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Collector Spotlight: Larry Franks


Larry Franks is renowned for his Dukes of Hazzard collection of memorabilia. Here, he shares his early fascination with the television show and explains how his relationships with the cast of the show cemented his reputation as an authority on all things Dukes.

How do you describe your collection?

I have one of the biggest, most complete collections of Dukes licensed memorabilia from all three eras of the show: the golden era when the television show originally aired between 1979 and 1985, the silver era when the show re-aired on TNN between 1997 and 2005, and the modern era from 2005 when the feature film was released and onward. My collection focuses on all the eras. There are a lot of things I don’t have from the golden era but I do have everything from the modern era. In total, my collection includes about 5,000 items.

When and why did you start collecting The Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia?

I love The Dukes of Hazzard, I just love them. It’s my entire life. I was born in 1981; the show started in 1979. My sister loved the show before me and my family nicknamed me Bo Duke. I am the third Larry in my family and there were just too many Larrys running around!

My grandparents would go to the store and buy me things. My grandmother, who has an appreciation for collecting, saw how much I liked Dukes and instilled in me the idea of posterity; she bought two of anything Dukes for me so I could open one to play with and keep the other one for my collection.

The Dukes of Hazzard is just a good family-fun show. Nothing too bad or controversial ever happened. The bad guys aren’t really all that bad. There’s no cussing and it’s not an overly sexy show even though many people thought of Daisy as their dream girl. I never saw her that way. I thought of her more as a cousin; they were family to me.

Catherine Bach – Daisy – is actually a friend now. I’ve met all the cast with the exception of Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse) and Sorrell Booke (Boss Hogg), who passed away before I had a chance to meet them. The Dukes hobby is so inclusive and I get work with the cast during Dukes events. If you told me when I was eight-years-old that my hobby would lead to me to this point, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I’m glad I didn’t get stuck on Star Wars or Superman. Dukes is big but not gigantic like that. I have a handle on everything. I’m grateful to be part of this community.

How do you display and store your collection?

I’m in a transition phase in my life right now. I worked with my dad in real estate and kept my collection in the back room of our office and then later in the basement of the building. I’m in the process of digitizing my collection on my two websites dukescollector.com and dukescollector.blogspot.com. Much of my collection is in bins right now so it’s a lot of work to locate items, bring them out, take photos, and then put them back into storage. But I’m working on it. I have a lot of different spreadsheets to track everything. It’s a work in progress and a bit more helter-skelter than I wish it was.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of Dukes collectibles?

Well, I’d love an orange 1969 Dodge Charger! I see them all the time at Dukes events and do occasionally hear, “You  have a great collection but you don’t have a General Lee.” I sometimes get asked by the owners of the cars to sign the inside of the trunk along with the cast. That’s crazy and such an honour for me. There’s a plastic 3D Boss Hogg poster that I’d love to have. I’ve only seen one on display at Cooter’s Place – a mecca for Dukes fans – but haven’t seen one come up for sale. There’s also a large Boss Hogg cardboard figure that McDonald’s came out with to use in their restaurants to advertise Dukes toys in Happy Meals. I would love to have that.

Of the items I own, there are a few things. The plastic Dukes kiddie pool is one. It’s a typical six-foot kiddie pool like you’d see for sale at Dollar General. It was released in 1981. The plastic is so flimsy and easily broken that most of them didn’t last. When I started my blog, no one had one. Mine is a barn find – someone’s grandparents bought it and forgot about it. The person cleaning out the barn found it and contacted me through my blog. That’s the surprising byproduct of the blog: as I started to showcase my collection, people began coming to me with items. Do you remember the Big Wheel ride-on toy? A couple of years ago, I acquired two General Lee Big Wheels. A friend of mine from high school found two unopened General Lee Big Wheels in his grandparents’ garage. They bought them for Christmas one year and totally forgot about them. My high school friend found them and didn’t know what to do with them. He did a Google search and found me and remembered that I was a collector.

Another Holy Grail that I have is the gold General Lee in 1/18-scale released by ERTL. It’s the best-selling 1/18-scale model car of all time. In 2004, ERTL created a George Barris collection. Barris is an automobile designer famous for creating Herman Munster’s car, K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, and the Monkeemobile. He claimed to also have helped with the General Lee car on Dukes but he had nothing to do with it. ERTL included General Lee in the collection anyway. The gold 1/18-scale General Lee is part of that collection. The gold-colour car was limited edition and has since become a Holy Grail from the silver era. They go for huge money, much more than the Herman Munster or K.I.T.T. models in the collection. I bought two and gave one to Ben Jones, who played Cooter on the Dukes of Hazzard television show for Cooter’s Place.

Can we talk about Cooter’s Place? Ben Jones and his wife, Alma Viator, own Cooter’s Place. There are three locations: Nashville and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and one in Luray, Virginia. We are so grateful as fans for Ben and Alma for keeping Dukes alive with these museums and shops. They are all amazing destinations. I had the privilege of curating the Virginia location. Ben and Alma have really put me at the forefront of Dukes collectors. I even got to host the 40th-anniversary celebration in 2019. We had a Q&A trivia event, and showed the first episode of The Dukes of Hazzard series to the minute of when it aired 40 years previous. I owe a lot to Ben and Alma.

It’s amazing the experiences I have had. I was an extra in the 2005 movie, I was invited to the premiere, I’ve had breakfast with Daisy, and interviewed the stars of the show. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences with The Dukes of Hazzard.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a collection of Dukes memorabilia?

Make friends. We’re a very welcoming and fun community and there are lots of us out there. Talk, ask questions – we are fellow fans who look out for each other. Visit Cooter’s Place and come out to events and meet people. There are great people in the hobby.

I know there is some controversy about The Dukes of Hazzard and the use of the Confederate flag; bad people have used the flag for bad things. Please don’t associate Dukes fans with racism – that isn’t us and that is not the show or the cast. The show teaches people about doing the right the thing. Uncle Jesse always said that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. That is what Dukes is about. It makes me so happy to be able to contribute to that.

 

Visit dukescollector.com and dukescollector.blogspot.com to see more of Larry Franks collection and learn more about The Dukes of Hazzard community of fans.

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