By Eddie Rivera
Maybe two years ago, actor/writer Troy Evans and I were sitting at a table in a Highland Park café, having lunch. He had just returned from a heart-wrenching visit to Iwo Jima, where he visited a Veterans’ reunion in his father’s stead. His veteran pilot dad, Leo Evans, was in a hospital suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia.
As he began to relate some tales not only of the reunion, but also of his Dad’s courage, he choked up at the memories.
“At Iwo Jima, there was so much blood, the entire bay was red,” he recalled. “You can’t imagine what they all went through, all over that place, ” he said, quietly. The US forces lost more than 6,000 men in the two-month battle. Japan lost over 20,000.
His dad also flew bombing raids over Japan, including the last official mission. After bombing raids, his dad told him, the skies literally rained blood and fire, and body parts flew past the bombers 25,000 feet in the air. He described, his hands over the table, the crisscross path the bombers would take over the city, dropping bombs like paint.
As we talk, the old memories are fresh for him, having just spoken to the men who flew with his father. They bring up anew his own memories of a 19-year old kid from Montana, drafted and sent to Viet Nam, after flunking out of high school. He was unprepared then for what he experienced. As he told the LA Times, and others, “It never occurred to me that my government would send me 13,000 miles to kill people if there wasn’t a very good reason.”
He came back. Pissed off.
Back in Montana, he opened up the baddest rock and roll roadhouse in Kalispell, and he was the baddest thing in it.
“I was pissed off at everything,” he said. “And I took it out everywhere.”
If you were looking at him sideways, you were getting your ass kicked. He punched a man out in a grocery line once for being rude. He was every angry fantasy you had about smacking someone for being a jerk. Except he really did it.
This, from a small town boy who literally grew up wanting to be the President of the United States. That little dream became infinitely more difficult when, one winter night, he beat up two men in his bar—one for insulting a woman, and the other for calling for help.
He ended up serving 19 months for aggravated assault. (“I thought I was getting probation. I was in the courthouse that day ready to go home.”)
While behind bars, he began to assess his future career plans as a convicted felon. (“Let’s see….nope, can’t do that…President is off the table,…um, can’t do that, hmmm…..”).
Only one career choice was left. Actor. You didn’t really need much of anything to do that, he thought. He finagled the only theater book in the Montana prison system—a book of Shakespeare plays, read it cover to cover, and waited impatiently for his new career to take off.
Once released, he headed for college on the GI Bill, matriculated at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, and eventually made his way to Southern California, where his professional acting began, slowly but very steadily. (“After every job, I thought I would never work again.”)
But following countless plays, TV appearances, and a handful of movies, he cemented his career (and his Screen Actors’ Guild pension) with a steady role on the hit series “ER” with Noah Wiley and George Clooney. Troy played Frank, the cantankerous admitting room clerk. That’s where you know him from.
These days, Troy divides his time between Montana and Los Angeles, acting in the occasional play or commercial.
But earlier in his career, in his late ‘80s stand-up circuit days, he began developing his opus, “Troy Evans’ Montana Tales and Other Bad Ass Business,” which he will be performing this Saturday night, August 11, at the Audubon Center in Debs Park. If lunch is any indication, it’s a collection of rip-roaring and heart-tugging adventures from a guy who has more stories than your local library.
The show is a benefit for the Friends of the Southwest Museum, a group he has been heavily involved with since its inception.
Go. Take a friend. You’re at least guaranteed a laugh and a tear.
Just don’t piss him off.
“Troy Evans’ Montana Tales and Other Bad-Ass Business,” August 11, at the Audubon Center at Debs Park, 4700 North Griffin Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90031
Tickets available online at www.friendsof thesouthwestmuseum.com.