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Special Tribute By Billy Dee
Although I never knew Jim Varney personally, I loved his movies and appreciated his type of decent and moral Ernest films. I have never seen a character that was so funny as Ernest (Jim). I was raised with "Sid Ceaser", "Uncle Milty",(Milton Berle), "Jerry Lewis" and many other famous comedians of the 40s through the 60s. These talented comedians were what we called "slap stick" comedians. That is something that is missing in today's comedy movies, "real old fashioned slap stick!". Jim Varney as his lovable and goofy character in the "Ernest" movies brought slap stick comedy back into vogue! Jim had a thousand faces that could make anyone laugh themselves easily into tears. A young man who wrote me, described Jim as what he called him, "rubber face". That is really funny! But Jim (Ernest) really did have what appeared to be a rubber face to do the contortions he put his face through to get a laugh! Ha! Ha!
But beyond the talented side of Jim Varney on the silver screen that many of us have come to love and enjoy, is another side to the man. There is a personal side to Jim Varney that makes him stand out above many people. Jim especially loved children. Often times when we see our favorite actors on TV, we really don't give much thought to what they are really like in real life. Jim Varney from what has been shared with me from some of his friends, was a man who would do anything to be helpful to those that truly wanted help. Few knew that Jim really went through a hard time financially getting into show biz. According to one of his close friends, she told me that Jim was for a time, a starving actor. But Jim diligently sought after his trade and talent and finally accomplished what he wanted. I am just over joyed by the outpouring of reply's through e-mail, the guest book we have. They all radiate a strong love and affection for Jim. Jim is admired for being such a decent and moral actor, and well appreciated for it. Most of His movies were free of smut, profanity, sexual situations and anything that would offend children and families alike. This says a lot about the man. It is a great loss to lose any actors that have portrayed decent and moral films and shows like we have lost with Jim Varney. There are so few actors that are in moral films these days.
Jim had yet even another side to him, which I should mention. Jim had a wild side to him, (without going into any lengthy details) and as I have been told, he often liked the fast lane of life. When Jim was in his late teens, according to Myra a good friend of his, when Jim and her were around 16 years old, Jim had given his heart to the Lord after attending a special tent revival in Lexington, Kentucky, Jim's home town. This true account was before Jim had found success in show business. Jim was like many people, who at times in their lives who have gone through periods of rebellion and probably doing things that they or anyone else shouldn't be doing. But let me emphasize this a little. Many Christians go through periods in their lives that is contrary to God and His word. that doesn't mean they have strayed away from God's voice and God leading them, and gone to far. Perhaps those times of straying from God, like Jim did, especially for the Christian can appear that they are either fallen in their faith, or they have turned their backs on God. That is not always true! I myself could write a book on The Back Sliding Christian". No kidding! I really could. I often fell in my faith and went back to the fast lane, and became a Hell raiser again, and more times then I can count! Seriously, I did, and many others have done the same thing. But most come back and repent and rededicate their lives back to Jesus and get up and start walking again for God.
I real feel deeply that Jim had never really turned his back on God during those reckless and wild times in his life, which was mostly during his successful show biz years. And I say that, because the proof of Jim's faith in God especially in the last several years of his life before he passed away, broke fourth in a stronger meaning to him, as well as a stronger walk with and for God and his savior Jesus Christ. The very most important thing for any Christian that has had times of back sliding, is to return to Jesus and their faith. When a person who backslides turns back to Christ and repents and re-confirms their faith to Jesus, Jesus will never turn them away, and Jesus never turned Jim Varney down or away.
I am going to interject some things again about myself and my past backsliding away from Christ. I often back slid, and for 25 years, after I became a "born again" Christian at the age of 15. But after only 3 or 4 months after I was born again, I turned away from God, and for the next 12 years, I lived a life of sin, (Drinking, alcoholism, crime, jails and eventually I ended up in prison!) When I was around 27 years old, I had made two suicide attempts, but God had brought along a born again Christian young man just in time to stop me!
That young Christian man spent the whole night with me telling me about Jesus, and helping me to see that it wasn't too late for me to come back to Christ, and to repent and get up and try again! That was over 35 years ago, and since then, believe it or not, I had several other slips after I had rededicated my life, heart and soul back to Jesus. I just could not stay away from the fast lane. But even though I often repented and Jesus took me back again, and again, and again, I finally had enough, and returned again to Christ, and this time, I finally woke up and have been walking and living for Jesus. It took me years to finally (get with the program). Like Jim probably, he too finally "Got With The Program" several years before he passed away. Over the years I have heard so many Christians say this, "backsliders never make it! or, "Those backsliders weren't really saved and born again any way"! Oh really? Many new Christians have a very hard time, trying to break away from their old life of sins. There is an old expression that goes like this, "if at first you don't succeed, then try, try again!" It had for years just amazed me, how those who become saved and born again Christians, keep on the road with Jesus, and never fall down. Well, the important thing is that those like myself, it took us a longer time to get with it, but when we finally did get with our salvation, and we made it. God will ALWAYS welcome a backslider back and with wide open arms of love! Please remember that.
