In the late 70s and early 80s, I watched a lot of TV. Back then, parents were mere mortals (most of them smoking, drinking Tab and generally oblivious to things like seat belts and sun screen), not hovercrafts. It wasn’t easy to find overlapping television interests with my older-by-only-14-months brother. Where I favored Little House on the Prairie and Guiding Light, he liked the Six Million Dollar Man and Sanford & Son.
There was but one tiny patch of harmony from 1979-1985, a single show that we both embraced along with our Tang and Chips Ahoy. In The Dukes of Hazzard, we found characters we could both love– those rascally Duke boys and the zany cast of characters who chased, reviled, protected, guided and admired them.
Oh the Dukes of Hazzard.
There weren’t a lot of women on the show, except of course Daisy Duke, whose shorts eventually inspired a song by 69 Boyz (also of Tootsee Roll fame and indisputable national treasures, I think we can all agree). Dear old Daisy—she had long hair, tan legs, sparkly teeth, and men were always fawning all over her.
She wasn’t my favorite, though. She never got to do anything fun, except teeter around on those high heels trying to keep her vagina from falling out of her denim fig leaf. (This reminds me of another Dukes character, Cooter Davenport, who was the local mechanic.) I was nothing if not a budding feminist.
My favorite was Rosco P. Coltrane. Now there was a character. Sure, he was the inept and crooked county sheriff who was buddies with the evil Boss Hogg, but I couldn’t get enough of him. He was better than the Duke boys because his car doors worked. His dog was cute. I liked his uniform. But most of all, I distinctly remember thinking he had the greatest name of any television character I’d ever heard of. (At the time, I thought his name was actually “Rosco Peako Train,” but whatever.) When my brother and I played cops and robbers games down at my grandmother’s farm, I insisted on playing Rosco.
Here’s how it broke down: I wanted to marry Bo Duke, played by the fluffy-haired John Schneider; I wanted to be Rosco P. Coltrane; and I wanted Uncle Jesse to be my sage, next-door neighbor. (In a phenomenal twist of fate, the actor who played Uncle Jesse, Denver Pyle, ended up marrying a woman (Tippie Johnston) from a small town in Texas (Forreston) and lived a half mile from my grandmother’s farm. I have an autographed picture.)
Having just seen that the actor who played in the indomitable Rosco P. Coltrane left this earth last week, I’m gripped with an urgent need to memorialize the lessons from Dukes of Hazzard. On the off chance that my children (1) learn to read, (2) find this blog, and (3) do not expire from mortification, I’d like them to know the following:
- Minor characters are often more interesting than the so-called main protagonists. See Rosco P. Coltrane, Enos Strate, Cooter Davenport, Cletus Hogg. (This is also true of Sanford & Son, whose minor characters include Grady Wilson, Rollo Lawson, Bubba Bexley, et al.)
- Always use your middle initial, so you can replicate the greatness of “ROSCO P. COLTRANE.”
- Never watch a show that glamorizes the Confederacy, which includes shows that slap the stars and bars on an old beater car that has doors that won’t open.
- If you become enamored with a bumble-fuck minor character who has no moral center, I will shuttle you straight to therapy, no matter how cute his hound is.
- When you get to therapy, show the good doctor this post as Ex. A, potential white trash roots.
- Do not make your name wearing scandalously short shorts because that’s all anyone will remember about you.
- Do not launch a country music career after you have made a “chase” show set in a fictional rural town in Kentucky. (Looking at you, John Schneider.)
- Don’t bother going back to watch any of the shows from the late 70s or early 80s.
- Exception: Go back and watch Sanford & Son.
- DO NOT tell Uncle Doug that I ever admitted that Sanford & Son was a seminal show or that Redd Foxx is a fucking genius.
- Don’t say “fucking.”
- You kids should find something better to do than watch TV.
- Don’t call a vagina a “cooter,” even though I was really tempted to do just that above.