Interview with Charlton Heston

April 17, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Charlton Heston died April 5, 2008 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. Lydia, his wife of 64 years, was by his side. Heston was president of the National Rifle Association, America’s most powerful lobbying organization, from 1998 until he resigned in 2003 when his health began faltering due to Alzheimer’s. At the 2000 NRA convention, Heston raised a flintlock rifle over his head and yelled that a potential Democratic presidency could take away his gun rights only from his “cold, dead hands.”

Here’s an interview with Charlton Heston in 1997. This interview won first prize in “The $21,000 Great Stories Contest,” a nationwide writing competition sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Outdoor Writers Association of America:

Charlton Heston led the NRA from 1998 to 2003. Photo courtesy of Heston’s PR agency. Image used with permission


‘MOSES’ LEADS THE PRO-GUN CHARGE

By RONI TOLDANES

He is known worldwide for his magnificent portrayals of remarkable men. He has portrayed presidents, generals and statesmen; even win­ning an Academy Award for playing the title character in one of Hollywood’s greatest epics, Ben-Hur. But for millions of his movie fans around the world, Charlton Heston is Moses, the scepter-wielding prophet who led his people to freedom from the tyrannical grip of a despotic pharaoh in the blockbuster film The Ten Commandments.

Now, looking back over a career that has spanned half a century and more than 70 motion pictures, Hes­ton shares his views about gun ownership and his active par­ticipation in the defense of the Second Amendment. He is back in the limelight after his election as president of the beleaguered National Rifle Association, a key position in the fight of Americans to pre­serve their right to bear arms. He has become a real-life Moses for gun owners.

Heston, who said he learned to use a shotgun at age 10 in rural Michigan and prides himself on a personal collection of at least 30 firearms at his Beverly Hills home, said he figured his best asset to the NRA was his fame. “I have my access in Congress because I’m so pretty,” he quipped. “That counts.”

Even those who disagree with Heston acknowledge that his dramatic role as “Moses” in The Ten Commandments is difficult to erase from the pub­lic’s mind. “It’s somewhat flattering to lose to Moses, the voice of God,” said Neal Knox, explaining why Heston was able to sweep onto the NRA board and defeat him.

Heston himself is eager to oblige to that notion, which he described in his recent autobiography as “my expanded persona, riding the tiger.” With his image as Moses, he said he gets invited to dinners with powerful politicians and influential world fig­ures. Before his interview with this writer, he trav­eled to Washington, D.C., for political kibitzing and to New York for a dinner with Prince Andrew hon­oring the American Air Museum in Britain.

A few years ago, Heston was busy promoting his book To Be a Man, which he dedicated to his grandson, Jack.  Thousands queued for his book signing. One of the memorable comments he’d received was from an elderly woman who said, “I quit the NRA because of its bad image. I’m joining again because I know you can straighten things out.”

Photo provided by Charlton Heston. Image used with permission

Both gun lobbyists and gun control advocates say that Heston provided the kind of shot-in-the-arm desperately needed by the NRA and all American gun owners. His primary value lies in being a credible conservative. “Heston can make sure that people understand that the NRA is a mainstream organization,” Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) said. “He can deflect some of this criticism that the NRA represents the fringe elements of society. Charl­ton Heston is not a fringe person. ”

Observers attribute the scope of Heston’s appeal not only to his stardom but to a reputation untarnished by the sexual and drug-related peccadilloes that dog so many celebrities. “Charlton Heston is a man motivated by commitment,” said Washington-based political consultant Tony Makris. “He’s been married to the same woman, Lydia, for 63 years – his first and only love, the first woman he ever dated.”

RAP CONTROVERSY

In conversation, Heston was his usual affable self – a kind of old-school combination of court­liness, disarming self-mockery and perfect dic­tion. He took advantage of that diction in 1992 when Time-Warner was under attack for releas­ing rapper Ice-T’s controversial “Cop Killer” CD.

Heston, who owned several hundred shares of Time-Warner stock, barged into the stock­holders’ meeting in Beverly Hills that summer and condemned the company for putting out an anti-police album.

With about 1,000 stockholders intently lis­tening, Heston stood up and, with this sonorous voice, read the profane lyrics of “Cop Killer,” which almost no one in the room had heard or seen. The lyrics began with “F—k the police.” Heston’s move startled the stockholders and company executives. It was reminiscent of the movie scene when Moses raised his scepter and parted the Red Sea.

Time-Warner executives defended the album in terms of the First Amendment, but Heston told them, “Let me ask you: If this piece were titled ‘Fag Killer,’ or if the lyrics went ‘Die, die, kike, die!,’ would you still peddle it? It’s often been said that if Adolf Hitler came back with a dynamite treatment for a film, every studio in town would be after it. Would Warner be among them?”

Heston left the room in an echoing silence.

Several weeks later, Time-Warner caved in to crit­icism and intense national pressure, announc­ing that it had parted ways with Ice-T due to a dispute over album artwork. Industry observers credit Heston for the company’s decision.

“I’m proud of what I did, though now I’ll surely never be offered another film by Warner, nor get a good review from Time magazine,” Heston says. “On the other hand, I doubt I’ll get a traffic ticket very soon.” Heston has since sold his Time-Warner shares of stock.

OUTSPOKEN BELIEFS

Heston has devoted a great amount of his energy to causes in which he has strong and outspoken beliefs. He was an active supporter of Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. in the early days of the strug­gle for civil rights in America, “long before it became fashionable.”

His unsullied reputation brought him respect and admiration from his colleagues in Hollywood. He was elected pres­ident of the Screen Actors Guild and served six terms on the board of directors; and was appointed co-chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 task force examining the fiscal worthiness of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Like most men in his generation, Heston learned about firearms at a young age because he often accompanied his dad hunting in the Michigan woods. Heston didn’t hunt for trophies but for the meat, mostly partridge. “Hunting requires patience and concentration,” he says. “Life has lent me these qualities since, but I lacked them as a boy.”

Heston believes that the media, in general, are mistaken for saying that the public is anti-gun and anti-NRA. “We’re not a lonely band. We represent mainstream America. Gun owner­ship is too deep a part of our culture.”

He recalled his recent appearance on the TV show Late Night with Conan O’Brien, on NBC. “When Conan mentioned the NRA and my participation in it, the audience cheered,” Heston says. “And this show was taped in New York City, the heart of Liberalville.”

SHIFTING PUBLIC OPINION

Public opinion on firearms, Heston says, seems to be shifting in the face of recent violent inci­dents. He recalled the Los Angeles riots in 1992, which helped many Hollywood folks change their views on gun ownership. As smoke from burning buildings smudged the skyline and the TV news showed vivid images of laughing loot­ers smashing windows and carting off boom boxes and booze, Heston got a few phone calls from firmly anti-gun friends. One conversation went this way:

“Umm, Chuck, you have quite a few … ah, guns, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Shotguns and … like that?”

“Indeed.”

“Could you lend me one for a day or so? I tried to buy one, but they have this waiting period … ”

“Yeah, I know; I remember you voted for that. Do you know how to use a shotgun?”

“No, I thought maybe you could teach me. This is getting a little scary.”

“I noticed. I could teach you, but not in an hour. You might shoot yourself instead of the bad guys. The Marines are coming up from Pendleton; that’ll end it. When it does, go buy yourself a good shotgun and take some lessons. It doesn’t get so scary then.”

Heston said his friend writer-director John Milius had more calls. His answer was more forthright: “Sorry. They’re all being used.”

Heston identified several famous Holly­wood people who own guns, including Steven Spielberg who owns one of the finest gun col­lections in California, but never refers to it, and never shoots publicly. Spielberg, who pro­duced the all-time blockbuster film The Lost Word – Jurassic Park, has been photographed shooting a shotgun at a Trap and Sporting Clays range in California, but asked the photogra­pher not to release his picture to the media. “Can you imagine the most famous filmmaker in town worried about his reputation?” Heston says, chuckling.

Charlton Heston’s letter to Roni Toldanes.

“There are numbers of gun owners, ­collectors, hunters, sport shooters in the film community, plus many more who keep firearms for protection,” Heston reveals. “I suspect, in fact, there are more Hollywood filmmakers who are closet gun enthusiasts than there are closet homosexuals.”

Can responsible gun owners really turn the tide of anti-gun sen­timent in this country? Heston’s answer: “I think we’re doing that now. You won’t get another anti-gun bill approved in this Congress.”

SHOWING THE FUN SIDE

These days, Heston also shoots Sporting Clays when his hectic schedule permits it. By hosting celebrity sports shooting tournaments near Dana Point, California, Hes­ton hopes to turn the tide of public opinion and encourage more Hollywood people to come out in the open in favor of responsible gun owner­ship. The competitions continue to attract more movie personalities each year, some of them coming from as far as New York.

Hollywood personalities, says Heston, are reluctant to come out in support of the Second Amendment “because they fear unemployment.” Heston hopes that by showing them that guns are not just for self defense, and people can actually have fun with guns at the shooting range, he could reverse their unfounded opinion.

Charlton Heston doesn’t need Moses’ scepter to do that. But his sporting shotgun would come in handy.

Editor’s Note: Managing Editor Roni Toldanes interviewed Charlton Heston in 1997. His feature story won first prize in “The $21,000 Great Stories Contest,” a nationwide writing contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Toldanes received a standing ovation from more than 850 writers and editors during the OWAA national conference in Redding, California. Charlton Heston died on April 5, 2008 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 84

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AN INCREDIBLE PASSION FOR GUNS

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Photo courtesy of Lou Ferrigno

 

By Roni Toldanes

As dramatic biographies go, this one sounds like it came straight from the soap opera archives: 12-year-old boy earns a few dollars after a nine-hour shift delivering groceries, goes home and puts all the money on the kitchen table. His father snatches his earnings despite his protests. “I worked hard for that money, Dad,” he bellowed indignantly, “what did you earn this morning?” His scowling father grabs a butcher knife and hurls it directly at him. It whistles past his face.

Fast forward 33 years. That boy is now a 45-year-old Lou Ferrigno, one of the world’s most successful bodybuilders and star of the 1980s TV series “The Incredible Hulk.”

Ferrigno, in a two-hour interview with this writer at his home in Santa Monica, California, avoided talking about his bleak childhood. Instead, he spoke enthusiastically about guns, his movie career, and his plan to introduce his two sons, Lou, Jr; and Brent, to the shooting sports.

“I like target shooting because it’s fun,” Ferrigno said in his baritone voice. “And it’s a good thing for a father to enjoy with his children.” His wife, Carla, also participates in the shotgun sports.

