Sunday, November 30, 2003

November 30, 2003
Didn’t get any art done yesterday but did get to see some great art down at the Biltmore. Kathy and I took off from here about 2:30. Beautiful day out. The Frank Llloyd Wright designed Biltmore Hotel sits regally in the north corridor of Phoenix. Glenn Campbell lives in the adjacent Biltmore Estates and was arrested there last week for being drunk and the hit and run. He told the arresting officers he has never “been drunk, just over-served.” Ha.. The Hotel is celebrating its 75th anniversary and Steve Sampson invited Mark Sublette, a Tucson gallery owner and expert on Maynard Dixon to come up and show off some of his Dixon images and comment on the two murals in the Gold Room which bears Maynard’s art (the second one was painted by his third wife Edith Hamlin after his death using his studies). Of course Ed Mell was there and we marvelled at several little gems, especially a powerful painting of a tall saguaro on the side of Catalina Mountain. I mentally stole several compositions and color schemes to apply to the unfinished Old Man Clanton images lying around my studio.

After the talk, Steve and his wife Annie invited Kathy and I, Maynard Dixon’s son John, Ed Mell, Mark Sublette and several of Mark’s Old Pueblo friends, to join them on the patio for drinks. We sat on big comfy chairs as one of two weddings got underway on the lush center square, which is literally in the shadow of Piestewa Peak (named for the Native American woman who was driving the humvee that Jessica Lynch was in. It was formerly Squaw Peak.) I had a nice merlot and Kathy had a Corona. I sat next to Mark Sublette and we talked about Maynard and Tucson. In addition to Mark’s home in Tucson he has another one in Santa Fe. He is a passionate collector and has a painting done of George and Libbie Custer which he believes was painted at the time of their marriage. I told him he has to contact Bob McCubbin and Paul Hutton, and in addition to their expert opinions, I assured him he will enjoy their passion for all things collectable.

At about six, we drove up to Paradise Valley and met Wonderful Russ for dinner at Chompies ($52 cash). I had the salmon and homemade lima bean soup. Kathy had a turkey sando. Talked quite a bit about the new MP3s and downloading music and how it all works (Russ is a techno buff and has studied all of the variations, etc.).

Got home at nine, rented Hollywood Homicide on the dish ($3.99). Harrison Ford, directed by Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump). Just an awful mess. I half-kept watching it to see if it would get any better, and it never did.

”You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.”
—William Blake

Saturday, November 29, 2003

November 29, 2003
Had a very strong day working on art yesterday. Must have cranked out a dozen gouache roughs, etc. Got a good one of Old Man Clanton and Jim Crane around the campfire. Nice effects, and a decent likeness of Clanton.

Yesterday afternoon, Mad Coyote Joe called me and said he did a big catering feed (1,200 people) and had some juicy tri-tip, and salads left over. Invited me to bring over a bowl and some tupperware containers and he’d fill’em. Went over to his ranchito around two and loaded up. Had a great little feast for lunch.

Got an irate call from my neighbor at about four. This is what he said, “I’m supposed to go hunting in the morning and I’m missing a boot.” I instantly knew exactly what he was talking about, because on our patio the dogs have drug in a fine variety of footwear including Birkenstocks and black tennies. I thought the notorious little thief Peaches was the culprit and just this very morning I took them all over to the Swami’s house (we have a transcendental guy catty-corner to our property) and piled the booty (get it?) on a big rock just outside his driveway. But as soon as Ed called I knew the expensive boot that showed up yesterday was his. I told Ed I’d meet him on the road, went and retrieved the boot from the Swami rock and met a very bugged neighbor near his barn. “Here you go Ed, I’m so sorry. It looks like you’ll need some new shoelaces. It’s probably Peaches and you have my permission to kick her ass when she sneaks over.” Ed looked at his boot and shook his head. “It isn’t Peaches,” he said disgustedly, as Buddy Boze Bell lumbered up with one ear cocked backwards like a gangbanger on a crack heist. Ed held out the boot and Buddy looked up at it with a “Hey, where’d you get that, it’s mine” kind of look. “He ate the tongue,” Ed said pointing at the chewed out interior of the footwear. Buddy started to jump up and grab it, but I clipped his ass good. The boot was ruined and so was my afternoon. I realized my parenting skills are just about non-existent. I did such a lousy job on two kids, what made me think I could train a dog?

“You know,” Ed said fixing me with the bad parent stare I deserved. “I got a lame mare in there,” he said, pointing to the barn with his chin. “And she’s expecting and he’s over here every day attacking her.” I, of course, started mumbling and promising things I can’t deliver: “I’m gonna take care of this Ed. We bought a shock collar (this is true, $130) and if we have to, we’ll build a dog run ($1,300 we don’t have) and a new gate ($800, but he jumps the wall anyway). Ed turned and walked off.

I called Ed’s house later and left a very contrite message, telling him to go buy some new boots and I’ll pay for them, but he never called back. His truck is gone today and I wince every time I imagine Ed, up on the Mogollon Rim, hopping through the brush on one leg trying to sneak up on a bull moose.

”Never make a promise in haste.”
—Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, November 28, 2003

November 28, 2003
Had a nice Thanksgiving at Betty Radina’s. Nice talking to everyone (except for one person who irritates the hell out of me, but such is family and the holidays and being petty. Besides, it makes me appreciate all the others).

Worked on several art pieces for the Old Man Clanton piece. Got a decent image called “The Midnite Visitor.” This led to questions (as I’m painting the scene, I’m thinking, “Wait a minute, if he’s coming in from over there?”), which I may include in the article.

Got this from one of my blogger pals:
Six Phases Of A Project.
1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. Search For The Guilty
5. Punishment Of The Innocent
6. Praise And Honors For The Non-Participants

I’m always trying to figure out how to get to the good stuff and so I’m constantly searching for people who may have the answers. Here’s what Tommy Lee Jones has to say about acting (he is out promoting The Missing): “It there is such a thing as talent, maybe it’s maintaining objectivity and subjectivity at the same time, both at a very intense level. But hell’s bell’s, there is no established vocabulary to deal with these issues.” What a guy. A Westerner (he owns two ranches) with a Harvard degree.