Of course, Jim's backsliding was nothing at all compared to me, or even close to what I had gone through for years until I finally got the victory! For those of you who are reading this, I do have some of my testimony on my web site. I urge you to read it! I was a classic case! No boasting or bragging intended with what I just said. I urge you to read about my testimony.
It bothers me greatly, when I read articles about Jim, as well as some special TV programs that hone in MOSTLY on Jim's periods in the fast lane, and very seldom ever really tell about the "REAL Jim Varney", and the loving, kind and extremely giving man that HE WAS. A good example of what I just said,is about a popular TV show "E" that did a special show about Jim Varney, after Jim had passed away. The show told only a little bit about Jim's personal life, his marriage, as well as his family and growing up and his show biz talent and accomplishments, as well as his deep love for children, and often devoting time to go to visit very ill or terminally ill children. When Jim went to visit the kids in the Hospital in his "Ernest" costume, the kids just went nuts over him. I would like to tell more of the "real" and loving side of Jim Varney, but I don't have enough information to add it to this special tribute to Jim Varney. I am hoping to get a few of Jim's closest friends on of the "Official Jim Varney Fan & Tribute Site", internet radio show. Once I the interviews are done, I will add more about Jim to this special page.
It really upset me, as well as many other fans, and Jim's family as well (as I feel sure about that), how a TV show honed in, and really focused in and blew out of proportion on Jim's personal life in a very negative and inaccurate manner. I stated in my new Jim Varney section, THEY, that TV show did a "HATCHET JOB" on Jim Varney, and portrayed him as a Cocaine drug addict, along with other things that put Jim's life in poor light! I was just livid with anger after watching that horrible, totally inaccurate expose'a about Jim Varney and his life. That TV show brought up and heavily inferred that Jim was on Cocaine and addicted (inferred heavily)! WRONG! Jim had gone through a very hard emotional period in his life with his marriage. Jim was extremely despondent during a period in his life, and because of that, he had used Cocaine, (obviously, for the purpose of easing the inner pain he was going through). That did happen! But what isn't true and is a lie, is that Jim was NOT a Cocaine addict! I got the truth of the situation from some of Jim's very close friends, and needless to say, they too were extremely upset with that TV show on Jim!
I have a newspaper clip about Jim Varney, that a news writer stated in an article that Jim Varney had a "Dark Side" to him? The writer inferred that Jim was an alcoholic and drug addict! I blew up when I read that! I don't have enough information to state about the newspaper writer being accurate or not. But what I can say, is I have never heard anything about Jim being an alcoholic from any of his family members over the years. I want to make sure to get the story straight her. I am sure if Jim was an alcoholic, you can bet on it, the tabloids would have had smeared it all over their "rags" and in their "magazines".
Jim was at times, a heavy drinker, but I am sure that was during his back slidden times! But for anyone to infer or even condemn the man as an alcoholic, (without any solid proof), is a liar and doesn't know a lot about Jim Varney. Jim loved cars! That was one of Jim's loves and hobby, collecting and buying cars and fast cars (from what I have been told). He had a nice collection, as I have seen a photo of his cars at his home years back, as well as I think there are few of Jim's cars in one of the photos I have on my web site. With all that I have said, many people could easily get the picture that Jim was a maverick and Hell raiser,right, wrong of course. Let me put it another way. I am 60 years old, and I still dress and comb my hair, and at times act like Elvis, and I still like to "Hot Rod", (pedal to the metal! Hee! Hee!) I really love to take out my 1997 "cherry" Ford 2 door SUV Limited model Sport" (only 3,000 ever made), and let it go, while listening to rock and roll on my radio. The Ford Sport was Ford's answer to the GM "Corvet". The super Ford Sport SUV has 6 cylinders 4.2Liter engine, with Super Overhead Cams(SOC), NOT the standard DOHC), and a special fuel injected carburetor that responds like a "hemi" (AND IT DOES!), and has a speedometer that goes up to 125 Mph.,(and goes a lot faster!), and has ALL the options, EVERYTHING, (leather seats, you name it, LOADED!). FAST? Ha! Ha! You bet! I clocked my SUV from 0 to 60 miles per hour at (around 4 and 1/2 seconds). THAT'S FAST, and it burns rubber! It is in cherry condition, and looks just like new, and has only 59,000 original miles on the vehicle. Once in awhile, I have to really let it rip, and hot rod the SUV to keep the carbs clean and the engine cleaned out and in prime working condition, otherwise, it will start bogging down and get gummed up!