Ferrigno said he discovered the shooting sports last year and enjoyed the joshing and camaraderie at the firing range. He found the experience quite pleasant that in less than a year, his two glossy Fort Knox gun safes already contain at least 16 competition rifles, mostly equipped with long-range scopes; several shotguns and more than a dozen handguns.

Ferrigno’s enthusiasm towards introducing his sports to his children was in stark contrast with the emotional turmoil inflicted upon him by his father when he was a young boy in Brooklyn, New York.

At age 2, Ferrigno lost his hearing as a result of a severe inner-ear infection. His affliction made him reluctant to speak with people and his speech was somewhat askew.

Because of his handicap, Ferrigno was often ridiculed by his classmates. But he managed to take things in stride. That is, until the day he gathered enough courage to tell his father, a police lieutenant, of his dream to grow up just like Dad. His father shot down that dream with a terse comment: “The police department will never take a deaf kid onto the force. … The only thing that you’ll be able to do is drive a cab.”

With tears flowing down his cheeks, Ferrigno gathered his books and went to school with a heavy heart. From that day on, he promised himself that he would someday become a “big” person, someone bigger than a regular cop.

MARVELOUS COMICS

Ferrigno was always an action fan. As pictures served to stimulate and fire-up his imagination, he enjoyed reading comic books. His favorite was Marvel Comics’ The Incredible Hulk. But his interest on comic books was changed when he saw a bodybuilding magazine at a newsstand on his way to school. Soon, huge men with swollen biceps and flaring quadriceps became his heroes.

Ferrigno took bodybuilding lessons, working out at nights in the family basement and pushing himself to the limit. Within a few years, Ferrigno brought home some of the most prestigious titles in bodybuilding, including Mr. Teenage America, Mr. America and Mr. International. At age 21, he became the youngest athlete ever to win the Mr. Universe title.

But Ferrigno’s hearing problem would continue to hound him. After winning the Mr. Universe title, he was interviewed by the ABC television network which promised to broadcast the contest on their popular Wide World of Sports program. His father went to the ABS studios in New York and viewed an advanced copy of the tape. As soon as his father arrived, Ferrigno inquired what happened at the TV station. His father looked at him coldly and said, “You know something? They can’t use your interview because we can’t understand your speech! Your speech was awful!”

Ferrigno was absolutely defenseless for his father’s final shot:” You’re a misfit!”

“I was shocked, horrified, hurt and stunned into total silence,” Ferrigno said. “I’d gone from a world champion with a bright future to the lowest piece of trash on the planet.”

A PHONE CALL FROM JOE WEIDER

Ferrigno’s melancholic life would change after his bravura performance at the Mr. Universe contest captivated Joe Weider, the magazine publisher who had trained very major star in bodybuilding since the 1940s. Weider telephoned Ferrigno’s house in Brooklyn, expressing interest in having Lou move out to California to pursue his body career. But his father answered the call. “No, he’s not interested, Mr. Weider,” his father said and hung up the phone.

Ferrigno eventually realized that his father viewed him as his own “personal plough horse.” Every penny that he earned went to his father, he said. As a result, he had no motivation to work hard at any vocation — except bodybuilding.

CHANCE TO ESCAPE

In 1976, Ferrigno’s opportunity to escape presented itself when he was invited to guest pose in California. He encountered no resistance from his father, who was offered $200 for Lou’s public appearance. In one short stroke, Ferrigno’s vicarious sacrifice for his father would come to an end. He did what most other young men would have done in similar situations: He stayed in California and never again returned home. And the rest, as some writers would often say, is history.

With his 23-inch arms and a bodyweight that fluctuates between 290 and 310 pounds of grade-A muscle and standing 6 feet 5 inches, Ferrigno transformed himself into a TV hero. Over the years, he took lead roles in several action films, including Hercules, Cage and Desert Warrior.

Ferrigno has finished Stand Tall, the sequel to the classic bodybuilding film Pumping Iron. He has also appeared on several stage productions and provided the voice for the Incredible Hulk in a TV animated series.

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of such recent blockbuster films as Terminator and Relic, considered Ferrigno’s appearance on the TV series Incredible Hulk so pivotal that she decided to give him a role in the $100-million movie version of the Hulk.

Ferrigno wants to improve his knowledge of guns and shooting. He said he would soon attend the Gunsite training camp in Arizona.

“I want to portray guns in the movies in a very sophisticated way,” he said, as he laughed at a recent top-grossing film that showed a sniper firing-off rapid shots from a chopper. “Do you know how difficult it is to shoot a sniper’s rifle from a helicopter?”

Ferrigno knows what he’s talking about. Inside cabinets that were positioned near his dining room were stacks of gun magazines. On top of his TV are gun videos, including a set of tapes produced by David Tubb, the world’s most successful high-power rifle shooter.

Despite his late entry in the shooting field, which began after a friend gifted him a large-frame Desert Eagle pistol, Ferrigno’s gun collection is already quite impressive. Name your favorite caliber and, chances are, he’s got it. From Stoner rifles to Springfield M-1A long-range rifles to magnaported .454 Casulls. They’re all unloaded and secured.

Magazine editor Roni Toldanes interviews "The Incredible Hulk" Lou Ferrigno at his home in Santa Monica, Calif.

Magazine editor Roni Toldanes interviews “The Incredible Hulk” Lou Ferrigno at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. Photo by Y.Sued

“Other men like to visit bars and drink,” he said, “while others like to blow their money on cars. But I’d rather buy guns that I can shoot.”

Ferrigno strongly supports the Second Amendment, the constitutional right to bear arms. “You have the right to own a firearm for self-protection or to shoot for fun, but you have to learn how to use it properly and respect all the rules.” He said his children, including his daughter, Shanna, understand the basic firearm safety rules. They’ve been told that if they see a gun at another home, they should walk away and immediately inform an adult.

Ferrigno spoke with particular intensity about acting and shooting. Acting, he said, offers him a chance to play diversified characters and show a different dimension of himself. Shooting, on the other hand, gives him the thrill.

SHOOTING FOR SCORE

Each time he discussed the shooting sports, Ferrigno was impassioned. He was moving. He was possessed with fervor. “Shooting is a mental challenge,” he said. “It forces you to focus. And it’s very relaxing.” He said he found it “fascinating” to be able to pull the trigger, drive a bullet 400 yards downrange and see a tight cluster of hits. “I think it’s wonderful. It’s one of the phenomenal things in life.”

Even at his age, Ferrigno is still a sight to behold. Whenever he goes to shopping malls, heads turn to glimpse the muscles. And there is the sound of a wolf whistle, distant but distinct.

In 1994, Ferrigno joined the Masters Olympia — 19 years after retiring from his last competition — and finished among the top 10 winners. His “praying mantis” pose, with his powerful right arm cocked behind his ear, appeared to unleash all the fury of a crackling lightning bolt.

Ferrigno said his schedule may soon allow him to actively participate in the shooting sports. Because of his huge hands, however, Ferrigno can’t use out-of-the-box guns. When he held his compact Lock 26 pistol, even with its 30-round magazine, it looked like a lollipop. When he clutched a single-stack 1911, his trigger finger extended all the way to the compensator. Despite this, Ferrigno expressed confidence he can succeed on the shooting circuit.

“I have the passion and I’m self-driven,” he said, recalling his bodybuilding triumph against younger men after nearly two decades of retiring from competition. “That’s why I want to take that energy now to the shooting sports.”

Letter from "The Incredible Hulk" to Roni Toldanes after the SHOT SHOW in Las Vegas

With his stamina, tenacity, and a powerful grip that can easily tame recoil, muscleman Lou Ferrigno should find it easy to hit his goal — and his targets.

After all, the Hulk’s shooting ability was already impressive enough that some spectators, who saw him recently at a firing range, exclaimed in unison: “That’s Incredible!”

Letter from “The Incredible Hulk” to Roni Toldanes after the SHOT SHOW in Las Vegas

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THE LOST WORLD OF STEVEN SPIELBERG

 

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Photo courtesy of Steven Spielberg’s PR agency. Image used with permission.

HIS GUNS AND HIS SECRET LIFE AS A SHOOTER

By Roni Toldanes

It’s impossible not to mention the fairy tale character Peter Pan when writ­ing about Steven Spielberg. After all, the lonely and precocious son of a broken home himself said in 1985, “I have always felt like Peter Pan. I still feel like Peter Pan.”

It was difficult for Spielberg to “grow up” — both as a man and as a filmmaker.

For 20 years, Spielberg had Hollywood’s most profound and profitable case of arrested development. Critics condescendingly regarded him as a child-man fixated on the toys of moviemaking and incapable of dealing maturely with the darker side of life. In many of his films, Spielberg indulged his boyish fondness for pulp adventure, infantile humor and special-effects fantasy extravaganzas.

But, in reality, Spielberg was misunder­stood. The fellow who makes movies every­one wants to see was simply not like every­one else. “People like Steven don’t come along every day,” says his friend and fre­quent collaborator George Lucas, “and when they do, it’s an amazing thing. It’s like talk­ing about Einstein or Babe Ruth or Tiger Woods. He’s not in a group of filmmakers his age; he’s far, far away.”

Still, one can ask how a half-century of living and nearly a quarter-century’s reign as the most successful moviemaker in his­tory affect the man who took out a patent on perennial childhood.

From the short feature film he made as a 13-year-old (Escape to Nowhere), through a string of blockbusters such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Empire of the Sun, Jaws and the con­tinuing adventures of Indiana Jones, Spiel­berg has explored primeval fears, expressed children’s loneliness and tested their inno­cence. Even his version of Peter Pan in the movie Hook was sprinkled with childlike fantasy.

In 1993, however, moviedom’s Peter Pan finally “grew up.” Spielberg silenced many of his detractors with Schindler’s List, his masterful drama about a gentile business­man who saved 1,100 Jews from the Plaszow death camp during World War II. The film was the culmination of a long personal strug­gle with Spielberg’s Jewish identity, a plea by a preeminent popular artist that to remem­ber is to speed up the healing.

“I was so ashamed of being a Jew, and now I’m filled with pride,” he said in inter­views at the time the movie was released. “This film has kind of come along with me on this journey from shame to honor.” For that film with a wrenching theme, Spielberg would receive two Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. The film also won five other Oscars.

With Schindler’s List, Spielberg became a proselytizer for a spiritual unification of Germans and Jews. “I feel it is time in Germany for this generation to teach its children,” he said. “Education is the way to stop another Holocaust from happening.”

Following the emotional pulse of Schindler’s List, Spielberg also directed Amistad, a film about a Spanish ship that brought 53 abducted Africans to the U.S. in 1839 and provoked a slave revolt and a trial in which the slaves’ case was argued by former President John Quincy Adams.

To an extent, most of Spielberg’s films were identical to certain cliff-hanging chapters of his life.

