Friday, July 25, 2014

2007-08 Buffalo Jills Fundraiser-revisited

Something new for the 2007 season was a pizza-and-beer blast fundraiser held at SoHo to help raise money for the following season's calendar trip. That first fundraiser was put together rather quickly, with most of the packed house getting their tickets at the door instead of through one of the girls on the squad. To help out, sponsors and Bills players put up prizes for a Chinese auction and Sabres goalie Ryan Miller donated an autographed hockey stick for a silent auction to help out the Jills in their endeavor. Judging by the turnout, the event was a huge success as SoHo was packed for the entire evening including a pair of former Jills showing up to assist their former squadmates in Kelly Ann (2003-2004) and Danielle M (2005-2006). In future seasons, the fundraisers were held during the season at some point while this one was held the first Saturday night in March, 4 weeks before the Open Workshop at the start of 2008 tryouts. The big negative about the date was that it coincided with a Bandits home game so I had a decision to make. After debating it for a few days, and considering no one was going to the Bandits game with me, I decided to do both, catching the last part of the Bandits game after the Fundraiser.
As it turned out, I had only just gotten a new camera a few days before this event so I was still learning the settings on it and a few photos early in the evening didn't turn out as well as they should have.
Amanda P and Amanda F
With it being so close to tryout time for the 2008 squad, the girls who weren't returning to the squad didn't need to attend. As a matter of fact, the only one who did was Amanda P, which had led me to believe she'd be coming back in 2008. Instead, the next time we saw Amanda after this was on the If I Can Dream Web series put together by Simon Fuller. It's always disappointing when girls you've gotten to know over the years don't return but the one I was perhaps most disappointed about not being there was Aimee, who retired after 6 seasons on the sidelines. The reason for this was something her line did in the Miami game the previous fall. In the 2nd quarter, they lined up in front of my section and blew kisses to the camera so I was curious as to where that came from. As it turned out, Jill D told me it was all Aimee's idea.
Jamie, Val, and Katie K
There were other tales to be told that evening. Late in the season, DJ Jickster took Lisa and Valerie to Cleveland for an appearance at the Bills game there vs the Browns. The weather was pretty rough there before, during, and after the game. They couldn't even make it home after the game as they had to find a hotel room to stay in for the night to wait out the blizzard.
Lisa, Jickster, and Val
Three of my favorite 2007 rookies...Jess, Vincenza, and Kaitlin
Angelina and Kelly
Jills alum Danielle M (2005-06) with Katie K and her bf
See all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalojills.shutterfly.com/pictures/9981
From the Bandettes comes a photo from halftime of the 1st game against the Rochester Knighthawks. Just before heading out to perform, a few of the girls posed for photos. Shown grabbing a photo are Chrissy and Chelsea.
Chrissy and Chelsea

Friday, July 18, 2014

2007 Buffalo Jills Comedy Show and Zebb's appearance-revisited

The Jills didn't hold a comedy show in 2006 but brought it back in 2007 with an adult comedy show at Club Paradise in Blasdell, which was to become the home to all the Jills events for the next few years. The show was a sellout thanks to strong sales by the girls on the squad, including 4 Jills alumnae in the forms of Korinne (2004-06), Tamara (2006), Kristine L (2002-06), and Mickey (2002-04).
Korinne (2004-06) and Jamie with their bfs
As with most Jills events, a Chinese Auction and 50/50 raffle a part of the evening with some of the girls selling tickets before the show started. Once the comedy got going, I hung back near the bar to watch the show which included, among others, 97Rock's own Rob Lederman.
Kaitlin B, Lisa, and Valerie
Emily and Brianne
After the comedy portion was done, they cleared the stage and took a break before some of the Jills, and choreographer Kelli Wagner, took the stage for a pair of dance performances. For that, I grabbed a seat up front with Tamara who had thought ahead to grab the table right in front of the stage.  Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't the best but I was able to grab some video of the performances.
You can see all the pics at  https://buffaloprocheerbuffalojills.shutterfly.com/pictures/9483
In 2007, 97Rock and DJ Jickster had appearances for Monday Night Football each week during the season (except the week of the Bills-Cowboys MNF game, of course) and the appearances each featured a Bills player or two as well as some of the Jills. The appearances were held at Zebb's Deluxe Bar and Grill, alternating between the Amherst and Orchard Park locations. In addition to getting to hang out with Jickster, some of the players, and some of the Jills, fans could answer trivia questions for prizes as well as enter into a contest for a trip for 4 to Tampa Bay. Living in Jamestown, making it to these appearances wasn't going to happen easily but I made it for the December 10th appearance at the Zebb's in Orchard Park. For this appearance, Jickster enlisted Brian Moorman and Rian Lindell of the Bills along with their wives, Amber and Johna to come hang out as well as Mrs New York Jennifer Stehler. From the Jills, rookie ambassador Laura made the appearance but while she was the only Jill there, she was far from alone. As many know, Laura has long been known as the Martin Archery Girl and developed a lot of friendships through that. A few of those friends showed up to support her as well as watch the Saints dismantle the Falcons on Monday Night Football.

