Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Husband Who Deserved A Medal

April 2, 2020
   Had two different things I wanted to do in town today, but based on the news I got real scared and didn't leave the house.

Ratcliff Ridge Lit Up

   So, we've been without cleaning ladies for three weeks now and at lunch today Kathy was bemoaning how depressingly dirty the kitchen floor is and how she couldn't get the energy to do it herself, so, in a moment of unbridled enthusiasm, I jumped up and went out to the garage and got the mop and filled the sink with cleaner crap from the laundry room. I made quick work of the kitchen floor, going like crazy, and Kathy was so impressed, she took this photo of me gloating about my efforts. 

The Husband Who Deserves A Medal

   I told her I want the medal for my bravery and above the call of duty effort sent to our post office box.

   You are welcome.

   If you were one of those who believe the media has overhyped the Coronavirus to the point of hysteria, you'll be happy to know it was the exact opposite problem in 1918. Because the Spanish Flu hit in wartime, each side (Britain, Germany, France, the U.S. etc.) hid their troop sickness numbers for fear the other side would sense weakness and attack. Meanwhile, Spain was neutral in WWI and so they began to innocently post their death numbers and, as a result, they got the name—The Spanish Flu—when it clearly came from elsewhere!

   In the United States the president never mentioned the plague and the newspapers covered it up as well, to be patriotic. So, it was the opposite problem from today. But, as you may have guessed, it didn't really help.

“As terrifying as the disease was, the press made it more so,” John M. Barry wrote in his epic historyThe Great Influenza. “They terrified by making so little of it, for what officials and the press said bore no relationship to what people saw and touched and smelled and endured. People could not trust what they read.”

"The Awareness of death is the prerequisite for all our pleasures."

—Garrison Keillor

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

A Campfire Jury And The Lady In Gray

April 1, 2020
    What would happen if you told a story around a campfire and no one laughed? No one even smiled? What if your fate was in their hands?

Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Jury"

The Lady In Gray    She was deceitful, manipulative, patrician and beautiful. The perfect combination for a spy.

Daily Whip Out:
"The Lady In Gray"

   Her name was Helene Pontipirani, and according to Rosa King, who wrote about her, she was Romanian of good family, who had not been long in Mexico City. Ms. King added, that "everything about her suggested not merely twenty years, but centuries of sensitive, civilized living."

   The two of them, Rosa King and Helene Pontipirani, and Rosa's young daughter Vera, traveled by train from Cuernavaca to Mexico City and through good connections and happenstance ended up in the governor's palace, visiting with, none other than, El Presidente Victoriano Huerta.

   Here is how Rosa describes Helene that day: "I remember Helen Pontipirani, looking very lovely and patrician, listening with rapt attention to everything he said. She was all in gray that day, from head to foot; an absurd, smart little hat showed off her curling, lustrous black hair and fine-drawn profile."

   Mrs. King later found out that Helene also carried a pistol in her purse. From the visit with Huerta, the story gets even better, but it is a story I will let Lynda Sanchez tell in the November issue of True West. It was, in fact, Lynda, who turned me on to this fascinating woman of the Mexican Revolution.

   "Mark Twain is so damn FUNNY. . .until you also realize he is telling you a profound truth about something. Even Woody Allen once said that if everyone understands his movies then he isn't trying hard enough. For me the same holds true with art. If it is only what it IS, then don't bother me with it."
—Thom Ross

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

When Cartoonists Meet Their Heroes

March 31, 2020
   One of the best Mohave County historians working today is Andy Sansom, who posted this newspaper clipping from the Mohave County Miner from 1935:

When I was in grade school, my mother worked for Judge Wishon at the Kingman courthouse. This was in the mid-fifties. One day, after school (Palo Christie) I came down to the courthouse to get a ride home. There was a case being tried so I sat in the gallery and drew pictures. Afterwards Judge Wishon came over and complimented my drawings and told me he wanted to send my sketches to the editorial cartoonist at the Arizona Republic, which he did. A couple weeks later, my mom's boss showed me the response, and it was a letter from the legendary Reg Manning saying I should keep drawing and someday I might actually be published. I've lost the letter, but I never forgot the advice.