Steven Allan Spielberg’s ancestors were among the 2 million Jews who fled Russia and Eastern Europe for the United States between 1881 and 1914, settling in Cincinnati, where he was born on Dec. 18, 1946. Some of his relatives remained in Russia for generations to come, and some eventually went to Israel, but many of those who did not emigrate were murdered during the Nazi Holocaust.

Spielberg was raised in the suburbs of Haddonfield, New Jersey and Phoenix, Arizona, where the elder Spielbergs and their four kids — Steven and his three younger sisters — lived from 1957 to 1964. As a child growing up in Haddonfield, where archaeologists found the first virtually complete dinosaur skeleton, Spielberg became fascinated with dinosaurs.

In Phoenix, he was a one-man commando unit against neighbors who made anti-Semitic slurs, sneaking up and smearing their windows with peanut butter.

It was in Arizona where Spielberg started making amateur films while still in his teens, later studying at California State University, Long Beach. In 1969, Spielberg’s 22-minute short feature Amblin was shown at the Atlanta Film Festival. It made him the youngest director ever to be signed to a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio.

Four years later, he directed the suspense-filled telefilm Duel. He made his feature film directorial debut on The Sugarland Express, from a screenplay he co-wrote. His additional film credits include the Back to the Future trilogy, Always and The Color Purple. His film Saving Private Ryan, a World War II saga starring Tom Hanks, also landed on the blockbuster records.

Through the years, Steven Spielberg has directed, produced or executive produced eight of the top grossing films of all time. He had back-to-back block-buster hits with The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which he directed, and Men in Black, which he executive produced.

Steven Spielberg is, indeed, the most successful moviemaker in history. In 1996, Forbes Magazine estimated his net worth at $1 billion. Not bad for a kid who “felt like an alien” in America, and who turned to making movies as a way of finding social acceptance.

Observers say that Spielberg’s emotional isolation during his childhood may have helped delay his own maturation process. His parents, Leah and Arnold, divorced when he was 19. Steven remained close to his mother and her new husband Bernie Adler, who passed away several years ago.

Adler’s death shocked Steven into seeing the fragility of people’s lives. It also brought him closer to his father and to his growing family.

Spielberg shoots Sporting Clays in Europe with Harrison Ford.

Spielberg shoots Sporting Clays in Europe with Harrison Ford. Image used with photographer’s permission.

Like almost every American boy growing up in the 1950s, Spielberg received guidance about matters such as gun safety from his father, Arnold Spielberg. And he pictured himself doing the same thing, besides other fatherly duties, even before his first child (with his first wife Amy Irving), Max, was born. “The child was going to change my life … I want to be like most parents.”

When Max Samuel Spielberg was born on June 13, 1985 at the Santa Monica Hospital, the exultant father described his son as “my best production yet.”

Today, Spielberg spends more time with his burgeoning family. With Kate Capshaw, whom he married in 1991, Spielberg has a brood of seven: Max (whose custody he shares with Irving); Jessica, (from Capshaw’s first marriage); Theo, Sasha, Sawyer, Mikaela and Destry.

It was Spielberg’s father, an electrical engineer and amateur film buff, who spurred his interest in movie-making. It was also his dad, a World War II Air Force sharpshooter, who taught Steven his gun-handling skills.

As someone who never enjoyed much of the regular sports during his childhood, Steven Spielberg introduced his son Max, in 1995, to the sport he knows best — Sporting Clays.

Screenwriter and director John Milius (Apocalypse Now and Clear and Present Danger) describes Steven Spielberg as a sharpshooter. Spielberg, he said, regularly shoots an Italian over/under Fabri shotgun, an engraved model of which costs in the neighborhood of $85,000.

Milius said he began shooting sporting clays with Spielberg in the late 1960s at the Oak Tree Gun Club in southern California. During their younger days, Milius said, they used to play at least once a week. “We call it red-neck golf,” Milius said, “just like golf, you either like it or you don’t.”

Explaining Spielberg’s passion for collecting top-of-the-line shotguns, Milius told this writer, “They are just beautiful things. How many beautiful works of art can you take out and use?”

Milius would often shoot Sporting Clays with Spielberg. He admits having lost “a few times” to Spielberg, who actually received some shooting lessons from him in the past. “I’m the teacher and he’s the student, but on a good day he’s really good.”

Art Bright, manager of the Pachmayr Range in southern California, remembers giving Spielberg and young Max a few shooting tips. “Steven Spielberg is a pretty good shot,” Bright says. “He’s probably a solid B-class shooter.”

Rifle maker Butch Searcy confirmed having built two big-bore rifles that were used as props in the movie Jurassic Park. The .600 Nitro rifles, bearing the serial numbers Lost World 1 and Lost World 2, are valued at $40,000 each, Searcy said, adding that Spielberg’s aides had told him that one of the rifles became a part of the director’s collection.

Once upon a shooting star, there was a lonely young boy who aimed for success and social acceptance. That boy, Steven Spielberg, is now an adult. But is he completely grown up? “Sometimes he’ll howl with glee after breaking some of his clay targets,” a Sporting Clays champion, who requested anonymity, said. “Sometimes when he gets excited, he just can’t control himself. At times, he’s just like a little kid.”

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TOM SELLECK: Magnum P.I. with a sporting shotgun

June 9, 2009

Photo courtesy of Tom Selleck PR agency. Image used with permission

Photo courtesy of Tom Selleck's PR agency. Image used with permission

By Roni Toldanes

Tom Selleck still remembers the shotgun; its brand and gauge. But he would­n’t tell anybody anything else. When Selleck was a young boy, his father used a shotgun to demonstrate important lessons on gun safety. Yet when reporters recently asked the actor what type of shotgun it was, he politely declined to provide details, saying; “That’s something I’d like to keep between Dad and me.”

Mutual love of guns apparently tight­ened Selleck’s close bond with his father, Robert, a real-estate investor. This can be gleaned from his answers to sensi­tive questions. Asked on a TV talk show about what he would rescue first if his house were burning down and his family were safe, Selleck replied, “The shotgun my father gave me.”

At 6 feet 4 inches, with his familiar chiseled face, deep dimples that come with his frequent smiles and raven-­black hair, Selleck is still recognized in public as the star of the ’80s television drama Magnum, P.I., the private inves­tigator and Vietnam veteran who looks good in khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirts. In the past few years, Tom Sel­leck is back in the limelight, portray­ing other TV and movie characters, and taking a new role as a hero for America’s responsible gun owners.

In October 1997, Selleck hosted the grand opening of a Sporting Clays course through a Ducks Unlimited fundraiser tournament in Lanai, one of the smallest of the Hawaiian islands. Just about everyone of the 80 com­petitors had a chance to chat with the star. As affable and easygoing as his TV character Thomas Magnum, Sel­leck graciously posed for pictures and talked briefly about his experiences in the shooting sports and his feelings about gun politics.

Selleck, 53, described Sporting Clays as a very relaxing and family-oriented activity. He said he knew of many celebrities who participate with “bor­rowed” guns at the Charlton Heston shooting tournaments and other charity events. They have a great time but aren’t willing to stand up and be recognized like Heston because of the negative ramifications to their entertainment careers. Many are also concerned about being misquoted.

Having eight years and an Emmy behind him as the star of Magnum, PI., Selleck has also often been       misquoted and mis­represented. In 1996, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported that Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger were trying to persuade Selleck to chal­lenge Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Sell­eck denied the story, saying Dowd should have done a better job of investigating. “There’s no truth to it,” said Selleck. “She was just dead wrong, and she ought to be ashamed of herself.”

In his public appearances, Selleck, a reg­istered independent with libertarian lean­ings, has not exactly described himself as apolitical. “I’m not politically active. I’m politically-minded.” Translation? He has appeared on Nightline, The McLaughlin Group, and Larry King. He has attended the White House correspondents’ dinner the last few years, smoking cigars and looking quite at home.

Selleck, with his masculine and sweet image, has been compared to other popu­lar presidents. But Selleck shrugs off those comparisons, saying he resigned in disgrace from his only elected office — president of his ninth-grade class — because of poor grades. “For the record, I have never in my life had a  serious conversation about run­ning for public office,” Selleck said in a press statement.

But rumors that Selleck has political ambitions have been cropping up for years. His role as a gay TV newsman in the film In and Out didn’t help quell those rumors. Some movie columnists asserted that his scene-stealing lip lock with co-star Kevin Kline was a bid to woo gay voters. Selleck again dismissed those speculations. “I don’t want what the movie says about honesty and intolerance to get lost in some goofy little kiss,” he said.

That kissing scene, which shocked many Magnum P.I. fans, including the police­man who held traffic while Kline and Sel­leck gave each other a smooch, was in fact Selleck’s way of preparing himself for real comedy. His roles in his past films can be classified as “romantic comedy.”

Several years ago, Selleck fielded a ques­tion about whether he believed he could graduate from television to film. “At the time, I’d done four films,” he said, “three of which had made quite a lot of money, and Three Men and a Baby had been the No. 1 movie in the world. I thought then, ‘Oh, this is going to be with me for a long time.”’

But with his CBS sitcom, The Closer, Selleck got to test his comedic talent. He played Jack McLaren, once a red hot adver­tising executive with a legendary ability to close the deal who suddenly found himself jobless, facing divorce and at odds with his teenage daughter.

In the years since Magnum P.I., the cigar­smoking rancher has been striving to be considered for less conventional roles. It hasn’t come easily. He has made some less than critically acclaimed films, including Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, where he portrayed King Ferdinand; Folks, and Mr. Baseball, all in 1992.

Despite his shrewd ability to perform any role, Selleck has never felt bigger than life. He remains humble and unpreten­tious. “I’ve always had trouble with the sex-symbol thing, but it doesn’t necessar­ily mean better work, and it isn’t better for your life,” he says. “You’ll lose more jobs than you’ll get, and you’ll lose some of the most interesting ones.”

Because of Selleck’s amiable personality, many influential Hollywood executives continue to support him. In and Out exec­utive producer Adam Schroeder says Sel­leck easily fits any character: “There is something about Tom that is almost a throwback to old Hollywood. He’s like Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stew­art. He has … sophistication and innate charm.”

Though it may surprise his Magnum fans, Selleck has always felt more at home in comedy than drama. Persuading others to see him that way has been a tough bat­tle he has waged for years, in part because of his action-star looks.selleck2

Initially, Tom Selleck turned down the Magnum series even though he was a con­tract player, nearing 35, who had never had a steady paycheck in the business and had absolutely no leverage. “I needed the job desperately, but I said no,” Selleck recalls. “It was this very perfect guy who owned a Ferrari, who had fabulous babes all over this estate. I said, ‘I’m not doing this guy; I don’t like him.’ ”

He was under contract to Universal Stu­dios at the time and was threatened with a lawsuit, but Selleck stuck to his position until the part was rewritten to create the flawed character of Thomas Magnum.

