Earlier today, J.Camm and I got to wondering about what ever happened to the cast of Nickelodeon’s Hey Dude! After a couple of weird Google searches, we ended up on the Facebook page of Danny Lightfoot, the self-proclaimed “Greatest Hopi Indian Child Actor of the late 80s/early 90s.” Played by actor Joe Torres, Danny starred in every episode of Hey Dude! There were some terrible rumors about his death, but a blog confirmed that he’s still kickin‘ it back in 2011. In case you were wondering what ever happened to him:
He resides in Tucson, Arizona where he frequents the Golden Nugget bar. Despite horrible rumors about an alcoholism-related liver failure death, Joe is alive and well to this day. The spirit of his most famous character, Danny Lightfoot, lives on in the hearts of old school Nickelodeon fans young and old alike.
I loved Hey Dude! Most if not all ’80s babies fondly remember the show as a staple of childhood. Although it only aired for two short seasons from 1989 – 1991, there was something endearing about a group of suburban kids coming together for hijinx on an Arizona dude ranch. You have to appreciate Ben Ernst’s escapism from the high pressured life of being a city-slicker accountant to hang out where the deer and the antelope play. Those of us now well into adulthood probably forget it was only two seasons long because we were busy enjoying childhood outside, away from the technological distractions that have given kids these days collective A.D.D. Like Salute Your Shorts, Hey Dude! is beloved by an entire generation that is old enough to remember it.
While browsing through Danny Lightfoot’s Facebook page, I came across a photo gallery of someone who paid a visit to the actual guest ranch near Tucson, Arizona where Hey Dude! was filmed. They built an entire mock ranch-within-the-rach to film the show. Per Wikipedia:
The familiar “ranch” that was known to television viewers was actually built from scratch, roughly a mile away from the main public areas. This was done so ranch guests would not be bothered by the production and to create buildings with a more “western” look, which was not offered by the relatively modern and luxurious Tanque Verde. The main lodge, boys/girls bunks, guest lodge (which doubled as cast dressing rooms) and the stable were all built specifically for the production. After the show wrapped physical production, the buildings were abandoned and several are still standing to this day, albeit in much disrepair. The exception to this, however, is the swimming pool that was frequently used on the show, which is actually the main pool for the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch and is still in use by guests.
Anyway, here’s what the now-abandoned ranch looked like in March 2013, when someone on Imgur paid a visit. Many-a 20 and 30-something will remember these structures from their establishing shots in show.
Watch out for those jackrabbits… And those killer cacti. RIP, Hey Dude!
Ranch entrance, only one sign post is still up:
Ernst’s Office from Reception Area
The staircase behind the reception desk leads to nowhere:
Reception fireplace, looking back towards entrance
Ernst’s office interior
Boys’ bunks patio
Boys’ bunks interior
And here’s a video from one vlogger’s visit to abandoned “Hey Dude” set in the desert: