Monday, March 31, 2003

March 31, 2003
Attacking Wyatt Earp art. Working on two scenes at once. Trying to capture the vagueness of it all. Pushing Wyatt’s face back into the haze. Is it him? Is it true what they’re saying about him? Will we ever know the truth? Staying loose, having fun (make that intense fun, if there is such a thing), but work is only work if you’d rather be someplace else, eh?

Knocked off at 1:30, took a shower. Kathy and I drove down to Scottsdale Community College Performing Arts Center for a tribute to Dan Trimble, Marshal’s brother who died earlier this year. Marshal is establishing a scholarship fund in his later brother’s name at the college and I was asked to come play guitar. Unfortunately, I don’t play guitar, I am a recovering drummer and when I got there I saw the stage and there were no drums. So when it came time for me to perform (I was sandwiched between two cowboy poets) I came out on the stage and said, “I’m here to cleanse your palate,” got down on my knees with the mike and sang the last refrain from Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” I was off the stage and out the door before the audience knew what hit them. The MC, weatherman Ed Phillips, told me to make it short, so I obliged.

From there Kathy and I drove down to Harkin’s Camelview Five to see the Spanish film “Talk to Her.” ($12 tickets, $6.50 for popcorn and water). Really enjoyed it and the Spanish subtitles. Afterwards we went down to oldtown Scottsdale and ate at Pischke’s. This was an old haunt of mine in my KSLX radio days (in fact David K. and I had our photos on the wall as “celebrities” until our glory days passed us by. Ha.). Had my usual: Cajun Chicken Caesar Salad. Absolutely the best ($43, Kathy bought). Talked to Matt the doorman and Jeff the bartender (he’s been there 16 years!).

Got home around nine, watched some war coverage and read the New Yorker and Newsweek. Went to bed around 9:30.

"It is never too late to be what you might have been."
 —George Eliot

Sunday, March 30, 2003

March 30, 2003
Got a frantic E-mail on Friday: “I am a subscriber of your magazine and I want to hear the song Lorena but I can't find it on your website as it says in the article. Please help!!!”

This is in response to our offer in the new issue (May-June) to go to our website and hear a recorded version of the song Lorena that prompted many Confederate soldiers in the Civil War to desert. Why? The song is sad and melancholy. A Reb general allegedly was so upset with the mass desertions that he sent a hit squad to kill the author of the song. How sad is it? It’s so sad, we can’t even get it to stay up on the website. As a stop gap, we have offered the request (above) the opportunity to call our office tomorrow, toll free (888) 687-1881 and Gus Walker, the Mapinator, will play guitar and sing the song into the phone receiver. This is a limited time offer, because if Gus sings the song live, I’ve got a dozen employees within hearing who just may desert their posts.

You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the US of arrogance and Germany doesn't want to go to war.”
—Internet conventional wisdom

Saturday, March 29, 2003

March 29, 2003
Mark Boardman took me to task about the Arthur Godfrey statements yesterday:

“You make a good point about Arthur Godfrey versus Howard Stern. But old Arthur is an easy target--primarily because his style is so 1940s-50s. If he were still around, I have no doubt that he'd figure out how to appeal to a modern audience.” [Yes, it’s true. He was a genius at his craft.]

“Godfrey was special, on radio and TV, because he was so different from anything that preceded him. His delivery was slower, more conversational, more intimate. He was conversing with the audience, not talking at them. He had a very definite brand, ukelele and all. He was the brand. And it worked. Sure, there are more and different types of competitors facing Stern. But if you took all factors into account, Godfrey had a bigger and more devoted audience.” [True.]

“Remember how he lost that golden touch?” [Yes, I do, but tell them] “He became arrogant and thought that he could do anything and still keep the audience.” [Especially the on-air firing of his band leader, the legendary Julius LaRosa.] “And in doing so, he took the listener/viewer for granted. [True.]

“Hubris? Obviously. But to a greater extent, Godfrey self-destructed when he firebombed his own image, his own brand. That's a lesson for all of us.” [Totally true.]

“For TrueWest, there are other lessons. [Oh no, more lessons to be learned?] You can be a smart-ass and still treat living or past folks with some dignity. [Do I have to?] And remember that taking someone or something out of his time and place is pretty easy, and it makes for a juicy target--like Art and the uke. But someone will call you on it. And it's how you respond that makes the difference.” [Got it. Thanks.]

Eat my shorts, Mark.

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”
—Chick Corea

Friday, March 28, 2003

March 28, 2003
Transferred digital images off my new camera into my computer and printed out several photos from the Renegade trip. I understand our webmaster Bernie is out of town so it may be a day or two before they go up.

