Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Great Tom Russell

April 23, 2015
   Recently, a history person came into my office and told me that among his friends, I am known as "the guy who ruined the magazine and saved it." He didn't say it in a gotcha way, or even with any animosity. Just as a fact of life. Another history guy, definitely not a friend of mine, said, way back in 2002 that I turned the magazine "into a carnival ride." Do those comments hurt? Yeh, kindah'. We all want to be loved and admired. Still, I always remind myself of the immortal words of Dandy Don:

"Remember this: the farther up the flagpole you go, the more people can see your rear end."
—Dandy Don Merideth

   And speaking of bitter sweet endings, today I received the latest CD from Tom Russell and one track made me cry like a baby. The name of the album is "The Rose of Roscrae: A Ballad of The West." Here are the lyrics that got me:

   Old Charlie Goodnight stood out on his porch on an isolated West-Texas ranch Out in the yard were nine mounted ol’ warriors—reservation Comanches

 They were chattering in broken Spanish/Comanche and Charlie laughed at their Indian cunning

 They wanted a buffalo from Charlie’s private herd, they yearned for one last buffalo running

  Old Iron Head, the leader, warbled-on about a time when the land and buffalo was everyone’s—meant to be shared

   Before the white man, the Iron Horse, and the barbed wire—so the Comanches figured a gifted buffalo was fair

  Charlie kept fourteen head on a far hill, so he could gaze at ’em—as he drank whiskey in the evenings

  Charlie’s favorite was old Shakespeare, a horse killing bull, but the beast had a spirit Charlie truly believed in

 Now back in the time of blood and confusion, the Comanches were the fiercest of mounted tribes

 But smallpox, syphilis, and whiskey had scoured their numbers and eroded their pride

 Now in beat-up old Stetsons and calico shirts they smoked and waited in the shade of a Mesquite stand

Finally Charlie relented and yelled, “All right, ye red bastards—take one for the old days and civilization be damned!”

Charlie turned to me and declared: “Dammit Kid, once was a world you won’t ever be knowin’

The Comanche raids, the Staked Plains, the Bosque Redondo, the great trail from Texas up to Wyoming

 The wild buffalo on a thousand hills, or a campfire song—one cowboy and his guitar a strummin’

 Hang and rattle, boy, hold fast, and remember this well, the last of the buffalo runnin’s”

 Now Charlie gave Iron Head his choice from the herd, and of course the chief picked Charlie’s favorite, Shakespeare

 And as Charlie sat on the porch awaiting the run, we knew he was fighting back tears A tear for the bull and the passage of time, an old life that would never come again The Comanche, the buffalo, the vanishing West—just dust on the dry Texas wind

 Our vaquero, Juan, tricked the bull into a chute, where old Shakespeare ’bout tore the rails apart

 The warriors waited on broke down old ponies as Charlie waited with his broke-up old heart

 The Juan turned the bull loose and it was all Comanche Blood Memory, wild war whoops and arrows and shrieks

 Old Shakespeare fought like the king of the bison, one you could kill but never defeat.

 The Indians cut up the meat and sang a buffalo song, a deep guttural sound— their ancient prayin’

 And Iron Head rode up and saluted Charlie Goodnight as the Comanche rode off ’cross the West Texas plain

 And me I was wonderin’ did I see what I saw? The wild shrieks and the death of that bull?

  It’s stuck with me more than most things I’ve witnessed and all that history I ever learned in school

  Yes, I’s just a kid twelve years of age and the frontier was soon dyin’ then done But now that vision returns back through 70 years of reflection, my own the

  blood memory of that last great buffalo run.

* * *
(Coda: From Stephen Vincent Benet’s “The Ballad of William Sycamore”)

 Now I lie in the heart of the fat, black soil, Like the seed of the prairie-thistle;

 It has washed my bones with honey and oil And picked them clean as a whistle.

 And my youth returns, like the rains of Spring, And my sons, like the wild-geese flying;

 And I lie and hear the meadowlarks sing

 And have much content in my dying.

  Go play with the towns you have built of blocks, The towns where you would have bound me!

 I sleep in my earth like a tired fox,

 And my buffalo have found me.

