John Reger looks like your typical anchorman: clean-cut, handsome, and thoroughly coiffed. But the frontman for Central California’s KSBY ("On the air in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo) is a newsman with a past. In 1984, Reger starred as the villainous Rudolf “Rudi” Garmisch in the iconic ski-sex comedy Hot Dog…The Movie. The flick, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, was the first eighties picture to mix powder and boobs - the midwife of a genre that flourished briefly before wiping out hard on the bumpy sexual politics of the early nineties. It was also one of the first films to show genuinely impressive carving, which earned it a serious following despite the horn-dog silliness, and helped put Squaw Valley on the map. It was Reger's first big role.
In the film, a wacky ski-team goes head-to-head with their evil, corporate counterparts, resulting in numerous pranks, hot tub hi-jinks, and a winner-take-all race down the mountain’s toughest slope. Think Mighty Ducks at 60 degrees with nudity and you’ve got the idea. It was Netflix fare before Netflix and it made Reger temporarily famous.
It’s haunted him ever since, but he's quick to say he doesn't regret taking the role. It didn't make him a star, but making Hot Dog was - in Reger's estimation - as much fun as you could have with a snowsuit on.
Reger talked to Maxim about how he embodied an eighties douchebag, wrangled hot extras, failed to actually ski, made out with Knight Rider’s wife, then tried to convince people to take him seriously. Needless to say, the guy still skies Squaw.
How’d you get the part of Rudolph Garmisch in Hot Dog?
At the time, I was a good skier and I’d heard they were looking for people who were ‘Hot-dog skiers who looked Nordic.’ And I got a hold of the script through my commercial agent. I’d done some commercials; I was the Old Spice deodorant guy for a few years. In fact, I did another accent when I was the Irish Spring guy for a while. So my commercial agent was like, ‘Hey Reger, don’t you ski? Here’s a script, they’re looking for guys to be on the German/Austrian team.’ I saw the character and I said, ‘Shit, I speak German and I can do a German accent.’ Every time I went in [to the audition], I acted like a mean guy and did the accent, and I did that all throughout the interviewing process. Never cracked a smile. So I got the movie.
My accent was based off Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzennegger. I went and rented that movie. I guess it worked, because I’ve been hearing about this Hot Dog for 30 years. People in public come up to me, and, as soon as I got into TV, I’d get, ‘Oh, Reger! I just realized why I recognized you! I saw that movie 40 times, man - it changed my life!’
There’s a lot of partying in ski movies. Was there a lot of partying on-set?
Yes. If you remember, we shot it in ’83, and there was a lot of partying going on in the country. And, up there, all the guys on Rudi’s team- ‘The Rudettes’- they were not actors from LA - they were ski instructors and bartenders and waitresses up there from Squaw Mountain. So they were living the party life to begin with. Now I don’t want to say anything about what kind of partying we were doing: I, of course, never touched a thing, but there was a lot of partying going on. Some of that- in the movie they play it up- but the lifestyle was definitely ‘ski all day, party all night,’ and that didn’t stop when we made the movie.
I remember one night, we were shooting a party scene- it took us four nights in a row, to shoot the hot tub stuff and the dancing at the party- and they’d rented somebody’s expensive house. You can’t have everyone on set at all times, so they had me wait in the motor home with the ‘Rudettes,’ because [in the film] we don’t show up at the party ‘til later. So, of course, I found the cutest extras and invited them into the motor home, and somehow the motor home disappeared and ended up in a ditch about a mile away. From then on, it was decreed that actors cannot bring any extras into the motor home. Those were wild nights.
Shannon Tweed plays a rich ski bunny. Was Gene Simmons sniffing around the set a lot?
Gene Simmons was not involved at that point. He came in much later. I think she’d just been involved with Hugh Hefner, because she was Playmate of The Year and living at the Playboy Mansion. This was her first acting job and she was very nice, a regular person. So there was none of that action.
The thing I remember about Shannon: She was supposed to be Rudi’s girlfriend and a fantastic skier in the movie, but she had never skied. So we found a girl up there who was six feet tall like Shannon. She had to wear something to make her boobs look bigger in that skin-tight blue outfit that [Shannon] wore. That same girl was one of the ‘Rudettes.’ You just never saw her face.