Worked extensively on “tone” in the magazine yesterday. Trying to get the right feel throughout. When a reader picks up the magazine they should expect a certain attitude or personality. In Tuesday’s staff meeting I used the radio example of Howard Stern vs. Arthur Godfrey. You know when you listen to them what you are going to get (of course Arthur is long dead but I was trying to think of extremes and he came to mind). One of them is quite obnoxious, I told the staff, and I think you know who that is:that damn ukelele playing by Arthur Godfey is awful. Just obnoxious—beyond belief. I could never listen to him (all the Stern listeners, Mike Melrose being the most prominent, got a big kick of out that). Which brings us to another cornerstone or mainstay of TW and that is irreverence. Nothing is sacred. Including the discussion of Old West icons like Wyatt Earp possibly being a pimp. Everyone and everything is fair game. I hope these attributes shine through. Some on our staff are quite conservative and don’t want to rock the boat. They want to make money, which is a good thing, but I don’t want to become a Chamber of Commerce brochure like many of our competitors have a tendency to do. They have no edge. They are bland. They are a ukelele on paper.

Robert Ray and I went to lunch at El Encanto ($10 cash). Talked about production problems, flow and the proposed Classic Gunfights book.

After lunch I met with Sue H. and Carole regarding trends in store and on website, developing systems and maximizing sales on phone, etc.

Worked on art sketches until about five, trying to nail good, authentic images of soiled doves (it’s hard not to do the Miss Kitty look, which is so inaccurate).

Got home at five and cooked pasta and made a salad. Deena joined Kathy and I for dinner, then we watched the U of A play Notre Dame. Cats took them to school, but the eastcoast media is so stingy with any praise for Arizona (not just the team but the state!). When I was in New Mexico and Texas last week and trying to find out if they beat Vermont and Gonzaga, you’d think they weren’t even in the tournament. The papers there printed tiny, six point type box scores.

"I was going to buy a copy of ‘The Power of Positive Thinking,’ and then I thought: What good would that do?"
—Ronnie Shakes

Thursday, March 27, 2003

March 27, 2003
Had a manager’s meeting at nine yesterday morning.Ironed out some developing problems with our postcards. We send out PR postcards to announce each upcoming issue (they are becoming quite collectable). It gives the salespeople an opportunity to send them to clients they think might be interested in advertising in certain issues, and they makes great little response cards to mail out for inquiries or correspondence. They are so successful we are sending out about 1,500 each issue and saving 500 for the store. The trick is to make them pleasing and cool (a stand-alone), and yet give the sales staff something to sell. So far, so good. Abby had worked hard on a Pancho Villa card and it looked great, very classic design, but Mike M. shrugged and said, “I can’t sell Pancho Villa.” So, he lobbied for us to put some of the “50 Legends of the West” which will also be in the issue and the next thing you know there are words everywhere: “Butch & Sundance, Billy the Kid. Johnny Cash, Gunfight near the O.K. Corral.” and by the end of the process the card looks like poo poo on steroids.

Decided we need a preemptive meeting early on between Robert, Mike, R.G. and I. It would help alleviate some of the problems (not all, as Mike kicked back another Davy Crockett themed proposed card late in the afternoon).

At lunchtime Kathy picked me up and we drove down to Desert Ridge so I could buy some more watercolor paper ($65 for six sheets, and that’s with a 25% discount!). We ate subs at a new sub place near there ($11 cash) and hurried back to Cave Creek.

At 1:30 we had an executive committee meeting to talk about money matters. The good news is: we have some. The bad news is: we need some more. We’ve got a vendor kind of flipping out on us, acting weird. Dealt with that. Also talked about a Classic Gunfights, Volume I book. Planned margins, projected costs. I inventoried all the Classic Gunfights Gus and I have produced and it’s at 106 pages and counting. Amazing. We are projecting several volumes (we have done about 25 and there are over 300 known incidents that could qualify).

Banta is sending 100 of our magazines to the troops in Iraq. They rounded up overages (over-printing copies) and are sending them from Kansas City. Feels good and I think they'll enjoy the escape to a simpler time. This morning's paper says many of the troops are looking at the pictures in Maxim and Hustler.

Worked until around six, locked up, came home, fed dog and cat. Watched war coverage. Decided my problems are rather tiny and insignificant.

“If you have a job without aggravations, you dont have a job.”
—Malcolm Forbes

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

March 26, 2003
Received our advance copies for May-June. Issue is strong, but I’m still not happy with my Custer image on the cover. Kathy commented on how good she thought it was (she is my most honest critic). I still wish I had it back to do again, but that’s the nature of the biz I’m in.

More debate about using the word pimp on the cover. R.G. came up with an alternative headline: “Did Wyatt Earp Run Soiled Doves?” but Jana B. thought that took the onus off of Wyatt and put it on the women. I decided we won’t use the dreaded P word on the cover. Now, inside is a different matter.

Jana also finished an objective review of two new gargantuan Wyatt Earp tomes. I wanted someone who could be objective about them (I can’t), and all of the other reviewers in the field are too close to the subject or too prejudiced, so I gave it to someone who has no agenda. It will still upset some, but she did a good job.

Got an E-mail from Bart at Banta, our printer in Kansas City. He would like to send some of our mags to the troops in Iraq. I guess my first question is: which side? Maybe they think our mag would go good with “Shock & Awe” and dishearten the enemy if they read it. I can just see Iraqi troops gathered around a Fed Ex box and one of them saying, “I don’t get Historical Twins. It’s not funny. Let’s surrender.”

