Monday, October 26, 2009

Dukes of Hazzard still winning new Canadian car fans

By: Parminder Parmar, News
Date: Sat. Apr. 4 2009 10:37 PM ET

It's John Schneider's second day at Toronto's Motion Custom Car Show and, just like the day before, the former star of "The Dukes of Hazzard" has been signing autographs for much of the morning.

A line of fans dwindles and stretches from as few as a handful to a couple dozen at any given time.
Behind him sits " The General Lee ", the 1969 bright orange Dodge Charger that is synonymous with the TV series that was an instant hit when it first aired in the late 1970s.
To his left is a young girl in tight jean shorts, a cowboy hat, and a white blouse knotted temptingly above the mid-riff.
As the winner of a local contest, she's greeting other "Dukes" fans after being awarded the role of "Daisy Duke" for the day.

Schneider revels in the nostalgia, having a laugh with each fan as he signs a picture or momento.
The 48-year-old-actor, who appears at auto shows throughout Canada and the United States each year, says the car exhibits have helped create a growing community of Dukes of Hazzard fans across North America.
The original show may have only lasted a few years, but its popularity continues to thrive, especially among car enthusiasts. That's no surprise, Schneider says.

"Their entry into the world of cars was the 'Dukes,'" he says of the crowd at the auto show.
With the morning signing session over, he decides to take a break, allowing a media interview before heading to lunch on the last day of the car show in late March.

"You mind if we walk and talk," he asks. Assured it's a not a problem, he begins to make his way through Toronto's Direct Energy Centre, passing by brightly-coloured muscle cars displayed throughout the exhibition floor.

Suddenly, all eyes turn from the cars to Schneider, and a little boy outruns several other kids to be the first one to get to the star. The boy offers a pen and smile, and the actor signs a photo.
Schneider's now surrounded by lots of adults, too. The ones displaying their one-of-a-kind cars at the show want him to sign them -- under the hood, along the firewall.

Schneider, who has also starred in countless other TV shows and recorded several country music albums, says there is something unique about his fans at the car shows. He notes he's constantly amazed about how young some of them are - considering the kids weren't even alive when the show was originally on TV.

"All these people grew up watching the Dukes of Hazzard," he tells, adding, "and their children! I think that's cool."

Schneider is an avid car collector, but he notes that it's not just a passion for cars that brings many of his fans out. He says the television series -- which revolved around the antics of his character "Bo Duke" and Bo's cousin "Luke Duke" - emphasized traditional values, not just car chases.

"I think the fact is they (the characters) loved cars. But the family was most important to us," he says.

The fan and The General Lee
It's that kind of camaraderie that an Ontario man says takes him - and his travelling 'Dukes' museum -- to more than 20 North American car shows a year.
Paul Harrington has also set up a permanent homage to the TV show in his hometown of Ruscom Station, Ont., near Windsor.

Now in his 40s, Harrington says he became a fan of the show as a teenager, and his passion went into overdrive from there.
In fact, his love for the Dukes of Hazzard runs so deep, it cost him a marriage.

In March 1991, he bought The General Lee 1969 Dodge Charger, in the condition as it sits here today from a guy in Michigan. ( A little History of the car : It was found in the southern state of Georgia, but resurfaced in Florida a few years later. That's when the seller boughht it and transported it to Michigan.)
Harrington estimates he spends about $15,000 a year on "Dukes" memorabilia.
His museum includes dozens of show artifacts, autographed pictures, and cars painted to look like vehicles from the original series.
He even appeared as an extra in the 2005 Dukes of Hazzard movie version of the show.
Harrington says his new wife is a lot more accepting of his passion.
Schneider says there are very few TV series in history that have created such a connection with their fans.

"It's not the bearded lady thing. It's an honour," he says about the adulation he receives at the car shows.

He adds that he's amazed by fans like Harrington.

"Isn't he great? He knows more about the Dukes than I ever will. It's folks like him who keep it alive."


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