My night with David Brenner, Sly Stallone, Hagler-Hearns, and Sue…

david-brenner-6add6190c2ab6db3Note:  This post was written in 2014.

I just received word that David Brenner passed away.  We could list accolades for hours, but one thing stands out.  Brenner appeared on the ‘Tonight Show With Johnny Carson’ more than 150 times, starting in 1971, and he guest hosted it as well.  He’s a comedy legend.

Those appearances were during the days that I was a young man, from late in high school through young adulthood.  Needless to say, he was one of my favorite comedians!

If you didn’t get to enjoy David Brenner in his heyday, do so now.  His first appearance on ‘The Tonight Show’ in 1971.

I knew we hadn’t seen much out of David for awhile.  I thought about that recently, and it was then that I learned he was battling cancer.  Today, it took him.  I read a thoughtful post from his son Cole telling the world his father was gone.

May he rest in peace.

Now, to April 15, 1985.

You know that old standby of “remember where you were when such and such happened?”  Depending on your age, you remember where you were and what you were doing when President Kennedy was shot, or when the OJ stuff was going on, or 9/11.  Or maybe even some fun things in your personal life.

This is kind of like that, but in reverse.  I remember April 15, 1985.  It was the night I saw David Brenner in concert at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.  With a girl named Sue.

I remember the show, and the night, for a lot of reasons.

I was in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters convention and knew David was appearing downtown.  Being a fan, I wanted to go.  I had also become friends with the afore named ‘Sue’, who worked for a company exhibiting at the convention.  So, plans were made.

Remember, it was April 15.  Tax day.  That date always stands out.

Hagler_vs_HearnsAnd on April 15, 1985 in Vegas, another big event was happening.  Marvin Hagler vs Thomas Hearns, ‘The Fight’ or ‘The War‘.  For the middleweight boxing championship of the world.  This was in a time when the whole world watched when big time boxing occurred.

So, you already have the excitement of going to the David Brenner show, and you have the fight, and the spectacle of fight fans in town with their big cars, expensive suits, hot women, lots of jewelry.

With all this surrounding us, on April 15, Sue and I headed by cab to downtown.

The evening began with tragedy.  We witnessed death.  Literally.

I remember the cab turning a corner, probably onto Las Vegas Boulevard (‘The Strip’).  As we did, a man stepped off the curb and we saw him hit by a truck and flung to the side.  I really don’t remember the details.  I just remember the truck moving fast, and seeing the impact.  Maybe my mind blocked out the rest, but I wanted to know the outcome.  I knew it wasn’t good.

If you’ve ever been with a Vegas cabbie, you know he wasn’t going to stop.  It would have done no good, as dozens of other cars already were.  Shaken, we proceeded to the Golden Nugget.

1985 was long before the Fremont Street Experience.  In the mid 80’s, downtown Vegas was trying to discover a way to survive, to be relevant.  The Golden Nugget was the exception.  It was the first of Steve Wynn’s grand hotels, before he moved to the Strip with Mirage, etc.  (I once convinced the girl running the monorail between Treasure Island and Mirage that I was Steve Wynn’s nephew.  She had closed the gate for loading.  She opened it until I was tattled on.  Another story for another day.)

Anyway, Golden Nugget was beautiful and elegant. Kind of an oasis in old downtown Vegas.  Arriving, I remember asking directions to the showroom.  And I remember walking down a long, narrow hall.

Not far down it, Sue’s hand suddenly grasped my arm.  Tight.  I looked up to see a familiar figure approaching us.  Actually, FIVE figures approaching us.  Four, rather large, intimidating figures, surrounding one smaller, but equally intimidating figure.


Sly (yes, we’re tight)

No idea who the four were, but the one?  Sylvester Stallone. In town for the fight.  So there we were in the hall, just the seven of us.  Four large, rather surly looking bodyguards.  And a smiling Rocky!  He said “Hello” as we passed.  (I’ve considered us “tight” since that night.)

By the way, this was Sylvester Stallone at his best!  Well dressed, in a white suit, gold jewelry, sharp.  Very much like the picture here.  He looked good.  (And short)

So far, think about the events that make this a date to remember.

  • April 15 (already a day of infamy)
  • David Brenner show
  • Middleweight championship of the world
  • Sue
  • Pedestrian accident
  • Stallone

Pretty impressive, right?.  Next stop, the showroom.  David Brenner was as funny as I’d expected.  (I think he wore a purple sport coat.)

Meanwhile, ‘Marvelous Marvin Hagler‘ beat the hell out of Tommy ‘Hit Man’ Hearns in three rounds.  It’s classified as one of the greatest fights of all time.  (Unless you’re Hearns)  You can watch it below if you like.

Next morning, I called a local radio station in Las Vegas to see if they knew what happened with the truck accident.  They told me the gentleman had died.  He was visiting Vegas for the NAB show and was from the middle of the country.  Maybe Minnesota, or Iowa or someplace.  Doesn’t matter.  I just remember feeling very sad.

April 15, 1985 is burned into my mind.  When I think about Hagler-Hearns, when I think about seeing Stallone, when the thought of that accident crosses my mind, they all relate back to seeing David Brenner at the Golden Nugget.  With Sue.

I lost track of Sue.  Maybe we should have hung out more.  Things seemed to “happen” when we were together!