11 Full-Throttle Facts About Renegade

Mill Creek Entertainment
Mill Creek Entertainment

Following a decade playing scheming vineyard heir Lance Cumson on the primetime soap Falcon Crest, Lorenzo Lamas landed the role that would cement him as the face of 1990s syndicated action beefcake: Reno Raines, the cop-turned-fugitive bounty hunter in Renegade. Airing from 1992 to 1997, the contemporary Western was an amiable exercise in two-fisted melodrama, with Raines “prowling the badlands” of the West Coast under the employ of bondsman Bobby Sixkiller (Branscombe Richmond) and evading capture by crooked marshal Donald “Dutch” Dixon (Stephen J. Cannell, who also created the series).

While never a critical success, Renegade—which is currently streaming on Hulu—enjoyed a 110-episode run. Check out some details on casting, how Bon Jovi helped sell it to syndicators, and how Reno’s trademark duster lives on.

1. BON JOVI HELPED SELL THE SHOW.

A prolific writer, Stephen J. Cannell (The A-Team, The Rockford Files, Wiseguy) hatched the concept for Renegade to capitalize on the burgeoning market for syndicated series. (In first-run syndication, original shows are sold directly to local stations as opposed to networks.) In order to summarize the show, Cannell hired director Ralph Hemecker to cut a montage set to Bon Jovi's “Wanted Dead or Alive” and showed it to buyers during a television convention. Although it didn’t feature any scenes that wound up in the series—like Lamas swinging from a rope while firing a machine gun—the package was impressive enough to secure buyers. The sequence was eventually used for the opening titles, minus the Bon Jovi track and with a voiceover narration (“He was a cop and good at his job, but he committed the ultimate sin and testified against other cops gone bad …") by movie trailer veteran Don LaFontaine.

2. STEPHEN J. CANNELL WASN’T HAPPY WITH THE FIRST SEASON.

Labeled “The Fugitive on a Harley” by critics, the debut season of Renegade struggled to find its bearings. Like Richard Kimble, Raines often found himself as the mysterious drifter who intervenes in a small-town problem, but the larger issue—being framed for the murder of his fiancée by crooked cop Dixon—was minimized. “The characters needed to be more human,” Lamas told The Washington Post in 1993. “Reno would just show up to where he needed to be, but how did he get there? Why doesn't he leave the country? Why does he hang around and wait to be picked up by a cop who sees his poster?”

3. THE BIKE WAS TREATED LIKE A CO-STAR.

A screen shot from the opening sequence of 'Renegade'
Renegade, YouTube

With its flame-paneled sides, Raines’s Harley was a perpetual presence in the series. A number of stunt bikes were used, but there was also a shiny model kept away from any dirt-caked scenes so it could be shown off. That bike was “for the glamour shots,” according to Lamas. The show was reportedly popular among Harley aficionados, who may have been pleased to hear that Cannell’s original title was Vincent Black, Raines’s alias as well was a play on his bike model: a black Vincent.

4. THE SHOW CONVINCED LORENZO LAMAS TO GET HIS PILOT’S LICENSE.

With most of the show’s shooting centered about 25 miles outside San Diego, Lamas was facing logistical problems in seeing his children, who lived with their mother in Lake Havasu, Arizona and would have to miss a school day traveling in order to see him. To expedite the trip, Lamas decided to get his pilot’s license so he could fly to Lake Havasu, pick them up, and have the weekend with them. He now operates commercial helicopter trips over New York City.

5. CANNELL PLAYED THE BAD GUY.

Writer and producer Stephen J. Cannell is seen at a public appearance
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

It’s unusual for a series creator to play one of the leading roles in a show, but Cannell saw Renegade as an opportunity to chew scenery as “Dutch” Dixon, the Lieutenant Gerard to Raines’s Dr. Richard Kimble. Cannell made a handful of appearances every season in numerous failed attempts to kill Raines. The writer later recalled that 10 to 15 actors had auditioned for the role before Lamas suggested Cannell play the role himself.

6. LAMAS HAD HIS WIFE HIRED—AND FIRED.

Married for a third time to actress Kathleen Kinmont in 1989, Lamas wrote in his 2015 autobiography, Renegade at Heart, that he feared that being on location in San Diego while Kinmont remained in Burbank would be detrimental to their marriage. Cannell agreed to cast Kinmont as Cheyenne Phillips, Bobby’s sister, who perpetually pines for Raines.

