- Dave Thomas American-Statesman staff
Thirty-three years ago today, one of television’s great — nay, iconic — series came to an end.
It was a show about a couple of good ol’ boys that meant no harm, yet were crossways with the law … practically since the day they were born.
Beats all you ever saw, right?
OK, I admit I probably have a soft spot for “The Dukes of Hazzard.” When the 2005 movie came out, I tried to warn my bosses here at the Statesman about the depths of my devotion — telling them about how 7-year-old Dave passed out from heat exhaustion one Friday afternoon in 1979, then woke later up in a darkened room slightly hysterical because he thought he had missed that evening’s episode.
The Statesman let me review the movie anyway, and when I gave it a somewhat-positive grade, they never let me review another movie.
What was I gonna do? Willie Nelson played Uncle Jesse!
Anyway, if I’m not fit to be a film critic, I can rank the surviving TV series major cast members, based on their post-“Dukes of Hazzard” careers.
Before we start, let’s tip our hats to Sorrell Booke (Boss Hogg), Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse), James Best (Roscoe Coltrane) and balladeer Waylon Jennings, all of whom have gone on to that great Boar’s Nest in the sky.
No. 1. John Schneider: The fair-haired “Bo Duke” launched a country music career while he was still on “Hazzard,” racking up nine studio albums and a handful of hits. He has stayed busy acting as well, with respectable recurring small-screen roles in “Smallville,” “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” and “Desperate Housewives” among lower-profile film roles.
No. 2. Ben Jones: A role in the film “Primary Colors” is the only notable bit of acting Jones has done since his days as “Cooter Davenport.” Instead he became a politician, earning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988 and re-election in 1990. He’s still active in politics, earning a reputation as a political essayist. Jones was critical of the 2005 “Dukes of Hazzard” movie, saying it wasn’t family-friendly. A decade later, he came under fire himself after he voiced his support for the Confederate flag. He also operates Cooter’s Place museums in Nashville and Gatlinburg TN and Luray VA, dedicated to the “Hazzard.”
No. 3. Catherine Bach: The original behind the famous cutoff shorts has a smattering of acting credits since her days as “Daisy Duke,” most notably TV roles in “African Skies” and “The Young and the Restless.” If her career hasn’t been notable, she has stayed out of trouble and her name remains relevant.
No. 4. Tom Wopat: The Wisconsin-born “Luke Duke” also launched a music career while on “Hazzard,” to a little less acclaim than Schneider. His acting career didn’t match brother Bo as well, but he was coming on strong recently with higher-profile roles in “Django Unchained,” the TV series “Longmire” and several impressive stage roles. He’d be atop this list but for an arrest last August, where he was charged with drug possession and groping female cast members during a stage production.
No. 5. Sonny Shroyer: The one-time model who became the dimwitted, but lovable, deputy “Enos” on “Hazzard” (he even got his own brief-lived spinoff series in 1980-81) hasn’t done a lot of acting since. He had a notable recurring role on the TV series “I’ll Fly Away,” but is best recognized as the dumbfounded coach Bear Bryant in the film “Forrest Gump.”
No. 6. The General Lee: No doubt a major cast member, none has fared worse since “Hazzard” ended than the 1969 Dodge Charger, thanks to a backlash against the Confederate flag and honors for Confederate leaders such as Gen. Robert E. Lee. In 2014, the car, Schneider and Wopat were featured in a national TV commercial (though the Confederate flag on the roof was never shown). By the next year, however, Warner Bros. Entertainment was announcing they were halting production of General Lee toy cars. The General Lee only lives on in memory now, as well as whenever Gen. X-ers whistle the first bars of “Dixie” while executing a risky driving maneuver. (I’m not the only one who does that, right?)
Finally, a salute to Don Pedro Colley, who died last October. For as much as he stands out in my memory, I can’t believe Sheriff Little was only in 10 episodes.