Laura with Bills P Brian Moorman
Laura with 97Rock's DJ Jickster
Laura with Bills K Rian Lindell
You can see all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalojills.shutterfly.com/pictures/9924
From the Bandettes comes a photo from halftime of the 1st game against the Rochester Knighthawks. Shown posing for a photo before the squad went out to perform are Lauren K and Janelle. Lauren K was a 3rd year vet in 2014 and is the writer for Buffalo Dance Examiner. Janelle was one of only 2 rookies on the squad in 2014 but while the quantity of rookies was low, the quality was exceptionally high in terms of beauty and enthusiasm for the squad.
Lauren K and Janelle

Friday, July 11, 2014

The 2007 Buffalo Jills Calendar Release Party-revisited

For several years, the Buffalo Jills held a calendar release party in a local nightclub to promote the calendar and to let the fans meet the girls on the squad. Outside of appearances and events, meeting the dancers is next to impossible for the average fans. The calendar release parties ended in 2010 however and only started up again in 2013, but far from Buffalo which kind of defeated the purpose of having it in the 1st place. Odds are that the reason it was held there was because some of the shots in the calendar were taken there.
In 2007, the party was held at Club New York in Niagara Falls owned, at the time, by the brother of one of the Jills. One of the best things about the events like these were that the Jills usually have had family members and even boyfriends on hand there to support them.
Jessica K (2006) on hand to support her twin sister, the calendar cover girl, Jenica
Jessica Z and her boyfriend (now husband)
Over the years, there were some family members/boyfriends I talked to more than the Jills they were there supporting like Eileen's mother and Katie K's boyfriend. Some boyfriends aren't always at ease going to these things but most were enthusiastic supporters of everything their girls were into and that included Laura's husband and Brianne's boyfriend, both of whom I got to meet that evening.
Katie K's boyfriend photobombs this pic of Eileen, Nicole, Jamie, Katie K, Amanda P, and Omarlla


Katie C, Kaitlin V, Ayeshia, and Jill D
Autumn and Rachael
Kelly H and Omarlla
Part of the event was the chance to get photos taken with some of the girls in uniform, a"booth" that got a lot of attention all night long with different Jills at the "booth" throughout the evening.
Jills Choreographer Kelli Wagner gets a pic with Rachael, Angelina, and Lisa
Before long, it was time for the swimsuit fashion show in which the Jills modeled the swimwear for the fans. Club New York's dance floor was an elevated stage-type area and security gave the girls safe access to and from the stage, where they walked around and posed for photos.
Melissa and Kelly

Ayeshia leads the applause for Jill R
After the fashion show, they still had time for a pair of dance numbers as Christina and Eileen did an encore performance of the dance they did at the Congratulatory Party before Omarlla, Nicole, and Katie put on a rousing dance performance of their own before Christina and Eileen came back out to perform another number.
Omarlla, Nicole, and Katie K
You can see all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalojills.shutterfly.com/pictures/9192
From the Bandettes comes a photo from the 2nd quarter of the 1st Knighthawks game. It's been tricky getting photos of Danielle and Kelsey the past two years with where they dance during game-play. I made a point to tell Danielle after the previous game I was working to ensure the two of them got more pics and here's an example of that. Shown in this picture are Lauren K and Danielle.
Lauren K and Danielle

