By the Way

That night I took actor Eric Braeden to see Ronnie Milsap in Biloxi

Sun Herald staff writer Jeff Clark recreates his own version of the famous “Elvis meets Nixon” photo with actor Eric Braeden and singer Ronnie Milsap in Biloxi on Saturday, August 13, 2016
Sun Herald staff writer Jeff Clark recreates his own version of the famous “Elvis meets Nixon” photo with actor Eric Braeden and singer Ronnie Milsap in Biloxi on Saturday, August 13, 2016

Yes, that was actor Eric Braeden you saw on the Coast this weekend hanging out in Ocean, eating and taking photos with a bridal party at Mary Mahoney’s and fishing in the Mississippi Sound.

Braeden, who appeared in James Cameron’s “Titanic” and tons of other films, has spent the last 36 years playing one of the most popular characters on daytime television in his role as Victor Newman on “The Young and The Restless.”

He was in town doing a private appearance at the IP Casino Resort in Biloxi. I spent an hour or so interviewing the German-American actor on Friday in the IP lobby.

Braeden was a fascinating interview and I’m going to write that as a separate piece.

When we were exchanging goodbyes Friday evening, I told Braeden I would be back the following night to cover Ronnie Milsap’s show in Studio A in case he wanted to get coffee after the show.

He told me he would love to see Ronnie Milsap.

I interviewed Milsap a few weeks ago and we got on well and he invited me to come to his show and he told me he “wanted to meet me” and thanked me for doing the interview. I told Braeden he could have my extra ticket and we would go to the show. He seemed pleased and we made a plan to meet up.

He sent me a text later and told me he was in town with a friend who would also love to see Milsap. If my new friend Eric Braeden wanted to bring a friend to see Ronnie Milsap, I felt pretty certain it could happen.

We hooked up on Saturday night just before the show started.

Milsap brings the thunder

When I interviewed Milsap, he told me that he wasn’t sure what he was going to do next and that retiring had crossed his mind. This was in the back of my mind as the show started — is this the last time I’m going to see Ronnie Milsap?

If it was the last time, it was a show I’ll always remember.

Ronnie has had 40 No. 1 hit songs during his decade-spanning career and he went through all of them during Saturday’s show in Biloxi.

There was “What a Difference You’ve Made in My life,” “It Was Almost Like a Song” and many, many more. But Milsap hit a stride during “Stranger in My House” and “Lost in The 50s Tonight” that was truly something to hear.

After telling a brief story about playing on Elvis’ “Kentucky Rain,” he brought the thunder with “Smoky Mountain Rain,” the official song of the state of Tennessee.

Best buddies

After the show, we went back and said hello to Milsap. After I told him that I had interviewed him for the Sun Herald, I introduced him to Braeden.

Milsap, who was cracking wise all night, said, “I hate to tell you, but I don’t watch daytime TV.”

We took some pictures with Milsap and visited with him for a minute and went on our way.

I’ll never forget the last song he played that night. It was a very moving version of “America the Beautiful.” He said that America is the greatest country in the world.

It reminded me of something Braeden said that was similar. We were discussing politics and he said, “Trump says he going to make America great again — this is already the greatest (censored) country in the world.”

And it is the greatest country in the world.

There is nowhere else on Earth where a man who has been completely blind for 95 percent of his life could have 40 hit songs and still continue to do what he loves at 73 be introduced to a German immigrant who came to the U.S. when he was 18 with $50 in his pocket and is now one of the most recognizable faces on TV by a man who grew up in a small town in Monroe County, Mississippi.

As John Mellencamp sings, “Ain’t that America.” Yes, it is, because for one special night, two of my favorite people got together in a casino on the Back Bay of Biloxi.