Away from klieg lights and cameras, Selleck has also taken a new role that is tailor-made for his appeal. By actively par­ticipating in fundraiser shooting tourna­ments, he hopes to put a stop to the “demo­nizing” of gunowners in America. “There are 70 million legal guns in this country,” Selleck says, “most of which are owned by people who aren’t felons, who don’t do drugs, et cetera.”

Those who’ve shot a tournament with Selleck describe him as very friendly and charming. He was funny and he looked like Magnum P.I. without being cocky about it.

World English Sporting Clays champion Linda Joy, who was on the same squad with Selleck at a recent tournament, says the actor “was an easy-going and likeable man. He was a pretty good shot and he didn’t flaunt his celebrity status.”

Sandy Abrams, organizer of the Holly­wood Celebrity Shoot, also recalls seeing the actor disembark from a helicopter on his way to a shooting tournament. “Selleck must have had 20 to 30 guns with him (on board the helicopter),” Abrams says. “He took down a gun case and pulled out a shotgun that must be worth more than the car you drive.”

Michael Shea, Fiocchi’s director of ammu­nition sales, confirms Selleck’s love affair with museum-quality shotguns. In one shooting tournament, Shea was on the same squad with Selleck, who shot the match with a gold-inlayed Beretta S05 shotgun “worth at least $20,000.” The actor also brought with him a Colt .45 semi-auto with pearl grips.

“What probably impressed me most was when I found out that Tom Selleck was really a nice guy,” Shea says. “He was not like some of the Hollywood guys who will just blow you off. He is really down-­to-earth. ”

For many of his new shooting buddies, Tom Selleck is still Magnum Pl., with a good heart, with neatly-trimmed mustache, without the Ferrari.

He is Thomas Magnum with a hand­some sporting shotgun.

(Roni Toldanes was managing editor of Gun World, the oldest firearms magazine in the United States; group managing editor of Knives Illustrated, and editor of Gun Games, America’s shooting sports magazine. He also worked as editor-in-chief of weekly newspapers; news editor, senior copy editor, assignment editor and editorial board member of major daily newspapers in California, Texas, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia. He covered southeast Asia as a foreign correspondent and chief editor of an international news agency.)


INTERVIEW WITH COUNTRY SUPERSTAR RANDY TRAVIS

June 9, 2009

Country musician Randy Travis enjoys participating in fast-draw shooting competitions. Photo by Y.Sued

Country musician Randy Travis enjoys participating in fast-draw shooting competitions. Photo by Y.Sued

The Singing Shooter Comes Full Circle

By Roni Toldanes

When 10-year-old Randy Travis squeezed the trigger of a bulky .22-caliber rifle in 1970, he didn’t expect he’d be bitten by something.

“I didn’t know how to hold the gun, how to aim, or how hard it would kick,” Travis recalls. “But after the first shot, I was hooked.” Travis must have been “bitten by the bug,” because today, decades after his first experience plinking empty milk cans with his grandfather’s bolt-action rifle, he still owns guns – about 200 of them. It’s a collection that includes famous trademarks such as Ruger, Colt, Remington, Browning and Smith & Wesson.

Travis spent his childhood in a rural town in North Carolina, where he learned about gun safety and received shooting lessons from his uncle, Ralph Traywick, a gun collector. Travis grew up around guns during an era when gun-slinging actors were the top guys in Hollywood and celebrities routinely performed quick draws and twirled guns before live TV audiences.

Travis didn’t experience an ideal teenage life. Driven by a less-than-perfect home life, he repeatedly ran away, found himself in jail for assault and seemed headed for a long, five-year stretch in jail when fate, in the form of a club owner named Lib Hatcher, intervened. Travis said Hatcher heard him sing at a talent contest, managed to get him released into her custody and put him to work in her club, slinging burgers and singing when he had the chance.

Travis and Hatcher moved together to Tennessee in 1981. She served as manager of the Nashville Palace nightclub and he was the short-order cook and resident vocalist. They fell in love and were married ten years later.

The singer’s big break came in 1985 when Warner Bros. began releasing his records. Since then, he has sold over 18 million records and won more than 20 major music awards. The superstar quit touring full time in 1992. In the past few years, he took small roles in six features and guest starred on TV shows such as Matlock and Touched by an Angel. He has also done commercials for Coca-Cola and Folger’s Coffee.

Travis’ album, Full Circle, proves he’s still a country-music master. All the songs are delivered in the warm baritone that is one of the most instantly recognizable voices in Nashville today. The album, according to the Miami Herald, “might be Travis’ best album.”

Nowadays, Travis estimates that he spends one-third of his time at home in Nashville, Tennessee, a third in Hawaii and a third “on the road.” This hectic schedule does not allow him to visit a public shooting range so he decided to build one in his own backyard in Nashville. He says shooting brings back fun memories of his childhood.

Travis has been a Fast Draw fan for years and his favorite guns are the single-action .45 Colts. He has shared his knowledge on shooting and gun safety with his brother, Dennis, and some colleagues in the entertainment industry. “I think the shooting sport is a great way to spend free time either alone or with a friend,” Travis said. “It gives you a real sense of accomplishment.”

Randy Travis, indeed, has come Full Circle.


HOLLYWOOD COMES OUT WITH A BANG

June 9, 2009

celebrity shootBy RONI TOLDANES

It was a strange scene last October when more than 60 movie and TV personal­ities opened fire with shotguns and pis­tols. There were no directors. There were no stuntmen. And while in movies they flinched and grimaced as they pep­pered their targets with bullets, this time around they were smiling while shooting guns. Real guns loaded with real ammo.

America’s gun owners have unlikely new heroes of late. These new heroes belong to an industry some gun advocates blame for the negative public image of firearms – Hollywood.

Karate Kid star Martin Cove. Photo by Y.Sued

Karate Kid star Martin Cove. Photo by Y.Sued

Despite gusty winds roaring at 40 to 50 mph, gun-toting actors and actresses came out and joined about 250 other shooters in a newly-formed shooting tournament. It was called Hollywood Celebrity Shoot at the Angeles Shooting Range, just a few miles from Burbank, home to many major film studios.

The shooting match, involving the use of shotguns, center fire and rim­fire handguns, was organized by Sanford Abrams, and Catherine and T.J. Johnston. Having served as volunteers at the Charl­ton Heston Celebrity Shoot, which has been in limbo during the past two years, the trio decided to host their own tournament. It had a double-barreled goal: to promote the shooting sports and to counteract the scathing anti-gun propaganda from other celebrities, some of whom, incongruously, even portray gun slinging characters in action movies.

“Some celebrities are standing up and declaring that guns are evil,” Abrams says, “but there are many other celebrities who shoot and don’t see anything bad about owning guns.” The Hollywood Celebrity Shoot, Abrams says, aims to promote the positive aspects of gun ownership.

Frank McRae, who took supporting roles in almost 100 films and portrayed Arnold Schwarzenegger's boss in the movie Last Action Hero, talks about the "joy and thrill" one gets after transforming a clay target into a puff of smoke.

Frank McRae, who took supporting roles in almost 100 films and portrayed Arnold Schwarzenegger's boss in the movie Last Action Hero, talks about the "joy and thrill" one gets after transforming a clay target into a puff of smoke. Photo by Y.Sued

Abrams hopes that the crackle of gun­fire would resonate all the way to Wash­ington. He knows that lawmakers have begun to accept celebrities as powerful backers of public issues.

For decades, Washington has attracted famous activist actors such as Jane Fonda and Charlton Heston. But the city’s elite scoffed at the performers, urging them to tend to entertainment and let “real” politi­cians worry about the nation’s business. Over the past few years, however, this his­toric irritation has transformed into a reluc­tant appreciation of the power of celebrity. Why? Because lawmakers have finally real­ized that having a Hollywood luminary at a hearing may be the best way to get a cyn­ical public to tune in to their issue. A star’s endorsement can mean the difference between a bill that dies in committee and one that becomes a law.

Abrams says he intends to reproduce video­tapes of the match for distribution to influ­ential politicians. Copies will also be syndi­cated through major cable TV companies.

While some of the participants at the Hollywood Celebrity Shoot are not household names – yet, oth­ers have familiar faces. Most of them have been in dozens of films.

Sylvester Stallone wasn’t there, but his nemesis in some of his films shot the tournament. Does the name Charles Napier ring a bell? No? Well, how about Mur­doch, the bad guy in Rambo II? It was Napier, who also starred in Silence of the Lambs. Sly’s brother, Grammy Award winner Frank Stallone, was seen smiling as he pulverized his clay targets.

RoboCop himself didn’t come, but his police commander in the first series, Michael Gregory, who also starred in Total Recall and Eraser, traded jokes with colleagues and new friends as he waited for his turn at the Trap event, where shooters fired at two flying clay targets using shotguns.

Charles Napier, alias Murdoch in Rambo 2, shows why Rambo would really be in trouble with him in real life.

Charles Napier, alias Murdoch in Rambo 2, shows why Rambo would really be in trouble with him in real life.

“Each time you raise the gun to shoot at a clay bird there is always a challenge,” said Frank McRae, who played Arnold Schwarzenegger’s boss in the movie Last Action Hero and has appeared as a sup­porting actor in about 100 films. “Once you hit the clay, it transforms into a puff of smoke and you get such joy and thrill at knowing that you did something correct.”

McRae said the shooting sports lost its attractive cachet among Hollywood gun owners in the 1960s, especially following the JFK assassination. He said many celebrities still suf­fer the same sort of schizophrenia in their attitude toward the shooting sports. They use guns in their movies and they own guns, but they refuse to declare their pro-gun stance.

Celebrities on hand at this event, however, were not afraid to let the pub­lic know that they were having fun with guns. They include Martin Cove (Karate Kid), Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy), Kim­berlin Brown (The Bold and the Beauti­ful), Branscombe Richmond (Renegade), Shari Shattuck (On Deadly Ground), Steve Henneberry (American Gladiators), Ron Mazak (Murder She Wrote), Roy Rogers, Jr. (The Roy Rogers Show), Andrew Prine (Chisum) and Erin Gray (Baywatch).

Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells

Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells

After an open-air dinner followed by the presentation of awards, all of the shoot­ers said the same thing as they headed to their cars in the parking lot. The chilly weather failed to dampen their enthusias­tic comments about the Hollywood Celebrity Shoot. And what they said was something you seldom hear from celebri­ties: “Great shooting match … Whew! I never thought I could have fun with a shot­gun! … Hey, that was some shooting match, wasn’t it? … ”

Cool.

