education, poor judgment, stupid people, true crime

I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record!

Good morning, y’all… It’s my third Wednesday as a pseudo single person. Bill is supposed to come home sometime between tomorrow night and Friday night. Originally, the plan was for him to come back Friday night, but he needs to get a new ID card or he can’t work. Our cards expire on the 23rd, even though we just updated them in September. Bill is now on a new contract and that means new cards. Come to think of it, before long, I’ll also need a new regular military ID– the one I’d use in the USA if we were there.

In any case, Bill tried to get a new card made at an installation somewhat close to where he is right now, but that office ran out of ID cards on the day he was going to go. The other ID office near his current location is closed until the 29th. So then Bill said maybe he’d come home on Thursday night and get new cards made in Wiesbaden. I assume he’d be taking me, too, since I also need a new card, not that I spend any time on the installation during the COVID-19 mess. But then last night, he said getting one in Wiesbaden is also not possible. So now he says he will try to get one in Hohenfels, which was his original plan. Maybe they have a restock of IDs by now. If he does that, he says maybe he’ll be home Friday morning. That would be good.

It occurs to me how lucky we are to like each other so much. Yes, we love each other, but we also LIKE each other a lot. And we miss each other when we aren’t together. Bill’s business trips are boring for both of us. Sometimes I go with him, but then I end up hanging out by myself all day in a hotel room or wandering aimlessly. I am actually glad I got to go with him to Poland in November 2019, though. That was a pretty interesting trip. It would have been even better if we could have driven ourselves there rather than flown.

Anyway… on to today’s topic. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the mentality of some people– mothers especially– who feel the need to commit crimes on behalf of their children. Especially crimes that are more about their egos than preserving life or limb. I mean, I can understand a woman going all “mama bear” on someone who literally threatens or hurts her child somehow. But what about the moms who feel like they need to engage in fraud, harassment, or computer crimes to make sure her little darling(s) is/are on top of the heap? We’ve spent the last two years hearing about Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin committing fraud and cheating to get their daughters into good schools. But more ordinary moms of more modest means also commit these crimes on behalf of their children.

I ran across two such stories yesterday involving meddlesome moms who are now in legal trouble because they couldn’t or wouldn’t let their daughters achieve things on their own. In one case, the mom and daughter were both involved and BOTH of them got arrested. I’m sure that will look good on the girl’s permanent record.

Case #1

Meet Raffaela Spone, a 50 year old mom from Chalfont, Pennsylvania. She is currently facing misdemeanor charges for producing “deep fake” nudes of her daughters’ rivals on her high school cheerleading team. Ms. Spone was arrested on March 5, having been charged with three counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment. In her mug shot, she stares blank faced at the camera, her heavily lined eyes glaring, her thin, maroon lips pursed into a line. She wears a chartreuse colored top and a necklace, indicating that fashion and looking snappy is important to her.

Ms. Spone allegedly doctored photos of her daughters’ rivals on a Doylestown area cheerleading team, creating realistic looking images that make it look like the girls were photographed nude, vaping, or drinking beer in bikinis. She sent these fake photos to cheerleading coaches in an effort to get the girls kicked off their team. She also texted the photos to the girls themselves and suggested that at least one of them should kill herself. The three victimized girls were all on the same team as Spone’s daughter, but investigators don’t think she had anything to do with the harassment or was aware of what her mother was doing.

A case like this has all the trappings of a Lifetime movie. In fact, back in the 1993, HBO made a satirical movie about Wanda Holloway, a mother in Texas who actually hired a hitman to kill her daughter’s cheerleading rival. Fortunately, the would be hitman turned Wanda in and the plot failed. In that film rendition, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, Holly Hunter played Wanda Holloway. In 1992, ABC also made a movie about Wanda Holloway, Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story, with Lesley Ann Warren playing Wanda. I haven’t seen either film. Maybe I’ll seek them out today.

