By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—Michael Wingo’s goal is to get all 844 current and former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader autographs and he’s well on his way.
Right now, he has 247 on such things as 8-by-10 black-and-white cameo photos, a jacket, a baseball cap, at least one color photo and numerous ones in a book. The jacket and cap are drenched in autographs and probably could take more.
Wingo said he most likely has one of the largest Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC) collections.
“I have a lot of things most people wouldn’t believe I have,” he said.
He has more than 10,000 items, he said, with a lot of those being trading cards and calendars.
The blue cheerleader jacket probably is the most valuable item he has.
“It’s worth what somebody will pay for it on any given day,” he said about its value, although he said to get it out of his hands, he’d like $5,000.
That’s because the jacket was used by four girls on the squad for eight years and Wingo can authenticate most of the signatures. It’s an old style jacket he picked out of a box of used DCC rookie and veteran jackets in a pile with chewing gum, zippers and hairspray. Wingo found them at an event, and the lady selling them told him they were used and $65 apiece. He bought one. Now, he regrets not buying all the jackets.
It has 93 unique DCC signatures on it.
Along with Wingo’s DCC collection and DCC interest, he decided to launch a forum for the cheerleaders. It’s called “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders—Then, Now and Forever,” which is on Facebook.
“I wanted to make a forum that didn’t just focus on the 16 years the girls were in the show,” Wingo said, talking about the show, “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team,” that ran from about 2005-2021. “It was a hugely popular TV series.”
Wingo wanted to do something different since most of the forums just focused on the period of the show and the cheerleaders on that show. The DCC goes back to 1961, Wingo said. He wanted to make all the DCC welcome.
“I hope to get all their autographs someday,” Wingo said. “The only way you can get that is to create a forum where they could all chat with their cheer mates and friends.”
He invited some cheerleaders to the forum and they invited other DCC, and it snowballed.
In seven months, the forum grew from just Wingo to 4,938 as of Monday afternoon. During the first few months, Wingo said it was basically him just talking to himself where he posted things from his collection and wrote of his experiences.
“Every time a new cheerleader joins the group, I welcome her,” Wingo said, adding that includes photos and an introduction.
Some of the cheerleaders are ones Wingo’s met during the years.
“I’ve met 2(00) or 300 in person,” Wingo said, adding that when he attends shows the cheerleaders put on that alumni attend, he ends up sitting with former DCCs.
Wingo’s interest in the DCC started in the 1970s. He said that in the late ’70s, one of the most popular things in the country was the DCC.
“They were and are the most recognized uniform in the world,” he said.
At the time, one of the cheerleaders, Gwenda Swearingen, winked at a TV camera. At that point, people started thinking of them as women—not girls.
“It was the Super Bowl and people just went nuts,” Wingo said.
Their images were put on many items, like playing cards, Frisbees, anything.
“The Dallas Cheerleaders poster outsold the Farrah Fawcett poster,” he said.
When Wingo was 14 or 15 years old, he walked into Anderson’s Book Store in Newton and noticed they had a book called “A Touch of Class.” He ended up buying two because the cheerleaders’ photos were printed back to back and he wanted to hang their photos on his wall. His favorite at the time was Tami Barber, who was blonde and had pigtails. Now, she has pancreatic cancer.
“Tami’s in my forum and I found out she’s fighting cancer,” Wingo said. “I decided to do a fundraiser to help defray her medical expenses.”
Barber didn’t want to do a Go Fund Me, so they’re doing a fundraiser on the forum.
“I had to talk her into it,” Wingo said. “She didn’t want to do it. She said, ‘God sent me an angel.’ I said, ‘You don’t know me very well, Tami, but that’s OK.'”
He was joking.
“I still remember her as a teenager and that’s one of my most fond memories,” Wingo said. “That bill has come due. You seldom get to meet your teenage idols, let alone get to help them out. Tami didn’t send me a bill, but fate did.”
They haven’t met in person, but Wingo has a signed photo of her.
The fundraiser started about a week ago and it’s raised $600, so far.
Other DCC cheerleaders are watching Wingo help Barber, Wingo said.
“Think of this as a huge sorority,” Wingo said. “They all stay in touch. Tami is like a legend to these girls.”
Barber is one of the DCC OGs when they got big in the 1970s.
Doing the fundraiser has given him credibility with the other cheerleaders and they’ll sign things for him after he sends them things.
“I do quite a bit of that through the mail,” Wingo said, adding that it’s not easy to get inside that group. You have to know people. “When I set up my forum, I had advantages other people don’t have.”
That included connections to a man with the biggest cheerleading website, pompedia.com, Steve Snider, and a woman named Misty Schmitz, who has an Instagram account called 123DCCGallery. Due to being busy with both sites, Schmitz doesn’t post as much but can offer her page as a sister site, Wingo said.
“If we do a fundraiser, that gives us all three sites,” Wingo said.
Wingo likes being involved in that community and collecting things.
“In the ’90s, I was really fascinated with meeting the girls in person and figuring how you could get behind the curtain,” he said.
That was before the internet, before Facebook and before lightning-speed communications. He needed to communicate with them by snail mail, which was slow. It might’ve taken a month to get an answer back if he got one.
“That’s what drew me in originally,” he said. “Now I’m enjoying the friends I’ve made. It’s like friends nowadays.”
He talks to the cheerleaders on Instant Messenger. One of his great friends is a woman who cheered under the name Sydney Durso.
“She’s my favorite,” Wingo said.
Even though she cheered for the Cowboys, her favorite team is the Kansas City Chiefs, Wingo said. That might have something to do with the fact she’s best friends with Gracie Hunt, daughter of the people who own the Chiefs. She’s also a cheerleader in the movie “Billy Fischer’s Long Halftime Walk.”
Wingo said he wanted to keep the fanboy part of him alive when he started all of this, so he’s doing that with Durso. He even has a notebook with dozens of photos of her.
“She’s pretty good at signing things for me,” Wingo said. “This last time, I sent her 40 things.”
DCC items aren’t the only things Wingo collects.
“My house is somewhat a battleground between the dinosaurs, the cheerleaders and the cats,” said Wingo, who has two cats and is known for his dinosaur knowledge.
He also has more than 1 million sports cards and more than 10,000 comic books.