Tens years ago today was one of the best days of my life. I have a few stories that I tell often; there is a pretty good beach volleyball story that I might tell you in person one day, but this is up there as one of my best. This is a long one, but I'll think you'll enjoy it. Let's take a look back ten years ago.
In March of '05, the local newspaper did a story on me and Natalie, my Dukes collection, and being extras in the movie. You can get a better look at the article on this post. In the article I told the reporter that my next goal was to make it to the premiere in Hollywood. I wasn't even sure if their would be a Hollywood premiere, but I knew I wanted to get there.
Flash forward to May when CMT chose me as a finalist for their "contest" looking for the biggest Dukes of Hazzard fan in the world.
Ben Jones was the "judge" but he wasn't in on the debacle the contest actually was. It was a blast being there as a special guest of a major television cable network.
While taking publicity shots and filming interviews for CMT, I discussed with the team from the network about my plan to make it to the premiere. They said the winner of the contest will most likely get an invite. I was even more excited. The contest didn't end well and someone else "won." But I didn't let that stop me.
The next month, a George Romero zombie movie was released that took place in Pittsburgh. I happened to have a friend who worked with Mr. Romero's son and finagled my way to the Pittsburgh premiere of Land of the Dead. I could write a whole blog about that night, but it wouldn't be Dukes related, except for one tiny tidbit.
There were quite a few celebrities at the Pittsburgh event. The cast of the movie, including John Leguizamo and Simon Baker were there, and I got to hang out with them. One of the guests of honor was Quentin Tarantino. He is very good friends with George Romero. While he wasn't mingling with us "normals" too much, I did have a chance to meet him while in line for the bathroom at the after party. There is a scene in the zombie movie where the survivors go on a supply run in a town overrun by the undead. They drive by a road sign and the audience sees the name of the town is Uniontown, the next town over from my hometown of Brownsville. Later on in the movie, Dennis Hopper's character asks John Leguizamo's character "how was Uniontown?" with the answer being "Dead!" The exchange got a laugh from the audience, but those of us from Fayette County got a little more out of it as we knew it was a jab at the current state of our south of Pittsburgh area. While waiting in line with Mr. Tarantino, I needed something to talk about so I mentioned the movie joke and told him that was where I was from. I let him in on the Fayette County side of the joke and he got a kick out of it. I didn't talk to Quentin very long, but I must have made an impact on him. I also hung out with Michael Jordan that night, yeah!
In June or July of 2005. I wrote a few letters about wanting to go to the premiere and sent them wherever I could before I headed on my family vacation to Bethany Beach, DE. While sitting on the beautiful beach, I got an awesome phone call. The personal assistant of Mr. Jay Chandrasekhar, director of the Dukes of Hazzard movie, called me and extended an invitation from Jay himself for Natalie and me to be his personal guests at the premiere! I couldn't believe it. I sent a letter addressed to Jay at Warner Bros. and it actually got to him. He loved the pictures of my collection and the story of being an extra and not "winning" the CMT gig. Sending letters actually works! After I made sure it wasn't a joke, it got a little crazy. We were six hours from home, and needed to get to the other coast in a day and a half. We could do it. We left my family at the beach, headed back home, and got on a flight to Los Angeles!
I have an uncle who lives in LA and he picked us up on July 28, 2005 and drove us to the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel which is now the Loews Hollywood Hotel that is right around the corner from the Chinese Theatre, the site of the premiere. It turns out the hotel was hosting the premiere as well. My uncle said he would pay for our stay, and when he mentioned to the front desk that we were in the movie, they upgraded us to a suite free of charge! It was the beginning of a great day. Our room had a view of the Hollywood sign.
After we checked in, we wandered around the theater to see what was going on beside it, and it looked like some kind of cookout. Wonder what that's about?
The buzz around the area was all about the Dukes!.
When it was getting close to show time, we went to the lobby. A few amazing things happened. In 2005, Jessica Simpson was huge. " Newlyweds" was incredibly popular on MTV, she had many top songs on the radio, and she was in a huge Hollywood blockbuster. Natalie was a very big fan of hers. When we walked out of the lobby, Jessica's mom happened to walk by and complemented Natalie's shoes. She was speechless. Then I bumped into a General Lee. A Dukes fan had brought his personal Gen'ral to the event hoping to get an invite to the party. I talked with him for a while and he was surprised I was going in. He didn't get the go ahead, but let me take some pictures with his car. I wasn't sure if there would be a General involved with the party and was happy to get some shots with this one, but there would be more Lees that night.
We walked the red carpet like we were stars (we were!) It was truly a special moment. Too bad I never found any of the pictures of us from the press that night. We weren't that big of a star.
This is the most Hollywood picture I've ever taken. Isn't Natalie beautiful?
Walking a red carpet was amazing. We didn't see the stars' arrivals because we couldn't be on the carpet at the same time they were. Linda Carter did arrive right behind us.
