One day in 1970 Terry Bradshaw walked into the LaMont LeMont Restaurant on Mt. Washington with Miss Teenage America on his arm.
Everyone in the place yelped and applauded.
Bradshaw was amused.
Later someone suggested the applause was for the beautiful young woman in his company. “Hey,” Bradshaw said. “I never thought of that.”
That was Bradshaw. Cocky, but in a manner that was endearing instead of annoying. It was his schtick.
Bradshaw came to us with a twinkle in his blue eyes and a sort of goofy “aw, shucks” innocence. Didn’t smoke, didn’t drink. At the Roosevelt Hotel, he ordered grits and scrambled eggs for his pre-game meals. He was a southern boy, you know.
And he was photogenic. His yellow hair, square face and dimpled chin drew the attention of a Harper’s Bazaar magazine editor, who flew him to New York for a fashion shoot. He wore his new Steelers jersey, delivered in person by an executive from the team’s front office.
“Boy, that’s pretty, that really is,” Bradshaw said when he held up what was, at the time, considered one of the NFL’s ugliest uniforms.
It seemed he was a star everywhere but back home in Louisiana. A car dealer there paid him $400 to make an appearance at a dealership to sign autographs. Four people showed up.
In Pittsburgh, he got 20 to 30 pieces of fan mail each day. He replied to each by sending a signed 6×9 picture of himself poised to throw a football.
Someone wrote to him, “You’re as cocky as Joe Namath” and that drew a reaction from Bradshaw. “I musta said something along the line that people associated with cockiness,” he told a sports writer. “I hate for them to get such ideas.”
Surely he winked when he said it.
Pictures in the PG archives reveal Bradshaw as a guy who loved to have a good time — and be photographed. He clowned with mascots, got into snowball fights with boys from the local newspapers, struck silly poses in the locker room.
In 1975, he told music agent Tilleman Franks he liked to sing. Sang solos in church, sang along to country records at home. “And you ain’t heard nothing, boy, till you’ve heard me.” His cover of the Hank Williams classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” was released in 1976 and became a Top 20 hit on the country charts. On Youtube, you can view his lip-synching gigs on those awful ‘70s TV variety shows.
TV producers asked him to sing the tune during a special “All Star Salute” the night before Super Bowl XIII in 1979. His then-wife Jo Jo Starbuck would skate while Bradshaw crooned. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
Then, beginning in the late 1970s, came the movies — among them the Burt Reynolds comedies “Hooper,” “The Cannonball Run,” and “Smokey and the Bandit II.” On television, he mostly played himself on shows like “Married … with Children” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
His football skills landed him in the sport’s Hall of Fame. His antics before a camera got him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Bradshaw has got to be laughing at that last honor. We can laugh, too. We’re all in on the joke.
(Watch Bob Dvorchak’s take on the Bradshaw years in this week’s edition of Sports ‘n ‘at.)