Friday, May 22, 2015

Sam Peckinpah's Pancho Villa

May 22, 2015
   One of the wonderful perks of my gig is to have contact information on most of the prime authors and researchers in our field. When I mentioned in a recent blog post that Sam Peckinpah was co-credited with the screenplay for "Villa Rides" (1968) I wondered about the rest of the story.

A sneak peek at our Pancho In Pictures splash page in the next issue of True West.

So I contacted Paul Seydor. We ran an excerpt from Paul's new book "The Authentic Death & Contentious Afterlife of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: The Untold Story of Peckinpah's Last Western Film." So I asked him and here is his reply:

"Sam wrote an early version of the script; Brynner read it and said Peckinpah knew nothing about Mexico (!) and demanded Peckinpah be replaced. End of Sam’s involvement, though a lot of his research thereafter informed The Wild Bunch screenplay, which he turned to next. That was the silver lining in this particular cloud and I have always been glad Brynner had him removed. If this hadn’t happened, there would likely be no Wild Bunch, and that would have been a true tragedy—an incalculable loss."
—Paul Seydor

The Bandit General Meets Texas Rising

May 22, 2015
   Still working on faces of Division del Norte, the boys of the Pancho Corp:

Daily Whip Out: "Pancho's Compadres #33"

Daily Whip Out: "Pancho's Compadres #34"

   Made a note to myself something that Toulouse Lautrec said to the effect, when drawing, you must keep your pen moving, and if you stop, the drawing dies. I guess I would call this the "Degas Effect" or, draw like you Don't Give A Shit.

   Something I do care about is the portrayal of history and with all the controversy about Bill O'Reilly's new show "Legends & Lies" (Brushy Bill? Really?) I had to laugh out loud at Stephen Harrigan's review of the new History Channel series, Texas Rising, in Texas Monthly:

"How about some landscape respect, Hollywood? How would you like it if they had filmed Sunset Boulevard in Sabine Pass?"
—Stephen Harrigan


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Six Degrees of Pancho Villa

May 21, 2015
   Walter Noble Burns was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune when Pancho Villa's troops attacked Columbus, New Mexico in 1916. Burns got assigned to the story, traveled to Columbus, filed a story, or two, then went on to El Paso to file more stories on the Mexican Revolution, from there. While in old El Paso, Burns landed in Tom Powers' Coney Island Saloon and heard the stories from Tom Powers himself, about how Tom's friend, Pat Garrett, killed Billy the Kid. Powers proudly showed off the pistol—mounted over the bar—that Garrett used to do the dirty deed. Intrigued, Burns later visited New Mexico to visit his sister in Albuquerque. While there he traveled to Fort Sumner and interviewed Paulita Maxwell, and others, which resulted in the ground breaking book, "The Saga of Billy the Kid."

   From there, Burns sought out Wyatt Earp and created another classic book, "Tombstone: An Iliad of The Southwest" which helped establish Earp as the West's most fearless lawman:

The Old West was lawless
but one man was flawless. . .

   In 1968 Robert Towne and Sam Peckinpah wrote a screenplay, which became "Villa Rides" starring Yul Brenner as Pancho, and Charles Bronsen as this guy:

Daily Whip Out: "Pancho's Enforcer: Rudolfo Fierra"

   In the movie, Bronson as Fierra portrays the famous incident where Pancho's enforcer allowed a bunch of prisoners a chance to escape death if they could make it over a wall while Rudolfo practiced target shooting. In the movie, one is allowed to escape, but I seem to remember that Fierra shot them all in real life.

   The other henchman for Villa was this cat:

Daily Whip Out: "Tomas Urbina"

   Urbina wanted to execute a federal band of musicians that were captured but Pancho wouldn't give Urbina permission, saying they could be better used to perform for the revolution. Urbina protested they had enough musicians in the revolution but Villa persisted and saved their lives.

   Robert Towne went on to write "Chinatown," and Sam Peckinpah went on to do "The Wild Bunch."

   And all because Pancho Villa had the temerity to attack the United States.

"All great truths begin as blasphemies."
—George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Miner's Claim

May 20, 2015
   There are over 250,000 mines in Arizona. When a representative of the federal government came out to see if Arizona was ready for statehood (early 1900s), the rep wrote off the state as "one big mining camp."

