Gary Busey, Ted Haggard talk 'Celebrity Wife Swap,' faith and God (Q&A)
Gary Busey and evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, the subject of a widely-publicized gay sex scandal, trade spouses in an episode of ABC's new reality show "Celebrity Wife Swap."
Hijinks ensue when Steffanie Sampson, the mother of Busey's infant son Luke, and Haggard's wife Gayle trade places and dictate new rules to their new families. A preview of the ABC series, featuring Carnie Wilson and "Growing Pains" actress Tracey Gold, aired on Monday. Busey's and Haggard's families appear on an episode that airs on Tuesday, January 3, at 9 p.m. ET.
While their home lives are different, Busey, the 67-year-old star of films such as "Point Break," and Haggard, 55, both overcame major obstacles and found comfort in their religion.
Haggard was exiled from the New Life Church that he had founded in Colorado Springs and resigned as president of the National Evangelical Association in 2006 after a male prostitute claimed to have had drug-fueled homosexual trysts with him. Haggard admitted to paying the man for a massage and methamphetamines but denied using drugs and said the two did not have sex.
The scandal made national headlines. Haggard, who has condemned homosexuality, said he was "guilty of sexual immorality" and later underwent counseling. He has said the scandal made him contemplate suicide and that his time away from the church strengthened his faith.
"I'm a big fan of people who've gone through a resurrection story," Haggard told OnTheRedCarpet.com. "I love Michael Vick for going through what he went through and now he's out there playing ball again. And I love Tiger Woods, going through what he went through, and he's out there golfing again. I love David Letterman, going through that scandal and there he is, out there, doing his show every night."
Vick, the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles NFL team, made headlines over a 2007 high-profile conviction for running a kennel of fighting dogs. Woods lost endorsement deals and dominated tabloids over a 2010 cheating scandal that led to a costly divorce.
Haggard also referenced actor Mel Gibson, who made headlines over a 2006 DUI tirade and a leaked 2010 racist and expletive-filled rant against his ex-girlfriend, as well as sex scandals weathered by talk show host David Letterman and former president Bill Clinton.
"Mel Gibson's story - went through that trauma and embarrassment," Haggard continued. "He's out there making movies again. And the story is, the worst part of our life doesn't define us. Our life does. The Monica Lewinsky incident does certainly not ... define Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton is a wonderful blessing. His wife is a blessing because they made tough decisions to keep going ... That's what I see in Gary."
Busey became a born-again Christian following a 1995 arrest for felony drug possession, given after he overdosed on cocaine and GHB. His charges were dismissed. After battling his addictions, Busey joined the Christian evangelical men's group Promise Keepers and became an ordained minister.
Busey has been on reality shows before. He was part of the cast of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" in 2008, using his past history of substance abuse to serve as a counselor to stars suffering from addictions. His stint on "The Celebrity Apprentice," Donald Trump's reality show, saw him sparring with singer Meat Loaf.
Check out what else Haggard and Busey told OnTheRedCarpet.com about "Celebrity Wife Swap," past lives, faith and God in this exclusive Q&A:
OTRC: Did you scare Mrs. Haggard?
BUSEY: "With every ounce of my body, no. I welcomed her with open arms, an open heart, in a spiritual way, in a kind way, in a way, 'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,' and that's how I welcomed her. I was very excited to hear what she had to say and spend that time that we spent together for the show. It was motivating and inspiring in every day."
OTRC: Because in the clip that we see, as her looking a little frightened, just a little bit. Not quite sure of who you are.
BUSEY: "I didn't feel that at all. I knew that she had some restrictions in her belief system, concerning spirituality and being to the other side and being out of your body, which I've been. So I have no blockage on explaining the truth of my spirituality."
There's an openness that you have and always have had. When you ask Gary Busey a question, you get a full, complete answer.
BUSEY: "It's unfiltered and it's truth."
Ted, did you have any idea what you were in for?
HAGGARD: "No. We didn't know what we were in for, with Steffanie especially. She's not in the public eye like Gary is. But she explained herself. She told me that a psychic had told them about their past lives." BUSEY: "Yeah."
HAGGARD: "Which is a little out of sight of my world."
BUSEY: "Well I've had past life progressions. Go ahead."
HAGGARD: "And so various things like that. And I was just determined to be respectful and kind. In my faith system, I believe God has blessed us to the degree He has, so that we can be a blessing. So I wasn't there to fight with her about spirituality or even try and correct her about spirituality from my understanding. I was there to respect her and treat her like a guest in our home."
OTRC: What did you learn from Mrs. Busey, and what did you (Busey) learn from Mrs. Haggard?
HAGGARD: "Here's what I learned from Mrs. Busey. She came into our home and she could tell that we had been surviving but not thriving the way we could. So she invested in me and the children the ideas of saying, 'Let the past go. Don't let the naysayers define you. Don't let the most negative people that comment on you determine your future.'"
