We, the staff of Risen Magazine, are giddy upon knocking on the door of Gary Busey’s modest Malibu home with the immodest view that embraces most of Santa Monica Bay. A muffled voice accompanies footsteps followed by the opening of the door and surprise number one. Where is the expected dilapidated hollow box that once contained the academy award nominated actor? We face off instead with the Big Wednesday star, a little worn for the mileage, but fit and vibrant in faded jeans and a black T-shirt bearing the words: Crack the Code, presumably a reference to the controversial book, The Bible Code. Life streams from the room as if the seal of Biosphere II has been broken, and we are breathing in pure oxygen. At the door, phone stuck to ear, he motions downward with his hand and holds an index finger to his lips to reinforce his desire for absolute silence. With the door ajar, he walks away without asking us in, a gesture attributable in hindsight to tight focus rather than inconsideration.
Gary Busey looks well for a man who has survived cancer, cocaine addiction and, by his accounting, his own death. In fact he looks well for anyone who has circled the sun 58 times. We tiptoe over the floor as if it’s carpeted with bubble wrap and one pop could arouse a brood of sleeping pit bulls. Busey has not wandered far, close enough for us to faintly hear the signature tracks of that voice—Texas born, Oklahoma raised, Hollywood trained, God inspired. His words of faith are mixed with the sounds of the TV, which has been left on in the front room.
While the home’s exterior—late ‘50s—early ‘60s, single story stucco, is nearly indistinguishable from that of his neighbors and reveals nothing about the subject of this interview, the interior shouts volumes, as if we are entering The Gary Busey Museum. A glass case in the entryway displays an impressive Kachina doll collection, beaded moccasins and other American Indian artifacts. There’s a buffalo skull on a bookshelf, and a second glass case containing white sage, a purifying herb used in Native American ceremonies. All of this reflects Busey’s Delaware Indian heritage. Down the hall is a framed certificate announcing an academy award nomination for his portrayal of Buddy Holly in the 1978 release, The Buddy Holly Story. Aside from that, and a script with portions underlined, there is no indication that we are in the home of a movie star. Prominently displayed are photos of an elderly couple, apparently his parents, and a portrait of Gary with his son, Jake. Later that day, near the heart of the house, he shows us photos of himself and the woman on the phone, his estranged wife, Tiana. He looks more at home in these portraits with her than in any other photo in the vicinity.
Clues of Christianity include a black leather Bible on the coffee table, a rustic wooden and iron cross guarding the front door, and a 540 year old page taken from the Book of Revelation, mounted above the mantle.
After hanging up the phone, Busey stiffly shakes hands with each of us, asks us to be seated on the couch and sits down across from us. Abruptly, he asks me if I have any questions. I unfold the two pages that I have prepared after reading everything (much of it unflattering) that I can about him, reviewing various biographical sketches posted on the Internet, and watching Big Wednesday and Lethal Weapon again. Glimpses of Buddy Holly, the Masochist, Mister Joshua, and a character that he has spent a lifetime perfecting, the one that God has assigned him to play until the final curtain call, pass in review.
Now he is brewing coffee for himself, and us, his guests. Why a man who was pronounced dead and released from the hospital two months early when doctor’s claimed that he had “the energy of ten men who have normal jobs” needs a stimulant of any sort is beyond rational thought. But he’s had stronger Columbian imports than Folgers in his system before, and the term rational is about to be challenged, bent and in some cases completely demolished. During the one hour and 47 minutes offered to us from his precious time on earth, perceptions of life, death, life after death, and the actor known to millions as Gary Busey will be examined. What stands out on the screen: the hair, the teeth, the eyes are all prominent in person. What you could never measure cinematically, however, is the size of his heart and his capacity to create chaos.