And here come the MMMurphey fans: “What the devil?! Where is this merciless Michael Martin Murphey bashing coming from? References to 78 RPM's & Fountain Hills tell me everything I need to know. I'm reminded of an exchange on a prominent Western E-board recently. Two old codgers were bitching about Opie remaking John Wayne's epic "The Alamo," vowing they'd never see this vile assault on their antiquated honor. "How dare that sniveling Hollywood brat think he can sully the Duke's masterwork!" Never mind that it isn't Ron Howard anymore at the helm. Never mind that it isn't a remake in any sense. Never mind that John Wayne was just as "Hollywood" as Opie Cuningham. By Gobs, it tweren't what they were raised on! I nearly worship John Wayne as the deified Western role model. I adore Gene Autry's music. The crackpot coot mentality expressed in your recent correspondence with Grandpa Simpson does not represent all your readers. I'm a mere kiddo of 38 who appreciates that some folks are trying to preserve and supplement the Western arts and myths that are about to erode to dust right before our eyes if someone doesn't perpetuate our passion for the American West. So, I say, thank you Michael Martin Murphy!” C. Neil Williams

”If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, November 27, 2003

November 27, 2003
A brisk, cool Thanksgiving morning. Got dogs under my legs wrestling on the floor trying to get to the three-day-old- cut wieners in my sweats pocket (didn’t know they were there, but, oh those dog noses!).

Yesterday at the TW offices we had our Thanksgiving feast. Carol got cold cuts at Costco and several others brought in side dishes. Abby brought in a delicious Baptist basement salad and Robert Ray brought in a crockpot of black beans and meat (both very tasty). Lots of laughs and at least everyone on staff wants to be there (couldn’t have said that last week).

I never realized the animosity that Michael Martin Murphey engenders. More negative responses to the idea of him being on the cover. Here’s a snippet:

“ can't see how you could say Michael Martin Murphy in the same breath as Gene Autry or Riders in the Sky. Murphy is a bad rip-off of Marty Robbins and certainly not on a par with the great cowboy movie singers.” —Allen Fossenkemper, Fountain Hills, AZ.

Here is the rough Gus came up with for the Gene Autry cover. The logo is in color, but the rest is black and white. I think it’s pretty strong. The great boots and spurs don’t hurt anything.

Got a new poll up. This one is from our editor R.G. who is suspicious of all our Billy the Kid coverage. It’s a good one: Does True West devote too much time to Billy the Kid? You can click right here to vote.

"If you want truly to understand something, try to change it."
—Kurt Lewin

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

November 26, 2003
Took part of the staff on a field trip yesterday. Jana, Gus, Meghan, Abbey and Robert Ray and I went down to Desert Ridge to visit Tower Records and then over to Barnes & Noble to look at our rack position and our competitors. Afterwards we tried to eat lunch at Mimi’s Cafe but they were slammed and had a 25 minute wait so we walked over to In-N-Out burgers and sat outside and talked strategies ($3.50 for a hamburger and iced tea, cash). Good discussion and Jana said on the way back she finally understands and agrees with the importance of top heads (headlines above the logo). Daniel smuggled in a printout of his fake “Fakes” cover and we put it in amongst the cacophony of titles and stepped back to take an objective gander. It stood out for sure and that was encouraging. Tower had sold all but one of the Alamo issues (Dec.) and B&N had four left (of course the latter had the mags stuck in the back and we pulled them out to give a full face position, and I would encourage everyone reading this to do the same whenever you see True West—put it out front!).

On a related note, I mentioned in here we may do a Western music issue and I gave the option of Gene Autry on the cover or Michael Martin Murphey. Here’s a few of the responses I got:

“I sure would like to see Gene Autry on one of your covers.He was the first singing Cowboy as you know. I'm one of the baby boomers that was raised up on his western movies and 78 rpm records.” Don Hall, Macon, Missouri

“Go with Michael ~ he still has a pulse! This man has a strong connection to many of the people you would want buying your magazine. You could both do each other alot of good ~ Autry's a legend, but frankly a little out of the loop.” J.Rae, Wisconsin

“I love the idea of a cowboy music cover, but I hate the idea of Michael Martin Murphy for it, 'cause maybe he's the greatest guy in the world, but his cowboy stuff is overproduced and soulless and, well, '80s California to my uneducated ear. If it's a choice, my vote's for Gene Autry. Actually, it's for Riders in the Sky, but you didn't offer that. Maybe a collage of past and present greats? 'Cause that way, you can put in Patsy Montana.” Will S., Bisbee, AZ

“I don't think of the choice between Michael Martin Murphy and Gene Autry as a demographics-driven thing. For me, it's more like: Gene Autry is cool. MMM--just not cool. Cool people establish the stuff; just-not-cool people come along after and homogenize it. But then, I'm so cranky about music I make the Hat Nazis look wishy washy.” Emma Bull, Bisbee, AZ

"Oprah Winfrey said she realized she needed to lose weight when she went to a heavyweight fight and discovered she weighed more than the winner. Coincidentally, the same thing happened to Pavarotti at the Kentucky Derby."
—Conan O'Brien

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

November 25, 2003
Still struggling with Old Man Clanton copy. Found more stuff yesterday and worked hard to shoe horn it in. Need to finish two or three more pieces of art (one is of Wyatt Earp as Superman).

Had lunch with the well-known Western artist Buckeye Blake yesterday. He was coming through town on his way to Texas. We went to El Encanto ($10 cash) and had machaca and eggs and talked history and art ‘til the cows came home. The only thing that would have made it more of a B-fest is if Baxter Black had joined us (Buckeye Bake, Bob Boze Bell and Baxter Black do breakfast, sounds like a bad country-western song).

Speaking of history, I was so proud of my memory of November 22, 1963, until yesterday when Charlie Waters E-mailed me the following:

“Thanks for sharing the blog. I, of course, remember it differently.
I remember it as the day I got the cast off my leg from a broken ankle. I
remember the dance being canceled but football season was over as I broke my
ankle the Wednesday before our last game. Must have been a basketball game.”

”Each time an oldtimer retells his life story, he gets closer to the center of the stage."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, November 24, 2003

November 24, 2003
Good day working on art yesterday. Whipped out a big sucker of Old Man Clanton and his cowboys receiving a midnite visitor at Guadalupe Canyon. Mysterious rock formations in background (outlaw James Crane had unwittingly brought a company of Mexican militia with him). Nice effects, some passages I wish I had back, but here we go.

Our refrigerator went kaput a couple days ago, so Kathy called up a classified ad and we drove out to west Phoenix to pick it up ($275 cash). Had to drive slow on the freeway, got it home, the old one wouldn’t go out the front door, leaking, heavy, all that fun stuff. Finally got them moved around. Back sore, too old for this.

