Dukes' Star John Schneider and Ex-Miss America Tawny Little Hazzard a Marriage
"When John suggested the location, I couldn't believe he was serious," the bride says. "Then I realized, it's a pretty town, and the entrance can be controlled, so we wouldn't have a lot of gawkers." The night before the wedding, technicians "dressed" the set as if for a Dukes episode and added balloons and flowers.
Guards culled the crashers from the 400 guests, who included the Hazzard cast and Tawny's KABC-TV cohorts as well as the likes of Michele Lee, Gary Collins, Mary Ann Mobley and designer Albert Capraro; he made Tawny's white-silk, red-trimmed organdy gown and arrived with another client, Cristina De Lorean.
A brass quintet played 17th-century airs before the civil ceremony, which was helpful since final fussing with Tawny's gown in her dressing room made her 35 minutes late. The groom made his entrance in a 1962 Aston Martin Vantage, one of 15 classic cars he owns. Quipped a guest: "I was hoping the best man would be a car."
Before he married the couple, L.A. Superior Court Judge Armand Arabian cracked, "We're here to find out whether there's more to life than news, sports and the weather." When he asked Tawny if she'd "take" John, she said, "You betcha." Then rings were exchanged, and the guests toasted the pair with Moët et Chandon.
At the reception, as a C&W band from the L.A. Police Department struck up, Tawny embraced her IBM exec father, John Godin, and her mother, Connie, who allowed, "This was the first time I've ever cried at a wedding." (She apparently wasn't so moved at Tawny's first marriage—to L.A. neurosurgeon Miles Little.) Schneider talked cars with his father, John Sr., who runs an auto-and aircraft-upholstery business in Katonah, N.Y. Meanwhile, his mother, Shirley, who runs John's fan club, reminisced about her son: "He wanted to be an actor for as long as I can remember. I never pushed him." Four hours later, after cutting the cake, the two helicoptered to the airport for a Virgin Islands honeymoon.
They met at the 1982 Oscars, when Tawny, covering arriving celebs, shoved a mike at John. "I thought she was another pushy reporter," John remembers. Says Tawny: "He struck me as just another egotistical actor."
Both John and Tawny are over-achievers. When she joined KABC at 20, she had no reportorial experience. Says colleague Inez Pedroza: "She was looked at as a Miss America who needed training. There was resentment." Especially when, after her 1979 split from Little, she began chatting on the air about her dates with Burt Reynolds ("a guy with a nice sense of humor") and an oil sheik. As anchor of the 11 p.m. news, she now has a much-improved reputation. Even so, says Pedroza, "She still keeps to herself."
Schneider, for his part, has been long noted in his trade for a self-confidence as sturdy as his Western-style britches. Last year, he and co-star Tom Wopat quit Hazzard, which was paying each of them $30,000 an episode. They wanted script approval and royalties from sales of Hazzard products. They even filed a $25 million suit against Warner Bros, for royalties they said had been denied them. When Warner countersued for $90 million and cast Schneider and Wopat look-alikes, the ratings sank. The two actors subsequently went back to work for a reported $55,000 per show, and also won a percentage of the royalties.
It was during this controversy, a few months after their first meeting, that Schneider and Little began dating. Still, John says, "If someone had told me a year ago that I would be getting married, I would have said, 'You're crazy.' " But Tawny pushed him. "I thought he might ask me," she says, "but it wasn't soon enough."
Raised in New York and Toronto, she was a deb and a bright student who learned to speak French and Spanish (according to her stats, she knows some Greek, Latin, German and Russian). She entered the Miss New York contest to raise tuition money for Skidmore, but quit after her freshman year once she became Miss America. She raised eyebrows first by saying she had smoked pot and thought abortion a matter of personal choice, then by getting engaged—a rare step for a reigning Miss America. She fell for Little, her escort at a charity ball, after her coronation.
She enjoys TV but states, "I don't want to be anchoring the 11 o'clock news when I'm 50." Yet she says she feels she comes across as "too young for the networks," and worries that her acting holds scant promise: "It's not worth it if you're not as good as Streep or Fonda." A show like 20-20 might be nice someday, she says.
Schneider also worries about being too young; he has long told interviewers he is six years older than he really is. Born in Mount Kisco, N.Y., in 1960, he moved to Atlanta at 2 with his mother when his parents divorced. John starred in school plays and when the Hazzard producers interviewed hopefuls in Atlanta in 1977, he invented a hillbilly persona that won him his role. He has cut two albums and stars in the current film Eddie Macon's Run. Now looking for more screen roles, he spends his time writing movie scripts, running a business selling and servicing fancy cars and pursuing photography and carpentry as hobbies. His mom says he also knits and crochets.
For six months of the year, John is on the Hazzard set by 7 a.m. and often not back at his (now their) Hollywood Hills home till 8 or 9. Tawny, who kept her own condo before the marriage, does not get home from her show until 1 a.m. Despite their split schedules, she aims to have four children ("before my biological clock runs down," she says). She thinks their marriage will be happy. Like storybook Miss Americas, she plans to accede to her spouse. "He's definitely the dominant one," says a friend. She has already agreed, at John's behest, to use his name professionally. She may make even more concessions. "I went into this with my eyes open," she says. "I wouldn't have gotten married again if I didn't think that I could make it work."