Filed under: Pranksters, The History of Pranks
From publisher and editor Joey Skaggs:
It is with shock and sadness that I write of the unexpected passing of Verne Williams, a life-long friend and co-conspirator, on Thursday, October 14. Among other illustrious facets of his career, Verne was with me on my Hippie Bus Tour to Queens in 1968, was the inspiration for and center piece of my Bad Guys Talent Management Agency in 1984; and performed in Walk Right! (1984), The Fat Squad (1986), and Save The Geoduck (1987). He appeared as me for an interview with Playback Magazine (1995). He was a great, endearing and enduring friend.
A memorial service will be held October 30 at 1pm at Marinella Restaurant, on the corner of Carmine and Bedford Streets in Greenwich Village, NYC.
Here’s a walk down my memory lane with Verne:
Hippie Bus Tour to Queens, 1968
In 1968, I loaded a Greyhound bus with camera-toting, long haired, beaded hippies and took them on a bus tour of surburban Queens. I did this in response to all the suburbanites who were coming into the East Village to gawk at the hippies. I called it my “cultural exchange” program. Verne was one of the passengers.
Bad Guys Talent Management Agency, 1984
Verne left NYC for greener pastures, literally. He ran a hog farm in Vermont for a while and then moved to Virginia where he was trimming the hooves of cattle for a living. He really wanted to be an actor. He wrote me letter after letter imploring me to help him get some national commercials while he awaited the brass ring, which to him was a role in a feature film. I tried to talk some sense into him, but he would have none of that. Since he didn’t have any acting training, experience, or representation, I decided to create a talent management agency specifically for him. I called it Bad Guys Incorporated. I would represent bad guys, bad girls, bad kids and bad dogs — venomous vixens, burly bouncers and slimy sleazes. I told Verne to go to the Post Office and bring back a wanted poster so I could create his head shot.
Here’s the head shot (front and back) that started it all… Read the full story here.
With the first mailing of Verne’s headshots to New York casting agents, he landed a role in The Last Dragon (1985), a sort of satirical Kung Fu film that has since become a cult classic. Produced by Berry Gordy of Motown fame, Verne played “Cujo” and became well known for his bark (which was always worse than his bite). Watch Verne’s scene stealing “Thug Tryouts” clip from the movie.
Then, Verne was cast as Mr. Clean for Procter and Gamble and appeared on As the World Turns. His new acting career enabled him to do voice-overs and other acting stints.
When People Magazine heard about Verne’s success they told me they wanted to cover the story and asked me to send them all my client materials. What client materials?? I spent the next few days photographing a number of my friends and creating wanted poster head shots for them. The agency took off. At its peak I had over 300 actors on file.
Here’s a group shot of some of the Bad Guys talent management agency actors:
In 1984, Verne joined me as a Walk Right! vigilante, helping to keep New York City’s streets safe for pedestrians.
The Fat Squad
And, here’s Verne posing as a client with me for my diet company The Fat Squad. He wasn’t really a client, he was one of the Fat Squad commandos who I purportedly hired to forcably keep people on their diets. He appeared with me on Good Morning America, CNN, the BBC, Japanese, German, French, and Australian television. This hoax went viral worldwide in one week, long before there was such a thing as viral marketing.
Verne and I had a lot of fun together. He was a great friend. I will really, really miss him!