“I twirled batons, knives, and fire,” says Marsee Essington, owner of Nails by Marsee in Mount Pleasant, Pa., who began twirling as a young child. “My first competition was when I was 18 months old. My father was very active in a community organization for children. We had a big group of twirlers. There was practice of some sort pretty much every night of the week — whether it be ballet, tap, jazz, solo twirling, or with a team.”
Eventually, Essington progressed to the point where she needed a better teacher. “My father got the best — international twirling champion June Ciampa Lauer,” she says. The move paid off. As she grew up, Essington won five state championships and three nationals. When she was just 14, she became one of four featured twirlers for the Detroit Lions football team. “We twirled during time-outs right on the field, in the corners. Every quarter, we would switch corners, and halftime was our rest period,” she says. “But not for me. I rode the helmet around the stadium during the halftime show.” She twirled for the Lions for five years — from 1977 through 1981.
When Essington moved to Los Angeles at age 18, she tried out for the L.A. Rams. “I got the job. Same thing, different team, except I was the only twirler,” she says. “I got to lead the cheerleaders out on the field and twirl during the timeouts. I was the only female allowed on that field; the cheerleaders were on the sidelines. I also rode the helmet around during the halftime show for the Rams. God, I loved that helmet!”
After three years with the Rams, Essington left the football world behind in favor of more lucrative work appearing at auto shows around the country. “I still twirl, I teach, and I judge competitions,” she says. “Twirling is just something I will always do.”