Just over a month after Leonard Nimoy beamed up for the last time, now another of my lifelong childhood favorites has become a part of history: James Best, best known as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on the classic 1979-1985 action-comedy television series The Dukes of Hazzard, has crashed his last patrol car.
Although John Schneider and Tom Wopat were ostensibly the stars of the show as country cousins Bo and Luke Duke, it’s really Sorrell Booke and James Best’s performances as Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco that made the show what it is.
The proof of this was when Schneider and Wopat left the show for one season due to contract disputes and were temporarily replaced by Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer as cousins Coy and Vance Duke. The show wasn’t the same without the original Duke boys, but Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco’s silly shenanigans kept the chuckles coming, so much so that the show was intact long enough for the return of Bo and Luke Duke and several more years of crazy car chases.
While Best will always be remembered as Sheriff Rosco, he was so much more, with an illustrious show business career before the Dukes and plenty of pursuits afterward. You can find out more about this amazing man at his page on the Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0078940/?ref_=nv_sr_1), and if you’re a fan and haven’t already done so, buy a copy of his autobiography at his Web site, www.jamesbest.com.
As my tribute to Best, I am posting a fan e-mail I sent to him last year after I received my autographed copy of his autobiography, as well as his e-mail reply, in which he graciously included a digital copy of one of his many recent paintings.
My E-Mail to James Best on February 20, 2014:
Dear Mr. Best,
I received your book in fine condition. Thank you for your autograph.
I quickly skimmed through the entire book, and I was deeply inspired by what you and Mr. Sorrell Booke went through during the Dukes of Hazzard years and how you both handled it. Your account of that ordeal provides me with serendipitous hope at this particular time.
By the way, even though your role as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane bears all the hallmarks of classic typecasting, I have to say that for me, your performance is in the same category of acting greatness as Ed O'Neill, and I don't mean his current role on Modern Family. I am, of course, talking about his legendary turn as ne'er do well shoe salesman Al Bundy on Married With Children.
As great and talented an actor as he is, Mr. O'Neill's role on Modern Family could have been played by other actors. However, what he did on Married With Children and what you did on The Dukes of Hazzard take real acting chops, to completely lose yourselves in roles so unlike any other you did before or since that we see beyond the acting and totally buy your characters as real people.
Sure, I have favorite actors who are pretty much themselves in every role they play, and that's part of their charm. But for you and Mr. O'Neill to have done something so unique and different from everything else you've done before and since, which not a lot of performers can do – that's acting.
Thank you for my childhood memories that I can continually relive through reruns and now through your book, and which wouldn't have been possible without your immense talent.
I wish you continued success in your endeavors, and my best to Best and family.
Kyugh! Kyugh! Kyugh!
James Best's E-Mail Reply to Me on February 23, 2014:
Your letter was indeed very touching, I have always tried to be as versatile as possible. I love acting but my love now is for painting. here is a small example.
my very best to you and yours.