Watched a great Inside The Actor’s Studio last night with Mike Myers. Really funny guy. He makes $20 million a picture now and it was interesting to find out that Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers saga is based partly on Myer’s old boss at Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels. And the irony is that according to Myers, Lorne’s own son went out on a recent Halloween dressed as Dr. Evil. Funny.

Big challenges at the office this week. I’m trying to find a great quote from J.C. Penny about a stock clerk. I’ve run it in here in the past, but now I can’t find it. When I do, I’ll run it here. When to speak and when to shut up and let people do their jobs?

”"Silence can be an answer."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, November 23, 2003

November 23, 2003
Coming back from New Mexico earlier this week I realized something: Baby Boomers are enough of a market for us. Entertainment Weekly and others have been reporting the network’s double digit loss of the 18-34 male and the big wig’s hand-wringing at this potent market loss. When we were in New York last summer talking to the History Channel they too were obsessed with somehow corralling the elusive teenage demo.

Last night I read the new Rolling Stone with the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. I was somewhat surprised that the top ten were all Baby Boomer groups (RS is also reportedly trying to court youngsters, but you couldn’t tell it from the list): The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was chosen as number one, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds came in at number two, the Beatles again at number three with Revolver and also at number 9, then Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Marvin Gaye. The Clash was the only “new group” to break the top ten (and they’re twenty years old!).

Yes, we are the pig in the python’s digestive system, but why fight it, sometimes you just need to go with it.

Case in point: this morning I was listening to Prairie Home Companion on NPR and Garrison Keillor’s show was broadcasting from San Diego. Garrison introduced a group called the Duotones, two guys on acoustics, who proceeded to play the old surf classic, Pipeline. The crowd went nuts and so did I. In fact, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and I couldn’t stop grinning. This song is a benchmark for Baby Boomers (from Kingman). I truly believe it’s one of the greatest songs ever recorded, with the possible exception of Apache (1961) which the Duotones played at the end of the show.

So what does this have to do with True West? Well, we are playing with the idea of doing a Western music issue. Do we put Michael Martin Murphy on the cover or Gene Autry?

Speaking of Prairie Home Companion, when Kathy and I went ice fishing with Garrison Keillor two years ago, we like everyone else wanted to talk to him, but he was mobbed for the entire weekend. People hanging on him everywhere. So, on the last day, out on the VFW patio, overlooking a frozen lake north of St. Paul, Kathy and I did a cheesy thing: we took turns standing close to Garrison and took pictures of each other as if he were our closest friend. He had no idea we were doing this (notice his stoic oblivion). I have since put this on our refrigerator to remind us of all our famous friends. Ha.

”Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”
—George S. Patton

Saturday, November 22, 2003

November 22, 2003
Is there anyone left in the U.S. who hasn’t told where they were forty years ago? What a snapshot of the country. Millions of us pinpointing our exact location on Friday morning, November 22, 1963.

The Exits were going to have a dance in the evening (I think there was a football game scheduled) and bandmate Charlie Waters and I drove up to my parent’s house on Ricca Drive to pick up my drums. It was lunchtime and we had to get permission from Mr. Williams to leave the Mohave County Union High School campus. On the way up the hill (we lived on Hilltop) Charlie and I talked about various girls we were interested in and the odds of us scoring with them after the dance. I can’t remember why but I decided to pull into my dad’s Phillips 66 service station at the top of El Trovatore Hill. As we pulled up my dad came out to the car and said, “The president’s been shot.” I remember thinking he was probably wounded in the arm, like a superficial flesh wound (all those Westerns I had grown up on). I couldn’t imagine a modern president being mortally wounded. That was something that happened in ancient times, like Lincoln at the end of the Civil War.

When Charlie and I got to my house, we started loading out my Montgomery Ward’s King drum set to the car (we still had no idea of the magnitude of the tragedy). I turned on the tv and there was Walter Cronkite, which even seemed odd, because nobody in my memory had ever interrupted daytime soaps. Walter seemed overly somber. And then he said the unthinkable: the president is dead.

We finished loading the drums and went back to school. Washington and even Dallas, Texas seemed a long way from Kingman, Arizona and I was shocked when Mr. Williams said there would be no school, no game and no dance. Girls were crying on the steps of the school and sitting in cars in the parking lot weeping. Us guys were too cool for that. One of my jock friends actually said, “What do you mean the dance is cancelled, it’s just the president.”

On Sunday my mother and I went to Grace Lutheran Church for services and when we got home my dad said, “Now they’ve shot Oswald.” Once again, it was too bizarre to even believe.

In the seventies I got swept up in the conspiracy theories and attended a multi-media travelling conspiracy show at Grady Gammage on the ASU campus. The highlight of the presentation was actually getting to see the Zapruder film (in spite of many Baby Boomer’s faulty memories, the Zapruder film had never been shown publicly and in fact the Life magazine photo spread, deleted the third shot head wound as too graphic for the American people to see).. Of course, we all believed the CIA and others (Nixon was in Dallas!) were behind it. I’ve since calmed down and today I’m much more pragmatic:

”I believe one of the Lee Harvey Oswalds acted alone.”
—Bob Boze Bell

Friday, November 21, 2003

November 21, 2003
Big changes in staff. Had two salespeople resign yesterday. They wanted to rep us from an outside position but we declined. This puts tremendous pressure on our current staff, two of whom are inexperienced. However, I have faith in them and Mike and I have faith that they’ll all rise to the challenge.

Had a meeting with them this morning and told them the story of a young punkster who got drunk every night and whored around even more. Yes, my bible school teacher Mrs. Blanchard . . .no, of course it’s me and I was in my early twenties and completely lost. In spite of my decadent lifestyle, I really wanted to accomplish things but I had no idea on how to do it.

One night a friend of mine invited me to a Sta-Power meeting, which was an early pyramid scheme company like Amway but without the ethics. Of course I didn’t know this at the time. First, they put us in this room and they wowed us with a tent show revival type “experiment” to show how Sta-Power oil additive works like “magic.” We were being set up to buy franchises at $3,000 a pop, as I remember. I was too dumb and too young and from Kingman to boot (call it a tri-fecta of stupidity) to understand the con and the only reason I got out of there with my shirt is because that’s all I owned. My friend was not so lucky and got taken for several thousand.