The couple divorced (offscreen) in 1993. According to Lamas, the presence of his new girlfriend, model and actress Shauna Sand, made his working relationship with Kinmont contentious. After hearing her make some disparaging remarks about Sand on The Howard Stern Show, Lamas petitioned Cannell to have Kinmont removed from the series. He complied, and Cheyenne disappeared from view.

7. JOHNNY CASH GUEST-STARRED.

Musician Johnny Cash is seen at a public appearance
Scott Gries/Getty Images

The famed country singer made sporadic appearances on television in the 1990s, including a recurring role on Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman. For a 1996 episode of Renegade, Cash appeared as a bail jumper who accompanies Reno on a Christmas Carol-inspired tour of how the world would be if he had been gunned down instead of becoming a fugitive.

8. APOLLO CREED DIRECTED AN EPISODE.

Actor Carl Weathers wound up behind the camera for some of Cannell’s shows, directing multiple episodes of the USA detective drama Silk Stalkings and one 1995 episode of Renegade, where Raines goes undercover as a male gigolo to bust a drug ring.

9. THERE WAS A HIDDEN VISUAL IN THE OPENING CREDITS.

A shot from the opening sequence of 'Renegade'
Jeff Cook, YouTube

Generally not a show that favored subtlety, Renegade still managed to pull off one fairly low-key nod to one of its inspirations. During the opening credits sequence, Raines can be seen biking down a dusty path that takes the shape of a "Z." That was director Hemecker's nod to Zorro, the pulp character who comes to the aid of strangers.

10. LAMAS ENDURED A PRETTY BAD WIG IN THE FINAL SEASON.

A screen shot from the television series 'Renegade'
Jeff Cook, YouTube

For four seasons, Lamas maintained Reno's outlaw-biker aesthetic by frequently appearing shirtless, tattooed, and wearing sleeveless leather vests to dinner engagements. Prior to shooting the show's last season, Lamas opted for a shorter haircut. That concession to conformity was out of character, so producers fitted him with a somewhat unfortunate-looking wig. The actor later referred to it as "roadkill" on Twitter.

11. THE DUSTER OUTLIVED THE SHOW.

With the badlands of California being excessively dirt-encrusted, Reno Raines kept comfortable by wearing a large duster—a full-length coat favored by horsemen—throughout the show. A similar jacket has been spotted periodically throughout FX’s long-running comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The character of Mac (Rob McElhenney) favors the attire because, as he once explained, “I look like Lorenzo Lamas and women find it irresistible.”

This Damn Fine Twin Peaks Box Set Is the Only One Fans Will Ever Need

Amazon
Amazon

Fans of David Lynch’s three-season drama Twin Peaks know there’s quite a lot to excavate. The series, which ran from 1990 to 1991 on ABC and returned for a one-season engagement on Showtime in 2017, has been a perpetual source of ambiguity, red herrings, and the downright inexplicable.

Now there’s a centralized hub of all things Peaks to dwell on. Twin Peaks: From Z to A is a Blu-ray box set containing all episodes of the original series; 1992’s feature film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me; 2017's Twin Peaks: The Return; an international version of the 1990 pilot with additional footage; as well as an abundance of new and archival material totaling 20 hours in length.

The box for the 'Twin Peaks: From Z to A' Blu-ray DVD set is pictured
Amazon

Inside the package, which is illustrated with the Douglas firs that are part of the show’s iconography, are mini-figures of Special Agent Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer, played in the show by Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee, respectively. The box acts as a diorama of sorts and opens to reveal the Red Room, a location where many of the show’s most surreal moments took place. A series of three-by-five index cards provide backdrops of key scenes. The only thing the set doesn’t have is Lynch’s hand-drawn map of the show’s Washington location, but you can find that here.

The set is limited to 25,000 copies. It retails for $139.99 on Amazon and is due for release on December 10.

[h/t Newsweek]

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Unraveling the Many Mysteries of Neil Diamond's 'Sweet Caroline'

Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

The story of Neil Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline" has it all: love, baseball, Kennedys, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and the triumph of the human spirit. It’s pop’s answer to the national anthem, and as any karaoke belter or Boston Red Sox fan will tell you, it’s way easier to sing than "The Star-Spangled Banner." As the song celebrates its 50th birthday this year, now’s a good time—so good, so good, so good—to dig into the rich history of a tune people will still be singing in 2069.

"Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing," Diamond sings in the song’s iconic opening lines. Except the "where" part of this story is actually pretty simple: Diamond wrote "Sweet Caroline" in a Memphis hotel room in 1969 on the eve of a recording session at American Sound Studio. By this point in his career, Diamond had established himself as a fairly well-known singer-songwriter with two top-10 hits—"Cherry Cherry" and "Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon"—to his name. He’d also written "I’m a Believer," which The Monkees took to #1 in late 1966.

 

The "who," as in the identity of the "Caroline" immortalized in the lyrics, is the much juicier question. In 2007, Diamond revealed that he was inspired to write the song by a photograph of Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy, that he saw in a magazine in the early ‘60s, when he was a "young, broke songwriter."

"It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony," Diamond told the Associated Press. "It was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there.” Years later, in that Memphis hotel room, the song was finally born.

Neil Diamond sings the National Anthem prior to Super Bowl XXI between the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos at the Rose Bowl on January 25, 1987 in Pasadena, California
George Rose/Getty Images

Perhaps because it’s a little creepy, Diamond kept that tidbit to himself for years and only broke the news after performing the song at Kennedy’s 50th birthday in 2007. "I’m happy to have gotten it off my chest and to have expressed it to Caroline," Diamond said. "I thought she might be embarrassed, but she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy."

The plot thickened in 2014, however, as Diamond told the gang at NBC’s TODAY that the song is really about his first wife, Marsha. "I couldn’t get Marsha into the three-syllable name I needed,” Diamond said. "So I had Caroline Kennedy’s name from years ago in one of my books. I tried ‘Sweet Caroline,’ and that worked."

It certainly did. Released in 1969, "Sweet Caroline" rose to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the decade that followed, it was covered by Elvis Presley, soul great Bobby Womack, Roy Orbison, and Frank Sinatra. Diamond rates Ol’ Blue Eyes’ version the best of the bunch.

"He did it his way," Diamond told The Sunday Guardian in 2011. "He didn't cop my record at all. I've heard that song by a lot of people and there are a lot of good versions. But Sinatra's swingin', big-band version tops them all by far."

 

Another key question in the "Sweet Caroline" saga is "why"—why has the song become a staple at Fenway Park in Boston, a city with no discernible connection to Diamond, a native of Brooklyn?

It’s all because of a woman named Amy Tobey, who worked for the Sox via BCN Productions from 1998 to 2004. During those years, Tobey had the wicked awesome job of picking the music at Sox games. She noticed that "Sweet Caroline" was a crowd-pleaser, and like any good baseball fan, she soon developed a superstition. If the Sox were up, and Tobey thought they were going to win the game, she’d play the song somewhere in between the seventh and ninth innings.

"I actually considered it like a good luck charm," Tobey told The Boston Globe in 2005. "Even if they were just one run [ahead], I might still do it. It was just a feel." It became a regular thing in 2002, when Fenway’s new management asked Tobey to play "Sweet Caroline" during the eighth inning of every home game, regardless of the score.

At first, Tobey was worried that mandatory Diamond would lead to bad luck on the actual diamond. But that wasn’t the case, as the Sox won the World Series in 2004, ending the "Curse of the Bambino" and giving Beantown its first title since 1918. In 2010, Diamond made a surprise appearance at Fenway to perform "Sweet Caroline" during the Red Sox's season opener against the New York Yankees. He wore a Sox cap and a sports coat emblazoned with the message "Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn."

 

A different mood greeted Diamond when he returned to Fenway on April 20, 2013, just five days after bombings at the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured nearly 300 others. "What an honor it is for me to be here today," Diamond told the crowd. "I bring love from the whole country." He then sang along with the ‘69 recording of the song, leading the crowd in the "Ba! Ba! Ba!" and "So good! So good! So good!" ad-libs that have essentially become official lyrics. Diamond also donated all the royalties he received from the song that week, as downloads increased by 597 percent.

The Red Sox aren't the only sports team to have basked in the glory of "Sweet Caroline." The song has become popular with both the Penn State Nittany Lions and Iowa State Cyclones football squads and has even crossed the Atlantic to become part of the music rotation for England's Castleford Tigers crew team and Britain's Oxford United Football Club.

Over the last five decades, millions of people have had their lives touched by "Sweet Caroline" in one way or another. The enduring popularity must be a pleasant surprise for Diamond, who had no idea he’d written a classic back in 1969. "Neil didn't like the song at all," Tommy Cogbill, a bass player at American Sound Studio, said in an interview for the 2011 book Memphis Boys. "I actually remember him not liking it and not wanting it to be a single."

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