1970, the outfits were redesigned. Two years later, another outfit modification was made and that design is pretty much what is worn by the ladies today, save for a few minor alterations over the years.
Besides cheering on the Cowboys on game days, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders make personal appearances at shows and events all over the world. Yours truly has caught some of their abbreviated touring squads during their USO tours of military bases in South Korea and Japan. I could go on at length about the DCC, but this article isn’t about them. This is about the Texas Cowgirls, Inc., a long-defunct Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ faction formed by ex-Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Tina Jimenez, that first gained fame/infamy in the late 1970s. At right is the (in)famous shot for their poster, that ran in the December 1978 issue of Playboy magazine.
Contrary to what was popularly believed when the December ’78 Playboy issue hit the stands, the ladies in the above photo were not then still current members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, who subsequently got sacked for doing the Playboy pictorial. They were all ex-Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at the time they did their Playboy shoots that included their mock version of the then-popular DCC poster. They were, at the time, current members of the Texas Cowgirls, Inc., who were riding a wave of fame that rivaled their former organization. By the summer of 1978, the original 25 members of the Texas Cowgirls, Inc. had a busy schedule that included appearances at store grand openings, a charity softball game, and they were called upon to help celebrate a millionaire’s birthday party at an exclusive Dallas country club, where liquor was served. Something their former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders “den mother” would have forbid them to do when they were members.
In this side-by-side comparison of the 1977 official Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders poster and the uncensored 1978 photo of the Texas Cowgirls, Inc. by Playboy photographer Arny Freytag, it’s crystal clear to see the latter’s was a take-off (sure, pun intended) of the former’s then-popular poster. The ladies featured on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders poster are (from left to right): Syndy Garza, Suzette Russell, Suzie Holub, Cynde Lewis, and Debbie Wagener. The above breast-baring Texas Cowgirls, Inc. are (left to right) Debbie Kepley, Charyl Russell, Linda Kellum, Janice Garner, and Meg Rossi. It’s funny that Charyl posed in such a way so that her breasts aren’t bared in the photo. However, she did show at least one of them later in the Playboy pictorial that opened with the above shot. (See below left.) Another oddity is that the founder, Tina Jimenez, is not one of the ladies on the poster. The similarity between the two above shots was sure not lost on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ legal team. In late 1978, they (unsuccessfully) sued Freytag, the Texas Cowgirls, Inc., and Scoreboard Posters, Inc. (the manufacturer and distributor of the poster) over “copyright infringement, service mark infringement, and unfair competition.”
Charyl Russell (left) in a little less modest shot from the 1978 Playboy pictorial. Dawn Stansell (right) was another original
member of the Texas Cowgirls, Inc., whose above shot also appeared in the December ’78 Playboy pictorial.
At left, Debbie Kepley in 1977, when she was still a member of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and in a shot at right from the December 1978 Playboy pictorial. Debbie cut her hair short near the end of her stint with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders because the squad’s then-“den mother” wanted her to wear pigtails for a more “girl-next-door” look. Debbie quit the DCC soon afterwards and joined the Texas Cowgirls, Inc. (Author’s Note: I sent a message to Miss Kepley, informing her of this article when it was in its draft form, and invited her for her input, which would have been most welcomed. I received a reply from her, or an agent of hers, requesting a telephone number for her to call, which I obliged with my number. However and unfortunately, I did not receive a call from Miss Keply or anyone representing her. Hopefully, the publication of this article will elicit Miss Keply to comment and perhaps share some of her memories of being an original member of the Texas Cowgirls, Inc.)
Other (welcomed and unwelcomed) publicity the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders earned during the late-1970s
Although it’s never mentioned publicly by anyone currently associated with the squad, probably the most tumultuous time during the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ history was during the late-1970’s. From 1977-1979 the DCC received a lot of press that gave them the highest profile of any cheerleading squad in the NFL at the time. Most of it was positive and remains a proud part of their history. Their 1977 poster, featuring select members of their squad, probably adorned as many walls as those of Cheryl Tiegs and Farrah Fawcett, from that same era. In 1978, which seemed to be their banner year, they received their greatest national attention when when the entire squad appeared on NBCs Rock-n-Roll Sports Classic and The Osmond Brothers Special on ABC. Later that year, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders appeared on the ABC special entitled The 36 Most Beautiful Girls in Texas, which strategically aired just before the season opener of Monday Night Football, in which the Cowboys tamed the then-Baltimore Colts, 38-0.
On January 14, 1979, coincidentally in the wake of the December 1978 Playboy issue hitting the newsstands, the made-for-TV movie The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders aired. It starred Jane Seymour with Pamela Susan Shoop in a supporting role. (The latter went on to appear in Halloween II and arguably the most memorable death scene in the whole Halloween franchise.) The press the squad garnished themselves with from the Playboy feature probably was a major factor in the movie reportedly getting a 48% share of the national television audience.
The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are very proud of these events in their history and rightly so. However, there were some newsworthy happenings that coincided with the aforementioned, that Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders’ officials would rather not discuss, mention, or even acknowledge.
Besides the aforementioned and disgruntled ex-members of the DCC (along with members of some other NFL cheerleading squads) appearing in various stages of undress in Playboy magazine in the late-70s (December 1978 and March 1979), one of the most popular pornographic films of all-time, Debbie Does Dallas was released. Although no former members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were in the cast, it did star a girl who was reported to have tried out for the squad, but didn’t make the cut.
Bambi Woods, whose real name is/was allegedly Barbara Woodson, played a not-too-bright suburban girl who was trying to raise money to make the trip to Dallas to try out for the fictitious Texas Cowgirls, a pro cheerleading squad not-too-loosely-based on the real deal. With the exception of the white cowboy hat (which was a very nice touch) the outfit Bambi is depicted wearing on the film’s poster, is practically identical to those worn by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. So practically identical, it was enough for the DCC’s legal team to sue Pussycat Cinema, Ltd. (the distributor of the film) over trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution of trademark. While the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ lawyers were able to prevent the film from being shown in a certain New York adult theater, it ran in many others in the US and some abroad. In 1987, a few years after the videocassette boom, a US district court ruled that Debbie Does Dallas had been “thrust irretrievably into the public domain.”
An interesting footnote about the film’s star, Bambi Woods, is that she only appeared in this movie and its 1981 sequel, Debbie Does Dallas 2 before dropping out of the adult film business and the public eye, altogether. Despite being credited in the casts of both 1985’s Debbie Does Dallas 3 and 1994’s Debbie Does Dallas 20th Anniversary Edition, both just featured footage of Miss Woods from her earlier appearances in the first two films. She currently resides in the “Whatever Happened to..?” file.
Over the poster of the Texas Cowgirls, Inc., shot by Arny Freytag:
> Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc. vs. Scoreboard Posters, Inc., Arny Freytag, and Texas Cowgirls, Inc.
Over the movie Debbie Does Dallas:
> Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc. vs. Pussycat Cinema, Ltd. and Michael Zaffarano