BEN "COOTER" JONES
AT THE FLEETWOOD COUNTRY CRUIZE IN CAR SHOW
The following is an interview with Ben Jones who played "Cooter" on the 1970's hit tv show "The Dukes Of Hazzard". Ben Jones is also a playwright, and a politician, who served for four years in the United States House of Representatives from January 3, 1989 to January 3, 1993. In this conversation with SST Host Rick Walker, Jones talks about the show, why it remains popular, and shares his views on the controversy surrounding the use of the Confederate Flag on the roof of the General Lee - Dodge Charger which because of its use in the show, has become one of the most famous TV & Movie cars in the world.
Q & A WITH BEN JONES
Rick: We are at the Fleetwood Country Cruize In, in London, Ontario, and I am with the very famous -
Ben: *laughing* Oh, what’s his name?
Rick: - Ben Cooter Jones! What do you think of this show? I mean, welcome to Canada!
Ben: I’ve been, you know, over the years, to a lot of car shows. Our show, the Dukes of Hazzard and car shows are a natural fit. But, I’ve never been to a car show this spectacular, in such a setting, with so many happy people, so many beautiful cars, on a perfect day, for a good cause. I mean, what Steve does here is really remarkable… and I’m just honored to be a part of it.
Rick: And you’re bringing out all kinds of Dukes of Hazzard’s fans today!
Ben: Well then that’s a lot of people! All over the world… The show’s been shown in over 50 countries. And of course it came on the air here [in Canada] as soon as it came on the air in the States… and that was almost 40 years ago. And yet it’s about as popular as ever, because each generation that comes along, seems to fall in love with it. Our show doesn’t age, we age! But the show… On the show we’re always young, and we’re always in a fantasy land and the good guys always win. Nobody get’s hurt… and that’s the way the world ‘ought to be! But the Dukes of Hazzard it just keeps goin’ on and goin’... it’s gonna outlast all of us.
Rick: Was it the family-oriented nature of the show that gave it its longevity?
Ben: That’s a part of it. The great values in the show where the kids are really taught right from wrong. They always make the right moral choice - the Duke boys do! They’re the good guys, you know? And they’ll stick their neck out for ya, they always do the right thing. And that’s ‘cause their uncle Jesse taught ‘em that way. And so it’s a show that has those kind of, you know, great family values… it’s an overused phrase but it’s true! Because it was about a family and families watched it together, and there’s very little programming like that anymore. But our show holds up with the great action, slapstick comedy - never gets old, great country music - Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, all those people, that never gets old. And um, well lookin’ at Daisy Duke’s legs, that never gets old either!
Rick: And you mention the action -
Ben: Great action!
Rick: - and that comes back to the car which was a star in its own right!
Ben: Sometimes the car was getting 20,000 fan-mail letters a week… the car! And I’d send back a picture of the car… and then they ran a uh, they said it needs to be autographed! And they ran a tire track ‘cross the postcard that they’d send back! Car was very popular, 1969 Dodge Charger RT, and it’s a beautiful car… and people collect those too of course; and build ‘em! There are about over a 1000 of ‘em in the United States and Canada, the fans of the show built…
Rick: I think someone wants to hand you something here! *off-camera: flyer is handed to Ben*
Ben: *showing flyer* Yeah, this is a big event we’re havin’ at the end of July: the last round-up of the whole cast together! We’ll jump a car… couple ‘a cars. Two days of music, two days of stunts, all the entire cast in going to be there… and we’ll have wrestlin’ and bicycle stunts…
Rick: Wrestling! So if I come down can we… you’re gonna wrestle me?
Ben: *begins wrestling Rick* Yeah! We got… The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express is gonna be with us wrestling… they’re famous. Uh, anyhow, it’s just a big ol’ time! We’ll probably have 20...25,000 people show up! Two days of great music - all kinds of good music. Two days of… and already we have 130 General Lees coming!
Rick: That’s huge.
Ben: Yeah… yeah.
Rick: Like, huuuge!
Ben : So uh, cootersplace.com or Cooter’s Place Facebook; we’re high-tech now… y’know in Hazzard county. When the Dukes of Hazzard came on the air, there were only 3 networks in the United States: ABC, NBC, and CBS. So on Friday nights there would be… we got ratings that’re unheard of! 35...40 million people a week! Watchin’ this show! And that was before… there was no Internet, there was no cable, no satellite dishes, none of that stuff. So that’s what people did… Every Friday night the whole family would get together, get some pizza, popcorn… and uh, when Duke’s was over the kids would go to bed and the parents would watch Dallas.
Rick: I don’t even know if I should ask about this… you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to… but I’m just gonna ask about that flag on the roof of the car… and I know that you’ve kinda taken a stand on that…
Ben: Oh yeah!
Rick: What do you think of that?
Ben: Well, symbols mean different things to different people, and for us it’s something very positive. It stands for independence, it stands for the spirit of the south, and as a southerner, we’ve worked my entire lifetime to bring people together. And Hazzard County was a place where there was no racism, we were colourblind… and that was a positive thing to show people. And uh, so we’ve got no problem with it. All of my people fought for the south, they were in of their time. Then we might’ve come out on the wrong side of history, but history is complex. And we have different views of history - everybody does! And my view of it is much different than these politically correct people who are into cultural cleansing. You can’t change history, you can’t judge my good heart. I came outta the civil rights movement in the ‘60s, I grew up in a black neighborhood, I’ve never had one complaint about our show. So I think that speaks more for bringing people together than it does for dividing people - we are for building bridges, not building walls.
Rick: And I guess the focus on the show just shows how popular it is, even today.
Ben: Among all races all over the world, all religions… as I say, I’ve never heard anybody say a bad thing about it. And growing up and living in the south all of my life, in the southern United States, most of the black folks I know watched this show religiously! Because everybody related to it! Y’know? It was a harmless thing. And I now think it’s being politicized by people who uh, have a very narrow view of our hearts, and of our traditions, and of the south. So I think we represent the United States well. The show is shown all over the world, in over 50 countries, and it is beloved because of those values.
Rick: Well, I guess people can come down and check out your event. And uh, the south, really to me is all about hospitality -
Ben: That’s right!
Rick: - and I hope that we’ve extended some Canadian hospitality to you!
Ben: Well I’ll tell you, you sure have! *singing* O Canada! My home and Native… I know that!
Rick: I didn’t know we were gonna get a free concert too!
Ben: Well, I watch a lot of hockey games… *singing* We stand on guard for thee!
Rick: Thank-you so much for joining us on the show today.
Ben: Thank-ya, thank-ya!
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