500 winners: Florence, Jim and us.

May 27, 2008
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I'd like to add one brief A&E thought to all of this weekend’s Indy 500 coverage: Two of the reasons why it's still possible to love the race--even if you aren't an open-wheel racing fan--are Jim Nabors and Florence Henderson.

That doesn't mean you have to be fans of Nabors and Henderson. Or Ruth Buzzi for that matter.

What it means is that it should be a point of pride for Hoosiers that the 500 stays connected to these folks despite the fact that they haven’t really done anything to land on the cultural radar for decades. (Okay, so Henderson was in Weird Al Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise” video.)

Unlike Miss America, which famously ditched longtime host Burt Parks in 1979 (in favor of younger blood Ron Ely) or Group W, which canned “The Mike Douglas Show” in 1980 (in favor of younger blood John Davidson, who crashed and burned as a talk-show host), the 500 has continued to dance with the ones it came with.

And the crowd reacts accordingly, treating the Brady mom and our pal Gomer as visiting family.

It's great to have all the "Dancing with the Stars" dancing stars in town, but they'll come and go. Nabors and Henderson, on the other hand, are important. To us.

Which is as it should be.

Your thoughts?
  • I agree 100%! The couple of times I've gone to the race, they were indeed one of the highlights for me. I love Jim Nabors. I think he has a fantastic voice. My favorite version of the winter classic, Sleigh Ride is by him. I'm glad Indy hasn't gone the way of trendy and having forgettable 15 minutes of fame personas. I've always been a Brady fan, so seeing Mrs Brady in person was wonderful to me. She's a classic!
  • The parade was one part of Race festivities that I attended. It was my 1st - here in Indy only 4 years - but parades are totally Americana -worthwhile events. I moved here from a small village in northern IN where I found myself scrambling for candy pieces thrown out by floats made of hay wagons. While there was no candy tossed (please don't tell me I missed out) here on Saturday - I have to say that the 3 hours I spent along Meridian were entertaining. Excellent people watching, balloons careening in the breeze at times, some famous people who looked quite frankly as good as I remember as a kid, if not better, up close and personal looks at race car drivers - wow did they look young and handsome/pretty- and the impressive maneuvers of the Indy police on Harleys all contributed to a festive, sunny Saturday spent chatting with my friends. Gosh, Walgreen's even had a health screening as I walked back to my car. After sunning myself, watching the beautiful people I learned that I'm in good shape too. Can't ask for more than that - and it was all free! So bring on next year's stars...
  • Am I alone in wishing that Florence would go away? Jim Nabors can actually sing, in that good old-fashioned sort of way. Hearing Ms. Henderson tunelessly screeching God Bless America for the last ten years or so has been the most excruciating part of every race. I'd rather listen to the jet-engine track dryers for an hour (actually, I have on several occasions).
  • Well said Brian, I love mother Brady as much as the next person, but her latest performance of God Bless America couldn't make it through the first round of Americian Idol! Where is Sandi Patti when you need her?
  • Got to agree with Brian--with the exception of the last note, mother Brady was excruciatingly flat. Nabors, on the other hand, was spot on.
  • The best thing about the 500 is how they have honored history. The World Series is now played at night and kids cannot stay up to watch it... you hear that complaint every year. The NBA Finals have only night games. Everything is done to accommodate television. The 500 moved back two hours but kept the essence of its history and culture. It's the same event that was run when I was growing up. The fact that it is still rooted in it history is a great thing. And for that reason only I love the tradition of Jim Nabors and the balloons going up. I accept that Florence Henderson is still singing and the Purdue band is there every year. The 500 is true to its roots. This year I truly missed Tom Carnegie. (Perhaps he was there and I did not hear him.) But it is those traditions that keep the event so grounded and great. The year that they put in lights to run the race at night at the bequest of television is the year I will give up my seats. That being said, I am confident that will not happen.
  • Ditto to most of the above.

    Jim Nabors has a good voice and from what little I've heard and know, is a real-deal sweetheart of a human being. Florence, like the rest of the cast on that Brady show, is a cheesy fraud, who, once again, has found an audience, albeit limited.

    People in my section, next to Victory Circle, all seem to grimace from her traditional warbly, flat, overdone rendition of GBA. For God sakes, please drop the prelude, it only prolongs the misery. I must admit, however, it IS comic relief. Maybe that's the tradition.

    That Dancing With the Stars chick who sang the anthem -- WOW, what a looker! But like the overdone, overlong R&B versions of the anthem, her's was more of the same, just in C&W. It's really not a good song. It was a poem written without music in mind, so play it straight, play it simple, and get it over with.
  • Tradition is, afterall, tradition. And there is something to be said about that. I am a very proud, relatively newly transplanted hoosier (2005) who has been properly educated as to the truly impressive talents that demand all of the drivers in the race of the Indianapolis 500. As for the debate regarding Ms. Henderson or Mr. Nabors, I for one am appreciative for the honesty, passion, and history these icons' performance provide the millions of audience members of the Indy 500. For one who was this year sitting on the Start-Finish line in the Penthouse section amongst many rather well-to-do's (for the record, I could never afford such an awesome ticket-it was a gift from a board member), I experienced nothing but true support for Florence and Jim from the crowd. Let's face it, when we all are in our later years, I seriously doubt that the majority of ANY of us could present ourselves as well as Ms. Henderson or Mr. Nabors do each and every year. Last year at the race, Jim's absence was truly felt and everyone that I spoke with were thrilled to have him back. If anything, today's ADHD society has been nurtured towards easily thrown-away talent for more current and timely very-soon-to-be unkowns. I applaude the IRL in its efforts to continue to keep ALL of the traditions of the Indianapolis 500 race in tact to be offered for fans all around the world.

    But then again, that's my humble opinion.

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