CLOSE
Mill Creek Entertainment
Mill Creek Entertainment

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.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


Getty Images

There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
Getty Images
Getty Images

Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER