Actor Gary Busey Critically Hurt in Culver City Motorcycle Crash

Times Staff Writer

Actor Gary Busey, whose 1978 performance in “The Buddy Holly Story” won an Academy Award nomination, was critically injured Sunday in a motorcycle accident in Culver City, police said.

Busey, 44, of Malibu, was driving west on Washington Boulevard near Robertson Boulevard at 11:40 a.m. when his Harley-Davidson motorcycle fell to the ground, Culver City Police Sgt. Karin Reagan said.

“He was thrown off, and the back of his head struck the curb,” Reagan said. “He was not wearing a helmet.”


Busey opposed mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists and appeared at a packed benefit last month at North Hollywood’s Palomino Club to raise money to hire lobbyists in Sacramento to fight such a bill.

The event’s sponsor, the California Motorcyclist Assn., argues that untrained and unlicensed riders are a greater danger than riders without helmets.

Reagan said Busey had just left a motorcycle shop about half a block away on Washington when the accident occurred, and there was no indication that he was speeding. A preliminary investigation indicated that no other vehicles or pedestrians were involved, she said.

The actor was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where physicians performed neurosurgery, hospital spokesman Ron Wise said.

“He is in critical condition with extensive head trauma, and he is in intensive care,” Wise said late Sunday.

Role in Miniseries

Last week, Busey starred as an American journalist in “A Dangerous Life,” an HBO cable television miniseries chronicling the revolution that toppled Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos and brought Corazon Aquino to power.


Busey had knocked around Hollywood a dozen years before landing the title role in “The Buddy Holly Story.” His electrifying performance as the late rock ‘n’ roll pioneer put his career into full ascent.

But success overwhelmed him, and by his own admission, he lost his bearings. His weight ballooned, as did his drug and alcohol use.

“I walked into a theater (where “Buddy Holly” was playing) and no one knew me,” he said five years ago. “I walked out and I was literally mobbed. It was very difficult to figure that out, especially for someone who grew up being rejected most of his life.”

Earlier this year Busey said he had quit using drugs in 1985.

Effects of Drugs

“Until then, I was so wired I could set up a Ferris wheel all by myself in 10 minutes,” he said.

After “Buddy Holly,” Busey, once a drummer in Willie Nelson’s band, appeared with the country singer in “Barbarosa,” in “D.C. Cab” with Mr. T and as the late University of Alabama football coach Paul (Bear) Bryant in “The Bear.”

He began a comeback two years ago, appearing as a malevolent thug in “Lethal Weapon”--after losing 60 pounds for the role. He went on to leading roles in “Bulletproof,” “An Act of Piracy” and the miniseries aired last week.