Take a wild ride through the life and mind of Gary Busey in his new hilarious, uplifting, tell-all memoir, Buseyisms. Gary transports you on a laugh-out–loud journey through the crazy twists and turns of his rise to fame, his descent into drug addiction, and his trip to the ‘other side’ after a near-fatal motorcycle accident. Gary also shares untold stories of his militant upbringing, surviving cancer in the middle of his face, and fun behind the scenes stories of his most popular movies and television roles including: A Star Is Born, The Buddy Holly Story, Lethal Weapon, Point Break, Under Siege, The Firm, Entourage, Celebrity Apprentice, and more. Included in this book are dozens of personal photographs from Gary’s early years up until now.
Gary is a living testimony to the resilience of the human body and spirit. In his simply written but profound memoir, he shares his Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth to help others, who may be going through similar things, to realize that it is possible to survive challenging life events and come out a happy champion.
|St. Martin's Publishing Group
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About the Author
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Living On Victorious Energy
I ENTERED THE EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE at the Lillie-Duke Hospital in Goose Creek, Texas, on June 29, 1944, at 11:50 A.M. — "just in time for lunch." My mom, Virginia "Ginny" Sadie Arnett Busey, loved to tell me that. My dad, Delmer Lloyd Busey, was not present for my arrival on earth because he was in the South Pacific fighting in World War II. Since Mom was on her own with a newborn baby, her sisters, Ruth and Sis, helped raise me. Those three incredible women were so nurturing, cuddly, and warm; they showered me with endless affection, doting on my every need. I was the center of their universe. My feelings of that time were infinitely rich with being loved every minute.
As a toddler, I loved to explore. Mom said I always went where I wasn't supposed to go. She tried to contain me in a playpen, but I always climbed out. Eventually, Mom turned the playpen upside down to keep me secure, but I had enough power in my oneyear-old body to lift it up and escape. Then, I'd wander to the front door, where I found a way of unlatching it. Once outside, I'd trek down the street on my baby scooter to visit three dogs I was in love with. They always barked so loud when I arrived, I just knew they were telling me they loved me, too. Mom moved the latch higher on the front door, but I still found a way to unlock it with a broomstick. Nothing could stop me from visiting those dogs. My mom and aunts all claimed, "We can't stop Gary. He goes where he wants to, and that's it." I was evolving into a real force of nature.
My favorite thing of all was when Mom showed me the picture of Dad that hung on the wall. She always lit up with an infectious smile that made me feel so happy while she enthusiastically said, "That's your dad." Dad was the handsomest man I had ever seen — just like a movie star — a Victor Mature type. With one-quarter Native American blood, Dad had incredible smooth olive skin, thick black hair, and penetrating blue eyes. The thing that struck me the most about him was his tender smile. I couldn't wait to meet him in person. I knew he was going to be the most loving dad ever.CHAPTER 2
Feelings Illuminated Like Magic
IN 1946, when I was almost two years old, Dad returned from World War II. He didn't waste any time getting reacquainted with Mom — within months of his return, she was pregnant with my sister, Carol, who was born on September 12, 1947.
Because of Dad's Seabee experience designing runways in the war, he got a design-construction job with the supermarket chain Safeway. After a few years on the job, Dad was promoted to management, which took the family from Goose Creek, Texas, to Chickasha, Oklahoma, in 1950. I attended kindergarten in Chickasha, but just a year later, Dad moved the family again, this time to Oklahoma City.
In Oklahoma City, just four blocks from our new home, on the corner of Western and Tenth Street, was a movie theater called the Wes-Ten. The Wes-Ten was the local babysitter to kids of all ages in the neighborhood. Every weekend from noon to six, the 350-seat theater was packed to the brim with excitable, rowdy kids of all ages. Mom gave me thirty cents, then sent me off with my buddies Ronnie Dale, Bobby Hughes, John Mason, and Tommy Hawke to spend the day at the Wes-Ten. The five of us raced the four blocks, through a park, around trees, and over fences, to be the first one to arrive. I was six years old and feeling free as a bird.
The Wes-Ten became my private paradise. On the outside, the façade was outlined in neon with a V-shaped flashing marquee. Inside, down the sides of the theater walls and all through the lobby were large framed pictures of the biggest Hollywood movie stars of the day, like John Wayne, Jennifer Jones, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Jane Russell, and Marilyn Monroe. Looking at the pictures, I felt like I knew each and every one of them personally. Then there was the lobby concession stand. It was the most glorious sight — like being in Candy Land with every delicious treat of the day imaginable — Baby Ruths, PayDays, Milky Ways, Snickers, Junior Mints, Milk Duds, Raisinets — and of course popcorn with butter. I always got a Coca-Cola and popcorn with Milk Duds; I loved mixing them together.
