One thing about Terry Bradshaw is, the guy just lets it fly, whether it's that pass he threw for the Immaculate Reception or the opinions he slings as a Fox analyst or the guts it takes to show up now telling stories and singing country songs.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer and four-time Super Bowl winning Steelers quarterback, who is bringing his “Terry Bradshaw: America’s Favorite Dumb Blonde… A Life in Four Quarters” to the Meadows Racetrack and Casino, talked about the current touring project in a funny, freewheeling phone interview with local reporters Thursday. He explained that he's taking steroids for rheumatoid arthritis, “so I sleep about every five days and I'm a basket case.”
The first topic was why he would play into the old stereotype that he's dumb right in the title.
Students earn lunch, Heinz Field tour through NFL program
The Pittsburgh Steelers host award-winning schools in the NFL's Fuel Up to Play 60 program with lunch and a tour of Heinz Field. (Video by Bob Donaldson; 5/15/2014)
“We were trying to come up with a title for the show,” he said. “The whole thing was a shtick because the biggest criticism and most hurtful thing that scarred me forever was the 'dumb' thing, and I used it for over 40 years. And I'm comfortable with it, and I thought it would be fun to poke fun at yourself because it leads to so much humor. Everybody knows about it. It's not something you have to introduce people to. People know me as being stupid and dumb [laughs]. They knew I was dumb as a player. Writers said I was stupid and dumb. Players said I was stupid and dumb. My own players questioned my intelligence, so it was perfect. I'm comfortable with it. It's just fun. It's a slap at me and a slap at everybody else that thought that. It's a perfect title. What was I going to say, ’Most Intelligent Quarterback to Ever Play the Game… A Life in Four Quarters’?
Bradshaw explained that the show originated with his friend John Mack, who was a writer for Jay Leno's “The Tonight Show,” telling producer/director Anita Mann that he could pull off this kind of storytelling/singing production. They brought in Broadway writer David Goldsmith to work with him, Bradshaw said, "And I sat down with him and started telling the story. And it was 142 pages of dialogue. We cut it back.”
With his band The Professors and backup singers The I-Qties, he opened last July at the Mirage in Vegas, which he said, “was like opening up doing the Daytona 500, or doing the Super Bowl without ever having played a preseason game or anything. And that kind of rush and that kind of insecurity and that kind fear is a good thing. It's like, 'God, I did this — in front of all these people in Vegas.’ We packed this place. Are you kidding me? This is so cool.”
In early May, he did two shows in Cleveland, where one member of the audience was particularly unnerving to him.
“Franco [Harris] stayed for the show and he had a good time, which makes you feel good. Because you're sitting there and you're going, 'Oh, man, why won't he get up and leave? [Laughs] It's too intimidating to have him sitting there in the audience!”
That gig does raise the question: Who would go see Terry Bradshaw in Cleveland? I'm sure we wouldn't pack the place in Pittsburgh for Mike Phipps or Brian Sipe.
“Here's what I'm finding out,” he said. “We had two shows and the shows were around 750 people. I would say that 700 people would have been Steelers fans. I don't necessarily think when I travel to an NFL city that the Giants or the Jets fans are going to come out. I think it's the Steelers fans, because, trust me, Steelers fans are all over this country. And even the Browns fans that did come up, because I greet afterwards, they all know that I'm a nice guy. Like Dallas, it was 30-some years ago and we gotta move past it. People know me now more through television than from playing.”
He was never well known as a country-western singer, but old-time Steelers fans likely remember that the Louisiana native gave that a shot in 1976 and scored a Top 20 hit with a cover of “I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry.” It got the expected reaction from his teammates.
“I think they all laughed at me,” he said. “I don't think I got one compliment. Not one. First of all, they're not country music fans. I think Bobby Walden liked it. That would have been about it. The album was terrible. Did the album in like one day. It was a horrible album — even though I had a hit song out of it, it was terrible, terrible. You do it. Like movies. Can't act a lick. You just do it. You have a chance to do them, you do them.”
Nonetheless, he said, when the June concert was announced, it drew some interest from old No. 58.
“Jack Lambert told me, he said, ’Brad, where is this show?’ I said, 'I'm not sure where the show is, somewhere Pittsburgh Meadows, Meadows Casino.’ ’Oh, that's a six-hour drive, [he said.] I can't make that.' 'OK.' But actually, actually, I don't talk to Jack. I'm scared of Jack. So for Jack to talk to me and ask me about my show, it scared me. And then he said he wanted to come, which thrills me. Then, he said ’too far.’ Pittsburgh will be fun. This will be fun show. They should understand that this isn't a Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll head-butt thing. It's not that at all. The other thing I say about Chuck is, 'Hey, coach, I call my own plays.’ That's it. So it's fun. We'll talk about the Immaculate Reception.”
He was unaware that Thomas Tull, a part owner of the Steelers and Legendary Pictures executive and “Godzilla” co-producer, was considering making a movie about the most famous play in football history.
“I get calls all the time, do a chapter here and a chapter there, and I finally threw my hands up and said, ’I will not talk about this anymore.' I've had enough of talking about that play. But if they do a movie about it, it will be interesting. The only thing about it, Franco didn't trap it, Frenchy didn't touch it. I threw it. Matter of fact, I asked Franco the other day while I was doing the show, I thought the play was 66 Circle Post. Franco said it was 66 Halfback Option. So we got that cleared up, which is good. Then I asked him the other day in front of everybody. Did you catch it? And he went zip, shut his mouth closed. I said if you're closing your mouth and zipping it up, that means a possibility you trapped it — cause he had the worst hands on the team. So it's fun. It's a fun play. It's a fun play now. Not fun to the Raiders, but fun play.”
Bradshaw noted that he's happier than he's ever been — “I'm 65, soon to be 66, I'm jacked up, man, jacked up and ready to go” — and the motivational speaker in him is always quick to surface.
“I want to be known as someone who never stopped challenging himself to find out exactly what all is inside, what all I can do and what all I can accomplish. I'm a risk taker, I'm not afraid of failing. I want to be an inspiration to other people, like, 'Hey, man, give it a shot. If you fail, it's OK.’ I could have fallen flat on my ass at the Mirage, but I didn't. And I was petrified. At my age, you never stop expanding your boundaries. We restrict our boundaries because we tend to listen to people. And we have to stop doing that and listen to our hearts and what drives you on your insides and when we do that, that's when you do crazy stuff like this. I've been like this my whole life."
Terry Bradshaw performs at 8 p.m. June 14 at the Meadows Casino. $34.95-$54.95; www.ticketmaster.com or 1-800-745-3000.