The Dukes of Hazzard is a classic American television show. Reflective of southern life and culture, this show was actually created as a brief filler on CBS’s schedule. The show was never meant to last a long time. Only a few episodes were ordered to start it all off – but as we know, this show really took off.
Not so many executives had high hopes for the success of this show. In fact, they barely even had any expectations of the show – about two brothers causing chaos and butting heads with officers from the Hazzard county police department, known for their corruption. These are some little-known facts about the instant classic, Dukes of Hazzard!
The Chairman’s Opinion
Naturally, you would think that the head honcho at the network where a show is being broadcast would have his favorite programs. CBS Chairman William Paley certainly did have his favorite programs, but he was known for keeping his personal opinions separate from those of the network. They were different entities.
It makes sense that William Paley, the CBS chairman who built his network from the ground up, would not put his credibility on the line. At the end of his life, however, he did finally speak up about a show he truly could not personally endorse– that show was the Dukes of Hazzard.
What William Says Goes
William Paley was proud of the company that he had built from the ground up. CBS started as a radio station and developed into one of the “Big Three” television networks. With that, it is safe to assume that if something was airing on his network, he wanted to make sure it was pure gold.
After grooming the careers of people who went on to become some of the best in the industry –figures like Norman Lear and Lucille Ball – he was not happy to see what else the network had in the line up. He wasn’t pleased with the “southern-fried” sense of humor, and he made that known publicly.
Trash Talking the Show
If anyone has earned the right to express their opinions (even if they seem a little bit wacky), it’s the elderly! While making a public appearance later in life, CBS chairman William Paley decided there was no reason to hold back his personal opinion and censor himself. He used his platform to repeatedly drag the Dukes of Hazzard.
At the time, he was 80 years old. He decided to loudly and repeatedly describe the show as “lousy,” even though at the time it was a top 10 show on television and was run by his network. If he really hated it that much, why didn’t he pull it from the network? It did run for seven seasons, after all…
What Was the Dukes of Hazzard Car?
So, you might look at the cast and crew as the main stars of the show, but it appears that one more character (with a name!) is certainly seen as the best of the best. The show’s 1969 Dodge Charger, named “traveler” after General Lee’s horse in the Civil War, was most often known as General Lee.
This car was perhaps one of the most famous parts of the show itself. This car was a chariot for Bo and Luke Duke, zipping them throughout their neighborhood and the rest of Hazzard county. Of all the fan mail the show received, more than half of it was written solely about the car!
The Famous Dukes of Hazzard Charger
That’s right, more than half of the fan mail the Dukes of Hazzard received every month was just expressing love for this precious chariot called General Lee. Producers and actors alike were shocked to learn that the main attraction of the show was the car!
The series received more than 60,000 fan letters every month in 1981. That same year, more than half – 35,000 to be specific – wanted to learn more about the car. They wanted information, they wanted pictures, really anything that would connect them to the car they admired on television.
Dennis Quaid’s Missed Opportunity
The Dukes of Hazzard began their casting search in 1978. They wanted to have as many options as possible, so they examined every option with a fine-tooth comb. One of the actors who was interested in getting involved was Dennis Quaid – it almost felt like fate, in his mind.
Dennis Quaid was making his way up the ranks in Hollywood at the time and decided that he would get involved under his conditions. I am not personally in the entertainment business, but part of me feels like that isn’t the best way to get the roles you want. Want to know his specific requirements?
Dennis Quaid Wanted His Wife to Have a Part
Dennis Quaid wanted to play Luke Duke, but he wanted to play by his own rules. At the time, Quaid was married to P.J. Soles, a German-born American actress with a long, active career, primarily starring in horror films. She appeared in Carrie, Halloween, and Jawbreaker, to name a few. He wanted to secure a role for her.
Part of Quaid’s self-proclaimed terms for involvement in this show was that his then-wife (because love doesn’t always last forever) be cast as the lovely Daisy Duke. He wanted his wife to play his cousin on television, otherwise he would not take the role. That sounds pretty… on brand to me!
