If you've ever wondered what it's like to run a magazine or how crazy my personal life is, be sure to read the behind-the-scenes peek at the daily trials and tribulations of running True West. Culled straight from my Franklin Daytimer, it contains actual journal entries, laid out raw and uncensored. Some of it is enlightening. Much of it is embarrassing, but all of it is painfully true.
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February 9, 2016
It all started with the revelation that the producers of "Lonesome Dove" wanted Robert Duvall to wear this style of hat:
Daily Whip Out: "Gus In A Sugarloaf Sombrero"
This led to a vigorous conversation about whether Duvall made the right choice in terms of his hat style, which to my eye is historically wrong for that time period (1860s). Several fans of Westerns then made the claim that the much maligned sombrero would never be worn by big stars because they look silly and don't look right on 'Mericans. But then Jim Hatzell sent me this photo:
John Wayne Sporting A Sombrero
An interesting thing happened when I sent this photograph of John Wayne wearing a sombrero to a well-respected historian friend of mine. My friend said, and I quote, "It looks like a gag photo." As i said, I received this photo from hat expert Jim Hatzell, who wondered why, if the Duke could sport a sombrero, why couldn't Robert Duvall in "Lonesome Dove"? (Duvall flat out refused to wear a sombrero in "Dove") I can't prove it, but I have a hunch this is a test photo, taken by the studio prop department, or the producers, to see how Wayne would look in a sombrero for the movie "Hondo." His outfit, with the exception of the hat, appears to be the same one he wore in "Hondo." And, if that's true, it's probably not too far of a reach to surmise that the studio had the same reaction as Paul Hutton, or, I mean, my well-respected historian friend.
But my friend put me on to something. The Mexican sombrero gets a bad rap and has for a very long time. It doesn't help that it's an over-the-top hat style (pun intended) and prone to more than a smidgen of clownishness. Exhibit A would be the beach town straw monstrosities every drunkard brings home from Cabo. Also, witness the salt and pepper shakers or yore with the "lazy" Mexican taking a siesta in a sugarloaf:
Food Fight at The BBB Kitchen Corral: "Get Your Ass Up, El Salto!"
The irony here is the two Earp brothers salt and pepper shakers were gifted to me by the friend who thinks the sombrero on the Duke is "a gag." Which brings us to the several exceptions to the rule, when Hollywood has opted to feature the sugarloaf on the head of the main character in a Western:
Willie Nelson's excellent sombrero in "Barbarossa"
Now granted, there are some who believe Willie looks "foolish," but I don't think so. I think it's damn cool. Here's another example:
Robert Mitchum in "The Wonderful Country"
Never mind that various western stars have toyed with classic border head gear:
Buck Jones in "South of the Rio Grande"
And all of the big brim cowboy hats of the 1920s and 1930s were inspired by the Mexican sombrero:
Tim McCoy In A Modified Sombrero
Back to my good friend, the distinguished professor: "I still think it's a gag [The Duke photo] 'cause the sombrero looks so stupid on him they never would have bothered with it. Mitchum and Willie Nelson pulled it off, but its a tough hat unless you're Yul Brynner as Pancho Villa."
And there is the rub. To me, the sugarloaf sombrero doesn't look "stupid." Granted it has become a caricature when it's actually a thing of functional beauty. And, it looks more authentic to me, than the anglo-conservative-twentieth-century head gear that Robert Duvall insisted on wearing in "Lonesome Dove." I hate to say it, but the disdain for the sombrero is on the border of prejudice.
"I can see by your hat that you are a lazy Mexican."
February 8, 2016
Curator Cal and I met with the director of a well-known archival institution on Friday to discuss the possibility of donating my archives to their collection. It's an honor to even be considered and it's far from a done deal, but I'm pursuing it for the simple reason I do not want to leave my massive mess-oh-po-zania for Kathy to deal with. After my "Wipeout"—it will be eight years ago this March—I took a good, hard look at my sprawling piles of artistic "effort" and realized it was very unfair to dump—literally!—all of my crap on her. Which is exactly what would have happened if two of my bandmates in The Exits had not had CPR training just prior to our "last" gig at the Elks Hall in downtown Kingman. A great big thank you to Wayne Rutschman and Terry Mitchell.
