Monday, May 31, 2004

May 31, 2004
Nice day at home. Kathy took her brother Don to the airport this morning and I worked in the studio. But first I took Buddy Boze Hatkiller and the pickup down the road to a couple big piles of rocks (got permission from the owners) and collected some 56 flat rocks, not that I’m counting.

If you missed the Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral show it repeats this coming Saturday, June 5 @ 7 pm, ET, on the History Channel. Yes, Julie this is the show where I said “In 1872, Wyatt Earp wasn’t hunting buffalo, he was hunting other game. . .probably beaver.” Notice the nice edit.

Got a nice watercolor goin’ this morning of John Wesley Hardin smokin’ a seegar, eyes glazed, hot under the collar. It’s got some nice subtleties. Hope I don’t ruin it in the morning when I invariably come to the conclusion I can improve it..

Went through a ton of photo reference in boxes and culled much of it into new categories for the top secret book I’m working on. Found much stuff I had forgotten I even had. A month ago Gus and I were trying to do a bird’s eye view of the Custer Battlefield and today I found a series of rare aerial photographs of the battlefield which I got from Tom Swinford about eight years ago and forgot about. I told Kathy if I locked myself in the studio and just utilized the stuff that’s in here, I’d be here for at least a decade and not run out of reference.

It’s funny, in the old days I would try and write and when it got rough, I’d draw to relax. Now I draw and when it gets rough, I write to relax. Someday I’ll get the balance back but I’ll probably be too old to know it.

“Most human beings waste some 25 to 30 years of their lives before they break through the conventional lies which surround them..”
—Isadora Duncanv

Sunday, May 30, 2004

May 30, 2004
The big Betty Birthday Bash came off yesterday afternoon without a hitch. Must have been 75 people in Betty’s community rec room. Brad stayed up all night (he got four hours sleep) and made both green and red mole. He got some good advice from Mad Coyote Joe, who sent Betty’s second son to a Mexican food market down on West Thomas Road to get the authentic ingredients. Brad told me he spent four hours on the red and four on the green. Besides me and a couple others, most people picked the Kansas City BBQ sauce out of a jar. Sigh. There’s the real truth of the world, especially modern America. You go to all the trouble to make something from scratch, the old fashioned way, and most people still prefer the cheap mass produced version. This sad truth applies to food, housing, movies, art, music and every form of apparel.

Kathy gave a speech, tracking her mother’s life to the present (she’s 80) and Carol Radina had us play games to loosen everyone up. She had her kids, EJ and Cedes, come around and put a name on our backs and we had to go around and ask strangers questions to try and guess who we were. After a good hour, I was only able to determine that my mysterious back person, was a guy, an actor, he wasn’t from America and he is known for pretty outrageous behavior—”Kind of like you”—someone added as a helpful clue. “Pee Wee Herman?” I asked excitedly, but no, that wasn’t correct. Hmmmm, an actor, wild and crazy, known for other things besides acting. Finally, Kathy took pity on me and guided me with a couple well place clues to Ozzy Osbourne. I was so steamed—Ozzy has a tv show, but I’ve got news for you people, he AIN’T ACTING!!!!!!

Kathy, of course, had George W. Bush on her back, in more ways than one (she guessed it after three questions: “Does he think he’s a cowboy? Is he surrounded by evil advisors? Is he an idiot?”). And Deena came with her boyfriend Mike. I shook his hand, told him to turn around so I could look at his name. “Am I an animal?” he asked me hopefully. I said, “You’ll have to ask someone else.” The name on his back was Bob Boze Bell.

Speaking of animals with my name, Buddy Boze Hat Killer got another three hats last night. Fortunately, I saved two of them before he could brand them with his distinctive crown shredding rip-saw incisors. This is the final straw (or should that be felt). I worked late in the studio last night and when I closed everything down Buddy was sleeping on his chair and I looked at him and said, “I’ll let you stay in here if you’ll promise to be good.” What a foolish idiot I am. By my estimate he has destroyed at least a grand in hats (he seems to prefer Tom Mix Stetsons and they each run $300 and up).

Now that I’m once again drawing every day, I’m rekindling my lifelong ambition to create a series of graphic novels about the world I grew up in. O. Henry type short stories combined with graphic imagery about renegade Apaches, Navajos and Hualapais, deadly gunfighters, the Mexican border, Route 66, Honkytonk drumming and peopled with all sorts of depraved desert dwellers who I’ve either met, married or known. I visualize it as Mark Twain meets Al Capp (Li’l Abner). I’m always looking for outside inspiration and concepts.

A new issue of How: Design Ideas At Work, was floating around the production area on Friday. It’s one of those specialty mags that sells for $9.95 ($14.95 in Canada!) and gives step-by-step instructions and trade secrets on HOW (get it?) to illustrate, maximize creativity, etc. As I was leaving last night, I saw it on Gus’s desk and purloined it.

This morning as I was looking for creative ways to not work, I picked it up and scanned its pages looking for inspiration (graphics I could steal) and I ran across a piece called, “Storytelling” by Terry Marks. Among the gems:

• Know where you’re going. Where do you want your audience to end up? You’d better have your trip planned out.

• Know your character. Character is plot; it drives the story. If you don’t know it intimately, you can’t tell the story.

• Every element needs to be clear. Each piece must speak to the audience and be unambiguous.

• Simplify and connect. Cut what’s distracting. If it doesn’t add, it detracts—so subtract it.

• Exaggerate. You want to make a point? Let people know. Did you ever notice how big the knife is in “Psycho”? It’s huge; larger than normal. And it works. I haven’t showered since.

• Distill. You want to assert something quickly? Use a symbol. Better yet, create a new one or allude to one. Symbols are mighty.

• Contrast. You ever notice how something never looks so blue as when it’s placed next to orange? Juxtaposition and contrast—push your meaning.

• Pace. Don’t slam your audience with info, be coy and reveal it slowly. Everything is like dating: too much too soon can blow the whole shooting match. Be suave. You have a voice. Use it.

Great stuff. You can check out Terry Marks at the 2004 HOW Design Conference

Got a new poll up. Who is the best movie cowboy ever?
• John Wayne
• Clint Eastwood
• Tom Selleck
• Sam Elliot

You can click right here to vote.

“The easiest way to convince my kids that they don't really need something is to get it for them.”
—Joan Collins

Friday, May 28, 2004

May 28, 2004
They were putting speed bumps on our new pavement this morning, so at 7:30 I had to drive my pickup up past the construction site and park there so I wouldn’t get trapped. As I walked back past the site, a big pot-bellied guy was standing in the center of the road talking into a cell phone. As I walked by, this is what I heard: “No, dammit, you turned too early. I said take Scottsdale Road all the way north into Carefree. No, it’s the same road, it says Tom Darlington, but it’s still Scottsdale Road. Turn around. You didn’t go far enough.”

Believe it or not, I actually worked several summers on road construction for the Arizona Highway Department (1967-69) and if you are ever on I-40 east of Kingman and you feel a bad vibration in your tires, that’s the stretch I worked on. But, anyway, what did we do before cell phones? The foreman on the speed bump job was obviously talking to the asphalt guy who was lost and guiding him to the site. Many times in the old days, the loads never showed, you’d wait around all morning, pack up and finally go back into the office and the driver would shrug, “Where were you? I couldn’t find you!”

Not anymore. You can screw up but you can’t hide.

Last week Samantha received a call from Juanita Ashburn in North Caroline who had just bought her very first issue of True West at Bookland in the local mall. Juanita told Sam (we call her Sam) she had never seen the magazine before and when she got it home and showed it to her husband Paul, he devoured it. Then she devoured it. They loved it. She asked Sam about a one year subscription. “We just started a new special that’s not up on the web or in our magazine yet,” Sam told Juanita. “If you sign up now you’ll get a lifetime subscription and be our very first True West Maniac member.” When Juanita found out the price ($149) she said she wanted to talk with her husband (you have to admit $29 to $149 is a bit of a price spread ). Several hours later she called back and Sam explained the deal to Paul, who was quiet for some time. Sam finally asked, “Is anything wrong?” And Paul said, “It’s just too good to be true.” Sam laughed and assured him we are on the level. Paul signed up and recommended we put his wife in for the subscription because “she’ll probably outlive me.” Sam did just that and signed her up and Juanita Ashburn from North Caroline is now Charter Member Number One of the True West Maniac Club! We’re going to run her happy little picture in the next issue.

Better hurry, there’s only 970 charter memberships left.

