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August 1, 2014

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Q+A: NFL legend Terry Bradshaw is a TV host, comedian, actor and … singer?!

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Four-time Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and coach Chuck Noll.

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw is quite the comic. He’s hilarious, and trying to interview him is a tough assignment since you’re on the floor rolling around in laughter from his antics. But it’s not just his humor that knocks you for six. Who knew he could sing? Now he’s parlaying that larger-than-life magnetism into a new show headed to The Mirage on June 28 and 29.

For now, it has an unwieldy title: “Terry Bradshaw: America’s Favorite Dumb Blond -- A Life in Four Quarters.” Watch that get shortened before curtain up. The athlete, broadcaster and author of five books admits that it’s taken him three years to get the courage to perform on the Strip.

He’s a minefield of anecdotes from his poverty-ridden childhood to the journey to four Super Bowl rings in 1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And the two-time Super Bowl MVP was once a toupee model with a Top 10 hit for his version of Hank Williams’ “So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

His show producer and director, Anita Mann (“Fantasy” at the Luxor), said: “Terry is a unique talent. He can do so many things so well. He’s so quick witted and ad-lib funny with a mind like mine that goes all over the place at once. I don’t think we’ll work with a script. Just bullet points, and let him fly!

“He’s going to totally surprise our audiences with his singing, his storytelling. He’s going to show his football fans, his music fans and his movie and TV fans that he is a superb, totally unscripted entertainer.”

I had an exclusive, first day of rehearsals interview with Terry before he went onstage at the “Fantasy” theater in the Luxor. The topless adult show’s headliner, Lorena Peril, is one of the four gorgeous girls who will back Terry with his seven-piece band.

Here’s our candid conversation:

Please complete this sentence: “All my life, I have been told …” Hopefully you’ll say, “All my life, I’ve been told you can’t do that.”

Oh my gosh. That was the first thing I was going to say, but my subconscious said don’t say that because that is what everybody says. I don’t have any one thing that is consistent with that phrase. No binding answer, but the first thing I did think of was “you can’t do that.”

I have various things that I have attempted to do. I have always felt you didn't get the respect that you deserve because your calling in life was to be a football player, so, therefore, your calling in life is to play football and not to sing, and not to act, and not to be a dancer, not to be a writer, an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer. You’re pigeon-holed. So the real answer is, “You can’t be more than what people know you for,” which in my case is football. But I’m so much more!

Terry Bradshaw in Las Vegas

NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Were you ever told, when you first filmed with Burt Reynolds, that you weren’t going to make it as an actor?

No because nobody thought I was an actor! But I understood all the little silly roles that I did just because I was terrified. I understood that, and I wasn’t trying to move past that. I didn’t care about acting.

So what bit you for this live production headlining on the Strip? That’s got to be even more terrifying?

I love entertaining. I have always loved it. Life of the party! I was an ADD/ADHD kid, probably ADHD early and ADD now. I still take my medicine. I just got back on it because in doing this show, there is so much to learn, and I couldn’t focus, so I went back to the doctor. I had been off it for two years and just got back on it. It’s not working yet. It takes about two weeks. Now I’ve forgotten what your question was!

I have got to stop you because Anita and I are just alike. What she does drives me crazy. She starts with something about the show and before finishing it has moved to the wardrobe and before finishing that, she’s juggling phone calls and before they are over, she’s onto something else. She totally forgets what we started out with -- I told her we are both alike. We start and we go everywhere except where we really intended to go.

I started speaking 30 years ago giving motivational talks. I learned how to present stuff onstage in front of corporate crowds. I started off initially being more serious in my presentation, but then got a little bit riskier and adding more humor to where now it is probably 60 percent humor. It is entertainment, and I enjoy that. Am I now answering your question?!

People want to be entertained; we all want to be entertained. I don't care if it is on television or on stage; we select the entertainment we like. I have always enjoyed that, and I have always had one burning desire but have been afraid to pursue.

As an actor? On Broadway?

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Terry Bradshaw.

Yeah, in a comedic role. I’ve had some chances but was too scared to ever follow up on it. This show is now three years behind schedule because I kept going, “I am going to do it,” but then I couldn’t.

Why now can you do it?

I forced myself to sign the contract before it was all filled in so I couldn’t back out. One of the things I’ve always wanted to do was to come to Las Vegas and perform. I want it to be good but worry constantly about it being a bomb. But I know I have a great band, four gorgeous girls and a wonderful producer-director in Anita. I get to sing 6 1/2 songs. I sing with my daughter Rachel, so that’s the half song! She’s in the show. Her first single is released also in June. My bandleader Ken Johnson will sing a song that he wrote called “Terry Bradshaw’s Beans” because he loves my beans.

Let’s go through the structure of the show. It is a little bit of singing, not very much dancing, but obviously it is a party.

