Don't bug Brad Fogarty at a Cleveland Cavaliers game -- especially when they're losing. The hometown fan claims he can cast voodoo curses on opponents by rubbing the LeBron James trading card he keeps in his coat pocket for good luck. But he needs complete concentration. "I say this little spell, and it seems to work most of the time," says Fogarty over a Heineken at Buffalo Wild Wings in the Flats. "Now that the Cavs have a semi-decent team, I'm there to watch some cool plays."
And some hot babes. Before the team's home opener on November 3, Fogarty will be checking out the Cavaliers Dance Team at this week's preseason games against the Chicago Bulls (on Saturday), New Jersey Nets (Monday), and Charlotte Bobcats (Wednesday). "A few years ago, it was like watching cheerleaders at a high school game," recalls Fogarty. "But last year, they came out dancing, and you thought you were in Vegas!"
That's what Vandana Patel (pictured, no swimsuit) wants to hear. When she came to Cleveland last season -- after choreographing the Arena Football League's Las Vegas Gladiators dance troupe for two years -- Patel was bent on revamping the 15-woman team from a lifeless cheerleading squad to a high-kicking lineup of showgirls. And for crafting the team's burlesque-style numbers, the 27-year-old coach was called the "Paula Abdul of Cleveland." "I get that all the time," sighs Patel about the former L.A. Lakers cheerleader-turned-pop-tart-turned-gushing-Idolizer. "But I'm the Paula Abdul that won't pursue a singing career."
She doesn't need to. The SoCal native's first order of business was to deep-six the team's drab blue-black-and-purple outfits and replace them with hip-hugging pleather and glittery gold lamé with tailfeathers. She also banned the word "cheerleader" from the squad's lexicon. "Cheerleading uses stunts and more acrobatics and gymnastics, which we don't do," sniffs Patel, who's danced for the Golden State Warriors and the Arizona Cardinals. "When the players are winning, the girls are constantly dancing and getting people more excited. And when things aren't going well, they get people motivated by saying, 'Hey, let's get into this and have a good time.'
"I wanted to bring an edgy, sexy look, without going too overboard."
The proof is in the team's new, glossy calendar. Touted as one of the first by an NBA franchise, the $12 datebook spans 14 months -- from November 2004 to the end of 2005. (It goes on sale in a couple of weeks at www.clevelandcavaliers.com and the Cavs team shop at Gund Arena.) "The girls are very excited," Patel says. "It's very hot."
That comes courtesy of the PG-13 flashes of T&A that were shot at private homes and country clubs throughout Northeast Ohio this summer. Each page depicts a month on one side and a snapshot of one of the dancers on the other. "The dancers' beauty speaks for itself," Patel promises, "and you're gonna be, like, 'Wow! I can't believe this is Cleveland."
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.