Speaking of a new issue, if you’re a subscriber you’ll be getting the new True West (July) in the next several days. We got our office copies yesterday and it has the best graphic mix in a long time. We have been so crunched for space, and because ad sales were down (seasonal) we had a little more room to stretch out, and it really shows. A six-page feature on the Tap Duncan Diamond Bar Ranch by Tom Carpenter looks mighty fine. Big photos, stretching across two pages. Really sweet stuff. Big, juicy photos just the way our publisher Bob McCubbin likes to see ‘em.

I took the production crew and Meghan S. to lunch at El Encanto today to critique the issue and work out design bugs. Robert R., Abby P. and Gus W. joined us and we debated every page, going over the reasons for decisions and more importantly, did we make the right ones. One of the problems we have is when there is lousy art to go with an article. This month’s Women of the West was about three gals named Charlie who passed as men. We all agreed the art (a bad line drawing and a photo of a historic marker) was way weak, but in the process of talking about how we could have made it better, someone came up with the idea of tripling the line drawing, so a least you would have some new way of looking at the same old tired image, and it matches the theme of the article better. Even though it is too late to save that article, it’s thinking like this that will save future articles, and that one leap of imagination, inspired by Meghan, was worth the entire lunch ($51 includes tip, TW account). I had the salmon quesadilla lunch special ($7.95) and we sat out by the lagoon. Very productive meeting. Always feels good.

Worked until 6:40, did some good drawings at my new desk, caught up on stuff. Kathy is over at her mother's for a pre-birthday party get together. Her brother Don flew in from Kansas and they've got a big Radina pow-wow going on.

“The smallest deed is better than the grandest intention.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, May 27, 2004

May 27, 2004
Had a good day balancing writing with artwork. Actually did several (okay, three) drawings in my office at True West. I was prodded into doing something because my sales manager Mike Melrose came in, pointed at the art desk and said, “I predict the only thing that will happen on that art desk is another flat space to pile stuff on.” This pissed me off so badly I immediately went over and drew a jackass with these words hovering above his long ears, “I guess I was the Ass when I said BBB wouldn’t do any drawings here.”

This freed me to do more work. Amazing. I really respond well to anger. It’s my driver, my octane booster. I’m sure I’ll pay for it in the end, but it beats the alternative: actually being motivated. Ha.

Speaking of Melrose and being pissed off, he and I met a potential new sales person at a French cafeteria style place on Tatum and Shea yesterday. We were there to try and woo her to coming to work for us, and while extolling the many benefits of working at True West, my past came back to haunt me. In the middle of a potential salary windy, she says, “I am a fan of Howard Stern’s but I must say, he has nothing on what you did on the old Jones & Boze show.” Of course Melrose starts egging her on. “I don’t believe it. What did he do that could possibly top Stern?” And the woman says with a smile, “I used to listen to him with my friends at Coronado High. One time he wore a Depends diaper into a McDonald’s and ordered water until he could soil him self on the air.”

I’d like to say it’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s actually worse. As I remember it, we were talking on the air about growing old and I was being kidded, actually roasted on a spit, by my teammates, Jeanne Sedello and David K. Jones, that I was over 40 (imagine!) and would soon be wearing Depends. That led to a discussion about what is the practical end to that scenario, and someone offered that you could actually urinate while in line at McDonald’s and you wouldn’t have to get out of line.

The next thing you know, a listener has brought by a box of Depends, I’m putting them on (under my pants) and we are off to the nearest McDonald’s (Hayden and Camelback?). Jeanne is with me and she is always egging me on, laughing too loud, blowing my cover. I’ve got one of those early cell phones that looks like a Korean walkie talkie unit and I’m standing in line with a noticeable bulge in my pants, both front and back.

Stairway to Heaven is ending for the second time that day, and David K. comes to me live, “Well what’s happening now Boze?” “Well, I’m standing in line, but. . .. I can’t pee.” It was true. I couldn’t let go. A classic case of urinary hesitancy. I got to the front of the line, holding that big phone with a bulge in my pants and the McCounter order taker says, “Welcome to McDonald’s can I take your order?” And I say, “Could I have a large water?”

Two breaks later, I still haven’t wet myself. The crew at McDonald’s can’t quite figure out why I’m there, I’ve drunk about five glasses of super-sized water, and finally at about 8:45 (fifteen minutes before the end of the show), I excitedly say, “Houston, we have H2O in the cockpit.” The crowd in the restaurant still didn’t know what was going on, but Jeanne cheered. People in their cars pulled over to call their friends. When I got back to the station everyone hugged me and slapped my ass. “Way to wet yourself Boze,” they said, over and over.

She took the job. I don’t know why.

“I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, Punk?
—Dirty Harryy

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

May 26, 2004
Since I saw the movie What the (Bleep) Do We Know? last weekend I have been trying to actualize a unique daily affirmation. The theory was put forth by one of the doctors featured on the docudrama. I have had some success (I’ve done two illustrations in two days) but wished out loud I had the actual transcript from the movie so I could really study it.

Wasting no time, Kathy went on Google and found the verbatim transcript (isn’t Google amazing?) and here it is:

I Create My Day
The most often referenced interview in the film is Dr. Joe Dispenza's comments on creating his day. In response to the numerous requests, the following is the transcript of that part of interview.

"I wake up in the morning, and I consciously create my day the way I want it to happen. Now, sometimes, because my mind is examining all the things that I need to get done, it takes me a little bit to settle down, and get to the point, of where I'm actually intentionally creating my day. But here's the thing.

"When I create my day, and out of nowhere, little things happen that are so unexplainable, I know that they are the process or the result of my creation. And the more I do that, the more I build a neural net, in my brain, that I accept that that's possible. Gives me the power and the incentive to do it the next day."

This morning I loaded up a spare art desk and brought it in to the office. Ron pulled out my ratty old wagon wheel couch and re-arranged my office so the art desk fits right in. Now all I have to do is draw.

Last night at six I met my neighbor JD in the creek bottom below his house. He was driving his John Deere front-end-loader, and we pushed past the bushes and loaded up my pickup with some good flat rocks for my driveway project. Felt good. Buddy Boze Bell got into it with a pack of coyotes and scrambled through the cattails and creek bottom howling and barking. If only the coyotes were wearing hats I think Buddy would have destroyed them all.

Talked with Joan, Linn and Kelly Dodd on the way out. They asked me if I had been noticing any dead birds and come to think of it, I saw one in the driveway about a week ago. Didn't look like he was brought down by a predator, just died. They told me they have found a half dozen in and around their property. Just small ones. The fear is it's West Nile Virus.

Gus and I tweaked in another one of my John Wesley Hardin paintings into Classic Gunfights, this morning. It’s of Selman blasting away as he comes through the Acme’s swinging doors. Hardin is facing us, with a quizzical look on his face as the muzzle blast flashes an eerie blue light behind his head, sending a sliver of light coming out of his left eye. I know, I know—it’ so gross, but that’s what I love about these psychopathic gunfights.

Bart Bull believes it’s all a Baby Boomer by-product of the Zapruder film and the Kennedy assassination. He asked me recently if I was into the Kennedy conspiracy theories and I admitted when I was in college I bought it all. I even confessed to going to one of those travelling conspiracy shows, which I saw at Grady Gammage about 1973. At that time, the general public had never seen the Zapruder 8mm film of the assassination and you had to go to one of these travelling circuses to see it. Of course the bearded moderator showed it over and over, backwards and forwards, and I remember he must have said a hundred times, “We just don’t know.” As in, “Is that a shadow of the second gunman on the grassy knoll? We just don’t know.”

Today, of course, I'm much more mature and I believe that one of the Lee Harvey Oswalds acted alone.

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.”
—Winston Churchill

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

May 25, 2004
Well, I drew yesterday, without hope and with plenty of despair. Came home for lunch to meet the plumber. The heat element in the water heater went out again and we had to buy a new water heater ($521 house account). I took advantage of being home and knocked out a color image of Mrs. M’Rose, the sultry ex-soiled dove who seduced John Wesley Hardin. The only known photo of her shows a rather plain Jane looking woman, but all the news accounts of her spoke of her beauty and sexiness, so I took some artistic license and painted her as an 1895 Raymond Chandler mysterious mistress type.

After I knocked her out, I started on a wash scene of John Selman bursting through the saloon doors of the Acme, pistol blazing. Spent about an hour on it and ruined it as only I can. Got up this morning and did some prep sketches and although the verdict is out, I may have a chance at redemption.

Buddy Boze Bell ate another one of my hats. This makes, I believe, six or seven he’s destroyed. This time the little hat monger got my favorite black lawman hat, with the pencil curl brim and custom hat band created by John Weinkauf when he worked at Wyly’s Leather in Tucson (must have been 1975). I used this hat often when illustrating Wyatt Earp, putting it on various model’s heads. I have no one to blame but myself. I left the inner doors open on my studio and Buddy gets in there when I’m at the office and jumps up and grabs the hats off my counters (they are everywhere in my studio. I probably have 150 hats, or more correctly, I had 150 hats!).