"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

March 25, 2003
The Renegades were bound for Turkey Creek Canyon last Thursday and we had the full support of the Philmont Ranch (The million acre ranch that oilman Waite Phillips gave to the Boy Scouts) on whose land the site is located. We took off in two of their big Suburbans and headed up the back way to drop in behind the canyon and proceed down to the site of the famous shootout where members of the Wild Bunch gang were pounced on by a posse from Colorado and Cimarron. Three lawmen were killed and several of the bandits were badly wounded (Sam Ketchum died from his wounds). It was a very dramatic gunfight and I’ve wanted to see the site ever since I first read about it in True West in 1959.

The first part of the trip went smoothly as we drove up nice graded roads high into the snow-packed mountains.

Several miles up we got off the main road, waded across a stream and headed up a steep canyon. From that point the roads got very slippery. Both trucks were in 4-wheel-drive and we waited as the lead truck slipped and spun up increasingly steeper grades. Then we would follow, often with the disadvantage of sliding into the muddy ruts of the lead truck. When we finally got to the road that branches off down to the gunfight site, our lead driver told us it was too dangerous to proceed.

I said, “I’ve waited 40 years to see this site and we’re two miles from it and I’m not going to stop now.” I was ready to walk the two or three miles, but most of the other Renegades were not impressed and declined to go along. So, I caved and we didn’t walk it. Instead we climbed another big hill (going away from Turkey Creek Canyon) and coming down the other side, our truck slid off the road and buried itself in a snowbank. We tried and tried to get it free, putting rocks and twigs and branches underneath the tires. Using radios, the other truck came back and they too got stuck, but were able to drive out of it. They also had a come-along wench, but it broke, or rather the wooden pole stuck in the ratchet slot broke off and we couldn’t get it unstuck. So we piled in the remaining truck (9 of us) and slid down the mountain (once again my pucker factor kept the truck on the road). We got back to the hotel at about one, had lunch then took off for the Philmont Ranch and the Philmont Museum. We ended up at Rayado, where Kit Carson and Lucien Maxwell had a stage station. The Boy Scouts rebuilt the site and they did a good job. Learned interesting factoids about the Santa Fe Trail: The freight wagons travelled three abreast, not single file like in the movies. The wagon boss didn’t yell “Wagons Ho!” he yelled “Stretch ‘em out! Stretch ‘em out!” and they transported glass panes in barrels of flour as a natural shock absorber. Of course, sometimes the glass still broke and then you had flour with a bite.

“Victory is not won in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later win a little more.”
—Louis L'Amour

Monday, March 24, 2003

March 24, 2003
Back from our Renegade trip. Tons of fun and loads of history to boot. It was our 11th annual trip. This year Bob McCubbin and I were joined by Paul Northrop, John Boessenecker, Drew Gomber, Richard Ignarski, John Jeffers and a judge from El Paso who doesn’t want his name listed for obvious reasons.

The first day out (Wed.) it snowed all the way to Cimarron, New Mexico. We were late getting out of Santa Fe because of a San Francisco lawyer and a gunfighter artist. Both took a side trip that may or may not have been comparable to Hunter Thompson’s Fear And Loathing style road trips. This put one of the Bobs in a bad mood and he drove 90 all the way, in the blowing snow. Fortunately, my pucker factor kept the carseats heading in a safe direction and we made it without major destruction

Visited a cold museum in the dark (we were late and they didn’t have any heat), then checked into the Saint James hotel, built in 1880.

The St,. James Hotel bar was packed with cowboys watching the war launch (This was Wed. night). Almost everywhere we went, the TV was on and you could read the creepy crawls, each one threatening to be worse than the last, until I got tired of the repeat but it was hard to stay away.

We visited a solid half-dozen museums, as many antique shops, buying books like crazy and screeching to a halt at every hysterical marker (it’s in the Renegade by-laws).

Touched upon historic landscape that saw the likes of Black Jack Ketchum, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill, Kit Carson, Doc Holliday, Lucien Maxwell, Clay Allison, Kid Curry and Quanah Parker.

Saw one lone war demonstrator in Clayton, New Mexico standing out in the rain south of the tracks. He was a hispanic dude with a homemade sign: Support Our Troops. We asked him where Black Jack swung off into eternity and he pointed down the street. Several in our crowd cheered him. In fact, the support for the troops was unanimous all across northern New Mexico and West Texas. It was only after we got back to Santa Fe that we encountered the opposing signs (Bush Is A Nazi), and that was counterbalanced by a flag-waving bunch of patriots on the median, facing them.

Finally got the Parker photo montaged correctly. Here it is (from my speech in Parker two weekends ago).

Many, many stories to tell. Got stuck up on a snow-impacted mountain in a slush-box canyon road and as far as I know the truck is still there. That story tomorrow.

It is often said that one has but one life to live, but that is nonsense. For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in all periods of time.”
—Louis L'Amour

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

March 18, 2003
Big controversy in staff meeting this morning regarding our upcoming July issue. Lively debate on whether to use the word “pimp” on the cover. The staff is split about half and half, although R.G. is adamantly against it (he’s skiing in Idaho, but E-mailed me his position). I’ve asked Dan to design two different covers, one with the word and one without. It seems like such a harmless word to me (and it’s historically accurate), but it triggers muy negative response in some people as if it’s a swear word. Interesting. I received that negative E-mail last week (March 13) and the guy called me a pimp and my reaction was, “Hey, don’t forget cartoonist.”

