Gary & Steffanie Busey in 2011/ Photo by Sara Glassman
To commemorate that famous fatal plane crash, many people were expecting a train wreck.
What else are you going to get with the infamous Gary Busey live and in person?
The star of the 1978 "Buddy Holly Story" came to Minneapolis Friday night for a screening of the movie at the Parkway Theater, some Q&A and a little live Holly music.
Busey did not disappoint — in any regard. Per his image on reality TV, he was mostly wack, often funny, occasionally profound and generally out of control. Since he lacks a filter, his wife, Steffanie, shouted "Cut" a few times from the audience whenever he crossed over the line (e.g. fart jokes).
While Busey seemed like the eternal Oklahoma frat boy and talked like one, the 67-year-old Hollywood veteran also imparted some worthwhile information. He dissed a few aspects of "Buddy Holly Story," including the fact that all the recordings seemed to be done in New York City rather than Clovis, New Mexico. Busey answered a fan’s question about Mel Gibson, Busey’s costar in "Lethal Weapon." Said the actor: "I could have taken Mel then and now. It was part of the script that he won."
Watching "The Buddy Holly Story" with contemporary eyes, I realized how much Gary Busey was in his portrayal. Like Holly, he was a feisty, determined Texan with a rock ‘n’ roll heart. It’s just that Busey was a little crazier, as we’ve discovered in the past 35 years.
For many of the 200 or so people who shelled out as much $58 to see Busey Friday, the real treat was a post-film, 30-minute set of Holly songs. Backed by an excellent trio of Twin Cities musicians from the History Theatre’s recent Holly show, Busey put on the actual horn-rimmed glasses he wore in the movie and then sang eight Holly classics. It was obvious that the singer was having trouble with sound levels because the volume and dynamics of his voice varied within songs. His phrasing seemed to be as free-wheeling as Willie Nelson’s.
Still, it was spirited fun, with the rollicking "That’ll Be the Day" and the tender "True Love Ways" (for which Busey used a lyric sheet) standing out.
Friday was the first time Busey had made an appearance at a screening of "The Buddy Holly Story" since 2004, at a film festival in Wichita, Kansas. He promised Friday to make his first trip to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the site of Holly’s last gig before the fatal plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959— in 2013, with his new backup band from the Twin Cities. Let’s hope it’s as entertaining as the way he commemorated the day the music died in 2012.