However, in spite of the total con situation, the total negativity and bad intent of the perpetrators, in the middle of the meeting they showed us a film. It was a motivational speech by an old man that I had never heard of—Earl Nightingale. He talked about goals and how people lose their way (this got my attention) and then he told about a sea captain who is leaving a dock in England on his way to Australia and who would bet against him making it? And how it’s a forty day trip and yet for 39 days he can’t see his goal, but he knows if he gets up each day and stays on course, on the 40th day his goal will come in sight. This may sound corny to you, but for me it was, well, a sea change.

After the meeting (at True West) Sue H. went on the web and found and we ordered the tapes and one of his books. I hope the staff is half as motivated by Earl as I was because if they are we will have no trouble meeting our goals.

”I don't tell the truth any more to those who can't make use of it. I tell it mostly to myself, because it always changes me.”
—Anais Nin

Thursday, November 20, 2003

November 20, 2003
Finished copy for April Classic Gunfights: “I Shot The Sheriff (And I killed a Deputy, Too)”. The Sheriff Brady ambush in Lincoln, NM on April Fool’s Day, 1878. Going to be a good one. Of course I have plenty of artwork from my Billy book, but I have big plans to add some of the scenes I didn’t have time for back then.

Gus started doing some spec covers as part of Operation Good Covers. I want to work backwards and design a gaggle of covers that stand alone and see if we can grow into them. Gus whipped out four, including Bandit Babes and Big, Fat Liars of The Old West. Funny and intriguing stuff. When we get them roughed in, I’ll post a few and you can vote on them. Speaking of voting, we have a new poll up. What Western sites do you enjoy most? You can click right here.

Had a blood test at 11. Came in at 1.9 (not therapeutic), got yelled at for taking my coumadin in the morning. I “ruined the test”, etc. Whatever.

Went by El Conquistador for lunch. Had the poblano asado and an iced tea, got Kathy a bean burro to go ($20 cash, includes tip). Went to Wallgreen’s and got my coumadin prescription refilled ($25), then over to Foothills Photo and bought a used camera ($135 biz account). My old Nikon is kaput.

On the plane ride over to New Mexico I read Time magazine’s inside story of Jessica Lynch and the convoy ambush at Nasiriyah. Based on the initial reports I imagined a full blown ambush with Iraqi troops waiting in the dark and pouncing on the wayward convoy. Not even close. As is so typical in most human endeavors, after missing the turn to bypass the hostile berg, Lynch and the 507th Maintenance Company drove through the entire town without taking any enemy fire! There was even an Iraqi guard in the middle of the town who waved them thru (I can just see this guy, flashing a big smile and giving the “Peace Out” sign). It was only when they got out the other end of the town and the road ended that they got into trouble. They turned around and tried to wade back through Nasiriyah and that’s when the killing began. Amazing. It makes you realize, no one is really ready for anything (when 9•11 happened the most powerful nation on earth didn’t even have an armed plane to send up). Every government and organization on the planet is so pathetic it’s not even funny. We think there is this super organization behind everything and it’s really just blundering fools blindly bumping into the furniture.

”If you want your dreams to come true, don’t sleep.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

November 19, 2003
Long day at the office, trying to catch up. We made some editorial changes in the mix, argued over better covers and postcards, had two meetings about those issues.

Went to lunch at Sesame Inn with Gus, Meghan, Robert R. and Jana. Had the Grandma salad, which is not on the menu, but it’s one of the owner’s homestyle dishes (Gail Mell’s fave baby sitter was part of the family and turned them onto it), it’s sort of an Asian cole slaw with pork. Mighty tasty. Also had the Thai tea ($11 cash).

Had a dental appointment at three. Really got beat up bad. Just the terms are painful, “scaling,” “planing” “Novocaine in the gumline,” “Novocaine in the upper jaw,” “Novocaine in the roof of the mouth.” Kids, don’t get old because after fifty you get poked and shot up and jabbed at an alarming rate.

Came back to office and worked until about six. Lots to do, not enough people to do it.

”My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.”
—My Grandpa

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

November 18, 2003
Back from New Mexico. Took off from Albuquerque last night at 7:40. Plane hit a wind sheer on take-off (snow flurries in both Santa Fe and Alb.). It was like someone was hitting the plane with giant baseball bats, the entire jet pitched and bucked. Certainly the roughest take-off I have ever experienced. I said goodbye to my family, wondered about all the deadlines and projects left unfinished. The rest of the flight was smooth as silk.

On Sunday night, six of us met Bill Kurtis (ex-CBS correspondent and morning anchor) and his staff at Santaca Fe (Santa Cafe, get it?) just off the Plaza. Paul and Tracie Hutton, the Western artist Thom Ross, a “friend” of Thom’s, Rhonda who is a school teacher on the Navajo res, and a tennis pro/Old West buff named Rusty. Three of us were wearing cowboy hats and Western cut coats and after introductions, Bill Kurtis leaned over and said to Paul, “They realize we’re not filming tonight, don’t they?” Ah, those Easterners and their humor.

Rusty, Thom and I realized we are all hat Nazis. In fact, Rusty wants to re-digitalize all the old Westerns and make the hats historically accurate. Rusty guesstimated there are 350,000 other hat nazis who agree with us. I countered that there are maybe (heavy on the maybe) 40. This became a running joke for the entire trip and when Richard Ignarski showed up at Bob McCubbin’s house, Rusty said to me, “I just met number 41,” but I had to tell him, “No, Richard is number 13 on my list.”

Taping at McCubbin’s house was great. Everyone raved about Bob’s library. Thom declared it “The Cooperstown of the Old West.” Ha. Show will appear on the History Channel next April.

”We should always be booted and spurred, and ready to go.”

Sunday, November 16, 2003

November 16, 2003
Ran out of time. Need to leave in an hour to go to the airport. Had some good passages going on Clanton ambush and Cole Younger’s toenails, but have to stop and finish packing.

Last night, Kathy and I drove into Phoenix. Stopped at Book Star on Tatum but it’s gone. Huge store, vacated. Instead, a heavy discount bookstore has opened next to Office Max. Bought two books for the office ($32 biz account), one on the history of cinema which has numerous historic photos (The Man Who Sneezed and The Kiss) from 1894 on. We’ll use these in upcoming articles as the history of cinema begins to rival the history of the Old West. In fact, our own Miles Swarthout has been predicting this for over a year—that movie sites, where particular classic movie scenes were filmed, are going to rival the O.K. Corral itself as a tourist destination. There are travel groups cropping up everywhere that cater to this. Miles, my friend, you called it.

