Jan 16, 2015

The Dukes of Hazzard

The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985) wasn't really a hillbilly show, though the "backwood Adonis" theme can be traced back through Jethro Bodine to L'il Abner.  It was set in the country (Hazzard, Georgia), not the hills, and the premise was derived on the 1970s trucker fad.  The Duke cousins, the blond Bo (John Schneider) and the brunette Luke (Tom Wopat), drove a 1969 Dodge Charger instead of a truck, but they still zoomed through rustic locales with a country-fried sheriff, Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke), in hot pursuit.

The boys lived with their cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach) and their elderly Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle), who narrated the stories ("Well, the Duke boys were in trouble again....") and provided sage advice.

It was obvious early on that the actors were hired for their beefcake appeal.  Although their shirts were off constantly and they had nice muscles, the main draw was below the belt.  Look closely -- well, you don't really need to look closely.  It's out there for everyone to see.  John Schneider wore jeans so tight that they had to be peeled off at the end of a shoot. (Just in case you liked girls, they also put Daisy into revealing short-shorts that came to be called Daisy Dukes).

But the beefcake (and Daisy's cheesecake) didn't mean that the show was obsessed with heterosexual hookups.  In fact, dating and romance was not high on anyone's list of activities. Daisy falls in love a few times, but Bo and Duke, never.  They save an orphanage, enter their car in a race, catch bank robbers, pursue card sharks, sing, and run up against the corrupt Boss Hogg.

And the bonding was intense!  Ok, they were "cousins," but they were inseparable, devoted to each other, with eyes for no one else.  They behaved, and the residents of Hazzard treated them, precisely like long-time partners.

When they left the series briefly in 1982, Byron Cherry and Chip Meyer came in as cousins Coy and Vance.

Both John Schneider and Tom Wopat have had successful post-Duke careers, and they are both gay allies. I met Tom Wopat in 1999.  In 2008, John Schneider performed at the L.A. AIDS Walk, and spoke about three friends who died of AIDS, including his "best friend in all the world" during his years on The Dukes. 


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