Now after my telling you all this about my wild side, does that make me a lessor Christian, or a bad Christian, because of my love for life, which God gave me? Of course, there are limitations with having fun. I don't make a habit of speeding or hot rodding, other then a few times per year, and on a back road that is rarely used. And I should add this, I also love LOUD Christian rock and roll as well. So, I guess you can say I too love the fast lane, Ha! Ha! But because I do, does not make me a backslider, or a poor Christian? I think not. I was trying to make a point about Jim liking the fast lane. Jim was known for hot rodding too. But I think I made my point, and I think others have blown things out of proportion because of Jim's "fast lane" side of him! One last thing, I have to admit it, but I don't think I ever got beyond my late teen years, I guess that is why so many young people like this 60 year old man, who dresses, and looks like and acts like a young man. Just because a person is 60, or 65, or 75 or 80, doesn't mean they have to act that age, and do things that ONLY the old tarts do, Ha! Ha! After all, it is what is inside of person that really counts, and that is ,loving yourself and God, and faith in Jesus, and living life to it's fullest (within reason, and not sinfully before God).
I believe few really knew about Jim's strong Christian faith. Over the 11 years since I started this web site for Jim Varney, and his family and for the fans, as well as I have received a lot of fan mail that knew about Jim ONLY through newspaper clips and magazine articles, which is mostly where Jim was tagged being a wild character off screen. I really want to add this, I met one of Jim's very close friends who knew Jim for at least 20 years, and lived just down the road from where Jim Lived. Mike told me about Jim Varney in several e-mail letters, and through phone calls. Jim had the biggest heart anyone could have for people and children especially. Often he helped people out financially because of Jim's love for people. Mike said that people had taken advantage of Jim, because of Jim's big soft heart. Rather then my telling you the whole story about this from Mike, I am going to do an interview Mike soon on our internet radio show, and the fans can have the opportunity to hear for themselves about the REAL Jim Varney, and from one of Jim's closest friends. I have done my best to explain and straighten out as many as I can about the REAL Jim Varney, and who he really was (from what I know about him).
Jim Varney, will be sorely missed! I am sure there are many adults and children alike that I know have not seen any of the "Ernest" movies (as hard as that is to believe, because I do know that there are at least 80% of kids that know exactly who Ernest is, from all the hundreds if not thousands of fan mail I receive.) I am also trying to create an excitement from this special web site, to get new viewers who have never seen an Ernest movie, motivated to watch the movies, and see what they have been missing. I am also trying to show and tell as much a I can of what Jim was all about, and the wonderful inspiration that he was and still is, and will still go on to be. I for one, have been inspired by Jim, when I was searching for some new ideas to create some new characters for some comedy skits I did on TV 2 decades ago. I just loved Jim's female character rolls as well as some of his other characters. They were so funny! So, although Jim inspired me to try this out on TV, and in front of the viewers, I created my own characters and style as well, but also other characters with a little bit of the Ernest character flavor. My viewers went crazy over it, and often asked me to make more "Billy Dee Comedy Shows".
I personally feel that creating Jim Varney's web site has been and is a privilege. The very same day that I was informed that Jim Varney had passed away, I was so moved in my heart. I could not explain the feeling. What kept going through me, was that Jim wanted a web site, as well as he felt he was going to be forgotten. This just kept going through me and for days on end after I had first heard of Jim's death. I was searching the Internet for anything I could find about Jim Varney. Well, all I found was just a few article's about his death. They were very nice, but nothing really that explained or gave the essence of what Jim was really all about. I stumbled across a Varney mail discussion list, and read some of the messages, and especially one particular message that caught my eye and heart, was sent in by a person by the name of Myra Robbins. I was so moved by her message about Jim Varney, and that she had known him for 30 years. I wrote her immediately, and shared with her what was impressed upon my heart about creating a web site for Jim Varney. She told me that Jim was afraid that people would forget about him after he had passed away. I never met the man in my life, and God showed me that Jim Varney had been worrying about being forgotten, just as I was told that, a week later, that he had said that shortly before he passed away. The Internet is now one of those means that can help keep Jim's memory and movies alive.
As Jim was a Christian, as well as I am, I felt that I had an obligation for a brother in the Lord of mine, Jim Varney. I wanted to present the life of Jim Varney, his talents and his faith. Jim was a good example for show biz, in how popular most of the movies that he was in was without smut, profanity and violence and anything else that is indecent and immoral. So rather then this special web site being a tribute to a well known and loved actor that passed away, lets keep Jim's movies alive, and also hope that other actors will try to follow in Jim's footsteps both in making decent movies, and having faith in God, and giving many family's in America, clean, moral movies, and movies that have a strong family message! And lastly, Jim was trying very hard in the last few years he had left, to warn children and adults alike to not smoke, as well as to give it up. Jim did some TV commercials about that, as I was told. Jim Varney was a heavy smoker, and had gotten lung cancer from smoking. Although the Lung cancer was done away with by his doctors and treatment, the cancer had spread to his brain. Jim firmly believed it was all caused by smoking. So if this is what took Jim's life, then it is more of tragedy. Jim Varney was only 50 years old when he died, and he would have had many years ahead of him in the movies and acting, and well as in his personal life, if he had not had cancer from smoking. Kids, if your reading this, and you loved and or love Ernest P. Worrell, then take to heart what killed Jim Varney, and don't smoke!
God bless you Jim Varney, and God bless the Varney family and all those who knew him. I know that your with Jesus, Jim. And I know your out of your pain that you suffered with in your body from cancer. Jim, rest in peace that you well deserve.
Billy Dee
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