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The Man Who Played Boss Hogg Was a Genius and American Hero?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 5, 2024 3:02 am

The Man Who Played Boss Hogg Was a Genius and American Hero?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 5, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Boss Hogg, played by long-time actor Sorrell Booke, had a much wider range of skill and talents than the bumbling Boss would have some believe. Here to tell the story is Nick Ragaon, host of the popular YouTube channel, "This Date in History with Nick Ragone."

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Not obligations of Navy Federal and may lose value. And we continue with our American stories. Up next, the Dukes of Hazzard spent seven seasons re-yelling television viewers with the antics of a group of Southern cousins as they dealt with everyday life that somehow involved leaping over ramps in their iconic car, the General Lee. Opposing the cousins with all the skills of Barney Fife on Valium stood among others, Commissioner Boss Hogg, a corrupt and greedy politician that managed to embody every Southern stereotype while still being a beloved character to many who watched the show. Played by longtime actor, Sorel Book, the man himself had a much wider range of skill and talents than the bumbling boss would have some believe.

Let's take a listen to the story. When you hear the name Boss Hogg, what do you think of? Most likely the corrupt boss of Hazzard County that was forever trying to entrap those rascally Duke boys and lock them up on one false charge after another. You conjure up images of a bald, portly short man and his trusty sidekick Roscoe P. Coltrane, who together ruled Hazzard County, Georgia with an iron fist. You probably don't give much thought to the actor who portrayed Boss Hogg, Sorel Book. After all, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about him. Other than that, he seemed to have perfected the buffoonish cartoon-like character that was Boss Hogg. But what if I told you that Sorel Book, the man who played Boss Hogg of the Dukes of Hazzard, was actually a bona fide genius and a legitimate war hero?

Would you believe me? Well, it is true. I'm Nick Ragon, host of the popular YouTube channel This Date in History with Nick Ragon, and we've been doing a series of videos on Hollywood heroes, the men and women of film and TV who served their country during wartime. So many of the people that we admired from the movies and TV also served in combat and rarely, if ever, spoke about it. People like Russell Johnson, the professor from Gilligan's Island, the guy flew 44 combat missions in the Pacific during World War II and received a Purple Heart. R. Carney of the Honeymooners also received a Purple Heart during World War II. Betty White and Bea Arthur, two of the Golden Girls, served in the Army and Marines respectively during the Second World War.

The list of actors and athletes who have served during combat just goes on and on and on. But the person who has received the most interest by far in our series has been Sorelle Book, Boss Hogg, and it's not even close. People are absolutely stunned and fascinated to learn that Sorelle Book was the polar opposite of his most iconic character, Boss Hogg. It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover, pun intended. You know, the word genius gets thrown around a lot, way too much in fact, but in the case of Sorelle Book, it really does apply. The man was an honest to goodness genius, the kind with an IQ that's off the charts. You don't believe me?

Try this on for size. Sorelle Book graduated, he graduated from Columbia University, one of the most prestigious and difficult colleges in the country at that time at the age of 19. Mind you, most people are wrapping up high school or entering their freshman year at that age, and he's already earned a degree in drama. During his time at Columbia, he was a very accomplished Shakespearean actor, and he immediately went on to receive a master's degree from the Yale School of Drama, the premier program for serious thespians by the time he was 21. So Sorelle Book is 21 years old, has degrees in drama from Columbia and Yale, he's already well regarded and making a name for himself in the stage community, and what does he decide to do?

He joins the United States Army. The Korean War had just begun and there was a need for counterintelligence officers who were fluent in Korean and Chinese and who could help with translations, interrogations, counterintelligence operations, misinformation, and a whole bunch of other classified work. Well, the part I haven't told you yet is that Sorelle Book was also fluent in 12 languages and, as he put it, semi-fluid or conversational in six other languages, and those languages included Russian, Chinese, and Korean, among others, which came in really handy during the Cold War and specifically the Korean War. Look, mastering more than a few languages is really, really hard.