Contradicting many of the Internet sites that slam him, he is clear eyed and focused, a spiritually revived Buddy Holly, interested in talking about another type of Rock. After a tense beginning, he requests that we relax, something that quite naturally causes all of us to tighten up further. Sitting back on the couch, I lob him question number one: “How did you first get saved? “Oh, stop it right there,” he snaps; “That’s an earth word, saved.” Earth word is a phrase from the Busey lexicon that I hope I translate correctly by saying that it is a spiritually ambiguous term that has no real heavenly significance. If I’m wrong, I’m sure that I’ll hear about it, directly from him. When question two results in a similar rebuke, I drop the hours of preparation along with my preconceptions, and concentrate instead on discovering the real Gary Busey. Maybe he appreciates the effort, or maybe the caffeine is kicking in. Regardless, he is soon pacing the living room floor like a shooting gallery bear, laughing, making faces, telling jokes. Brother Busey’s Revival Hour has begun, and we have front-row seats. It’s been about twenty minutes since we first entered the door, but I just now feel that we have been invited in, to hear and see the man stripped of his earth suit (Busey’s term for the body) reveal his soul. We’ve gone from the principal’s office to the room of the class clown. He asks me to turn the tape recorder back on, and we begin again.
His answers are sometimes puzzling, sometimes provocative, and always sincere. At his request, we move into the backyard, a space dominated by a weight bench and a series of dumbbells, nothing but native plants and Pacific Coast Highway between us and a breath-taking oceanic view that would include Hawaii, if not for the curvature of the earth and atmospheric haze. He invites the three of us to move in close, like he’s a camp counselor and we are the new kids in his charge. As he speaks, there is direct eye contact with each of us, one at a time, making his points all the more poignant.
The following words sound alternately like those of an eccentric stand-up comic, an electrified shaman, a street preacher and a wise man. They tell a lot about him, but I wish that you could have been there to see him playing hymns on his guitar, or singing a song for us that he composed about the afterlife. Then you would feel the warmth, hear the passion and love and joy that rings out beyond that Oklahoma/Texas drawl. To those seeking something fit for the church bulletin, a warning: Gary Busey’s views are radical, Christianity with the blood still on the body, and some may wonder if it’s Christianity at all. He differs on some points from the mainstream, but even the staunchest Southern Baptist will note the man’s dedication to his savior. For the moment, he is making good use of his earth suit, and the apparently inexhaustible supply of rocket fuel that propels it, as he goes about spreading the Word in his unique style.
Superman, a thrill ride at Magic Mountain makes a 104 story round trip in seven seconds. Imagine being strapped onto Superman for one-hour and forty-seven minutes. Now you have some idea of what it was like to interview Gary Busey.
Interviewed at Mr. Busey’s home in Santa Monica, CA.
Risen Magazine: When did you rededicate your life to Christ?
Gary Busey: I’ve always been dedicated to Christ, always. I died after massive brain surgery on December fourth, 1988. I hit my head on the curb after going 45 miles an hour on a Harley Davidson, without a helmet. I went to the other side where I was given a message with an androgynous voice. At this point, Busey again asks me to turn off the tape player, chastising all of us, “I can’t focus if you’re looking around.” Like all passionate people he only delights in something he can give his entire being to. With all eyes now riveted on him, his eyes, those infrared laser scopes that have paid the bills for the last 30 years, have us mercilessly pinned down.
RM: Have you ever experienced a miracle?
GB: They happen every day. The point is that you have to look up and see them coming and catch them. Don’t let them fall at your feet. Enlightenment must be received. Enlighten-ment is a mind that is opened to everything and yet attached to nothing. It’s freedom, there’s no baggage, resentment, grudges. You’re living in the now, and now is where the future begins. On earth as a human being, there’s a lot of fear.
People don’t want to hear the word God; they don’t want to hear the word Jesus. Fear comes from your childhood. Fear is the darkroom where the devil develops his negatives. People who are in fear create their own fear, that’s why I can say that I love my enemies, because my enemies show me things in myself that I need to change. Everyone’s here for a purpose—the purpose is finding your own identity, your own purity, finding unconditional love, learning to forgive, accepting that you are a child of God. When you are in this place of learning and practice it every day, wonderful, amazing, beautiful things will happen to you. Benjamin Franklin said, “The man who is rich rejoices with what he has.” God has blessed us to be a blessing in a most abundant and prosperous way.
