Deep into a conversation that has tumbled beyond a half hour, Terry Bradshaw asks a question you can’t possibly have anticipated.
“You ever have anyone stick a needle in your nose?”
Oooh. Well, actually, Mr. Super Bowl Guy, yes. That has happened, and it’s really painful.
“I’ve had 50 needles stuck in my nose,” Bradshaw says while disassembling a vending-machine banana-nut muffin during a break in rehearsals for his upcoming show at the Mirage. “I’ve had 50 shavings inside my nose, and I told my girlfriend, ‘This is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life.’ ”
This was all within the calendar year, as Bradshaw had cancerous tissue removed from his schnozzle. Well, maybe not removed so much as dug out.
“This was at Drake University, and I thought I was going in for a routine examination,” he says, conveying his great pain through hearty laughs. “That routine examination lasted nine hours.”
The cancer treatments caused the fresh scar along the right side of Bradshaw’s nose. But in Bradshaw’s hands, this is not just a medical procedure. It’s a yarn.
“At one point, they were in there scraping away and I said, ‘Can I get up? Take a break? Walk around?’ ” Bradshaw says. “I go out to the waiting room, and I’m holding bandages against my nose. I walk in, and there’s a bunch of other people in there doing the same thing. I said, ‘Hey! We have a club here!’ ”
This is the sort of shtick Bradshaw is offering up at his performances Friday and Saturday at the Mirage’s Terry Fator Theatre. The man famous for his four Super Bowl championships with the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s is starring in “Terry Bradshaw: America’s Favorite Dumb Blonde … A Life in Four Quarters,” the title sounding as if Bradshaw has called an audible in the middle of naming his own show.
Bradshaw has long understood penchant for silliness. His post-playing broadcast career has been marked by that quality.
“When I started as a color man in the booth with CBS, I would make footballs out of a roll of toilet paper,” Bradshaw says. “I’m working with (play-by-play man) Verne Lundquist, and he’s like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ One time on a pregame show, I pulled a bunch of toy soldiers out as examples of players.
“I was just there to entertain and to have fun.”
Bradshaw is in at the center one of the more unusual athlete-turned-entertainer performances in recent Vegas history. You’d have to go back to Johnny McEnroe’s band headlining at Arizona Charlie’s Palace Grand Theater in the mid-1990s to find a comparably intriguing show in Vegas involving a former athlete.
This is not a lecture or the sort of motivational presentation many star athletes — including Bradshaw himself, a popular convention speaker — often favor. This is a for-real production worthy of one of the Strip’s most famous venues.
What are we going to see? Ask the QB.
“You’re going to see singing,” he says as he shoves a clump of muffin into his mouth. “Not real good singing, but singing. And, um, you’ll see me tell my story quickly about my life in four quarters, from where I started, and, as I tell the story, each segment of my life leads to a song.”
Bradshaw’s borrows from the vocal philosophy of the late John Belushi in his Blues Brothers era: When in doubt, sing it loud. Bradshaw shouts out the songs, including a number called “Goin’ Deep,” in which unleashing a deep pass is used as a metaphor for life. The song features the line, “I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t sleep! I could only thing about goin’ deep!”
He also tells jokes and interacts with the audience. In rehearsal, he calls out such football-famous figures as Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson. Don’t be surprised to see an audience member pulled onstage to take a pass from the man with a quartet of Super Bowl rings.
Behind Bradshaw is a killer backing band and four top-tier Vegas vocalists and dancers: Lorena Peril of “Fantasy”; Maren Wade, late of “iCandy” and the current swing in “Fantasy”; “American Idol” Top 16 finalist Amanda Avila; and "V — The Ultimate Variety Show" performer Sarah Jessica Rhodes. The songs for Bradshaw were custom-composed for the show by Nashville songwriter Ken Johnson.
If there is any question about the tenor Bradshaw seeks to establish in the show, which is being directed by “Fantasy” choreographer and director Anita Mann, it’s answered at the start: Bradshaw is to ascend from beneath the stage on a riser, arriving like some sort of joke-telling, song-warbling NFL evangelist.
“When I told Jimmy Johnson about this show, he just cocked his head and said, ‘Really?’ ” Bradshaw says, laughing. “He gives me that look when we’re on the air, too. Yep, really. We are really doing this.”
If Bradshaw executes his playbook perfectly and hits pay dirt (and football metaphors abound in this project), he would love-love-love to perform regularly in Vegas.
“I’ll tell you, I went to Terry Fator’s show, and before it started, the lights were up, and I just stood up and turned around, and people are hollering at me,” Bradshaw says. “I was shouting back, and I just looked at the audience and went, ‘Well, (shoot), these are just people. … It made me think I could be up onstage doing this, and if people want to see me on a regular basis, I’m game.”
If that does not happen, at the very least this show will be silly. And in the home of The Greatest Puppet Show on Earth, we’ll just say that will be enough.