Daily Whip Out: "The Process Sketch #1"
And, so, thanks to Cal, I have a shot at donating an organized archive of one, long and crazy career. The categories are, to name just a few:
• Lippo And Pagoona
• The Razz Revue
• The Doper Roper
• Honkytonk Sue
• New Times
• Arizona Highways
• True West
• National Lampoon
• True West Moments (in the Arizona Republic and Bridle & Bit)
• Mickey Free
• The 66 Kid
• Billy the Kid
• Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday
• Classic Gunfights
• Hogtown Hussies
• Vincent van Gunfighter
• Daily Whip Outs
The director told us that one of the aspects of the institution's efforts is to document The Process of an artist. This inspired me to take a closer look at my process. I have a well-developed eye for graphic inspiration, which is a nice way of saying, I know how to steal. I often look through catalogues and magazines to clip images or photos, or even artwork, that I think might have potential for something I want to pursue. Here is an example from last week. I was going through Phoenix Home & Garden magazine and found a small photo of a living room. On the far wall was an abstract painting with heavy blacks. I ripped out the photo and taped it into my sketchbook (above, and below) for the next day. I purposely put it in an odd spot on the page so I would be challenged by what to do around it. This stems from a lesson I learned from the ex-boyfriend of Linda Ronstadt, who played lead guitar and he told me, during a break at the Red Rooster Bar in South Tucson, that he plays himself into a corner and then tries to get out. The results of my being in a corner are on the left. Using black ink and a paint brush I mimicked the photograph (notice I copied the plants in front of the photograph as well).
Daily Whip Outs: "The Process Sketches #2"
There are no crows in the photo, or in the painting on the wall, but you can see there are crows in my interpretation because I've got crows on the brain, given my Murder of Crows—Vincent van Gunfighter current state of mind. This study led to all the other images, above. And, by extension, as the weekend progressed, it led me to here:
Daily Whip Out: "The Process Sketches #3
As you can see, one thing leads to another and then another, but in the end it's all connected. But then, so is everything in the world.
"Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name. . ."
February 7, 2016 The Mojave Desert is easy to dismiss. At first glance, it's not beautiful. It's much more harsh than the Sonoran Desert, where I live now, and it's devoid of the things I love: saguaros, paloverdes and octotillos, to name but three things that do not proliferate on the Mojave. On the surface it seems to be lacking life, but, if you pay attention, you will find a stark beauty in that void that grows on you. Check out this excellent time lapse montage of the land where I am from. Mojave Blues
One thing the Mojave does have more of is these bad boys:
Mojave Desert Dust Devil #1
Mojave Desert Dust Devil #2
Lonely Ranch On The Mojave
Mojave Desert Near Earp, California
All these photos were taken on our recent trips to Pasadena to visit our grandson Weston. We tired of the monotony of I-10 out of Phoenix, so we sought out another route, which ended up to be the two-lane blacktop route back tracking through Parker, Arizona, across to Earp, California and then the back way to 29 Palms and Joshua Tree, and then on to Big Bear Lake up in the mountains. Our kids have since moved to Seattle, so we probably won't be out here much, but I sure grew to appreciate the barren beauty of the Mojave.
February 6, 2016 The older I get the more I find myself saying, "That's not new." For one thing, many trends and inventions we think are new, aren't really new. Here are four of our great grandparents managing a selfie in the 1920s:
A 1920s Selfie
The iPod wasn't new, it was a transistor radio with better technology. eBay isn't new, it's a medieval auction online. There are a ton more. If you have one, I want to hear it "The more things change, the more they remain the same." —Old Vaquero Saying
February 6, 2016 Had the final design meeting and pre-press review with the crew at Santos Press yesterday down at Cattle Track Art Compound in Scottsdale.
