Denise McDonald Dorman

Posts Tagged ‘Motorsports’

Lucille Ball’s Heir Apparent Botches Jan Gabriel’s Ashes

In Entertainment on June 19, 2010 at 7:19 am

There are some people in your life for whom you will drop EVERYTHING to be available to them. Jan Gabriel is one of those special people to me. Many of you will remember him as the reverberating motorsports voice over guy with his iconic “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” mantra. Everyone from Al Roker (weekly, it seems) to Jay Leno borrows Jan’s famous phrase.

To me, Jan was a second dad, career mentor and best of all, my partner in crime. God, did we ever make each other laugh over the years.   We would just feed off of each other with our quick minds and our out-there humor. Little did I know, our last act of hijinks together would involve me…and Jan’s ashes.

Jan passed away this last January from complications with Polycystic Kidney Disease and Peripheral Artery Disease.  He wanted a cremation, and Jan–who ensured his trademark brand remained intact by expiring at 11:57 p.m. on a Sundayalways got his way…in life and in death.

Very last minute on this past Tuesday morning, Jan’s widow Teresa asked me to accept Jan’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Illinois Broadcasting Association on Wednesday night in Normal, IL. I don’t exactly have a love affair with public speaking, but I felt Jan was pulling my strings from the other side.  I called Jan’s and my mutual friend Nan, who used to star on Jan’s Chicago variety show, Up Tempo, back in the 1960s on WCIU/Channel 26. Miraculously, she was able to join us, despite a busy family life and running a wildly successful business.  Her calming presence kept me grounded. Nan is also great eye candy and she really looks the part of someone who belongs in Jan’s entourage.  She’s a tall, blonde Amazon woman with a figure like a sideways stick of gum with giant beach ball hooters. Jan would have been so proud to have her representing him that night.

Yet another miracle occurred. We walked into the ballroom at the Marriott and couldn’t believe our eyes. The entire event had a motorsports theme! Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s gleaming car sat in the front of the Marriott ballroom. Racing flags were the centerpieces on a hundred tables, as far as the eye could see. Then our IBA contact Debra walked up. She was the person responsible for making the last-minute decision about Jan receiving the award. She told us she had been considering it for a long while, and then she went to rent a car last weekend. The guy behind the counter told her she needed to return the car on “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” In that moment, her mind was made up.

It wasn’t until I sat down at our table, directly in front of the stage, that I was able to jot down some bullet points for Jan’s acceptance speech. As I do with most creative tasks, I have to marinade the ideas for a while in that scary cauldron between my ears. I commit nothing to paper until I’m at the 11th hour, buzzing from my deadline adrenaline rush.  This trait of mine makes my orderly BFF Christina Bouvier completely crazy.

With me on this mission were some of Jan’s ashes, in a small Cloissonne’ vial, about the size and shape of a pepper shaker.  I guarded it carefully–I would never live it down if Jan Gabriel became the dark specks on someone’s mashed potatoes at this dinner. As I sat there growing more and more nervous, Miss Illinois gave a wonderful speech, a two-star general from the National Guard spoke, Jeb Bush delivered a few quips, and then I was up.  This is what I told the room full of executives from every Illinois  TV and radio station:

“Jan would have loved this party, with its motorsports theme. You have no idea. Jan interviewed Dale Earnhardt Sr. for our motorsports series, The Super Chargers back in the  early ’90s when NASCAR wasn’t on anyone’s radar, and Jan was on the announcing team at the Indy 500 for many years in the ’70s. Jan loved motorsports. So I brought him with me tonight.

At this point, I pulled out the vial and set it before me on the podium. It made a loud THUNK! sound. I’m fairly sure, I felt the room did a giant inhale before some nervous laughter ensued. Jan would have eaten this up with a spoon! He lived for dramatic moments. “Here he is!” I declared gleefully.

My voice quivered as I struggled not to cry. I missed him so damned much. I proceeded to share with the crowd that Jan was the American Dream personified–this bigger-than-life character who lived within the wonderful reality he created for himself. He wanted a TV show that was a mash-up of entertainment and motorsports, so he just started one.  He had no money and he had no Hollywood connections.  It was the sheer forcefulness of his personality that made things happen. He created his own opportunities. And only Jan Gabriel could convince Elke Sommer to drive a monster truck on TV.  Those were crazy times.

After a few more anecdotes about Jan’s career and the Team Demo Association he founded, I ended the speech by thanking everyone, and reminding people that Jan would have wanted me to remind them to sign up to become organ donors. Jan had waited for five long years and finally died before getting his second transplant.

I took the award, shook hands with the presenter and returned to sit down at my table. That’s when the moment arrived that would have made Jan apoplectic with laughter.

The presenter paused and said, “Uh…Denise…you forgot Jan.” Horrified, I looked up, and there was Jan’s little Cloissonne’ vial, sparkling in the stage lights, still sitting on the podium. I clambered back up there and awkwardly murmured something  into the microphone about Jan not wanting to leave the party so early, but the crowd was laughing so hard, I doubt they even heard me.

My hubby Dave will never let me live this one down. He already saw me as Lucille Ball’s heir apparent with my penchant for inadvertent gaffes. In his eyes, this sealed my legacy. But I maintain that in this particular case, I wasn’t a solo act. Jan Gabriel orchestrated the whole thing.

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Children’s Cancer Charities Benefitting from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sharpie® Art and NASCAR Bristol Race Package Giveaway

In Entertainment, Uncategorized, WriteBrain Media on March 12, 2010 at 10:12 pm

For Immediate Release: Sunset Beach, California– March 11th, 2010—The Official Sharpie® Artwork Bristol Race Trip Giveaway Contest is launching online this Saturday, benefitting pediatric cancer charities and raising awareness of childhood cancer diseases, while offering some lucky fan the opportunity to win a one-of-a-kind piece of Sharpie® art created by Dale Earnhardt Jr., as well as a NASCAR Bristol Race Package.

