A Whirlwind With Terry Bradshaw

Posted at 2:01 pm on 06/25/2015 by Buddy Martin

By Buddy Martin May 16, 2015

After a day and half with Terry Bradshaw on a whirlwind tour in Florida and a two-hour radio show, I remembered why I was so fond of this remarkable man. And it has nothing to do with Super Bowl rings or Emmys.

I’m going to go ahead and admit that I love Terry Bradshaw like a brother. Have for 30 years, though we have often been separated by miles and agendas. We reconnected about a year ago and it felt like old times, just like when we had spent countless hours together writing a book and working at The NFL Today when Terry was on CBS.  And laughing – always laughing.

Last year I attended the wedding of his daughter Rachel and then the funeral of her husband three months later. A happy/sad occasion. It had been more than a decade, but for both of us it felt like we never missed a day in between.

He kept saying he wanted to be on my radio show – why, I have no earthly idea. Maybe start a show together. But we did begin in earnest with The Terry Bradshaw Football Show last August.  One day he made a promise that he would come to Florida for a social/business trip and promote our show.

To be honest, because Terry is such a whirling dervish, until his plane touched down in Ocala late last Thursday night, it never really got real for me. Not because I didn’t believe him, but knowing his crazy schedule, how could this be possible?

However, after a day and half with him on a whirlwind tour in Florida and a two-hour radio show, during which he spent every ounce of his energy to keep his promise, I remembered why I was so fond of this remarkable man. And it has nothing to do with Super Bowl rings or Emmys.

I am beyond grateful for his friendship, his kindness and his generosity.

From Tampa, to Jacksonville to Ocala, Terry spread the word about our radio show like he was Johnny Appleseed. He couldn’t have been prouder to talk about it if he were the executive producer of Sixty Minutes.  Every room he entered and left was better for it, and so were the people he touched.

In the end he was more impressive about his willingness to interact with people and let them up close than about the soft spiel he gave to potential partners in his radio venture.

It is during these kind moments that I appreciate the price of fame that he must pay, but more than that, the gracious way he handles tough situations when most of us would crack under the pressure.

This is just a smattering of what the next 34 hours of the whirlwind was like:

*  THE STARBUCKS FIASCO: I am rolling on to the tarmac at Landmark Aviation in Tampa, meeting his private plane to pick up he and his wife Tammy after their evening at a charity event for Joe Gibbs in Washington, D.C.  We are driving across town for our meeting, behind schedule. Meanwhile Terry spots a Starbucks and wants to stop for coffee. It turns into a 20-minute ordeal, with a trainee twice failing to get the order right, still leaving us short one cup of coffee on the third try, Terry waiting patiently for it to be brewed. The trainee comes from behind the counter and insists on having a picture made with Terry -- which was fine, except after five tries of not getting her phone camera to work, she is now asking her co-worker to go and fetch her phone and take the photo. Terry never grousing or complaining, even though we are now already 15 minutes late for our meeting. I am thinking, better him than me – I couldn’t have handled it with that much grace. Now 35 minutes late, we arrive for lunch.  While Terry picks over his salad with Salmon and Tammy drinks only water, we talk about how to grow our show. It’s an amicable meeting with a promising outcome and we are underway.

*  TRAPPED IN THE AIRPORT: Dropping Terry off at the Tampa Hilton where he is to make a speech to a group of lawyers (he does 30 of these a year for very large bucks) as I drive back to Ocala. After the speech I meet his plane at 11 p.m. at Landmark in Ocala – which is closed, by the way. Except for the secret code that his pilot knew to open the gate, they would not been able escape from behind the chain link fence with their baggage. We head to the Martin Mansion, unload his bags, say goodnight, as he and Tammy crash (in the bed, not the plane) for the upcoming long marathonic day. It was only the first 200 miles of what is just the beginning of a loooooong 34-hour period and truly one of the most amazing days I will have ever spent.

*  LATE START: It’s 7 a.m. Friday. Panic! For the first time in years I have slept past this late hour and now we are due in Jacksonville in just two hours and a half to meet our teammates from Southern Pigskin. It’s a 2 hour and 20 minute trip. So we head up U.S. 301, mindful of the speed traps in Waldo and Lawtey. As we cruise along, we are able to catch up on old times and new times, as Bradshaw keeps bitching about my driving and, as always, we laugh a lot. We sneak past and roll into downtown Jacksonville just in time, accommodated by our friend Brenden with a special parking spot, head upstairs to meet with Charlie, B.J., Kevin and Matt about what’s ahead for Southern Pigskin Tonight. We have 90 minutes. TB tells everybody this show can go big or stay small, but we plan to be around for a while and are going to have fun doing it. (If you’ve never been privileged to see Terry in perpetual motion, you wouldn’t believe it.) Autographs, autographs, autographs. Snap, snap, snap  -- maybe 50 photos? – and as we are headed out the door for our next meeting,  somebody throws Terry a basketball. He takes aim from the balcony above at a basket down one level below, and drains a long one. It might become viral. Then TB struts off like he has just completed a Super Bowl touchdown pass to Lynn Swann. We are on our way across town to visit our friend Frank and talk more about our show.

