By Andrew Blumetti
Anyone who knows relatively anything about anything knows that Hey Dude is the best television show ever.
Well, maybe not exactly the best show ever, but if you grew up on late 80’s/early 90’s Nickelodeon, you’re no doubt as big of a fan of the western cowboy-comedy as I was. The plot was a simple fish-out-of-water one: A nerdy New York City accountant buys the “Bar None Ranch” an Arizona dude ranch smack dab in the desert, and brings his Hypercolor shirt-wearing son with him. Throw in a teenage staff of cowboys, Indians, and slackers, and you’ve got yourself a Nick home run, and I don’t mean Swisher. There was goofball troublemaker Ted and his on-again, off-again love interest, Brad, a rich girl with a boys’ name who was nowhere near as attractive as they made her out to be. Rounding out the bunch was goody two-shoes lifeguard Melody, Brendan Frasier-wannabe drummer Jake, pretty-boy cowboy Kyle, Lucy- the one actual adult who worked there, and Danny Lightfoot, a Hopi Indian who wore more denim vests than Ernest. He also had a great spiritual knowledge of the land, the way Hollywood assumes all Native Americans do.
Danny (fourth from left) was mad in this episode, as everyone put their money on him to go first in the “Hey Dude death pool”.
After the show’s cancellation, the cast mostly fell into obscurity. Protagonist Mr. Ernst (David Brisbin) did some minor acting on shows such as Seinfeld and ER, and Melody (Christine Taylor) married actor Ben Stiller. The tumbleweeds blew across the Hey Duders world for years until 2004, when it was reported (albeit unconfirmed) that Joe Torres, the actor who played Danny, had passed away from liver failure. It could’ve been an internet hoax, or it could’ve been true, and that’s the sheer genius of it. Report that Brad Pitt is dead and no one will believe you. Go for an obscure actor from a nearly 20-year old cable show, and it’s hard to disprove. Also, the longer the rumors went without being disproven, the more believable it became. With the show’s long-awaited DVD release finally here, and Nickelodeon mentioning it’s possible inclusion in the future of the network’s newly launched “The 90’s Are All That” retro-block, I had to do the closest thing to investigative journalism I’ll ever come to. Did the man-eating jack rabbits and killer cacti take Torres down?
(Yes, apparently Danny was a big Guns ‘N Roses fan. Did he ever get to experience the forgettable phenomenon that was Chinese Democracy?)
Finding information on Torres is about as difficult as you’d imagine. Go to his IMDB page, and help is sparse at best. It’s mostly a bunch of occasional message boarders disputing his fate and who saw him doing what and where. Hearsay does no good though- perhaps he was out playing darts with Elvis and Tupac. There were also stories that he was on the East Coast now. Some said he was living in Tarheel country in North Carolina. Personally, I figured he just dropped the “s” at the end of his name, got a gift certificate to the plastic surgeon, and managed the Yankees to four World Series titles.
Joe Torres and Joe Torre. Perhaps all those years of dealing with hothead Ted on the show prepared him to deal with Roger Clemens on the field?
Another possible theory was that Torres was still alive and working at a Toyota dealership in Runnemede, NJ. Any links on the website to his existence are gone, and this was the supposed picture of him from his shirt-and-tie job:
He was known as “Sells’em Camry” in Toyota circles.
Another theory that seemed to have legs was that Torres was still alive and kickin’… at a bar. Some had claimed to see him frequent the World Famous Golden Nugget Tavern in Tuscon, Arizona. Word has it that he’s not someone you want to meet up with on the felt, as he’s quite the pool shark. This seemed to be more likely than the other scenarios, seeing as the show filmed out there years before. After many failed attempts to find any contact source to help with Torres’s story, I got in touch with the Golden Nugget to see if they could shed any light on this. I received a very helpful email from a man named Tim Donaldson from the Golden Nugget. Donaldson kindly told me that Jose (Joe) "is alive and well", thanked me for my message, and said he would pass it along to him.
Hey Danny, you’re alive! Don’t look so shocked.
So my fellow Nick fans, may this news make your weekend a little sweeter. We can all breathe a “yippe ki yi ya” in relief that the rumors of the demise of Danny from Hey Dude, were just that- rumors. No liver failure, no job selling The Situation a Corolla at a New Jersey car dealership, just a former actor looking to relax and enjoy his privacy. …unlike Sponge from Salute Your Shorts. We all know he’s really dead.