Big numbers from Festival of the West. They would have been even bigger if we hadn’t got rained out on Sunday. Everyone gave Ted an ovation this morning. He really worked hard and made our presence there the biggest ever. Ironically, Cowboys & Indians didn’t even show. Hmmmm.

Met with Bob Sigman yesterday. He ran Republic Pictures before they sold out to Viacom. Heavy marketing background. He, Bob and Trish, Dave and Doreen and I went to lunch at Tonto ($52 biz account). Very rainy out, sat inside.

Speaking of rain, I couldn’t access AOL for two days because of wet lines, or something. Irritating. Finally dried out this morning and modem kicked in.

Going on a five day trip with the Renegades tomorrow. Hitting the northeast quadrant of New Mexico, and Texas. I want to see Turkey Creek Canyon where the Wild Bunch shot it out with the law, for Classic Gunfights. Never been there and Bob McCubbin set it up. Paul Northrop and I are flying out in the morning. No comments here until Monday.

To stay ahead, you must have your next idea waiting in the wings.”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
March 17, 2003
Well, the Parker panorama speech photo is only half the room (see March 15). I’m not sure quite how that happened (production was supposed to composite the four photos). I’ll try to get the other half of the room up as soon as possible.

Big day out at Festival of the West on Saturday. Huge crowds. Ted had the crowds lined up and we sold a bunch of everything. I judged the chuckwagon cook-off from about 11:30 to 1. Nine chuckwagons this year. Actually very good food this year. Enjoyed it and talking to my old friends like Louise DeWald (her late husband gave me my first cartoon-article assignment at Arizona Magazine—The Republic Sunday supplement mag—back in 1969 or so). She’s a peach. As is Lois McFarlane, another writer.

Had our traditional Old West matched photo at 3:45. Buck Taylor came, along with Marty Cove, Alex Cord, Peter Brown and other Western stars. We took a Texas Ranger photo of Bob McCubbin’s and then matched it rifle for rifle, sombrero for sombrero, vest for vest. Drew quite a crowd as John Beckett shot off several roles of film.

Worked the booth until around 6:30, then met everyone at the Buffalo Chip for a victory dinner (Ted swung the whole deal). Buck Taylor and his wife, Goldie, sat right across from me, and over the din of the band, we leaned over the table and talked about all things Western. He’s going to be in the new Alamo movie (he’s already filmed his scenes) and he told me some of the plot points. I was concerned that it would be too politically correct and not have any heat, but from what he told me it sounds like it could be good. Billy Bob Thorton as Davy is excellent casting and some of the lines he gets to deliver are quite juicy. I hope they knock it out of the park.

Got home at 11. Long day, but fun.

Rained all day Sunday. Helped Deena move out of her house in Tempe. Hard work, but found three pristine Wyatt Earp TW issues (she had them in the garage from the time when she sold ads for us). That felt like dicovering gold (each one is worth $20-$40). Ate at Adrians ($42 cash). Fun having soup and watching the rain and laughing.

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”
—Rene Descartes

Saturday, March 15, 2003

March 15, 2003
Irritated by an Arizona Republic item this morning. In the Scottsdale zone section there is a plug for the Festival of the West and part of it reads, “And don’t forget tonight’s concert by Michael Martin Murphy (who we suspect is a country artist—the three names tipped us off).” This prompted me to send them this message:

Dear Scottsdale Edition Writers,
I know you were trying to be glib and clever (been there) but today’s snippet regarding Michael Martin Murphy—”who we suspect is a country artist—the three names tipped us off”—made me cringe. Based on your criteria I guess Credence Clearwater Revival, Nine Inch Nails and NWA (Niggas With Attitude) are Country. Do you really want to inform your readers how out of touch you are? If you are, congrats.

We finally got last weekend’s photo of the Parker speech crowd together. It was a four picture panorama and Robert Ray had to composite it. Here is is. What a handsome group, eh?

Yesterday I worked in the office all day. Assigned a face-off for the Wyatt Earp material. Going to be a very strong pro and con. Both writers are good at what they do. May create a daring cover to illustrate it. It may be too strong. Did sketches at about four and showed it to Carole. She laughed until she had tears in her eyes. Not sure that is the effect it will have on most. I’ll post sketches sometime next week. Still too early.

Evidently, someone walked off with our Vera McGinnis test market issue down at Festival yesterday. I can just imagine someone looking through the issue over and over going, “What a ripoff! There’s no article in here about Vera McGinnis! I’m going to sue!”

I’m going out this morning to judge the chuckwagon cook-off. Steeling myself for 11 batches of pinto beans, brisket, bread and dessert. The first year (this will be my third year) I thought I was going to die. You have to pace yourself (although I still eat all the beans—I love pintos!).

