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Movie Actor-Turned-Troubadour Makes Roanoke Appearance

Actor-musician Ronny Cox drew more than 300 people to the Roanoke City main branch library for his performance.
Actor-musician Ronny Cox drew more than 300 people to the Roanoke City main branch library for his performance.

Ronny Cox’s recent three-man band performance at the Roanoke Main Library was moved from the Brady Room Patio to the mezzanine due to rain, but the weather did not adversely affect turnout (every seat was occupied) or dampen the spirits of those attending. Cox’s charisma and charm, coupled with his skilled storytelling as he introduced each song, brought about a strong connection with the audience.

Touring with the veteran actor (well known for the Beverly Hills Cop movies) were David Ferguson and Radoslare Lorkovik. The trio showcased an eclectic mix of folk, country, jazz, and blues that brought out toe-tapping, and hand-clapping, evoking audience responses such as “Crank it up Ronnie!” and sing-a-longs.   A Roanoke-based artist known best as Toobz created the stage backdrop for the show, representative of some of the acting roles that Cox has played.

Cox said that he loves music more than acting because with acting there is “an imaginary fourth wall.  The thing that gives me the most pleasure is the opportunity of sharing music with other people.  Half the fun is to see how a song affects someone and how their reaction affects me.  The audience’s reaction gives me direction.”

Preferring to perform in smaller venues, Cox likes for his audience to be as close as possible and for the lights to be turned up.  The goal “is to engage the audience” in every performance, Cox stressed.  During intermission, he posed for pictures, chatted amiably with those in attendance, and signed CD’s.

The line-up of tunes performed included material from his latest CD, “Songs…With Repercussions,” which recently was named number one on the Folk DJ’s play list.  The songs concern the absence of Mary, his wife, who passed away after a bout with cancer in 2006.  The love of his life and his soul mate of 45 years was “the most intelligent and well-educated woman that I have ever known — and she was the only woman that I ever dated,” said Cox.

He went on to add, “Mary read at least five books every week and she was so much fun to be with.  She went to every single movie shooting and every performance that I did and she never complained.  She would carefully search the audience for a face who had not previously seen the show and make a point to sit beside of that person to gain a fresh perspective through that individual’s viewpoint.  Mary thought that I was the ‘cat’s meow’ and her support of me was the greatest validation I ever had.”

The couple have two sons and were a close-knit family.  “We had a wonderful rich home life that had nothing to do with the Hollywood lifestyle.  We focused on each other and family.”

While the world has seen Ronny Cox evolve over the last ten years from a Hollywood actor to singer, ironically it was his talent as a guitar-picking musician that provided him with the opportunity to make his acting debut in the 1972 box-office hit “Deliverance.”  He worked alongside Burt Reynolds, and in one scene, leaned against an old station wagon and played “Dueling Banjos” with the character Lonnie (Billy Redden).

He grew up near Clovis, New Mexico, where a major recording studio was located during his high school and college years.  “I was at the recording studio when several hits were recorded, including when Buddy Holly recorded the song ‘Peggy Sue,’” said Cox, who worked his way through college with a band.

In 1984, Cox appeared in his first blockbuster, “Beverly Hills Cop,” playing the role of a play-by-the-book California Police Lieutenant Andrew Bogomil, squaring off against Eddie Murphy, a free wheeling detective from Detroit.  Cox played the same role in the sequel to “Beverly Hills Cop.”  Other movies included “RoboCop,” “Total Recall,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town.”

Cox also played roles on television shows including “Apple’s Way,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Chain of Command” and “Desperate Housewives.”  While Cox continues to have opportunities for acting roles, his transition from being primarily an actor to musician has come full circle.

• There are numerous upcoming events also scheduled at the Roanoke City Main Library (on Jefferson Street) in October.  Lunchtime “Music on the Patio” from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. will feature Billy Joe Chambers and Al Coffey on October 8, Bob Hale on October 15, and Grace Note on October 22.

•  On October 15, John Anderson will be speaking at 6 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. about his book, “Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men,” and he will be signing books afterward.  (Note: Anderson’s Today Show appearance, mentioned in a Star-Sentinel story last week, has been moved to October 8.) On October 20, Jess Gearing will be speaking 6 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. on, “Alternative Thanksgiving:  Cooking for Vegans and Gluten-Free Eaters.” For more details about other events at Roanoke City libraries, visit roanokeva.gov/library and click on “The Spot Newsletter,” or call (540) 853-1057.

By Susan Ayers
[email protected]

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