   When I grew up in the 1950s Arizona was changing rapidly, but there was still a strong mining presence in all corners of Mohave County. We played in abandoned mines, going down ladders we shouldn't have even been looking at and, I'm ashamed to admit, we poached old mining claims, from inside tobacco cans and placed on wooden stakes that riddled the landscape. I kept a few of them for a while, but after a couple moves they ended up in the dumpster.

   Maybe that's why I started a drawing this morning, which I finished at lunch, about a type of man I faintly remember growing up.

Daily Whip Out: "The Miner's Claim

   "Whoever, in middle age, attempts to realize the wishes and hopes of his early youth, invariably deceives himself. Each ten years of a man's life has its own fortunes, its own hopes and its own desires."
—Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

The Mad (Madam) Hatter

May 20, 2015
   Got up this morning and grabbed four patina boards and applied contour drawings to each, then locked 'em down. This is one of them.

 Daily Whip Out: "The Mad (Madam) Hatter."

      Just received the new book "American Mythmaker: Walter Noble Burns and the Legends of Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and Joaquin Murrieta" by Mark Dworkin. A wonderful book about the guy—Burns—who really made all three Old West characters into legends (and he's also the buy who brought me to the dance). As he tracts the genesis of the Billy the Kid legend, he gives credit to Ramon Adams, who Dworkin credits as positing the Billy arc goes like this: Pat Garrett and Ash Upson originated "infected legends,' Charlie Siringo "marketed them," Emerson Hough "spread them abroad" and Burns "made them immortal." That says it all.

   After the huge success of the Billy book, Burns went looking for another character to write about and he landed on Wyatt Earp, but Earp was committed to his mining engineer friend, John Flood and his florid and horrid manuscript, so Burns says he's doing a book on Doc Holliday and would Earp help him with that, which Wyatt did. Then Burns' book "Tombstone: An Iliad of the Southwest" comes out and there is a chapter called "The Lion of Tombstone," which features Wyatt Earp in a very positive light. Instead of being flattered, or inspired, Wyatt dictates the following:

"Doc was not any pal of mine. Only an acquaintance. First met him in Dodge City. He was then practicing dentistry. Met him again in Tombstone. . ."

   That Wyatt Earp—and his crazy wife—were that confused and dimwitted about the potency of their legacy is nothing short of mind blowing. There's more.

"My health will be back to normal when this story business is all done with."
—Wyatt Earp, one month before his death in 1929

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Drawing Blind: An Old Dog Tries to Remember Old Tricks

May 19, 2015
   Hard to believe, but it's been 49 years since I attended my first art class at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I was an incoming freshman from a small town—Kingman—and me and my classmates were the first wave of Baby Boomers to blitz the campus scene, and, by sheer numbers, we blew out the allotted classrooms in the fine arts building (which was pretty new at the time) and the university had to rent studio space in an ex-shoe store on Speedway Blvd. Our drawing professor, Mr. Scott (complete with a French beret and a cigarette holder) was very brusque and loud (more than one female student fled from the class weeping from his loud critiques: "You call those hands!? Those are Platypus craws!"). Mr. Scott's first order of instruction was to beat out of us all our bad habits and preconceived ideas about drawing good pictures.

   Much to our horror and humiliation, Mr. Scott made us draw contour drawings by not looking at our paper (also called blind contour drawings). He made us draw with our opposite hand. He even made us take off our shoes and socks and draw with a charcoal stick stuck between our toes.

   In last Sunday's New York Times Magazine there was an evocative piece about "Blind Contour Drawing" and how it liberated the author—Sam Anderson—and allowed him to do drawings with "little slivers of excellence." Anderson pointed out how the problem is control and how control, or, the attempt to control sabotages perfection. He adds, "you can't control your way out of control." The fine piece of writing reminded me of something I have known but sometimes forget.

An Old Dog Tries to Remember Old Tricks

Daily Whip Out: "Blind iPhone Drawing"

Inspired by the exercise, I bailed into a half-finished whip out and came up with this:

Daily Whip Out: "The Approach"

   When I was at the Arizona History Convention a couple weeks ago, I bought "Shootout At Dawn," a book on the Powers Brothers shootout where three lawmen, who approached the Powers cabin just before dawn were shot dead ( a fourth lawman escaped). Whenever I read about lawmen serving warrants I think about how dangerous this work is and what trepidation must run through their minds as they approach the address in question, knowing it could be the last thing they ever do or see.

   Meanwhile, back to blind contour drawings. Having just read the Vincent van Gogh biography I realized, after doing the contour drawings this morning, that a large part of Vincent's power stems from his letting go of the drawing, but controlling the color. This is a powerful combination. Vincent utilized very complicated color schemes and used his left brain to work overtime on every painting to align complimentary colors in very sophisticated ways, while at the same time shutting off his left brain when it came to the drawing and letting it go where it wanted to go and the result is vast slivers of excellence."

"As painters we must always remember that the spirit is more important than the fact."
—Harold Von Schmidt

Monday, May 18, 2015


May 18, 2015
    Here I am, last Wednesday, boning up on a certain boxing referee—circa 1896—deep in the bowels of the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson.

BBB Bones Up

BBB Faces The Music (and the director, bottom right)


   The taping went fine, results to be aired next fall.

"Modernity uproots both the best and the worst aspects of tradition."
—Old Archivist Saying

Fred Nolan Finally Spills The Beans on Billy the Kid's Childhood

May 18, 2015
   Our Special Report on Billy the Kid has landed in subscriber's mail boxes by now, and here is the link to Fred Nolan's long-awaited report on the possible childhood of Henry McCarty:

Where is the truth in the Kid's childhood?

"In a short time this will be a long time ago."
—A researcher in the new Western Slow West

Friday, May 15, 2015

New Mexican Food & Old Wyatt Earp Stories

May 15, 2015
   When someone says New Mexican in my family they are not talking about the state, they're referring to the state of Mexican food as in, "Where's the new Mexican food, Ese?"

   Phoenix Magazine did a big feature on Mexcian food and I culled out the new ones I want to try:

Daily Whip Out: "New Mexican"

I especially want to try the one with the weird name LA 15 Y Salsas at 1507 W. Hatcher Road. They have 7 different moles, including a "negro mole" that takes two days to make and has 25 ingredients. Ay Yi Yi! I am so ready to try this.

Daily Whip Out: "Yellow Sky Sunset Rider"

Yesterday I had a taping down in Tucson for the Travel Channel show Mysteries At The Museum. They were filming a segment on this dude:

Daily Whip Out: "Wary Wyatt Earp"

And we were at the Historical Society Museum adjacent to the University of Arizona campus where they have this artifact:

Wyatt Earp's "Baby Pony"

And here is the Travel Channel crew who taped my interview:

Travel Channel crew

"The palest ink is better than the best memory."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Spitfire Who Pancho Never Tamed

May 13, 2015
   There was one woman Pancho Villa could never "marry" much less tame for a night. He saw her in the hills south of Agua Prieta, just prior to his disastrous defeat in that border town. She was a spitfire from Sonora, an untamed colt, a scorpion of the heart with her thick In-din mane of jet black hair, like a crow's wing and ever so saucy. It would take more than a general and his Del Norte legions to tame this heart.

Daily Whip Out: "The Sonoran Spitfire Who Pancho Never Tamed"

   Speaking of forced marches, made a vow this morning to do five scenes a day emulating a Mexican novella. I have always loved the photo comics of Mexico and to my knowledge, the only American attempt at this Latin Soap Opera On Paper phenom, was the short-lived "Photo Funnies' that appeared in The National Lampoon in the 1970s.

Daily Whip Out: "Sketches of Mexicana Mamas"

I have been threatening to do one of these for thirty plus years (way back n the Razz days) and I guess it's about time to pull out the stops and let 'er rip. What say you Digby?

"Here’s to the kids who are different,
Kids they call crazy or dumb,
Kids who don’t fit,
With the guts and the grit,
Who dance to a different drum.

Here’s to the kids who are different,
Kids with a mischievous streak,
For when they have grown,
As history has shown,
It’s their difference that makes them unique."

—Digby Wolfe