My wife, Anne, met Suzanne when she started teaching at Turner High School in 1982. At a pep rally for a Halloween football game, they were the only two teachers who dressed up in costumes. Sitting together in the bleachers seemed the right thing to do. Anne introduced herself as the new English/theater teacher; Suzanne taught history.
They hit it off immediately. Both were single after first marriages to guys who thought they were marrying subservient homemakers whose biggest thrill would be bringing martinis to the door for them when they arrived home from work every night. Both were liberals. Both loved the performing arts. Both liked to go out occasionally for a drink and a smoke.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I passed the critical Suzanne test when Anne and I started dating. I met them at a hotel bar, and we sat around for a couple of hours drinking Amaretto and soda with a twist of lime. (You can put away a dozen of those and still drive.) The next day, Anne called me and told me that Suzanne had liked me, thought I was okay, not an asshole. That was a relief because I realized then that a thumbs-down from Suzanne might have been difficult to overcome because they had become inseparable, very sisterlike, by then.
They teamed up to teach an innovative class called The American Experience, which combined English and history in a coordinated curriculum. English assignments had something to do with the period of history being studied. It was an honors class and a big hit with the students.
Together they created the annual Faculty Follies, a series of satiric skits, songs, and dances performed by the faculty members to the delight of the student body of more than 2,500. Suzanne would go on to earn “master teacher” status and speak at teacher conventions and sponsor student government as well as, most recently, the cheerleader squad at Creekview High, where she now teaches after 30 years about 10 minutes north of Turner.
Anne (left) and Suzanne on stage during the Faculty Follies circa 1984.
I genuinely liked Suzanne as well. She was/is an interesting person. Suzanne kept up with politics, had lived for several years in Saudi Arabia when her father, a lifer with Mobil Oil, had taken an assignment there. She had participated in sit-ins protesting the Vietnam war while a student at the University of Texas. She was a beauty-pageant winner whose talent was an outstanding voice. She had worked summers in a musical troupe that performed at Houston’s Astroworld amusement park. One of her buddies there was a tall, gangly guy named Randy Quaid, who occasionally brought his baby brother, Dennis, to watch rehearsals.
About the time Anne met me, Suzanne met Hoffman Reese. Soon double dates were the norm. They married a few months after we did. After a couple of years, Anne and Suzanne were pregnant at the same time. They had each other to get through those nine months, went to joint baby showers together, and generally glowed together, looking like bookend fertility goddesses.
Amy Reese was born on New Year’s Eve, eight days before our son Noel showed up. Both families started going to the same liberal Methodist church. We bought a house just blocks away from the Reeses. For the first five or six years of their lives, Amy and Noel were together often, trick-o- treating together, sharing Christmases and Easter egg hunts. More than once the moms joked about Noel and Amy getting married one day.
Noel and Amy when they were about 4.
But we moved to New Jersey in 1993 when Noel was 7. The Reeses, including Amy’s brother, Alex, came up a summer or two later. We had a big time in the Big Apple.
Every other year we’d generally go back to Texas for Christmas, always spending a night or two with the Reeses. For the first few years after our move Anne would drive with our three kids back down during the summer for a couple of weeks, allowing the kids to catch up with one another.
By the time Noel and Amy entered high school, though, the trips back to Texas were less frequent, although Suzanne did make it up for Anne’s surprise 50th birthday party. About five years ago, Anne went back to Texas to visit family and spent a couple of nights with the Reeses.
While Anne was there, Hoffman died in his sleep.
I got the call from Anne when I was about to enter a movie theater with colleagues from the small firm in New York at which I was working at the time. The shock of his death has never totally worn off, and the trauma to the family was almost unendurable.
Hoffman’s death was a financial hardship for Suzanne, but she nevertheless managed to see her two kids into college. Alex is finishing a business degree, while Amy, with the help of scholarships, graduated in 2008 from SMU with a degree in business communications.
In high school Amy, an honors student, had been on the drill team; at SMU, something similar called the Pom Squad. It was a way for her to apply 15 years of dance lessons. All of that came in handy for what became her quest two years ago.
She found what she was looking for, something that would make her feel special—at least for now.
Amy Reese in her second year as a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader last weekend as photographed by Sports Illustrated's Bob Rosato.
When Suzanne told us that Amy was going to try out for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, our initial reaction was that Amy was too smart to be just a piece of eye candy, exploited for the entertainment of a bunch of hormonal adolescents and men who act like adolescents.
Then we watched the CMT reality show about the tryouts for the squad. Several hundred girls, including Amy, showed up to win a spot on the 36-girl squad for the 2008 season. We saw Amy interviewed several times on the show; and, as the weeks went by and the group was narrowed down a la “American Idol,” we began to realize just how grueling the process was. Looks alone didn’t cut it. Dancing the 50 precision routines alone didn’t cut it. Looks and dancing ability didn’t cut it if the women in charge of the selection process discovered anything untoward in the girls’ background. I remember one girl who had made it through the first two cuts but got the axe because pictures of her bombed at a party had hit the Internet. Another girl was released because she looked “too much like a stripper,” according to the squad’s choreographer.
We knew the outcome of the show before the final selection because Suzanne had called us to tell us a couple of weeks before the episode’s airing that Amy had, indeed, made it. Still, it was exciting to watch her selection, especially given that the final round was against returning squad members, all of whom must try out every year.
Then we hoped that Amy’s theory was sound about exposure (no pun intended) on the squad helping her land a marketing job or position that would put her degree to work. The Cheerleaders, dating back to the early ‘70s, have been the subject of movies, television programs, and books. They have traveled the world and are easily the most recognizable squad in the NFL. (Oddly enough, the New York Giants don’t have cheerleaders.)
These girls do not seek out the squad because of the money--$40 a home game that doesn’t cover the gas cost to travel to the frequent rehearsals that make holding a full-time job difficult for many. First-year squad members typically don’t participate much in the paid appearances, and there are strict rules about making appearances on your own if your Cheerleader status is mentioned at all. (Amy had to decline her own high school’s invitation to be in the Homecoming football parade.)
The pictures shown above were of Amy at the Dallas-Philadelphia playoff game last weekend. The proud momma sent them to us via email.
Anne tells me that Amy recently got a job doing contract bidding in the construction industry, one of the few positions that has the schedule flexibility to allow her to make all the rehearsals.
Early on, when we voiced some skepticism about Amy trying out for the squad, Noel was quick to cut us off: “She’s going after a dream,” he observed, “and I think that’s pretty cool.” Noel, who went to Los Angeles with little money and no car to seek his place in the film industry, understands such thinking.
When we went back to Texas for the holidays in 2008, Anne and I met Suzanne and Amy for dinner. Amy had autographed pictures of the squad, which she had to pay for herself, to give to Noel and his brother and sister.
This past Thanksgiving, we hosted some neighbors who have three sons college age and older. Watching the Cowboy game in our basement, Noel was quick to point Amy out to our guests as the television camera panned the squad during a break in the action. They predictably whistled and cat called and giggled like eight-year-olds. Sigh.
But Anne's reply to Suzanne after getting the pictures resonates: “She’s working hard and seems to really love this, so more power to her!”
The wife, right as usual. Amy, you go girl.