*  ON TO FRANK’S PLACE: Food laid out, we are having a working lunch with Frank’s team, who is meeting Terry for the first time. Frank is blown away (“I had no idea what an awesome person he is – I am really impressed.”) Tried to tell you Frank, tried to tell you. Terry loves it in Jacksonville and wants The Terry Bradshaw/Buddy Martin Show to be heard there. Frank says he wants to help make it happen. Autographs, autographs, autographs – snap, snap, snap. We have to leave for Ocala in 20 minutes, but will take an alternate route on the back roads through the Ocala National Forest. Except there is no cell service part of the way and that means Terry can’t talk to his agent about the TV show he’s doing in Asia this summer with William Shatner and Henry Winkler, so that will have to wait. No, he says, he doesn’t have time to talk to the president of NBC because he is heading to Hawaii on Monday. He does have time, however, for the folks in Ocala, two hours of small town radio with a live audience which will turn out to be epic.

*  KEEPING A SECRET: The clock is an issue, just to make it back in time for the 4 p.m. start of our broadcast. A live audience is awaiting, but Terry doesn’t know it yet. We are scheduled do the show, have dinner later at Mark’s Prime Steakhouse with some of our radio staff and get his wheels up before 10. Wanting to get out Friday night and fly back to his home in Texas, Terry is already spent, beyond exhaustion, as he keeps an eye on the weather. He and Tammy could possibly be forced to return to their room at the Martin Mansion and fly out Saturday. Meanwhile, he falls asleep in the passenger side but five minutes later cell service turns on and the calls start coming in. It’s Asia calling again. We make a pit stop at a convenience story in Salt Springs – thankfully nobody recognizes Terry and we aren’t delayed. And we hit Ocala with 10 minutes to spare. I turn on the radio and he hears Tom Schmitz’s voice – it’s Tom who usually calls Terry to hook up for The Terry Bradshaw Football Show – and Terry asks, “Who’s that?” I can tell he’s trying to imagine what Tom looks like. He will be surprised. Ahead we still have my live radio show on WOCA, a small reception after that with scrumptious food from our pal Chef Dave Del Rio of Eaton’s Beach Sandbar and Grille (some of it Cajun flavor in honor of Terry’s Louisiana heritage).

*   We are 10 minutes late. By the time we arrive at the Paddock Mall and park, I can see a group gathering out front in a special small grandstand provided by Party Time Rental, with station owner Joe Martone waiting at the door and 35 people jammed into the studio. Right about now I am expecting to hear, “Buddy, you didn’t tell me about this!” I am afraid to make eye contact. Terry says nothing, despite knowing what’s ahead – two hours of radio, tons more autographs and picture requests, then dinner, before his plane takes off. Schmitz and Tom James are already underway with the show when we walk in and sit down. Suddenly I can see the sparkle in his eyes returning. Strap it on, folks because, TB is in town and about to light up the airways.

*  THE STORY TELLER: Even though I know almost all of Terry’s stories – I even wrote a book with him in 1989 – I always marvel at his retelling them again because of his remarkable storytelling skills. That’s when the Southern Boy comes out. For the 30 years we have been friends, his interaction with people has always amazed me, whether an elevator operator in a Manhattan hotel, a passerby on Sixth Avenue or a movie star, Terry always engages people like he knows them. He is approachable, friendly and outgoing. In turn, people feel like they already know Terry and have no qualms about reminding him that they once met him in Buffalo, New York or on a rainy Tuesday in a pizza parlor – or whatever. He’s always honest and will tell them, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t remember.”