(Roni Toldanes was managing editor of Gun World, the oldest firearms magazine in the United States; group managing editor of Knives Illustrated, and editor of Gun Games, America’s shooting sports magazine. He also worked as editor-in-chief of weekly newspapers; news editor, senior copy editor, assignment editor and editorial board member of major daily newspapers in California, Texas, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia. He covered southeast Asia as a foreign correspondent and chief editor of an international news agency.)


INTERVIEW WITH BARBARA MANDRELL

June 9, 2009

AIMING FOR HER DREAMS AND CLAY TARGETS

By Roni Toldanes

Barbara Mandrell enjoys smoking clay targets. Photo courtesy of Barbara Madrell

Barbara Mandrell enjoys smoking clay targets. Photo courtesy of Barbara Madrell

During the interview, Barbara Mandrell abruptly stopped talking, drew a coffee mug to her lips and peered through the glass panel of the receiving room. Her eyes focused on a woodpecker visiting one of the bird feeders scattered around her log home near Nashville.

Then Mandrell resumed her story.

“I am not speaking against hunters because there are many of them who are very nice,” she said, “but I am not really the hunter type. I just enjoy smoking those clay targets.”

Mandrell was referring to her favorite sports – Sporting Clays and Skeet – where shooters fire at clay discs using shotguns.

“The feeling is so elating and wonderful whenever I break the targets,” Mandrell said, her Colorado-blue eyes betraying her excitement. “It’s such an incredible challenge.”

Mandrell’s bird feeders reflect the dreams she has fulfilled over a legendary 35-year professional career and a personal life marked by stability, close family ties and abiding loyalties. If dreams are fulfilled through musical accomplishments or material success, Mandrell has surpassed most fantasies.

During the ’70s, Mandrell released 21 singles, including her all-time bestseller, “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed.” As the decade ended, Mandrell became the first artist ever to win back-to-back Female Vocalist of the Year awards from the Academy of Country Music.

Mandrell’s star continued to glow in the ’80s, a decade that twice saw her named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association. She also appeared on a weekly TV variety show with her younger sisters, Louise and Irlene. Nowadays, you can often see Mandrell doing TV commercials, with some guest appearances on popular TV shows.

Mandrell and her husband, Ken Dudney, were introduced to the shotgun sport several years ago by Hollywood legend Roy Rogers. Since then, the couple has actively participated in tournaments, including several fund-raising celebrity shoots organized by Mandrell’s sister Louise for the benefit of the Boy Scouts of America. Their oldest son, Matthew, is also active in the sport.

When Mandrell introduced her youngest son, Nathan, to Sporting Clays in 1996, she made sure that safety precautions are strictly observed. Nathan wasn’t allowed to handle guns without supervision from an adult shooter. For his 11th birthday, Nathan received his second shotgun, a 12-gauge Beretta 390, as a present from his parents.

“It brings joy when you see your young child act like a mature person because of his knowledge and safe handling of firearms,” said Mandrell, who shoots a Krieghoff shotgun.

For Barbara Mandrell, shooting is one of the best family recreation sports. “It’s fun. It’s exciting and it brings the family together,” she said. And unlike other male-dominate sports such as basketball and golf, shooting allows men to be on the same level of playing field as men. “There’s no reason women can’t beat men,” the petite 5-foot, 2-inch mother of three said.

mandrl1

Photo courtesy of Barbara Mandrell

Mandrell and her family live in a 27,000-sq.ft. log home in Gallatin, Tennessee. The home includes a helipad, 13 bathrooms and an indoor pistol shooting range. It’s big enough to be called a mansion. But Mandrell said it’s up for sale. Reason? She wants a smaller house with a bigger lot to build a Skeet and Sporting clays range in the backyard, where her family can share the beauty and excitement of the shooting sports with relatives and friends.

Barbara Mandrell’s sights are set on fulfilling that dream.

And she’s ready to pull the trigger.


SINBAD: Funny man and gun enthusiast

June 9, 2009

Photo by Y. Sued

Photo by Y.Sued

By Roni Toldanes

America loves funny guys. Sinbad is living proof.

Born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Sinbad grew up telling jokes to his three brothers and two sisters. His first love, however, was basketball, and becoming a Harlem Globetrotter was a childhood dream. He earned a basketball scholarship to the University of Denver and was convinced that college basketball was his ticket to the NBA. “I had flaming red hair and they called me Red Chamberlain.”

But the satisfaction from being able to make people laugh was irresistible. In 1983 he embarked on his “Poverty Tour,” going from city to city on a Greyhound bus, from comedy club to comedy club, working for meals and changing out of hotel restrooms.

He got his big break when he became a finalist in the top-rated TV show Star Search. This led to a TV movie and a role as Redd Foxx’s son on The New Redd Foxx Show. Then Bill Cosby invited him to join A Different World. And the rest, as the worn-out cliché goes, is history.

Today, Sinbad is one of the hottest comedians in Hollywood. He starred in the movie First Kid as Sam Simms, a fun-loving Secret Service agent assigned to protect the son of the U.S. President. He has appeared on a western action movie for HBO, Cherokee Kid. He also starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way.

While filming Cherokee Kid Sinbad received his first formal firearms instruction. Hollywood gun guru Thell Reed and mounted cowboy shooting champion Billy Lang were commissioned by HBO to be his gun coaches. Reed and Lang taught Sinbad the mechanics of shooting fast and accurate. They also trained him on the basics of correct and safe gun handling. Sinbad came out of Cherokee Kid with a deep respect for firearms and great fascination for the many fun activities one can have with guns.

“Until I met Thell and Billy, I never even knew there were places where you can go out and have fun with guns,” he said. “I want to try them all, Cowboy Action, Mounted Cowboy Shooting, Fast Draw — all of them!”

When we met him for our photo shoot, Sinbad showed off his gun-twirling skills and his sub-one second thumbing draws. He says he can even spin-cock a Winchester lever-action rifle, in true John Wayne fashion, and hit a playing card 100 yards away on demand!

Like all responsible parents with guns, Sinbad has passed the legacy of safe gunhandling on to his two young children. He purchased a .22-caliber Colt single action for his son, who is now proficient in safe gunhandling.

Sinbad reloads his own ammo and says he plans to join the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS). His participation in the shooting sports will give recreational shooting a tremendous boost.

“He is just the right man to promote sports shooting,” says gun instructor Billy Lang. “Sinbad makes people feel good. He’s always smiling and he’s always making everybody happy. That’s why America loves him.”


INTERVIEW WITH ROCK STAR TED NUGENT

June 9, 2009
Nugent

Photo courtesy of Ted Nugent

‘THE MOTOR CITY MADMAN’ ROCKS

By RONI TOLDANES

Ted Nugent is angry. He seems consumed by moral outrage. The rock star finds it infuriating that a bill under consideration before the Michigan Senate would give local city councils and mayors the power to label concerts “harmful to minors.” Sitting in front of the microphone, Nugent riffles through news clippings as the “On Air” sign lights up inside the booth of his Detroit radio show.

“I’ve been a rock ’n roller most of my life,” Nugent says, “but I’m also a card-carrying, gun-owning, law-and-order conservative industrialist, your Recreation and parks Service Man of the Year, your rock-ribbed Ronald Reagan Republican and a permanent voice against drugs and alcohol. And this bill goes against everything I stand for.”

“No, this bill is a loser,” Nugent says, his voice quivering, “We don’t need any Big Brothers deciding what’s art and what isn’t.”

With snow in his hair, an apple in his mouth and horse manure on his shoes, Nugent lectures his audience about the defilement of American civic life one moment, then in the next breath dashes off a sardonic one-liner. This odd mixture has made Nugent an unlikely media star, the host of a four-hour radio show without a format.

“I’m a direct link to the pulse of a huge majority of people who are disassociated, and even offended, by the idea of format,” says Nugent. “There’s nothing I can’t do, won’t do or won’t try. I’m your favorite right-hook guy.”

Nugent’s weekday morning show on WWBR-FM (102.7) from 6 to 10 a.m. is unusual for its headquarters: Swamp Studios, built a year ago in Nugent’s barn in western Jackson County, two miles from pavement. It is close to his house, horses, dogs and his oak tree stands. While firing off bursts of slang and altered English phrases through the air waves, Nugent simply looks through the window to appreciate acres of wildlife habitat.

At any given time, Nugent might be chatting with a Republican senator or a writer who says she can convert any woman to lesbianism, and later he might talk about hunting or blast his listeners with high-powered rock riffs. The resulting chatter is unpredictable, sometimes stuttering into incoherence, sometimes soaring into edification. The formula, however, proved to be a winner as Nugent’s radio program surged early this year form a 17th place finish in the third quarter to ninth place as Detroit’s top morning spot.

With spunk and bombast, Nugent shoots from the lip on his new radio program. Even Howard stern, the self-proclaimed king of all media, has apparently started considering him as a serious rival. In a recent conference with Detroit writers, the shock jock described Nugent as “a nice guy and a great musician,” but added that it was “sad that he has to be on radio. That’s really the bottom of the barrel.”

Nugent, also know in Detroit as the “Motor City Madman,” normally refuses to return a punch from other rock deejays. “Here’s the thing I don’t understand about rock radio: Why do they have to create such a mean-spirited veneer?” says Nugent. “I don’t play those games.”

Many entertainment stars like to hide or whine about the way those ubiquitous paparazzi seem to be stalking every aspect of their private lives. Most celebrities are also legendary for being reclusive or difficult or self-important. Nugent, however, hides nothing. He’s turned in-your-face into a lifestyle. He says what he wants. He invents his own code of conduct. And he invites you to inspect his whole life.

Nugent is always open to interviews. He also actively lobbies in Congress, such as when he campaigned against moves to block recreational vehicles, including snowmobiles, from using wilderness areas. If Americans can’t play in their wilderness, according to the rock star, they will never learn to care about it. In April 1997, Nugent marched to Congress with Bobby Unser, the three time Indianapolis 500 champion, describing the U.S. Forest service before a joint congressional hearing as “worse than the KGB in Russia.”

Nugent is a well-known bow hunter and he declares it with pride. “I’m the only semi-Caucasian guitar ‘kanker’ in the Free World who shoots his own stage clothes,” he says, referring to his leather attire. Then a smirk trembles across his face before saying, “The Nugent tribe will not eat meat unless we kill it ourselves.”

While rock stars such as Ozzy Osborne drank staggering amounts of alcohol, smoked joints or inhaled white powdery substances, Nugent protects his body with a healthy diet. He feeds his family with venison and he’s a good cook.