Attended a dinner party at Jana’s last night along with Russ and Wendy Shaw. Wonderful time, good conversation and we solved most of the world’s problems before dessert was on the table.

I was asked if I could go back in time what are the three places I would go and I said, “First I’d go to The Grassy Knoll, Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963; then I’d go to Fremont Street in Tombstone, October 26, 1881 and then I’d just kind of like to spend the rest of the time hanging out in Salma Hyak’s house.

”I hate flowers -- I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move.”
—Georgia O'Keeffe

Saturday, November 15, 2003

November 15, 2003
Frost on the ground this morning. Still quite nice out. Buddy Boze Bell is still giving us grief on our morning walks. He insists on running into our neighbor’s corrals (we go past four or five) and barking and nipping at the horses. It’s not only rude, but dangerous to boot. Yesterday Peaches joined the little twit and they got one of the S’s horses all riled up and I think he kicked Peaches (she’s been limping all day).

Flying to New Mexico tomorrow for a big taping in Santa Fe. Several big names in the Billy world are also flying in. They’re taping me on Monday and I’m flying home on Monday night. They wanted me to stay and watch the taping of the re-enactment segments on Tuesday but I’ve got too much to do here.

We’ve been suffering from a flu epidemic in the office. Sue, Crystal, Ted, Samantha and Larry all have been out. Very quiet in office (actually got quite a bit done). Gus and I re-worked Classic Gunfights to five pages. Going to do a couple big paintings this weekend for it (Ambush of Old Man Clanton). Got some good photo reference last night going through my library and pulling out images of cowboys in bedrolls (I love doing this). Got about four different angles. Going to be fun.

Also worked up copy for the May issue on ambush of Sheriff Brady in Lincoln. Feels good to get ahead.

Came home for lunch yesterday and penciled in my Cole Younger image. I’m trying to capture him as he probably looked soon after his capture at Hanska Slough. His right eye is swollen shut, his tattered boots with the souls half gone, are on the floor, and he’s missing all his toenails (they came off when his boots were removed and it’s my theory that all of the wading across the swollen creeks and sloughs of southern Minnesota during the gang’s two week run weakened them to the point they sloshed right off when he finally took his boots off). Fortunately, I’m missing a toenail and that’s why I had Kathy shoot the photos of me in the mud two days ago. Got a good quote to go with it. I’ll post some of the roughs as I get them going.

Here’s that little painting of the female half of the Zip Wyatt gang: Belle Black and Jennie. As I mentioned the other day, I tried to be true to the newspaper descriptions of them, rather than the Cowgirl image we’d all like them to be. As I wrote in my Bad Men book, most of the outlaws were “more criminal than cowboy.”

”"I saw a subliminal advertising executive. But only for a second."
—Steven Wright

Friday, November 14, 2003

November 14, 2003
Got a call from Paul Hutton this morning, who saw The Missing last night. Howard & Co. gave a special screening in Santa Fe for all the people who worked on the film. According to Paul it is an excellent film, very scary and historically fulfilling. Granted Paul was the historical consultant and may be a tad prejudiced, but he regaled me with all the attention to detail on weapons, forts and soldiers that would have been in the vicinity of the story. He also raved about how uncompromising the film is. Cate Blanchett’s character is a racist (she hates Indians) from the beginning and she doesn’t change. There is no redeeming speech at the end where she realizes we all have to respect each other, etc. As for the movie bombing, Paul says absolutely not, adding, “I know turkeys when I see ‘em.”

Got the page proofs from the printer this morning (January issue). We are still having color problems with our covers. This one seems too orange. Went into Photoshop and compared colors with match proofs and a postcard color that Abby had done which we really liked. Robert has been on the phone all morning with Bart at Banta trying to make sure we get the color we really want. Robert sent all the work-up files and Bart is putting his best crew on it. Got my fingers crossed. I hated the color on the Best of the West issue (“Billy’s Back!”).

Still working hard on cover ideas and concepts for 2004. After studying the new issue of Sports Illustrated (they printed all 2,548 covers), and all of our back issues going back to the beginning, I came up with seven types of covers that seem to really succeed on the newsstand. Here’s a couple:

• The Big Face: A celebrity or historical icon, up close and personal.

• Action: riders, shooters & narrative (the sub-genre of this is the image that tells a story— think Norman Rockwell, or the True West treasure in the cave cover). We have really gotten away from this and my suspicions are it’s so out it’s probably in.

• Typography only: No image, just type. The best example of this is the Sports Illustrated cover where they just ran the lead to the article on cocaine in the NFL. Very powerful and effective. Use sparingly, though.

”When in danger, ponder. When in trouble, delegate. When in doubt, mumble.”
—Robert Wagner, Jr.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

November 13, 2003
Rained all night. Really soggy out this morning. After we got back from a walk, I dressed up like Cole Younger and had Kathy photograph me in bare feet walking through the mud. I’ll explain later.

Went through the new issue of Sports Illustrated which Mike M. gave me. The magazine ran all 2,652 covers in a special cover issue celebrating their 50th anniversary (same age as us). I studied each and every one trying to find trends, or styles of covers that I thought would work for us. I came away with several concepts and ideas that might be very potent. I wrote up a page worth and am going to sketch out some roughs and send it down to Daniel.

Bettie and Wade Kohl (of the legendary Kohl’s Ranch) came in yesterday and would like some help redesigning their ranch history book. When Bettie told me she has already sold 2,000 of her homemade books at $20 a pop, I told her I should be asking her questions on how to publish a successful book.

Our previous editor, Mare Rosenbaum came by for lunch today and Robert Ray, Abby and Gus and I met her at Coffee Co. for old times (turkey sando and decaf, $8 cash). She raved about the website saying, “it looks like you’ve got 50 people working on it,” and I said, yes, we do. Trish is doing the work of 25 people and Jason is doing the work of the rest.

”The future is the past returning through another gate.”
—Arnold H. Glasow

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

November 12, 2003
Steady rain started at about four this morning. Quite wet out, but warm. Went for a walk with the dogs about 6:30. Felt good.

Wrangled over two articles for our Spotting Fakes issue yesterday morning. Jana was quite magnanimous and professional, unlike some of our family, who I won’t name, who were being strident and self-serving. Together we made the cuts where they needed to be. It wasn’t fun, but I think we made the right decisions.

I took Jana and Meghan to lunch at Tonto (half-cob salad and iced tea, $25 biz account). Talked about integrity and the tone of media today and what does that bode for us. Good talk and I especially enjoyed hearing what Meghan has to say (kids today!). I often use her and Abby as a sounding board because they both come from outside our little incestuous history cult and often have an outsider, objective slant on things.

