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Friday, June 09, 2006

DukesFest 2006: Behind the scenes at the press conference with "The Dukes of Hazzard" cast

Tube Talk Girl poses with Cooter, aka Ben Jones, Hazzard County's favorite mechanic, at the press conference in Nashville, Tenn.

by Jennifer Squires Biller

Did you ever wonder what Bo, Luke and Cooter really thought of Daisy’s shorts? Do you know where Rosco P. Coltrane got his trademark chuckle and that infamous line “cuff ‘em and stuff ‘em?” Well, Dukes fans, wonder no more. I attended a press conference with The Dukes of Hazzard cast at Cooter’s Place, in Nashville, to ask those very questions and a whole lot more. Read on for a first-hand account of the DukesFest press conference.

L-R: The cast reunited. John Schneider, James Best, Ben Jones, Catherine Bach, Rick Hurst and Sonny Shroyer.

Dukes cast – beats all you ever saw
As a reporter for the past six years, I’ve covered a lot of press conferences. From politicians and government officials, to movie stars and directors, to law enforcement and business moguls, the press-conference atmosphere is usually predictable, sometimes tense, and dare I say it, boring. Leave it to the folks of Hazzard to do things differently and make me never want to cover another one of these events unless they’re involved.

There aren’t too many things in this world that can turn a room of professional reporters into giddy 8-year-olds again, but The Dukes of Hazzard cast seemed to do just that. I’m not sure who was more smitten— me — or the dude from ESPN, who upon completing his interview with “Daisy” (Catherine Bach) politely asked to get a picture with the woman who had been his “first crush.” I’m not mocking, folks. I was right there with him. I admit my hands were a little shaky during my interview with John Schneider (Bo Duke) but I managed to ask some semi-intelligent questions. My first impression was that he was tall. Really tall. And still gorgeous. He was also incredibly sweet. Uncle Jesse would have been proud. I’ve interviewed a lot of folks in this line of work, but it was beyond surreal chatting up the man whose face graced the posters in my bedroom in 1980.

Above: Tube Talk Girl poses with her first TV crush, John Schneider, aka Bo Duke

It was my first time visiting Cooter’s Place, and I was impressed with the amount of memorabilia compiled. I couldn’t help but wonder if the actors had donated all the props on display, or if someone had spent way too much time on eBay. There were autographed photos, actual pairs of Daisy Dukes worn by Bach, Rosco’s uniform, Daisy’s jeep, the General Lee and hordes of other vintage items such as a Dukes record player, toy action figures, walkie talkies, board games, food trays, lunch boxes and posters. The museum is a must-see for any Dukes fan.

We were told that after the cast arrived, they would take a few minutes to walk around the museum. We were allowed to follow and take pictures and chat with them. Then, after some brief remarks from Ben Jones, (Cooter) they would go on stage and answer my —oops— our burning questions. The cast seemed to enjoy looking through all the Dukes memorabilia as much as the press did. Bach checked out her old Daisy Dukes. Sonny Shroyer (Enos) peaked at the police car and Daisy’s jeep. But, the cast seemed most elated at getting to see one another again. A fiddler, from Cooter’s Garage Band, reflected the jovial mood and entertained the crowd with some down-home music, until the cast took the stage.

Above: John Schneider and James Best check out the Dukes museum.

Back in Hazzard
Jones gave an opening statement that this was the first time the cast had appeared together since the end of the show. He introduced the cast one by one, giving us updates on what they’d been up to since departing Hazzard. Schneider just finished up Smallville and is currently starring in a movie. Tom Wopat was nominated for a Tony on Broadway and continues to record music. Bach is a busy mom and has a new clothing line. Shroyer continues to act and has had roles in films such as Forest Gump and Ray. James Best (Rosco) is a painter and acting coach and still acts. Rick Hurst (Cletus) is also still acting, while helping his sons in the business. And Jones was a two-term congressman and currently operates the store Cooter’s Place. After the updates, Jones launched into some funny tales, Hazzard style.

“We started filming almost 28 years ago in Covington, Ga. in 1978. John was 11 or 12,” Jones joked, sending the crowd into a roar of laughter, before continuing his jab at Schneider. “It’s not right, you know. The only characters that are holding up extremely well are Schneider and the General Lee. The car has no gray hair, no rust, and no leaks.”