Busey is gifted in creating acronyms. Some of his favorites are Bible: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Truth: Taking Real Under-standing to Heart. Trust: Talking Realistically, Understanding Sacred Truth. Hope: Heavenly Offerings Prevail Eternally.
GB: When you pray in appreciation to God for everything you’ve been through and everything you’re going through and everything that’s coming for you, then heavenly offerings will come to you forever.
I write automatically since my brain surgery. You are born with so much armor to keep in feelings, every man is born like that. It comes with a dinner on the unconscious menu. When I hit so hard that it split my skull open, I had brain damage. I don’t remember four and a half weeks of my life. I died, went to the other side and came back. The other side was beautiful. I was surrounded by golden balls of light, and those are the angels. Three of them came down and faced me. The one on the left talked to me in thought and in an androgynous voice. They were moving, a little smaller than soccer balls, they were white light, golden light. Unconditional love and truth was there, but beyond what you feel on earth. The first thing a person says when they die is ‘Why was I so serious?’ One of the things about having fun on earth is in finding yourself. Every one of you that hears these words and believes in Him as your savior will have a wonderful life. Take the time to look at yourself as a child of God, redeemed by Jesus who is the savior of all. It’s a beautiful thing to have gone through what I’ve gone through, and you need to understand; it’s going to happen to you. The difference between life and going to a great movie is that in life you pay on the way out. We must go through the jungle of life with the proper machete, the sword of the spirit. It will get you to the light and out of the darkness.
This came through me from Him: Your love inspires me to give you a fondue of my heart. A thankful position is the way to be in your own personal freedom, with your own personal power, that is thankful for everything you have been through, for everything you have done, everything you’ve failed at and everything you’ve accomplished. It’s all okay. Everything’s good. Power and freedom comes from your unconditional love, your voice, your independence, with no judgment to yourself or anyone else. Your spirit which is fuel, your intellect which is your steering wheel, will guide your emotions to the proper place of balance. Your truth, which is undeniable, never fails. Power and freedom comes from your spirit. Spirit creates power, freedom and truth, and power, freedom and truth create love. And love is God. So we have the ability to bring love right down inside of us, to where we live. To everyone who accepts Him. Life is forever and ever and ever. Sometimes you feel the wind is missing your sail. Sometimes you feel you’re under a spell, but you’re freefalling through heaven and hell.
The stage performance temporarily goes musical as Busey picks up his guitar and sings the aforementioned lyrics “Sometimes you feel the wind is missing your sail, Sometimes you feel you’re under a spell, but you’re freefalling through heaven and hell.” The song, Dancing in Twilight, is about his out of body experience. The words are reminiscent of George Harrison if he had been a Christian, the guitar playing adequate and the voice that once perfectly mimicked Buddy Holly, is still hanging onto a morning rasp that never completely departs from Busey’s vocal chords. “It’s very early in the morning for me to sing,” he says apologetically. “I felt like I was walking through a mine field with inhalers.” (Laughter all around)
I died, went to the other side and came back…
GB: I went from fourth grade to high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My parents took me to Sheridan Avenue Christian Church. I was in Youth for Christ. I went to Camp Christian, but church to me was boring, because my spirit was so big inside; it didn’t know how to get out. With the cocaine overdose on May the third, 1995 where my wife Tiani found me, with my motorcycle wreck, with a very rare cancer in the middle of my face. These things were given to me by God to go through, to understand the meaning of life in different ways.