In the afternoon, we went over books to review and R.G. rejected one by Richard Avendon, the New York photographer who shot all those oil wildcatter, cowboys and rednecks in the early nineties (Texas Monthly ran a bunch of them, one per page and it was quite effective). I tried to talk Roland into reviewing it (with perhaps the slant that Avedon is a carpetbagger, etc.) but he’s not interested. I deferred to him.

"History is a set of lies agreed upon."
—Napoleon Bonaparte

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

November 11, 2003
Good staff meeting this morning talking about the tone of the magazine and what is integrity and what is mainstream and what do our readers really want. I brought in some recent media examples that are thought provoking. Most of it has to do with the moving of what is called the “mainstream.”

For example, yesterday, one of the head guys at the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo came into my office and was telling me about their challenges. Attendance had been down and one of the things they are doing that is successful is during the rough stock portion of the rodeo (bucking horses and bulls) they are playing heavy metal music, like AC/DC and Van Halen. He told me the old cowboys and traditionalists hate it, but the kids really respond to it, and it has reversed the trend and has put more “butts in the seats.” I laughed and said, “What’s next, Hip Hop?” and he replied, “Over my dead body,” and I said, “I’ll bet twenty years ago if you told the guy who was in your position that you wanted to play “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC within a half mile of the rodeo grounds, he’d have said the same thing.” He laughed, but it’s true. So much of what used to be considered the edge, or the fringe, is now mainstream.

Another example is in today’s Republic there is a full-page ad for Orange County Choppers apparel. You know biker “hoodies” shirts and tees, featuring rough looking, dangerous Hells Angels’ types. No big deal, except the ad is for Dillard’s department stores! And, according to Robert Ray’s wife, Bea, who designed the ad, they have sold out of the entire stock. At Dillards!

I could go on, but what, you may ask, does this have to do with True West? Plenty. Change is optional because survival is not mandatory. Or, something like that.

”You can teach an elephant to dance, but the likelihood of its stepping on your toes is very high.”
—Gary Moss

Monday, November 10, 2003

November 10, 2003
Went down to Scottsdale last night to visit Dave Daiss in the hospital. Stopped in Old Town and looked at all the Western art in the windows (everything was closed on Sunday evening). My friend Gary Ernest Smith did a big ol’ statue of Maynard Dixon. It is installed right outside Ed Mell’s gallery and it looked wonderful. Gary really captured Dixon, complete with his lanky looks and custom watch fob (which had his custom Thunderbird design on it).

Had dinner with Deena and Kathy at Pischkes’s. Great food and good conversation ($35 cash, includes tip). Got up to Dave’s room at seven. He looks good, still has his sense of humor. We laughed and he ate cookies. He weighs 159 and needs to put on weight but he still has trouble keeping things down. Two of the other patients in the recovery ward were there as the result of crashing their plane at Falcon Field seveal weeks ago. Both had huge gashes across their foreheads and the son told us why. They had taken off and the cowling came loose (the hood of their engine) and it flipped up in front of the windshield blocking their view, not to mention creating a viscious drag off the prop. They circled around and tried to land but as they came around the plane stalled and hit the ground at a high rate of speed. Both men hit their heads on the dash and are lucky to be alive. I am so glad I didn’t meet these guys before Dave and I flew to Cimarron in Tom Chenal’s Beechcraft last summer!

Finished the last two art pieces for this issue’s Classic Gunfights with minutes to spare. Did a scratchboard of Zip Wyatt blasting away, while Ike Black takes one in the head. Gus scanned it in and placed it at about 9:30. My soft illustration of the outlaw babes: Belle Black and Jennie Freeman is better. Fought the temptation to illustrate the two as cowgirls and kept close to the newspaper descriptions of the two. In fact, Jennie is reported to wear a cap. Got it.

Issue goes out the door at four. This morning I got the results of the first direct mail piece we have done in two years. Excellent news. We had a 4% return (national average is 1%) and the pay-ups actually put us in the black. In other words we actually made money on the mailing. This is great news and speaks for the improved product, more than anything.

Took Mike Melrose to lunch at El Encanto. Sat outside by the pond. Talked about sales, or the lack thereof. He has good instincts and I encouraged him to be pro-active with his staff. The rest of the time we laughed like a couple of goofballs from Iowa ($25, biz account).

”My idea of long-range planning is lunch.”
—Frank Ogden

Sunday, November 09, 2003

November 9, 2003
Went for a walk this morning and heard the five most dreaded words a husband can ever hear: “We need to talk about something.” Okay, it’s really six words, but who’s counting when one of the true horrors of life comes crashing down on the serenity of a beautiful day?

Turns out yesterday morning I was eating cereal and someone I know (okay, it’s Kathy) came into the kitchen to politely ask me if I was going to help her get the house ready for company. This is her version.

Here’s what I heard her say: “Get up right now, stop eating and stop being so lazy, You never help me, our marriage has been totally one-sided with me doing all the work, all the time. You are a loser and always will be.”

My wife denies this, of course, and claims I snapped at her and said, “I’m eating breakfast for God’s sake. Get away from me and go do it yourself.”

What I remember saying is: “I have always loved and respected you Kathy. If you’ll give me just a moment to try and eat a healthy meal, which just might ward off potential blood clots that could kill me in a heartbeat, I’ll do whatever arduous work you are demanding of me, even if it damages my fragile health.”

We continued walking and talking and on the way back we came to our usual impasse, but we did agree on one thing: the five most dreaded words a husband can ever hear are “We need to talk about something.”

“I know what terrorism is. I was married for two years.”
—Sam Kinnison

Saturday, November 08, 2003

November 8, 2003
Part of the reason for yesterday’s headache (Kathy had one all day) was I made coffee when we came home late from Spanish class and used an unmarked container of java And of course it was de-caf. Ouch!

Coyotes attacked Buddy Boze Bell this morning. Happened on an early morning walk. I didn’t go, but Kathy walked the dogs down toward the creek and five coyotes came out of nowhere and immediately tried to peel Buddy off from the herd (Peaches, Kathy and Buddy). He got nipped but managed to get away.

Funny the circuitous route these journal entries sometimes take. I was fuming about weak ad sales in here (see Nov. 4 entry) and a guy named Andy Melrose read it in Saint Charles, Iowa, and he writes to our general sales manager, who comes into my office yesterday and reads me Andy’s E-mail regarding a 15% shortfall in ad sales. Mike Melrose then proceeds to tell me it’s only an 8% drop and would I please make this good to Andy Melrose. And yes, Andy is Mike’s dad. So there.