Jones explained that Tom Wopat (Luke Duke) was en route from Wisconsin, and his plane would be landing shortly, hopefully in time to join the other Dukes. Jones also introduced Stella Parton, the first Nashville musician to guest star on the series. He also spoke about the appeal of the show:

“It’s the kid in all of us; When we watch these shows, we’re young again,” Jones explained. “That part of us where youth springs eternal comes to the core, and we can all be 12-years-old again.”

Best (Rosco) took my question about whether his famous lines “I’m in hot pursuit” and “cuff ‘em and stuff ‘em” were scripted or ad-libbed.

“I’ll tell you the truth the writers didn’t care for me too much because I ad-libbed so much,” Best answered. “I had to make up stuff so I would be noticed in the series. I said, ‘I don’t want to play a sheriff who’s crooked and mean.’ I’d done that a hundred times. So with my little girls, I’d do that (Rosco mannerism of the stuttering voice/chuckle.) I went in (for the audition), and they asked me to be funny, so I did that and they fell off the couch. We’re all children at heart and that struck a chord. I’m a kid at heart, and that’s never gonna change.”

At this point, Jones asked Best to do some of “Rosco,” in character, as if he’d just crashed his police cruiser into the river. Best morphed into Rosco, seamlessly, and delivered this morsel of humor.

“Listen, Cooter…see. Everybody thinks I couldn’t drive. But I was pretty good. I’d climb a tree once in a while with the car, and I’d go into the pond, but I went in there because I’m a fisherman, and I like comfort.” The crowd erupted in applause and giggles. Now this is how you do a press conference.

Schneider answered a question about whether fans were divided between Bo and Luke. “The fans of Luke were older and couldn’t see as well,” Schneider joked. “It kind of goes back to the brunette/blonde thing. In the beginning Luke was the brains behind the driving, and I was the crazy one. Later on, I started driving.”

Bach was asked a question about Daisy’s wardrobe that evolved into her pulling out a pair of Daisy Dukes from her purse to show the audience that she now has her own clothing line. She modeled the Catherine Bach skirt she was wearing, along with a tank top she’d created. Her cast mates oohed and ahhed appreciatively, as Bach plugged her new clothing line available at www.catherinebach.com. Schneider then chimed in with his plug: “I’m working on a movie.” The crowd burst into laughter. Jones followed up with, “My wife and I have a store.” More laughter. Best added, “I brought some of my original paintings.” Complete uncontrollable laughter. And finally, “Flash has a line of dog biscuits,” Schneider added. Hysterical.

Catherine Bach models the denim skirt she created for her new clothing line.

During Bach’s bit, Jones took a moment to pay tribute to the legacy of Daisy Duke, as the cast nodded in agreement. “I don’t want to embarrass you Cathy, but you have the best legs in the history of legs,” Jones said. “All she had to do was walk by the camera and our ratings went up. No one ever wore those short shorts as well as the original Daisy Duke.” Schneider, the crew and the press applauded.

Shroyer was then asked a question about what he’s up to now, but quickly got sidetracked. He explained that after the Dukes, he went to James Best’s acting class.

“Don’t blame me,” Best shot back, as the crowd erupted into laughter.

Hurst then took a moment to say a few words about being reunited with his former co-workers. “I came a little late to the show, but these guys welcomed me with open hearts. Since that time, we have all come to be more than family. We are closer than you would expect for people that spent that much time together. You hear so many stories about TV casts getting cranky, but not this group.” At that point, Bach furrowed her brow and asked in disbelief, “We didn’t get cranky?” Best didn’t wait for anyone else to reply, “I got cranky a few times. But at my age what were they going to do?”

A reporter then asked a question about the obvious style difference between season one and the rest of the series. Jones explained that when the Dukes debuted in the 9 p.m. hour on Friday night “the dialogue was rougher, the situations were rougher, and it was a little bit wilder.” But, as ratings for The Incredible Hulk at 8 p.m. continued to slip, the Dukes took its place at the 8 p.m. family hour.

“All of us understood that responsibility,” Jones said. “We’d get notes: no more smoking in the Boar’s Nest. No more profanity. We were also gelling as a cast and finding out what worked and what didn’t.”

