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.”

7 Things You Might Not Know About Mario Lopez

Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley
Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley

While several of the actors featured in the 1990s young-adult series Saved by the Bell have fared well following the show’s end in 1994, Mario Lopez is in a class by himself. The versatile actor-emcee can be seen regularly on Extra, as host of innumerable beauty pageants, and as the author of several best-selling books on fitness. For more on Lopez, check out some of the more compelling facts we’ve rounded up on the multi-talented performer.

1. A WITCH DOCTOR SAVED HIS LIFE.

Born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California to parents Mario and Elvia Lopez, young Mario was initially the picture of health. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. In his 2014 autobiography, Just Between Us, Lopez wrote that he began having digestive problems immediately after birth, shrinking to just four pounds. Though doctors administered IV hydration, they told his parents nothing more could be done. Desperate, his father reached out to a witch doctor near Rosarito, Mexico who had cured his spinal ailments years earlier. The healer mixed a drink made of Pedialyte, Carnation evaporated milk, goat’s milk, and other unknown substances. It worked: Lopez kept it down and began growing, so much so that his mother declared him “the fattest baby you had ever seen in your life.”

2. HE STARTED ACTING AT 10.

A highly active kid who got involved in both tap and jazz dancing and amateur wrestling, Lopez was spotted by a talent scout during a dance competition at age 10 and was later cast in a sitcom, a.k.a. Pablo, in 1984. That led to a role in the variety show Kids Incorporated and in the 1988 Sean Penn feature film Colors. In 1989, at the age of 16, he won the role of Albert Clifford “A.C.” Slater in Saved by the Bell. By 1992, Lopez was making public appearances at malls, where female fans would regularly toss their underthings in his direction.

3. HE COULD PROBABLY BEAT YOU UP.

Lopez wrestled as an amateur throughout high school. According to the Chula Vista High School Foundation, Lopez was a state placewinner at 189 pounds in 1990. (On Saved by the Bell, Slater was also a wrestler.) He later complemented his grappling ability with boxing, often sparring professionals like Jimmy Lange and Oscar De La Hoya in bouts for charity. In 2018, Lopez posted on Instagram that he received his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Gracie Barra Glendale instructor Robert Hill.

4. HE TURNED DOWN PLAYGIRL.

Lopez’s active lifestyle has made for a trim physique, but he’s apparently unwilling to take off more than his shirt. In 2008, Lopez said he was approached to pose for Playgirl but declined. The magazine reportedly offered him $200,000.

5. HE WAS MARRIED FOR TWO WEEKS.

Lopez had a well-publicized marriage to actress Ali Landry, but not for all the right reasons. The two were married in April 2004 and split just two weeks later, with Landry alleging Lopez had not been faithful. Lopez later disclosed he had made a miscalculation during his bachelor party in Mexico, cheating on Landry just days before the ceremony.

6. HE APPEARED ON BROADWAY.

Lopez joined the cast of Broadway’s A Chorus Line in 2008, portraying Zach, the director who coaches the cast of aspiring dancers. (It was his first stage appearance since he participated in a grade school play, where he played a tree.) His run, which lasted five months, was perceived to be part of a rash of casting choices on Broadway revolving around hunky performers to attract audiences. The role was thought to be the start of a resurgence for Lopez, who had previously appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has been a co-host of the pop culture newsmagazine show Extra since 2007.

7. HE BELIEVES HIS DOG SUFFERED FROM POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

In 2010, Lopez and then-girlfriend (now wife) Courtney Mazza had their first child, Gia. According to Lopez, his French bulldog, Julio César Chavez Lopez, exhibited signs of depression following the new addition to the household. Lopez also said he used his extensive knowledge of dogs to better inform his voiceover work as a Labrador retriever in 2009’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas and 2010’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation.

The Legend of Cry Baby Lane: The Lost Nickelodeon Movie That Was Too Scary for TV

Nickelodeon, Viacom
Nickelodeon, Viacom

Several years ago, rumors about a lost Nickelodeon movie branded too disturbing for children’s television began popping up around the internet. They all referenced the same plot: A father of conjoined twins was so ashamed of his sons that he hid them away throughout their childhood. (This being a made-for-TV horror movie, naturally one of the twins was evil.)

After one twin got sick the other soon followed, with both boys eventually succumbing to the illness. To keep the town from discovering his secret, the father separated their bodies with a rusty saw and buried the good one at the local cemetery and the evil one at the end of a desolate dirt road called Cry Baby Lane, which also happened to be the title of the rumored film. According to the local undertaker, anyone who ventured down Cry Baby Lane after dark could hear the evil brother crying from beyond the grave.

Cry Baby Lane then jumps to present day (well, present day in 2000), where a group of teens sneaks into the local graveyard in an effort to contact the spirit of the good twin. After holding a seance, they learn that the boys' father had made a mistake and mixed up the bodies of his children—burying the good son at the end of Cry Baby Lane and the evil one in the cemetery. Meaning those ghostly wails were actually the good twin crying out for help. But the teens realized the error too late: The evil twin had already been summoned and quickly began possessing the local townspeople.

