Every candidate with an older sister seemed to have brought her along for moral support. Cissy Pfenning's sister buzzed around like a worker bee--fluffing Cissy's hair, smoothing her uniform. Sandee Heeres and her sister, also a former USC song girl, sat side by side, wearing identical song girl smiles. Audrea Harris's entire family camped in one corner of the lobby, where Audrea's mom presided over a blanket strewn with food, a portable TV and a bouquet of carnations addressed to Audrea.
Shanyn nearly burned a hole in the floor as she executed a flashy dance number in the style of the Fly Girls from "In Living Color." However, Rouse, who was peeking from behind a glass partition, grimaced. "I don't believe it. That girl still isn't wearing any make-up. I've got to have someone to tell her to put on some lipstick and blush," clucked Rouse. "Without make-up she's just not appealing to the male judges."
Finally, the candidates were called one by one. They were in and out quickly. Some, like Cissy, Sandee and Jenny Fredericks--a sophomore transfer who teaches both gymnastics and aerobics in her spare time--seemed to know they had done well and were elated. Others, like Angie Witherspoon, came out fighting tears. "I just wasn't prepared enough," Angie said, looking skyward to keep the tears in check. "I knew it and they knew it."
Shanyn, who had finally put on barely visible blush and lipstick, blasted out of the tryout room, flushed and furious. "I put on this stupid lipstick like they told me to," she sputtered to her friend standing nearby. "So what happened? My hair stuck to my mouth the whole time I was dancing!"
The Valley Girl ran from the tryout room, eyes streaming. She grabbed for her stuffed koala as her boyfriend, a nice-looking fraternity sort of fellow, tried to comfort her. "I forgot my routine," she sobbed. "I hate myself!I just hate myself!"
When everybody had been in the tryout room once, the real pressure started. Fleming began calling girls back in groups of four. The first group was all blond: Marcie Engelman, Sandee Heeres, Suzanne, the cover girl, and a bouncy DG named Laura Dugdale. As these four disappeared, the rest of the room exploded into an orgy of whispered speculation.
By 10 p.m. the judges were still calling and re-calling groups of girls. The tension in the room had peaked and was sliding into post-hysteria fatigue. The contestants had broken up into security clumps: the former song girls near one door, the black girls against the south wall, the DGs nervously huddling near the opposite wall.
The newest topic of discussion was one Dionne Dominique, a short doe-eyed black girl from Beverly Hills High School. Dionne had quietly made her way through the clinics and prelims. She had never been on anyone's short list. But suddenly, she was being called back \o7 three\f7 times.
It seemed that Dionne--an aspiring singer and dancer--had an original routine that included several impossible-looking quadruple pirouettes, impressive ballet leaps and ligament-ripping Russian splits. Although Dionne is curvy and attractive, she by no means has The Look. "What do you think they want with her?" whispered one DG to another. "I don't even remember \o7 seeing\f7 her before."
By 11 p.m., it was all over. The young women straggled out into a rainy night too tired to talk. Jennifer Ortner stayed behind, waiting for her ride. "I think my chances are OK but not great," she mused wearily. "Last year they said my kicks were too low. I also heard that they cut me because they thought I was anorexic and they didn't want to promote that look." She smiled wryly.
"I was pretty shy when I first came to USC," Jennifer continued. "I was a girl from a small town and I wasn't really good at the social routine, so nobody paid too much attention to me. But then I became a song girl, and suddenly everybody wanted to get to know me. Especially the boys. And I thought--'Hey, I didn't change. Why couldn't they have liked me before for just me?' But they didn't."
"And then when I got cut, the social embarrassment was really something. Especially when I went back home. Everybody in my town knew I'd been elected, then everybody knew I'd been cut. It was like, 'What's wrong with you?' It was awful."
So why in heaven's name was she trying out again?
She laughed. "Good question. It's really superficial. And if you're a song girl, everybody assumes you're an airhead. But it's really fun. One other thing; this may sound stupid but--I want to be able to tell my grandchildren I was a USC song girl."
THE LIST AGAIN went up before breakfast outside Fleming's office: 10 names neatly typed on a sheet of paper.
Jenny Fredericks, the gymnast from Arizona, was the first one up the stairs. She gasped in disbelief when she saw her name on the list. Jenny Inge arrived at 8:05. She grinned when she found her name. "I sat up all night eating peanut butter again," she said giddily.