*  IT’S SHOWTIME: We’re on the air. Terry Bradshaw Unplugged.  For the life of me I can’t remember what we all talked about, but the two hours flew by. Even Terry says so. Except I do recall receiving texts from my daughter Rebecca in Wyomissing, PA, who kept reminding me to tell some the old tales … watching Terry stop to pick up his chair and repair it in mid-program … Terry saying “oops” when he realizes there are two pastors in the room, and he says the word ass (“it’s in the bible!”) … no harm, no foul. And TB takes a shot at Landmark for not having their gates open at midnight. Smiles around the audience. There is great chemistry in the room. We laugh a lot at our old stories and I see the delight in the faces of the audience, plus another 35-40 peeking through outside the glass. The audience inside is invited to ask questions in the second hour. Now TB has hit his stride and when he’s like this, he can do radio for two days straight, standing on his head. The adrenalin is overriding his exhaustion. He tells promising stock car driver, 18-year-old “No Brakes Jake” Perkins, who could have gone to Harvard or Yale but is enrolling in Florida for next fall, to chase his dream and “take off the dollar sign off.” He answers Hunter’s question about his toughest challenge (“Trying to be nice to people.”) He tells Chris how special his three daughters are to him. As we close the show, Terry has the final word and talks about what a special time this has been. We have a drawing for three signed TB posters. At the end of the show, Terry looks outside at the autograph hounds and the Facebook Paparazzi and says, “How about those people?” He walks outside and signs all kinds of items, takes another 20 photos and steps back inside. Tito, a friend of mine, sprints down to the Gator Patch to buy a football and have it signed. Fans have hit the TB jackpot because everybody gets a piece of Terry tonight. And I am thinking, “These people have no idea what this man has been through the last 30 hours.” This is when I love Terry the most -- because of his willingness to give more even when his tank is empty. On the way back to the food room, he stops to kneel down and take a picture of he and Hunter, who’s in a wheel chair. The photo is splendid. On the matter of how Tom’s voice fit his appearance, “I thought he was a lot taller.” Now on to the groaning table of Dave’s food. More autographs, more photos, more meet-and-greets. I remind Terry of dinner – time to leave. “Can’t we just eat here? This is great,” Terry said of Dave’s food. No, because we have a commitment to people at Mark’s. But leaving that delicious Del Rio cuisine behind is tough.

*  MARK’S … AND THEN TO HAWAII? The food was some of the best ever – starting with Del Rio’s killer muffaletta sandwich, shrimp and grits, etc. --  all the way to the dinner with Terry and my radio colleagues at Mark’s. But so was the company, which always brings out the flavor.  And the show? “It was a great show,” Terry would say later. It didn’t take long for the room to start buzzing because they spotted TB in Mark’s right away, but courteously remained at a distance. Other than friends Tony and Ronnie, who I wanted Terry to meet, we were able to slip to our semi-private room in the back. I’ve eaten at Mark’s Prime Steakhouse more than 50 times, but the filet-baked potato-spinach-chopped salad meal was maybe the best ever. Not just because Terry picked up the tab for all of us, or that server Enos knocked it out of the park with his relaxed-but-efficient and comfortable service. Everything was just perfect for the final three of the 34 hours of an unforgettable experience. A few minutes into the meal, Terry blurted out: “We need to take all of radio family to my home in Hawaii, spend about 10 days and do the show from there.” I was afraid to speak about it, for fear the trance might be broken. If felt just exactly like the time a year and 16 days ago when Terry called and said, “I want to come on your radio show every week, pick games and have some fun.” Sure you do, Terry. Are you loco? You’ve got better things to do! He had said it four more times in conversations until he pressed me for a date, and I said, “We’ll start it in August.” And a few weeks later, he added: “I’ll come down there, I’ll do the show live and in person …  and we’ll take a trip around Florida … put our little network together.” We had just joined the Southern Pigskin network and teamed up with the guys From Three & Out in Brunswick/The Golden Isles, Savannah/Hilton Head and Waycross – plus WOCA and WYKE in Citrus County. This would prove to be the quickest way to launch on the stations. So Part 1 happened, now Part 2 became real, just like everything else. So who I am I to doubt that we won’t be on the Big Island one day soon, as I introduce Terry with my Ed McMahon impression: “HHhheeeeeeeeeeere’s Terry”?

We hug and say goodbye and I tell him: “Terry Bradshaw, you were friggin’ awesome! You left it all on the field today, bro! ” I forget what he said, because he was so tired, but happy. In three hours he would be at his Oklahoma ranch. His daughter Rachel waiting to see him.

And, oh yeah, when we arrived at Landmark Aviation at 9:45, not only had the gates opened, we have a personal representative directing us to the tarmac and the plane. TB has spoken. The plane disappears into the night.

The photos, videos and text messages have come funneling in, all heaping praise on this unique day. The mission has been accomplished beyond expectation. The buzz lingers.

Twenty-four hours later it is like coming off a sugar high and we are all still a bit dumbfounded. Did this really happen?

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