For this week’s “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “TELEVISION” and go with “B.J. and the Bear“. This television show started in 1979, and was over in 1981. I always remember watching this show with my Dad. Seeing that big semi and the chimp pull the cable for the horn…priceless!!
“B.J. and the Bear” wasn’t around for very long, but almost every time you see a red & white diesel truck, you think of the show. Also, I’ve heard the theme song on some “back in the day” shows and it’s one that you can’t forget, if you watched it as often as I did!
For those of you, who are either too young, or just don’t remember it, here’s a video of “B.J. and the Bear” intro:
“B.J. and the Bear” is one that most people from the 1970’s and early 1980’s will remember. What could be better than seeing a chimp in a semi?
So, did you ever watch this show when you were younger? or have you seen it on TV later in life? Let me know what you thought of it, and if you have any memories of it in your life!
More Info on the Television Series:
Greg Evigan stars as B. J. (Billie Joe) McKay, a professional freelance itinerant trucker who travels the country’s highways in a red and white Kenworth K-100 cab over semi truck with his pet chimpanzee Bear (named after Bear Bryant, the famed football coach for the University of Alabama). He is constantly harassed by Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo (Claude Akins, (who had previously starred in the trucking series Movin’ On), whose character eventually spun off onto his own show The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo along with guest character “Waverly” Ben Cooper). Episodes typically deal with B.J. uncovering or getting mixed up with crime in the area he’s traveling through, and a local resident—usually, a young, beautiful woman—appealing to him for help.
Two episodes in season two, “Eyes Of Texas” (1979) and “The Girls On The Hollywood High” (1980), were designed as prospective pilots for a series about a pair of private detectives called Heather Fern (Rebecca Reynolds) and Caroline Capoty (Lorrie McCaffrey in the first one, Heather Thomas in the second). The latter episode has cameo appearances from John S. Ragin and Robert Ito as their characters from Quincy, M.E. (also a Glen A. Larson series).
In 1981, when the show returned from hiatus with the two-part episode “B. J. And The Seven Lady Truckers” (not to be confused with the season two opener “Snow White And The Seven Lady Truckers,” also a two-parter), B. J. has settled down to run Bear Enterprises, a trucking company based in Los Angeles. His nemesis is Rutherford T. Grant (Murray Hamilton), the corrupt head of the state’s Special Crimes Action Team, who is a secret partner in a competing trucking company. Because of Grant’s harassment, B. J. is unable to hire experienced truckers, and is forced to hire seven beautiful young female truckers, consisting of Grant’s daughter Cindy (Sherilyn Wolter), twins Teri and Geri (Candi and Randi Brough), no-nonsense Angie (Sheila Wills), Samantha (Amanda Horan Kennedy), Callie (Linda McCullough), and a busty blonde nicknamed “Stacks” (Judy Landers).
Although the television show “B.J. and the Bear” only ran from 1978 to 1981, the truck behind the show remains a show-stopper over 30 years later.
OOIDA headquarters was abuzz on Thursday when Life Member Craig Sagehorn from Sparta, WI, stopped by in his famous 1980 Kenworth cabover, one of the trucks driven by character B.J. McKay in the TV show.
Craig and his son, Paul Sagehorn, bought the truck from a man in Douglasville, GA, in 2007 and rebuilt it. They took it completely apart and sandblasted it. While restoring the truck, Paul found the inscription “BJ and the Bear by WS” under a bunch of rust where the fifth wheel was welded.
Craig drives it mostly for local hauls of about a hundred miles, although he told “Land Line Now” he left Wisconsin about three weeks and 7,000 miles ago, hauling potatoes to Miami, FL; liquid eggs to San Antonio, TX; and rice to Boise, ID. He was headed to Raleigh, NC, to deliver potatoes and onions when he visited OOIDA in Grain Valley, MO, and will run another 5,000 miles before he sees Wisconsin again.
It’s not uncommon for people to approach Craig and shake his hand and thank him for saving history.
“We didn’t go at it with that attitude. It’s just a really neat truck,” Craig said. His son watched the show as a kid and at 30 years old decided he wanted one.
The Sagehorns originally had a 1984 Kenworth Aerodyne they painted to look like the “B.J. McKay” truck. They bought that truck in 1999 and sold it in 2008 after they found the “real” truck.
The 1980 Kenworth is from the 1981 season of the show, according to Craig. They found it on the Internet and called the owner, who wasn’t actually looking to sell the truck, Paul told Land Line. They made an offer and are the fifth owners of the truck.
