Gary Busey on the crazy train

Ask Gary Busey about his life these days, and he’s likely to flash his trademark toothy grin. He might also jump up and declare, as he did in a recent interview with The Associated Press, “It’s CRAZY good!”

The 66-year-old actor is keenly aware of the perceptions about him. And he knows it has everything to do with a litany of well-publicized highs and lows that span more than three decades — a battle with drugs after his Oscar nomination for 1978’s

The Buddy Holly Story

; a near-fatal motorcycle crash in 1988; a stint on VH-1’s

Celebrity Rehab

; and an unsolicited neck smooch delivered to a startled

Jennifer Garner

at the Academy Awards.Busey’s off-kilter personality is on full display again in the latest edition of NBC’s

Celebrity Apprentice

. In the premiere, Busey transformed himself into the “Pepperoni Prophet” to assist his team in running a pizzeria. Sporting savagely unkempt hair and an ill-fitting brown suit, the actor pranced like a deranged preacher. An amused

Donald Trump

called him “a piece of work.”Many of his teammates were caught off guard by Busey’s loud talking and inability to immediately grasp words. Fellow contestant

Marlee Matlin

concluded that much of Busey’s aggressiveness was because of hearing loss, a legacy of his 1988 accident. For those who think Busey is way off the deep end, he’s got a message.“I’m not difficult,” insisted Busey, who is engaged to

Steffanie Sampson

, an actress 30 years his junior and the mother of his 1-year-old son. “It’s not in my vocabulary. Because of a few difficulties with myself, it caused me to retreat from my true self. After

The Buddy Holly Story

, I went over the rainbow. I didn’t know how to handle everything that came at me. It’s different now. I’ve moved on into the light. It was just all a part of the journey of finding me.”He has certainly found a starring role on the NBC reality show, which includes celebrities such as singer

LaToya Jackson


Star Jones



. Busey joined the show in part to help dispel lingering negative views — he’s named the Center for Head Injury Services as his charity in the contest.And his so-called Buseyisms, his life philosophy communicated in the breakdown of words, has found a cult following on YouTube.“You know what FEAR stands for?’’ he asked. “It means ‘False Evidence Appearing Real.’ ”