There are 360 ways to see an elephant. I was told that by a tai chi master in Griffith Park in the ‘70s. I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said ‘One day you will see.’ One night I walked out to look at the full moon, and there was a perfect circle around it, 360 degrees. The moon is the elephant. You move around that circle one degree at a time and you see the same elephant from a different perspective, which is the truth from that perspective. The truth is what’s in your heart, and it’s the strongest weapon you have. Truth, Faith, Love and Hope. (He repeats those words, joyfully shouting them over again, directly into the tape recorder, for emphasis.) Those are four very strong arrows to carry with your spiritual bow.
RM: Do you combine your American Indian spirituality with your Christianity?
GB: Yeah, American Indian spirituality is very Christian. They’re so connected to the realities of living on earth, they honor the earth environmentally with their ceremonies and their rituals and their dances. The Kachinas, the Navahos and the Zunis, they dance for the fertilization of their crops, they dance for entertainment, they dance to teach kids not to do bad things. I’m Delaware Indian. I’m very proud to be an American Indian.
You know what I carry in my heart? Ambitious discipline. Ambitious discipline is good (shouting). It’s great. What comes with it is your fun and your celebration of life, for Him. You can’t go comparing earth reality with spiritual reality. If you see a stop sign on earth, you’d better stop. There are no stop signs in spirituality. It’s all go forward in the love of God and His angels. The beautiful thing about the angels is that they’re all around you. You know when you get goose bumps? What causes that is when you hear the truth. Down deep there will be an angel near you and it will touch you. Wherever that angel touches you, you’ll get goose bumps. I love life on earth. It’s just getting to the destination; that’s what we’re here to do. I’m starting to record my rock ‘n’ roll spiritual album. Right now it’s called The Forest of Angels. The song you heard me sing in my raspy morning voice is called Dancing in Twilight. Twilight is when many people pass to the other side. Everybody wants to know what they’re here for, what they’re going to do. You already have what you’re looking for inside of you; you just must find it, that’s finding your own truth. That’s what God wants, that’s what makes God smile, finding our own truth and helping others. First we love ourselves and then we love others.
RM: What occupies most of your time?
GB: Prayer, thinking in the spiritual realm. By having that as my first priority, the gifts, the experiences and the opportunities that God has given me come forth, and it just happens. It’s not like I’m pounding on doors to get people to hire me, it just comes, because I’ve accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. I live in faith every day. Faith: Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him. Believe you me, when you start to trust Jesus, the adventures are fantastic. We must be patient too. What’s good about patience is that nothing comes with it. A man can not be a man unless he can sit in a room alone and meditate and pray on the good things he is, and on the good things coming to him, and on the good things he’s been through.
A lot of people think that adultery is just cheating on your mate. Well, I’ve got a message that it’s not just cheating on your mate, it’s cheating on yourself. It’s lying to yourself. It’s not taking an opportunity that God has given you because of your fear. You’re being unfaithful to yourself.
The road to self adultery and marital adultery. Jealousy is the sin right behind vanity. Close behind vanity is vengeance. Vengeance comes from something in your past that gave jealousy its birth. It could be that you didn’t get enough attention, somebody got something better than you did in your family, you failed here, the other guy passed, you didn’t. All three sins: jealousy, vanity, vengeance create deceit and self deceit inside of you. After all three sins bond together comes lying. If you do, the garden of adultery will be planted, to germinate, to grow into lovely scented flowers that will perish before twilight. Print it well, so that they can read it well.
GB: Relationship: Really Exciting Love Affair, Turns Into Nightmare, Sobriety Hangs In Peril. Here’s what I was given to introduce the definition of friendship, which is the most important thing you’ve got going with yourself and with others. A great relationship is based on a pure friendship, and in a pure friendship the communication is beautiful, supportive, embracing, clear and truthful. Fear, anxiety, pain or anger will not be allowed in a pure friendship. The foundation of a best-friend connection is love, hope, faith, and love is the most enduring of them all. Friendship creates an open reality you cannot have without it. Friendship has nothing to do with the past, with anger, pain, deceit, anxiety, panic, depression. It only has to do with the now, which is where the future begins in a clear and open compatibility. I do agree that good and loving memories of the past should be included in a loving friendship. Friendship will give you the ability to be happy, excited and open. Your true friends are precious in every way—love them, listen to them, comfort them, support them, guide them, honor them, rejoice with them, pray with them and give to them and that will be given back to you when you know the ingredients of your friend’s worth, and their worth is in loving them for who they are. That is a pure friendship. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ.
