Free Willie association

Dear Ace: Do you think maybe Willie Nelson is stalking us?—Perry Noyd

Perry: Ace has never been a man to buy into conspiracy theories, but for quite some time now, he’s often found himself looking over his shoulder in dark alleys. Shredding unwanted documents he gets in the mail. Separating his whites and darks (hey, he’s paranoid, not stupid). And, all the while, Ace has wondered: Is that you, Willie Nelson?

As hard as he tried, Ace couldn’t link Willie to Charlottesville (besides his performance next week at the Pavilion and a previous performance at the Pavilion in 2006, which Ace is happy to say he attended). Then it occurred to Ace: Maybe Willie’s connection to Charlottesville isn’t so direct. And thus began Ace’s greatest investigation to date: using the six degrees of separation to connect Willie to this fair city.

In 2005, Willie starred as Uncle Jesse Duke in Dukes of Hazzard with Seann William Scott, who, coincidentally, provided the voice of Crash in 2006’s Ice Age: The Meltdown. Well, you know who else provided a voice for Ice Age? Denis Leary! Which might not seem like much, but Denis’ hit show, “Rescue Me,” is the same show on which Susan Sarandon once had a guest role. And Susan Sarandon just happened to have starred in In The Valley of Elah with Charlize Theron, who starred in North Country with guess who? Sissy Spacek, who, might Ace add, lives in Charlottesville.

But that’s just one way Willie’s got the hold on us. Here’s another, in short: At the 2007 BMI Country Awards, Keith Urban sang a cover of Willie’s “Always on My Mind.” Keith is married to Nicole Kidman, who starred with Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic. Sandra starred in A Time to Kill, written by…John Grisham (another Charlottesville resident)!

As if that wasn’t enough, Ace found the cherry to plop atop this sugary sweet investigation: In January of this year, Willie released an album with a cover of “Gravedigger,” a song from a 2003 album by the Dave Matthews Band.

Is it just a coincidence that Mr. Nelson has a connection to all of these Charlottesville locals? Or is he positioning himself for attack? It’s the latter. And if you get a phone call with nothing on the other end but a few faint breaths, don’t say Ace didn’t warn you.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 19 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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