In 1951, it cost a dime to get into the theater, a dime for popcorn, a nickel for candy, and a nickel for soda pop. I carried my treasured lunch, stepping on the sticky candy-covered floor, to the most perfect seat I could find. I felt the excitement building inside as the lights went down. The lavish red-and-gold curtains opened to reveal the big silver movie screen. Then — bam! — there was the logo of the movie studio in conjunction with its iconic theme song blasting through the building. I was so moved when I heard that music booming, my heart swelled, bringing tears to my eyes. Sitting there in the dark, I felt like I was in heaven on earth.
I was so taken aback by the people lit up on the screen. They became real to me as I watched them talk, dance, fight, shoot, and love. In my six-year-old mind, I was in the movie, and the people on the screen were my best friends. Emotions stirred in me that I never felt before. Without knowing it consciously, watching the movies was giving me a vision of life in a crash course. There were no ratings, no parental discretions advised. I was six, watching shoot-'em-up westerns, crime dramas, and thrillers. When I saw The Thing with my best friend, Ronnie Dale, I remember we were so scared, we moved all the way back to share the very last seat in the theater in case we had to make a run for it.
It was an all-day event beginning with serials like The Perils of Pauline, followed by twelve Looney Tunes cartoons, then the double feature. When we left the movies, the five of us walked home, through the park, hopping fences, shooting behind trees, acting out the movies we just saw, each choosing his favorite character to play. I was always the hero.
When I was seven years old, knowing how much I loved the movies, Mom said, "Gary, there's a very special movie that I want you to see called Samson and Delilah." Since it wasn't playing at the Wes-Ten, Mom took me to a different theater across town, which was a big deal. I was transfixed, just as Mom thought I would be. Watching Samson and Delilah moved me so deeply, it was like lightning struck my artistic heart in a way that gave me the freedom and desire to express myself.
When the movie was over, I asked Mom, "Where do all the people go?"
"This audience goes out, and a new audience comes in."
"No, not those people. The people up there on the screen."
"They go off and make another picture show for us to see."
"Hmm." I thought about that concept for a moment, then announced, "That's what I want to do."
"Oh, you want to be in the picture show?"
"I want to tell stories with light."CHAPTER 3
Stretching To Reach Opportunities Not Given
GROWING UP, home life was very simple — Mom always in the kitchen baking, family meals at the table, church every Sunday. We were your typical American family in the '50s. Mom and Dad were very much in love and extremely close. When Dad wasn't working, they were together, golfing, square-dancing, or playing bridge. Dad gave Mom the freedom of going out in the evenings to sewing clubs with the ladies, and in return, Mom gave Dad the freedom to play golf whenever he wanted. As construction-design manager for Safeway stores in three states, Dad frequently traveled for business. On the road, he always wrote Mom love letters telling her he couldn't wait to get back home to her. They were like teenagers in love. By the time I was eight years old, I had a little brother named David.
Mom, a Debbie Reynolds type, had fair skin, strawberry-blond hair, hazel-green eyes, and a petite build. Half-Irish, half-English, she was feisty and energetic. With her three Busey children, she dealt with the whole gamut of personalities. David, a natural redhead, small for his age but sturdy, was friendly and happy, always thoughtful before he acted. Carol, cute and quirky with brownish auburn hair and glasses since second grade, was slow and careful, reserved and shy, not one to put herself out there. I, on the other hand, was always loud, fast, and carefree, never thinking before I spoke and always doing something to be noticed. Growing up, my interests were very simple; in fact, I really had only one — football.
The first time I remember playing football, I was on a team in the third grade while attending Buchanan Elementary in Oklahoma City. It quickly became my passion. But in 1953, Dad moved the family again for work, this time to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where football wasn't available until eighth grade.
When I finally made it to eighth grade, the only thing on my mind was getting on our school football team, the Bell Bobcats. Their coach, Chuck Boyd, happened to live across the street from us, so I was a definite shoo-in for the team. I went to tryouts confident that I would be victorious, but to my surprise, I didn't make the team. That is when football changed from a passion to an obsession. All I had on my mind was making that football team. I wanted Dad to be proud of me. You see, Dad was an all-American high school football player. He even earned a football scholarship at the University of Arkansas. I wouldn't rest until I was playing football on a team — like Dad.
