The Jets Flight Crew has reached an entirely new altitude. For the first time in franchise history, the Jets have produced a cheerleader swimsuit calendar, which will be available to the public at the beginning of August.
"This will be an incredible 16-month calendar," said Chris Pierce, the club's senior director of merchandise. "We'll have the calendar available in the early stages of August. We're going to launch it at Jets Shop Madison Avenue, hosting an unveiling with every model in the calendar."
When we caught up with the affable Pierce in late May, he was at Jones Beach on Long Island, N.Y., for day one of the shoot. The background at a secluded Field 2 location along Bay Parkway was picturesque for photographer Steve Vaccariello as he snapped away at nine lovely ladies.
"We're honoring our heritage — where we've come from and where we lived for 40 years," Pierce said. "We're also honoring our new home in New Jersey, doing a beach shot in Belmar on day two."
Vaccariello is an experienced calendar photog who has worked with the Eagles, the Cavaliers and Playboy and at locations ranging from Cleveland to the Dominican Republic.
"Since I had so much experience doing that, I thought if the Jets would do this it would be phenomenal," he said. "There never has been anything done like this in the New York market. The Jets are the only team that has NFL cheerleaders."
Crew director Denise Garvey, in her third season with the Green & White, watched a couple of her girls pose near the water and then paused for reflection on the soft white sand.
"I'm enjoying every moment of it, to be quite honest," Garvey said. "Everything that we want the Flight Crew to be and become is kind of coming to fruition."
On this day, the crew, which included a makeup artist, a stylist and some in-house videographers, landed on the Long Island beach at 4 a.m. They got out the lights, scouted for a location and were ready to roll by sunrise. By late morning, Vaccariello put down his lens and gave Garvey a pretty progress report.
"Every single girl knocked it out of the park," he said with a smile. "It went off without a hitch — seamless."
Anne-Marie, one of the most athletic members of the '09 squad, sported a turquoise halter and hipster as Vaccariello directed her. At one point, the photographer showed the Massapequa, N.Y., native her digital image and remarked, "This is sick."
"When Denise called and asked me to be a part of it, I was really flattered and honored," Anne-Marie said. "This is my beach and we're shooting a calendar here. That's the best part."
Nicole P., donning a Shoshanna paisley two-piece, followed Anne-Marie before a lunch break. The Saddle Brook, N.J., resident, who studied Victoria Secret magazines in the days leading up to the shoot, was more than happy to change travel plans so she could participate in the historic calendar shoot.
"I actually had a vacation planned for this week," she said. "I was supposed to go down to Miami, Florida, to take a cruise, so I rescheduled the entire thing because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was actually a birthday present for my boyfriend, but he was more than understanding. He was like, 'You have to do this. You cannot not do this.' "
While there was more than just one deserving candidate, Linda was selected to grace the inaugural cover. Linda, a Massapequa product who has been a Crew member since its inception in 2006 and also the Jets' Pro Bowl cheerleading representative in Hawaii following the '07 campaign, looked ready for a Times Square billboard in her animal-print two-piece from Tommy Bahama.
The 2009 Flight Crew Calendar will be available for presale in mid-July on *newyorkjets.com *and Pierce has tentatively scheduled the special official unveiling at Jets Shop Madison Avenue for early August.
"I feel really honored," Nicole said. "I feel like I'm going to wake up one of these days. Every night, I wake up and say it's still happening. The last couple of weeks have been totally incredible. I just feel so many emotions all the time and I'm just really excited to get the season started."
"We've gone from 10 girls in 2007 to 22 girls last year to 30 girls and now we have a calendar," said Anne-Marie. "We have truly taken flight, we're really getting out there — 2009, it's going to be exciting."