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
The Hollywood actor
promotes D.A.R.E. with
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
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
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
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
the cones. “I have a Hula Hoop framed in my house, because it reminds me
‘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
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,
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
“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
Bill Russ Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
is a registered trademark of D.A.R.E. America.
All rights reserved.
Copyright The Grand Rapids Press 2003