Green Bay, WI

Behind the Scenes at the Bart Starr Show

Dennis Raabe

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Bart StarrDennis Raabe

As a new Packer Season is upon us, every long-time fan has special memories regarding games attended at Lambeau, legendary players you have met, and experiences that you had that were only possible because you were a Packers Fan. One of my favorite memories was of my weekly attendance at the Bart Starr Show during the late 70s through the early 80s.

I had been hired as a teacher in the Pulaski School System in the fall of 1978. As excited as I was about starting my new career, I was even more excited about living in Green Bay, the hometown of my Packers and Lambeau Field. It was and is the mecca for rabid Packer fans, of which I was and am a proud member.

Early in the fall a fellow Packer fan and veteran teacher asked my girlfriend, later my wife, to attend the Bart Starr Show with him and his wife. Each of us called in to make several reservations for the four of us so that we had the opportunity to attend nearly every week of the year. This was an early life hack to beat the system of limiting how many times any one fan could attend the show.

The format for the live show was pretty simple. Bart would sit at the front of the studio room with the host Larry McCarren and whichever guest player he would have on. Cherry would generally sit in the front row of the audience which consisted of about 60 people dressed in green and gold from head to foot. There would be an overview of the highlights of the previous game, some discussion of the game to come, a short interview with the guest player, and then a segment of questions and answers from the audience.

As much as I enjoyed going to the weekly show, having an opportunity to be in the presence of a legendary player and coach, meeting the players, and interacting with other Packer fans, there was value added to attending the show which I suspect is no longer available in Packer media shows today.

If you attended the Bart Starr Show you were also invited to drinks and snacks before the show. The show was sponsored by Old Style, Old Milwaukee, or some other local brand. It was a self-serve bar, and nobody was keeping track of what or how much you were drinking. The snacks consisted of cheese, crackers, Cannibal Sandwiches, and an assortment of other fares that paired nicely with a cold beer.

As a young teacher at the bottom of the salary schedule, I appreciated the opportunity to dine out and enjoy a refreshing drink or two courtesy of my favorite sports team.

Some of the rabid enthusiasm of the audience which viewers at home noted was most certainly because the crowd was generally excited about Packer football and getting so close to Coach Starr and his players. Just as assuredly though, is that some of the over-the-top enthusiasm was due to the fact that a good portion of the audience was in various degrees of intoxication!

Cherry and Bart were perfect models of southern hospitality, charm, and generosity of spirit. This was most evident to me when I saw firsthand how Cherry handled herself in an awkward social situation. It was December of my second year of teaching and by this time I had become a comfortable regular at the show. I had hand-painted a Christmas Ornament, a plaster of paris green and gold Christmas Tree. I wrapped it in Packer-themed wrapping paper, and set it on the chair that I knew Cherry would be sitting in. Cherry came in and promptly sat upon it. Of course, I was mortified, and became even more so when my friend, who had overserved himself prior to the show, leaned over and said, “Mrs. Starr, I believe you have sat upon a gift”. Cherry never missed a beat, stood up, picked up the package, smiled graciously, and thanked us enthusiastically.

I always imagined that the Starrs took that ornament home and that it became a treasured part of their holiday tradition to place that special ornament on the top of their family Christmas tree. Wishful thinking, I know, and probably not based upon reality. What is true is that the Bart Starr Show was a wonderful way to spend a Monday evening for a young Packer fan with total devotion to the team and a very limited budget. If you had your own memories of attending the Bart Starr Show, please share them!

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