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The military offered a free Thanksgiving dinner at the Kansas City Barbeque

Kansas City BBQ rose to fame as the setting for the honky tonk bar scene in “Top Gun,” in which Maverick’s radar intercept officer, Goose, sang and played “Great Balls of Fire” on the piano.

The downtown tavern has had strong military ties for decades. Owners Martin and Cindy Blair hosted the Top Gun School before it moved to Nevada. They coordinated numerous hail and farewell celebrations. Military Challenge coins and other memorabilia are on display throughout the restaurant.

Before a devastating fire in 2008, the restaurant’s collection of Navy hats had earned a reputation as the largest west of the Mississippi River, in part because sailors who couldn’t find a hat with their ship’s name donated their own in exchange for one free mug of beer. The collection has since been largely replenished, Cindy Blair said.

For the past 38 years, the Blairs have also maintained a tradition of serving free Thanksgiving dinners to active-duty military members who have nowhere to stay.

This year is no exception. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Kansas City Barbeque, 600 W. Harbor Drive, armed with 900 pounds of turkey, will serve smoked turkey dinner with all the trimmings free to military personnel ($22 to others). Reservations can still be made by calling (619) 231-9680. Lateral entrants are also welcome.

The idea came from Martin Blair’s childhood in San Diego. His parents used to invite some sailors over to their house for Thanksgiving. The couple also creates a living room atmosphere for the day so military personnel can relax and spend the afternoon watching TV and socializing.

While no new scenes were filmed at the Kansas City Barbeque for the Top Gun: Maverick sequel, the 2022 film included a rerun of the piano playing scene that was filmed there in 1985.

“Looking back at the original piano scene generated a lot of interest,” Cindy said, adding that visitors have since stopped by to take photos. She is happy that the old piano, which was built before 1900, remains a “star” into old age.

When ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premiered in San Diego last May, actor Miles Teller, who plays Goose’s son in the sequel, stopped by and had his picture taken playing ‘Great Balls of Fire’ on the same piano.

“I had no idea who he was,” Cindy said, since the sequel hasn’t hit theaters yet. She was horrified when Teller, on his way to the door, jokingly asked to sit on the piano (like his character had done as a child in Top Gun).

“I said it’s a really old piano and we don’t want to damage it,” Cindy recalled.

It was only after he and his entourage departed in a waiting limousine that some staff familiar with Teller’s films told her who he was.

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