Gary Busey Tells the Story Behind his…
Amazon Fire TV Commercial!
I had the distinct honor to chat with Gary Busey fresh off the heels of his brand new Amazon Fire commercial. Gary Busey is a very brilliant actor — just don’t call him an A+ actor because as Gary jokingly explained to me, “A+ is how they grade meat; I am not a piece of meat!” Very funny and quick-witted — I enjoyed our interview immensely. And you’ll want to read through to the very end because there’s a true story there that shows why Gary is one of the coolest human beings I’ve ever met.
Gary Busey has a very special place in my memories because he was in my favorite Western of all time, Barbarosa, which he produced and co-stars Willie Nelson. During my formative musical years, I first saw Gary when he played Buddy Holly in the Buddy Holly Story, which is one of the greatest portrayals of a music icon by anyone, in my opinion. Gary Busey so got into Buddy Holly that you didn’t see Gary portraying Buddy Holly, you just saw Buddy Holly. And, the icing on the cake, Gary also acted alongside the man who is on my list of top five comedians, Chris Farley, in the movie Black Sheep. Odds are if you don’t know and appreciate Gary Busey and his legacy of work, then you probably do not own a television set. Gary is turning 70 in June, and he has been acting for 43+ years with no signs of stopping on the horizon. He has a four-year-old son, he is a devoted father and husband, and he is a man who actively pursues the path of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you ever get a chance, just ask Mr.Busey; he has no problem telling you about his faith and spirituality.
He shared with me some of his signature Buseyisms, including one that I will share in our interview. (Though one Buseyism he shared was so comical that I should probably keep it for myself because it is way more hilarious when Gary shares it.) Gary is also a drummer, and — me being a drummer also — I thought to myself, “If Gary Busey wasn’t already cool enough, he is a drummer too” — and an accomplished drummer at that. Busey began his show business career as a drummer in The Rubber Band playing on several Leon Russell recordings under the pseudo names of “Teddy Jack Eddy” and “Sprunk.” (And you have to really love music to research drumming gold like that.) The man has done it all in a lifetime — enough actually for several lifetimes: he has served our culture as a musician, actor, and advocate. He has also battled drug and alcohol abuse, but, as he shared with me, he is now 19 years sober — “Thank God for that feat!” — he and I both agreed. He survived a motorcycle accident in 1988 that nearly ended his life; but he persevered, he never gave up, and in 1991 he returned to the big screen in the movie Point Break. I was told by his publicist that he also endured a bout with skin cancer. But just like his strong faith, Gary Busey truly exemplifies the saying, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how you get up that truly counts.”
I had an Inside the Actor’s Studio Josh Belcher-style approach to our interview; here is the dish:
Can you tell us why you decided to lend your talents to an Amazon commercial?
I was asked to do an Amazon commercial, and I said yes. I don’t usually do commercials. I have only done two commercials in a 44-year career. I did it without knowing what it was about, and then as I did it I knew what it was about because I am not a commercial actor, I am just me being me. I got into the Amazon flow of the image they wanted to have and the progression of the copy to the audience so they could understand and see what it is with great affection. That was my preparation for that, and it was an unconscious preparation because I don’t think when I’m working, and that’s a funny thing to say, but that’s the way I am. If I think about it, then people will see me thinking AND IT WON’T WORK! [we are laughing] Acting is the absence of acting. It’s believing in the truth of the moment you’re creating at that time, and I have been like this all my life. I used to come home from junior high school in the ’50s, and I would listen to the radio, to the station KRMG — which is a talk show, and this is right when rock and roll is starting — I would watch Superman on the TV, and I would do my homework [all at the same time]. My mother would come in and say, “You can’t do this, you can’t have these other things going,” and, I made this up, I said, “Mom, they want me to learn how to do three things at once.” And she said okay, and I passed with flying colors — I was a C+, B student.
“Acting is the absence of acting. It’s believing in the truth of the moment you’re creating at that time.” –Gary Busey
How do you intertwine your spirituality with your love and devotion to Jesus Christ?
It’s just part of me. My eyes see love like looking through the eyes of Jesus. My heart and spirit are so strong in faith, endurance, hope, and love that nothing can sway me from the belief I have in the Good Book called the Bible, with what the apostles say, what they all say. You know the Bible is the best-seller, so it is good for everyone to have one and read it when they can because what they read will give them the definition of the truth of love, whether they realize that or not — ’cause it happened to me that way. We are all human beings, children of God, so let’s respect each other with love, passion, and confidence.
Me: Very good, I like that.
Gary: Well, use It! [I laugh]
Can you give us some insight on your Busey Foundation and more on the Kawasaki disease?
My son, when he was 14 months old, had a swelling of the tongue, a fever that lasted five days, and his face was flushed, and he had yellow around his eyes. So my wife Steffanie took him into the doctor, and he got diagnosed with Kawasaki disease for children, which is a very rare disease, and they don’t know where it comes from. So he was in the hospital in LA for 13 days and nights. Steffanie, my soul mate, was with him, and I was working somewhere, and then I came home and caught up with it, and he does not have Kawasaki disease now, but it could have a coronary artery affect. It can deal with your heart, with palpitations and rare beats or even just stop. It is a very rare disease, and a man named Kawasaki created the cure. It is a very strange episode to go through with a family member because that is your family and that is part of you. Buseyfoundation.org is where you can send donations for the recovery and lab testing that we need. When you are living life, you have got to pray for the best, prepare for the worst, and expect the unexpected.
I know your son Jake is an accomplished actor; do you think your son Luke will follow in your footsteps and act also?
Oh yes, he is already acting. He puts on a storm. He already makes faces, makes people laugh clear in the next county. In fact, here he comes now; he has on shorts and a t-shirt that says “Less Talk More Rock” with a guitar. He is four, he is anything but stationary. He is a mobile movement maker.
Let’s discuss your “Buseyisms” — your one for WAR is Woman and Religion; do you care to elaborate?
Well, War, you know what that is. That is just people fighting over nothing. And women, we have the names Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, the queen that was before Cleopatra, the warrior queen of Egypt, and then we have Joan of Arc. So they were all in wars they had going. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy.
Can we discuss that you were in my favorite Western: Barbarosa?
Yes, I produced that movie. I hired the director — an Australian, Fred Schepisi. He did the Western in his own Australian way. Willie Nelson and I had a wonderful time making that film.
Do you have any current projects on the horizon?
I am getting ready to go to Vancouver to do a movie called Candiland, where I play the father to a son who I try to take care of, and he is trying to push me away. So this should be a great one. Then I am going to Detroit, Michigan to do an autograph show, and that is great because you get to meet the people that come support your career and be nice to them and be very respectful. Then I go to Tulsa the first of May to speak to the Tulsa Boys Home — speaking to teenagers who are warded to the state who don’t have a family, tied up in drugs and just don’t have a good direction — try to be motivational and inspirational when talking to youngsters, and that is something I have prayed for to do, and that prayer is being answered.
“When you are living life, you have got to pray for the best, prepare for the worst, and expect the unexpected.” –Gary Busey
Here is a personal fact of mine and a tribute to Gary Busey and the kind, thoughtful person he is: when I told him how much I enjoyed Barbarosa, he remembered a picture he had taken on the set of the movie in 1982. His publicist told me in a later conversation that Gary was going to have a copy of the picture made and sent to me, personally autographed — an heirloom I will cherish forever.
And that’s why Gary Busey is one of the coolest human beings I’ve ever met.