The best thing you can say about Cameron Hughes’ dancing is that it’s man-being-Tasered awful, and even that’s being generous. And as if that’s not enough, he accompanies it with the sort of lunatic shrieking normally associated with visits from the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol and light beer commercials.
Some people would call it craziness. Hughes calls it making a living.
After whipping crowds into frenzies at everything from high school games to Los Angeles Lakers games, Hughes has landed at the biggest show of them all, the Vancouver Winter Games. Hired by the Games’ organizers, the tall Canadian is being paid to lead the cheers at Olympic hockey games.
After working the big Canada-United States game Sunday night, Hughes came to the TODAY set Monday morning to show off his moves and talk about what it’s like to make a living by cheering like a madman.
It all began 14 years ago at a boring hockey game in his hometown of Ottawa, Hughes told TODAY. The home team wasn’t doing all that well and the crowd was barely awake.
“I was just bored. No one was cheering. So I got up and started to dance,” Hughes said.
On his Web site, he goes into a little more detail. “I stood on my seat and started to dance like a lunatic. The crowd responded and the music kept coming. The fans were all turning to me thinking, ‘You better keep dancing pal.’ I went to the aisles, got even crazier and just did whatever my body could!” he wrote.
To most people, the word “dance” suggests coordinated movements performed in time to music. To Hughes it doesn’t suggest; it demands. More specifically, it demands frantic shaking and jumping and running in place and waving of arms.
“It’s about the moving!” Hughes explained at jet-at-takeoff volume as he led the TODAY crew in a predawn dance. “It’s about the shaking! It’s about the hands up!”
A full-time job
His performance woke up the crowd. Encouraged by their applause, he kept at it. Eventually, teams started asking him to come in and inject some excitement into their crowds. It turned out that they were willing to pay him.
A full-time job
They pay enough to allow Hughes to follow his passion for screaming as a full-time job. At the age of 38, he travels North America getting paid to act like an idiot at sporting events — more than 800 so far.
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According to his Web page, among the scores of teams he’s performed for are the Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Montreal Canadians, Los Angeles Dodgers, the NHL All-Star Game and Winter League Baseball in the Dominican Republic.
“Follow your dreams,” he advised the TODAY crew.
The T-shirt strip
Besides dancing and screaming, Hughes gives away T-shirts, a surefire route straight to a fan’s heart. Instead of shooting them from an air gun or firing them from giant slingshots, Hughes wears dozens of T-shirts, one on top of the other, and strips them off, throwing them to the frenzied crowd. He said he’ll give away 100 shirts on a typical night.
The T-shirt strip
And where did the idea for the stripper act come from, Lauer asked.
“Childhood,” Hughes quipped.
Ever the professional, Hughes wouldn’t say whether he is cheering for Team Canada in the hockey tournament, where he’s worked 17 games so far and has eight to go
“I’m neutral,” he said. “The Olympics hired me to come in and cheer every crowd.”
As he led another round of craziness, Lauer asked the crowd gathered to watch, “Would you rather see the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders or Cameron Hughes?”
The crowd chose Hughes.
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