My Way or the Highway
That’s right, Dennis Quaid would only agree to play the role of Luke Duke if his wife were cast as his on-screen cousin. That just doesn’t sit right with me, and, luckily, it didn’t for the producers either. Rather, they felt that P.J. Soles was not the right fit for the role and gave it to someone else.
Quaid was thrown off when producers decided that Soles was not the right fit. Catherine Bach was soon cast as Daisy, meaning that Quaid was not happy and would not be involved. I wonder if he feels any remorse for missing out on a successful show – for a marriage that didn’t end up lasting!
The “Redneck” Actor
Actor John Schneider was just a starry-eyed New Yorker when he auditioned for the role of Bo Duke. He was 18 years old, but he had lied about his age to read for the part. He even put on a show, pretending to be the Southern archetype the show required.
Initially, producers wanted someone who was in the 24- to 30-year-old range. Since Schneider was still technically a teenager, he needed to come across as much older than he actually was. He wanted the role so badly that he pushed limits to depict himself as someone he wasn’t.
Playing the Part
Even though he didn’t quite fit the description for the role, he tried to appear as if he were perfect for it (which is kind of obvious, I think we’d all do that). Schneider came in as every southern stereotype you could think of, all because he wanted to land a role he wasn’t a sure thing for.
John Schneider came into his audition, boots-knocking and heck-raising. In preparation for his audition as a “redneck” he grew some stubble, wore a cowboy hat, and carried a can of beer with him. He even spit tobacco and claimed to be from Snellville, Georgia. Snellville is incredibly different than his real hometown!
Stretching His Stunts
Things didn’t stop with the Southern stereotypes and tobacco-spitting. Not only did John Schneider fabricate his origin story, but he also told producers that he was more than capable of doing his own stunt driving. Things there had the potential to get very dangerous, don’t you think?
Schneider told the team behind the Dukes of Hazzard that he graduated from the Georgia School of High-Performance Driving. That institution does not exist in real life, but it seems that he was just convincing enough to land him the role of Bo Duke in the end!
Who Played Daisy Duke in the Dukes of Hazzard?
Daisy Duke is a name that so many people know in pop culture. Many people refer to shorts as “daisy dukes” without knowing the origin story. Actress Catherine Bach played the beautiful Duke’s cousin, who lived on a farm with her uncle and cousins on the outskirts of the county.
Bach played the gorgeous yet naïve cousin Daisy in the series, often dressed in minimal clothing while still giving off the Southern belle feel. She was often part of her cousin’s car chases, just not always in the General Lee; she had her own set of wheels. Superfans theorize that Daisy’s parents were killed in a car accident, along with Bo and Luke’s parents.
Actors John Schneider and Tom Wopat, who play Bo and Luke Duke respectively, met in a strange place – though it isn’t that strange if you think about it. Schneider was already cast in his role, and Tom Wopat was in town to do a screen test. They ended up meeting in the bathroom!
Schneider was inside of the stall when Wopat entered the bathroom, and he noticed that someone had brought a guitar into the bathroom. They started talking about music from under the door, and they instantly hit it off. Just moments later, the two screen-tested together and Wopat landed the role!
Something About the Toilet
Clearly, something about sharing moments in the bathroom has worked out for some actors quite well. Schneider was in the stall completing whatever he needed to do (and yes, it was reported as pooping, but you can just imagine he was doing something else) and what followed the flush would change TV as we knew it.
Both Schneider and Wopat had a passion for music. Wopat is still an active guitarist to this day. If you can take anything from their positive bathroom experience, it is that you should never be afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger through the stall – you never know where it could lead you (or them)!
The Building of Daisy Duke
In this day and age, many people refer to cutoff jean shorts as “daisy dukes.” This style was named after Daisy Duke, and it often embraced the skimpier side of the characters’ everyday outfits. It seemed that the shorts were so skimpy that the network raised concerns about censors blocking her outfits on screen.
Negotiations began to censor Daisy Duke’s iconic outfit. To supposedly avoid clothing malfunctions, Catherine Bach had to wear very sheer tights under her incredibly short shorts. I know I couldn’t tell myself, but who knows what might have been depicted if she hadn’t been wearing them!
