April 29, 2003

"Thumbs up for healthy living!"
Elementary school students in
Grand Rapids, Michigan
show their approval for Retro Bill.

‘Retro Bill’ tells students to be cool!

·       The Hollywood actor
promotes D.A.R.E. with
unusual props.

    By Melissa Kruse
The Grand Rapids Press

             An orange safety cone reminds him when it’s time for a haircut, but that’s nothing compared to the meaning “Retro Bill” can extract from a Hula Hoop and a blender.
             Retro Bill (Bill Russ), a colorful performer
from Hollywood, California, brought a message of self-esteem and good decision-making skills to Grandville Christian Elementary School and Highlands Middle School students Monday afternoon.  He told the students “making good Choices is like giving yourself an umbrella of safety.”
          The performer associated with Drug Alcohol Resistance Education programs visited Highlands Middle School and Grandville Christian School Monday, delivering his anti-drug message the only way Retro Bill can: with a faux leopard skin jacket and a gravity-defying pompadour.

           “Some people ask my why I dress this way,” said Retro Bill, who keeps his hair only slightly shorter than a small safety cone.  “This is a celebration of being cool.
      It’s important to choose things that make you happy.”
           Known for his award-winning “D.A.R.E. Safety Tips” video, the Hollywood actor/writer/producer tours the country teaching elementary, middle school and high school students the benefits of making good choices.
           Retro Bill’s offstage name is Bill Russ.  He grew up in Aurora, Il. and pursued  an acting and directing career in California, where he wrote screenplays, directed music videos and produced and directed infomercials.
           Now he uses his fast-paced style to woo kids into making positive life choices in performances constantly punctuated with his signature phrases: “cool” and “right-on.”

           Setting two safety cones on the gymnasium floor, Retro Bill illustrated how wise decisions such as respecting your parents, staying off drugs and doing well in school can move a kid from point A – where students are now – to point B – where their dreams come true.
          “Bad choices take you backwards,” he said, rolling a Hula Hoop between
 the cones.  “I have a Hula Hoop framed in my house, because it reminds me of
 ‘what goes around comes around’”.
          Living by his motto, Russ spent $250,000.00 – his life savings to pay for the
 “D.A.R.E. video “because it’s important to be caring and look out for others.”
          Picking through three large garbage cans, Retro Bill pulled out a can of beer,
 a fruity malted beverage, chewing tobacco and a carton of cigarettes, reading
The Surgeon General’s Warning on each.
          “They give customers a guarantee on the side of these packages,” said  Retro Bill.  “If you put this in your body it will be harmful.”

           Holding up a blender, Retro Bill asked students to pretend it was their body, then he mixed the alcoholic beverages and tobacco in it.
          “If you take this stuff out of its fancy containers and ignore the fruit on the label or the animals on the side of the package, this is what it looks like in your body,” said Retro Bill swirling the brown sludge.
           The message hit home for Highland Middle School fifth grader, Adam Jonckheere.          “If you put all those drugs in your body it will turn out to be a bog Dumpster,” he said.
           Russ said “Retro Bill’s” act changes slightly with high school students, because they are under more temptation to use drugs and alcohol.  Through question and answer sessions Retro Bill’s able to help them with specific issues.  And Russ said even though high-school students are older than the elementary and middle-school students, they appreciate Retro Bill’s message and the way it’s delivered.
           “Kids know if you’re for real or not,” Russ said.  “They know that I mean what I am saying, whether I’m in a rural area or an urban area they get it… ‘this guy’s for real.’”

RETRO BILL™ is a registered trademark of
Bill Russ Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.

D.A.R.E. is a registered trademark of D.A.R.E. America.
All rights reserved.
Copyright The Grand Rapids Press 2003