A couple of months ago, the Golden St. Warriors basketball team of the National Basketball Association (N.B.A.) played a game live on national television. While most Vandalia area residents might care less about a California-based team that is out of playoff contention, one Vandalia resident’s connection to the franchise brought back cherished memories.
Vandalia’s Angela Carlyle, owner of Angela’s Dance Co., said the game reminded her of the one year she spent cheering for the 1996-1997 Golden St. Warriors.
“It brought back such a flood of memories of being on that floor, in front of the 10’s of thousands (of people), and seeing your face on the Jumbo Tron, and people coming up and ask me to autograph the calendar,” Carlyle said.
While with the Golden St. Warriors, Carlyle said she was very active with the squad that performed during every home game in the arena that was about 30 minutes from her home. The group also did promotional events, performed for the military, signed autographs, made appearances at sports bars, did fundraisers, a celebrity golf tournament, and community outreach promotions.
She also has several memories dear to her involving former NBA players.
“To meet famous basketball players and to be stepped on by famous basketball players was awesome; it was terrific,” Carlyle said. “I do remember we were playing the Utah Jazz and Karl Malone literally stepped on my thigh because he was trying to get over me to yell at this women sitting behind me. He never apologized…For most games I sat on the away side of the court, literally six feet from guys like Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. It’s pretty cool to get to be that close to people that were so famous.”
Carlyle added that she enjoyed getting to meet Warriors’ player Chris Mullin as well as see stars Latrell Sprewell and Kobe Bryant during their rookie seasons.
“To meet with Chris Mullin was so awesome,” she said.
Carlyle’s favorite player was former Warriors’ 6’10” center Todd Fuller.
“I was absolutely awe struck with Todd Fuller,” she said. “My head came to his belly button…One of the guys that worked in the locker room during one of the games, stole a pair of Fuller’s socks and he gave them to me. I still have those socks actually.”
Carlyle said she misses the spectacle and notoriety the one season with the Warriors afforded her.
“I think the thing I miss the most is performing,” she added. “Just being out on the great big hardwood floor and having thousands of eyes on you watching what you’re doing and feeling good with what you’re doing. It’s just feeling good with what you’re doing, feeling special again, and just having the positive attention instead of that day to day life.”
How she made the squad
Carlyle, who was known back then by her maiden name of Angela Strain, earned her way onto the squad just a couple of weeks after graduating high school where she was a member of the drill team.
She said she learned of the tryouts through the studio’s owner she had danced for since she was 4 years old and later became a competitive dancer. The owner was the director for the Golden St. Warriors’ squad and encouraged her try out for one of the 16 spots.
The tryouts took place over three days and featured 200 girls representing the bay area and included cheerleaders from both the San Francisco 49’ers and Oakland Raiders. On day one, dancers were put in groups of four and performed in front of a panel of seven to eight judges.
“They had a head shot sitting in front of them and they could see you up close as well to watch you move,” Carlyle said. “They did a big round of cuts right there.”
Carlyle then made it to day two where she and the other participants wore black cocktail dresses. They also answered some interview questions.
Sample questions included what a dancer would say if asked out on a date by a professional player and what they might do if Playboy asked them to pose.
After the interviews, the participants changed back into their tryout outfits.
“The less you wore, the more you got noticed unfortunately,” Carlyle said.
She added that this session included starting from one end of the room to the other and doing kicks, turns, and leaps.
Carlyle then advanced to the final day when she performed a routine to help her earn a spot on the 16-person squad.
“It was completely surreal,” she said on making the team. “I never thought I’d be on it. I always kind of knew that I was good because I did competitive dance for a long time. But to actually be a professional cheerleader for the N.B.A. and to be in the spotlight and do a calendar where people were looking at me…”
Carlyle said she’s still good friends with some of the dancers she used to perform with. She noted that a couple of the dancers are like her and own their own studios while another went on to be the director of the Golden St. Warriors squad.
Several years after dancing, Carlyle, who was then Strain, had stopped in Vandalia, Mo. to visit family when she met her husband Jeff Carlyle. She said he’s been supportive of her through her current dance career.
“He’s seen both the positive things it’s given me in life and there are some negatives in doing something like this,” she said.
“You tend to be very critical of yourself and your body…He thinks it is pretty cool when some see the calendar and he says, yep, that’s my wife.”