Born in Detroit, Michigan on December 13, 1948, Ted Nugent began bow hunting when he was five years old. He played the guitar when he was seven, developed into a consummate showman before he could shave and by his middle twenties, became a top-grossing rock artist. He has released 29 recording and sold over 30 million albums worldwide, scoring four double platinum, two platinum, and two gold recordings.

Despite his rock ‘n roll image, Nugent has always been outspoken against drugs and alcohol. “God blessed me with a level of awareness that I have the duty to optimize and deliver via my instrument,” he says, his wicked wit evaporating quickly, “How dare we compromise that gift (by taking drugs and alcohol). It’s blasphemous!”

While jamming with his guitar idol Jimi Hendrix years ago, Nugent packed up his guitar and left when Jimi ridiculed him for refusing to use drugs. “Jimi got high, and Jim’s dead. I went hunting, and I’m still Ted,” he says.

Nugent has been criticized by, of all people, fellow hunters, after he released a video showing him smacking the bejeezous out of a deer with his bow and arrow. Pro-hunting advocates have described it as “too explicit.” But at the same time, he’s been praised by the same groups for actively campaigning to defend the constitutional right to own firearms.

Nugent’s unyielding stance against drugs, coupled with his popularity and staunch defense of the Second Amendment, led to his election to the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association in 1995.

You need a calculator to keep track of his awards and activities. In the four decades that he has been rocking with his Gibson guitar, Nugent has appeared in TV commercials, including one with the pink Energizer bunny; delivered speeches in countless law enforcement conventions, received a string of awards from the Firearms sports industry and has been honored on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

If he’s not singing, Nugent delivers speeches or shoots arrows aimed at promoting the outdoor sports as a family-oriented activity. “You show me a child that goes bow hunting with his mom and dad, and I’ll show you a kid that is not into gangs, not poisoning himself and is not playing Nintendo,” he says.

Nugent hosts the Kamp for Kids; a weekend camping for boys and girls ages 11-15 in Michigan. The program is built around an archery theme, hunter safety and conservation. “It’s great for the kids to see a role model who hasn’t just checked out of the Betty Ford Foundation,” says Nugent’s assistant, Linda Peterson. “Ted’s never been addicted to anything and kids believe him because he’s true.”

When he deals with kids, Nugent tones down his rock ‘n roll message, preferring to talk to them at their own level. “He tries to steer kids on the right path,” says Dave Dalton, one of the organizers of the Kamp for Kids, where participants also do “camp stuff,” like volleyball, swimming and hiking.

For many years, Nugent has launched an aggressive campaign on the public speaking circuit, promoting the outdoor sports. He has appeared on top rated TV shows, including Politically Incorrect and Larry King, and has been interviewed many times by such radio personalities as Rush Limbaugh.

Nugent also published the Adventure Outdoors magazine, which he uses as a vehicle to expand the membership of the Ted Nugent United Sportsmen of America (TNUSA), a group that actively promotes hunting. He spends half of the year performing in rock concerts and the other half hunting. In fact, a few days before this interview, Nugent was in Africa for a hunting safari with his drop-dead-beautiful wife, Shemane, and sons Toby, 22 and Rocco, 9. His daughters, 25-year old Sasha and Starr, 28, also hunt, but didn’t join the trip.

Hunting, according to Nugent, is essential to conservation and hunters deter poaching, which is what has killed so many elephants. “Hunting is more than good for us,” Nugent says. “It’s good for the balance of power in the natural world.”

Nugent has often been called charming, even by his enemies. If that is the correct word, it is not displayed in a gushing, slick manner. Rather, Nugent is soft-spoken, somewhat shy, self-deprecating and able to poke fun at himself.

One of the most striking things about Nugent is that you can talk with him and find yourself appreciating his intelligence, the rationale behind his thinking – even if you don’t necessarily agree with it – and his deep concerns about today’s troubled society and the future of the Second Amendment in America.

Often Nugent wears a zebra-patterned shirt and drives a custom Ford Bronco painted with (what else?) zebra stripes. Men resemble their cars. Or do cars resemble their men? Either – or both – might hold true of rocker Ted Nugent.

He’s an intense man with an intense car. And he talks about guns with intense passion.

Magazine editor Roni Toldanes interview with Ted Nugent:

RONI TOLDANES: Why do they call you “Motor City Madman?”

TED NUGENT: Because I’m from the Motor City and I’m so intense I scare most white people. I’ve always put my heart and soul in everything I’ve done. In order to play good rock ‘n roll, you’ve got to be throwing some flames. In the application of these musical visions, they collide with my intensity and they manifest themselves on stage and in music with real pulsating rhythms. They involve very energetic and downright athletic stage maneuvers. The songs I write about are from my experiences in life, which are very intense. Sometimes it’s about confrontations – whether it’s a love confrontation or violence confrontation on the streets. I write about all the human experiences that I have. I am genuinely moved by these experiences whether they are positive or negative and they find their way in the music. So people thought I was a madman because I live an intense life. Of course, you have to realize that I have always supported the right to defend one’s self and the application of the Second Amendment. I have always done so unapologetically. I have celebrated my hunting lifestyle. And to typical punks in the music industry, that was mad. Quite honestly, I’m mad like a good father. I’m mad like a leader of a household who will protect his family, live by the law and the Ten Commandments and the golden rule and the Constitution. To some people, that’s mad. To them, fine! I will continue to be the Motor City Madman. (Laughs.)

RONI TOLDANES: You played the guitar when you were seven. When did you realize you’re a celebrity?

TED NUGENT: I started emulating great rock ‘n roll guitar players because I was moved by the sound of music. So the term celebrity really never was a consideration because I just craved the music even as I do today. I played at the Detroit Fairgrounds in 1958 and even though I was just playing boogie-woogie and honky-tonk, at that time I didn’t realize that people were paying attention to me because I was a celebrity, but because the music moved them. I’d figured eventually by the time I had the band in my late teens that I was starting to get recognized wherever we’d perform and travel. I thought it was cute, but it has never been an important element in my life or career. Let me put it this way: the white-tailed deer and my children’s friends don’t think about my celebrity, so that’s a very humbling reality check for me everyday of my life.

RONI TOLDANES: How long have you been in the rock n roll business?

TED NUGENT: I started playing guitar when I was about seven years old. I’ll be 50 in December so I guess that’s 43 years. And I’d loved every greasy, throbbing, pulsating moment of it.

RONI TOLDANES: It must be interesting to find out how many decibels slam your ears during concerts. How do you manage to keep your hearing intact?

TED NUGENT: I’m not a genius but I ain’t no dummy. (Laughs) I realize how outrageously loud my guitar was. The unique style of guitar that I was cultivating was feedback oriented. It takes sheer volume to attain some of these sonic dynamics, and it’s the ultra-loud that can be dangerous. So it’s amazing that at the age of about 17, I started wearing earplugs in my right ear, which was exposed directly to my speakers. But I combined rock ‘n roll with my Firearms enthusiasm. I’d shoot everyday hundreds of rounds, and have been doing it for 30 years. I’ve always been wearing hearing protection during official target sessions, but it’s always that spontaneous jam session with other musicians and those spontaneous Firearms sessions that I do that could have inflicted the most damage to my hearing. But it’s a small price to pay for the smile on my face.

RONI TOLDANES: What’s the largest audience you’ve ever played to?

TED NUGENT: I hold the record in two states. In fact, I think I hold the record in North America at the California Jam on March 18, 1978, where there were 500,000 people. It was held at the Ontario Speedway. But I also hold the attendance record in the Soldier’s Field in Chicago at 90,000. I hold the attendance record at the Dallas Jam in Texas and we had 96,000 people there. At the Houston Astrodome, we also had about 80,000 people. I also hold attendance records in Detroit. I just set a record in Wisconsin last year. That’s exciting, but this morning we’re rehearsing with just seven people in the room, but I’m moved just as powerfully by the music regardless of how many people were listening. Ultimately, I’m a big fan of the creative process so I embrace the music and it embraces me to the point where outside motivation is nearly inconsequential.

RONI TOLDANES: Do rock stars like you listen to Elvis Presley’s music?

TED NUGENT: There are no rock stars like me. (Laughs) But I think every aspiring musician in life was impacted by Elvis Presley. He was a genius; he was a very creative blender of rhythm and blues, black blues and what was emerging as a pop-style of rock ‘n roll. Everybody has been touched by Elvis Presley. There are so many masters who opened the door to this style of music. Chuck Berry would be the most important, I think.

RONI TOLDANES: Did Chuck Berry rock your imagination, too?

TED NUGENT: Absolutely, as was Elvis. But you have to be careful that an individual does not become an idol just because of his career accomplishments. We have to decide if the person is a quality role model outside of career activities. Until then, he can’t really be an idol. But musically speaking, certainly Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and so many virtuosos were guiding lights for many of us.

RONI TOLDANES: People imagine all your audience to be on drugs. But you are anti-drug and anti-alcohol, aren’t you?

TED NUGENT: Militantly. I remember occasions where role models – musical heroes from Jimi Hendrix to Bon Scott from AC/DC to John Belushi, who was a gifted entertainer – would really ridicule me because I would carry a gun. They would ridicule me because I enjoyed guns. They would really ostracize me from parties and events because I wouldn’t take their poison and play their foolish games. And if you checked lately, they’re all dead and I’m still Ted.

RONI TOLDANES: Are you a very religious person?

TED NUGENT: I’m not religious in regards to organized religion. I consider myself intensely spiritual. I work and cultivate relationships with Native American people, with native African people. We just returned tow days ago from our tenth African safari. And these moments with people of the earth, I mean people who still live well rooted in the ground – Mother Earth that offers us life and the sustenance that comes from the ground. As the leader of the family, it is my responsibility and God-given duty to supply sustenance both physically and spiritually for my family and I take that very seriously. And I believe that all the evils and problems that are running amuck in America today can be traced directly to a lack of spiritually in the perpetrators and the victims of this epidemic of “spiritualessness.” I emphasize the spirit in everything I do. My TV show is called Spirit of the Wild. My radio show is called Spirit of the Wild. We’re very spiritually and Christian-motivated.

RONI TOLDANES: Where do you usually hunt?

TED NUGENT: My favorite hunting ground in the world is the field I’m looking at right now. I saw some teal down here this morning. There were turkeys and pheasants and quail. We have a cornucopia of bird life here and healthy, thriving wild life in bio-diversity. Because it’s home, I get to have dinner with my family and sleep with my wife every night. My favorite hunting in the world is right here on our ranch. We have about 1,600 acres and it’s all wildlife habitat with just every wildlife species thriving. This is where I get to take my family and friends hunting and still be home.

RONI TOLDANES: Tell us about your parents.

