Dog the Bounty Hunter has become the highest-rated show in A&E history. After two successful seasons of busting bad guys on bond and a third season already underway, the second season of the wildly popular show makes its way to DVD in Dog the Bounty Hunter: The Best of Season 2. We caught up with everyone’s favorite bounty hunter, Duane “Dog” Chapman, as he gets set for his upcoming wedding and picked his brain on everything from his ongoing battle to quit smoking, his troubled past growing up in Denver, to how he now goes after people given the show’s popularity and whether he ever worries about getting shot on the job.
UGO: How are the wedding plans coming along?
DUANE “DOG” CHAPMAN: Well, she hasn’t got a dress yet. We’ve got a place where we’re going to get married. I’m just glad the husband isn’t in charge of this stuff. But, how do I say this properly – I’m marrying my common-law wife the Christian way on May 20th. We’ve been together many years as husband and wife but the Christians are like, “Yeah, well, he’s not even married,” so I don’t want to make anyone upset, especially when I’m praying, you know, and especially crazy Beth. She’s as crazy as what you see on TV.
UGO: A crazy woman can sometimes be good for a guy.
DOG: Yeah, I have to have one.
UGO: So, Hulk Hogan is going to be at the ceremony. How did you guys become friends?
DOG: Well, years and years ago I met the Hulk in Hawaii and he does things on a larger scale, literally, like I do, slamming people, you know. He had heard about us on some arrest we did and believe it or not, he came to find me. What a really decent guy. His kids were little babies then and now Hulk Hogan’s got his own show, Hogan Knows Best. As a matter of fact, it’s my second most favorite show, mine’s first, of course. We just met him here in LA, so I said, “Listen brother, we need to do some celebrity ride-alongs.” Then he asked, “Why do you want to do that?” That’s when I said, “Listen, Hulk, when the guy meets you, I can use you as a reference and say, ‘OK, this day that you met the Hulk, is that enough reference for you to grab on to and say I met the Hulk and I’m changing my life from this day on?’” The Hulk was like, “That’s great,” so we’re trying to get him on a ride-along.
UGO: How are you doing with the battle to quit smoking?
DOG: I’m going to get hypnotized today. I’m down to about 10 cigarettes a day. She’s constantly on me, man. I feel like I’m in prison, you know. I went from 4 packs a day, to about 10 cigarettes a day. I’m in LA right now and I’m going to get hypnotized today because I’ve heard a lot people say that it really works. I mean, it’s very hard. I’ve never been hooked on any kind of drug or any of that, so I haven’t been through the “cold turkey” stuff. But, I’m telling you, this is a terrible habit, especially when you get older and it’s hard to quit. It’s a challenge. I mean, it’s incredible, last night I felt like crying. It’s hard, brah!
UGO: Yeah, it’s tough for a lot of people.
DOG: Well, you know, they were telling me to go to the Betty Ford clinic for cigarettes. I told them, “Whatever works.” So, I’m going to quit. I have to quit; I’m on television. A kid the other day was [looking up to] “The Dog” and his mother called me and he had his little handcuffs, and she said that just as he grabbed the neighbor to arrest him, he grabbed a stick and put it in his mouth. How could I say, “Lord, keep me safe and keep me well,” when that happened? In my life, I’m not slow and I’m not stupid, but I think God shows it to me in color, so I have to quit.
UGO: I’ve heard that you always wanted to be a cop. What lead you to the other side of the tracks if that’s what you always wanted to become?
DOG: Well, I always wanted to be a cop, but at this age I can look back and see where I turned. When I was at school in Denver, Colorado in the early ’60s, we had something called integration and they bussed, of course, the white boys to the school with Mexicans, black guys and people with darker skin. I ended up being the only white boy in the school and I had to fight for my right to breathe. Once I started boxing and winning a couple of fights, I took karate, and with fighting and all of that violence comes those kinds of friends. I had to hang around bikers and groups of gangs to be able to save my lunch money. I’m almost half Cherokawa Indian, but I still have blue eyes, and I was considered the half-breed white boy, so I had to put up or shut up. Then, of course, three or four years later, they realized not to do this to kids and they quit that, but I was already ruined by then. So, that had a lot to do with it. I went to school in the ghetto. My dad had two jobs and he had a nice house, but I was bussed to where they barely even had a house. I didn’t hear four-letter words when I was 12 years old. I had never heard anyone cuss before; I didn’t even know that stuff. A day or two into school, I was like, “Oh, my God. What is this?” Really! I wasn’t going to give up my lunch money, so I had to start fighting. And, of course, like I say, that leads to friends that fight and that leads to gangs. So at 14 years of age, I became a member of a gang, and for the next eight years, it ruined my life
UGO: Given the success and popularity of the show over the past two seasons, I’ve heard that Da Kine Bail Bonds actually took a 60% hit in business because the office has been flooded with calls. You didn’t have to go back to selling Kirby vacuum cleaners, did you?