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”
—Winston Churchill

Friday, March 14, 2003

March 14, 2003
Valuable day down at Festival of the West yesterday. Worked in office until around noon. Production created a mock issue with Vera McGinnis (a famous rodeo cowgirl) on the cover. Got down to Westworld at about 12:30. Ted really went all out on our compound. Big tents with our name on them! Big pole signage, display cases from Gilbert Ortega to showcase a historic display of guns from the collection of Al Freiss (sp?), Cowboy Coffee from Bob Sigman (ex-head of Republic Pictures). Sue and Larry and Dave Daiss were there. Everyone working hard.

It was Senior Day, so the crowd skewed to the geezer end (people two years ahead of me in high school).

I put the fake True West issue (we glued the fake cover to an old issue of TW) in a four pocket rack with three real issues. I wanted to see who would pick the Cowgirl cover and then ask them why they picked it. Great responses. Of course it ran the gamut, but based on my casual focus group conclusions I predict Vera is going to sell.

Ted flew in a cardsharp from Iowa named Eric and he did card tricks and magic outside the tent. He is a real showman and really sucks them in.

Allen Fossenkemper and his barbershop quartet, The O.K. Chorale will also perform this weekend. We are shooting a celebrity photo on Saturday with Buck Taylor and possibly Ernest Borgneine and Danny Ackroyd. That is going to be fun.

Got about 11 subs. Need 60 to pay for the painting promotion. We framed my original cover art of Butch & Sundance and are going to have a drawing on Sunday to give it away.

Worked the booth until around six, bought Ted dinner at one of the chuckwagon’s ($20 cash). Got home around seven.

Whoever cares to learn will always find a teacher.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, March 13, 2003

March 13, 2003
Very quiet in office. Gus out sick, R.G. on vacation, Mike, Ted, Larry and Dave Daiss down at Festival of the West setting up our tent and booth. I was able to finish Classic Gunfights and lay it out. McCubbin’s photos look great. Going to run the beautiful soiled dove Bessie Colvin as a full page.

Went to lunch with Carole at House of Joy ($9 cash). Good talking with her.

In the afternoon I worked on July editorial. Deals with the new Wyatt Earp material and how it forces us to reconsider his controversial life. There are those who hate this. Here’s a typical response (I got this last night): “I hear you are broadcasting all over Arizona that Wyatt Earp was an evil man. How about a more balanced approach or we will start a campaign about the ‘Pimp from Cave Creek’ Pimping that non western magazine- True Worst. ‘Wyatt Earp Scholar?’ give me a break. More like comic book clown! Yours for more history and less BS.”

I’m happy, but every clown is.”
—David Bowie

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

March 12, 2003
Lively staff meeting at 8:30. We survived the three quick deadlines in a row and there is a sense of relief by everyone. Lots of planning for Festival of the West this weekend. Ted is really working hard to make our booth a must stop place. Also talked about the ongoing “Operations White Space” in the magazine. I said I might offer a bonus for the ad with the most white space (that always gets sales’ attention).

Afterwards, had an editorial meeting with Jana, Meghan and Gus (R.G. is on vacation). Lots of upcoming pieces flying everywhere. Hard to stay in front of them all. Jana is working on two top secret pieces, one on Tombstone that is going to be very unique for us. Quite exciting.

Started the Bessie Colvin Classic Gunfight where the madam gets shot in the “public arch.” Quite funny and bawdy. Bessie was quite a looker (we have Bob McCubbin’s excellent, haunting photograph of her).

Went to lunch at Tonto with Kathy, Sue and Dave Daiss ($37 biz debit). Talked about a new phone system and the store. Good talk.

Worked all afternoon on copy for CC. Office copies for Travel Issue arrived by truck at about three. Got a bucket brigade going out the back door with Carole, Mike, me and Larry. Subscribers are getting their issues this week and the phone is starting to ring.

Kathy picked me up at five and we drove down to El Conquistador for dinner. I had the special which was carne su jugo (green chile in a sauce). Really excellent ($28 cash). Then off to Spanish class. Learned mucho.

Got home at nine, read until 10:30. Didn’t get enough sleep, but. . .

"The amount of sleep needed by the average person is ten minutes more."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

March 11, 2003
I took a photo of the crowd at the Parker speech and I’ll have that up tomorrow. Right in the middle of the speech I picked up my digital camera and clicked off three panoramas of the audience. I may start doing that as a record and so you’ll know I’m not lying. Ha.

Big day in office. Got a call from Lori at Wild West at nine. I told her I was sorry. She told me they were on pre-press (prepping to print issue) and I told her that I had been on the receiving end of that situation and it’s not fun. She called me a “butthead.” I think she was kidding. As an artist I didn’t enjoy doing that, but as a businessman it was the right call.

Two of my old fraternity bros. came to the office around ten. Bill McClelland and Kurt Radke from Colorado. They were going to attend a Giants spring training game. I took them out to the house and showed them the cave and my studio. I stayed home and knocked out the two illustrations for Westin Hotel. Got back into office at 12:30.

Had a couple of bruised egos. Massaged those as best I could. It’s more than a little ironic that I would end up riding herd on a pack of egos. Of course in some ways it makes sense because in any ego race I would be vying for lead dog.

