Thursday, April 24, 2014

Yee haw! 35 years of Dukes of Hazzard memories at Cooter's Place

When I was six-years-old, I wandered into the family room while my dad was watching what I considered to be an unbelievable show. There were a couple of guys having a police chase on dirt roads with a bright orange racecar. They slid around turns. They ran into each other. They jumped things with their car. It was the greatest thing I had ever witnessed in my entire life. Of course, dad was watching the pilot episode for The Dukes of Hazzard. And for the next six years, I absolutely had to tune in every Friday night. It was non-negotiable. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that today, I watch the Dukes DVDs regularly with my son. Luckily, he likes it as much as I do, so we get along just fine.

This weekend, my wife and son made their first trip to our new home in Nashville. And to get things started off right, we made a stop at the official Dukes of Hazzard museum at Cooter’s Place, just next door to the Grand Ole Opry. We didn’t even have to get all the way into the parking lot to figure out that we were in the right place. This is hallowed ground for Dukes fans. From the cars to the gift shop to the memorabilia, there are few places where this particular show is so thoroughly covered. Plus, the store is actually owned by Cooter himself, actor Ben Jones.

I guess the “show” cars are the biggest draw to this place. Of course, the famous “General Lee” ’69 Dodge Charger sits out front. Cooter’s tow truck is also out there, which makes sense, because it’s Cooter’s place. Inside, there is a Hazzard County Sherriff car and Daisy’s Jeep CJ-7. I don’t know if these cars were really used on the show or not, but they were banged up enough that they could have been. And even if they were imposters, they looked the part. We didn’t know the difference.

They also had some “real” General Lee parts that were removed from cars that did appear on the show. There was a whole case full of interior parts, a roof, and even a door. They used hundreds of late-‘60s Chargers during the course of the show, as they tended to destroy them during the jumps and stunts. Parts that weren’t as mangled up on one car would make their way to another car. I read somewhere that they would fly around Los Angeles in a helicopter and look for Chargers in people’s driveways that they could buy. It’s amazing that there are any of these cars left out there at all.

The most incredible part about this museum was the collection of officially licensed merchandise. I thought I was a pretty big fan, but I didn’t realize that there was this much stuff made over the years. I do recognize some of it, of course, like this plastic Roscoe P. Coltrane police car. This was a Happy Meal box from McDonald’s, and I distinctly remember how excited I was to get one. They also had the General Lee, Boss Hogg’s Cadillac, Uncle Jesse’s pickup, and Daisy’s Jeep. Was there ever a greater Happy Meal container? I would have to say, without a doubt, no.

They also had an area that was set up to look a kid’s Dukes fan bedroom, circa 1982, and lots of stuff that was actually connected to the show. It was pretty interesting to see actual scripts, props and pieces from various episodes, and even a Hazzard County Sherriff’s uniform. Quite a bit of these things were signed, because cast members regularly come here for autograph sessions. This was a comprehensive collection to be sure.

Admission to the museum is free, but they charge you to get your photo taken in the cars. They also have a gift shop, which is pretty expensive, so they’ll get your money somehow. But for true Dukes of Hazzard fans, it’s worth it. Check out my slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.

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