Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jun 2004
Source: Marco Island Sun Times (FL)
Copyright: 2004sMarco Island Sun Times
Author: Carol Glassman
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)


Retro Bill hit Marco Island with a blast from the past: shoe-polish black 
hair slicked into a pompadour that not even the gulf breezes could 
dislodge, a black shirt with orange and red flames creeping up from the 
bottom, and sneakers to match.

What's it all about? If you tell Retro Bill he looks just like Elvis, you 
know he has heard it a few times by the speed with which he snaps back, 
"But I don't use drugs or alcohol." Retro Bill (Bill Russ) has a message 
and he is obviously prepared to do almost anything to get it across. Now 
that he has your attention, this self-styled dynamo says he wants to make a 
positive difference in the world, to entertain and inform, and he seems 
dedicated enough to do it.

Arriving with the officers from all over Florida at this week's D.A.R.E 
(Drug Abuse Resistance Education) conference at the Marco Island Hilton as 
their keynote speaker, the shamelessly self-promoting Retro Bill admits he 
loves it when people tell him he looks like someone from the past, because 
then he knows he has succeeded: one of his goals is to connect his 
audiences to the once-upon-a-time when life was simpler and perhaps family 
and home values were stronger.

"Cool!" shouts Retro Bill, with his two thumbs up in approval. Soon he has 
everyone walking around imitating him.

"You have to walk the walk and talk the talk," he commands, encouraging 
parents as well as children to be honest and set good role models.

Bill is originally from Illinois where he had a background in making 
videos. He now claims his address is his suitcase as he is on the road 300 
days a year. As the "official D.A.R.E safety buddy" he is well known to 
officers teaching the program all over the state of Florida.

"I have one goal," he said, "I made a commitment. Critics don't matter: a 
connection to people is what matters - the children you connect with are 
who matter."

With some of his down-home humor and analogy, Bill tells of shopping with 
his grandmother.

"We were in WalMart and she was totally amazed by all the brands of 
deodorant on the shelf. 'How many do you need if you stink?' she asked me. 
Just one. You only need one good choice to get to a kid."

Bill puts his money where his mouth is. Last year he donated 200 of his 
child safety videos to every Florida D.A.R.E officer attending their annual 
seminar. This week he donated 28 more, so that every officer, and every 
school and library in the community can have access to the program.

Bill, assisted by D.A.R.E. mascot Daren the Lion, presented the D.A.R.E. 
Safety Tips Video starring Retro Bill to assistant superintendent of 
elementary and public schools in Collier County, Dr. John Kelly and Capt. 
Tom Davis of the Youth Prevention Services Division of Collier County.
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