Gus Thomson's Media Life column appears Friday in the Auburn Journal

Media Life: Actor Perry King savors Cool ranch lifestyle

Party in the Park goes acoustic eclectic
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Owner of a 500-acre cattle ranch just beyond Cool, actor Perry King divides his time between Hollywood and the El Dorado County foothills but not his allegiances. King, probably best known for his star turn in the 1980s TV show “Riptide,” is, well, cool to Los Angeles as opposed to the rancher’s life on the other side of the canyon to Auburn. So it’s no stretch for King to enthusiastically take on the role of host for a new series produced by Emmy-Award-winning local Todd Stanley dubbed “Experience El Dorado” that’s targeted to roll out on a TV screen near you later this year. It’s going to give viewers a chance to see the attractions the county offers, from truffles farming to skiing to river festivals. “I want to tell the world about this place,” said King, who has called his foothills ranch home for more than a decade. “I’ve lived in about a zillion places in my life and this is the only place I’ve felt like it was my home.” The idea of King hosting “Experience El Dorado” came together easily. King had done a public service TV spot for the Bayley House restoration in Pilot Hill, which brought him into contact with Friends of the Bayley House member Jaime Tafoya. Tafoya had also started working with Stanley on the idea of a series of shows similar to “Bay Area Backroads” and “California’s Gold” but with an El Dorado County focus and the backing of the El Dorado County Visitors Authority. King serves as the host of the series and draws some of his inspiration from “California’s Gold” star Huell Howser. King has seen the Howser magic up close, with the twangy travel gadabout visiting to film a segment on his motorcycle collection. HOWSER INSPIRES “The reason he’s so good is because he clearly loves California and all its diversity,” King said. “And that’s the main reason I’m taking part in “Experience El Dorado.” If they asked me to do a show like this about Los Angeles I would have to decline. I don’t feel the same warmth there that I do about this place.” With Lotus resident Stanley – who won an Emmy in September for his work on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” – behind the camera, the series is intent on not only capturing the events and places of the county but also its people, Tafoya said. King brings 40 years of experience in acting to “Experience El Dorado.” One of his earliest roles was in 1974’s “The Lords of Flatbush,” a movie that teamed him with Henry Winkler and Sylvester Stallone. His most recent work has been on TV’s “Cold Case” and “Brothers & Sisters.” In movies, he did a memorable turn as a U.S. president dealing with global climate change in 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow.” King was also a major part of NBC’s “Titans” series in 2000, “Melrose Place” on Fox in 1995 and “Almost Home” in 1991-92. But his Cody Allen on the 56 episodes of “Riptide” between 1983 and 1986 put him in the pantheon of memorable TV private eyes. Twenty-two years after the series went off the air, King is comfortable with the role it played in his acting life and the place it now holds in the annals of the many cop shows from that era. King said he’s stayed friends with co-star Joe Penny, who went on to star in another TV private eye-action-drama, “Jake & The Fatman.” “Every few years we get together but it’s tough to schedule,” he said. “We’ve even talked about a reunion movie but to our horror, we’ve found that no one is interested.” King smiles when he says that, just as he’s smiling about his chance to tell the rest of the world about his home in the foothills. CHANGEUP IN THE PARK After last June’s Party in the Park, with a Tosh Meets Marley reggaefest that sizzled in the summer heat, the question begged to be asked: What will Auburn Recreation District Director Scott Holbrook and crew do for an encore? That question can now be answered. Party in the Park will take a different route to possible musical nirvana this coming June 19, with the Bay Area quartet The Waybacks booked to provide some acoustic and electric whizbang as headliners. Led by James Nash, a guitar player who was featured this past summer in Guitar Player magazine, the band takes a nightly journey all over the musical map. They’re comfortable dipping into jazzer Charlie Parker’s songbook to go with covers of Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin and The Grateful Dead. One moment, they’re bluegrass, the next they’re entering the roots realm. Folk is in their repertoire, as is Parisian swing. At North Carolina’s Merlefest in May, they recreated a toned-down version of all of Led Zep’s second album during a monumental set that featured several guest performers. Get ready to expect the pleasantly unexpected at Party in the Park. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at