The real lesson here is never trust the numbers an artist gives you. Either cut them in half, or double them, depending on which way the artist is trying to skew things.

Good talk with Al Frisch yesterday. I want to maximize the tape we shot at Turkey Creek Canyon last summer and I think he got that message. He needs to trust me on how it will be used. I have faith that it will work out good for everyone.

Also had a good talk with Chip DeMann in Northfield, MN. He is recommending an art show next Labor Day showcasing all of my Jesse James, Younger art at Saint Olaf College during the big Defeat of Jesse James Days in Northfield. I marked my calendar for the weekend of September 6, 2004 and you should too.

I was proofing the January issue a couple days ago and ran across a quote from the sheriff of San Miguel County, NM. Gary Graves said, and I quote, “I love our history. It barks at you.” Isn’t that priceless? I had Daniel put it in a logo for the January front cover: History That Barks. Best quote of the year, really.

Read a big interview with Brian Grazer concerning the pushback on The Alamo. His comments are positive, but there seems to be thinly veiled contempt for Disney’s bone-headed move (turning down Ron Howard’s proposed R-Rated version of The Alamo). Disney was allegedly bragging how that they kept costs down by going the route they did, but now with the postponement, they are going to be suffering from escalating costs on an ad campaign that stalled and will need to be restarted, all the cuts in the movie, a new, re-positioned ad campaign (it will now be a comedy and at the end Davy Crockett, Billy Bob Thornton, puts his arms around Santa Anna and tells Mexican jokes like this one: “Why were there only 5,000 Mexicans at the Alamo?” And Santa Anna says, “No se, cavrone.” And Davy says, “I understand you only had four cars!” Everyone laughs heartily and they hug. Cut to a Tostido logo on the roof of the Alamo. Credits roll.).

Not really. That is a totally tasteless joke and I can’t believe Disney was even seriously considering it. However, if you know anyone in the Disney legal department tell them they can use that joke in the re-edited version. No charge, because, it’s not my joke. It came from a good friend of mine who is in La Raza.

"No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker with no past at my back."
—John Berger

Friday, November 07, 2003

November 7, 2003
A couple of long days. Got home last night from Spanish class at around 10. Woke up this morning with a headache, but took off for work early. Al Frisch was driving in and wanted to meet early.

Finished my editorial for March on fakes. Here’s a couple lines:

“I hate fakes. And I especially hate the fakers who fake them. Having said that, I admit to having faked a few Old West photos myself (my therapist wife calls that projection: hating something in someone else that you see in yourself).”

Kathy and I are playing a new game. Whenever we come home we ask, “What did Buddy eat today?” So far, the teething little bastard has eaten two of my hats (one straw and one sombrero); two books (One on Charlie Russell); two floating, pool chlorine dispensers; a viking headdress stored in the garage; a leash; a Fed Ex box (kathy’s new inventory forms); two unfinished paintings (one of Billy the Kid); a saddle blanket and a couch (upstairs in the studio). Other than that, he’s an angel.

Speaking of anger, I am especially motivated by outside negativity. One of my engines runs on anger. When people tell me I can’t do something, “You don’t have the talent or experience to run a magazine,” this is incredibly motivating to me. When I have a hard time getting up in the morning, I think of comments like that and say to myself, “They want you to stay in bed, and if you do, you’ll prove them right.” I found this comment while cleaning out one of my computer files. Here’s another one I read with glee:

Don Radina’s 2001 Prognosis for True West
“I researched the magazine business on the internet. It’s a business that requires a lot of expertise. People get degrees in only publishing. It’s not a hobby. It’s highly competitive. People study magazine editorial like Bob studied art. He can’t make it successful.”

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
—William Arthur Ward

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

November 5, 2003
My good friend Paul Northrop brought through an English group of tourists at nine this morning. There were about 35 of them, half from Scotland and the other half Brits. R.G. and I met them out on the porch and preached the gospel to them in a tag team way. “Welcome to the Wild West! Just last week we had horses riding into saloons all along Cave Creek Road (it was Wild West Weekend, but I didn’t need to tell them that) and you are standing on the spot of one of the last Wild West locations on earth” (or something like that). They were a good group and bought quite a few books and magazines. We gave them our usual focus group quiz: “You can have any magazine on this table, the only catch is you have to tell us why you picked it.” The response to Native American images is quite amazing, especially when they don’t do well for us on the newsstand (we haven’t been brave enough to put an Indian on the cover in two years!). However, after they left, I did go over to our new cover and change the head to: “Tommy Lee Jones Goes Apache.” (in the new movie The Missing, Tommy Lee has been living with the Apaches for 25 years). We’ll see. It’s all a gamble. But if it works, Hey, thanks Brits!.

Came home for lunch. Walked the dogs to the creek. Had fun with them. Beautiful day out (low 70s). Rounded up art reference for the last two images for Classic Gunfights (Zip Wyatt Vs. Everyone In Western Oklahoma).

Got back into office at about 1:30 and had a conference call with an attorney. They want changes in copy on two articles on fakes. Seems a tad drastic to me, but we need to protect ourselves against litigious wackos. No wonder the Old West is such a popular fantasy: you just shot ‘em. Ha.

Hey, speaking of litigious wackos, the new poll is up: Have you purchased any Western memorabilia, thinking it was authentic only to learn it was fake? Some are saying we are in an epidemic of fraud and hoaxes on e-bay, and we want to know if you’ve been affected (or infected). Click here to cast your vote.

Sometimes I think we take ourselves too seriously (at the magazine and in my family). Let’s look at the words of a founding father:

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
—Thomas Jefferson (obviously not a subscriber to True West)

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

November 4, 2003
Another long one. Sales came in short of the runway about 15%. Troublesome. We have almost twice as many salespeople as we had last year and the numbers are still down. I had faith in several people and they let me down. We even extended the deadline and it still didn’t happen. Looking at all our options. Not easy but must be done.

Big design pow wow at noon. Daniel came out and we all went to lunch at Satisfied Frog. Another $90 lunch for eight people, by the time you put in a tip it’s $15 a person. Not my idea of a good lunch value. Dan had a hamburger ($6.99 and water and he had to cough up $14). In spite of being ripped off for lunch, good talk about lack of white space and too many departments and too many logos. Went over options. Everyone had opinions, spirited discussion. Continued when we got back at 1:30. Tweaked cover, Dan took our designs home with him. I’m anxious to see what he comes up with.