Starting at 12:00 p.m. PST on Saturday, March 13, 2010 through August 15, 2010, fans can register once daily for free at http://www.lugnutzz.com to win the artwork created with a Sharpie® pen and donated by NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. On August 15, 2010, motorsports personality Gordon “Lug Nuttz” Stewart and NTS Motorsports’ K&N Pro Series and Spears SRL Series race car driver Brennan Newberry will announce the winner of the artwork and the Bristol Race Package.

The Bristol Race trip includes two tickets to the most popular NASCAR race on the Sprint Cup Circuit–the Irwin Tools 500– at Bristol Motor Speedway, plus airfare and accommodations. Sponsors of this auction benefit the America’s Baby Cancer Foundation, the Melanoma Research Foundation and Lug Nutzz Children’s Charities.

Said Stewart, “Aside from raising awareness and funds to help families whose children are battling cancer, my favorite thing about this promotion is that one real die-hard Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan will own something that no one else has.” Stewart chose 20-year-old driver Newberry to help him promote the contest because Newberry “personifies talent on the race track, but also integrity, and genuine class outside of racing.”

Beginning April 8, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona for the K&N Pro Series West Race, Brennan Newberry’s NTS Motorsports Chevrolet will display a replica hood wrap of Earnhardt Jr.’s original Sharpie drawing. Said Bob Newberry, Brennan’s father and owner of NTS Motorsports, “Families, especially the kids, are what make racing special for us.”

For complete contest rules and further information on The Official Sharpie Artwork, Bristol Race trip giveaway “Register to Win” Contest, please visit www.lugnutzz.com. This event is a Winnerz Management promotion, in association with The America’s Baby Cancer Foundation.

Media Contact:
Denise Dorman, WriteBrain Media
Phone 24/7: 630.845.4694
Email: denise@writebrainmedia.com
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Motorsports World Mourns the Loss of Legendary Announcer Jan Gabriel

In Entertainment, WriteBrain Media on January 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Gabriel First to Televise NASCAR and NHRA and the Screaming Voice of “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” Dies At Age 69

CHICAGO, IL—January 11, 2010—Jan Gabriel, the first person to televise NASCAR and NHRA on his nationally syndicated TV series “THE SUPER CHARGERS” and world-renowned for his screaming “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” motorsports commercials oft imitated by Al Roker and Jay Leno, died on Sunday from Polycystic Kidney Disease and complications from Peripheral Artery Disease. Gabriel was 69.

Jan Gabriel was a larger-than-life figure in the Chicago area, where he was the familiar voice announcing at Hinsdale’s Santa Fe Speedway, starting in 1968. One of his career highlights was being a part of the public address system announcing team conducting interviews in the pits on race mornings and during qualifying days at the Indianapolis 500 in the early 1970s, according to Donald Davidson, Indianapolis 500 historian.

Gabriel’s love for motorsports and Hollywood drove him to create “THE SUPER CHARGERS,” which promised viewers “Fast Cars and Movie Stars!” The award-winning program was sponsored by True Value Hardware and was one of the longest running motorsports TV series at 12 seasons, running from 1982 to 1994 and featuring celebrities who shared a love of cars, including Sally Struthers, Elke Sommer, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Petty Sr., Rusty Wallace, Ian Ziering, Adam West, Chuck Norris, Don Johnson, Reggie Jackson, Tony Danza and many more.

Jan Gabriel is also credited with bringing Monster Truck races to the forefront as a national pastime, being the first to bring them to TV in a one-hour special called “Battle of the Monster Trucks.” Two more TV specials, “Return of the Monster Trucks” and “War of the Monster Trucks” would follow, as well as Monster Truck toy deals.

In 1999, Gabriel formed the “Team Demolition Association,” which raised the bar on a sport often portrayed as a county fair spectacle. Gabriel negotiated for the track at Route 66 Raceway on the NASCAR-owned Chicagoland Motor Speedway property, holding up to six races per summer to sold out crowds, and strictly enforcing rules as never before seen in this extreme motorsport. Gabriel also offered a generous purse for the champions, another industry first. One of his proudest moments was the Team Demo Association World Championship in 2003, Gabriel’s brainchild. He convinced drivers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand to compete against the aggressive American demolition drivers. The Australian and New Zealand drivers were fearful to get on the track when they saw the fierce level of competition. The American team won.

In 2008, surrounded by his family, friends and fans, Gabriel was awarded The World of Wheels “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Gabriel proclaimed it “one of the best days of my life.”

Gabriel can still be seen on an episode of Chicago WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” program with Bob Sirott, as well as a 2000 History Channel episode on “Haunted Chicago” featuring the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Gabriel owned the haunted bricks from the wall where the assassinations occurred.

Gabriel leaves behind his wife Teresa, daughter Amanda, many relatives in Wisconsin and California, dear friends and motorsports fans. A “Celebration of Life” event will be hosted Sunday, January 17th, 2010 in Gabriel’s beloved garage, surrounded by his favorite cars. Details of this event will be posted at http://www.jancgabriel.com. For more information and images, please contact Denise Dorman at 630.845.4694.

Media Contact:

Denise Dorman/WriteBrain Media

(Former Writer/Producer, “The Super Chargers”)

Office: 630.845.4694

Cell: 630.215.5623

Email: denise@writebrainmedia.com

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