My challenge was my size. I was considerably smaller than every other player. However, that didn't deter me. I spent every waking moment practicing football. I practiced with anyone I could find, even my little brother and sister. David, who was eight years my junior, toughed it out in the yard, sporting a little football outfit with a tiny helmet, following my lead, running up and down as we dodged each other. I also practiced my tackles on my unwilling sister, Carol, who was three years my junior. Whenever she heard the word "Hut!" coming from me, no matter where she was in the house, she knew she had to run for safety — usually locking herself in the bathroom — because I was charging through the house to tackle her.
In the ninth grade, I tried out for the team again with high hopes and a strong will. I made it! I was given the position of starting center. During the year I was on the team, I learned great new techniques that made me a better player. I even created a special way of snapping the ball, which flipped it in a spiral, landing the ball right into the punter's hands. It became my signature snap. I loved football so much, if I could have turned myself into a football, I would have.
In the tenth grade, when I started a new school, Nathan Hale High, I got demoted to the junior varsity team with the rest of the smaller guys. Being on the junior team was devoid of any reward. I felt inferior. I had to get on the main team. I was relentless in preparing myself for next year's tryouts, practicing the drills over and over. I worked on improving my speed, my agility, even my tolerance to pain. I became a football machine.
Next season when tryouts came, my athletic ability was at its peak, but I was still smaller than everyone. I hadn't grown an inch. At tryouts, the coach, Larry Miller, handed the players salt tabs. Not knowing that I was supposed to swallow it with water, I sucked on it. Right away, I fell to my knees, spewing vomit all over the field. Coach approached me with a concerned look, then said, "Are you sure you want to play football?"
"Yes. I have to play football."
Coach didn't ask why; he just stood there sizing me up. I stared right back at him with vomit dripping off my chin. As we both gazed at each other without blinking, I noticed he had a very kind face. The face of a hero. His posture, energy, and exuberance were strong. He was the type of coach you really wanted to please. Finally, after a minute passed, Coach gave me a smile, flashing bigger pearly whites than mine — if you can imagine that. "Okay, get up!" he ordered. During tryouts, Coach pushed me hard. He knew exactly what to do to bring out the best in me. In the end, Coach gave me a position on the first team, starting center, number 55. Over the next two years, Coach guided me in a loving and powerful way to be a champion.
As of this writing, I am still in touch with Coach Miller. The last time I saw him was in March of 2018. He was his usual strong, exuberant self.CHAPTER 4
Doing A Radical Experiment
THE FOOTBALL TEAM DEVELOPED A GREAT CAMARADERIE. Together we were a solid unit, a real brotherhood. I was the team clown, always cracking jokes, doing anything to make the guys laugh. Everything was funny to me. One day, as we were getting ready for practice, the team surrounded me in the locker room, holding up a flyer for the upcoming school play. They said, "Gary, we want you to go out for this play." I had seen casting notices all around campus, on every wall, in every corner: "South Pacific ... South Pacific ... South Pacific." However, my main purpose was football, nothing else. Acting was the last thing on my mind. When I wasn't thinking about football, I was thinking about girls. Connie, Janet, and Patsy, to be specific. This really threw me for a loop.
"What?" I asked.
"You're a funny guy. We want you to audition for South Pacific."
But the team kept on pushing, trying different tactics, taunting me, telling me I was too scared ... I didn't have the guts. They finally got my attention when they said, "We dare you!"
"You dare me?" One thing you should know about me: If you ever dare me to do anything, I'm doing it. It's fun to be part of a good dare because when you have a strong heart, a strong mind, and a strong will, you're gonna take it on. "Okay, I will." I snatched the flyer.
When I went to the tryout for the play, I was in uncharted waters. It was very unusual for football players to mix with drama students. I was clueless about what to do. Inside the theater was bustling with activity, kids tinkering with lights and trying on costumes. There were probably thirty people sitting in the audience with pads of paper and scripts. The director handed me a scene. "Here, try the part of Private Victor Jerome." She paired me up with a guy I knew named Harlan. "You guys will be next, oh, and do this song, too." She handed me another paper. I had no problem with singing; I'd sung in church every Sunday since I was a little boy. Singing was my favorite part of the service, which was definitely going to be a plus here.
This dare was getting exciting.