—Tom Russell

Daily Whip Out: "Sunset Rider"

   And speaking of endings, I hate it that David Letterman is ending his show, but I dig what he said about Tom Russell:

"How great is Tom Russell? Isn’t he the best? I’d like to quit my job and travel with him . . . if the money can be worked out."
—David Letterman

Did They Have Rifle Straps In The 1870s?

April 23, 2015
   Did my morning whip out exercise by grabbing an old photograph of four mountain men. Looks like the photo was taken in the 1870s. Picked the guy on the right who was riding a mule. As I was doing the whipping, I noticed something strange:

Daily Whip Out: "Mountain Man With Rifle Strap?"

   Here's part of the photo reference:

It appears both riders have a rifle strap, with the rifle strapped across their shoulders, which, if true, seems so odd in an Old West photo. Seems more like a WWII, or a modern, method of carrying a rifle. Do you see it?

"There's nothing new under the sun."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, April 20, 2015

And The Winning Cover Is. . .

April 20, 2015
   Dan The Man Harshberger did a ridiculous number of cover concepts for the June issue (30 by his own account). We narrowed it down to 13 and had a meeting this morning to find one we could all agree on. That didn't happen. In fact the one chosen was not in my top five, but I owed it to Dan and the staff, to go with the consensus and so I agreed to their choice. If you're a subscriber, the winner will be in your mailbox in 16 days.

The 13 finalists: Hint—the winner is dark and red and in one of the corners.

   Sometimes you need to let it go. This is one of those times.

"There is a false ego in man, which the Sufis call nafs, and this ego feeds on weakness. This ego feels vain when one says 'I cannot bear it, I do not like it,' it feeds the ego, the vanity. It thinks 'I am better than others' and thereby this ego becomes strong. But the one who can discriminate, distinguish, choose, while at the same time having everything under control, and who although enjoying sweet things can yet drink a bowl of something bitter, that person has reached mastery."
—Hazrat Inayat Khan

Mothers Against Mohawks And Other Blasts From The Past

April 20, 2015

   Drove a couple hundred miles this weekend to sell 50 books. Was it worth it? Hell yes! Got to drive out to lovely Apache Junction on Saturday morning. Landed at Red Feather Trading Post at 10:22 (okay, I was 22 minutes late because I had to stop at Barnes & Noble on 92nd and Shea to borrow 25 "True West Moments" books). Healthy crowd, good people, like this gal:

Betty Swanson, Communications Director of The Superstition Mountain Museum

   Turns out Betty and I have several connections: her late brother, Jim Ersfeld, worked with Professor Paul Andrew Hutton at UNM and was one of Paul's favorite people. I met him and enjoyed him as well. But our connection doesn't end there. In college she dated Wayne Rutschman! Wow! You know, this guy:

Wayne Rutschman rocks out at the American Legion Hall, 1964

   Betty wrote the press release of the Red Feather book signing so she gets major points for that as well. From Apache Junction, I drove to the Poisoned Pen where I caught a book discussion with Mary Doria Russell. Her new book "Epitaph," is a work of poetry as it regards the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. She and I had a wonderful discussion about all things Earp and Holliday, but the one comment she made in the group was a stunner. Someone asked her why so many books on the same subject seem to come out at the same time (there are allegedly three titles on Jack the Ripper coming out right now), to which Mary Doria replied, "Because there are 64 million Baby Boomers, and when you think of anything, two days later, half of them will think of the same idea."

   Never been said better.

   Had a book signing at Scottsdale's Museum of the West yesterday. A familiar face came up to me—Lee Jacobson—who used to deliver tamales and leftsa to KSLX when I was on the morning show.

Lee Jacobson bearing an ancient photo at Scottsdale's Museum of The West

   Here's a closer look at this ancient photograph:

BBB, Jeanne Sedello and Lee Jacobson

   This was taken when were on the air at KSLX (100.7 Classic Rock) in Scottsdale. It appears I am showing off my mohawk hair-do, so this must have been in April or May of 1986 when I was Grand Marshal of the April Fools Day Rodeo Parade in Cave Creek. The beautiful girl is Jeanne Sedello.

