Randy Smith: 40 Years Since I Interviewed Heaven Lee

Monday, February 24, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
It's hard to believe that 40 years has gone by since I became (perhaps) the first sports announcer to ever interview a stripper at halftime of a college basketball broadcast. In fact I may be the only sports guy to ever have that distinction. 

Heaven Lee was the darling of Printer's Alley in Nashville, Tennessee in the 1970's. Practically every one of her shows was sold out back then. You had to know someone to get in the door to see one of her two-three shows each evening. She got a lot of notoriety for showing up on Saturday at Nashville area college basketball games. She always seemed to pick a game that was being televised, and she would undoubtedly come to the game as a guest of one of the college fraternities.
This is where I come in.

I was doing analysis for the late, great "Voice of the Blue Raiders" Monte Hale at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The Blue Raiders had a TV game scheduled for a particular late February afternoon in 1974. I asked some of the fraternity guys I knew if they were bringing Heaven Lee to the game on Saturday, and none of them would give me a straight answer.

I asked Monte Hale if Heaven Lee came to the game, would he allow me to interview her. He laughed and said yes, very likely doubting if I was serious, or even if I could pull it off if she was there. My good friend Jim Freeman, who was MTSU's Sports Information Director at the time told me he would get me back stage and introduce me if I wanted to go with a group of our friends to see her one night at Printer's Alley. I said yes.

As we all watched Heaven perform the first of her shows that evening at the "Skulls Rainbow" strip club in Printers Alley, I actually got a little nervous as I waited for the chance to go back stage with Jim Freeman to meet her. After all, I had never met a stripper before. Heck, I had never even been to a strip club before that night. We walked into her dressing room, was introduced and after a bit of small-talk, I asked her if she was coming to the game. She said yes, and agreed to do an interview with me at halftime of the game. She was coming as the guest of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at MTSU, and some of the fellows agreed to escort her to the floor at halftime.

I have interviewed many famous sports stars, coaches, and administrators in my long career, but never have I ever done an interview like this one. With about two minutes left before halftime, Heaven Lee, wearing a tight, low cut dress began to walk toward press row. She was accompanied by four Kappa Sigma's, and as she approached our broadcast position at mid-court, I suddenly realized that I was the only person still seated. Monte Hale and our staff statistician Bob Alexander, had already gotten up and left the floor area, and so had every other writer, sportscaster, or school official. They had left me to fend for myself with a beautiful stripper and a microphone at mid-court.

When we came back live from our first halftime break, I began the interview. I still have no idea what I asked her or said to her, but I do remember one of her responses. "Oh Randy, thanks for having me here on the radio. I have so many friends here at MTSU." And she started to name them one by one. "Jim Freeman, and Jim Simpson, Coach Jimmy Earle and his assistant coach Ramrod Simpson, President M.G. Scarlett, Bob LaLance........" She had mentioned every one of the men that got up and left before she was seated. In other words, she had told every one listening on the six-station Blue Raider Network that many, many men on the MTSU campus had been to see her shows, some many times.     

At the end of that five minute interview, I breathed a big sigh of relief; glad that it was finally over. When Monte Hale returned to press row, he was as red-faced as I have ever seen him. You see, Heaven Lee had also mentioned his name on the air. I will hand it to Monte; he backed me up 100% when a few women called his station on Monday morning and complained about the network having a halftime interview with a stripper. Monte also backed me up many more times when I would do some weird things.

I don't know what happened to Heaven Lee. I heard she got out of the burlesque business and got married a few years later. I do know this; I will always remember that day at Middle Tennessee State University in late February of 1974. The day I interviewed Heaven Lee on the radio, and managed to get a couple dozen of my friends in big trouble with their wives! 


-----

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson, TN. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com


Willerson, Georgia Northwestern Ready For 2014 Golf Season

Most second-year college golf programs are too busy laying a foundation to concern themselves too much with results. Jared Willerson isn’t thinking that way. In fact, the head coach of the Georgia Northwestern Bobcats is thinking in complete opposite terms when he talks about his team’s goals for the 2014-2015 season. “I don’t think I’m being unrealistic ... (click for more)

Georgia Northwestern Splits Volleyball Tri-Match At Crown College

Head Coach Carrie Powell and the Georgia Northwestern Lady Bobcats volleyball team traveled to Powell, Tenn. on Saturday for a season-opening tri-match against Alice Lloyd College and host Crown College. The Navy-and-White lost their first match of the day to the home team in heartbreaking fashion, three games to one. GNTC claimed a 25-22 victory in the first set and had their ... (click for more)

Bradley, 24, Charged In Death Of Boy, 3; Child Had Numerous Injuries After Left With Boyfriend; Mother Was In Workhouse

Justin Dale Bradley has been charged with criminal homicide in the death of a three-year-old child, who was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and later died. Police said Dakota James Arndt had numerous injuries over his body. Authorities said Bradley, 24, is the boyfriend of the child's mother, Brianna Kwekel, who was in the Workhouse at the time. Ms. Kwekel was serving 48 ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)

Insurance Burden Should Not Fall On The Teachers

I have attended several Hamilton County School Board meetings over the past few months, including the recent special called meeting" to vote on teacher insurance changes. First, let me say I am very impressed with Superintendent Rick Smith and his staff at the Central Office.  Mr. Smith is a very dedicated public servant, working hard to provide services to our community ... (click for more)