Back at the ripe ole’ age of four, an unlikely hero came into my world. He was funny, looked to be about ten feet tall on screen (to four-year-old me anyway) and had balls of steel when it came to wrangling an extremely pissed off, one-eyed werewolf. That my friends, is the man, the myth, the no-bullshit taking Gary Busey and today is his birthday.
It was about 1986, and my parents and grandparents were nestled in the living room of our apartment watching some movie I was told repeatedly that I wasn’t allowed to see with them. Of course, what 4-year-old actually listens, right? I persisted with walking back and forth from the hallway to the living area to catch glimpses of this forbidden visual on our boxed TV set until my sucker of a Dad finally gave in and made a seat right next to him on our plaid-colored couch. That’s when I knew I had fucked up; for a short time at least anyway.
The movie in question was Stephen King’s Silver Bullet and even though I was a pretty tough kid growing up in a horror-loving household, Silver Bullet scared the ever loving piss out of me. As I was getting comfortable with my little bowl of popcorn, the scene where the werewolf jumps through the window of one Stella Randolph came to pass and I was both fascinated and terrified beyond comprehension. Of course, I put on my little brave face and toughed through the movie because goddammit, I asked for this. And I was going to prove to the parental units I could handle this film. But really inside I was shitting my pants. However, one thing made the whole experience a little easier for my horrified little self: Uncle fucking Red.
Uncle Red, played by Sir Gary of Busey, served as both a hero and comedy relief in this tale of full moon terror and I found myself laughing hysterically at his character every time he would show up on screen with his sarcastic wit and funny little quips. That stupid little Jack-Ass joke he tells to Marty was the goddamn funniest thing I had ever heard in my four years on Earth I tell you. And throughout the film Busey’s character slowly became a sort of a Superhero type figure in my eyes. He was the guy who gave his niece and nephew the benefit of the doubt on the claim that Tarkers Mills hosted a mythical murdering monster; and that the children knew who he was underneath all the animal fur. What a swell guy! He even had a silver bullet made for them, even if it was just for piece of mind in his own thought process.
Towards the end however, with that climatic build-up on Halloween night with a full moon, Marty, Jane, and Uncle Red with his winning subscription of Popular Mechanics, is a moment that will live in infamy in horror film and in my own twisted little world when Uncle Red comes face to face with Reverend Werewolf. I was on the edge of my seat. Was this the end of Red? Is this new hero of mine going to get clawed to smithereens?
FUCK NO!! Gary Busey said it’s rumble time and wrestled a werewolf. Just take that sentence in one more time. GARY BUSEY WRESTLED A WEREWOLF. WWF style starting with breaking a chair onto the back of the beast. It’s the main event and my new-found hero was showcasing those chest hairs of steel. It was glorious. Especially to a little person like myself jumping up and down rooting for the demise of this scary as hell giant dog. That was the day Gary Busey became an unsung hero in my book.
Happy 73rd birthday Gary Busey! Somewhere, someone is pissing on a stack of Yankees, Phillies, and Indians baseball cards to celebrate.