It is. It is the story of my life in comedic tone and songs. The songs are all funny. It starts off preaching, the first song is a preaching song. It sets the tone for -- as a matter of fact, it is the hardest song, too. It is extremely long. The girls are phenomenal in it, and it sets the stage for the whole show. Then I tell you a little bit about me. I start off about my life, and then I go into a song called “Humble Beginning,” which is a song about my grandmother and grandfather and how my grandfather taught me how to plow the fields with a team of Clydesdales. My grandmother made her dresses out of spare flour sacks. We were poor people with humble beginnings.

That sets the stage for the foundation of my life. We go into the football, my first love, we go into the football and storytelling. One of the reasons this has taken so long to get to actually rehearsing for this is I don’t want to talk about myself. It is embarrassing, so I had to overcome that. We narrowed it down, so it’s not just I did this, I did that. It has got humor all through it. We even have a chorus line for “A Life in Four Quarters” because I talk about the wives. I take a halftime break so the girls can critique my performance. It’s not good, but it is pretty funny.

Think of a career where my hands were under another man’s butt, so that’s very funny. I make fun of the guys today making millions of dollars, and they don't even call their own plays. It is a shot at me the whole time. I have always wanted to be in Las Vegas, and my manager, who managed Bobby Darrin and Wayne Newton, always said I’d do great here. I have always felt like a fish in water with football, Fox, speeches, riding horses and raising cattle.

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Terry Bradshaw.

But I am a bad husband; I haven’t done very well at that. [Terry has been divorced three times.] I am a Christian guy, I’ve struggled with that, I have struggled with everything. I am bald, I’m not particularly attractive -- by the way, nor are you! It’s taken me years -- I think till I was 64 and admitting it -- that I got comfortable. Then it was, “Let’s do it! Let’s do it!”

This sure is a unique way to enter Las Vegas.

A guy asked me when he drove me over here, “So how long is your run for?” I said we open on Friday and close on Saturday!

Yeah, but you are going to come back.

I hope so.

The money back then in football versus the money today?

I retired in 1983 making $300,000 a year, and the backup punter now makes a half a million. Moneywise, one of my lines I like to use and I may use it in the show is the fact that you are not going to see Drew Brees or Andrew Luck showing up. They don’t need the $2,000 I’ll make -- hopefully I’ll make that!

I don’t know if I’m going to wear a top hat and tails. I do know I am going to be about 15 pounds lighter. I’m still losing weight. I have been hanging around 219-220 so I am going to go down to 205.

If we talk about life being four quarters of challenges and this quarter now is where you are going to do show biz for real …

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Terry Bradshaw.

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Terry Bradshaw at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage.

It might be overtime because my time is over. I don’t think I have ever done anything in my life that is a greater challenge than this. It is not that I can’t do it. My only fear is not the people, my only fear is making sure that I know the show. I am dead serious. I am not afraid of the singing part. They don’t even know I can sing until they hear me. Going out to play a game in front of 100,000 spectators doesn’t worry me. Nothing to it. I have been playing football since I was 7.

My biggest concern is knowing the show inside and out. I am serious that is the only thing I am worried about. Since football ended Feb. 5, I have spent my entire off-season getting ready for two days.

But the two days are a steppingstone.

I am not looking at it as a steppingstone. I am looking at it as two days. If they come out of the woodwork throwing me offers, then I’ll take the offers. If it goes well, I would like to do it as long as I am healthy and I can present the show.

Your Broadway dream may come true out of this.

I don’t want to go to Broadway anymore. If it works out, it would be a fun thing to do my corporate work, and then go onstage and do an hour’s worth of stand-up. That would be a blast. I’d do 25 corporate gigs, and then another 25 days on the road with this show. I’d have to go back to Shreveport, La., with this where I was born. I would want to bounce around America. Once I have the show down, it would be blast -- once I got comfortable speaking and creating.

Final question going back to the first train of thought. Life in the end of the fourth quarter, this has been a dream for many years, anything else left to achieve after this?

I would think that the thing that I would want to see come from this would be that it is successful. We all have friends who are brutally honest, and then we have friends who will always make us feel good, and I told my friends who are brutally honest that they are not invited!

I told my friends who are getting tickets, “I don’t want you to come.” I told Jimmy Johnson, “I can’t do this show if you come.” But he said he is coming. Big Howie [Long] -- 6’5,” 270 -- says, “I don’t believe it; I can’t believe you are doing this.” He says, “Boy, that is putting them on the table. Wow, man, you are really doing this?”

I like to take risks. I have done a lot of things, and I have failed at most of them, but I have done a lot of things. I spoke to the International Physicists Society in Washington, D.C., 72 world-renowned physicists. They didn’t laugh; I was sweating. I didn’t have a dry thread on me. I always have lights up so that I can see the people that I am talking to; I wish I had had them down. That was the worst day of my life. … But the meeting planner said they loved me. They were expressionless; they never laughed, but they loved me.

So if I can do that, I can do this. I am probably going to write the songs while I’m onstage!

Terry quarterbacks his new show “A Life in Four Quarters” at The Mirage on June 28 and 29. Tickets are on sale now. We’ll post our interview with Terry and his observations about football as his show nears.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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