Bradshaw plays on: Touring variety show is famed QB's latest venture
Terry Bradshaw says he is still calling his own plays.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback, who is bringing his nationally touring “Terry Bradshaw: America's Favorite Dumb Blonde ... A Life in Four Quarters” live show to the Meadows Racetrack and Casino on June 14, says that makes all the difference as he embraces life with full-on gusto.
That includes this fast-paced, 90-minute variety format show of comedy, storytelling, singing and dancing, accompanied by back-up vocalists and dancers, “the I-Qties,” and a live band, the Professors.
Bradshaw, who turns 66 in September, will be sharing tales about growing up in Louisiana, his four Super Bowl rings, three marriages, toupee-modeling days and broadcasting and acting careers divided into the “four quarters” of his life. The show includes video clips described as “quirky and sentimental.”
The popular television football analyst — in a recent rollicking session with reporters filled with serious observations, self-deprecating humor and even a few bars of him singing the Eagles' “Lying Eyes” — says he has worked his way out of the depression he was battling and after “a couple of really bad years” is once again “a happy guy.”
“Life is good. I've been at peace with things I've been doing for quite some time. If I don't do anything else, it's been a happy life for me,” he says. “I've got to do a movie (‘Failure to Launch') and I can't act a lick. I played in a Super Bowl (four of them), won an Emmy, had world-champion horses: It's been a charmed life. I try not to sit around and go, ‘When is this coming to an end?' 'Cause that's what people do. I don't look at life like that.”
Bradshaw says he approaches every morning the same way: “I'm jacked up and ready to go. I don't turn to the negative. We always have the bad things, the negatives, and not everything is always going your way. You just have to work your way through them, around them and understand them.”
He does seem to be having a blast with his touring production.
“This is a fun show, not a Terry Bradshaw-Chuck Noll head-butt thing. You'll actually like it,” he says. “It's gotten to where it is exciting to make people laugh and think about their life and laugh at you and themselves. I'm cool with people laughing at me. Let's have some fun. And you don't have to wonder if I'm gonna screw up, because I am.”
Bradshaw, who had a short-lived country recording career in the 1970s, says he wants to get to the point “where people say, ‘He can sing.' ” He recorded an album for Mercury Records, and his cover version of Hank Williams' “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” made the national charts in 1976.
“Even though it had a hit, the album was terrible. I did it in one day,” he says. “I don't think I got one compliment from any of my teammates. They all laughed at me. First of all, they weren't country music fans. I think (Steelers punter) Bobby Walden liked it.”
The backing he receives in his current show from professional musicians, dancers and singers, including his daughter, singer-songwriter Rachel Bradshaw, is the key to the production's success, he says.
It's a very satisfying feeling to be able to share this with his daughter, he says. “I'm really proud of her. Whether or not her career as a singer takes off, she is a really excellent songwriter,” he says. “To sing with her is another one of my bucket-list things.”
The idea for the production came from the head writer of “The Tonight Show,” on which Bradshaw was Jay Leno's frequent guest. The writer, noting the Steelers great's folksy storytelling style and sense of humor and the easy manner in which he interacted with Leno and the audience, said, “This guy's got a show.”
Bradshaw says he is “totally” comfortable with the show title of “America's Favorite Dumb Blonde.”
“It's a good slap at me and everybody else who actually thought that (he was dumb). It's fun because it leads to so much humor,” he says. “What else would we call it, ‘Most Intelligent Quarterback to Ever Play the Game?' ”
Steelers' fans turn out at all of his tour stops and fans of teams in rivalry cities, even Cleveland and Dallas, treat him well, he says. “People know me more now from television and know I'm a nice guy.”
Franco Harris came to the Cleveland show and had a good time.
“I asked him in front of everybody if he caught the ‘Immaculate Reception' or if possibly he trapped it. He had the worst hands on the team,” he says, laughing.
Former teammate Jack Lambert called to ask about his show in Pittsburgh, Bradshaw says. “I don't talk to Jack. I'm scared of Jack. For him to ask about my show is something.”
Bradshaw says he admires athletes or anyone willing to go out of their comfort zone.
“If you are an athlete or really good at something, you're so easily pigeon-holed. People say you can't be really good at something else,” he says. It's not about excelling at another pursuit, he says, it's about just being willing to try.
When fellow NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, a member of his Fox NFL Sunday analyst team, came to a performance, he told Bradshaw, “I don't know how in the world you did that.”
“That to me is the reason I did this. It's kind of nice for people to say, ‘I can't believe you did that,' ” he says. “We are here to make people feel good and entertain them. I want them to leave laughing and having fun. I enjoy this. We can continue for years and years.
“I want to be known as someone who never stops challenging himself, who wants to find out what he can do and can accomplish and be happy and make friends all along the way. I want to be an inspiration to others: ‘Hey man, give it a chance, even if you fall on your (butt),' ” he says.
When you've been “born and wrapped” in a Terrible Towel, says Nicole Kaplan, it doesn't get much better than being able to work with Pittsburgh Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw.
“I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that Terry has thrown me a football and teaches us how to pass between shows. It's very surreal performing with him,” says the Pittsburgh native, who graduated from Fox Chapel High School and Carnegie Mellon University. Kaplan is one of the four singers and dancers on Bradshaw's nationally touring show.
Kaplan has been counting down to the June 14 show at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino since she took the job last fall.
“We always have really great audiences and tons of Terry fans, but I cannot wait for an entire crowd of Steelers fans. I might cry,” she says.
Mel Blount and Rocky Bleier, among other Steelers, are expected to be in attendance for a mini-reunion with their former quarterback. The Meadows also will host a silent auction on select Steelers autographed memorabilia to benefit Blount's youth home.
Kaplan, who now lives in Las Vegas, says she has watched Steelers games throughout the country with strangers who have shared their pizzas and bought her a beer because “there's just this special bond between Pittsburghers.”
Her early training came with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Academy. She's also performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and appeared in Quantum Theatre's 2009 production of “Candide.”
She says Bradshaw's ”America's Favorite Dumb Blonde” is one of the favorite shows she's be in.
“Terry, the cast, band, crew and production team are incredible to work with and we have a blast everywhere we go,” she says. “The show is hilarious, so much fun to perform and it's always a little bit different.”
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or firstname.lastname@example.org