Fast forward 25 years and, in the early eighties I won the best editorial cartoon for the year from the Arizona Press Club and I was honored with finally meeting my hero. He was retired by then but he actually signed a cartoon to me and here it is:

Reg Manning Shows The Love

When he finished signing this he handed it to me and made this comment: "People today sure like negative humor." He was shaking his head, as if the entire country had gone off a cliff and he didn't understand what had happened (truth be known, I think he was actually referring more to the new editorial cartoonist at the Republic, Steve Benson, but I was known for being even more edgy and outrageous than Benson, at least in the New Times orbit).

I remember wondering if I too would wake up, when I was Reg's age (late sixties!), and think the world has gone off a cliff in terms of humor. I have to honestly say, not really, although I am such a humor snob, I probably wouldn't admit it even if I did think it had. Ha.

"A rule of thumb with humor: if you worry that you might be going too far, you have already not gone far enough. If everybody laughs, you have failed."
—Christopher Hitchens

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Razz And The Rurales On The Move

March 30, 2020
   Jack Alves and Hans Olson have been working in the studio to produce an original soundtrack for our Geronimo video edited by Rick and Sally Engelmann for my art opening back in January. I want to post it online, but we used AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and I can't really post that to Youtube. Hans, Jack and I were in a band called the Razz Band. Jack sent me an early newspaper clipping when we played the No Name Saloon on north 16th Street in Phoenix. This looks to be about 1978-79. This is before Hans joined the band and we were a power trio, a la ZZ Top. Steve "rode" a stand-up bass, literally. We were very loud. And proud.

The Razz Revue Revue: BBB, Mahavishnu Blackjack Bottleneck Alves and Steve Dennis.

   I've been having a blast in my studio.

Daily Whip Out: "Rurales On The Move"

   Still jamming on campfire light. Love the red eye on this one.

Daily Whip Out: "Wary Eyes In The Dark"

"In a dark time, the eye begins to see."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, March 29, 2020

I Need Me Some Stinking Badges!

  • March 29, 2020
   Rewatched a classic last night, "The Treasure of The Sierra Madre" (1948). I agree with a reviewer who commented that there is a rousing yarn under all the hollow laughter.

Walter Huston yucking it up at the end.

   And, it just isn't the director's father yucking it up, check out these classic Mestizos (they filmed much of the outdoor scenes in Durango, Mexico) on horseback with the mucho guffawing

Horsemen Laugh By

   Supposedly, it's one of the first Hollywood studio films to actually film in Mexico, and it has great faces, like this screen shot from John Huston's iconic portrayal of greed gone amuck.

Classic Faces Captured by John Huston

   Also, the hats are pretty stellar as well.

Great hats and great faces

   Director and co-writer of the script, John Huston, first read the novel, "The Treasure of The Sierra Madre," in 1935, and thought it would make a great film with his father in the main role. 

   However, Walter Huston didn't want to do it because his son wanted him to do it without his dentures and the old man still thought of himself as a leading man. The son finally won him over and the elder Huston kills in the role, leading his co-star, Humphrey Bogart to quip, "One Huston is bad enough, but two are murder."

   Originally, the studio had George Raft and Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield in mind for the three prospectors, but then World War II intervened and the project was shelved. Another version of the story was set to be filmed during the war, but the script was nixed by the Motion Picture Production Code for being "derogatory" towards Mexicans. By the time John Huston came back from his WWII documentary phase, Humphrey Bogart was the biggest star on the Warner Brothers lot and he got the plum role.

The famous "Badges" scene

   That's Alfonso Bedoya, as Gold Hat, on the right, and his actual line is, "We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" In popular culture the line has been condensed to, "We don't need no stinking badges!" but that is probably because Mel Brooks used this shorter version in "Blazing Saddles" when he appropriated the bit.

