An annual classic, Rusty DeWees’ show “The Logger” caricatures just about every type of “Vermonter,” from old-timers to flatlanders. On tour this fall, he takes aim at skiers—because he is one.
For 22 years actor, comedian and writer Rusty DeWees has been pulling on a pair of old boots and a torn shirt, chugging from a jar of maple syrup and conjuring up a way of speaking that you might still come across at a general store north of Calais (pronounced “callous,” if you didn’t know). His shows at small town theaters and opera houses run the gamut from the profane to the profound; his act dances between Jim Carrey-like gyrations, flirtations with the audience and musings on life as it was when the roads were mainly dirt, everyone listened in on the party line and there were still more farmers in Vermont than farmers’ markets. As Rusty, now 57, will say, don’t ever try to call yourself a Vermonter—that takes generations. But after watching “The Logger,” you do feel a little closer to the Green Mountain state. For upcoming shows, see rustydewees.com.
Do you consider yourself a Vermonter?
I was born outside of Philadelphia but we moved here in 1968. My dad drove a Greyhound bus and my mom worked as the business manager at The Stowe Reporter for 30 years. I went through high school in Stowe, worked in construction and did some logging. I’m not a Vermonter but I’m darn lucky I’ve gotten to know a lot of true ones.
You also lived in New York. What was that like?
In my 30s I headed to New York and lucked into a gig working for William J. Doyle, who had a gallery and sold estate antiques. Pretty soon, I was his right-hand guy and having lunch with Gloria Vanderbilt at the 21 Club and going to parties in East Hampton with Ina Garten and the like. I never had any formal theater education but that taught me a lot and I was able to break into acting in New York.
You recently got a call for a movie that’s filming here, right?
A couple of years back two women from Vermont (I’d played at their high school years ago) called and said they had written a role for me as a general store owner in this movie. I figured that, as Hollywood goes, nothing would come of it. But I got the part and they’re here now, casting Soulmates, a buddy movie about two close friends in a small town where a big syrup company moves in. Ryan O’Neal is in it and the role I play is the general store owner. The best part is there’s a joke written for me: “You know why all the trees in Vermont lean east? Because New Hampshire sucks.” According to the script, Adam Sandler (who’s from New Hampshire) then says, “Hey, that’s not funny.”
What have been your favorite movie roles?
Well, I did some episodes of Law and Order, and I once got to take a knife away from Brad Pitt, but that scene was cut. I really like working with Kingdom County Productions’ Jay Craven. I think my role of Harlan Kitteridge in his A Stranger in the Kingdom was my favorite.
You’re performing in Rutland the weekend the World Cup comes to Killington. Your cat’s name is Mikaela and you’re a fan of ski racing. How does that fit into the show?
My cat skittles down the stairs so fast she looks like she’s running slalom gates so I changed her name to Mikaela, after Shiffrin. I grew up skiing at Stowe and went to school with Tiger Shaw [the former Olympic skier who now runs U.S. Ski and Snowboard]. In my show, I poke a little fun at the World Cup crowd there with lines like “That crowd’s so white it makes the snow look beige” and “betcha at Killington they even got solar panels on them portalets.”