An old classmate came by to see me last week. Melinda Rucker Haynes and her husband Bob dropped by the office on Thursday. They were in town for a wedding out at the Wigwam. Melinda and I graduated from high school together in 1965. She also is an author and gave me three of her books. We had to laugh because if any of our teachers at Mucous High would have atttempted to guess who among the legions of students that went through those shallow halls, would become published authors, I don’t think they would have predicted us, or at least me. Somehow that’s sweet revenge.

“Existence is a party. You join after its started and you leave before its finished.”,
—Elsa Maxwell

Monday, May 24, 2004

May 24, 2004
A leading collector of Wyatt Earp memorabilia died last week. He was a complex man, to say the least, and he left a very controversial legacy. One of his peers made this astute and blunt observation of his life:

“I hate to speak ill of the dead, but outside of professional criminals I have known, I never met anyone with so many negative character traits, all wrapped up in a single person—vain, arrogant, suspicious, paranoid, unhappy, dishonest, conceited, anal retentive, to name a few. He could have been a one-man study for a psychiatrist's Ph.D. dissertation.”

I started reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves over the weekend. Carole Glenn gave it to me as a present. I first heard the buzz on this book while we were in England last Christmas, on our way back from Spain. The book, which has been an unlikely runaway best-seller in Britain, is about the decline of punctuation and specifically, misplaced commas, (like these last two). The title refers to a published article on Panda bears that had the line, “eats, shoots and leaves.” With the comma, it implies that the typical Panda likes to eat, shoot something, then leave the general area. The correct punctuation should have informed the reader that the typical Panda “eats shoots and leaves.” Quite another image altogether, although not nearly as funny. The author, Lynn Truss, is quite witty and I have learned a ton about punctuation, although you’d never know it by reading this. Ha.

For example, one of the modern trends in punctuation is the usage of less and less commas. The comma first came into usage, according to Truss, as a guide for 16th century speakers reading aloud from the bible, to tell them when to pause. A current well-known writer, unknown to me, has evidently written an entire novel without one comma in it. The book, which I believe is called The Kelly Gang, (of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly fame?), is supposed to be the latest and hippest example of the rebellion against the comma, although I remember reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and not only does the novel have zero, zip, nada commas, it also contains no periods or capital letters or quote marks. Personally, it’s way too hip for the room, to me. But then, I’m way too attached to commas, I think, you know, Man.

Don’t forget, tonight on the History Channel is the Bill Kurtis-Paul Hutton production of Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral. It airs at 10:10 PM Eastern, and it’s styled as “Investigating History.”

The True West Maniac Club offering is now up on this very website. Check it out right here now. All of my friends (both of them) cannot figure out how we can offer this deal and make any money. Sorry mom and Kathy, but we're doing it, profits be damned!

“I believe in aristocracy, if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and all classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when met. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our odd race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others, as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.”
—E.M. Forster

Sunday, May 23, 2004

May 23, 2004
Some ten years ago I read a great book, called The Artist’s Way. The author said a very impactful thing—“Write every day, without hope, without despair.”

As a cartoonist-illustrator with big ambitions in the graphic novel arena, this was a profound suggestion and since writing was, at that time, my weakest link in the comic book equation, I took the advice, and proceeded to write every day, without despair, and certainly without hope. At first it felt forced and goofy (“I don’t feel like writing. . . well, okay, write that, I ,em>don’t feel like writing!”). but eventually the words began flowing out with little prompting. It really is like exercising or lifting weights. If you exercise the muscle, it will get stronger.


Fast forward to the present and I find myself writing all the time, every day. It’s quite rewarding and I feel somewhat competent in spite of my copy editor’s constant eye-rolling (while, no doubt, trying to make sense of this paragraph).

Ironies of ironies: what I lost in the transition was the time and the discipline to draw. Ouch! One of the reasons I bought True West was to have an outlet for my art. Sounds kind of silly, but it’s true.

“So, Mr. Bell, if you’ll write us a check for $350,000, you will own the right to publish almost anything you damn well please.”

“Wow! That’s a great deal! Where do I sign!?”

The only problem—now I don’t have time to draw. I do plenty of writing, and every weekday is taken up with the business of business and editorial, which invariably involves writing copy, editorials, Classic Gunfights, e-mails, etc. I actually enjoy the process and the writing, but I miss drawing. I’ve tried to carve out the weekends for art, but invariably what happens is it takes me all weekend to get the cobwebs out of my skill set, and I hit second gear at about four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, but by then it’s time to get ready for work on Monday. And so it goes, week after week, month after month.

This morning I woke up with a novel idea. “Hey, I need to draw every day, without hope, without despair.”

It’s all balance, isn’t it? For everything I’ve gained, I’ve lost something. . .


And speaking of balance and self-actualization, yesterday afternoon, Kathy and I met the Glenns, Julie F. and Lisa Wines at the Valley Art Theatre in Tempe to see a movie that is breaking attendance records everywhere it’s showing (Someone said it’s only been released in about five markets, in small theatres). It’s called What The (bleep) Do We Know? and it’s a clever docudrama impregnated with state-of-the-art cellular animation right out of high school health class. It’s all about quantum physics and the meaning of life. It’s quite a thought provoking exercise although it’s not going to be comforting to organized religious types. There were lots of old hippies and new age types lined up outside. In fact, one of the bastards sat in my seat!

Afterwards we drove down to Guadalupe to a classic little Mexican food place that Lisa Wines found with the unlikely name of San Diego Bay Restaurant. Had a Corona, a seviche tostado and the Sonoran carne asada, Mexican soccer on the tele, Spanish speaking waitresses. Muy Bien! ($33 cash, includes tip).

“It is ironic that one of the few things in this life over which we have total control is our attitudes, and yet most of us live our entire life behaving as though we had no control whatsoever.”
—Jim Rohn

Saturday, May 22, 2004

May 22, 2004
Samantha has been selling True West Maniac Club memberships, like, well, a maniac. The dang club ain’t even open for business yet (it’ll be on the site right here very soon), and she’s already sold six. The first one she sold was from a couple in South Carolina who found us on the newsstand there, never knew we existed, bought an issue and called the next day to inquire about a subscription. Samantha sold her and her husband the deal ($149). She is the number one charter member and receives a lifetime subscription, plus tons of other goodies.

This morning I bailed into a scratchboard of John Selman creeping through the swinging doors of the Acme Saloon on a hot and humid El Paso night. Have a couple more I want to do this weekend.

Henry Martinez of Reserve, New Mexico called and said the town is offering a scholarship to a local student who writes the best piece on their local hero Elfego Baca. This is all part of Henry’s efforts to build a museum in Reserve for the famous Old West lawman and to promote and encourage the unique history of their little town. Henry sent me the winning essay. Here it is:

Elfego Baca Scholarsip Application:
Please write an essay of 500-1000 words describing what you feel are the important lessons learned from the life and times of Elfego Baca

Winning entry:
Lindsy Glick
GPA: 4.04
Plans after High School: attend Goshen College, Indiana
Career Goal: to do God’s will for me—possibly mission work after college

Lessons from a Legend
“Most everyone enjoys hearing stories about ‘wild west,’ but it is not often that those stories are factual, and that the events of the story took place a few blocks down the road. These thoughts kept occurring to me as I read about the noble Mexican-born youth, Elfego Baca.

“The most prominent lesson that immediately hovers in my mind from the story of this man, concerns the numerical odds he faced when challenging the huge lot of unruly cowboys. He had one purpose: to stop the actions that he felt were wrong. Elfego paid no heed to fact that he was one man, and the cowboys were a massive group. Yet the odds did matter, and did not win; Elfego’s mission was successful. This lesson is a great one when pondering the gigantic odds that often seemed stacked against us. That is not to say we should ignore opposition to our goals, but we should consider a way to get around them, or through them, in order to succeed. We should not give up, thinking that ‘there are just too many cowboys.’

“Another thing that strikes me about Elfego’s story is the reversal of malice (or at least spite). It is obvious by the 367 bullet holes in the door of Elfego’s hideout that the cowboys did not appreciate the authority and law that Elfego was enforcing. However, after a third party (with a badge) arrived and made a treaty between the sides, the cowboys drank with Elfego, and he told them how he managed to survive their bullet massacre. I imagine gruff, dusty men sitting at the bar laughing at the scene which they just ended—as enemies moments before. It seems that Elfego won the respect of his adversaries; not only by his miraculous survival, but perhaps because he refused to give in even while facing likely death. He would not surrender himself, and with himself his morals and his mission.