The First Lady Was a Fan
Did you know that former First Lady Nancy Reagan loved Daisy Duke? The wife of the now late 40th President was thrilled when a White House staff member received a poster for the TV show from one of the stars, Catherine Bach. Could you imagine learning that the first lady adores your character?
The way that Nancy Reagan stumbled upon this poster was a unique twist of fate, and it must have been a surprise to learn that she even had the time to watch such a silly show in the midst of performing her duties as First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS).
If you’re wondering how Nancy Reagan found herself with posters from the Dukes of Hazzard, you are not alone. Proving that the world is truly a much smaller place than we think it is, one of Catherine Bach’s grade schoolteachers went on to work in the Reagan White House!
Shirley Moore was Bach’s former teacher, and when she sent her the poster, she didn’t expect to get the response she received. Bach was shocked to hear that Mrs. Reagan adored Daisy Duke and was absolutely enamored with the poster Moore had received!
Talk of the White House
After Bach sent her former schoolteacher a Dukes of Hazzard poster, she learned of the First Lady’s love of her show. “I’m the envy of the White House and I’m having your poster framed,” Moore wrote in a letter. “Mrs. Reagan saw the picture and fell in love with it.”
As a result, Bach sent even more posters to the White House. We can’t say for sure, but it might not be that far off to think that the Reagan White House was decorated with Dukes of Hazzard posters up and down the halls. That is some super fandom. Who is to say the President’s wife can’t have her own television tastes?
Designed to Fail
Initially, this show was created as a filler. CBS needed content to fill their time slots and the concept for this show seemed silly enough to work, at least for a little bit. The show was only ordered for nine episodes, thinking that this would be more than enough to get the point across. It went far beyond than that…
Warner Brothers executives liked the rough cuts that they saw of the earliest completed episodes of the series and saw the potential for a full series from there. However, as we know, William Paley was not a fan. He didn’t believe that the country humor was up to par with his standards.
Paley’s Got Opinions
So, we know that CBS chairman William Paley was not a fan. He notably called the show lousy and was outspoken against the show even when it hit the top 10 list. Of course, he is entitled to his opinion, but maybe he shouldn’t have trash-talked a show that was doing well for his network!
Another executive for the network said that he didn’t expect the show to “last longer than the first commercial break.” Talk about a lack of faith and confidence in the people who work for you, right? Much to their surprise, the show ended up running for seven seasons!
It Was Based on Moonrunners
The Dukes of Hazzard was loosely based on the 1975 film, Moonrunners. This movie was based on the true story of the famous bootlegger, Jerry Rushing. Both are comedies, but the television series ended up being a much more family-friendly version of the movie. There was still a ton of overlap between the two.
So many important roles, ideas, and even names appeared in the show that were taken directly from the film. Even some of the actors had guest roles on the show. This didn’t mean everything was perfect; Jerry Rushing himself went on to successfully sue the producers of the show for royalties!
How Many Cars Did They Go Through While Filming?
If you take one look at the General Lee, you see a giant vehicle that should not be able to fly through the air in the way that it did. As time passed, the Dodge Charger became less and less common – meaning that wrecking a ton of them would make it hard to fix them quickly. It is unclear of how many vehicles they went through in production.
The General Lee had jumped, crashed, and generally been abused in all sorts of ways. Sure, there was plenty of great footage, but, ultimately, they could not keep on demolishing cars in the process – especially the pride and joy of the show. They had to come up with a solution.
The Backup Vehicle
After six seasons of loving a car that would continually get destroyed while filming over-the-top stunts, producers decided it was time to enlist a stunt car and a miniature effects team to help minimize production costs throughout the process. The show could not keep destroying these big, hard-to-come-by vehicles!
The General Lee was the heart and soul of the show, and easily the biggest star on the program. There’s fan mail to back that up. Anyway, producers came to realize that it was cheaper to destroy the “hot wheels version” than the actual car itself. Wopat told E! that, “it was a source of embarrassment to all of us on the show.”