I wonder if Raffaela Spone thinks someone might portray her on film someday. I’m sure Lifetime would be all over it. At least in this case, no one was physically hurt and murder was never on the table. If she is convicted, Raffaela Spone could spend six months to a year in prison. Mitigating matters is the fact that in one of the doctored photos that was supposed to appear to be a nude, Spone had digitally removed the bikini in the photo and overlaid flesh colored bars that gave the photo a “Barbie doll” effect, with no genitalia showing. Had anything private been showing, Spone would be facing much more serious charges.

Meanwhile, I’m sure everyone in their town now knows who Spone’s daughter is, even though she wasn’t implicated in the case. In her quest to cheat for her daughter, Spone has made things much worse for her. Even though the daughter wasn’t involved, her permanent record now has a blight. Hopefully, the people of that community are empathetic. I can only imagine Spone is probably a nightmare when she’s behind closed doors, particularly if she’s willing to go to these lengths to cheat for her daughter.

Case #2

We now move south to Florida, where a 17 year old high school student and her mother, Laura Rose Carroll, who also happens to be an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, have been arrested for hacking the school’s computer system. Ms. Carroll is alleged to have logged into the school’s computer system and casted 246 votes for her daughter, who was on the Homecoming Court. Ms. Carroll’s efforts, had they not been discovered, would have resulted in her daughter winning the contest under false pretenses.

The list of charges against Laura Rose Carroll and her daughter is long. According to The Hill, “the mother and daughter will be charged with offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices, unlawful use of a two-way communications device, criminal use of personally identifiable information and conspiracy to commit these offenses.” Arrest records also indicate that Ms. Carroll’s daughter also had improper access to her mother’s “FOCUS” account. I’m assuming that FOCUS is some kind of school computer system that has all of the permanent records of the students in the school system. Naturally, that would include personal information that should not be accessible to anyone who doesn’t specifically need access to such personal and confidential information. A witness claims that the daughter had access to the FOCUS account for a long time and use it frequently to get information about test scores and grades. The daughter also allegedly divulged private information about other students to her friends.

Given who Ms. Carroll is, it’s highly likely that everyone knows who her daughter is, despite her name not being printed in the media due to her age. Not knowing anything at all about this duo and not finding the news articles about them particularly illuminating, I wonder what the conditions were that led to this mother-daughter crime spree. Which one of them is the more toxically ambitious of the two? Is it mom who wants to see her daughter crowned in a means to stroke her own ego and, perhaps, vicariously live through her daughter’s achievements, even if they were ill gotten? Or is it the daughter who convinced her mother to help her cheat? It will be interesting to see if the media reveals any more details about this case.

I suspect Ms. Carroll is now unemployed. If she’s not unemployed yet, she probably will be very soon. Her bond was set at $8500, while her daughter was carted off to juvenile hall. I wonder if it was worth it to them.

These cases make me appreciate my mom more. I mean, hell, my mom won a beauty contest when she was 16 years old. I’m sure she would have loved it if I had been pretty and popular instead of outspoken and obnoxious. Fortunately, my mom is not ambitious for anyone but herself, and she pretty much stayed out of my life once I was at puberty. She stuck to paying the bills and encouraging me to get a job and GTFO on my own. She sure as hell wasn’t involved in my horse shows, which was what I was doing when I was a teen. She didn’t even look at my report cards. At the time, I thought that made her uncaring, but now I think she did me a solid. Anything I achieved, I did so legitimately and mostly on my own. At least neither of us were ever arrested for cheating or harassment or any other embarrassing misdeed that would have wound up on my permanent record. I have the satisfaction of knowing I can do things on my own… which I’ve been unhappily proving for almost three weeks now.

On another note… for some reason, as I type this, I am reminded of this classic song by Violent Femmes… the album this song comes from never ages, even though the lead singer can’t sing. What he has is vocal charisma. I’m sure it’s served him well over the years.

“I hope you know that this will go down on your PERMANENT RECORD!” Oh yeah?
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book reviews

Repost: Deep In The Heart of Texas: Reflections of Former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders…

And since I’m on a roll with the DCCs, here’s another reposted book review. This one was originally written for Epinions.com in 2010.