Thomas Charles and BBB at Pischke's Paradise

   My son Thomas Charles Bell and I got matching mohawks on the air on April Fools Day, 1986. We had two barbers come on and shave us, live, on the air, one on each side of us. After the show I took Tommy to Pischke's Paradise in Old Town Scottsdale for breakfast and Chris Pischke took this photo of us. It used to hang in his dining room for many years.

Mothers Against Mohawks
   So, one of the Cave Creek mothers, whose son played with Tommy, wasn't real thrilled with Kathy and I allowing T. Charles to get a radical hairdo because, as kids are wont to do, her son, Cameron, wanted to get a mohawk. His mother, Fran, said she was going to start "Mothers Against Mohawks." I never quite understood how serious she was until today, when I called out from my office at our new intern, Cameron Douglas.

True West Intern Cameron Douglas

   Cameron says, "Yes, my mother loved fighting for causes." Oh, and I wonder if she would have approved of the skinhead look? Hmmmmm.

   So, just a couple of encounters with major connections all over the place. Is it a small world? Yes, with a couple exceptions.

"It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it."
—Stephen Wright

Friday, April 17, 2015

Kid Kareem & Cover Consensus

April 17, 2015
   Grabbed a half-finished sky board out of my pending pile and whipped out a little study of the Kid before I came into work. Sometimes my efforts go where they want to go.

Daily Whip Out: "Kid Kareem."

The Billy Cover Concept Consensus
   Believe it or not, our hard-working art director, Dan The Man Harshberger, did 30 different cover concepts for the June issue. We have never had such disagreement on which way to go on the cover. To refresh your memory, here are the two basic choices (with a dozen variations on each):

The Left (Billy cover concept)                  The Right (Billy Concept)

Comments and Votes for The Left Cover Concept:
"Definitely go with [the left cover] —Billy’s only known photo. This is and always will be Billy as the camera saw him. How can you improve on that?"
—Bill Dunn

"[the left one] is the only way for the cover. It's instantly recognizable, gets my attention and is far more likely to sell on just the cover. You don't judge a book by it's cover but you sure as heck sell them off the news stand by their cover! There is plenty of room inside for "new" stuff.”
—Larry Pressnell

"I like [the left one] its readily recognizable as Billy without looking 'been there done that'. It would definitely catch my eye if I'm interested in Billy the Kid and scanning the magazine rack."
—Kelly North

"The left because it's authentic.”
—Bill Jones

—Russell Jeans

—Sue McCumber

—Lynn LaBauve

“I really like the cover on the left mainly because of the busy colors. It's that famous stare.
—Kent Laura McInnes

"The cover on the left is iconic!”
—Ilona F. Smerekanich

“I like [the left cover], but I'm of the old school as they say.”
—Elizabeth Parker

Comments and Votes for The Right Cover Concept:
"I vote the cover on the right. It would allow the reader to use their imagination.”
—Bob Talley

I vote for the cover on the right.”
—James Bradham

“I love the silhouette.”
—Gregory Richard Charles Hasman

"The bronze [right cover].”
—Larry Floyd

"The right one.”
—Sharon Young

“I say the one on the right—it's more mysterious.”
—Lorraine Dunlap

"I like the one on the right. We've seen the other one a million times.”
—David Heward

"I like the gun on the shoulder... the tight face shot looks like an acne commercial?!?”
—Steve Opitz

"On the right with a slightly bigger font.”
—Chuck Usmar (who has a feature inside about Billy speaking Irish fluently)

"The right cover.”
—Michael Dawson

"I vote for the one on the right. The left one is too rough.“
—Valerie Saunders

"The right!”
—Tim Pickering

"The one on right, he was a complicated man.“
—Rena Smith

"The one on the right? The picture brings to mind a hint of mystery.”
—Nicole Maddalo Dixon

"Right. Dramatic.”
—Monica E. Marqis Anderson

Stuck In The Middle:
"I like the wording on the left - the font is big and bold and easy to see and read. But I like the pic of the one on the right. Maybe combine a little from both?”
—Cindy Smith

"Flip a coin. Either one.”
—Jimmy Avance

"The right one. Because I've seen the image on the left a number of times. But if you want to catch them immediately without question it would be the one on the left. Art versus commerce?”
—Bridget Carroll

"How about a photo of Paul Newmans Billy with the title "We will get it right"
—Rick Wyckoff (we assume he’s referring to “The Left-Handed Gun” where they got it wrong)

Possible Tie Breaker:
"I like the actual Billy photo for the mag. cover because, to me, if you use the sculpture, it's as if you're selfishly trying to make a buck for yourself instead of concentrating on history and what's best for the magazine. Just sayin.'"