MOVIE OR MYTH?

Parents were appalled that such dark content ever made it onto the family-friendly network, or so the story goes, and after airing the film once the Saturday before Halloween in 2000, Nickelodeon promptly scrubbed it from existence. But with no video evidence of it online for years, some people questioned whether Cry Baby Lane had ever really existed in the first place.

“Okay, so this story sounds completely fake, Nick would NEVER air this on TV,” one Kongregate forum poster said in September 2011. “And why would this be made knowing it’s for kids? This story just sounds too fake …”

While the folklore surrounding the film may not be 100 percent factual, Nickelodeon quickly confirmed that the “lost” Halloween movie was very real, and that it did indeed contained all the rumored twisted elements that have made it into a legend.

Before Cry Baby Lane was a blip in Nick’s primetime schedule, it was nearly a $100 million theatrical release. Peter Lauer, who had previously directed episodes of the Nick shows The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Adventures of Pete & Pete, co-wrote the screenplay with KaBlam! co-creator Robert Mittenthal. Cry Baby Lane, which would eventually spawn urban legends of its own, was inspired by a local ghost story Lauer heard growing up in Ohio. “There was a haunted farmhouse, and if you went up there at midnight, you could hear a baby crying and it’d make your high school girlfriend scared,” he told The Daily.

BIG SCARES ON A SMALL BUDGET

Despite Nickelodeon’s well-meaning intentions, parent company Paramount wasn’t keen on the idea of turning the screenplay into a feature film. The script was forgotten for about a year, until Nick got in touch with Lauer about producing Cry Baby Lane—only this time as a $800,000 made-for-TV movie. The director gladly signed on.

Even with the now-meager budget, Cry Baby Lane maintained many of the same elements of a much larger picture. In a bid to generate more publicity around the project, Nickelodeon cast Oscar nominee Frank Langella as the local undertaker (a role Lauer had originally wanted Tom Waits to play). All the biggest set pieces from the screenplay were kept intact, and as a result, the crew had no money left to do any extra filming.

Only two scenes from the movie ended up getting cut—one that alluded to skinny dipping and another that depicted an old man’s head fused onto the body of a baby in a cemetery. The story of a father performing amateur surgery on the corpses of his sons, however, made it into the final film.

The truth of what happened after Cry Baby Lane premiered on October 28, 2000 has been muddied over the years. In most retellings, Nickelodeon received an "unprecedented number" of complaints about the film and responded by sealing it away in its vault and acting like the whole thing never happened. But if that version of events is true, Nick has never acknowledged it.

Even Lauer wasn’t aware of any backlash from parents concerned about the potentially scarring effects of the film until The Daily made him aware of the rumors years later. “All I know is that they aired it once,” he told the paper. “I just assumed they didn’t show it again because they didn’t like it! I did it, I thought it failed, and I moved on.”

But the idea that the movie was pulled from airwaves for being too scary for kids isn’t so far-fetched. Though Cry Baby Lane never shows the conjoined twins being sawed apart on screen, it does pair the already-unsettling story with creepy images of writhing worms, broken glass, and animal skulls. This opening sequence, combined with the spooky, empty-eyed victims of possession that appear later, and multiple scenes where a child gets swallowed by a grave, may have made the film slightly more intense than the average episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

IMPERFECT TIMING

Cry Baby Lane premiered at a strange time in internet history: Too early for pirated copies to immediately spring up online yet late enough for it to grow into a web-fueled folktale. The fervor surrounding the film peaked in 2011, when a viral Reddit thread about Cry Baby Lane caught the attention of one user claiming to have the so-called “lost” film recorded on VHS. He later uploaded the tape for the world to view and suddenly the lost movie was lost no longer.

News of the unearthed movie made waves across the web, and instead of staying quiet and waiting for the story to die down, Nickelodeon decided to get in on the hype. That Halloween, Nick aired Cry Baby Lane for the first time in over a decade. Regardless of whether the movie had previously been banned or merely forgotten, the network used the mystery surrounding its origins to their PR advantage.

“We tried to freak people out with it,” a Nick employee who worked at The 90s Are All That (now The Splat), the programming block that resurrected Cry Baby Lane (and who wished to remain anonymous) said of the promotional campaign for the event. “They were creepy and a little glitchy. We were like, ‘This never aired because it was too scary and we’re going to air it now.’”

Cry Baby Lane now makes regular appearances on Nickelodeon’s '90s block around Halloween, which likely means Nick hasn’t received enough complaints to warrant locking it back in the vault. And during less spooky times of the year, nostalgic horror fans can find the full movie on YouTube.

The mystery surrounding Cry Baby Lane’s existence may have been solved, but the urban legend of the movie that was “too scary for kids’ TV” persists—even at the network that produced it.

“People who were definitely working at Nickelodeon in 2000, but didn’t necessarily work on [Cry Baby Lane] were like, ‘Yeah I heard about it, I remember it being a thing,'" the Nick employee says. “It’s sort of like its own legend within the company.”

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