It's them dang Duke Boys!

Hazzard comes to Forsyth

"Just the good old boys, never meanin' no harm. Beats all you never saw, been in trouble with the law since the day they was born."
"The Dukes Of Hazzard," was a rip-snortin,' car jumpin,' tire squealin,' romp that starred John Schneider and Tom Wopat as country cousins Bo and Luke Duke. The show debuted in 1979, kickin' up dust for six years worth of Friday nights on CBS, as it chronicled the trials and tribulations of the Duke boys, the irrascible Boss Hogg and a supporting cast that ranged from endearing to bumbling. The show was a success largely due to the innate likeability of Schneider and Wopat, but it was icons like the Dukes' ever-reliable auto, the General Lee, and the hip-hugging jean shorts worn by co-star Catherine Bach — known forever after as "Daisy Dukes" — that made it a cultural landmark. Well, about two years ago, on the 20th anniversary of the show's debut, Schneider and Wopat decided to dust off this cultural landmark and hatched an idea to bring Hazzard County to the people. But when Schneider, Wopat and Valdosta resident Sonny Shoyer (Deputy Enos) bring the General Lee and the rest of this travelling carnival to the Cumming County Fair this Wednesday, it will be as much a homecoming as it is a routine tour stop.
"The show was really born in Atlanta," says Schneider. "We cut our teeth in Covington; the first few shows were shot out there. So it's exciting for me to be coming back there to share a bit of history with the folks who made that history."
Schneider lived in Atlanta for several years before he landed the Bo role, actin' on the stage in Academy Theatre, Onstage Atlanta and Peachtree Playhouse productions. He got wind that a movie company was looking for real Southerners between ages 24 and 30, farm-raised 'n' corn-fed, to be on a show about good ol' boys. "Of course I was 18 at the time and originally from New York, so I went in and told them I was from Snellville," he laughs, digging up his best Southern accent when he drawls the name of the Atlanta suburb. "A gig's a gig." He left his role in The Manhattan Yellow Pages, a local musical review, to become Bo Duke and never looked back. "The minute I met Tom Wopat, we just became best friends."
"We had a lot in common," Wopat agrees. "We had similar theatre backgrounds and the same quirky sense of humor. There were no huge stars on the show to begin with, so everyone became good friends."
"Makin' their way, the only way they know how. That's just a little bit more than the law will allow."
Surprisingly, the two were consistently able to draw on their theatre experience on the show. "A lot of the show was ad-libbed," says Wopat. "They let us do our thing."
"In a lot of the industry, I found integrity was in short supply," says Schneider, a devout Christian. "Theatre isn't like that; everyone has to rely on each other to make it work. If theatre was run the way I saw the TV and movie industry operated, it would never last."
Hoping to add some integrity to the industry, Schneider recently formed his own production company, Canaan Filmworks. "I want to be like the Disney Company used to be," he says, citing Michael Landon as his role model for productions. He formed the company to make pictures the whole family can watch that also stick to what Schneider calls, "Biblical truth."
"I'm hoping he'll give me some work," laughs Wopat. But Wopat's plate has been relatively full of late, having just ended a run on Broadway with Bernadette Peters in the revival of "Annie Get Your Gun." He's also set to put out an album of classic love songs called The Still Of The Night on October 24th.
"Straightenin' the curves, flattenin' the hills. Someday the mountain might get 'em but the law never will.
Both the Duke boys tried their hand at country music back in the day, and they'll revisit this pickin' and grinnin' during the Reuinion tour. Wopat's Full Moon Band will back the boys and each will have a set of songs to play. "I come out first, and then John does his big hits," explains Wopat.
Wopat's not kidding about the big hits. Schneider churned out a fairly steady stream of country chart-toppers in the '80s. He's also no stranger to Cumming, havin' played Lanierland during his heyday. "I never played there," cracks Wopat. "I never hit the big places. I did Miss Kitty's a couple times. A lot of fairs."
"Just the good ol' boys, wouldn't change if they could. Fightin' the system like two modern-day Robin Hoods."

The Dukes Of Hazzard Reunion Tour showtimes are 7 and 9 p.m., Wed., Oct. 11 at the Cumming Fair and Festival, Cumming City Fairgrounds, 235 Castleberry Road, Cumming Ga. For more information and directions call 770-781-3491.
Lyrics from "Good Ol' Boys," copyright 1979 and 1980, by Waylon Jennings, RCA/BMG records.