Dukes enjoy their reunions

Quick trivia: What ’70s TV show mixed drama, comedy, a Confederate flag painted car, heroes named Bo and Luke and a style of short-shorts for women?

That’d be The Dukes of Hazzard, and fans can still catch the antics of villain Boss Hogg, bumbling Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, salt-of-the-earth Uncle Jessie and sexy shorts-wearing Daisy in reruns today. The stars of the show were unquestionably John Schneider as Bo Duke and Tom Wopat as his cousin Luke. They were the good guys and invariably overcame the mildly malevolent schemes of Boss Hogg and Roscoe. It was winning formula that mixed light drama, laughs and good wholesome values all set to catchy country tunes. Being a Duke was as much fun as it looked like, and everyone liked each other, Schneider said in a phone interview Sept. 20.

“It is a happy moment in everybody’s life who was fan of it or who had anything to do with it. And it still is. It’s like being an integral part of a large percentage of the planet’s good happy thoughts with their families, especially their grandparents,” Schneider said. “I talk to Catherine (Bach, who played Daisy) all the time. I see Tom (Wopat) a couple of times a year. We’re great friends. We have been since ‘hello.’ It’s remarkable. That’s not normally the case — it’s my understanding that that’s not normally the case with television alumni.”

All have moved on to new projects, but The Dukes haven’t faded away.

“It’s still on. There are still little kids today, 7 years old, being Bo and Luke Duke and Daisy at Halloween. It’s just amazing,” Schneider said. “No Morks, no Mindys but lots of Bos and Lukes and Daisys.”

That continuing popularity has driven another phenomenon: Dukes reunions like the one taking place 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Henderson Auctions, U.S. 190 west of Livingston. Schneider said there’s always at least one reunion event each year.

“Usually just one, but this year, I don’t know what, there’s something in the water, because there was one up in northern New York and then there was one in Virginia and now there’s one just outside of Baton Rouge. It’s great,” he said. “It seems like the Dukes are making a resurgence this year.”

Schneider attributes that resurgence to more than nostalgia. It’s the show’s base values that continues to attract fans, he said.

“There are people who will come to the show because of the family dynamic, because of the integrity of Uncle Jesse and the relationship. You’d say The Andy Griffith Show was a comedy, but what stands out to me about The Andy Griffith Show was the integrity of the relationships of the characters. The bad guys were bad on Dukes, but if they really got into trouble, we’d come to help them the same as if we really got into trouble they’d come to help us. So, it was funny, but I would not say that funny was The Dukes of Hazzard’s defining characteristic at all,” he said. “It was not Shakespeare, but it was not Abbot and Costello either.”

One of the most popular props in the show was a red-painted stock car named the General Lee. It had “01” on the door and a Confederate flag painted on the roof. Some people thought the General Lee was as much a star of the show as any of the actors.

“I’ve heard that said, but I think that’s not true. Of course, what else would I say? The car can’t defend itself. People do love the General Lee, a great car, great car,” Schneider said. He expects plenty of imitators at the Livingston event.

“There’s going to be a lot of them. You’re going to be amazed at how many General Lees there’s going to be down there. Everywhere I’ve been, whether it’s been rural Georgia or Upstate New York or Milan, Italy, or Australia, a General Lee will show up – everywhere,” he said. Along with the cars, many of the original cast will be at the Livingston event including Schneider, Wopat, Bach, James Best (Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane), Sonny Shroyer (Deputy Enos Strate), Ben Jones (Cooter Davenport), Rick Hurst (Deputy Cletus Hogg), and Roscoe’s famous Bassett Hound “Flash.”

A New York native who went to high school in Atlanta, Schneider is no stranger to Louisiana. In fact, he spent some time in the Baton Rouge area recently and plans to come back as part of his current career arc as a script writer and movie director.

“I’m staying after our show, location scouting in a beautiful place called Denham Springs,” Schneider said. “That’s where I’m going to be at, hanging out in Denham Springs. I was there in January. I had a great cup of coffee there in that place by the railroad tracks,” he said. His upcoming film, a psychological drama set in a hospice has the working title of Backwater. It’s not a sure thing yet, though.

“Movies are interesting things, until you’re actually on a set and somebody says ‘Quiet, we’re rolling,’ you’re not actually doing it,” Schneider said. “I will believe it when I smell the coffee and somebody tells me to shut up because we’re rolling. The current plan has me in Denham Springs working on this film in November and December.”