I probably shouldn’t confess to this, but I find CMT’s reality television show, The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team a true guilty pleasure. While I have never been a follower of professional football played by the Dallas Cowboys or any other team, I do remember being a little kid and hearing all about the famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC). I also remember seeing them. Even in Virginia, lots of little girls dreamt of growing up and wearing DCC’s skimpy little western inspired outfit and prancing around on a football field. I was not one of those little girls, but I guess I might have admired the outfit for a moment or two. Besides, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders even got to be on The Love Boat, and what kid of the 70s and 80s didn’t admire that? In case anyone is wondering, yes, I’m being facetious. 

Anyway, season five of Making the Team started a few weeks ago and I’ve been hooked again, even though my husband Bill has told me he thinks the show is pretty pointless. It’s basically the same formula every year. CMT showcases a bunch of “rookie” cheerleaders seeking entry into that mystical realm of Texas society, membership in the DCC. Bill actually said to me that he didn’t understand why people would be interested in watching the show, since the stories are basically always the same. Perhaps I should be very proud that my husband (who is officially a Texas resident, but doesn’t like football) doesn’t notice the group of 40 or so beautiful women in their physical prime, gyrating around in spandex hot pants and bras.  

I got so hooked on the show that I started reading the forum about it on Television Without Pity, a hilarious Web site that encourages television viewers to unleash snark and ridicule on TV’s most popular shows. And it was through Television Without Pity that I discovered the 1991 book, Deep in the Heart of Texas: Reflections of Former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. This book, which is now mercifully out of print, is credited as having been written by Suzette, Stephanie, and Sheri Scholz, three Texas born sisters who were members of the DCC squad in the late 1970s and early to mid 1980s. 

While there have been pairs of sisters who have made the DCC squad, to my knowledge, the Scholz sisters are the only group of three who have made it. I guess it’s fair to mention that Sheri Scholz was only a member for about eight months in the mid 1980s, while Suzette and Stephanie were members together from the late 70s until 1982. Though all three sisters are credited with writing this book, it really seems to have been written by middle sister, Stephanie. The sisters also contacted other past members of the DCC for input into this “unauthorized” tell all about what it’s like to be a member of the DCC. Using pseudonyms and mixing up dates, people, and places, the Scholz sisters inject some insights from other former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders without giving away their true identities. I guess this was a means of protecting them from being blacklisted or something. 

As the Scholz sisters explain it, back in the late 70s and early 80s, football and making money were somewhat of a religion in Texas. The Scholz sisters were born to an ambitious dentist turned orthopedic surgeon and his image conscious social climber of a wife. The three young ladies were raised to be beautiful and marry well. Their mother made sure they hung out with the right crowd, had the right clothes, and looked beautiful at all times. The girls were involved in dance, cheerleading, and beauty pageants and their mother saw to it that they were fully engaged at all times so they wouldn’t get “in trouble”. It was only natural that Suzette Scholz, as the oldest daughter, would eventually try out for the DCC and make it, followed by younger sisters Stephanie and Sheri.

According to this book, back in the 70s and 80s, members of the DCC were only paid about $15 per game, plus the occasional appearance fee (nowadays they get $150 per game). They were not paid for the many hours of rehearsals they put in, nor were they paid for all the makeup and clothes they had to buy to look the part. Apparently, it was (and still is) forbidden for any member of the DCC to be out in public not looking like a million bucks. That means each member had to cake on makeup, maintain a perfect figure, and dress to the nines, even when running out to the grocery store for a loaf of bread. But being a member of the DCC also cracked open many doors to the glamourous life. The women had the opportunity to date men who had a lot of money, though they were forbidden from dating football players (apparently a few of them did, anyway). Some of them got to travel all over the world and some found that their association with DCC opened up opportunities in the entertainment world. 

Exposure to all of this glamour came with a price. The Scholz sisters reveal that they were encouraged to do anything they had to to keep their weight down. Some of the cheerleaders resorted to snorting cocaine. Most apparently starved themselves while they pushed their bodies through grueling rehearsals and performances every week. Some of the ladies were harassed by obsessed fans, though they were also required to be very nice to everyone they met. Apparently, it was also extremely easy to be cut from the squad for the smallest infractions. In fact, I got the sense that the ladies who were members of the DCC were almost in a cult, constantly under pressure to look, say, and do the right thing at all times or else be cast out of the group. Anyone who didn’t assimilate was quickly shown the door.