Did the cast get to ski a lot while filming?
There were a ton of local skiers who made money as ‘sherpas,’ as they would call them. They’d put equipment on their back and take the lift up and then ski down to the location. Even in my free time, they wouldn’t let me go skiing because somebody twisted a knee or whatever. I would stand there all day- and those days of acting were long, long days- I’d stand there in position, have a scene, and they’d say, ‘Okay, now ski off.’ ‘Ski off?! I’m frozen!’
One of the movie’s more memorable moments is when you tell the hero what you had for breakfast, alluding to the fact that you’d had relations with his girlfriend, Sunny.
It said in the script I had ‘Sunny side up,’ but I said to the director: ‘How about you let me say the whole thing: ‘I had Sunny side oop, I had Sunny side down, und I had Sunny all zevay around.’’ I have to say that line a million times now at reunions. People come up to me: ‘Say the line! You’ve gotta say it!’ It’s cool.
In an ironic twist, you went from playing a German villain to working with David Hasselhoff on Knight Rider.
I sang on that episode- that whole episode was, the lead singer of a rock band gets killed, and Knight Rider goes undercover to find the murderer. It was the second season of Knight Rider and they were going to launch his music career because he was such a big star at the time. [But] he didn’t become famous for Germany until the wall came down and singing “Looking For Freedom,” or whatever the hell that song was. He’s a tall guy. I met him because whenever you do one of those shows there’s a lot of hanging around. He came up and congratulated me on my song. I did run into him 20 years later, said hey. In the episode, I had to kiss his then-wife- she was the singer in the band, a gorgeous little blonde- she was my girlfriend on the show, but I was dead soon, lying on the floor with blood coming out of me.
Do your co-anchors ever recognize you from your acting days?
In news there’s a lot of stress, and when there’s breaking news, there’s a lot of teamwork. When I got into broadcasting, people didn’t mix entertainment with news. No one had really gone from acting into broadcasting, and so I never brought up my history. When I [put together] my resume, I just kind of left off 15 years of my time in Hollywood.
Usually, if I’ve been somewhere for two or three years, we’ll do a story on John Reger’s ‘Secret Background’ and run a lot of funny clips. I’ve played a lot of the ‘new boyfriend’ kind-of-a-thing, who’s the jerk who is sleeping with three women who are all roommates.
How does one make the switch from acting to broadcasting?
Before I got into Hollywood, I took a year to do this nationally syndicated TV show, Evening Magazine. I was traveling around the country and ran into a guy who rode broncos for a living - did a story on him. I did something on skiing in Utah - they were practicing hot dog skiing in a pool where they’d set up this big ramp. I did one year where I worked out of a newsroom, not doing the news but travel/adventure stories. So when I decided to go from acting to broadcasting, I knew I had to get a tape together to show how I would perform as an anchor.
I started this little TV show in LA called West Side News. I just went to the local cable company and they offered studio time. So I did some stories about west-side LA, put together a tape, put on a suit and tie and I got a job up in Idaho. Been working ever since.
Who gets more chicks, actors or news anchors?
Of course, the news anchor job is a ‘family-friendly’ job, so you play it pretty conservative in the area that you’re in. I’d have to say it’s pretty much a tie. But things are still pretty good.
Did you ever think the movie would become a classic while you were shooting it in '83?
No! I wasn’t even sure it was going to come out. I had no idea how great the skiing was going to be.
Any chance of a Hot Dog 2: Rudi’s Revenge?
Every once in awhile, 10 to 15 years, they call me: ‘Hey, we’re considering Hot Dog 2. What’s your availability?’ I always tell them I’d be up for it. At this past reunion in Maine, the writer said he was working on the sequel.
Hey listen, you know that black outfit I wore in the movie? I brought that up to Squaw because, when they have the reunion, they have a costume contest. Everyone comes in the onesies and all their eighties gear. I put on my skintight black Rudi outfit. I can still cut it.
Did the ladies freak out?
I’m a little bit older so there was a little less freaking out.