“This is an additional thing to remember when facing a multitude of opponents, or even peers: continue to do what you know is right. Even if the others do not agree now, and seem to hate you, you may yet prevail. And, you will leave with a clear conscience, no matter what the outcome.

“Though the wild times that Elfego Baca lived in have come to an end, or settled down, these lessons will never lose their truth. Never give up; you can win against great odds; stand up for what is right; do not give in to any amount of pressure. He proved all of these things to be valid. The greatest of these lessons, though, lies within the greatest thing Elfego did: Elfego Baca did what was right. He did not let anything get in his way, and this makes his feat more impressive, but his most commendable act was doing right by stopping wrong. After hearing about the wrong done to Mexicans, he set out to make it right, with no hesitations. After surviving great peril, he left the small town as he set out to leave it: peaceful.”
—Lindsay Glick

“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.”
—Garrison Keillor

Friday, May 21, 2004

May 21, 2004
The tv show I worked on and provided artwork for, Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral will premiere this coming Monday night on the History Channel (10:10 PM Eastern). Paul Hutton and Bill Kurtis both told me they think it’s the best show they’ve done yet. Looking forward to seeing it.

Worst pun in a newspaper since, well, yesterday, ’Troy’: Hollywood hits a homer. Why is it that print media is the absolute worst perpetrator of bad puns, that would get you pummeled and shunned at any social gathering in the continental United States? I’ll tell you one reason: because the people who write them are far, far away when you read them, and you can’t track them down quick enough to throttle them. That’s why.

Last night Bart Bull came over to the casa bearing two videos: Serge Leon’s A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More. I hadn’t seen either since at least 1967 (Double feature, El Rancho Drive-in, Tucson, Arizona) and I had forgotten just how revolutionary and fun they were. As Bart puts it, “the first five minutes of Fistful destroys all the American Westerns of the previous two decades.” Clint is drinking water from a well in a small border town. The Mexican adobes are of course, actually in Spain, and having just been there last Christmas I was especially excited to see the terrain, which was just as I remembered it. And the houses were real adobe as they should be on the Mexican border. Most Westerns from the so-called Classic period, are frame buildings, and on the “back lot” in the San Fernando Valley, to boot. Clint drinks his water and watches as a young Mexican kid is abused and shot at. “This is where John Wayne would be going to the boy’s rescue,” Bart narrated, as Eastwood drinks his water and looks on bemused. And he ultimately doesn’t save the kid. How shocking and revolutionary is that!? “Of course, by this time,” Bart continued, “John Wayne is thundering toward the exit of the movie theatre.” Way true. Wayne hated the Spaghetti Westerns because they undid all the things he thought Westerns should be about. Serge Leon was reportedly stunned by the hostility, because he thought he was making an homage to the Westerns he loved. The other thing that was so profound was how much the films were obviously influenced by comic books. A giant hand dangles next to a holstered gun in extreme close-up, while the opponent ripples in a heatwave, far in the distance. Way cool. And so Mexican, or Italian, or both. One of the stars of the films is the music. It’s got that Mexican bullfight meets Duane Eddy meets the Mitch Miller Choir on acid deal going and it’s just genius.

Other than that, I didn’t think much of the films. Ha.

"No matter what a man's past may have been, his future is spotless."
—John R. Rice

Thursday, May 20, 2004

May 21, 2004
Lots of controversy in the office about the next cover. We first plugged in a famous photo of John Wesley Hardin at age 18, but it just didn’t look right. Hardin was shot down at age 42 (he’s being featured in Classic Gunfights), so the earlier photo just seemed wrong. So we sent down the morgue shot of Hardin to Dan yesterday and he whipped out three versions, one close-up and colorized, another two, black and white, with the frame of the photo card showing. The most common reaction has been, “You’re not going to put that on the cover, are you?” Robert Ray absolutely hates it and thinks the headline is way intrusive and overdone. I may post it here to get your opinions.

Speaking of opinions, we have a new poll up. “Do you think buffalo are still an endangered species?” You can vote right here.

More social observations from our correspondent in Spain:
“Valencia just won the UEFA cup which is the winner of the Spanish league and the winner of the French league. That´s two things they have won in one year and the place is going crazy. We went down to the Politecnico University where they played the game on a huge screen and had a bar and announcer set up. There were hundreds of people sitting on the grass and people would always cut across to get to the bar. We couldn´t see the game while they were cutting so people would start yelling and throwing trash at them. The funny thing though is that when a couple of hot girls walked through, instead of getting trash thrown they would get a round of applause. Spaniards are funny.”

“The ethics of any idea are completely overruled by a good logo."
—Kathy Radina, speaking of her husband’s main, guiding principal

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

May 19, 2004
The road association finished paving two rough sections of the Old Stage Road area last night. We can’t drive on it until this afternoon and had to park last night, up the road a piece and walk home. Surprised the dogs, who are used to seeing us drive up.

Had a planning session yesterday, tweaking departments, culling out the weak stuff. Much debate and disagreement. Felt good and we have a bigger planning session on tap today.

Gus copied and grafted a section of two paintings of John Wesley Hardin onto another version of the same painting. Here’s what happened. I painted a proposed cover for Leon Metz’s book, and the publisher rejected it. So I took a photo of it, then painted over the original, adding detail to his hands and guns (I also added a mustache). As it so often turns out, I liked the face in one and the hands in another. Thanks to Gus and Photoshop they now reside in the same image.

“Experience, the name men give to their mistakes.”
—Oscar Wildee

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

May 18, 2004
Yesterday, Dave Daiss and I left at six in the morning and drove up to Young to visit the historical Tewksbury Ranch where one of the gunfights in the Pleasant Valley War took place. The ranch is owned by Bobby Sicora, of Bobby McGee’s fame, and he bought a full page ad to advertise the ranch for sale in the next issue. Dave is always in the ranch buying mood, and I wanted to see the place because this is the gunfight where they had to stop the shooting because the hogs were eating one of the bodies (sound familiar, Deadwood fans?).

It’s about a three hour run up the Beeline. Stopped in Payson at the Knotty Pine Cafe and had the special (ham and eggs, hashbrowns and sourdough toast, I bought $16 cash, includes tip).

Got up to Young at about 9:30, met Linda, who drove us out to the ranch. Rough roads, many dry creek crossings, which she told us are normally wet and running. She showed us one spot where she got trapped and had to walk out.

Ranch is great. Found the graves of the two victims, took photos. Checked out the guest house (picture Bobby McGee’s tricked out ranch style). Got back to Young at noon, and took our host to lunch at the only cafe open. Worst service I have encountered in a decade (didn’t get menus or drinks for a good twenty minutes. Waitress surly and curt. Had a cheeseburger with green chiles and iced tea (bill was $15, and I left a twenty. Why do I tip bad service?! It must be Lutheran guilt).

Came back the Globe way, All dirt roads with a smattering of pavement at odd places. Got back to Cave Creek at five. On the road for 11 hours. Fun and informative. I think we’ll get several articles out of it.

Got an e-mail from my son Thomas in Spain. He is busy studying abroad, literally:

“Frank just got back from Italy with his mom and his sister and was in France the other week. The verdict on the girls is in and I happen to agree with him. France and Italy have some really drop dead gorgeous girls but the rest are really sub par. Neither can compete with Spain. Spain has probably the biggest middle class of good looking girls we´ve ever seen and some drop dead gorgeous girls on top of that. So the US has the biggest economic middle class and Spain the biggest cute girl middle class.”

“It’s a wise man who knows his father.”
—Dave Daiss quoting Shakespeare

Sunday, May 16, 2004

May 16, 2004
Yesterday at three I was a guest on Gordon Smith's KXAM (1310 AM) radio show: The name of his show is Mind Your Business and he talks to small business owners and asks the tough questions: "How do you keep the doors open?" He is so funny. I came right at three, there was five minutes of news and so he was a tad nervous whether I would make it, so he went out by the elevator to wait for me. I came in the lobby and there was a moving company moving in a huge amount of office equipment and they had the elevator jammed, so I went around to the stairs, walked up, went in the studio and Gordon wasn't there. I asked the producer where he was and he didn't know. So I open the door to the hall, and here comes Gordon from the elevator area and I start to say, "I used the stairs," but before I can get it out, he says, "Save it for the show! Save it for the show!" which is something I always rode about him on our show, when we would get to talking off the air, and then when we'd try to revisit those same stories on the air, they were never as good, so anyway, the Gordone makes me laugh, and we laughed for an hour straight. Went by very quickly.

