Busy mom of three has something to yell about

At 38, Molly Shattuck splits her time between family obligations, dinner parties and cheering on the Ravens.

August 28, 2005|By Abigail Tucker | Abigail Tucker,SUN STAFF

On the morning of the tryout she was feeling a little "yikesy," which is not a word she uses often. It means afraid. Some 250 young - very young - women sprawled around her on the gym floor, lithe as lionesses. The snakelike hiss of aerosol hairspray filled the air.

This had seemed like such a good idea the night before, at home in Roland Park.

"Go for it," her husband had told her. "We can change our life for you."

He snapped a few head shots while she dashed off a resume of her cheerleading experience. She printed it on purple paper, then glued a rhinestone in each corner.

The name on the top was "Molly S."

Waiting in line at the registration table at the Downtown Athletic Center, she tried not to worry about being recognized, or to picture her husband schlepping diaper bags, or to obsess over crows'-feet or cellulite or - worst of all - to look down at her spandex shorts.

In the mirror at home they had seemed almost risque, but now, as she examined the other would-be Baltimore Ravens stunt girls and dancers, she could see that her pair was old-fashioned - and twice as long as they should be.

An 18-year-old standing nearby was also giving them a long, appraising stare.

After a moment, she said:

"I'm going to wear my booty shorts. You can wear my hot pants."

These were among the kindest words the woman had heard in her 38 years.

A few minutes later, clad in the teenager's minuscule pants, she could focus at last on her stunt. A young man would grip her around the middle, and she would drive all her strength into her legs. If she jumped well, she'd end up 10 feet in the air, standing on his hands. If she jumped really well, she'd be high-kicking one day soon in front of 70,000 fans.

The man behind her took hold of her hips.

"It's been 18 years," she said over her shoulder. Then Molly Shattuck jumped.

When Shattuck started showing up around town in spangled Ravens attire this summer, eyebrows rose. Flagging down middle age with a pair of pompoms is a bold move for any woman, but particularly for a woman like Shattuck. Not only is she the oldest cheerleader in the team's history - this year, the next-oldest is 30, and the average age is roughly 23 - but she's the wife of Mayo Shattuck, the chief executive of Constellation Energy, a Baltimore-based Fortune 500 company. She's also a prominent Maryland philanthropist, a driving force behind benefits for programs such as Young Audiences of Maryland and the Family Tree, and a socialite who routinely throws black-tie dinners for hundreds at her home.

And so what if she looks like Barbie incarnate? She has three children under age 6 to think about.

Yet she is thinking about them, said Shattuck, who is also the only mother on the team. Becoming a professional cheerleader is among her many lifelong ambitions, and fulfilled women, she believes, make better wives and mothers.

As a cheerleader, "I can give back so much more," she said. "I work so hard physically, and it's so fun to bring it back home and share it."

In fact, Shattuck said that - after so many autumns spent playing host to parties in her husband's skybox - it was a maternal emotion that finally brought her onto the field. The coming football season will be the first in seven years that Shattuck isn't expecting a baby or nursing one. Motherhood has been a struggle for her since her first pregnancy, when she went into pre-term labor at a Ravens game. Although she has borne three healthy children, she has miscarried five times. After months of bed rest and the birth of her youngest child, 2-year-old Lillian, she decided not to have more.

Shattuck needed something to take her mind off this unfamiliar sense of emptiness. She considered law school, or mountain climbing.

Instead, she found happiness in a 9-inch purple skirt.

No surprise

With the exception of her husband, Shattuck didn't tell anyone about the tryouts in March. For one thing, she wanted to make sure that her last name didn't influence the judging panel - Mayo Shattuck, who has strong corporate ties to the Ravens, helped sell the team to its present owners in the late 1990s while serving as the president of the investment bank Alex. Brown.

But once she had made it ("Oh, hot mama, you made it," a stunt coach had assured her) and leaked the news to family and longtime friends, no one seemed that surprised. "She always had super energy, super presence," said her mother, Joan George. "She always wanted to just ... go."

Shattuck grew up in Kittanning, Pa., a tiny river town deep in Pittsburgh Steelers territory, where the largest employer was a toilet manufacturer.

Her family, though, was full of showgirls. Shattuck was the middle daughter of a former majorette. Her younger sister was a competitive gymnast who could nail Mary Lou Retton's gold medal vault routine, and later skipped town for Hollywood, where she starred in Billy Idol's notorious music video Rock the Cradle of Love.

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