TED NUGENT: My mom was a queen. She was an absolute angel and a very positive, uplifting and funny – in bold capital letters – lady. She loved me dearly and intensely. My dad loved me dearly and intensely too, but I didn’t recognize it while I was growing up because he was very harsh. My dad was a militant disciplinarian. He was a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army at the age of 19. He was very demanding, but that’s the way he showed his love for me. And I’m not complaining or whining right now; it’s just that he really went overboard in many disciplinary fashions. They both died here about eight years ago. That spirituality in my hunting makes me close to both my father and my mother.

RONI TOLDANES: And tell us about your wife and children?

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Photo courtesy of Ted Nugent

TED NUGENT: My wife, Shemane, is the queen of my force. She is absolutely the dream of this man. I feel blessed to have met her and married her. We are soul brothers; we are soulmates and spiritualmates. Our little boy, Rocco, is a direct result of our intense love for each other. My young boy, Toby, who’s 21, is my best hunting buddy. He is an absolutely wonderful, loving young man. My daughter, Sasha is now 24, is every father’s dream and is also drop-dead-beautiful. She’s a gorgeous girl and she manages it well. My daughter Star is also a stunning lady. She’s 28, and she blessed me with my first granddaughter, Riley Louise Joliet. We’re a very loving family, and we do everything together. That’s the source of all my happiness.

RONI TOLDANES: How did you get to meet Shemane?

TED NUGENT: Shemane and I collided in 1988 while she was doing traffic and news reports on a radio station in Detroit and I just finished a most intense tour all over the world. I just came from a six-week tour in Europe. We did over 200 concerts that year, and I pretty much had my (choice) of women. I was a single man on tour. I was ready for the hunting season in mid-September. I went to this radio studio where I did my show every year, and she was just absolutely mesmerizing. I was avoiding women, but she was so compelling on an intellectual level that we got to know each other and we just hung around like a couple of guys, but I couldn’t keep my hands off her.

RONI TOLDANES: Shemane was your second wife?

TED NUGENT: Yes, Sandra, who is Sasha’s and Toby’s mother, passed away in 1982 due to a terrible traffic accident. So I was a single parent for so many years.

RONI TOLDANES: You drive a Ford Bronco. Do you really have a passion for four-wheel drive vehicles?

TED NUGENT: Oh yeah, baby. I love to go where no man has gone. In fact, whether I play music or hunt, I prefer to the road less traveled. I’d like to discover my own areas. I consider myself the Louis and Clark of America’s swampland. I love the power of a four-wheel-drive truck because it’s a very practical tool here in Michigan, where we get some savage Mother Nature beating us during the winter. You really become immobilized unless you have specialized four-wheel-drive. I have a custom-built 1990 Ford Bronco with a 500-hp V-8 engine. It’s a Zebra-striped truck that is so powerful, it will scare you. It’s a bad dude.

RONI TOLDANES: There’s evidence that albums by White Zombie, Rancid, Foo Fighters and Silverchair are flying out of stores, while big-name CDs by Rod Stewart and Pink Floyd gather dust. Do you think the music world is in the midst of a big turnover in its star structure and a new rock generation is preparing to take over?

TED NUGENT: The new generation has been preparing for months. Those who are succeeding, either succeed by honing their talents and their vision to connect with people or just by sheer luck. There are guys who can’t even play their guitars. I can’t name names because I can’t listen to them long enough to find out who they are. But I know some guys who can’t even play have sold a lot of records. I don’t think a generation can ever carry the torch of a musical statement, but there is a “generational” impact on the sales of music because guys who were buying millions of albums in the ‘70’s are older now, and they are just not buying records at all. They don’t like any music product. I feel blessed that I could still sell 500,000 albums every year. I think there are some brilliant new artists out there, guys like Joe Satriani and Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Sheperd. I’m also more excited about the new developing music of people like Aerosmith and Van Halen and guys like Buddy Guy. I think that quality musical statements will always be ageless and timeless and I think it will always be depicted by top selling albums. I am a little fearful when I see the support for such celebration of violence and dehumanization such as rap music, without concern that that might be more than just a musical recreational statement. I’m afraid it might be an indication that mankind enjoys the plummet into the abyss of immorality.

RONI TOLDANES: Would you rather let your kids listen to rock ‘n roll music than rap?

TED NUGENT: Sure. My kids will make that decision, but I think the overview of that concern is that I was a good parent before music was a consideration. The most important thing in our society and the most important element in the guidance for young people is so much more powerful than music or movies or television or Nintendo games. And that comes from the love and guidance and DISCIPLINE that parents have the obligation to use in bringing their children up. It is lack of connection and lack of discipline that is really the source of the violence and the disorder that exists out there. You can never blame the music. I’d rather think that the music is an example and a manifestation of the decay that happened long before musical choice was made.

RONI TOLDANES: I suppose your children also listen to jazz or classical music?

TED NUGENT: I bet they do. They like good music, regardless of its genre. That’s what I do in my radio show; I play anything that’s good, whether it’s jazz, folk, country. I can’t find any good rap music, though, but I’m looking. (Smiles) It doesn’t’ matter what type of music. What matters is whether it sounds like it has heart and soul, which is why we play so much rhythm and blues in our show.

RONI TOLDANES: Is the rock star persona merely an act? Do rock stars have the same hard-driving attitude off the stage?

TED NUGENT: I know I do. None of my maneuvers in my career has ever been an act. Alice cooper can be separated from Vince Neil. I think that should be applauded. He does it excellently and it takes a lot of talent and vision and creativity to accomplish an Alice Cooper. I have great respect for Alice both as Alice Cooper the entertainer and as Vince my friend, just the normal white man on the street. He is a gifted guy. But in the case of Ted Nugent, what you see is what you get. I can’t stop dancing, I can’t stop grinding my teeth when the music is so intense. I can’t stop celebrating the good, the bad and the ugly through my music because my music is an unstoppable extension of my life’s experience, my life’s hopes and dreams and even my fears.

RONI TOLDANES: Gene Simmons, the 46-year-old bassist of KISS, said recently: “As long as you’ve got a little kid inside your heart, you’re going to want to go up on stage and be a showoff.” Does age make a difference in music, particularly in rock ‘n roll?

TED NUGENT: No. Unequivocally, no. You look at Mick Jagger, who is in his 50’s. I saw videos of my show last year. I was 49 years old and nobody could touch me. I just jammed with Aerosmith and Metallica and Lynyrd Skynyrd, here recently. No, age doesn’t matter. I’m in total disagreement with Simmons regarding the showoff part. I know that exists but when I want to showoff I show pictures of my children. When I’m on stage, I’m just letting the creative juices flow even though I am a showman. That is just the obvious projection, physically and visually on stage, of what I’m feeling inside.

RONI TOLDANES: Do you know of any other rock star who’s also a gun owner?

TED NUGENT: Sure. Almost all of them. The guys at Metallica support the Second Amendment. The guys at ZZ Top, Van Halen, certainly the guys in Damn Yankees support the right to defend one’s self. I just bought a number of guns for Joe Perry of Aerosmith. And when I performed in the Howard Stern movie, I was approached by Howard, who showed me his .32-caliber Seecamp pistol. I was approached by Tiny Tim, who showed me his .25-caliber Beretta. I was approached by John Popper of Blues Travelers who showed me his Colt Government Commander. I was approached by Ozzy Osborne and talked about his German 9mm Luger. Everybody supports the common pulse of defending one’s self, which is why our founding fathers wrote the Second Amendment. It’s really amazing that you’ve got a bunch of spineless weenies out there. Not all of them, but some of them. There are guys like Steven Spielberg, who’s got an extensive gun collection but won’t make one effort to promote the Second Amendment. How could you make a movie like Schindler’s List and not promote the right of the people to defend themselves against evil with firepower? He should be ashamed of himself. He’s so hypocritical to make to make a movie like Schindler’s List and then hide the fact that the Jews for the Preservation of Gun Ownership take him to task because he’s so inconsistent as to be laughable.

RONI TOLDANES: Do you foresee more young rock artists coming out in support of responsible gun ownership?

TED NUGENT: There’s such an overwhelming crusade in the media, particularly in the music and entertainment media to demonize firearms owners. The propaganda machine is a monstrosity. That’s why I’m proud to be serving my second term with the National Rifle Association, that’s why I’m proud to represent the National Archery Association of America. Through our Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids program, children from the inner city – who have never been able to shoot a bow or fire a gun – become enamored with the firearms sports once they are shown a safe and responsible approach. They become our very best promoters and ambassadors. But it has to be introduced to these young people in an excitable, enthusiastic and safety-oriented format like the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program for young people. But typically when a guy like Ted Nugent shows such excitement and enthusiasm for the firearms sports, it’s contagious. Just look at what I’ve done here in the state of Michigan. With our volunteers in the Ted Nugent United Sportsmen of America, we have taken Michigan from fourth rate as a hunting state. In the year that I started my organization, we became number one ahead of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Texas. That’s because we are actively promoting it.

RONI TOLDANES: What’s your political inclination. Do you care much about politics?

TED NUGENT: I care deeply about politics. I have upgraded this country politically. I speak to politicians on my radio show. I’ve got other candidates on my program. I have worked closely with several governors to promote the firearms sports, conservation and hunting. I am very active politically. Back in 1984, I was invited by President Ronald Reagan to the National Law Enforcement Convention in Fort Collins, Colorado, and he had me speak to the graduating class of the FBI. To have Ronald Reagan, one of the most popular conservative presidents of all time, invite the Motor City Madman to a law enforcement event is something I’m extremely proud of.

RONI TOLDANES: Will you ever run for public office?

TED NUGENT: No. They don’t get the hunting season off. I’m more effective in my position as a celebrity with some believability to my name in getting people to get involved.

RONI TOLDANES: Your wife, Shemane, runs the Queen of the Forest program that introduces women to hunting and the outdoors. She says hunting isn’t just about tracking and Firearms deer. It’s about sitting around a campfire, and joking around. Is hunting just an excuse to enjoy a serene environment?

TED NUGENT: My wife is very accurate in that because many women, horrifically, have not only shied away from hunting but have actively campaigned against hunting because they’ve accepted the ugly imagery from the mainstream media that we’re all a bunch of overweight, drunk, tobacco-chewing slobs. Our Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids has recruited more young people, primarily more females, into the Firearms sports than any other force that exists out there. That may sound like an intense bragging to some people but we have the statistics to prove it and we’ve got letters from ladies all across this country who’ve been introduced to the firearms sports by Shemane and myself who are now the biggest proponents for our Second Amendment rights. Because women have this very powerful instinct to protect their children and to protect their tribe. And you can’t do that with 911 or a bag of quarters.

RONI TOLDANES: What do you eat when you are on the road performing concerts? You don’t always eat jerky, do you?