Working on a couple of illustrations today. One is a cover illustration for a friend of mine. Knocked out two images, in scratchboard. Always struggling. Never gets any easier. Never quite what I wanted it to be.

My neighbor JD came down and looked at my driveway and all the rocks I've collected. He recommended I come down with my truck and load up with his creek rock. I will definitely take him up on that offer.

That's Mike Melrose and the mysterious Ms. M on yesterday's posting. Photo taken at El Encanto last week. She is a hypno-therapist, and it is my hope that she will hypnotise Melrose and plant the suggestion that he's a computer nut and marriage material.

As Mike would undoubtably say, "Not going to happen."

Kathy came out this afternoon and cleaned part of my studio. Really needs a woman's touch. I can actually see the floor in several areas.

"Jennifer Lopez is engaged to Latin singer Marc Anthony. Lopez said she was excited because she's never been engaged to a guy named Marc."
-Conan O'Brien

Saturday, May 15, 2004

May 15, 2004
I gave the graduation commencement address last night for a small charter high school in Cave Creek that caters to troubled kids who the public high schools have given up on. In other words, kids who are exactly like me.

I knew two things going in. Most of them weren’t going to pay attention for very long, and two, the few who would be listening at all were going to be suspicious of an old man in a cowboy hat.

Here’s the basic message I ended up giving them:

“Believe it or not, I once sat where you are sitting. I remember wearing those stupid looking caps and gowns and thinking what will the next 25 years bring? Will I have a pretty wife? How many kids will I have? Will I drive a cool car? Will I have a good job? Will I make lots of money? Will I be happy?

“If I ever shut up, you are soon going to be embarking on an extended road trip. But tonight I am here to give you a report on that journey, to give you some guideposts—a travel advisory.

“I’ve been down the road you are just now embarking on. Imagine I just got back in town and I’ve got some news on the road conditions up ahead.

• First of all, before you start your trip, take a good look around at your friends. This will be the last time you are all going to be together in the same place. This seemed goofy to me at my graduation, when the guy speaking told us this. It was absurd. I had seen all my classmates, every day for four years, some for twelve. It was the last time. Two weeks later, one of my classmates died in a carwreck. Vietnam was heating up and several went and didn’t come back. Take a good look at your friends. This is a fleeting moment in time. You will never be all together in once place, ever again.

• Just like the Carefree Highway, the road to success is always under construction. It’s your job to find another route, be patient and wait out the delays, or figure out a way to deal with it. Getting angry isn’t one of them.

• There will be long stretches of lonely road, where you will wonder if it’s worth the trip. Later on, down the road, you will think back and remember some of the desolate stretches as your favorite. Don’t ask me why, you just will.

• You will break down. More than once. Hopefully you’ll be close to a place to get help, but either way you will be amazed at the people who will stop and help you.

• Enjoy the detours. Some of the best things I’ve ever discovered or received, I got on a detour. Plus detours force you to stop and look at the world around you. Be thankful for the detours. God bless detours.

• Be careful of sideroads. You may be tempted to take them from time to time but remember the words of Jerry Seinfeld: “Sometimes the road less travelled, is less travelled for a reason.”

• I’ve travelled in some cool cars and I’ve travelled in some crappy cars. One of the most excruciating trips I ever went on was in a cramped, hot XKE Jaguar, and one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken was in a coughing, sputtering ‘74 Pinto. Remember this: For everything you gain you will lose something and for everything you lose you will gain something.

• Take your time. People will be passing you like crazy but so what? Don’t take it personally. Besides, by the time you reach greener pastures you’ll probably be too old to climb the fence.

• The perfect recipe for life is: something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.

• The farther up the flagpole you go the more people can see your rear end.

• I finally met one of my heroes recently and I asked him which was more rewarding: the road getting to where he was, or arriving, and he said, ‘The road is the only thing.’”

• Enjoy the trip and be sure to write.

“Security is a myth. There is no such thing as security in all of Nature. Life is either a great adventure or it is nothing at all.”
—Helen Kellero

Friday, May 14, 2004

May 14, 2004
Drove down into Phoenix at 8:30 this morning. Stopped at Dan Harshberger’s to go over a couple cover ideas I have. Saw his mama, Denise, who I haven’t seen in years. I told her how young she looks (“You look like you’re about fifty!”) and Dan, under his breath, told me to knock off the Eddie Haskell routine.

"What a nice dress you have on Mrs. Cleaver!"

The memorial service for Ed Mell, Sr. was held at the Church of the Beatitudes at Glendale and Seventh Ave. Saw many old friends, Skip and Joan Andrews, Kent Usury, Frank Mell, Van O’Steen (who jokingly asked me to speak at his funeral), Ron Bergamo, Linda Corderman, Michael Collier, David and Kim Knodder, Michelle Knodder, and Georgia Mell (Frank’s daughter), Taylor and Carson (Ed, Jr’s sons) and John Douglas (architect) and his wife Julie.

As anyone who has ever done public speaking will tell you, a church is a very tough venue, but an eulogy at a memorial service in a church is even more challenging. Struggled a bit on the opening remarks. It’s so formal, and I was trying hard to do justice to a man who was a witty, brilliant storyteller, and his sons are masters of wit and charm to boot, and here I was trying to convey all of this third person. I begged for pity (hey, it was in a church) and I think I did okay. The main thing is that the family said they liked it.

Stopped at Shelmita’s on the way out, had two carne asado tacos, iced tea and got a bean burrito enchilada style for Kathy to go ($10 cash, includes tip). I was the only guy in the place (big dining room) and watched Mexican music videos and laughed and laughed. They are done so cheesy and low rent, they are muy fantastico!

Got back to the office at about one. Need to work on my commencement speech which is tonight at seven. Also being held in a church. Mama Mia!

Here’s the photos of Buddy Boze Bell chowing down on my Tom Mix Stetson. Is this disgusting, or what?

“The difference between a smart person and a wise one is that a smart person knows what to say, but a wise person knows whether or not to say it.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, May 13, 2004

May 13, 2004
I’m not sure exactly why, but I wanted photographic proof that Buddy Boze Bell is actually the one who’s eating all of my hats. This morning before I went to work I grabbed my gashed Tom Mix double XX off the shelf and tossed it to Buddy in his lounge chair. Much to my dismay he didn’t even pretend to be ashamed of what he had done and as I snapped off a half dozen photos he blithely chewed and gnawed on the Stetson as if to say, “Hey thanks! Glad to help destroy anything that gives you joy.” I had the film developed and will post the photographic proof tomorrow.

Also coming soon is a cheesecake photo of Mike Melrose with Ms. Masseuse (the stunner who looks like a cross between Barbie Benton and Betty Page) at a certain Mexican food restaurant with a lagoon.

Finished the rough draft on the John Wesley Hardin vs. John Selman narrative at about 11 today. I have newfound appreciation for Leon Metz’s stellar book John Wesley Hardin: The Dark Angel of Texas, published by Mangan Press. He really tells the story well (and he’s so damn witty!), and what a story it is. Our publisher Bob McCubbin sent us some excellent photos from his Hardin collection and Gus is doing a great map of the downtown El Paso area at the time of the shooting. We are on a roll.

Drove down to Phoenix at about 11:30 (after dropping off the dog-eats-hat film at Foothills Photo). Got to Ed Mell’s studio at 12:30. Ed and his son Carson took me to lunch at Los Compadres over on Seventh Ave. above Indian School Rd. Great take-out place. Carson said he has been “Jones-in’ for some Compadres.” He lives in LA now and is producing a tv show. He gave me a DVD of the first three episodes and I’m going to watch them tonight. Talented boy. Takes after his mom and dad.

Talked a bit about the eulogy for Ed Mell, Sr. tomorrow morning. They want me to say a few words for the family and I am honored.

After lunch I met Theresa from Tri Star and signed some more Classic Gunfights books. Then went up to All About Comics on Central above Camelback to check out the graphic novel scene. Bought some new titles by Jimmy Corrigan and Daniel Clowes, both new artists who Carson recommended. Also bought two old Marvel comics on The Apache Kid ($81 Sue account). Sample dialogue:

Surrender, outlaw! You’re finished!”

Never, Injun—I’ll die before I surrender—or better yet, YOU will!”

Drove back out to Cave Creek, getting here at about three. Went to the bank, picked up photos ($11 Sue account). Worked until about six. Came home. Went to the creek, put rocks around Buddy’s neck and threw him in the deep end of the pond. Threw the hat in after him and watched the bubbles for about five minutes.

Not really, but I was thinking about it.