They gave away free popcorn and Coca-cola in the lobby. When we found our seats, I'd anxiously eaten all of mine. I went back to get another.
On the way back to my seat, I hear someone saying my name. I turn around and it's Quentin Tarantino! The director of Pulp Fiction was trying to get my attention! He remembered our conversation in Pittsburgh and was surprised to see me. I didn't even mention the Dukes premiere to him in that bathroom line. He was sitting with Seth Green of Austin Powers. Robot Chicken had just premiered that spring and I told Seth I really liked it. He was very gracious that I even knew about it. Just hanging out at the Chinese Theatre with my pals Quentin and Seth talking about the business. Quentin told Seth about my Uniontown story while we were talking. It was incredible that he remembered it.
Seeing the movie for the first time was amazing. Seeing it on the most exquisite and famous movie screen in the world was beyond anything I could have imagined. I saw the movie with Seann, Johnny, Burt, Willie, and Jessica. During the few seconds when I was actually visible on screen I gave out a yell that might have been unacceptable in a regular screening. But in this environment, there were cheers throughout the whole movie. It was so much fun. After the movie, about a third of those in attendance had the honor of going to the after party. We were lucky enough to have a ticket to that party too.
The first thing I saw when walking in to the Hazzard County Fair that was set up in the lot next to the Theatre was Seann William Scott, one of the stars of the movie, asking someone for their autograph. I was confused as to who was making the new Bo Duke starstruck.
It was none other than the real Bo Duke! None of the original cast had cameos in the movie as was common with television show remakes. Cooter was against the movie and it was understood that the show cast weren't involved. John surprised everyone by drinving his own General Lee to the after party. He's Bo Duke, of course he is going to the Hazzard County Fair! He spotted me and, like Quentin, was surprised to see me. Not as surprised as I was to see him. I've met my hero, John Schneider, several times, but I was never in a place where he just showed up. It was unbelievable. I got to spend a little time with John as he made the rounds.
Jessica Simpson wasn't mingling during the party. She was in one area of the lot all night. This is the only picture I got of her. Natalie and I did get a chance to talk to her sister, Ashlee, and she was incredibly nice. We also talked to her parents for a second and her mother again complemented Natalie's shoes. She was wearing great shoes!
The party was set up to resemble a fair atmosphere. There were games and barbecue food. At one point me and Natalie were standing beside a ball toss game and someone bumped into Natalie spilling here drink. We then realized it was Drew Lachey who spilled the drink and he was very apologetic. He was standing with the two other members of 98 Degrees and they all felt bad about the incident. What a surreal moment. It was all smoothed over and then Nick rolled up.
Every girl in America had a crush on Nick Lachey in 2005. Natalie loved MTV's Newlyweds and LOVED Nick Lachey. They talked for about a half hour. I wandered off to check things out they were talking so much. It was the highlight of her year.
When I talked to Seann William Scott, I introduced myself and he said "You're the Dukes of Hazzard guy! I've been looking forward to talking to you!" I understand this sounds unbelievable, but it actually happened. Jay had told Seann and Johnny that I was a huge fan and that I was attending. Seann wanted my take on the movie. He wanted to talk Dukes. I told Seann how much fun the movie was and how I loved the stunts. It was so cool that he wanted to hear what I had to say. He was such a nice guy.
And then Johnny Knoxville said the same thing! The star of Jackass wanted my take on his work. Wow! It was such an amazing experience talking to the new Duke Boys. They're just good ol' boys.
We got to spend some time with M. C. Gainey, David Koechner, and Joe Don Baker. David knew I was friends with Ben Jones, who was very much against the movie, and wanted to make sure I was cool with his portrayal of Cooter. Everyone was so nice. Burt Reynolds didn't attend the after party.
Then the entertainment for the evening took the stage. We attended a private concert by Willie Nelson, no big deal. I've used the word amazing quite a few times throughout this post, but let me tell you, a private concert from Willie Nelson was amazing. I can't describe how cool it was. I was standing with Jay Chandrasekhar jamming to ol' Willie. Wow!
Jay was incredible to us. He went out of his way several times throughout the night to make sure we were having a good time. We talked about the movie and the evening and how great everything was. I can't thank Jay enough for inviting us to his party and making us feel so included. What a great guy Jay Chandrasekhar is.
Oh yeah, they had a General Lee there. It happened to be the only hero car that was used in both the show and the movie and now sits on the Warner Bros. backlot on the tour. Yeah that General Lee. The backseat and trunk of the most important General Lee in the world (Bubba who?) were filled with gift bags that were given out to all the guests. I'm going to write a post about the gift bags soon.
I've been to quite a few Dukes of Hazzard events throughout my crazy Dukes adventures. The Hazzard County Fair that followed the Hollywood premiere of the Dukes of Hazzard movie was the most memorable and amazing evening of my life. It was so much fun. I was treated like Hollywood royalty. It was wonderful.
No one from CMT was at the premiere. But I was!