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50 YEARS OF FAME: Terry McDermott Won Gold, Joined Beatles on Ed Sullivan

February 2, 2014       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Speedskater Terry McDermott, top center, pretends to cut Beatle Paul McCartney's hair on the Ed Sullivan Show.
McDermott flashes around the frozen oval at Innsbruck to shock the world in 1964.

It has been half a century since Essexville speedskater Terry McDermott flashed across the ice to win the gold medal in the 1964 Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria.

Perhaps just as memorable was McDermott's appearance Feb. 4, 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show, then perhaps the nation's most popular television show.

Called "the bashful barber" because of his unassuming manner and day job, cutting hair at Bunny's Barber Shop on Columbus Avenue, the 23-year-old McDermott playfully pretended to cut the famous locks of Beatle Paul McCartney.

With host Sullivan and the other Beatles clowning for the camera, McDermott showed he could handle celebrity as well as he had surpassed Russia's fastest man on Ice, Evgenie Grishin, in the 500 meters.

Much as the Beatles had taken the country by storm with their iconic music routines and engaging British accents, McDermott captured the collective heart of the TV viewing audience as well.

Welcomed at a massive community gathering at Center and Washington, McDermott returned home a conquering hero -- holder of the only U.S. gold medal of that Olympics.

Dick Somalski, founder of the Bay County Speedskating Club and Terry's brother-in-law, shared the Olympic glory and has continued as a respected speedskating official on the national and international scene. Besides McDermott, Somalski coached numerous champions at all levels of the sport.

His 40.1 time showed that hard training, including grueling workouts on the squash court at the Midland Community Center, had paid off in golden dividends and a startling world record victory.

McDermott got a bad break with soft ice in the 1968 Olympics at Grenoble, France, finishing second at 40.5 seconds. But winner Erhard Keller of West Germany admitted Terry would have won had he been in an earlier heat when the ice was hard.

McDermott's 1964 record of 40.1 seconds stood until the 1972 Winter Olympics.

McDermott, called "the epitome of an amateur athlete" by sportscaster Jim McKay, was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1972, the National Speedskating Hall of Fame in 1977 and the Bay County Sports Hall of Fame in its inaugural season, 1991.

The bashful barber was further honored in 1980 when the International Olympic Committee asked him to take the Olympic oath on behalf of all officials at the opening ceremonies at Lake Placid, New York. That was the year of the "Miracle on Ice" when the under-rated U.S. Olympic hockey team snatched the gold from the highly favored Russians.

Now 73 years old, McDermott has had a successful career in industrial sales and has for many years been a respected figure in Olympic circles. He lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He and his wife, Virginia, have five children and 11 grandchildren.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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