“How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

May 12, 2004
We got a heat reprieve. Quite nice and cool out here in the morning (low 70s). Went for a walk about seven, met Kathy on the road up by the old Van Horn arena. Buddy Boze Bell had run off and wouldn’t answer or come back. Called and called, looked and looked. Finally I said I had to go to work so I walked home and there the big twit was, sitting in the front yard soaking wet (he evidently ran ragged all over the desert, came home and jumped in the pool). So I drove him back up to where Kathy was walking with Peaches, down close to the creek.

Kathy said, “Oh, you are a nice dad, to bring him down here,” and I said, “I didn’t do it for him, I did it for you.” She laughed and admitted she couldn’t relax on the walk imagining the worst: that the big galoot was spread out on some breakfast buffet table in a den of hungry javalenas.

Got a complaint on our latest poll: “How can one pick between reading old west history, reading a western novel, and seeing a western movie. Assuming all of the above are quality, impossible!”

Yes it is, but go check out the latest stats which are quite illuminating. You can click right here.

Our intern Robert Chenal is attacking several projects, including a press release on Allen Barra’s piece on why the Alamo flopped.

Warning: obscenity ahead. For the past week I’ve been working on the narrative of the John Wesley Hardin vs. John Selman gunfight. Prior to the fight, Hardin is quoted as saying, “I’ll go and get a gun, and when I meet you I’ll meet you smoking, and make you shit like a wolf around the block!”

Is it just me, or does this convey odd imagery? I can’t help picturing some poor wolf trying to do his business, but this smoking guy is chasing him all around the block and the wolf finally stops and says, “Hey, I’m trying to go number two here. Could you cut me some slack?!”

It’s probably just me.

We have borrowed an idea from Phoenix Home & Garden magazine. They put a critique form in everyone’s box when the new issue comes out and ask specifics on how the employees would rank the cover, the editorial, the photography and what could have done better? Currently, we are ranking the June issue (with Wild Bill and Keith Carradine on the cover). Feel free to join in and make me go poo-poo all around the block.

“The king is the man who can.”
—Thomas Carlyle

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

May 11, 2004
A correction on Jennifer’s Connelly’s first movie. I thought it was The Rocketeer but Wendy e-mailed me to set the record straight: “Jennifer's first starring role in a movie was in Labyrinth, with David Bowie and a host of Brian & Wendy Froud's clever, Jim Henson-created goblins and fairy tale creatures. Not incredibly great theater, but fun, and definitely a great hit with my family (Mom & Dad included).

Bart Bull came in yesterday afternoon and we had a good talk with Robert Ray about upcoming production opportunities. One of Bart’s suggestions is that we should produce a stand-alone special on the HBO series Deadwood, highlighting all the major historical characters on the show, publishing photos of the real Calamity Jane compared to the actress, the real Seth Bullock, etc. With our extensive, incomparable photo archives and back issues (we have done hundreds of articles on Deadwood in our 51 years of publishing), it really is a natural.

And speaking of Deadwood, here’s Jim Hatzell’s take on the show:

“I finally got a chance to see the first episodes of Deadwood (I don't get HBO— a friend taped it for me ) to see what all the fuss was about. The production values are first rate, the characters are well written and the story line compelling and historically accurate. I don't even mind the cussing but one thing bugs me about the show is Seth Bullock's hat!
“This is something I know about. Back in 1992 I was hired by the producers of the Unsolved Mysteries TV series to provide horses,saddles, props, extras and wardrobe ( It was one stop shopping ) for a segment they did on the haunting of the Bullock hotel by Mr Bullock and an Indian. Segments included Bullock meeting Theodore Roosevelt for the first time, during Teddy's Dakota ranching days, and a segment showing Seth as a town marshal in Deadwood. I had to supply the actor playing Seth Bullock with two sets of costumes. One was black, and an identical costume in white for the ghost stuff. Doing research I noticed that in every photo I could find of Seth Bullock, young or old , he always had his hat creased the same way. My guess is he took his hat off by grabbing it by the crown with his right hand creating the distinctive dimples. Taking your hat off by grabbing the brim was a blue collar practise that would damage it.
“I also wanted you to know that since your June issue on Custer came out I've been getting a lot of hits on my website and yesterday I sold a photo. Thank you for that!”

Buddy Boze Bell ate another hat of mine. This time he got one of my Tom Mix Stetsons ($375 in 1980’s money) and I really got mad at the little canine twit.

Kathy got four cats at the feedstore to help eradicate an invasion of pack rats in and around our adobe. Of course when the food chain conga line gets to cranking, the cats attract coyotes and it ends up being an all-you-can eat buffet, open 24-7. I’ll give the cats six weeks, tops.

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.”
—Lee Iacocca

Monday, May 10, 2004

May 10, 2004
Kathy assures me she had a very nice Mother’s Day. I caught myself several times starting to get cheap—”Hey, if we stop at Petsmart and I stay in the car, you’re not going to shop for three hours are you?”. Instead, I stopped, took a deep breath, and said, “Sure, I’ll sit in the heat with the kitten and you can go inside. Take your time.”

When she wanted to know if I would go out and look at the chicken house and see if it could be moved, I said, “Of course! It’s Mother’s Day!” Funny how a little fake attitude can make someone’s day. What if I did that every day? Naw. Too easy.

Made pancakes at Grandma Betty’s for E.J., ‘Cedes, Brad, Kathy and the guest of honor. Fun. Got home at about two. Took a nap.

Here comes the Betty Page news. First the good news, she’s alive. Got this e-mail from Bob Westinicky in Mesa, Arizona: “Thought you might find the attached pic interesting. It’s from Betty Page's 80th birthday party thrown by old Hef himself. Note the bangs. Rumor has it that a Betty Page bio-pic is coming with Liv Tyler playing the part.”

A correction from Dan Buck and an endorsement of HBO’s Deadwood:
“Department of bad math (a department I chair): 112,000 is four percent of 2.93 million, not ten percent. All you need to get 2.93 million Google hits, by the way, is to have your underwear arrested. I agree with you about Deadwood. Annie and I are hooked.”

For all of you who think that running a magazine and being on tv is a glorious and groovy thing (which it is), here’s a warning shot. Today I received the following letter from a former little league teammate:

I once thought you were my friend, Bob. But I guess I was wrong about that. Both my parents held you in high regard. But then again, they never new (sic) the real you. The "actor", with many faces. Where did the Robert Bell that I knew, where did he go? Guess you got all the friends you need. Don't fall off your mountain. . .

“It's not good to make sentimental journeys. You see the differences instead of the sameness.”
—Mary Astor

Sunday, May 09, 2004

May 9, 2004
On Friday, Mike Melrose stuck his head in my office and said, “Who’s Betty Page?” I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am in my general sales manager—and he’s from Iowa and a horndog to boot.

I tried to jog Melrose’s memory bank, thinking that maybe he just didn’t recognize the name. No luck there .Then I hit him with the fact that Betty Page’s visage is everywhere in the culture. Her short black bangs and sultry curves are every bit as iconic as Marilyn Monroe’s blond features (in fact, they are really voluptuous bookends aren’t they?). Here, in all her pop-culture glory is the one and only Betty Page as she appears on a new book cover, which I also bought at Va-Va-Voom in Bisbee ($19.95 plus tax). Certainly, any American male over the age of 50 has seen this cult figure, and I do mean figure.

Legend says she disappeared in the seventies, was found by a sleuthing fan. She had become a born-again housewife, living in a trailer in the South, totally ashamed of all her cheesecake glory. Or, perhaps that's just an urban myth. I’d rather believe she lives in Tahoe with Steve McQueen’s son, and is squired to the slopes in a Bentley.

By the way, in the graphic novel The Rocketeer the femme fatale in the comic is obviously modeled on Betty Page, and in the movie she was portrayed by Jennifer Connelly (I think it was her first movie). Jennifer (A beautiful Mind) is the perfect modern genetic offspring of Ms. Page.

Speaking of hot babes, it’s Mother’s Day. I cleaned the kitchen this morning and did other “special” chores around the house. Of course, these are things any decent husband would do everyday but doesn’t. And then we act like we deserve a medal. Ahhh, Men, it's a wonder women even allow us in the house.

"The man who does not read good comic books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, May 08, 2004

May 8, 2004
Sometimes if you look hard enough at the past, you can see the future. Case in point: two weekends ago I was down on the border in Bisbee and Bart Bull took me in to meet his friends at Va-Va-Voom, a hip-retro store full of old comics, Life magazines, clothing, wigs and assorted Western Americana. I guess I kind of liked the store because I spent $271 (Sue account, don’t tell Kathy). When I got my stash home and started to actually study the stuff, much of it looked downright groundbreaking and revolutionary. For example, check out this old 1944 Arizona Highways. No cover blurbs, a small, well-placed, clean logo and nothing else. It reeks of confidence. It’s not begging you to pick it up, and most important, you know exactly what’s going to be inside. Without a word! That’s pretty modern if you ask me. And frankly, it looks more hip and engaging than anything I’ve seen on the newsstand in a long time. Don’t be surprised if you see an upcoming issue of True West aping this very look.