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Big Billy Cover Debate

April 16, 2015
   We have been debating all week on the right cover for our big Billy the Kid package in the next issue (June). We are torn between two concepts. Dan The Man has done at least two dozen different takes on this but it boils down to these two dueling concepts:

Two Billy Covers: 1A: Billy's Only Known Photo vs. 1B: Billy Stands Tall Sculpture Silhouette

   Ken Amorosano argues that the only known photo is marquee and sells the idea best. My position is that it's been used to death and we need something new and dynamic. I encouraged Dan to use the Bronzesmith Billy sculpture as a very dark silhouette to emphasize the mystery, but some argue this is too dark and we should print the sculpture so you can see his features (below, left):

Billy Cover versions: 2A Billy sculpture vs. 2B Billy photo stylized by Dan

   Carole Glenn feels the sculpture is too cold and Dan prefers this last one, on right, while I still bridle at using the same ol' same ol'.

   I woke up this morning and thought: if the theme of the issue is "What if everything we believe about Billy the Kid is wrong?" then shouldn't the cover show a beatific Billy, smiling smugly with a halo over his head?

Daily Whip Out: "Smug Mug Billy"

   Perhaps we are over thinking here, but choosing the right cover can mean the difference between winning and going broke. Anyway, no pressure, but we need some input from you. Thanks.

   Oh, and one more thing: we are discussing where Billy got his alias of Bonnie and it dawned on me that the name Bonnie has been around for a long time. Anybody know the history of this dittie?

"My Bonnie lies over the ocean, my Bonnie lies over the sea. . ."
—Beatle cover song

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

'7 Winchester Art Palette

April 14, 2015
   Still wrestling with the Billy cover. We may gravitate to the sculpture of Billy that Bronzesmith created last summer.

Billy '73 Winchester Art Palette

   Looks like we're going to hang this issue on a quote Fred Nolan said at the Gallegos House in Lincoln last October:

"What if everything we know about Billy the Kid is wrong?"
—Fred Nolan

The historic Gallegos House in Lincoln where all my Kid Krazy friends met me last October to solve the riddles of the Kid and the Lincoln County War.

And, of course, it was here at the Gallegos that I received the proposed Billy sculpture from my amigos in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Why Do We Quote?
"Quoting is finding an echo, more beautifully or roundly expressed than we could ever manage ourselves, in the words of someone else."
—Ruth Finnegan

Monday, April 13, 2015

Billy On The Brain, Part II

April 13, 2015

   Worked all weekend on cover concepts for the big Billy package. Got some good sketches:

Daily Whip Outs: April 12-13, 2015 Billy Cover Concepts

   On Saturday, I had my first book signing for "True West Moments: Where Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction," down at 92nd St. & Shea in Scottsdale. Ran into several people I worked with at New Times, including this pretty woman:

Carolyn Leister and BBB at Barnes & Noble

   She and her husband, Bill, live in Globe now and Bill surprised her by bringing her to the store and then coming around the corner and saying, "Oh, look who's here?" Ha. It was fun to see her. We worked in production at New Times back in the 80s. She later got a real job teaching and I never did get a real job.

   Stayed home on Sunday and worked furiously on Billy images. Had big plans.

Daily Whip Out: "Billy Stands Tall #4"

Billy Stands Tall #5

Daily Whip Out: "The Billy Enigma"

Daily Whip Out: "Billy Stands Tall #6"

   And, none of them worked. Chalk it up to getting old, infirm and, or, senility. The skills go south, the mind wanders off somewhere else. Had fun doing it, but then we know how well that pays.

"If you teach your children to love Old West reenacting, they'll never be able to afford drugs."
—Old Reenactor Saying

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sneak Peek at New Book

April 11, 2015
   Got an advance shipment of 50 "True West Moments" books yesterday and I'll be signing them at Barnes & Noble, 92nd St. & Shea from 1 until 3 today. First come first serve.

"If I sign it, I absolutely guarantee that someday it will be worth the cover price."