Got a great packet from Steve Gatto on the Peoria, Illinois findings about Wyatt Earp. Really fascinating stuff concerning him living in a brothel and being an “old offender.” It really affects our impressions of other aspects of Wyatt’s life. For example, in 1888 he is spotted on the road to a new mining camp called Harqua Hala (in Western Arizona, near Salome) and the newspaper reports he has a wagon load of gambling equipment and two unidentified women are with him. Prior to this new discovery one might be tempted to think it’s his wife and a relative. Afterwards logic leans towards two prostitutes. Of course this is supposition and not proof of anything. But where there’s smoke there’s controversy.

I don't have a warm personal enemy left. They've all died off. I miss them terribly because they helped define me.”
—Clare Boothe Luce

Monday, March 10, 2003

March 9, 2003
Back from Parker. Kathy and I had a great trip. Took off at one on Saturday and got to Parker at four. Had a good meal at El Serape (Comped by Parker Historical Society), then motored up the Colorado River to Lake Havasu City. Beautiful weather and drive. Checked into Holiday Inn (also comped by PHS) and had fun, went to sleep early and got up at seven. Had breakfast at JB’s ($20 cash). Went for a long walk thru a swap meet and down under the London Bridge. Checked out at one and drove back down the canyon to Parker. There were three big events going on in town (bull riding, a bluegrass festival and boat races) and so there were no rooms available in the entire town.

Got to Board of Supervisors building at two, unloaded all my books and magazines, set up shop. Speech came off at three. Full house (We got an excellent newspaper piece in the local paper: I’ve been called many things but never a “scholar.”). Shared with them the new information on Wyatt Earp about him living in a brothel in Peoria, Illinois (it will be in the July TW). Tom and Kay Gray, who own Wyatt Earp’s house in Vidal were in attendence and I enjoyed talking to them and Jim Petersen and his wife. Sold every Wyatt book I brought with me and numerous others.

Kathy got deli sandos to go and we said our goodbyes and took off at 4:30. Smooth drive home. Stopped in Wickenburg and got coffee and a snack ($3 cash).

After much deliberation I decided not to give permission to our competitors to run my painting of Billy the Kid on their cover. There were compelling arguments from both sides but the deciding factor was put forth by Kathy and Bob Brink. They made the case that we share the same writers and stories but one of the few areas we have to delineate between us is my artwork. Why dilute that? Makes sense, but probably won’t win many friends at Wild West.

"I don't try to jump over 7-foot bars, I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.”
—Warren Buffett

Saturday, March 08, 2003

March 8, 2003
Last minute work on the May-June issue. I have painter’s remorse (kind of like buyer’s remorse only more art critic oriented with a pinch of self-loathing). I feel like I missed it on Custer. It is a good painting but it isn’t him the way I wanted him to be. At the very least it needs to be a caricature, instantly recognizable as George, but it’s just so-so. Wish I had it back, but it’s too late.

One of our key competitors wants to run one of my Billy the Kid paintings on their June cover. I have mixed feelings about it. They have offered me $500 and there is a perverse pleasure in that, but Kathy thinks I would be helping them too much. I have polled R.G., Carole and Bob Brink to see what they think. Need to make a decision by Monday.

Got a speech in Parker on Sunday, so I drove down to Deer Valley to meet Fernando, the Tri Star driver, and picked up six boxes of my books. The people in Parker are quite receptive to history and when I was out there last year they bought almost everything I had.

Went to lunch with Robert Ray at Tuscan ($18 cash). Got sandwiches and brought them back to office. Good talking shop with him. He’s a warhorse.

Went up to bank and paid two loan payments. It’s so daunting to have payments that are strictly interest only. I have thrown everything I have into this magazine. I bet the farm (literally—a significant chunk of the money I invested I inherited from my grandpa’s Iowa farm). Makes me nervous, but. . .

What's money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night and in between he does what he wants to.”
—Bob Dylan

Friday, March 07, 2003

March 7, 2003 Daniel sent us up four Custer covers to pick from. Unfortunately, the red Custer I got up at 3:30 in the morning to do, wasn’t popular with the staff (although Daniel appropriated the Indian at the bottom and used it successfully in the winning cover). We narrowed it down to two finalists and finally decided on one of them. I’ll put up the sketches and finalists tomorrow.

Went to lunch with a circulation specialist. Bob Brink, R.G., Holly and I went to Tonto ($40 biz debit). Learned quite a bit about the ins and outs of circ maintenance. She seems knowledgeable. Bob likes her.

Took Sue and Abby up to Jane Bishoff’s Out West store in El Pedgrigal to show them the kind of T-shirt designs I would like to emulate. Jane always has the latest trends and knows where the market is going before the market knows. I think Abby and Sue were adequately inspired. We are remodeling the store out front and Dave Daiss built out a new wall to include the mail room up front. Sue had the walls repainted and is doing a redesign and restocking. Went over possible new items to try. Settled on our fantastic photo collection of Vera McGinnis images. Jana is working on a cover story of this incredible cowgirl of the 1920s and 1930s. I met Vera’s granddaughter at a Wickenburg speech last year and she told me she had all of Vera’s photos—and she did! Wow! Scanned the best ones, although we lost five through corrupt CDs.

