» For the first time in two decades, the Omaha Symphony's annual Christmas show has hit the stage without its amiable host — Dave Webber.
“Dave has really been the soul of Christmas With the Symphony for so many years,” said James Johnson, symphony CEO. “He sings, he dances — he's just a fantastic entertainer.”
He is also known as a longtime WOWT sportscaster. He retired three years ago but still fills in as sports anchor during the fall on Friday nights and helps cover Husker football home games.
He made one road trip this fall — to the Oct. 20 Nebraska-Northwestern game in his hometown of Evanston, Ill. He even visited his old house there, and the owner let him walk through.
After returning to Omaha, Dave suffered a heart attack on Oct. 23 and had a stent inserted. Two weeks later, he was back in the emergency room because of severe pain from a gallbladder blockage.
Surgery had to be delayed because he was on blood thinner from his heart problem. Even after all that, he held out hope of a small part in this weekend's Christmas show at the Holland Performing Arts Center.
From his hospital bed Friday, Dave told me that he and resident conductor Ernest Richardson had worked up a sight gag:
The symphony would announce Dave's health problems in advance, and he would walk slowly onstage wearing a hospital gown and holding onto an IV pole. Then Ernest would pull off the gown — revealing Dave's tuxedo underneath. Applause and laughter, and on with the show.
But then this week his heart went out of rhythm. It was corrected, and he hoped to leave the hospital this weekend.
“It's been a hell of a seven weeks,” said Dave, 68. “It's been tough. I do feel better, but I keep using up my nine lives.”
During a newscast in 2005, Dave felt numbness in his hand. He soon underwent surgeries to unclog carotid arteries and returned to the air after eight weeks.
He and wife Terri are grandparents of 3-year-old twins, with another child on the way. Dave wants to keep enjoying them — and plans to be back in the Christmas show next year.
» The Chicago Tribune this month paid tribute to our town's food offerings and called Omaha “an under-the-radar city.”
The article was headlined, “The cutting edge: Meat-and-potatoes Omaha turns out a rich stew of culinary invention.”
“Travelers tend to want a darn fine hunk of meat when visiting Omaha,” wrote Liz Granger. “But insisting on steakhouses in Omaha is like cashing out on deep dish (pizza) in Chicago.”
Besides V. Mertz, Johnny's Cafe and the Drover, she mentioned the Grey Plume, Lot 2, French Bulldog, the Boiler Room, Dario's Brasserie, Block 16, La Buvette and McFoster's.
» Adrian Fry, who grew up in the Omaha area and now is a ballet soloist at Ballet West in Salt Lake City, is bringing his talents home to Nebraska.
Adrian, 25, will dance the role of the Cavalier Prince in “The Nutcracker” at the Lied Center in Lincoln. Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. today and at 7 p.m. Sunday.
An Elkhorn High graduate and the son of Pastors Mark and Wenda Fry of Streams of Life Church in Omaha, Adrian started out at Rennae's School of Dance and then with the Heartland Hoedowners. He was classically trained by Robin Welch at the former Omaha Ballet Theater.
Joining him onstage this weekend as the Sugar Plum Fairy will be his partner, Allison DeBona. She was one of last season's stars on the CW television network's reality series “Breaking Pointe.”
» Personal: Last week my wife and I visited our daughter and her husband in New York City, and on Saturday we celebrated the start of Hanukkah with his parents at their home on Long Island.
The Kellys are Catholic, the Strausses are Jewish. After a wonderful kosher meal, Karen Strauss, a harpist who plays like an angel, treated us to Christmas carols. How lovely.
After we applauded, I quipped that the carols were great, but did she know Jewish actor-comedian Adam Sandler's Hanukkah song? (It begins: “Put on your yarmulke, here comes Hanukkah; it's so much fun-akkah to celebrate Hanukkah.”)
Karen smiled knowingly and didn't miss a beat on her harp. Warmth and laughter all around.
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