‘Dukes of Hazzard’ actor arrested in Waltham
WALTHAM — Tom Wopat, the actor who starred as Luke Duke in the hit show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” was arraigned Thursday on a charge of groping a woman who was to share the stage with him in a local production of “42nd Street.”
Wopat, 65, of New York and Nashville, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Waltham District Court on charges alleging indecent assault and battery and cocaine possession.
Wopat posted $1,000 bail and was ordered to stay away from the accuser, witnesses, and Waltham High School, where the Reagle Music Theatre’s production was slated to open Thursday.
The actor declined to comment outside court, and put on a hat and dark glasses before walking quickly to his truck. His lawyer and publicist did not immediately respond to inquiries seeking comment. A call to a number listed for Wopat was not returned Thursday afternoon.
According to a Waltham police report, Wopat assaulted the woman during a rehearsal at the high school on July 23. The accuser said he came up behind her and “grabbed ... her buttocks,” the report said.
Theater employees had previously spoken to Wopat regarding complaints from other cast members about inappropriate comments and touching, the report said. The artistic director, Robert Eagle, told police he had spoken with Wopat three times, and the actor was also reprimanded for being intoxicated at rehearsal, the report said.
Eagle said that while Wopat’s fame had helped the theatre sell over 3,ooo tickets to the production, he has never in 49 years “encountered a situation that has been so difficult,” the report said.
Wopat became “belligerent” when Eagle confronted him about the alleged assault, insisting he did nothing wrong and shouting “[Expletive] them all!” according to the report.
Other cast members made additional allegations to police, including one performer who said in an e-mail that Wopat tapped her buttocks with his script and remarked, “nice butt,” the report said.
Police came to the high school Wednesday to arrest Wopat. They saw him driving away in his 1996 Ford Bronco.
He was apprehended a short time later near Kennedy Middle School, and police seized what appeared to be cocaine from his vehicle, the report said.
He admitted to flirting on set but denied inappropriate touching, police said.
Wopat told police he buys cocaine “in large quantities and uses it over time,” the report said, adding that most of the drug was located in a “sandwich hefty bag.”
Asked why someone would accuse him of lewd touching, Wopat told officers that “he had no idea and that maybe they were resentful of him,” according to the report. He said he touched one female lightly on the hip and told her, “I like the way you work,” the report said.
Eagle said in a statement posted to Facebook that the show would open Thursday afternoon with “Rich Allegretto in the role of Julian Marsh,” the role Wopat had been slated to play.
Hours earlier, someone had tweeted from Wopat’s official account the production was opening Thursday.
“Don’t miss your chance to see it!” the tweet said. The tweet was later deleted.
Wopat took a number of other television roles in the ’70s and ’80s, in addition to the Luke Duke character that catapulted him to stardom. He has also appeared on Broadway and received Tony nominations for his roles in “Annie Get Your Gun” in 1999 and “Catered Affair” in 2008, according to a biography on his official website.
Wopat’s also a recording artist.
His Twitter feed plugs his new album entitled “Wopat,” and he previously released a record dubbed, “I’ve Got Your Number.”
“All it takes is a phrase or two from Tom Wopat’s warm, engaging baritone to trigger the desire to hear more,” his biography says. “And the more one listens, the better it gets — from the way he finds the heart of a song’s story to his lyrical phrasing and his gently swinging, jazz-infused rhythms.”
Wopat’s next court date is Sept. 26.