   Jack L. Warner was conned into letting Huston film in Mexico on the premise that it would be quick and cheap. It was neither. (Huston claimed they would be in and out in a matter of weeks, but the filming lasted five-and-a-half months!) To boot, the filming started off on the wrong foot when the cast and crew showed up in Tampico, Mexico and the local government wouldn't let them start. Turns out a local newspaper editor was miffed that he didn't get the mordida ("the bite," a bribe) and he wrote that the production was unflattering to Mexico. With help from two of Huston's friends, the artists Diego Rivera and Miguel Covarrubius, they went to bat with the president of Mexico and got the ban lifted.

   John Huston originally wanted to cast Ronald Reagan for the part of James Cody, but that fell through when Warner wanted the future president of the United States for another role.

   As Jack Warner saw the mounting weekly expenditures he almost went berserk and while watching some of the rushes, he told the producer,  Henry Blanke, "Yes, they're searching for gold all right, MINE!" After the budget topped $3 million, Warner called everyone back to the U.S. and they filmed the rest of the movie on back lots and in the studio.  Those are the weakest scenes, to me, and it's the authenticity of the Durango countryside and the street scenes of Tampico that gives the film it's iconic shine. One other tidbit: the Mexican kid who sells Dobbs (Bogart) a lottery ticket is Robert Blake, the child star from Red Ryder who later killed his wife in a sordid Hollywood Babylon finale.

“If that son of a bitch doesn’t find water soon I’ll go broke!”
—Jack L. Warner watching rushes of Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) crawling through the Durango desert looking for water

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Donner Party of Five

March 28, 2020
   For me, almost everything I do, comes circling back to history. For example, after almost two weeks of family lockdown I'm starting to question whether the Donner party was even hungry.

   When I mentioned this to my neighbor, Tom A., he said this reminded him of the Robin Williams' line, "Donner, party of five," which is almost funnier, with less of a setup.

   Still seeking a certain spy in the Mexican Revolution. She is described, as dressing all in gray, with gloves and an absurd, little hat.

Daily Whip Out: "Helene de Troy" 


   The other thing that constantly amazes me, is that in the study of history, the parallels to the current time are always too close for comfort.

In the summer of 1910, Porfirio Diaz finally had cemented the final piece of the national puzzle to his liking (which means he controlled all aspects of Mexico society) and everything was hunky dory.

"You cannot understand what barbarians we used to be, before Porfirio civilized us. . .Thirty-five years in the saddle; no more squabbles and revolts; no foreign emperors (like Maximilian); peace and prosperity all around. . .there is a Man. . ."

—Don Pablo Escandon, governor of Morelos, praising his boss

"This year (1910) is the year of the centenario, the hundredth anniversary of Mexican independence from Spain."

Porfirio Diaz and Enrique Creel at a ceremony honoring Benito Juarez in July of 1910.

   What could possibly go wrong?

   Well, for one thing,  in several months time, the entire country will be torn apart and over a million will die as the peons (styled as peones in Spanish) revolt.

   Oh, and 300,000 Mexican citizens will die from the Spanish Flu pandemic.

"If there's one thing people can't stand, it's intolerance."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, March 27, 2020

Negro Pendejo vs. Azul Vaquero

March 27, 2020
   The sheltering in place continues and the campfire studies proliferate.

Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Doubting Tomas"

   Sometimes I spy a discard pile sketch and have to give it another go.

Daily Whip Out: "Huaraches Vaquero"

   Hard for some gringos to believe, but many of the oldtime vaqueros actually wore sandals (huaraches) with spurs and leggings. I kid you not.

Daily Whip Out: "Azule Campfire Vaquero"

Daily Whip Out: "Negro Pendejo"

Still pursuing the elusive spy from Mexico City.

Daily Whip Out: "Helene de Troy"

Sideyard blooms

"After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this week I discovered that wasn't the reason."
—A Shelter In Place Realization