Second up, a Gabby Hayes Western comic book which I paid $39 for (worth every penny). It contains a classic story inside, “The Drums of Death,” that hits me right where I live. Sample dialogue: “Chief Big Wind, Sheriff Daggle and I want to know what’s eating your tribe. Why the war paint? Let’s keep the peace!” I don’t know about you, but the parallels to Iraq are painfully obvious. A character named Slim (Rumsfeld?) says as he rides away, “My men will blockade the reservation to keep weapons out!” Of course, it’s hopeless because a drummer named Tomtom is smuggling in gunpowder (WMDs) inside a cargo of drums, thus the subtle title. When our hero Gabby tries to reach inside Tomtom’s wagon to buy “a leetle drum for Tippy Ryan,” Tomtom says, and I quote, “Don’t touch my drums!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that very line.

Because the world tries so hard to be round, I have noticed that the farther out of style something goes, the more ripe it is for recycling as new. Maxim magazine is nothing more than the old Argosy repackaged for a generation that never saw its cheesy-testosterone larded pages. I predict the same trend for swearing in public. When everybody swears, is it effective, and more importantly, is it still hip? I wonder what the father of our country might say on this subject?

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low, that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”
—George Washington

Friday, May 07, 2004

May 7, 2004
We lost a great one. Edmundo Primero (Ed Mell, Sr.) has passed away. When I shared artspace with Ed, Jr. (Edmundo Segundo) I always looked forward to Mr. Mell’s visits. An Arizona original, he was always funny and positive. I told Ed, Jr. several times that when I grow up I want to be like his dad. All three of his sons (Frank, Lee and Ed) shared his wicked sense of humor. He was a true inspiration to me. The memorial services are set for next week.

Deena Bell’s birthday today. She’s 24. I tell her often she is my favorite daughter.

We have a new intern for the summer. He’s Robert Chenal, a history major at NAU (Northern Arizona University). He rode up on his bicycle this morning ready to roll. I lined him out on several projects but when we went over his summer schedule he told me he was going to miss a week in July. When I pressed him on why, he said, and I quote: “To pick up your son at La Guardia.” Ha. Seemed reasonable when he said it that way!

Finished two Bill Doolin illustrations this morning for Classic Gunfights (July). Really strong layout (thanks Gus, Dan and Robert Ray!). John Wesley Hardin is up next.

The harsh and rigid reaction to HBO’s Deadwood is starting to melt. At first it was just a hunch, but I noticed it in an e-mail I got yesterday. It’s from Paul Hutton and this is his reaction: “[a famous Hollywood friend] was put off at first by the overdone language, as were we all, but is now hooked. I absolutely love the show.” Hmmmmm, reminds me of the initial reactions to “All In The Family,” when Archie Bunker’s bigoted tirades finally sunk in, as humor, and five years later everyone claimed to get the show from the beginning.

As relates to yesterday’s comment about Wyatt Earp and Google, here’s Dan Buck’s response: “Let's try to keep this in perspective, Wyatt Earp has fewer than Butch Cassidy (154,000), less than half of Jesse James (293,000—of course, Jesse James also makes motorcycles), and about ten percent of Michael Jackson (2.96 million). But here's the bright side; Earp tallied twice as many hits as Ted Bundy (60,000) and HBO mobster Tony Soprano only netted 54,000. There's a story in here somewhere, but I ain't going to write it.”

Subscriptions keep rolling in from the oddest connections, like this one that Carole forwarded to me: D. Ricks moved to Seguin, TX from England in January and found True West in Wal-Mart and subscribed. He called yesterday and ordered four Collector Issues.

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.”
—George Eliot

Thursday, May 06, 2004

May 6, 2004
“A Google search of Wyatt Earp yields 112,000 hits. Not bad for a dead guy.” That quote is from a press release touting an upcoming auction of John Gilchriese items. Gilchriese is notorious and ended up with Wyatt’s bible, the utensils Earp ate his last meal with (in plastic bags, of course) and a scrap book of Tombstone original 1880s business cards that includes all of the icons: The Oriental Saloon, Eagle Brewery, O.K. Corral, etc. Plus photos of Earp never before published. How do I know this? I sat at Gilchriese’s dining room table and looked (no, I gaped) at them, albeit briefly, as John was famous for showing you something and as your bottom jaw sank to your chest he would pull it away, saying, “That’s enough! The guy was a bum. Here’s something else. . .”

Best book title in a loon’s age: “The Bases Were Loaded (And So Was I)” a confessional baseball writer’s story, by Tom Callahan.

I’m sorry about the photos from the Bootheel-Border Roll not being posted in a timely manner. We had technical problems and Gus rescanned them this morning. They should be up by tomorrow morning. To boot we have been on deadline dealing with all the last minute changes to the book (for some reason, in the magazine publishing biz, a magazine is sometimes inexplicably referred to as “the book”).

Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek are in pre-production on an updated Spaghetti Western which now has a working title: “Banditas.” Ay-yi-yi! I’m there. So is Melrose, who has been picking up beautiful women lately with an unlikely line. There is this stunning masseuse out here in Cave Creek. She is a total headturner, looks like a cross between Barbie Benton and Betty Paige. Mike was backstage at the Don Edwards-Waddie Mitchell concert last weekend, he walks up to the bar, sees Ms. Masseuse and says, “Excuse me, do you have a subscription to True West?” They had “lunch” yesterday. I’ll keep you posted on the wedding.

“We Americans are a peculiar people. We are for the underdog no matter how much of a dog he is.”
—A. B. Chandlert

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Bonus Blog May 5, 2004
Robert Ray has re-configured the schematic (11:35 am) and the Tap Duncan piece is back in the issue. This is so typical of the magazine world, in one minute, out the next. It reminds me of a Mark Twain comment about weather in San Francisco to the effect that if you don’t like the weather right now, stick around for fifteen minutes and see if you like that weather. It will be changing dramatically. Well, I completely ruined that quote, which reminds me of another Twain quote, “Choosing the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.”

Just got the new English version of Esquire magazine. Bob Brink brings it in for me. On the cover is a tag line: “Why Are the Germans So Kinky?” How can you not find that article and want to read it? On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll be reading the “Exclusive Interview with Michael Howard, the man who could make you vote Tory.” Ha.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
—Winston Churchill
May 5, 2004
Cinco de Mayo, a huge deal here, but not so in most parts of Mexico. How weird is that? Front page of the paper this morning shows hispanics dominating tv, preferring Velo de Novia instead of Days of Our Lives, and Despierta America over Good Morning America. This after they have turned the radio dial upside down (my former radio gig at Young Buck Country was sold and converted to Spanish and has done well ever since). Maybe we should have put Pancho Villa on the cover last September.

And speaking of Pancho, Bart Bull gave me a book on the selected short stories of O. Henry and I am reading the Cisco Kid story right now. Funny, the master of the short story wrote it in 1904, one hundred years ago, and yet, the story and atmosphere of the Southwest is as fresh as if it was written five minutes ago. Proves the old adage that literature is news that stays news, or something like that.

Daniel H. came out yesterday for a design review. Dan, Gus, Abby and Robert R. joined me for lunch at El Encanto (machaca and eggs, iced tea, $11 cash). We critiqued the new issue, wrestling with design problems, strengths and weaknesses. We also addressed the eighties-in-flight-magazine accusation. Good debate and ideas.

Dan came back to the offices and tweaked the Tap Duncan Diamond Bar eight-page-spread, putting in Gus’ great map of Mohave County, 1912, replete with train tracks to Chloride (gone since my childhood). Unfortunately, because of weak ad sales, we are going to hold this piece until the next issue (August), when we can give it full coverage and glory.

The Alamo is dead in the water at $21 million and looks to be a total bomb. Robert Ray was going to go see it this weekend, but it’s only playing on the fringes of the Valley (second house waystations on the way to theatre extinction). Allen Barra wrote a great piece in our next issue about why the movie failed. He nails the guilty and on several counts I plead guilty. By the way, 88% of you said you planned to see the movie and 59% of you said you preferred the John Wayne version. Meanwhile, Hidalgo is doing somewhat better at $96 million (it will probably earn back it’s production costs).