The Show Became a Cartoon
It seems that some habits never seem to die. As an effort to make money off projects that could be made into something even more, Warner Bros. decided to capitalize on the show’s successand turn it into a cartoon. They made the animated series, The Dukes, which aired in 1983.
Since they were not filming in person, the Duke boys were able to zip through different countries and cities, racing Boss Hogg through countries like Greece and cities like Hong Kong (even though they are about as far from Hazzard county as they can get). The series lasted 20 episodes.
Meeting Contract Demands
The Dukes of Hazzard had managed to become such a successful show that the studio producing ended up creating merchandise to further profit from the show. Naturally, two stars of the show would end up walking off the series when they demanded a cut of the ridiculously large sums brought in by merchandising.
In 1981 alone, one estimate stated that the show made more than $190 million. That’s a whole lot of money to be made, let alone in a single year! Wopat and Schneider walked off after demanding a cut of the profits and seemingly not getting their way. They would be back, though…
When Wopat and Schneider walked off the series in 1982, they were replaced by Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer. These two actors were playing “cousins” of the Duke family, but fans of the show did not take to them well. They really did not like these two, especially not as replacements for the Duke brothers.
Fortunately, the two leads came back to the show pretty quickly. We don’t know if they got the cut of merchandising profits that they had hoped for, but we don’t know that they didn’t either. We may never know, but we are happy that they ended up coming back to the show in the end!
The Daisy Duke Style Became Iconic
Everyone knows the famous shorts known as “Daisy Dukes” – short, skimpy, cutoff jean shorts that barely covered all your goods. We have the legendary bombshell actress Catherine Bach to thank for that. Daisy Duke, the character Bach played, was always wearing shorts that would later be named after her.
Now, those famous shorts are on display in the world-renowned Smithsonian Institute. Who would have thought that the skimpy costume that needed to be covered with sheer pantyhose would end up being displayed in a national cultural and historical institution? Certainly not Daisy Duke herself!
The Legendary Hood Slide
This move has been copied on numerous other shows and movies – a character sliding across the hood of a car, attempting to seem cool and sleek. In reality, sliding over the hood of a running car might burn you… but that’s another story for another time.
The hood slide, which Luke Duke made famous, was completely improvised. He slid across the car while trying to entertain the people on set, but this move was also an accident. The directors felt that his “hood slide” was entertaining enough to use it in the opening credits.
The Charger Shortage
While filming this show, in which many, many Dodge Chargers were destroyed, this particular model of car was in short supply outside of set. The show went through a whopping 150 cars in the production process. If there weren’t so many readily available, how did they manage to go through that many cars?
One day during the show’s run, Warner Bros. asked their employees to go hunting for the car. They were instructed to put notes under every charger that they found, offering to pay in cash for the vehicle if the owner was up to it! That is some real dedication!
The Infamous Flag Flown
Whether you are a history buff like me, or just a big fan of the American South, it doesn’t take much to know that the infamous Confederate flag (which still acts as the state flag of Mississippi) did not originate from this movie. The flag was painted on top of the General Lee and appeared throughout the show.
Though there wasn’t a lot of racial diversity in the show, everyone involved in the project preached that there was “no hate in Hazzard.” Even though they depicted Confederate flags across the county, the Duke boys were known for fighting the system – “they fought everybody from the British to the Confederacy to the U.S. government to stay in it.”
Taking Down the Confederate Flag
Years and years of sociopolitical struggles have brought society to where we are now. The United States has a brutal history of slavery and racial struggle that many, if not most, associate with the symbolism behind the Confederate flag. It was the flag that represented a group that wanted to secede and become their own country.
Following a massacre in South Carolina in 2015, then-Governor Nikki Haley criticized the use of the Confederate flag in pop culture. After she spoke out, Warner Bros. decided to stop licensing products with the original symbol. They also decided that all future merchandise would not have that design element.
