Gary Busey

Gary Busey
By: Stephan Genovese

William Gary Busey better known as Gary Busey is an American actor and artist. Gary has appeared in over 120 films, countless television appearances, and was even nominated for an Oscar in 1978 for Best Actor for his role in The Buddy Holly Story. Gary was born in Goose Creek, Texas, to Delmer Lloyd Busey, a Native American construction design manager, and Sadie Virginia, an Irish homemaker. Busey was raised in Oklahoma and graduated from Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1962. After High School, Busey attended Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas on a football scholarship, but transferred to Oklahoma State University after becoming interested in acting. He dropped out of college just three credits short of graduating and quickly began working as a musician. He started his show-business career as a drummer, and during his music career he played in several bands with many musicians, including legends such as Leon Russell, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. After his music career, Busey started to play small roles in television and film during the 1970’s including a role in the hit television series Gunsmoke. Gary received his big break in 1978 when he starred as Buddy Holly in the movie: The Buddy Holly Story. Busey received an Oscar nomination as well as the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Actor for his role. During the 1980’s Busey appeared in many hit movies and continued to act up until December 4th, 1988 when he was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. As a result of not wearing a helmet, Busey fractured his skull and doctors suspected signs of permanent brain damage. Psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy has described Busey’s injuries as having weakened his mental filters which cause him to act and speak irrationally and impulsively. Since being seen by Dr. Sophy, Busey has been prescribed Depakote, which is commonly used for the treatment of manic episodes related to Bipolar disorder. After the accident, Busey continued to appear on television and in movies despite an almost 18 year cocaine and alcohol addiction. Today, Busey attributes his sobriety to his faith in God and his recent endeavors include a series of YouTube advertisement commercials for Vitamin Water and appearing as a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice 4.

Biological Aspects of Personality
Biological aspects of personality came from Charles Darwin’s argument of human evolution in the mid nineteenth century. Darwin argued that each person is biologically different from every other person and that our individual tendencies stem from our genes. In my opinion, the Biological Aspect of Personality is the best way to understand the complex attitude and behavior of Gary Busey. Starting off, Busey attributes his struggle with alcoholism to his genetic background. Busey is half Native American and half Irish, and in the past he has stereotypically blamed his drinking problems on his Nationality. While trying to understand Busey on a deeper level, I used Eysenck’s Model of Nervous System Temperament. Hans Eysenck argued that emotional reactions derived from individual biological temperament and he worked specifically in the area of introversion-extroversion. Hans argued that extroverts have a low level of brain arousal, so they naturally seek stimulation from other sources. Eysenck also talks about neuroticism as having a very reactive nervous system which promotes emotional instability, a trait that Busey has shown time and time again in numerous interviews. According to Jeffery Gray, the behavioral activation system regulates our response to rewards, and if this system is overly active you have a higher chance of being impulsive. Evidence shows that people who have an overactive behavioral approach system, like Busey, are more prone to drug addiction, which may be the reason why Busey struggled with cocaine addiction for nearly 18 years. According to biology, we know that some people have natural defects in their dopamine levels, and these people are especially susceptible to cocaine addiction. Chronic abuse of cocaine results in symptoms of paranoia, which Busey definitely exhibits. After Busey’s motorcycle accident in 1988, doctors feared Busey suffered from brain damage, but were not certain as to the extent of the damage. After the accident, Busey seemed to be more irrational and impulsive, and he himself complained of losing his mental filters and the ability to control his thoughts and words. After being evaluated by psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy, it was apparent that the damage to Busey’s brain had caused signs of manic- depression; a disorder where an individual regularly swings between bouts of enthusiastic energy and deep depression. The idea of the motorcycle accident causing physical and psychological damage to Busey’s brain fits within the study of Biological aspects of personality because it has been stated that a stable personality depends on a healthy, well functioning brain, which Busey could not possibly have due to his injury and drug abuse. “Long-lasting, dramatic alterations in personality are thought to be quite rare, but they can occur with a single dose of a drug such as cocaine or LSD” (Friedman and Schustack, 174). All of these factors undoubtedly contribute to Gary Busey’s outrageous and over the top personality.

Trait and Skill Aspect of Personality
Gary Busey’s personality can be analyzed from the trait and skill aspects of personality as well. As a matter of fact, trait approaches to personality are most common with figures in popular culture. For the trait approach to be as accurate as possible, it should use as few numbers of traits as possible to accurately describe individuals. To fully understand, Gordon Allport emphasized using methods that take into account each person’s individual uniqueness. In terms of Gary Busey, his individual uniqueness should be off the charts. Hans Eysenck took the Big Five trait dimensions and narrowed it down to three dimensions of personality: extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Eysenck describes extroversion as being sociable, active, and outgoing. Busey would definitely be considered an extrovert. His actions and behaviors are typical of someone seeking constant stimulation. Neuroticism is described as emotional instability and apprehensiveness; according to this definition, Busey is absolutely neurotic. Busey has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder because of his emotional instability stemming from either his nearly fatal motorcycle accident or from years of damaging his brain with his cocaine addiction. Eysenck’s third dimension is psychoticism which involves impulsivity and shrewdness. Busey is definitely impulsive; this can be seen from his famous quotes from interviews: “I've been told by doctors and surgeons that I have the energy of ten men who have normal jobs.” Busey is known for acting and speaking on impulse, as if he has no mental filters to guide his words. “The experiences that God gave me to go through... which were cocaine, which were extravagant living in the fast, fast, fast, fast, fast lane, see?.” Most of Busey’s interviews consist of belligerent sentences and illegitimate statements. Another part of trait and skill aspect of personality that could be compared to Gary Busey as an individual is Henry Murray’s motive based study, which states that the need for exhibition is the need to entertain and amuse others. Busey started his career as a musician, then actor and now somewhat of an artist. His livelihood is based on entertaining and amusing others since 1968, and hopefully will continue to do so with his individual uniqueness.

Through analyzing the biological aspects as well as the trait and skill aspects, Gary Busey still remains a very confusing individual in terms of trying to gauge his personality. His notoriety stems mostly from his unique and inconsistent personality that no one can seem to understand. He is constantly changing his personality and comes off as unstable most of the time; whether this stems from physical brain damage, drug abuse, manic depression, or just from an extreme case of a unique personality. In any case, his personality is mainly what Busey is known for now, and it has given him the chance to express himself creatively with the world through his music, acting, and art.

Actor Gary Busey Discusses His Faith in Christ. (n.d.).Angelfire: Welcome to Angelfire. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from garybusey/article5.html
Busey World - Gary Busey, Jake Busey, pictures, biography, filmography, interviews. (n.d.). Busey World - Gary Busey, Jake Busey, pictures, biography, filmography, interviews. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: classic theories and modern research (4. ed.). Boston, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon.
Gary Busey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.).Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from
Gary Busey quotes. (n.d.). Find the famous quotes you need, Quotations.. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from