“It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”
—Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

May 4, 2004
Met Kathy at a Carefree title company this morning and signed a tall stack of papers locking us in on a new home loan (6.25%). Thirty years, fixed, decent payment ($960).

First it was Deadwood, now the f-word is causing more problems in a very unlikely place. Local radio and tv stations carried a live feed from the Pat Tillman memorial services yesterday in Phoenix. Pat, the ranger and Arizona Cardinals football star who was killed in Afghanistan recently, was being eulogized by Senator John McCain and other big names and in the beginning, everything was somber and dignified. But, then Pat’s brother came up to the microphone with a beer (my source said he was drunk), and opened his remarks with the f-bomb, not once, but four times. One radio station KTAR, had gone off their delay (what could go wrong at a funeral service?) and they panicked, then ultimately broke away. The managers were on high overload because the FCC has declared they will not longer tolerate the f-bomb and it’s a pricey $250,000 per infraction. So the station was breathing a cool million dollar in fines—at a funeral! My source tells me the FCC is going to let them off the hook because ABC tv was the main feed and they live by different rules. Ah, just like high school, eh?

And speaking of Deadwood, Calamity Jane is flat-out stealing the show. She is a wonderful character, so obscene, crude and yet lovable. Meanwhile in the real Deadwood, USA Today is reporting that visits to the town’s modest website ( has gone from 2,000 to 3,000 a month to 150,000 hits. I think we are getting some of the overflow as we are doing record numbers on our site for new subscriptions.

Got a new poll up: Would you rather?
• Read Old West history
• Read a novel about the Old West
• See a Western movie
You can click right here to go vote.

Also don’t miss our Best of the West poll, which is now up. Be sure to vote for your favorites. We want the deserving to win, you know.

Bart Bull came over for dinner last night and gave me a blunt analysis of the magazine. Among the many thoughts and observations—he can be quite blunt—“Your departments look like an eighties in-flight-magazine.” Ouch!

We are having a design review today and will take a good look at this stinging criticism. As John Madden put it, “A good coach looks for what he doesn’t want to see, and listens to what he doesn’t want to hear.”

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
—Vince Lombardi

Monday, May 03, 2004

May 3, 2004
Dug out of a big hole today. With all the travelling of the past two weeks I had gotten terribly behind. Came in to the office early and bailed into a variety of hanging out copy, layout and design for the July issue.

Also met with Mike Melrose, RG, Meghan, Robert R., Gus, Bob Brink, Trish Brink and others regarding staff morale, production issues, editorial issues, proofing, etc. Got much straightened out, clarified. Very strong day, both organizationally and creatively (two disparate concepts that don’t normally go together very well).

Finally going to do a piece on Tap Duncan and the Diamond Bar up in my old neck of the woods. My cousin Tap Lou Weir got me the photos and Tom Carpenter wrote the piece. Gus is doing a great Mohave County map showing Bonelli Landing, White Hills, Chloride, The Diamond Bar, Knight Creek, Hackberry, etc. Great stuff.

Henry Martinez was in town from Reserve, New Mexico and he took me to lunch at El Encanto. Beautiful day to sit out by the pond and talk about his proposed Elfego Baca monument and museum. He is quite close to making it happen and how he ducked all the small town politics that brings down every other project from Tombstone to Lincoln to Kingman, I’ll never know. I told him it is a “miracle,” and he laughed, knowing full well it is in fact, just that.

Got a massage at four from Christie ($50 cash). Felt mighty good. She popped my neck. Normally I’m so tight she can’t even turn it. Really let go.

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”
—Marcus Aurelius

Sunday, May 02, 2004

May 2, 2004 Bonus Blog
As promised here’s some of the images from the Border Roll.. That’s Sally from the only cafe in Cliff, New Mexico, upper left. She’s the one who loves True West magazine and wants to get a subscription again. She actually sat down at our table during lunch hour rush, with a coffee pot held high, perusing the magazine. Excellent waitress (“I’ll be right there Hon. Hold yer horses!” she said when some cowboys in the other part of the dining room started complaining).

Upper right: the two vaqueros in Naco, Sonora who were riding right down the middle of the main drag, drinking cerveza and having fun on a Saturday night. Got four images of them, this one is the best. Check out those tapaderos (stirrup guards). Totally Mexicano. I miss this scene terribly in the U.S. It’s all but gone.

Elva and her son in front of the Hachita Cafe. She is from the Philippines. Her son just went to the prom the night before in Animas, New Mexico. She showed us their photos. His girlfriend was quite hot.

Bart Bull playing the Mexican accordion astride the huge cement cross commemorating Marcos De Niza crossing into the United States in the 1500s.

Curly and Sally at the Curly Bill’s B&B. They traditionally make the guests pose in front of their sign and I reversed the process. Great people, big supporters of True West and we of them.

Alma in front of her Rodeo, New Mexico swap shop. She had a stack of True Wests for sale and when I gave her old Man a new one he thanked me profusely. He couldn’t hear for Jack (Navy, Korea).

“To the timid and hesitating everything is impossible because it seems so.”
—Sir Walter Scott
May 2, 2004
Big Radina pow-wow and dinner last night at Earl’s Fine Foods in Peoria. It was ‘Cedes first communion (Catholic) and we all met at the Radina family restaurant for some great Mexican food afterwards. I had the homemade Chiles Colorado, which Brad made specifically for this week’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. Really great. I also had three Horni Margaritas (made with Horni tequila), and I wasn’t alone. Most of the Brown clan were there, Myra, Mercedes, Carol and Aunt Pat, and they all hail from the Great Falls, Montana area and I guess they showed us “flatlanders” how to party.

Aunt Pat offered up a mean Watusi, then segued into a nasty little Dirty Dog and Frug, ending up with the Pony and what looked to me like the Alligator, but she was moving so fast, and dishes were flying off the table at such dangerous angles, I had to duck underneath and only saw part of the finale.

Myra, who is an airline pilot and doctor, finally got Aunt Pat down off the table and helped her put her blouse back on. It was wild and expensive ($152, fortunately we put this on Doyle’s credit card, because he wasn’t there).

Some of the above has been exaggerated for petty effect.

Got two movie reviews from Johnny Boggs:

THE ALAMO: Forget the advance negative buzz. This movie works, one of the few successful mixes of historical accuracy and mass-market entertainment. Certainly not a great movie but well done. Ron Howard goofed. He should have directed this one instead of the ludicrous THE MISSING. (***)

HILDAGO: A wholesome family adventure flick, about as loose with the truth and logic as Frank Hopkins. For a horse-racing epic that lacks much giddie-up, it's not a bad way to kill a couple of hours, though it's left in the dust by the movies it desperately wants to be: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and the underappreciated gem of an endurance-race Western, BITE THE BULLET. (** 1/2)

And speaking of the HBO series Deadwood, I also got this inside skinny on the real Jack McCall from J.Rae:
“Reportedly Mc Call clutched a rosary on the gallows at Yankton, where he was hung for the killing of Wild Bill Hickok on March 1, 1877. Mc Call's last spoken words were "make it tighter, Sheriff" as the hemp was being secured around his neck. Years later, Mc Call was disinterred and reburied—the noose was still tied around his neck.”

"Here's some exciting news. Maybe you can still get tickets. P. Diddy is starring in a Broadway musical. It's a classic revival of 'Guys and Hos'."
—David Letterman

Saturday, May 01, 2004

May 1, 2004
Just got back from Jerome and Sedona. Had two speeches in Red Rock Country for a San Francisco private club that has numerous famous names. Marshall Trimble was busy so they hired me.

I took Kathy along and we stayed at the luxurious Enchantment Lodge, nestled in an almost fake looking backdrop of red sandstone and spindly spires.

The whole experience was such a stark transition from most of our lodging last week down on the border. As a matter of fact, exactly a week ago, Bart and I stayed at a Nogales motel for $40. In contrast, our room (actually a casita) at the Enchantment Lodge was $285 a night (total bill was $670). Some of the differences in accommodations were:

The Enchantment actually had towels. It may not sound like much, but that’s pretty huge. It’s one of those things where you don’t know what you’re missing until you get out of a shower and realize they’re not there, and they’re never going to be there.

Both had stunning views, but the Enchantment’s were through the windows and not through the cracks in the walls.

The shower head in the Enchantment was above my head. And, more importantly, it was actually attached to the wall.

The bedsheets in both places were colored with splotchy patterns, but I think it’s safe to say only the Enchantment had done it on purpose.

On the other hand the toilet in the Enchantment didn’t have that whirring, thump-thump-thump sound when you flushed, so I missed that mechanical bull, E-ticket ride thrill I got in Nogales (it really woke you up first thing in the morning).

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”
—Margaret Lee Runbeck