The road to fame
(page 6 of 14)
Gary Busey wasn’t born in Tulsa, but the 67-year-old Academy Award-nominated actor spent his childhood and adolescent years in T-Town and looks back at those years fondly.
“Memories of Tulsa are all so brand new,” says Busey, who was born in Goose Creek, Texas, and moved to Tulsa in the fourth grade. “All of the streets are pretty much the same. It is like going back in a time zone where I feel almost like Alice in Wonderland but not quite that far.”
Busey attended Bell Junior High School and was among the first students to attend Nathan Hale High School, where he played football.
Busey says he owes much of his success to high school coaches during that time.
“If it wasn’t for those guys … I wouldn’t have the career I’m having,” he says, “because football is my foundation.”
Busey went on to receive a scholarship to play football at Coffeyville Junior College. He also attended Pittsburg State University and Oklahoma State University before heading west to Los Angeles with his band, The Rubber Band, in 1966.
“It was just LSD everywhere, long hair, no shirts, crazy antics on the Sunset Strip — incredible 1966,” he says.
Three years later, Busey began acting professionally, appearing in more than 100 films during his more than 40 years in the business. He received an Academy Award nomination for his turn as Buddy Holly in 1978’s “The Buddy Holly Story” and is known for his zany antics and offbeat perspective on the world on shows such as “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Celebrity Fit Club.”
Tulsans remember Busey’s role as Teddy Jack Eddy alongside Gailard Sartain’s Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi on “The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting.”
Busey, who has two adult children and recently had a baby with girlfriend Steffanie Sampson, will soon star in “Piranha 3DD,” which is scheduled for release in November.
He says he tries to visit Tulsa when he is traveling across the country and still has a soft spot for it and opinions on how it’s run — it was a mistake to close down Bell’s Amusement Park, he says. His brother, David Busey; sister-in-law; and nephew still reside in Tulsa, as do several old friends.
“It is just beautiful having soulmates in the city I grew up in and to go back and visit them,” he says. “The last time we saw each other felt like last weekend. It is really a nice connection of the truth. And the beautiful thing about the truth is that the truth requires no questions.”