Splitsider

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

It's Schweechuk, Dammit: Ten Police Academy Truths of Which You May Not Be Aware

Does history boast a film series more venerable or revered than Police Academy, the seven goofball law enforcement comedies that launched Steve Guttenberg's career and provided Michael Winslow with a steady paycheck for over a decade? For the purposes of this article, no, Police Academy is humankind's greatest cinematic achievement. Yet, as widely popular as these films are, we still have much to learn about their history and production. Come forward now and intellectually bathe yourself in ten facts regarding these movies that are generally foreign to the average viewer in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and other parts unknown.

1. Steve Guttenberg Wasn't The First Choice For Mahoney

It's inconceivable to imagine now, but there was a time when the powers that be were considering other personalities for the central Police Academy role that Steve Guttenberg would define over four entries. Granted, the original film's producers didn't veer too far from the model of serviceably handsome and charmingly mischievous white guy — Bruce Willis, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, and Judge Reinhold were all reportedly considered for cadet Carey Mahoney before Gutte — but still! To imagine a world where Guttenberg's 100 watt smile and soft Care Bear eyes are substituted with Judge Reinhold's insincere smirk or the sour, squinty affects of Bruce Willis is pure madness. There is only one Mahoney in this dojo.

2. Sweetchuck's Name Isn't Sweetchuck

Tim Kazurinsky's diminutive nerd character is terrorized by criminals, fellow recruits, and his own klutziness over the course of three Police Academy films. Although the world would eventually accept the nervous nelly in question as "Sweetchuck," the character had no name when he debuted — Kazurinsky was listed as playing the "merchant" in the credits of Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment. Closer inspection of said merchant's store window in various Police Academy 2 establishing shots proves the character is actually named "Schweechuk." This is apparently not to be confused with a sign in the first Police Academy advertising "Fine European Tailoring" by "Sweedchuk." "Schweechuk," "Sweedchuk," and "Sweetchuck," it should be noted, are all a play on Police Academy set decorator Steve Shewchuk's unusual last name.

3. Callahan Digs Guns In Real Life

Leslie Easterbrook made her mark as fierce warrior cop Debbie Callahan in six Police Academy movies and the doomed 1997 live-action TV series. Apparently Callahan's zeal for weaponry isn't anything Easterbrook had to fake — the native Nebraskan is an NRA member, once served on the board of directors of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, and even produced her own how-to firearms video, Real Beginner's Guide to the Shotgun Sports (release date unknown). Let us now debate what is cooler: That Leslie Easterbrook can ostensibly shoot like Callahan in real life, or that there are actual sports out there that involve shotguns.

4. Mauser Sued Family Guy

Art Metrano, who played nasty suck-up Mauser in Police Academy 2 & Police Academy 3: Back In Training, first garnered show biz acclaim in the 1970s by appearing on talk shows and performing a goofy "magic" act with his fingers while obnoxiously humming Kay Swift's Depression Era hit "Fine and Dandy." After hugely popular FOX juggernaut Family Guy animated Jesus Christ doing Art's faux slight-of-hand routine in the 2007 DVD release Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, Metrano filed suit against the program and its creators for $2 million. Not surprisingly, the case was thrown out two years later by U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, who may have been influenced by Mauser's poor treatment of Mahoney all those years ago.

5. Fackler's Wife Died Under Mysterious Circumstances

Although Debralee Scott is probably best known for her role as the title character's sister Cathy on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Police Academy 2 fans will forever remember the actress as Cadet Douglas Fackler's comically nervous wife who wound up becoming a recruit herself in Police Academy 3. Unfortunately, Debralee Scott's life following the Police Academy films wasn't as lighthearted. The actress lost her fiancé, a New York City police officer, in the 9/11 attacks; four years later, Scott relocated to Florida to care for an ailing sister. It was during this stretch of time that Scott herself collapsed into an unexplained coma. After waking up on April 2, 2006, in a coherent and perceived healthy state, Debralee was released from the hospital by her doctors. Four days later, Scott passed away during an afternoon nap. An autopsy could find no certain cause of death.

