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October 30, 2012 7:39 am

MY LOUSY WORLD: The legends I’ve entertained

Written by Doug Blough

For the most part, I’m just your average Joe. What isn’t average is the disproportionate number of famous people I’ve rubbed elbows with. This penchant started as a stunningly-handsome teen when I often stayed overnight at my friend Ron Hostetler’s farmhouse. They were a large family of athletic, good looking Mennonites who raised chickens.

Ron was our high school quarterback and received a full scholarship to play at Penn State, but blew out his knee his first year and is now a preacher. His younger brother also was recruited by Paterno, but later transferred to West Virginia, where he starred and married Coach Nehlen’s daughter.

That was impressive enough telling everyone I once played football with Jeff in his front yard, but a few years later, he was QB for the New York Giants, engineering their ’91 Super Bowl victory over the Bills. Yes, the same Jeff Hostetler I gathered thousands of eggs with after school.

In fact, one of my first ever Trib columns was my history with the suddenly-renowned “Hoss.” A local representative of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes lobbied me to lobby Jeff (through his relatives since his number was unlisted) to speak at a Cody gathering, but he called me to say he had a prior commitment. He seemed a little nervous speaking to an actual columnist.

And then came Bob Birdsong. Those unfamiliar with bodybuilding wouldn’t know Bob was Mr. Universe 1975. It was around ’83 when my weightlifter buddy Scotty took me to the Cody Barbell Club to hear Birdsong speak. I had never heard of him and barely ever lifted a weight; I was just a hung-over hippie with nothing better to do that Sunday afternoon.

Most of the local muscleheads listened in reverence as Birdsong spoke about weightlifting techniques, the importance of proper diet, protein, amino acids and all that stuff. When he began taking questions, I asked as serious as a hemorrhoid, “So do you recommend eating hot dogs every day?”

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pal seemed taken aback and by the flippancy of someone deficient in protein but saturated in alcohol. When the crowd filed out and he shook hands at the door, I said, “Would you and your wife adopt me, sir?” He answered with thinly-disguised irritation, “Yeah, we lock you in a cage and feed you hot dogs!”

Ironically, I began serious bodybuilding soon after and was named “Mr. Rumsey Avenue, 1985.”

And there was Jake “the Snake” Roberts, about whom my niece Cindy called from the gym to say, “You’ll never guess who’s up here.” When she said Jake the Snake, I basically said, “So? Who’s that?” Since I was on my way for a workout anyway, I thought I’d shock everyone by not getting all giddy at a celebrity sighting, so when I saw the biggest stranger in the room, I said indifferently, “Waddaya say, Jake. Sorry about your snake.”

Cindy had briefed me on how Jake always entered the ring with his pet boa constrictor around his neck, and how a rival, “The Earthquake” had crushed Jake’s boa. Apparently he was still grieving because he grabbed his wife’s arm and snapped, “Come on honey, let’s go.”

Gym members chided me with, “I can’t believe you ticked off Jake the Snake,” but I saw him there the next day and actually spotted him as we worked out together. He told me wild stories about wrestling and a party he attended once at the Playboy mansion. Jake the Snake and Doug the Slug hit it off famously.

And along came Ron Heller, ex-Pro Bowl lineman for the Miami Dolphins. Again it was a phone call from Shawn and John Johnson, employees at Bloedorn Lumber, telling me to get down there and meet this famous behemoth. Being a rabid NFL gambler, I jumped off the toilet and drove like a bat out of Hell, to see Heller.

I introduced myself and engaged him with questions and my accounts of my nights at Jeff Hostetler’s farm. He shook my hand and left to go load his lumber, just as I saw ex-neighbor, Luke Lowham enter the store with his son Garrett. I told them who I had just shaken hands with, but Luke seemed unimpressed, grinning while focusing far below eye contact.

“Didn’t you feel like getting dressed this morning?” seemed like an odd question. I looked down and was stunned to see not only my zipper down, but I hadn’t even buckled my pants or belt. It was all hanging so wide open that a gimpy running back could have raced through it.

Oh, I can just imagine Heller, Birdsong and Roberts standing around talking one day and Birdsong saying, “Oh, there’s no doubt about it: the guy was a complete idiot!” No matter though; at least I left an impression.

But please, don’t put me on a pedestal like I’m some god, just because I’ve kibitzed with legends. No, I’m just a man; I put on my women’s underwear one leg at a time just like any other. And of course, I’m kind of joking about that.

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