Being fluent in a dozen or so languages isn't only off the charts insanely difficult, but it probably made him one of only a handful of people on the planet at the time who was fluent or semi-fluent in more than a dozen languages, especially some really difficult ones. He quite literally could have done anything he wanted to, he was that brilliant, and yet he chose to serve his country at the onset of the Cold War a time when the world was a pretty scary place. Remember, the Soviets had just acquired the atomic bomb a few years earlier. There was now a hot war in Korea that most Americans really didn't understand. The Red Scare in the U.S. was just beginning to take off. Our country was on edge and there was still fatigue from World War II, remember. But Sorelle Book answered the call when he didn't have to, and that may be the most impressive thing about the guy.

This wasn't World War II, which almost everyone felt compelled to assist in some way. This was the Korean War, a much different situation, and for a man with this many options, this brilliant, to put his life and career on hold to serve his country is a pretty extraordinary thing to do. Sadly, much of his work during the Korean War remains classified to this day. There's really not much in the public domain about specifically what he did, other than that he specialized in counterintelligence. I really hope someday that his file is declassified so we can better understand what he worked on. And of course, Sorelle, like so many of the Greatest Generation heroes, never ever spoke a word of his service. In fact, whenever anyone asked him about being in the Army or serving in the Korean War, his standard answer was, I'm just an ordinary guy from Buffalo, New York.

What's so fascinating about Sorelle isn't just his service during the Korean War, and his true genius, but also his career arc. So many actors that are identified with one character tend to denigrate or downgrade that role, or even run away from the character. Think Carol O'Connor with Archie Bunker.

Robert Reed as Mike Brady. Even Jason Alexander as George to some extent, because they don't want to be solely remembered for that. Or sometimes they don't even love the character that much or even like them. The characters beneath them, the characters beneath them, are not really who they are. But that was never the case with Sorelle Book. He played one of the most ridiculous characters in TV history, and I dare you to find a quote from him denigrating Boss Hog or the show.

You won't find it because it doesn't exist. You probably remember seeing him on MASH or Columbo, Gunsmoke, The Rocker Files, and a million other shows. You may not have always recognized him because as Boss Hog he actually wore a fat suit, believe it or not. And there's no way he could have known that the Dukes of Hazzard would be a smash hit and run for as long as it did, and that he would sort of be the breakout star in a way. That show wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining without him. And the thing that people remember about the Dukes of Hazzard is the car, the General Lee, Boss Hog, and of course Daisy Duke, or more specifically Daisy Dukes. And so that's what we remember him for, Boss Hog. It would have been nice to know all this about him while the show was running, but these heroes just didn't work that way.

They weren't going to talk about themselves, and they rarely did. It certainly would have changed the way I looked at the character of Boss Hog for sure. God bless this extraordinary man and patriot, Sorelle Book. I bet there's a reward in all this big enough to choke a plow horse. Well, what are you standing there for, lead heads? Mount of massive manhood. There ain't but two of us, Mr. Hog.

That'll spread out. And a terrific job on the storytelling, production, and editing by our own Greg Hengler. And a special thanks to Nick Rigone. You can find him on YouTube this date in history. What a story he told about Sorelle Book, the polar opposite of the character he played in the Dukes of Hazzard. And of course, he graduated from the Yale School of Drama, the best in the country at the age of 21, and then decides to volunteer for the Korean War, being involved in the most important part of warfare. And that of course is counterintelligence.

The story of Boss Hog, that is the man who played him, Sorelle Book, here on Our American Stories. Hello, I'm Dr. Michael Mosley, and I want to let you know about my new immersive BBC Radio 4 podcast series, Deep Calm. It's all about how to tap into and activate a remarkable system that we all have, hardwired inside of us, our relaxation response. And it's been developed to be listened to at any time you want to really unwind. I hope you'll listen wherever you get your BBC podcast.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-05 04:34:15 / 2024-06-05 04:39:38 / 5

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