Aug 21, 2012

Greg Evigan: The Trucker and his Chimp

During the late 1970s, there was a trucker fad. The truck driver (or sometimes any driver, as in Dukes of Hazzardbecame the new cowboy, a loner who followed his own rules and thumbed his nose at the establishment.  People started throwing around terms like  "smokey" for cop and phrases like "10-4, Good Buddy" for "Goodbye."

Maybe the gas crisis made people long for the freedom of gas-guzzling semis.

On tv, the quintessential trucker-hero drama was BJ and the Bear (1979-81).  B.J. McKay, played by Greg Evigan, ran a freelance truck-driving business, got harassed by the smokies (especially Southern-fried Sheriff Lobo, who eventually spun off into his own series, starring gay ally Brian Kerwin).  As is usual in road tv, the plots involved BJ fixing the problems of the people he met along the way.  After resolving the crisis, he would head out into the sunset with his "best friend Bear," a chimpanzee named after the University of Alabama football coach.

I knew Greg Evigan from A Year at the Top (1977-78), a sitcom about two musicians who sell their soul to the devil in exchange for a year of fame.  It offered lots of bonding.

Unfortunately, BJ and the Bear didn't seem to.  I never watched the show, but the tv promos invariably showed B.J. picking up a semi-clad female supermodel who was hitchhiking or had car trouble en route to the Swedish Bikini Team tryouts.  As if that superfluous cheesecake wasn't sufficient, in the second season B.J. became the owner of a trucking company, and hired several female drivers with large breasts, including one named "Stacks."

But my friends and I often joked about the producers naming their character after a sexual act.

And Greg Evigan was nice to look at.  His semi-clad pictures soon flooded the teen magazines, even though he wasn't a teenager and he didn't sing.

A decade later, Evigan returned to television in My Two Dads (1987-1990), which wasn't about gay marriage. But he did play a gay doctor on Melrose Place.

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