“Anybody that’s ever seen the show knows the truck instantly,” Craig said. He added that four years ago a guy got on the CB and sang the “BJ and the Bear” theme song when he passed by. (*)
Some of the Characters:
Greg Evigan (B.J. McKay) was born in South Amboy, New Jersey, Greg Evigan auditioned and won a part in the Broadway show “Jesus Christ Superstar”one month after graduating from high school. He also joined the cast of another touring company, playing the lead in the musical “Grease”. He has had much success in television and has had two hit series, B.J. and the Bear (1978) and My Two Dads (1987).
Bear (Moe the Chimpanzee) Chimp or child, Moe’s popularity soon spread in the Davises’ town of West Covina, Calif. He was called on to entertain children, and got some work in show business. He was one of several chimps cast in the 1980s sitcom, “B.J. and the Bear.” But the welcome eventually wore off, when Moe jumped from his cage one day in 1998 and ran into the neighborhood. An accidental electric shock frightened him. Friends of the family calmed him down, but he got spooked again when the police showed up, and he attacked the squad car, then went after a cop. Animal control officers subdued Moe with a tranquilizer gun, and Moe was returned to his cage. But a year later, Moe bit a woman’s finger, and the people of West Covina demanded he be removed from their neighborhood. “I was insulted,” Davis said. “I felt betrayed by the same city that I felt we did a lot for in all the previous years.” The city charged the couple with the crime of harboring a dangerous animal, and kept Moe in custody as evidence. But after a protracted legal battle that saw the charges dropped and four more years, Moe was moved to the Animal Haven Ranch, which housed a number of retired chimp actors, in a canyon 30 miles east of Bakersfield.
Judy Landers (Stacks) was one of the popular character actresses in both action series like B.J. and the Bear (1978) and Vega$ (1978), as well as in a multitude of situation comedies during the 1980’s. Although a student of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Judy has tried her hand at dramas, but because of her ability to play naive, innocent or sometimes even dimwitted characters, the blonde bombshell seems to have excelled more in comedies. She has appeared in series such as Night Court (1984) and The Love Boat (1977), and in films such as Stewardess School (1986) and Dr. Alien (1989). She is married to baseball player Tom Niedenfuer and they have two daughters, Lindsey and Kristy. Judy and her older sister Audrey Landers have appeared together in many projects, but one of the projects nearest and dearest to them seems to have been The Huggabug Club (1995), a children’s series which they produced for Public Broadcasting. The duo not only starred in the series, they (along with their mother Ruth Landers) produced the series, and contributed most of the music to it, as well.
Claude Atkins (Lt. Elroy Lobo) had wavy black hair, a deep booming voice and was equally adept at playing sneering cowardly villains as he was at portraying hard-nosed cops. The son of a police officer, Akins never seemed short of work and appeared in nearly 100 films and 180+ TV episodes in a career spanning over 40 years. He originally attended Northwestern University, and went on to serve with the US Army Signal Corps in World War II in Burma and the Phillipines. Upon returning, he reignited his interest in art and drama and first appeared in front of the camera in 1953 in From Here to Eternity (1953). He quickly began notching up roles in such TV shows as Dragnet (1951), My Friend Flicka (1955), Gunsmoke (1955) and Zane Grey Theater (1956). He also turned in several strong cinematic performances, such as gunfighter Joe Burdette in the landmark western Rio Bravo (1959), Mack in the excellent The Defiant Ones (1958), Sgt. Kolwicz in Merrill’s Marauders (1962) and Earl Sylvester in the gripping The Killers (1964). In the early 1970s Akins turned up in several supernatural TV films playing “no-nonsense” sheriffs in both The Night Stalker (1972) and The Norliss Tapes (1973), and was unrecognizable underneath his simian make-up as war-mongering Gen. Aldo in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Akins continued starring in films and TV right up until the time of his death from cancer in 1994. By all reports a very gregarious, likable and friendly person off screen, Akins was married for over 40 years to Theresa “Pie” Fairfield, and had three children, Claude Marion Jr., Michele & Wendy.
Did You Know?
When this show was an instant hit, the producers quickly spun off Sheriff Lobo’s character in The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo (1979). However, ratings quickly dried up, and neither show lasted long. To make a more compelling product for syndication, all episodes of both shows were packaged as a bundle titled “The B.J./Lobo Show”.
BJ’s Kenwoth can still be see at truck shows around the country.
“The Bear” was named after Paul William “Bear” Bryant, who was head coach of the University of Alabama’s football team from 1958 until his death in 1982.
In the series Breaking Bad, a replica of the red and white Kenworth appears in the episode “One Minute”. In the Breaking Bad Original Mini Episode “Just Married”, character Hank Schrader makes a pun with the show’s title as “B. J. and the Bear, minus the bear”.
In the South Park episode The Ring, Cartman quotes the theme song, referencing “B. J. McKay and his best friend Bear.”
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