1967-1970 Bernice “Bella” Frishman

For the next installment of the Louisville Mascot, I would like to introduce you to Bernice “Bella” Frishman. With the help of my favorite Cardinal Bird, Lowell Katz, I was able to contact Bella, my new favorite Ladybird, and have a conversation with her about her days as the Lady Cardinal Bird. She has a strong confident voice as well as a strong confident personality. She was positive and friendly and a real pleasure to speak with. We spoke for about an hour on the phone and plan on possibly making a video later to add to this article. Anyway, here we go. 

How did you end up becoming the Ladybird? 

“It wasn’t like tryouts to be a cheerleader. At that time there were only female cheerleaders. The cheerleaders had to audition. It was an interview for the Lady Cardinal Bird position. They asked me why I didn’t try out to be a cheerleader and why I wanted to be the Ladybird. I replied that I didn’t think I would make the cheerleading team because I wasn’t in a sorority and it was somewhat of a popularity contest to be a cheerleader but I still wanted to participate. I went to Seneca and was shy in high school and I wanted to be more involved in college. I don’t know how many others they interviewed.” 

Do you have a game that sticks out in your memory? 

“In the 1968 NCAA Midwest Regional tournament, I almost had a technical foul called on me during the game. We were playing Houston at the University of Wichita Field House that had seating for approximately 10,000 fans and the seats ran right up to the basketball floor. We had to sit on the floor just inches from the court. Wes Unseld had three fouls and Elvin Hayes, Houston’s center, had not been called for even one foul. They called another foul on Unseld and I blurted out an expletive. I had on that big helmet with no peripheral vision and I didn’t see the referee standing right next to me. I also did think anyone could hear me.  The ref was not happy, tapped me on the head, and threatened to call a technical foul the next time. I was careful after that. We lost that game, 91-75.”

Bernice Frishman and Lowell Katz in 1967 in inherited costumes.
Bernice Frishman and Lowell Katz in 1967 in inherited costumes.

What was it like wearing the costume? 

“The first outfit/costume was inherited.(above pic) Adam’s Hat Shop on 4th Street helped us make new outfits. Although it was called the Adam’s Hat Shop, they sold all types of men’s clothing & had a seamstress for alterations who made new jackets. We wore pillows under the sweaters to make it appear like a bird chest. Those pillows were great for football games but hot and uncomfortable for basketball games. The head, which was made of papier-mache’, had no peripheral vision.” 

Do you have any favorite memories or moments you would like to share?

“I loved to dance with the pep band. We were the first generation of mascots to really dance and get involved. Madison Square Garden had just opened and Lowell and I were in the middle of the court dancing our hearts out. When the music stopped, the announcer in the booth wanted to talk to me and ask me a few questions. The crowd was loud and I had on the bird head and I couldn’t hear what he was saying.  I told him that and just moved on. As the Ladybird, I always felt like I was part of the game. I was shy in high school and the costume lent enough anonymity to allow me to cut loose and have fun. Being the Ladybird allowed me to feel a part of something and have felt that way ever since. Also, I didn’t want to have to fight for tickets and just wanted to have fun. I didn’t want to feel left out and wanted to be connected and contribute somehow to the school. We were always invited to the football banquets. I was sitting there chatting with this nice man at the table that I didn’t know. When he was introduced I discovered he was the new head men’s basketball coach……  Denny Crum.”

How did you convey emotion or excitement while wearing the Ladybird head? 

“No problem whatsoever. Lots of dancing and lots of body movement. Once we were at Cincinnati and Lowell and I started acting like we were beating up the Bearcat. He played along and chased us. Almost looked like it was a rehearsed skit but it was completely impromptu.” 

Was there any downside to being the Ladybird? Any unique challenges? 

“Sweating in that costume during basketball games. I would take that pillow out as soon as I could. It was positive overall. I attended civic events and did meet and greets for charitable organizations. It was great to represent the University in a positive way. Had to work a little harder during finals since they usually occurred close to basketball season, but it was all good.”

Is there anything you would like to add?

“It really defined my college experience. I met friends that I never would have met otherwise. I really feel a part of the University because of the experience. I was in the Atlanta airport a few years ago and I noticed a couple that had on Louisville t-shirts. I struck up a conversation about being a Cards fan. I told them that I had been the Ladybird and they had lots of questions and we had the best conversation. We talked until our flights boarded. It was like bumping into old friends.” 

Cardinal Bird

After a career with BellSouth and living in Atlanta for over 35 years, Bella retired to Asheville, NC. She still works as a consultant for a non-profit organization and does volunteer work. She also loves being a grandmother to 5 grandchildren.  

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