Schneider continued explaining how the move from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. affected the cast. They made it their responsibility, as actors, to be careful of what they did on screen, he said.

“I remember we’d say, ‘Oh no, we can’t do that anymore. That was 9 o’clock and this is 8 o’clock,;” Schneider said. “Sometimes, we thought it was kind of silly. But now in retrospect when you do see that there is a marked difference between the first season and the rest of the show, I do remember that all of us, albeit sometimes reluctantly, made moral decisions every scene, that we would have to do it different because it was 8 o’clock, and we knew that younger kids were watching the show. It was not forced on us. It was suggested to us, and we all took to it very well, which was really unusual.” Schneider paused a moment, looking around the room at the cast. “And we had unusual relationships. People say to me, ‘Were you as close as it looked on the show?’ And I say, ‘We were closer.’ We still love each other. I’m proud of that.”

After the actors left the stage to do individual interviews, Wopat arrived. He joined in the fun for some one-on-one interviews, before the cast headed out to rehearse for their performance Friday night at the Grand Old Opry.

As I said, this press conference was the most fun I’ve ever had working. I can honestly say I’ve never seen such camaraderie among cast members. These folks were having fun reminiscing and answering our questions. It’s obvious they are close friends who enjoyed one another, which is, perhaps, the reason the show is still such a monstrous hit 27 years later.

Yep, that’s how they do it in Hazzard, folks.

Photo Gallery
John Schneider and James Best check out Catherine Bach's new line of denim shorts.

The Dukes cast records a greeting for CMT for the soldiers.

John Schneider answers questions at the press conference.

The cast reminisces about good times in Hazzard.

Tube Talk Girl gets "arrested" by Rosco P. Coltrane.

Cooter's Place, in Nashville, was the site of the press conference and a destination for fans throughout the weekend. Fans waited in line all weekend to get into the museum and store.

Some of Daisy's original Dukes hang in the museum at Cooter's Place.

Tube Talk Girl strikes a pose during her tour of the museum at Cooter's Place with some of her favorite guys.

Catherine Bach shows off her new Daisy Dukes and a tank top from her new clothing line. Her initials, CB, adorn the pocket of the denim shorts.

Boss Hogg's car outside of the museum was a crowd favorite for photos, along with several General Lees.

Rick Hurst and Sonny Shroyer having fun at the press conference.

Ben Jones' dog looks a lot like Flash and attended the press conference, too.

Tube Talk Girl checks out the Hazzard County Sheriff's patrol car.

Travis, from Cooter's Garage Band, entertained the press while waiting for the event to begin.

Stella Parton was the first Nashville musical guest star on the show. Dolly's sister performed at DukesFest and took a moment to pose with Tube Talk Girl.

The cast performs at The Grand Old Opry and sings their theme song Good 'Ol Boys with country star Andy Griggs. The cast paid tribute to deceased Dukes cast members Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse) and Sorrell Booke (Boss Hogg.)

Dukes fan Daniel Wigley, of Mississippi, carries his '69 Dodge Charger hood to get it autographed by the cast.

Below: The museum at Cooter's Place has a General Lee on display, with Uncle Jesse and the gang in the background.
John Schneider and Tom Wopat take a break before hitting the stage to greet fans.


Anonymous said...

hey amy rimes i love john schneider i wanted to come to come to duke fest but it was to far but i love john schneider yee haww

Anonymous said...

hey amy rimes again and im a big fan of john schneider and hes my idol and i just got the the dukes od hazzerd the second season and john schneiders greastest hits and he a babe and ilove him yee haww yours truely amy rimes

Anonymous said...

Hey,I think the Duke is a brand new show for the younster.I like all the cast.i think they great. I have a question does anyone know where John mom Shirley live these days. I en joy the duke of hazzard.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking about putting in a story part where two characters get an opportuniy to visit Cooter's. They reminisce about the show and Scooby Doo. How's Scooby Doo connected? Simple. Sorrell Booke provided his voice talents for a part in the animated movie, "Scooby Doo Meets the Boo Brothers."

Buba said...

That Stella Parton is a Hottie! I would have liked to seen her in some Daisy Dukes!


Anonymous said...

Buba you couldnt HANDLE seeing Stella Parton in Daisy Dukes! She's too sexy for you!

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