In his memoir of the “Ernest years,” director John Cherry reveals how he and the creative staff developed the character of Ernest, put actor Jim Varney in a khaki baseball cap, sold TV commercials to scores of clients, nabbed Barbra Streisand’s manager as his own, and successfully directed Varney’s unpredictable creative genius. He recounts the thrill ride of taking the character Ernest from local TV ads to big-screen movie hits – all the while tackling challenges from bankers, the IRS and Disney executives.
“Did you take him down the jet way, put him in his seat and give him a drink?” I interrogated the agent. “Well, no sir, the flight was late. There wasn’t a plane to board.” I took a long breath and tried to think. The agent interrupted my strategizing. “Is he as funny in real life as he is in the commercials?” “Uh, yes… Look agent Tims, do me a favor. Go to the nearest bar to that gate and there will be a crowd laughing. Look in the center of that crowd, there you will find him. Please put him on the next plane to L.A.,” I begged. “Will do,” the agent promised, “but what if he has had too much to drink?” “Don’t let him drive the plane.”
The judge started with, “We are gathered here today …blah …blah.” Beads of sweat grew on my face as the judge droned on. We were melting in the blazing sun, praying for this thing to be over with, when the judge said, “Do you Ernest take this woman…”
Ernest! Janie is marrying Ernest? We were about to split a gut and throw ourselves on the alder tree. It seemed to fly with everyone else, even the judge. We tried to straighten up and be serious, but Hoot was crying. It’s good to see lawyers cry.