Harlan and I had a minute to look at the scene, then the director said, "Okay, go!" When I stepped on the stage, I felt oddly at home. After I said my first line, everyone in the audience chuckled. I didn't know if that was good or bad; I wasn't sure if the line was supposed to be funny. I knew nothing about acting, except you get up and talk loud. I said the next line, and some audience members changed their seats to be closer to the stage. When we finished the scene, everybody was laughing and clapping at us. I didn't think I'd done anything special. All I did was say the words. I left the audition satisfied; I'd completed the dare and had fun along the way. I certainly didn't expect or want to get the part.
Two days later, for the heck of it, I checked the bulletin board to see who got cast. My jaw dropped. There it was as clear as day: Private Victor Jerome — Gary Busey! I couldn't believe my eyes. A feeling of excitement came over me (in a tough football player–type of way). It was a surprisingly beautiful moment of accomplishment that I initially didn't think was important, but I found out in that moment, it really was. Because of a stupid dare, I achieved something I never would have imagined possible. I was now playing the part of Private Victor Jerome and looking forward to it.
This dare was just beginning.
In the springtime — with football season over — I switched gears from football to theater. I was astonished at how comfortable I felt with the theater folk. They were a creative and kind group. The way the rehearsal process worked was fascinating — one scene or one musical number at a time, then blocking, props, costumes, finally putting everything together. Acting was the antithesis of football. I was gardening in a new oasis of expressive freedom that I had never been in before. I loved it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Buseyisms"
Copyright © 2018 Gary Busey.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. LOVE — Living On Victorious Energy,
2. FILM — Feelings Illuminated Like Magic,
3. STRONG — Stretching To Reach Opportunities Not Given,
4. DARE — Doing A Radical Experiment,
5. PAST — Preoccupation About Spent Time,
6. BAND — Bringing A New Direction,
7. WIFE — Wanted In Forever Eternity,
8. GUIDE — Giving Understanding In Detailed Experience,
9. CHANGE — Creating Happiness And New Guiding Energy,
10. PLAY — Please Laugh At Yourself,
11. FORGIVE — Finding Ourselves Really Giving Individuals Valuable Energy,
12. DEATH — Don't Expect A Tragedy Here,
13. ARTIST — A Real Tower In Seeking Truth,
14. MUSIC — Magnificent Unique Sound Inviting Creativity,
15. TRUTH — Taking Real Understanding To Heart,
16. CHILD — Candid Honesty In Loving Doses,
17. SURF — Standing Up Riding Free,
18. MIRACLE — Moving Into Rapturous Angelic Cosmic Loving Energy,
19. NUTS — Never Underestimate The Spirit,
20. AWESOME — A Wonderful Experience Showing Others Magnificent Energy,
21. GUITAR — Gaining Understanding In Tunes And Rhythm,
22. BAD — Bologna And Dirt,
23. LIVE — Learning In Volcanic Energy,
24. BULL — Bringing Up Life Lessons,
25. DOG — Dumps On Ground,
26. RELATIONSHIP — Really Exciting Love Affair Turns Into Overwhelming Nightmare Sobriety Hangs In Peril,
27. MOTIVATION — Moving Our Thoughts Into Victory And Truth In Overcoming Negativity,
28. ROMANCE — Relying On Magnificent And Necessary Compatible Energy,
29. GIFT — Guidance In Future Travel,
30. LIFE — Living In Forever Eternity,
31. BABY — Being A Beautiful You,
32. LAW — Losers And Winners,
33. FREEDOM — Facing Real Exciting Energy Developing Outta Miracles,
34. DRAG — Don't Refuse A Girl,
35. DREAM — Details Revealing Excitement And Magic,
36. SOUL — Showing Others Unconditional Love,
37. RELAPSE — Really Exciting Love Affair Perfecting Self-Extermination,
38. STRIPPER — Standing Tall Revealing Intimate Private Parts Expecting Remuneration,
39. SIN — Self-Imposed Nonsense,
40. SOBER — Son Of a Bitch Everything's Real,
41. FAITH — Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him,
42. BEAUTY — Be Exciting And Understanding To Yourself,
43. ODD — Other Dynamic Dimensions,
44. ART — Above Real Truth,
45. HOPE — Heavenly Offerings Prevail Eternally,
46. FAMILY — Feeling A Miracle In Loving You,
47. FAILING — Finding An Important Lesson Inviting Needed Growth,
48. CHAMPION — Creating Happiness And Magical Progress In Overcoming Negativity,
49. LAUGH — Loving And Understanding Goofy Humans,
50. END — Exciting New Direction,
Epilogue: FOUND — Focused On Understanding Natural Direction,
Glossary of Buseyisms,
About the Authors,