Friday, July 4, 2014

2007 Training Camp and Jills Golf Tourney-revisited

From 2006-2011, I made a habit of making the trek to St John Fisher for the 1st Saturday of Buffalo Bills training camp to get Jills photos to share. In 2007 however, that 1st Saturday coincided with the 40th Buffalo Jills reunion so most of the squad was focused on welcoming the alumnae to the reunion. While the quantity of Jills at camp that day wasn't high, the quality was as captain and reigning Pro Bowl rep Aimee was on hand that day. In addition to posing for photos, greeting fans, and autographing the just-released Buffalo Jills Swimsuit Calendar featuring Jenica on the cover, she also showed off a new jacket from Reebok that was supposed to be available to the public in 2008. She told me her father was hoping to get it sooner but to no avail. Truthfully, I never saw it hit the shelves myself which is a shame.
Aimee at camp showing off the new jacket
See the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalojills.shutterfly.com/pictures/8989
About 2 weeks later, Fox Valley Country Club in Lancaster was the location for the Annual Buffalo Jills Golf Tournament. Some of the Jills were unavailable for the Tournament that year as Emily, Autumn, Kaitlin B, Melissa, Jill R, Stefanie J, Jenica, Jessica Z,and Eileen were overseas visiting the troops in Afghanistan. The day started out in the clubhouse where the girls posed with the golfers before lunch and some of the girls auctioned themselves off as caddies for the day. Now, I know there have been allegations about what happened in 2012 and 2013 with this but I personally saw nothing out of the ordinary when I was photographing the Golf Tournaments. What happened after the Jills director decided she didn't want the photography and support there anymore is something I have no clue about. Anyway, Katherine, Danielle, and Amanda got to play caddy for the day with different golfers after raising a good sum of money for the squad.
 
Katherine, Danielle, and Amanda F
rookies Jill D, Katie C, and Lisa
After the golfing got started, I started walking the course, visiting with the Jills around the links, and snapping photos of them with the golfers. I wasn't able to get all of the golfers on camera of course. It's not uncommon for guys to hit the links against the wishes of their wives after all. Some of the Jills even tried their hands at the sport, like Katie C, Kaitlin V, and Stacy!
Katie C giving it a shot
Stacy sending off a shot
Many of the girls sold tickets to family members as well as friends but no family showed more support than Aimee's, who probably bought almost half the raffle tickets sold that day and showed up in personalized jerseys, all with the number 1 and Aimee's name on them. They had them specially made for the Pro Bowl and wore them to the game when Aimee was on the field 6 months before.


Aimee and her fans
As the day wound down, we headed back to the clubhouse for more photos, dinner, and the awarding of the raffle prizes. With buying the most raffle tickets, the fact that Aimee's family came away with more prizes than anyone else came as no surprise to anyone. The prizes were set up as a Chinese auction where people could select what they hoped to win. I sat down with Katie K's bf for dinner and the prize he had the most tickets in for was a prize that Katie wanted him to win more than he did...a suit...lol. He was more interested in some of the autographed Bills memorabilia but making Katie happy was his primary focus, as I'm sure it still is these days.
Brianne and Kelly with one of the golfers

Of course no Jills event would be complete without a dance performance and Aimee, Omarlla, Christina, Nicole, and Kaitlin M brought it!
See all the pics at https://buffaloprocheerbuffalojills.shutterfly.com/pictures/8993
From the Bandettes comes a photo from the 1st game against the Rochester Knighthawks. Unfortunately, I was running late getting to the arena and was only able to grab this quick photo of members of Kirsten's line before they had to head downstairs to get ready. I definitely heard about it from L.B. soon afterwards...lol. Shown posing for the camera are Danielle, Kirsten, Brianna, Lauren K, and Chrissy.
Danielle, Kirsten, Brianna, Lauren K, and Chrissy

Monday, June 30, 2014

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel-review

This past week, HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel focused a story on the wave of cheerleader lawsuits in the NFL, especially with Lacy T of the Raiderettes and Alyssa U and Maria of the Jills. Andrea Kremer talked with Lacy in Oakland as well as with Alyssa, Maria, and Jills director Stephanie Mateczun.
The segment started off with a talk with Lacy, who loved performing and sports and wound up cheering in college and for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA before joining up with the Oakland Raiderettes. Once she made the squad, she felt she was on top of the world at first. After a while, her feelings changed.
Andrea then talked to Alyssa and Maria, each of whom went into debt to pay for their uniforms and other squad-related expenses. Alyssa even used her student loan money to pay for her uniform. They described the jiggle test to Andrea and even put on a demonstration of it, relating how they felt when doing it in front of their peers and squad management.

