Zodiacs return to WC for 45th year

ZodiacsofNewOrleans2013LARGERENO, Nev. - In 1969, Linda Prattini of Metairie, La., was in San Diego for her third United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships appearance, and she introduced the Zodiacs of New Orleans as a rebellion against the tournament's dress code.

Prattini disagreed with the restrictions on bowling attire and decided to challenge the rules by designing the outfits her team would wear on the championship lanes. The team certainly turned heads that year at University Lanes and kick started a tradition that has lasted more than four decades, while earning the Zodiacs of New Orleans the distinction of the "World's Best-Dressed Bowling Team."

The original costume was a full-length formal dress that would break away at the knees once they were on the lanes and ready for competition.

"The rules said you couldn't bowl in pants, slacks or shorts, but you could wear a skirt no shorter than one inch above your knee," said Prattini, who made her 47th USBC Women's Championships appearance. "I was irritated with the fact that I couldn't wear slacks. The rules said how short your skirt could be, but not how long. I designed a formal to break away at the knees, and nobody knew that. We went to San Diego in high-heel shoes, long white gloves and did a modified strip out on the lanes as we unpeeled the bottom portion of our formals. It was just a rebellion against not being able to bowl in slacks. It must have worked, because two years later in Atlanta, we got to bowl in pant suits."

Each year since, Prattini and her teammates have selected a theme that suits their personalities or the host city. This year was no different as the Zodiacs of New Orleans rolled into the Reno-Sparks Convention Center with an original costume for the 45th consecutive year.

Zodiacs22013_250x140The theme for the 2013 Women's Championships was Fleur-de-lace. Prattini was joined on Zodiacs of New Orleans by Frances Plaia, Mary Comstock, Johanna Gelsomino and Muriel Staunton. Their companion team, Zodiacs of New Orleans 2, featured Lynne Champagne, Megan Doosey, Jerry Butters, Kathy Ayme and Sandra Gulley.

"Fleur-de-lis is the symbol of the city of New Orleans," Prattini said. "Our city flag has three of them. It's French heritage. There are fleur-de-lis all over New Orleans and Louisiana, so I did Fleur-de-lace."

Plaia, 94, and Prattini, are the only two original members of the Zodiacs of New Orleans, and Plaia made her 48th Women's Championship appearance this year. She and Prattini bowled doubles and singles together at the 1968 event in San Antonio and put their first team together a year later.

The team name came about because Prattini wanted to find something that not only was recognizable, but pertained to everybody, whether they were bowlers or not.

PlaiaPrattini2013_250x140"I wanted a name that everybody could identify with and could remember because of that reason," Prattini said. "I was trying to think what everybody has in common in this world, and the only thing I could come up with was a birthday. So I named it Zodiacs of New Orleans. Frances and I are both Virgos, so, coincidentally, we have stuck together for 45 years. I'm very proud to have Frances as my partner in crime and teammate."

Countless hours, along with blood, sweat and tears have been put into every design over the years, and each team member is expected to create her own costume based on the year's theme. The theme has ranged from Uncle Sam to the Indianapolis 500, but one of their most memorable costumes came at the 1981 Women's Championships in Baltimore, when they arrived looking like every other bowler.

"One of the most famous ones was the one in Baltimore," Prattini said. "I got tired of doing this every year and thinking of something new, so I said let's just go as bowlers. Black slacks and red bowling shirts. I was chastised by the Baltimore Women's Bowling Association because they were trying to figure out after 13 years of going to other cities in costumes why we didn't have a special outfit. I felt terrible. It was at that time I realized I couldn't stop. That's going to be the most famous one of all, even though it didn't have a single sequin on it."

In addition to bringing two teams to the 2013 Women's Championships, the group also put together a team to compete at the USBC Open Championships, being held just down the street at the National Bowling Stadium.

This year marks the first time both the Open and Women's Championships have been held in the same host city in the same year as well as the first Zodiac sighting at the Open Championships.

"A few of the guys have sat behind the women's team for a few years to watch us bowl," Prattini said. "With the tournament was in the same city, they suggested we do it together. They found out what day we were bowling and requested the day before. Four of the five have never bowled Nationals before."

GroupTherapy2013_250x140Group Therapy, also of Metairie, featured first-time participants Carl Butters, Daniel Rockwell, Michael Doosey and 87-year-old Sal Anselmo. Joshua Thlu filled out the team roster and set the pace with a 1,575 all-events total. He was followed by Doosey (1,546), Rockwell (1,423), Butters (1,406) and Anselmo (1,137).

On the lanes at the Women's Championships, Staunton led the way for Zodiacs of New Orleans with a 1,409 scratch all-events score and was followed by Prattini (1,318), Gelsomino (1,275), Comstock (1,100) and Plaia (842). Zodiacs of New Orleans 2 was led by Champagne with 1,408, and she was joined by Gulley (1,377), Butters (1,354), Ayme (1,298) and Doosey (1,217).

Presenting sponsors for the 2013 USBC Women's Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.