Got our office copies of the new Travel Issue. It’s a honker—136 pages. We are making progress on the layout and editorial. I think this is the most restrained issue yet. There is a tendency for novices to use color and put too much on each page. I always compare it to playing in a band and everyone is playing lead. The drummer is doing a drum solo thru every song because he (that would be me) wants everyone to know how good he is and he’s so insecure that he has to play fills all the time. The bass player is playing lead all the time and the result is a thick mess. I think someone was talking about jazz great Charlie Parker when they said, “He knew what to leave out.” The same is true of magazines and computers have really opened the flood gates. Everyone has some slick new software that they are dying to use and they cram it into every available space until the whole thing sinks. Anyway, this issue has restraint and subscribers will start getting it today. It goes on newsstands in two weeks.

Every winner has scars.”
—Herbert N. Casson

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

March 5, 2003
Had a long one yesterday. Brought all five Custer cover paintings into the office. Everyone weighed in on them, with a split decision on which would work the best. Dan Harshberger came at about noon and picked one of my very first efforts. He thought the one I did at 4 in the morning didn’t look enough like Custer (see yesterday’s comment. Ha.). So he took two scans with him.

Went to lunch at Satisfied Frog with Jana, Dan, Gus, Abby, Meghan and Robert Ray ($20 cash, paid for Dan’s lunch, can’t remember why, but I owed him for something). Talked at length about how to get white space into the magazine. Several good ideas. Looked at Cerca magazine, a Nevada type Arizona Highways pub. Compared styles, their version of “white space.” I brought along a USA Today for some examples of effective white space. Good talk, vigorous discussion, although I had several bruised egos. Had to deal with that later.

Worked on Wyatt Earp package for July issue. Jana wrote a great little sidebar on why Doc Holliday is so sexy. Deals with Val Kilmer, Dennis Quaid, Kirk Douglas, who have all played him. The women will nod their heads (in fact, I predict all the women reading this are nodding their heads).

Kathy picked me up at five and we went down into PV for dinner at Chompies ($20 cash), then over to PVCC for our Conversational Spanish class. Learned a cool deal about South of the border cowboys. In Mexico, the west is north. To them, cowboys, or vaqueros, are people who live in the north part of the country, so their version of Country music, or their Cowboy Country is Norteno, or North. Pretty weird, eh? What we call Westerns, I guess they would call Northerns. Ha.

Went out this morning to a Read Across America program at Copper Creek Elementary School. Spoke to the combined fourth thru sixth grade classes in the school cafeteria. Must have been 400 kids. You couldn’t hear for the din after they all got in there, but then the principal went up on the stage and clapped three times. The kids answered with three claps. Then she clapped two times. They followed suite. Then once. Ditto. Then it was deathly still. It was the most amazing thing I have seen in a long time. “And now students we have a real celebrity with us. He’s an author, the editor of a magazine and he’s on the radio, let’s hear it for Bob Bow-zee Bell!” The kids really clapped hard and they sat very still and were very calm for about ten minutes. After that you could just see the energy spilling off their bodies as they fought a losing battle to hold everything in their skin. At the fifteen minute mark several rows of kids were starting to bounce and buzz like a big box of cell phones on vibrate mode.

Of course I had to introduce my niece and nephew, Mercedes and E.J. “El Diablo” Radina. Both were in the audience (their mama Carol got me the gig) and everyone craned their necks to see who would actually be related to such an old guy in a cowboy hat. Then I took questions from the audience. One of the kids asked, “How much money have you made publishing your books?” And of course the answer was, “Not much, kid.” Then a young girl asked, “What radio station are you on?” And I wanted to say “Your principal is a big liar,” but I actually said, “Well, I was on the radio a long time ago but I got fired for saying a naughty word.” They really seemed to love that (although the principal didn’t seem real happy).

Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.”
—Lady Bird Johnson

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

March 3, 2003
Woke up at 3:30 worried about the Custer cover. I have taken four big stabs at it but it just isn’t what I wanted. Came out in the cold, dark studio and turned on the heater, pulled out a clean sheet of watercolor paper, quickly sketched out the big idea that keeps eluding me, fought off the urge to go back to bed and bailed in. Within an hour and a half I had the thing roughed in with several happy accidents. Custer’s face is not perfect, but I think you would recognize him. He’s kind of upset looking, indignant really, and that adds to the headline “The Man Who Killed Custer” because I doubt that even Custer himself would agree with the article, so that’s a nice little caveat.

Yesterday was very good in office. Mike and crew have hung tough and brought sales up to where they need to be. The letters in this issue (May-June) are the best we have ever run. For the longest time it was “I hate the new format” and “Joe Small is spinning in his grave.” Or, it was “I love the new format, Joe Small is not spinning, he’s turning slowly with a smile on his face.” This set of letters is very history oriented, with debates about specific articles (Did Brigham Young Order A Massacre? And the Dalton gunfight piece), all of them intelligent and thought provoking. Mark Boardman makes a good point and takes Leo Banks to task for a comment about Billy the Kid shooting people in self-defense, and Leo’s answer is clever and just as correct. This is Meghan’s beat and she is doing a great job.