John Schneider Speaks Out
Some people were really unhappy with the studio’s decision to pull the flag from their content – it was such a big part of the culture associated with it! TV Land pulled episodes from their repertoire of shows because of it; some felt it was the obvious choice, while others firmly disagreed with this choice. That included star John Schneider.
“Is the flag used as such in other applications? Yes, but certainly not on the Dukes… Labeling anyone who has the flag a ‘racist’ seems unfair to those who are clearly ‘never meanin’ no harm.’” The important part here is that even though he was annoyed about what happened, he acknowledged that the symbol, outside of the show, does have negative historical connotations.
Where Is Luke Duke Now?
Tom Wopat started his career as a stage actor before landing the role of Luke Duke, which skyrocketed him to world fame. He was already a talented guitarist, so after the show wrapped, he embarked on his musical career. He went on to record eight albums, in country and rock ‘n roll!
He went on to earn multiple Tony award nominations, but that wasn’t the last time he made headlines. In 2017, he was arrested on multiple charges related to indecent assault and battery. Though he expressed his regrets to friends and family, he entered a not guilty plea.
Bo Duke Isn’t Doing Much Better
After putting on an authentic performance for the role in his audition, John Schneider had a fun run. He initially moved into music, creating several hits in the world of country music. His 1980s country radio hits included “Country Girls” and “Love, You Ain’t Seen the Last of Me.”
After The Dukes of Hazzard, he appeared in 100 episodes of the series Smallville, and competed in the 27th season of Dancing with the Stars. In 2014, he went through his second divorce – but that took five long years to finalize. Schneider even had to spend some time in jail for failing to pay alimony to his ex-wife!
Daisy Duke Is Doing Well!
Catherine Bach has primarily appeared in low-profile television series and films. She didn’t really stick around in the spotlight for very long – though she did join the cast of the famous daytime soap opera on CBS, The Young and the Restless. What a journey – from Daisy Duke to some dramatic broad on a soap opera!
When she was filming Dukes of Hazzard, Catherine Bach insured her legs for a whopping $1,000,000! I mean, it makes sense, her legs were a staple of her character – why not do whatever she could to protect them? The star also launched her own line of diamond jewelry with Debenhams in 2002.
May Denver Rest in Peace
If you are surprised that the older actors on a show that aired in the 1980s are now deceased, then maybe we have different ideas of mortality. Denver Pyle played the loveable Uncle Jesse, who took his niece and nephews in when they needed him most. He was their father figure throughout the show.
Denver Pyle’s acting career was distinguished long before he appeared on the show. He was often typecast as a father figure who never failed to give the audience some much-needed comic relief. Pyle passed away on Christmas in 1997 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.
James Best Took a Break
James Best played Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, the character who clashed most frequently with the Duke family, and always tried to take them down whenever he could! After his time as the Sheriff of Hazzard county was up, Best stepped aside from acting and embraced his other passions in life.
Best moved to Florida, where he began teaching at the University of Central Florida. In 2009, he completed his autobiography, entitled Best in Hollywood: The Good, The Bad, and The Beautiful. He later had some smaller acting roles until 2013. In 2015, the star passed away from pneumonia.
Boss Hog, the Big Man
Sorrell Booke played Boss Jefferson Davis “J.D.” Hogg, most commonly known as Boss Hogg. He was the fat, crooked commissioner for Hazzard county and was the wealthiest man in the county. Not only did he have a ton of money, but he also owned most of the property and businesses in the Hazzard area.
After his time with Dukes of Hazzard was up, Sorrell Booke stepped away from the screen and offered his voice. He worked as a voice actor on several shows and movies until he passed away in 1994 from colorectal cancer. He worked in the industry he loved until his dying days.
Dukes of Hazzard: The Movie
Of course there was a re-boot of this iconic television show. Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, and Jessica Simpson cracked us up with their hilarious hijinks. They made it clear that Hazzard County was their place, and no one should cross their path.
General Lee and the Dukes took a bit of a road trip to another place – Atlanta, specifically. The boys went to meet up with a Hazzard county girl at her college and found themselves within someone else’s jurisdiction. This movie reflected the same shenanigans you’d see on the show, just with a modern twist!