BUSEY: "Here, here."
HAGGARD: "'You respond to your core and you resurrect the way God wants you too.' So that's what she communicated to us."
BUSEY: "Gayle came in, acclimated very nicely from her world to the world with me, as Steffanie did with Ted, in his world, with him. And it was beautiful. It was beautiful. It was motivation, inspiring on her religious views and on her views as a believer and Christianity, as it says so, in God's word in the Bible. And we traded information about spirituality, where I've been and am, and her vision of being married to Ted and writing the book 'Why I Stayed.' That woman, Gayle, is so powerful in a loving, embraceable way, that you cannot not pay attention to her."
OTRC: Did she change your life?
BUSEY: "Change my life? Changed the way I view it. Yeah, everything changed your life when you open up to it and listen to it and welcome it in and let it motivate you. Of course it changes your life. Gives you a better perspective because you must remember, there are 360 ways to see an elephant."
OTRC: Is he motivational to you?
HAGGARD: "Oh, I love the guy. He is wonderful, he's fun, he's unpredictable."
HAGGARD: "He's spontaneous."
HAGGARD: "And he's a resurrection guy. Anybody that's been through the motorcycle accident the way he was, cancer in his face, he had to go through that surgery - all those things, they'd be out of it. But he has a core that had him doing what he wants to do, still working, still out there, still active, still influencing others."
BUSEY: "Comes under of the category of faith."
HAGGARD: "Yeah, it's faith."
OTRC: I want you to respond to something you say in the show. 'I've been an American Indian several times. I fought at the Alamo. In one of my recent lifetimes, I was burned at the stake as a female witch.'
BUSEY: "Yeah. I've had past life regressions with people who know that realm. One of my lifetimes was on Atlantis, connecting people with crystals to stars in a healing aspect. I've also been barbaric - I know that. I've been a severe warrior and a pirate. "
OTRC: When you hear Gary say that, Ted, do you just see a man of faith?
HAGGARD: "I respect Gary. I believe he believes what he believes for a reason."
BUSEY: "When for a reason, I was that. I've experienced that in my life - all my lives."
HAGGARD: "And I would die defending his right to believe it. Now, if we got into a discussion where Gary said, 'I'm starting to doubt some portions of my faith and on my journey and I'd like to talk with you,' then we would have that discussion and the same would be the opposite."
BUSEY: Never wilI doubt my faith.
HAGGARD: But if I went through a trauma and had questions, I wouldn't mind processing that with people as well. But he doesn't ask that question right now and so I'm not going to impose anything from my world view.
OTRC: Will you guys be having dinner two weeks from now, or is this it?
HAGGARD: Probably not two weeks from now, because, simply, I'll be in Colorado and Gary's going to be here in California, but we will have many wonderful dinners together."
BUSEY: "Yeah, I want to take my wife, Steffanie, and our son, Luke, who's 22 months ago - he goes by the name of 'Samurai' now - we want to take him to Colorado Springs. I want to take him there - I love Colorado - and go to the Garden of the Gods and visit the Haggard family, because I haven't met their children yet. Gayle has met Luke. He's a fierce little combo of everything good. And it's beautiful. It's beautiful, this connection that will be made to last and grow in prosperity and abundance during this time on earth.
HAGGARD: "We consider each other family friends and communicate and there was, from our point of view, and you can adjust this if you want to - we felt like that week together was very positive and we would do it again."
OTRC: Would you, if ABC called to say, 'We want you to be the patriarch of our new show' - would you commit to television weekly, or is one season enough for you?
BUSEY: "Oh no. Nothing is ever enough for me and if I'm available and the money's good and the script is good, has a good story, and a good foundation, platform for the show, of course. And if it doesn't , I'll do it anyway because I can make it better!"
OTRC: What do you want people to know about you today that they didn't know about you two years ago.
HAGGARD: "I doubt that very few of our viewers have been through as dark a night as we have been through and they need to know that even though the sun didn't rise for us for a year and a half, it did rise. And the sun will rise for every one of our viewers as well if they just hang in there."
BUSEY: "Let me tell you the definition of the word 'Faith.' I want to take the letters that spell 'Faith' and create a definition for the world. 'F-A-I-T-H' stands for 'Fantastic Adventures In Trusting Him.' That's one. And the word 'Hope' stands for 'Heavenly Offerings Prevail Eternally.' And let me give you one more. 'War.' 'Women And Religion.' The Book of Buseyisms will be published this month or the following month and you'll all have it on your coffee table or in your bathroom. You'll laugh and joke at things you don't get. Buseyisms."
Reporting by George Pennacchio of KABC Television, which produces the entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).