Skeletor Lives!

Family: Wife, Judy; two children from another marriage.
Rig: 2005 Freightliner Classic XL
Career: 25 years commercially, full time for 11 years
Safety: 1.5 million chargeable accident-free miles
Leased to: KLLM
Net income: $82,000

His name is David Ricci, but everyone calls him by his handle, “Hollywood.” It’s not just that he wears lots of jewelry – his previous career included Tinseltown’s entertainment industry.

Ricci’s entertainer side has overlapped with the trucking world, and many veteran truckers have heard him in one venue or another.

Before he took his place behind the wheel, he spent 20 years working on radio and voicing television cartoon characters. Ricci says his most famous gig was supplying the voice for the villain Skeletor on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in the early 1980s. Though he used the pseudonym “Rick Ward” when he worked on the radio or cartoons, he says you won’t see the name when the credits roll on a He-Man episode because voice actors get no name credits.

“Unless you’re Mel Blanc, you are never recognized. Even animators get more credit. But that’s OK, we’ll still take their money,” Ricci says.

He also has a long history of calling in to the Truckin’ Bozo radio show. That’s how he met host Dale Sommers, who says Ricci is one of the most astute people he’s ever met. “Hollywood knows so much about a lot of different things,” Sommers says. “He learned it all at a school we refer to as the School of Hard Knocks.”

Ricci says he worked with famous deejay Wolfman Jack on high-powered Mexican radio stations south of the U.S. border. “I worked with border blasters from the late 1960s until the early 1980s,” Ricci says. “Those things used 50,000 to a quarter-million watts of power, and on a good night in the mid-1970s they could hear us in 35 states.”

Radio work was never very stable, so Ricci supplemented his income driving cabs in Los Angeles and soon moved on to trucks. “The first time I drove a truck was in 1968,” Ricci says. “I was a helper on a cattle truck between Los Angeles and Texas.” He first began driving full time for the now-defunct Burlington Motor Carriers in 1993. He became an owner-operator in 1999. “I’ve never had an accident,” he says. “I’ve been very lucky.”

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Though it might not seem as exciting as broadcasting, trucking has been a great experience for Ricci. “I call myself the consummate tourist, because I see many things in this great land most folks only dream about or see on TV,” he says.

There was, for example, a surprising haul to Independence, Mo. “My directions were to take highway so-and-so and at the red light, turn right into the mountain,” he says. “I thought they were nuts! But there were whole underground cities with four-lane highways down there. These were all civilian industrial parks. It was a strange feeling driving this huge truck into a hole and finding a new city underneath the ground.”

Though Ricci works full time as a leased operator with KLLM Transport Services, he still plays around on radio. “I keep my ego fed by being the comedy relief on an otherwise serious show,” he says of his occasional presence on Sommers’ show.

Ricci has gotten a lot more out of his radio work than a chance to share his humor: He met his wife through his regular call-ins to ’50s R&B disc jockey “Matt the Cat” on XM Channel 5. “I was talking with Matt, he pressed a button, and suddenly there were three people in the conversation instead of two,” Ricci says. “We started talking, exchanged numbers, and the rest is history.”

Ricci now lives with his new wife in Little Rock, Ark., where she teaches Braille and speech to blind children.

“Finding a person that cares about you and you can care about is probably the most valuable thing in the world,” says Ricci, 58. “Having this happen in what many believe to be the autumn of my life has to be my most joyous occasion.”

FIRST TRUCK: 2000 Classic XL.

FAVORITE LOAD: Prepackaged salad products because they’re light and fill up the entire reefer unit.

MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: Pennies for the U.S. Mint.

FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Texas, because of the wide-open spaces, reasonable speed limits and friendly people.

WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: Ohio and California. Even though California is my adopted home state, the traffic laws are extremely restrictive. Trucks are just not welcome.

WIFE’S BIGGEST COMPLAINT: The fact that she has to cuddle with a pillow instead of me because I am somewhere 3,000 miles from home.

DREAM VACATION: Somewhere like Catalina Island, Calif., or Tahiti, where there’s not a truck for 100 miles.

FAVORITE MUSIC: Rock ‘n’ roll oldies but goodies from the 1960s and 1970s.

FAVORITE MOVIE: The Godfather trilogy.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: ALF. It is so absurd, but I enjoy it for the one-line zingers.

FAVORITE FOOD: Taquitos. A place off Olivera Street in Los Angeles invented them and makes them like you’ve never had before.

PET PEEVE: In general, people who complain about everything and do nothing to solve the problem.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Managing to live through the 1960s and 1970s and still be alive today. If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: I had the opportunity to introduce some acts at the Hollywood Bowl, and I had my tux, and everything was perfect. I walked out, looked down and realized my fly was open before 18,000 people. I turned toward the orchestra and made a mad dash for the old zipper.

DREAM JOB: Being a mattress inspector, so I can lie down and sleep and get paid for it.

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