On a related note, I promoted R.G. to editor (he was Managing Editor) and told him to put his name at the top of the masthead and mine at the bottom. There are too many egos bouncing around in there. It was actually a good move for me because I probably have the biggest ego in the bunch. Ha.

Came home at noon and worked all afternoon on Custer paintings. Got a massage from Christie at four ($50 Sue check).

"All the experience of history confirms that sharing the same beliefs has been a preliminary
to quarreling about their interpretation."

—Theodore Zeldin

Sunday, March 02, 2003

March 2, 2003
Big snow trip. Took off yesterday with Kathy about noon. Rained off and on all the way up I-17 to Sunset Point, then we got snow flurries near Cornville. Hit the 7,000 foot marker and it was a winter wonderland. Didn’t bring my cameras and kicked myself several times, but I decided to live it and not record it. Got to Flag at about three. Blowing snow. Checked into Best Western on old Route 66. Thomas came around 4:30 and we drove out to George’s Pizza where his friend Robert Chenalt works and had pizza and watched the U of A, Stanford basketball game on TV. Snow fell during the entire game. Just really coming down (you could see it out the window under the parking lot lights). U of A won in last seconds and we went outside and shovelled off T’s Land Crusher and poked our way back to NAU and the Walkup Skydome to see their basketball game against Montana State ($10 for tickets). NAU won. Fun seeing the small college team that gave U of A fits at the beginning of the season. T took us home around 9:30. Drew Custer sketches in bed (brought along my reference material and sketchbook) until around 11. Got some good drawings going.

Got up at seven. Total whiteout outside. Had to scrape windows on our car, etc. It was fun (once). Thomas followed us down to Martan’s for breakfast. A little hole in the wall, hippie breakfast place on San Francisco St. that Buffalo Rick turned me on to when we did the radio show live from there several years ago. Had the huevos rancheros and Kathy and I had a great talk with our son. Breakfast came to $32 (bought T a $40 gift certificate from Ann the owner). Crunched out in the snow and said our goodbyes.

Kathy and I took off for Phoenix at 10. Got a hair up our snutz and took the Oak Creek Canyon turnoff. A little concerned about ice coming down the steep canyon, but the road was great. Fantastic snow scenes everywhere. Snow falling from caked trees. After a while so much was falling it was like a confetti parade down through the canyon. Really stunning. Glad we took the chance. Stopped in Sedona and walked around. Bought a book on Custer ($16 cash) to use for reference on the cover. Got gas in Village of Oak Creek ($1.79 a gallon!). Easy ride home. Got here at around 1:30.

After a walk, started on cover ideas. Got two going. Ruined one, almost gave up on another. Came back. Not sure. Trying to stay loose. I’m in the zone and it feels good. Need to finish tomorrow.

“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
 —Meg Chittenden

Saturday, March 01, 2003

March 1, 2003
Even more rain. I have lived in Arizona for forty some years and I don’t remember this much rain in a row. We sometimes get big rains but they come and go within two days. These storms have been pounding us for a week.

I stayed home yesterday morning and finally got untracked on Custer art for cover. I needed some clear time, to concentrate and I finally got some images that at least look like the boy general. Worked in studio from about seven to 12:30. Took a shower, packed truck and went up to office at one. Ad sales are getting there for May-June (I knew Mike, Ted and Larry would come through). We are sitting at 88 pages and may bump it to 96.

Had to rein in production. They put a funny cartoon of two guys on the gallows and one says to the other: “How’s your hangtime?” Unfortunately the cartoon is at the end of a serious article about the hanging of 37 Sioux Indians (it’s the largest mass hanging in our history). I went out and asked them if this was the appropriate place for this particular cartoon. Gus thought it made it extra zaney. I agreed, but wondered aloud if it was at the cost of trivializing the historic article. Imagine a former cartoonist making a plea for human dignity. Oh, the Irony!

Went down to Scottsdale at 3:30 and met Deena for lunch at Earl’s. They have totally remodeled the place (I liked the old layout better). Good talking to my daughter. She is at that age I wouldn’t go back to for anything in the world.

Drove out to Val Vista Village (a retiree trailer park) in Mesa for a speech. Long drive, freeways jammed. Took an hour (40 miles from CC). Community room was already half full when I got there. Susan, the director, told me that at Val Vista “If you are on time, you are late.” These people are like my Dad. He always had to be early and would start fretting several hours before. Oh, those Norwegians! It’s actually very Midwestern I suppose. We ended up with a full house (maybe 350). Great audience. They laughed and applauded. Sold about five of my books. Made a big plea for subscriptions to True West, asking them to take the card inside and send it to someone who they think would enjoy it or benefit from it. Only brought one box of True Wests, which actually worked better because they kind of fought over them.

Finished at seven, drove home. Missed most of the traffic going out. Going to Flag today to see Thomas. Excited about the snow and eating breakfast at Martan’s.

"If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing."
—Kingsley Amis