6. Captain Harris Was Drunk For All Of Police Academy 4

In 2008, G.W. Bailey sat down with The Onion's A.V. Club to discuss his lengthy and varied acting career. Of course the interview touched upon his work as the permanently scowling Captain Harris throughout Police Academy and its sequels. Bailey noted that the original Police Academy was special to him because "that's the first time we all met" and the most enjoyable sequels to make were Police Academy 5: Mission Miami Beach ("You know, great-looking women.") and Police Academy 7: Mission Moscow ("It's certainly not a great film, but it was great to shoot in Russia."). Most interesting of all were Bailey's memories concerning Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol — he had none. Quoth G.W.: "Number four, I was in, but I was drunk, so I don't remember it at all."

7. Hightower Was Afraid of Sharks

Okay, so you're Bubba Smith. You're a Super Bowl Champion. You've appeared in two Pro Bowls. Your final game at Michigan State in 1966 was affectionately dubbed "The Game of the Century," and in the first quarter of that game you tore opposing quarterback Terry Hanratty's shoulder from its goddamn socket. So whaddya afraid of some sharks for? Nobody knows, but apparently the late Smith, who reigned supreme as Police Academy's gruff but sensible Hightower, had a crippling fear of the unblinking sea beasts. This made filming a sequence in Police Academy 3 in which Smith had to stand in a body water to stop a boat quite harrowing for the athlete turned actor — reportedly, Smith was "scared to death." You'll notice that David Graf's Tackleberry was the one to handle the inevitable Jaws joke that rose up in beach-centric Police Academy 5 (although Smith was gracious enough to pretend to wrestle an alligator in some murky swamp waters).

8. Vince Neil Was Supposed To Be In Police Academy 6

Sleaze metal experts Mötley Crüe experienced commercial apex in 1989, releasing their best-selling album Dr. Feelgood in September and racking up two Grammy nominations in the process. Yet '89 wasn't all gravy for the Crüe: Singer Vince Neil was unceremoniously cut out of that year's Police Academy 6: City Under Siege. Neil, playing himself, filmed a deleted sequence for the installment wherein Bubba Smith's Hightower knocks over a gaggle of journalists in an attempt to get the peroxide-laden pretty boy to the airport on time. You can see the scene in its entirety at the end of the following YouTube clip, which also finds an affable(!) Neil chatting with makeup people and laughing about his name being misspelled on his set trailer.

9. There's a Police Academy Stunt Show In Spain

Here in America, we have Six Flags amusement parks. Overseas, there are Warner Bros. Movie Worlds. Since 2002, Madrid's Warner Bros. Movie World has hosted a thrilling stunt show based on our most beloved string of b-grade law enforcement comedies. Although the only recurring characters are apparently Commandant Lassard and Captain Harris, audiences still pack in to see the "Loca Academia de Policia." Police Academy stunt shows were also once featured at Warner Bros. Movie Worlds in Germany and Australia. We're guessing those countries pulled the plug after witnessing the stillbirth that was Police Academy 7 (okay, that was a nasty and unfair joke; Germany's Police Academy stunt show actually ran until 2004; Australia closed theirs down in 2008).

10. Michael Winslow Is the Only Actor to Appear in Every Police Academy Thing Ever

Not only has Michael Winslow portrayed sound effects specialist Larvelle Jones in all seven Police Academy movies, the 1988 animated TV series, and the 1997 live-action TV series, he's also reprised the character on such unrelated programs as Tosh.0 and Robot Chicken. Of course, it's kind of hard to tell where Winslow ends and Jones begins, and the argument could be made that the actor's been playing Larvelle Jones his entire life. No harm, no foul. Anyone who hates on the guy is simply jealous they can't bank five figures for making helicopter noises every time they leave the house.

James Greene, Jr. is a freelance writer who has actually been paid real money by places like the New York Press, Geek Monthly, Crawdaddy.com, and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader. A visit to his personal blog should eat up at least two minutes of your day.