Wrote up two editorials, one on “Faking It,” regarding my own fake photographs which I produced for my books. Felt good to purge (it always does: it’s a Lutheran thing).

I was the last one out at 5:30, came home, made salmon and pasta. Had pinto beans which I made for the road meeting on Sunday night. Opened a bottle of cabernet, had two glasses. Good talk with Kathy about our dumb-ass dog (she loves him, typical mother thing).

Read Time magazine, economy looks good on paper (somehow it doesn’t feel real solid though). Also read the New Yorker and the Dow Jones story of the big players in the Wall Street Journal saga. Of course Bob Brink knows them all personally, especially the one who is now at Time, Inc and runs their magazine division. Bob had a couple great stories. It’s so amazing to read about these media moguls, then go in the next day, ask Bob about them and have him give me the real skinny.

Talked to Doreen Daiss and Dave is getting better every day and will probably be coming home soon. We are so thrilled. He looked so gone, it wasn’t funny. I told Doreen we all miss him and look forward to his ornery self returning soon.

I am blessed by the people who work with me. I don’t really deserve any of them (this is the cabernet talking). Ha.

“The people sensible enough to give good advice are usually sensible enough to give none.”
—Eden Phillpotts

Monday, November 03, 2003

November 3, 2003
Went to work early and got home late. It’s 9:30 and just pulled in from a Spanish class at Shemita’s. Learning past tense. Weird stuff.

Reworking cover with new art I did this weekend. Both Gus and Robert Ray took a turn at it. Gus did his patented slab of block lettering deal which worked so well on the 50 Guns issue last Feb. (in fact it’s our biggest selling newsstand issue). Hopefully he can make lightning strike again.

Came home for lunch and helped Mike Melrose stash his camper shell in our grungy garage where the John Deere and the ‘49 Ford are strored.

Kathy and I went to a road meeting on Sunday night. It was a potluck at the Barros and we had a good time. One of my neighbors has kids who race cars. The sixteen year old boy races midgets at Manzy (Manzanita Speedway) and the girl races formula ones ($350,000 cars!). Yikes! Amazing where some kids end up. Our kids once rode in a $350,000 bus.

Buddy Boze Bell ate two of my unfinished paintings. Wish I could say he improved them.

More news and stuff but I’m too tired. More tomorrow.

”I have seen all, I have heard all, I have forgotten all.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, November 02, 2003

November 2, 2003
Worked all day yesterday on cover stuff. Drawing and drawing. Speaking of which, in this morning’s paper is a review for a new magazine called Drawing. I guess the big question is: is there a subject that doesn’t have a magazine? I can’t think of one. Everything is splintering into narrower and narrower slices. Maybe we need to do a spin-off magazine called Left-Handed Gunfighters Who Braided Their Hair.

Or not.

As for my Alamo comments yesterday, Dan Buck has some interesting insights. Here’s what he has to say on the subject:

“An Alamo movie with a sympathetic Santa Anna could work if the entire movie worked, that is, if the drama worked. If the movie doesn't work, it really doesn't matter if Santa Anna is depicted as troubled, an ogre, or a patriot. For my money, the best book on this subject is Lillian Ross's PICTURE, her account of the making of John Huston's THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE (1951). Even back then Hollywood had troubled productions, and carefully screened movies before test audiences. RED BADGE drew negative reactions and Huston re-shot parts of it. One need hardly underscore the irony that the movie was based on the eponymous novel by Stephen Crane, who had never set foot in the Civil War, yet his novel was lauded as terribly realistic.”

And as a follow-up to the follow-up, the postponing of The Alamo is made even more intriguing by the fact that Disney turned down the Ron Howard version (script by John Sayles, dark and gritty, $125 million budget with Russell Crowe as Travis), and now Howard has his Western The Missing coming out on Thanksgiving Day, and his partner Brian Grazer is quoted as saying there is only room for one Western this Christmas, and both Grazer and Howard are executive producers of The Alamo. Gets kind of incestuous, doesn’t it?

”Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art.”
—Charlie Parker

Saturday, November 01, 2003

November 1, 2003
Went over to Brad and Carole Radina’s last night for a trick or treat fest. Sat out in driveway in a semi-circle, drank beers and tripped kids as they came by in the dark. Brad dressed like a woman and housewives from blocks away came to leer at him (one mother said, and this is a quote: “My husband said I needed to come look at you because you had the big guns and everything.” I assume she meant bosoms since Brad wasn’t heeled). Betty Radina was dressed like a Joe Arpaio sherrif’s deputy and the irony is that she really is a Joe Arpaio sherrif’s deputy and it’s her uniform, complet with cap and boots. Funny. I reprised my aerobics instructor and Kathy went as Janet Napalitano. She wore the Wonderful Russ Arizona state flag pants I had made for the tv show, “The Zane Brothers” which never got off the ground. Had pizza and buffalo wings. Lots of fun. Got home at 9:30.

The dirt on The Alamo getting pushed back to April is this: the test screenings weren’t going well, the movie clocks in at three hours and test audiences were having a hard time figuring out who to root for. The movie is very PC and as one of my Alamo friends put it, “You need to portray Santa Anna as Osama bin Laden. That’s the only way it works. If you’re showing the Mexican side, and that the Americans had slaves why should you care that the Americans are getting killed fighting for slavery? The short answer is, you don’t.”

Disney has $80 million at stake and after watching “Project Greenlight,” I wonder if they’re demanding that the director, John Lee Hancock, recut it as a comedy? Probably not, but I’ll bet it’s a bundle of laughs in that editing room, right about now.

Speaking of movies, got an E-mail from John Fusco, who has almost single-handedly kept the Western genre alive through the nineties. Here’s what he’s up to:

“I am currently at work on an early 20th century western about Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. The screenplay will be based on the Gene Shelton book, "Manhunter: the life and times of Frank Hamer." I also have a mini-series airing this December 28th and 29th on ABC. "Dreamkeeper" is the biggest Native American network event ever, a 4-hour mini-series based on Indian myths and legends. Lots of Old West in it. Think you'll like the Kiowa legend of "Tejan, the red headed warrior." And, as you know, "Hidalgo" opens nationally on March 5th.”

John did Thunderheart and both Young Guns movies.

”It is a secret, both in nature and state, that it is safer to change many things than one.”
—Francis Bacon