My thoughts  

To be honest, this book is very poorly written. It’s chock full of spelling and editing errors and is written in an airheaded, breathless style that brings to mind the lightweight novels favored by teenaged girls. The book is peppered with cliches and corny metaphors that really make the writing seem a bit hackneyed. 

The Scholz sisters also do a lot of vacillating between praising their time in the DCC to complaining about it. One minute, they’re gushing about how, back in the day, more people allegedly recognized them than Princess Diana; the next, they’re complaining about how cruel Suzanne Mitchell, then director of the Cheerleaders, was to anyone who had an ounce of extra fat, driving a lot of the women to develop eating disorders. By the way, I suspect some of the members of the DCC were entertaining some serious delusions of grandeur. I highly doubt that even in their heyday, they were as popular and recognizable worldwide as the Scholz sisters claim.

It’s interesting to read this book from the aspect of learning about the history of the DCC, but I don’t think the Scholz sisters did the organization any favors. Even though they mostly claim that they loved being in the DCC, they also come off as very shallow and vapid. Moreover, they reveal a lot of questionable stuff that went on back when the Cowboys were especially popular. Despite some of their tales of woe, they still insist that being in the DCC was the time of their life. 

This book does include photos, some of which are in color. The Scholz sisters are pictured on the front of the book, all three sporting big, bleached blonde hair and very low cut dance outfits made of spandex and metallic material that immediately brings to mind the Solid Gold Dancers. There’s also an unfortunate photo toward the back of the photo section that pretty much defines the excess of the 80s. Three generations of Scholz women are photographed, looking as if they took in a photoshoot at Glamour Shots. Think lots of sequins, big hair, and big toothy smiles.

Incidentally, all three of the Scholz sisters did “marry well”. All three are (or were) married to prominent Texas surgeons. And before they got engaged, their father had a talk with each prospective husband, inquiring as to how each young man intended to support his daughters in the manner to which they were accustomed. Apparently, their mother was in a rush to see the girls get married, since she and her now former husband were anxious to make sure the girls were virgins on their wedding days. If you have any feminist leanings whatsoever, this part of the book might really be a turn off! 

Overall

I guess the main thing that comes out loud and clear to me is that, according to the Scholz sisters, the DCC is a lot like a stereotypical sorority. If you don’t mind being valued solely based on your looks and ability to deliver high kicks, I guess that’s not a terrible thing. But after reading this book, I found myself glad to have perfectly average looks and no ambition to be one of “America’s Sweethearts”.  

As somewhat titillating as this book was for me to read, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend it because it’s not a very well-written book. It’s also out of print, so it may not be easy to find anyway. On the other hand, I guess I don’t mind reading a little trash every once in awhile, even if it’s poorly written.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on items sold through my site.

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book reviews

Repost: A review of American Sweetheart: Still Not Making the Team by Chiufang Hwang M.D.

Here’s a reposted book review for you fans of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. It appeared on my original blog on October 27, 2018. I have reposted it as/is.

I notice a lot of people find this blog due to my posts about the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and their hit reality show on CMT, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.  I have also written at least one review of a book written by former “DCCs”.  Since I am a sucker for trash, and I love a good true story, I decided to read American SweetheartStill Not Making the Team, by Taiwanese Dallas based psychiatrist Chiufang Hwang.  I paid $4.99 to download her book, which was published in November 2016.

Hwang, who by now is in her 50s, has tried out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders multiple times, starting in 1999. She has yet to progress beyond the first audition.  Still, she continues to show up every year for the grueling try outs.  She takes dance classes, and in addition to being a wife, she’s a mother of two grown sons and works as a psychiatrist who runs a clinic.  Hwang apparently doesn’t care that she never makes it beyond the first round of auditions.  She says she loves competition.

