PORTLAND – Critically-acclaimed actor and reality television star Gary Busey is well-known for his on-camera hijinks, but on Friday in Portland, the Celebrity Apprentice wild man was considerably more measured.
Busey was in the Rose City speaking candidly at an Oregon brain injury fundraiser.
Traumatic brain injury is all too familiar to Busey. In 1988 he survived a devastating motorcycle accident that nearly took his life.
“I don’t remember four and a half weeks of my life because the right side of my brain was not working,” Busey said. “My memories would not consolidate. There’s a magical term for that.”
Busey often takes time to speak at events like Friday's dinner, which was put on by the Brain Injury Association of Oregon, in order to raise awareness and money for those who have injuries similar to his.
This year also marks the 35th anniversary of Busey’s break-out performance as Buddy Holly in “The Buddy Holly Story,” for which he received an Oscar nod for Best Actor. It’s easy to forget that Busey was once regarded as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading males.
But even after his injury, Busey worked hard to bounce back and continued to make a string of hit films.
“The movie that I did right after the brain surgery was ‘Point Break,’” he remembered. “It was beautiful, the experience. My brain wasn’t damaged. It was altered in a new way of thinking, and feeling, and seeing, and that has to do with a trip to that special place I went to.”
Busey's new-found reality television stardom on the Celebrity Apprentice has made him a hit with a whole new generation of fans. In fact, Busey was such a hit on the show, he was asked to come back for All-Star Celebrity Apprentice, which premiered last Sunday on NBC.
While his shenanigans and savant-esq riffs on television have transformed Busey into an unlikely pop-culture phenomenon, it’s what he does when he’s not in front of the camera that gives him the most satisfaction.
“It’s very important for me to let people know about traumatic brain injury. The idea now is to be like an apostle or a minister, going out and telling people what this is all about,” he said.