It’s time to talk about our old neighbor, Ernest.
Every Halloween, here in central Kentucky, we are inundated with Disney’s “Hocus Pocus”. Weekly screenings are organized in different places Payday Loans Online. Local breweries and taprooms organize “Hocus Pocus” quiz evenings. Perhaps most surprisingly, Kentucky-centric clothing brands are rolling out “Hocus Pocus” merchandise.
I say most surprising because one of these shops is located about a mile from where Jim Varney, creator of the character of Ernest, is buried Payday Loans Online
Neighbor, I’m afraid we’ve forgotten our proud redneck heritage. It seems all too often we follow the trend and turn our backs on one of Kentucky’s most iconic entertainment exports: Ernest.
Jim Varney grew up in Lexington, KY. According to a detailed profile in the 1999 Nashville Scene, he realized he wanted to play at a very young age, and his mother helped him get started in local theater productions. He won state titles in theater competitions while a student at Lafayette High School. Varney started out as a comedian and was a former alumnus of The Comedy Store, alongside Robin Williams. His comedy led to several roles on television. An actor’s strike in 1979 dried up acting jobs, and Varney moved to Nashville to find work. There he started working with a local advertising agency selling (among other things) Purity Dairies products, bringing comedy to local advertising in an effort to turn some heads. The character of Ernest, entirely Varney’s invention, was featured in an advertisement for Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, KY, but first rose to prominence by promoting dairy products.
Varney and Ernest became movie stars in 1987’s “Ernest Goes to Camp.” Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, then Disney presidents, were in the audience for the 1985 Indianapolis 500 when Ernest made an appearance for a lap with other celebrities at the top of the cars. When Ernest did his knees, rumor has it that the crowd stood up and applauded, shouting his iconic line, “Hey, Vern!” Disney had its next star, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, this quick glimpse into Ernest’s creation is fairly common knowledge that I’ve gleaned from reading up on Varney or chatting with his old friends over the years. Something I didn’t know until recently, however, is that Varney would don Ernest’s costume and visit sick children at local children’s hospitals, even though he himself was suffering from cancer. lung and brain. He died of his illness in 2000 just before another Ernest film, “Ernest the Pirate”, could go into production.
We all know an Ernest: the well-meaning ding-dong who, despite always having his hiccups, has an overabundance of undeserved confidence. Varney sort of found a way to make this character unkind. He is innocent, childish without being childish, and protective of those he loves even when one turns his back on him. We still support him. Watching his movies, it’s hard to remember that Varney is playing, that there really is no Ernest.
The masterpiece of the Ernest catalog is “Ernest Scared Stupid”, which I will finally review. It’s the old story of the Troll King buried under an old tree who accidentally wakes up just before Halloween and goes to work kidnapping children, turning them into wooden dolls and absorbing their souls to feed his army of trolls. . Only one person in town stands in the way of the trolls: Redneck’s Great Hope: Ernest P. Worrell.
Right away we have one of the best opening credits sequences of all time (an art that unfortunately seems to be lost). Basically it’s just Ernest shooting silly reaction faces between vintage monster movie clips. Simple but effective: Ask any “Ernest Scared Stupid” fan what their favorite part is and they’ll probably choose this sequence.
Something else they’ll probably mention, maybe not as a favorite but as something that has twisted their psyche, is the misguided old-bed-under-bed-troll: character checks under his bed for a troll , is relieved not to find one, then turns in her bed to find Trantor the Troll King watching her. As a reminder, this is a children’s film, but which is not afraid to scare its audience between this scene, a child who is ripped off from a skateboard by a troll in broad daylight, and yes, the very concept children ‘souls stolen as they are transformed into wooden dolls.
Speaking of fear, “Ernest Scared Stupid” is a truly impressive demonstration of production design. It nails the feeling of a Midwestern fall better than most movies I’ve seen. And the practical creature design of the Chiodo brothers, creators of the equally iconic “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” monsters, is unmatched and traumatic for ’90s kids.
“Ernest Scared Stupid”, like most children’s films, is ultimately a film with messages. But the message here is that kindness to others and acceptance of yourself makes you a hero. And that’s a message we can get across our neighborhood.
Looking back, that post seems to sum up much of Varney’s legacy as far as Ernest is concerned. Varney was a Shakespearean actor, but found rapid success playing Ernest. This success seemed like a blessing and a curse for Varney: he was a famous actor, but found himself labeled as Ernest.
But Ernest was the one requested in the children’s Make-A-Wish wishes. And Ernest was the one who always showed up to honor those requests, even when he was sick. Kindness to others and acceptance of yourself makes you a hero.
We’re getting to the Halloween thread, so you might not have time to watch (or, if you’re like me, revisit for the hundredth time) “Ernest Scared Stupid” this year. But I hope at some point you can take the time to watch this massively underrated Halloween staple and consider Jim Varney’s career and how his creation Ernest helped move Kentucky forward as a hub of creativity and entertainment. “Hocus Pocus”, as far as I know, has no connection with the state.
Callie and I give “Ernest Scared Stupid” five stars in the shape of Kentucky. Happy Halloween, neighbor. Do you know what I mean?