The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have a lot more to offer than just synchronized dance moves.
Director Dana Adam Shapiro pointed his lens at the history of the iconic cheerleading squad in his new documentary “Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders,” which premiered at SXSW. The main subject of the film is “den mother” and team director Suzanne Mitchell, who helped transform the Dallas cheerleaders into an institution.
Several of Mitchell’s former cheerleaders made their way to Austin, Tex., for the film’s premiere.
“[Shapiro] had an interest to see why there were pretty women on the side of a football field,” says Toni Washington, who was on the team from 1980 to 1983. “He started reaching out to girls and they redirected them to Suzanne.”
With the blessing of Mitchell, who passed away in 2016, team members were quickly on board with participating.
“I thought it was about time,” says Shannon Baker Werthman, on the team from 1976 to 1980, of her reaction to learning that Shapiro wanted to make a documentary about the team. “People get so tunnel visioned on what they think about this institution, of the cheerleaders, and it’s hard for them to break out of that sometimes.”
“I’ve been a ceo, currently I’m an evp,” says Dana Presley Killmer, who was on the team from 1981 to 1985. “People don’t ask me about being a female ceo, they ask me what it was like being a cheerleader.”
All three women maintain that what it was like will likely surprise many people, and challenge their preconceptions.
“I think the film tells the story that no one knows, and that is that you see the flash of the uniform and the white boots and bright smiles on the sidelines, but being a Dallas cheerleader was a lot about service to others,” Killmer adds, noting that team members gave up their weekends, holidays and school breaks to volunteer. Being on the team took her all over the world — and sometimes into harms way. While on a USO tour in Beirut and Lebanon, the jeep she was in was shot at; while flying over a demilitarized zone, their airplane radio went out and was in threat of being shot down.
“I didn’t reaudition four times just to cheer on the sidelines,” Killmer says. “I’m a big football fan — you miss instant replay when you’re cheerleading. And you’re facing the fans — you miss half of the greatest catches in the world when you’re cheering. I auditioned four straight years so I could travel all over the world and continue doing the service work.”