Despite the financial issues, they did it for the love of cheering and stuck it out to honor the commitments they made when making the squad. The Buffalo Men's Show was brought up, during which some members of the squad participated in a bikini fashion show. It turns out that some of the girls were groped while doing that and were quite frightened by the experience. According to the legal complaint, more groping happened at the Calendar Release Party held at Turning Stone Casino last fall.
One thing brought up was how much your typical NFL Mascot makes, upwards of $35K. In the most popular and wealthy sports league on Earth, there's plenty of money to go around, a lot more of which could go to the cheerleaders when you consider all the work they put in in support of the teams in the areas of entertainment and public relations.
Andrea Kremer didn't stop with the plaintiffs as, even though the teams involved in these lawsuits refused to speak with her on the matter, Jills director Stephanie Mateczun was willing to be interviewed. In it, she talked about how her company, Stejon Productions, was run, a company formed after she successfully lobbied Entercom Communications to let her form to control the squad. She also related how anyone not happy with how things are done on the squad could leave at any time, which some have done over the years. Of course any money spent by the girls on uniforms and the like has always been non-refundable.

Finishing up, Bryant and Andrea touched on what the NFL wants to do this season, allowing fans to request cheerleaders come visit them in their seats, something that could, IMO, cause some serious problems safety-wise for the girls.
When it comes to the Jills lawsuit, Alyssa and Maria stated their ultimate goal is to form a union, by which cheerleaders could work together to ensure fair treatment and compensation. Most squads are under direct control of the teams they represent and that number is growing. The Gold Rush Cheerleaders are outsourced to a private company like the Jills have been, but the 49ers organization plans to change that while other NFL teams, like the Vikings, are working to improve the compensation they pay the girls in their organizations.
The fact of the matter is, the Buffalo Jills once had a union, back in the mid-1990's but when they were looking for a new sponsor, the only way Salvatore's Italian Gardens would take them on was if they dropped the union.

Personally, I've been staying neutral on the whole suit. I wasn't working closely with the squad in 2012 and 2013 when most of the allegations took place and even while Citadel radio and Cumulus media had control of the squad and I was more involved,  I stayed out of the in-depth stuff and just did what I could to support the squad, including the girls on the squad through photography, blogging, and watching out for their safety when I could.
Regarding the "jiggle test," which Stephanie Mateczun admits to running, it's apparently a new thing as Jills alum Stephanie B (2007-09), in an interview on WHAM-TV in April, said it was something that she never did. While it's definitely important that the girls have to be in shape to perform on the field, one has to wonder why the change in procedure, especially if the new procedure was uncomfortable for the girls. If the old way they determined field-readiness was working to everyone's satisfaction, it seems unnecessary to change it.
As for the groping allegations, I know that I never saw any while I photographed those bikini fashion shows at the Men's Show and at Calendar Release parties over the years. That being said, I was never able to see everything that was going on as I was trying to get photos taken. I know in the past, when Calendar Release Parties were held from 2005-2009 in Buffalo, there was at least some security keeping an eye on things like that. I'm not sure what happened when they held that Calendar Release Party in the Syracuse area in 2013  however. If anyone was misbehaving and groping anyone, they should've been escorted out immediately. At Club New York, at the 2007 Calendar Release party, I think I can guarantee that the owner would've thrown anyone out caught pulling any of that. The worst thing I saw was in 2008 when a photographer from a local website took some photos he shouldn't have. I didn't even see that until the next day when I was working on photos. The following year, I ensured that didn't happen again by making sure I was where he had been and he was elsewhere, ensuring every photo I took was one that the girls approved of.
Finally, I think the whole idea of "ordering cheerleaders" to your seats is dangerous to say the least. Bringing them into the stands around a whole bunch of drunks puts their safety at risk, even if they do have security with them. After the Jills swimsuit calendars debuted in 2000, members of the squad were out in the lots before games selling them but after a few years, that practice was put at an end for safety reasons. As it is many squads have Ambassadors who aren't on the field during the game but instead, visiting suites. Suites are generally a little bit more under control than the stands with security on hand. Putting the girls in the stands could backfire with more lawsuits filed by cheerleaders or with complaints from other fans trying to watch the game but disrupted from doing so.
I think Real Sports did a great job showing both sides of the issue but I also feel a lot more could've been talked about. Alyssa and Maria recently did an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine that will be featured in the September, 2014 issue, which hits newsstands in mid-August and I imagine it will be more in-depth.

Note:the majority of the video I included in this article did not appear on the show itself but was put up on the HBO Sports YouTube page as an add-on to the TV segment.