TED NUGENT: I have my own Ted Nugent Biltong jerky products. (Laughs) So, nowadays, I can’t just eat the good stuff. But all my life, when I’ve toured, I’ve aspired and successfully sustained myself with quality food. There are great restaurants out there. I live to eat. I love food. And I have nailed down and identified all the very best restaurants around the country.

RONI TOLDANES: Your close friends say you’re also a very good cook.

TED NUGENT: I can turn flesh into a celebration. (Laughs)

RONI TOLDANES: You own a hunting ranch (the Sunrise Acres Hunting Ranch in Hanover, Michigan, where hunters pay to pursue trophy whitetails). The Department of Natural Resources charged you last year for alleged inaccurate reporting of deer on your Jackson County game preserve. What’s the latest on this issue?

TED NUGENT: The entire escapade was an embarrassing joke by the DNR. They knew that they were wrong. They gave out citations to 96 game ranch owners and I’m the only one who pleaded not guilty. I was exonerated of all charges and everybody else paid a fine by pleading no contest. The ridiculous thing about it is that there’ s no law in Michigan that you have to have an accurate count. There is an estimate that you give. And the count was never the complication. There was never any question about the count. They were claiming that I haven’t turned in my reports on time when, in fact, I have. It was a bureaucracy caught with its pant down. And I was the only guy brave enough to tell the king he had no clothes.

RONI TOLDANES: What do you think of animal rights activists?

TED NUGENT: I think they are pathetic. I think they are brain-dead. I think they are intellectually and morally bankrupt. Anybody who could possibly align themselves with any organization who’s dogma is “a rat is a pig, is a dog, is a boy,” is in the evil column of our society. The concept that animals can be equal to human beings is nothing short of ridiculous and scary. Those people are bad and they are in the liability column of our world. I’ve had my life threatened by these people for many years, and they’re a real scourge across this land.

RONI TOLDANES: Your early videos on hunting ruffled the feathers of some pro-hunting advocates who describe the films as “too explicit” and detrimental to the public relations efforts of the hunting community. Any comment?

TED NUGENT: Good. Those are the denying bubbas who thought they were leaders. They were leading us backwards in the hunting community, making sure that young people didn’t get a hunting license, making sure that young people only followed Rolling Stone magazine instructions about gun ownership. These are the same buffoons who said we should not wear camouflage in public and shouldn’t take pictures with our dead game and we should somehow apologize for being hunters or at least deny it or keep it under wraps. To those people, I say: Kiss my a**s. I have accomplished more with those down-to-earth videos and my genuine enthusiasm and celebration of the hunt than they would ever do in ten lifetimes. If they want to continue on a backward pace, I recommend they go back to that silliness. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to recruit new people, because new people can see that I’m honest, I’m having fun and that killing your dinner is the right thing to do.

RONI TOLDANES: You have established yourself as a national media figure. Is there a big market for radio programs such as what you have?

TED NUGENT: Absolutely. Unfortunately, the firearms sports have failed to come to my side. Browning, BuckStop, the NRA and its members and the National Field Archery Association of America have supported me. I always thank all the advertisers in the Ted Nugent Adventures Outdoors magazine from API Treestands to Old man Treestands, to Cor-Bon, because without them, I would not be able to do this. I would not continue bankrolling all of these (activates) with my own money. I just found out how stupid that was – supporting an industry that wouldn’t support me. The real horrible thing about this is that my radio show has always been absolutely in support of the Second Amendment and the truth about our hunting heritage and I’ve had very little support form the industry.

RONI TOLDANES: Are you sometimes rattled by comments from other radio rivals, such as Howard Stern, who say you don’t belong to radio?

TED NUGENT: (Laughs) That would be like somebody telling me I can’t hunt as I’m dragging home a 10-point buck. Howard Stern can only be described as cute. That’s about it.

RONI TOLDANES: Critics say that nationally, classic rock is becoming marginalized as a radio format and is no longer the music of choice for mainstream rock stations.

TED NUGENT: I can’t keep up nor do I have any desire to keep up with format trends. That’s all they are – trends. I am convinced that you can’t lose if you give over the airwaves of any radio or media the genuine heat and soul and the intellectual sincerity with quality soul-filled music. Anybody who thinks otherwise is a numb nut.

RONI TOLDANES: Does Rush Limbaugh own a lot of guns?

TED NUGENT: I’ve been on Rush’s radio show six times. He owns one gun and that’s the gun that the NRA gave him when I was with him one time.

RONI TOLDANES: Are there other radio personalities who own guns? G. Gordon Liddy is a felon so he can’t own guns, but he’s a pro-gun guy.

TED NUGENT: As a convicted felon, I don’t think Gordon is allowed to own any guns, but his wife owns a bunch of them. G. Gordon Liddy is a great warrior. I have great respect for this man. Another gentleman in radio that I have great respect for is Ken Hamblin. He’s considered the “Black Avenger” and a lot of people call him the black Rush Limbaugh and he’s done a great job.

RONI TOLDANES: You are an active spokesman for DARE and in fact go out of your way to deliver anti-drug message. Isn’t this somewhat contradictory of the rock ‘n roll image?

TED NUGENT: Not at all. I don’t attempt to confine myself to any imagery that someone else may try to outline. I live my life and I have always been adamant and militant and wonderfully consistent in my anti-drug, anti-poisoning, anti-stupidity message. So I make the perfect DARE officer because I’m a sheriff deputy here in the state of Michigan under Joe Wilson in Genesee County. With that badge of honor in my pocket, I am able to project that I am the Motor City Madman having more fun than five puppy dogs on your mother’s chin, without hurting anybody and breaking any laws and without putting poison in my system.

RONI TOLDANES: Tell us what’s Ted Nugent’s Kamp for Kids.

TED NUGENT: When Fred Bear took me on his last hunt in 1988, he told me to keep doing what I was doing, to keep encouraging children to get involved in the outdoors and conservation. He told me emphatically that he loved what it was that I was doing. Then he died just a few months later. Instead of just promoting and getting involved with other programs, I started an actual camp. These kids know that Ted Nugent is having a riot out here with rock ‘n roll and that is the attention-getter. But within the attention-getting power of rock ‘n roll, I deliver a message that is powerfully Second Amendment. That’s what our Kamp for Kids does. It teaches about individual accountability, it teaches the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, about how you can either be in the asset or liability column. Life is a lot more fun when you’re in the asset column.

RONI TOLDANES: What does Ted Nugent intend to do to further promote responsible gun ownership in America?

TED NUGENT: I continue to challenge the industry to invest in the future of the sport in recruitment and upgrade. Recruiting new shooters. I mean real programs. I don’t mean programs that recruit the sons and daughters of shooters. I’m talking about programs that recruit the sons and daughters of anti-shooters. And it can be done. We’ve proven it over and over again and I continue to approach the people in the Firearms and outdoors trade show and in the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization. I’m hoping that some of them would realize that I’m just a damn guitar player, yet I’m an activist every day of my life for the firearms sports and the honorable hunting heritage. That’s what I’m doing. What the hell are they doing?

RONI TOLDANES: Charlton Heston is the new NRA president. Do you think he is the “shot in the arm” needed by American gun owners?

TED NUGENT: I don’t know if he would be considered a “shot in the arm.” He certainly is a good man to have on our side. I have great respect for Charlton Heston. I’ve had some very good dialogues with him. He’s been on my radio show a number of times and he will continue to be on my radio show because we see eye to eye on the Second Amendment. He’s made miscalculations and misstatements in the past, but who hasn’t amongst us? I think Charlton Heston is a perfect example of a man who doesn’t have to be an activist, but he is. Anybody with that kind of dedication, I consider to be my blood brother.

RONI TOLDANES: You are a director of the NRA. Do you have plans of being the president?

TED NUGENT: I have no plans but I know I have a lot of support in the NRA. I got 131,000 votes on the board this time, right behind very famous senators and congressmen. That made me very proud.

RONI TOLDANES: Do you think the NRA represents the ideals of the average American gun owner?

TED NUGENT: I believe the average American gun owner is so apathetic that they are not doing enough research to discover the truth. And it’s not the NRA’s fault. It’s the apathy of the average American, gun owner or otherwise.

RONI TOLDANES: What is your idea of a “perfect America?”

TED NUGENT: A perfect America is where you have law and order, quick and swift, where bad guys are punished and good guys are encouraged, where the harder you work, the less taxes you have to pay; where the constitution is adhered to literally at every turn; that a minute a judge misrepresents a judgment call from the constitution, then that judge serves an equal sentence with this scum that he failed to condemn properly; where politicians are held under a microscope at all times and where we have a civilian review board which immediately pounces on the abuses of power. I’d like to think that the founding fathers’ vision is more important today than ever and people like the Clintons are cancer that have got to be thrown out of office and put in jail where they belong.

RONI TOLDANES: We now have an instant background check system for gun buyers. Are you in favor of this system?

TED NUGENT: No. In places where you have no gun check, where you can get guns more readily, there was less violent crime. In Vermont, when you turn 18, you can carry a gun without a permit. And there’s no problem in Vermont. In Washington D.C., where you already have complete gun control, there’s a murder every few hours. Something is sad and wrong in this country when we see that more guns equal less crime.

RONI TOLDANES: Can there be a compromise between strict and loose gun laws?

TED NUGENT: No. The laws of this country are supposed to be based on conduct, not hardware. The Aerosmith band was once asked to perform in a benefit concert for a gun group, which says it’s against gun violence. I read their literature and I said, “Wait a minute, if you are going to do a benefit concert for an organization, why should it be against gun violence? Why shouldn’t we just be against violence?”

RONI TOLDANES: Do you also participate in competitive sports?

TED NUGENT: I do it all. If it goes bang, I shoot it. I do a lot of clay shooting. I do a lot of long-range target shooting and plinking. I’ve shot with Rich Davis at Second Chance pin shooting. I shoot in a lot of law enforcement competitions.

RONI TOLDANES: How many guns do you have?

TED NUGENT: Hundreds and hundreds of guns.

RONI TOLDANES: So you’re a gun collector?

TED NUGENT: Absolutely.

RONI TOLDANES: What’s your favorite gun?

TED NUGENT: My favorite gun right now is my carry gun. It’s a Glock Model 20 in 10mm loaded with custom Cor-Bon bullets. It’s a perfect carry gun and perfect big game gun as well. I used it extensively in Africa.

RONI TOLDANES: Your Assistant, Linda Peterson, says there’s probably one bad thing about Ted Nugent – he’s a perfectionist. That you like to do things right. But that could be a good thing, too. Are you a perfectionist?

TED NUGENT: I don’t think so. I want it the best you can.