RM: You’re obviously a much different person now than when you played the Masochist in Big Wednesday.
GB: No, not at all.
RM: I remember one scene from that movie where you kept asking the psychiatrist for a cigarette.
GB: That was improvised; we made that up. I have a great ability to compose visions with words in everything I do. I’ve been doing it all morning. In Big Wednesday, I went through that door like a bulldog in heat. That wasn’t a stunt door; that was a real door!
In Big Wednesday, I went through that door like a bulldog in heat. That wasnÕt a stunt was a real door!
RM: Where did you find the Mister Joshua character in Lethal Weapon?
GB: I had it figured out that when I did research on covert operations that Mister Joshua would walk through his grand-mother’s blood to get a postage stamp and not even blink. You look at Mister Joshua’s eyes, and it’s just like looking into the eyes of a shark. If the movie’s this long (holds fingers about four inches apart) I’ll build a back story this long (holds fingers about a foot apart). I’ll research and create the birth, the siblings, the parents, the peer groups, the school record, trouble with the law, honor student, incredible athlete, create something, invent something. Then when it comes to the first scene of that movie, I know it; I am it. The character has been wrapped around me and my heart comes through it. Whenever I’m playing the game of a player or a thespian, I’m not acting. Acting is the absence of acting, believing in the truth of the moment you’re creating at that time. Buddy Holly was a spiritual connection as well as a connection I had in being from Texas, growing up under the first generation of rock ‘n’ roll. I remember when those songs hit and I was 12 (breaks into a medley of Buddy Holly tunes). After I do my spiritual album I’m going to do a tribute album to Buddy Holly. The great thing about it is that these were the gifts given to me at birth by Him, by God. There’s a very strong prayer that I’d like to pass along to the readers. Take some time out every day and pray this prayer: Dear God in the name of Jesus, pour down your love on all the families. Dear God in the name of Jesus, pour down your love on all the people. Dear God in the name of Jesus Christ, pour down all of your love on the leaders and the politicians of this world. Bless them all in the name of Jesus Christ our savior, and forever will be. In His name and His name only we pray, we pray, we pray, we pray. Thank you Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen. The best way to worship God every day is to reflect His ways in your behavior. Back in the house, Busey is singing, dancing, entertaining us, his guests.
GB: You should see me by six in the evening. I’m about three feet off the ground; you should get a picture of that.
RM: Do you consider yourself more of an actor or a preacher?
GM: I consider myself a child of God, completely. Actor, preacher, earth words. Look into the thesaurus for how many ways you can say actor or preacher. Words can be an entrapment. The work that I do is very emotional. It can go either way, to the side that’s negative or to the side that’s positive. When I’m running on high emotions 80 percent of the time, that leaves ten percent for intellect and ten percent for spirit. So, who’s going to win that show? Nobody. The balance of the three pieces: emotions, which is your body, spirit, which is your fuel, intellect, which is your steering wheel, will guide you to a happy place without effort. Forget all that. Planning ahead for defeat is what it’s called. Look what you can do with all that you’ve been through when you’re going the right direction with Jesus Christ. Don’t restrict your spiritual expansion abilities by believing everything they say. Just listen to them, just take it in for information, and then pray to God for the answers and the opportunities to come to you in a way that He wants. Gary is just getting warmed up when it’s time to leave. He walks us to the car offering warm hugs and words of encouragement, including an offer to assist Risen Magazine in any way possible. He radiates so much life that I would expect Gary Busey’s best work as an actor and in the unseen realm to be ahead of him. I’m With Busey, a reality show featuring Gary Busey and Adam De La Pena can be viewed at 10 p.m. Pacific Time on Comedy Central.