American Sweetheart, then, might make for a good book about chasing a dream… even one that, realistically, will never come true.  Except this book isn’t just about trying out to become a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.  It’s also about growing up with immigrant parents.  Hwang is the eldest of three children.  She had a younger brother and a younger sister.  Her sister was afflicted with acute lymphocytic leukemia and was very ill from a young age.  Hwang’s father was studying to get his Ph.D. in mathematics, then computer science.  He entered several doctoral programs around the country and, more than once, failed at achieving his dream of becoming a Ph.D. 

Hwang’s mother is described as needy and extremely demanding.  She gave Chiufang a lot of responsibility from a young age, requiring her to do everything from parenting her siblings to reading and interpreting apartment leases and paying bills.  Hwang’s mother wanted her daughter to excel in school, and she did.  However, the mother chose where Hwang would be attending school, what her major would be, and would even show up on campus and force her daughter to eat the same dinner every night in the family car.  Hwang writes that her mother always cooked rice, and it was served at every meal. 

Reading about Hwang’s family dynamics was a lot more interesting than reading about Hwang’s quest to become a DCC.  I think her story is more in her unique family situation than it is her diet, dance, and exercise tips.  I mean… Hwang hasn’t yet succeeded in becoming a cheerleader, so I’m not sure why she thinks anyone would follow her advice on how to successfully audition for DCC.  She does include a couple of interviews from former cheerleaders, as well as some information about what it’s like to audition, but to me, DCC is not what this book is ultimately about. If anything, it’s a side note… and Hwang probably used her affiliation with DCC as a hook to get more readers.  I don’t see many reviews on Amazon yet, so people like me are “hooked”… not that I mind, since it wasn’t an expensive download.

A clip from the Dallas Morning News. She has quite a Texas accent, especially for being born in Taiwan! But if she wants to be successful, though, she has to remember that the proper term is Dallas *Cowboys* Cheerleaders. 😉

Hwang is a pretty decent and engaging writer, although I really think her book could have used an editor.  For one thing, in her manuscript, she includes things like news articles and speeches she’s given.  They aren’t photographs of clippings.  They’re basically articles and speeches copied into the text.  I, for one, skipped over most of it, as it seemed a bit like padding. 

Hwang is slim and attractive and looks very good, particularly for her age.  She mentions more than once that besides her headshrinker gig, she’s also done some modeling and ad work in Texas.  She was even recruited to try out for DCC, although it seems that might have been a gimmick.  In 1999, she was in her 30s, which is still kind of too old for a realistic shot at DCC.  She also mentioned her size a lot.  Hwang is not quite five feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds, although she says 100 pounds on her frame looks overweight.  Although DCC claims that there is no height requirement, it seems to me that someone that tiny might stick out like a sore thumb.

A news clip about Dr. Hwang’s quest.

I thought it was interesting to read Hwang’s thoughts on negative feedback she’s gotten from co-workers and other peers.  It seems that a lot of people don’t appreciate her DCC quest.  Some of her colleagues have even shamed her for “debasing herself” and women as a whole by trying out for the DCC.  I could kind of relate, since I get shit from people all the time about things like writing or making music.  A lot of people just want to watch the world burn and crap all over anyone who has ambition, especially for something they don’t think is deserved.  

I liked that Hwang encourages her readers to go for their dreams, even though she herself admits that thanks to being “hangry”, she’s been quite unpleasant to people she works with.  She went so far as to dress down one of her employees who asked for a raise.  I know that cheerleaders for the Cowboys are expected to be unfailingly nice to everyone, so Hwang may have some challenges with that requirement if she ever did have a realistic shot at being a cheerleader.  Also, I can’t quite picture her calling Kelli Finglass and Judy Trammell “ma’am”.

I don’t think this is a bad book, per se.  I just think Hwang’s focus was kind of off.  Yes, the DCC adds mystique to the book and may get some people to read it who wouldn’t otherwise.  However, I think some readers will feel like they’ve been baited and switched, since this book certainly isn’t just about becoming a DCC.  Frankly, I think Hwang has an interesting story that merits a book.  I think she should work with an editor to write a book that is more about her journey and less about her attempts to become something she will likely never be.

I’d say this book might be worth a read for the curious, but do not read it thinking it will only be about the cheerleaders.  I think the cheerleaders are just a minimal part of the story.

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