The Santos Crew Ponders The Final Layouts for "Vincent van Gunfigher."
This is the scene as we locked down the final page count, images and copy for the limited edition book (100 copies) that premieres next month. The book will be printed and hand-stitched by Brent Bond, the gentleman standing at left. That's our leader, Mark McDowell, leaning on the table, and my partner Ken Amorosano, third from right. The other two gents are artists who dropped by to take a gander at the project. The tall one, at right, is the artist Dean Munkachy and his assistant Ron The middle guy, Ron, is Dutch and he, of course, pronounces van Gogh as only someone from Holland can, which is to say, as a cross between the clearing of the throat and something that sounds like "Van Gock-gggg-th" How they get three syllables out of that last name is beyond me, but they do. The Brits are actually closer to an accurate rendering because they pronounce it as "Van Goff." How we Americans sledge-hammered that into "Van Go" is a humorous knock on our tendencies to champion anything that gravitates towards the-simpler-the-better. And, by gum, to us 'Mericans it LOOKS like van GO!
Daily Whip Out: "A Murder of Crows"
The Vincent van Gunfighter art show will have 30 framed art pieces and the opening reception will be Saturday, March 5th from 1-4 p.m. at the Cattle Track Arts Gallery, 6105 Cattletrack, Scottsdale, Arizona 85250. Yes, the compound styles it as two words—Cattle Track—and the city of Scottsdale has contracted the two words on the road signs as Cattletrack. So, you see, the variations on pronunciations extends even to contractions of the names of streets. Especially to the names of streets! "Vincent was especially struck by the mounds of hides and buffalo horns from America." —Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, in Van Gogh: The Life, chronicling van Gogh's impressions of Antwerp, 1885
February 6, 2016 I was perusing a book of mine on The Man With No Name series of Westerns by Sergio Leone and it dawned on me that in his Westerns, all the leading men—Eastwood, Bronson, Fonda—are basically the same guy. Unshaven, steely-eyed, monsyllobic with battered hat.
February 4, 2016 We have an exclusive interview with Robert Duvall coming up in the next issue (April). In it, he talks quite a bit about the legendary series "Lonesome Dove" and how it is "The Godfather" of Westerns. One of the things he reveals is that the producers wanted him to wear a Mexican sugarloaf sombrero for the part of Augustus "Gus" McCrae and he absolutely refused to wear it. The hat he ended up wearing (which he himself brought to the set) is actually a 1920s style hat, but today it is iconic and is known far and wide as "The Gus."
Robert Duvall as Gus, wearing his "Gus" crease
The irony is, Duvall also insisted on wearing his own hat in a previous Western "Joe Kidd," and that hat is a modern 1970s rodeo style hat with a pheasant-leaping-off-the-front hatband. Both hats are historically wrong, but it's hard to imagine Gus in anything other than the hat he wore in "Lonesome Dove." Tommy Lee's hat is closer to the style on the Mexican border in that era (1860s), but even Captain Call's head gear is a couple jumps away from the real deal:
Daily Whip Out: "An Authentic Sugarloaf Sombrero"
But it's the Duvall hat that is embedded in our collective memory as THE style of headgear for an early Texas Ranger. This is one of those cases where artifice triumphs over history, and it's this kind of gerrymandering that drives The Hat Nazi Club members crazy.
Daily Whip Out: "A Sketch for The Shade of A Mexican Sugarloaf"
Willie Nelson's hat in "Barbarosa" is really the style of hat the producers wanted Duvall to wear in "Lonesome Dove."
Daily Whip Out: "The Shade of A Mexican Sugarloaf"
Here is one of the hat experts I respect, weighing in on this:
"The sugar loaf sombrero was popular in the southwest for protection from the extreme sunlight. I absolutely agree that a character like Gus would have been prudent enough to adopt such headgear. It would have been good camouflage while over the border helping themselves to Mexican beef too. All of the working cowboy hats should have had wide brims and been pretty well beaten up. "
"What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it."