August 16, 2014

‘Duck Dynasty’ guys have made beards big on TV

For the members of the Robertson family and close friends like Godwin, all stars on the A&E Channel’s hit reality series, “Duck Dynasty,” facial hair is a trademark look. If you don’t have a beard, you don’t fit in.

John Godwin remembers the time when his white beard stood out — for the wrong reason.

It happened in the Louisiana bayou when Godwin joined the other bearded members of the “Duck Dynasty” cast for a duck hunt. The mallards were flaring every time they got close to the spot where the hunters were hiding.

Finally, Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the famous family and the star of the “Duck Dynasty” reality television show, figured out what he thought was the reason.

It was Godwin’s beard.

“With Phil, everyone has to be perfectly hid,” Godwin said during an appearance at the Cabela’s store in Kansas City, Kan., last weekend. “I’ve seen times when he will even spray paint limbs so that they aren’t too bright.

“Well, he made me put face paint in my beard so that it wouldn’t stand out so much. I still think he was a little paranoid, but it was hard to tell him that after the ducks started coming in.”

Later, Godwin went to a “regulation beauty shop” as he put it and tried to see if he could get his beard dyed in a camouflage pattern. But it didn’t work and Godwin decided to settle for what he had.

“I’m not shaving this beard off,” he said. “I’ll just have to be the silver fox of the group.”

Ah, tales of the beard. For the members of the Robertson family and close friends like Godwin, all stars on the A&E Channel’s hit reality series, “Duck Dynasty,” facial hair is a trademark look.

If you don’t have a beard, you don’t fit in.

“It started when years ago Phil growed his out for camouflage and to keep warm when we were duck hunting,” Godwin said. “It just kind of caught on from there.

“I don’t think I’d want to even see myself without a beard. Pretty scary.”

Jay Stone, another “Duck Dynasty” cast member, feels a similar affection for his beard.

“Without our beards, there wouldn’t be a ‘Duck Dynasty,’” said Stone, who also made an appearance at Cabela’s during the store’s Waterfowl Weekend. “It’s a rough, outdoors look and that’s what we want.”

Phil, Si, Willie, Jase, Godwin, Mountain Man — they’re all known for their beards.

The show chronicles the life of the Robertson family and their friends, who found wealth, fame and a deep belief in God while manufacturing Duck Commander calls in the heart of Louisiana. And it has a wild following.

Since it debuted on A&E on March 21, 2012, “Duck Dynasty” has been a huge hit. An episode of the show last year was seen by almost 12 million viewers, making it the most-watched nonfiction show in the history of cable television. Viewership has since dropped off, but the series still has healthy ratings.

Cast members such as Godwin and Stone still marvel at how far the Duck Commander business has come. It started in 1972, with Phil handcrafting the calls in a small shed that is still standing. As his calls and the family’s reputation for duck hunting grew, they were asked to do hunting videos and a television show, which immediately were well-received.

That led to A&E approaching the Robertsons about starting a reality series.

“Phil asked, ‘When will we get started?’” Godwin said. “And the A&E people said, ‘Right away.’

“Phil just looked at them and said, ‘The hunting season isn’t even open yet.’ They told him that didn’t matter, they were going to film some of what goes on in our lives.

“We couldn’t figure out what that was all about. We couldn’t see how people would find that interesting.”

But they have. Today, the likenesses of “Duck Dynasty” cast members are seen on everything from lunch boxes to mugs. The show ran into trouble in late 2013 when A&E suspended Phil for controversial remarks he made during an interview with GQ magazine.

But he soon was reinstated and life went on for the cast members.

“People think we’re acting,” Godwin said. “But this is who we are.

“We don’t have lines to memorize or anything like that. They just turn the cameras on and show us like we are.

“People will ask, ‘When do you get any work done?’ But they don’t understand. This is a family business and we make our duck calls on our schedule.”

Fame hasn’t changed the “Duck Dynasty” boys, Godwin said.

They still don’t let much get in the way of their duck hunting, they fish for giant crappies and they have kept their strong belief in God, as evidenced by a prayer at the end of each show.

But that isn’t to say there haven’t been changes in their lives. The building in West Monroe, La., is now a tourist attraction, with crowds showing up every day for tours. And cast members are besieged by requests to make talks and appearances across the country.

But they still cling to their old ways.

“We hunt every day of the season,” Stone said. “And we still make our duck calls pretty much the same way we did back in 1972.

“We hand-tune every call and we test them before they go out. We don’t let this go to our head.”

Godwin agreed that the “Duck Dynasty” cast members haven’t forgotten their roots.

“We stay well-grounded because of our faith,” Godwin said. “We haven’t forgotten where we came from.”

To reach Brent Frazee, The Star’s outdoors editor, call 816-234-4319 or send email to bfrazee@kcstar.com.

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