DOG: [laughs] No, thank God, but it did. You know, we’d get calls like, “Dog, thank you, please talk to my son,” and we’d get stalker calls like, “I’m going to kill you, you freak.” Then, the people that call for bail, of course, our line is busy so they go to the next guy in the book. Our bail bonds business has taken a severe hit. Even though we keep getting more lines, we still get more calls. I mean, we got more calls the other day than the bank. Every second, the phone rings, I mean every second. I’m not complaining about it, you know, but I need to not run out of jumps [bail jumpers].
UGO: Now that so many people recognize you after two seasons, how have you changed the way you go after people?
DOG: Well, the exact same way. I’m an optimist, so I use that to my advantage. I was many years with Anthony Robbins, the motivational speaker from the ’80s on, and he became my good friend. I took all of his classes and all of his courses. A lot of his stuff is body language and reading people. Of course, I’ve done bounty hunting since the ’70s, so I have to be able to read a guy from a block way, his walk and his talk to stay alive. Is he packin’, or is he not? Tony Robbins taught me a lot and fine-tuned a lot of intuition that’s deep inside me. When I was a kid, and if I’d just had a beer, I’d sit at a stop sign, and on the other side of the street there was a cop and I’d go, “Oh, my God. I have to look forward. I have to sit up straight. I can’t look at him.” Then a block later, the cop pulls me over and I’d ask, “Why did you pull me over?” The cop said, “Well, you looked like a scarecrow. You’re frozen, driving the car. I knew something was wrong.” So, he read my body language. It’s the same with me. Beth and I went into K-Mart the other day and a guy took off running over the hill and the clerk said, “Dog, there goes one of your victims, one of your children.” So it’s easier, because they know. In bounty hunting with law enforcement, a bounty is known and is respected by his reputation, and the cops know, even though I’m on the totem pole of law enforcement, I know my position is on the bottom. When they drive up, I treat them as big brother. As if they said, “I command you to stand over there, Dog, right now!” And I’d say, “Yes, sir!” I show that respect and I don’t try to showboat with the cops there. As long as you’re respectful, it’s a lot easier.
UGO: Given what’s going on in the world today, how important is it to give people hope, even the bad guys?
DOG: You know, it’s everything to give people hope. I mean, if I didn’t have any, I’d be the president of a huge outlaw motorcycle gang, or something, I think. It’s very important to show that. There are so many people, brother, that are out there that made a mistake in their life and they’re not really career criminals, and their blood isn’t turned to that yet, but they’re wondering what they should do. I think that by giving them a little hope or encouragement, that’s what I’m here for. I’m in charge of the thieves, you know. That’s who God has given me, so to speak, as a flock. If you look at it right, brother, it’s like a ministry. I asked myself last year, “Why do I have to have these guys?” Then I read in the Bible where it says, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” so I thought my guys will be at the front of the line. Now, I’m proud of that. It sounds funny, doesn’t it, but I’m really proud of being in charge of those guys. I’m like the guy on the back of a train, the caboose, who has this lantern and he goes, “All aboard!” Once they shut the door, the train is gone. A guy told me the other day when I was arresting him, he told me, “Dog, you’re like the guy on the caboose who yells all aboard. I’ve got to listen to you, you’re my last hope.” That stuff there, you go home with in your heart and you lie down and say, “Lord, thank you for this day and keep us all alive tomorrow. This is a great life, please help it to keep going.” And, of course, “Please don’t let me get shot!”
UGO: How much do you actually worry about getting shot? Is it on your mind a lot of the time?
DOG: Oh yeah, brother, every time. There are more times than others, especially when you get a crazy looking guy in a mug shot. I get alone in a room and I start looking at it and someone on the shoulder goes, “Yeah, this is the guy. You see those eyes, this is the guy that’s going to put the bullet in you.” So, I fight that fear. I don’t dwell on it because I don’t allow myself to, but once I get the guy in cuffs and I got him, I go, “Whew! That’s done.” But, yeah, it’s an every day thought.
UGO: So what do you like to do when you just have time to yourself, just Dog time? What type of music do you listen to?
DOG: I’m into some modern music and I like rap now. I used to not like rap, but I do now. I like good old-fashioned rock and roll, Lynnard Skynnard style, you know. I also like Spanish-Mexican music too. Elevator music, believe it or not, the other day I turned it on and went to sleep and I was like, “Boy, this is good sleeping music.” Music is a big part of my life, though. You know how a boxer, just before he gets into the ring, he walks down that final path and he gets into the ring and his song is jammin’? Well, I have this iPod on my glasses from Oakley. Just before I go out the door, I’ve got these songs hooked on it, like, “I fought the law and the Dog won!” Yeah, I know I’m crazy, but I go out the door with that blasting. Once we catch them, we have another song and we play it for them and say, “This song’s for you.” Music plays a huge part in a bounty hunter’s life, at least in our life.
UGO: In the second season, you had to capture one of your own, Ili, and she had to go back to jail? How’s she doing?
DOG: Ili got ten years for burning that house down, so she’ll do three of the ten years. I send her $40 once in a while and she called last week. She’s the inmate counselor. She’s going inside the cells and counseling the people in prison where she is. Ili’s doing a very good job