Tulsa's 'Bad Boy' Gary Busey
by Joanne Cramberg
Hollywood actor says he's found freedom from drug addiction
After decades of drug abuse and numerous brushes with death, Academy
Award nominee Gary Busey says he has finally found restoration and peace
in Jesus. Now the Tulsa bad boy, who is battling cancer, is preaching the
A year and a half ago, Busey hid in a sea of men attending a Promise
Keepers rally in Los Angeles. In a ball cap and casual clothes he easily
blended into the crowd of men listening to a message by Atlanta preacher
Wellington Boone. Sensing the Holy Spirit for the first time, Busey was
the first one to the front when the altar call was made.
The change was visible. When Busey returned home, his wife, who once
nicknamed him "Gary Abusey,"noticed his changed countenance.
The actor was raised in a Christian home. After graduating from high
school in 1962, Busey recalled the time he told his father that he wanted
to go to Hollywood to make music. His father answered simply, "You can
do everything through Christ."
In Hollywood his music brought little recognition, but the tall,
roguish Oklahoma boy soon got some big breaks. He was cast in a number
of television shows popular in the early 1970s, including High Chaparral
and Kung Fu. "And I was the last man killed on Gunsmoke," he brags.
He landed his first movie role in 1971 with Hell's Angels. Fifteen
movies later Busey landed his biggest break ever, the leading role in The
Buddy Holly Story in 1978. Busey sang, played the guitar and portrayed
the legendary rock'n roller. Hollywood took notice, and Busey received
an Oscar nomination.
His fame also brought some unwanted attention. In 1979 a man who
introduced himself as Òthe devilÓ delivered a gift to Busey's
door. The present was a large rock of cocaine with GB carved in it.
Busey's downward spiritual spiral began, but amazingly he remained
a hot Hollywood property. Fifteen movie roles were his in the 1980s, with
a starting role as college football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant in The Bear.
In 1988 a motorcycle accident almost took his life. During an operation
for a head injury, Busey claims he had a neardeath experience and heard
God tell him to seek spiritual help. But his cocaine addiction had strong-armed
Speaking in Tulsa in August at Guts Church, pastored by Bill Scheer,
and at a Promise Keepers rally held at Oral Roberts University, Busey presented
a candid testimony of his life.
Twelve hundred bikers street kids and fans crowded into Guts' warehouse
church. Busey told the congregation that "a star is simply a self-contained
mass of gas " I am not a star; I am a Christian."
Busey's enthusiasm seemed amazing in light of the fact he was recovering
from cancer surgery. A malignant tumor had been discovered in his sinus
cavity. Soon after the tumor was removed, Busey said he heard God speak
"I was praying at the time when I heard the Lord say, "Replace the
word fear with faith," he told the Tulsa audience.
Apparently Busey isn't ashamed of sharing his faith with friends
in the entertainment industry. "I am proud to tell Hollywood I am a Christian,"
he says. "For the first time I am now free to be myself."
He encouraged the Guts audience to remove the distractions from their
lives and receive Jesus. Following his 20-minute message, Busey prayed
for the audience, and Sheer gave an altar call. Nearly 100 people responded.
At the Promise Keepers event Busey described his problems with drugs
and alcohol. He discussed how hard it is for men to admit their mistakes,
then sang a song with the Promise Keepers Band. The audience of nearly
9,000 men stood to their feet and cheered.
Busey's most recent work included an appearance in a TV miniseries
about Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, aired on TNT. His latest movie, Fear
and Loathing in Las Vegas, stars actor Johnny Depp. It will be released
Hollywood has obviously typecast Busey as an addict. But the actor
says he's no longer the man he was. And he insists that he has plans to
reach Hollywood for Jesus.
JoAnne Cramberg in Tulsa