Wednesday, April 28, 2004

April 28, 2004
Bart Bull came out to Cave Creek today and we took the pickup (our road wagon on the border roll) down to Tobias to check on the brakes. They’ve been hopping and acting kind of goofy and the ABS light is on. Left it there, then Minnesota Mike picked up Bart and I and we went over to Satisfied Frog for lunch. Had the new Crazy Ed menu item of steak and blue cheese salad and an iced tea. Really good ($55 cash, I bought).

Bart came back with us to the office and he pitched the executive committee on doing t-shirts and what he calls the lucrative world of “merch” (as in merchandise). After living on the road with various rock bands, Bart is confident he can sell our logos (True West) and our old graphics as postcards, cups, posters, etc. and we may give him a page to give it a go.

Everywhere we went on our roadtrip we saw True West. Unfortunately, it was the old True West. They were in every yard sale, antique shop and curio market we went into or passed. It was incredible. On the way home, we stopped at the only cafe in Cliff, New Mexico and Bart brought in a half dozen old True Wests and a half dozen of the new ones. Our waitress, Sally, started to take our order, then stopped dead in her tracks and literally sat down at the table and started leafing through the mags. “I love this magazine,” she said as if in a trance. “I always have.”

Bart took the opportunity to create an instant focus group and asked her if she knew it was still in business. “No,” she said, still leafing through the travel issue (Feb.-March). “I lost track of it. My husband used to subscribe, then we moved.”

Bart asked her to pick one to keep and much to my relief she picked a new one (the travel issue). Whew!

This just in from Prague and The Tomboy:

“Got into Prague last night after 17 hours of traveling. I sat with this Japanese kid from Tokyo on the plane. Hes studying in London and came to Prague for a couple of days to see a soccer game between the Czech Republic and Japan. His name is weird but all his friends call him Den. It was lucky to meet him because he knew of this hotel outside of the main part of town. Double rooms are always cheaper than singles. We got a double for 20 euros each and it is super nice. It includes a free breakfast too with pastrys, coffee, cereal, and all that jazz.

“Ive just been walking around the center and its pretty modern and happening. Out where we are staying though is what I would imagine to be more typical. You can tell it was formerly Soviet. Kind of a worn down feeling to it. It’s weird seing so many lower class and blue collar white people. Although it’s very similar to a poor small town. Really bad styles and kind of tough looking people. There are some seriously huge people as well. These guys on the subway had hands as big as my feet and as you know thats a pretty decent size [Thomas wears a size 13 shoe]. The people seem nice but are a little cold at first. I’m just used to Spain probably. Here no one makes eye contact. In Spain you can stare all you want and its no big deal because people stare back. I should write you guys later when Ive been here longer and can better assess but I just had a coffee.

“One more thing I noticed was in the airport at London the English were odd to me and I was always happy to see Spaniards. I can spot them very easily from their style of dress and the way they carry themselves. Ive grown quite fond of Spaniards. I think Im going to miss them when I go home.”

Got an interesting e-mail today from some fellow publishers and historians:

“My husband and I are both historians. You might be familiar with some of his work (Bloody Dawn, Scalp Dance, Black Flag, etc.) True West is absolutely our favorite magazine. I published two different magazines years ago in Virginia and am about to embark on another: The Magazine: Kansas Journal of Military History. You have set the standard for interest and excellence and excitement. Sharing your journal is gutsy and interesting and inspiring. Hope to meet some day.”
—Tom & Deb Goodrich

P.S. We love Deadwood! Ditto The Alamo!

“You make me want to go Western.”
—Linda Lou White

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

April 27, 2004
Back from the four day Bull & Boze border roll. Went deep into The Bootheel (NM), found Old Hachita. Also cruised Locheil, Naco (took photos of beer drinking vaqueros riding horses down the main drag on a Saturday night), ate a ton of excellent Mexican food from a carne seca gismo at the Crossroads Drive-in, to adobada tacos from a street vendor in Nogales, Sonora, to huevos rancheros (everywhere) to a damn good mole burrito at Gaviota’s (Seagulls) below Tin Town outside Bisbee.

Drank more beers than a roomful of Monday Night Football fanatics, stepped in more history than a janitor at a NOLA convention, bottomed out in more arroyos than a pregnant javalina and laughed at more asinine and juvenile humor than an all-male junior high lunch room on crank.

Heading out of town last Friday in a borrowed F-150 XLT Ford pickup, I looked down on the floor, saw the crate of eclectic, customized tapes the Bull is always known to carry, and I said, as a challenge: “Okay, play me something I’ve never heard.”

The Bull popped in a tape and I got my ears primed, and out of the blue comes Hans Olson playing “Western Winds. ” It was a change-up and I was floored. First of all, Hans played at Kathy and my wedding ceremony at Pioneer Living History Museum, and second of all, in this context, it was as if I was hearing this amazing, powerful tune for the very first time. The irony was thick, but the music was even thicker, and better. And that’s how the whole four days went. New tunes every mile (Professor Longhair, Doctor John, Jimmie Rogers, Bob Wills, Michelle Shocked, Patsy Montana to name just one typical five-mile stretch).

Clear skys all the way, big broken border country. A great-horned owl shat upon The Bull’s head, we missed an African Massai dance by a timid whisker (mine), and I blew $271 at Va Va Voom in Bisbee. More of the bloody details later.

Speaking of bloody, we’ve got a new poll up and I really want to know what you think on this one. Which movie did you like best? The new John Lee Hancock's The Alamo, or John Wayne's The Alamo?

Got home last night at ten. Read this e-mail from Fred Nolan in England:

“Don't you find it at all amusing that the Sheriff of DeBaca County's name is Graves?”

“When it's three o'clock in New York, it's still 1938 in London.”

—Bette Midler

Thursday, April 22, 2004

April 22, 2004 Bonus Blog
I got a call at around noon from Sheriff Gary Graves of DeBaca County, New Mexico. He told me they’ve got a “huge bru-ha-ha goin’ on” in Fort Sumner. He has been living in his office four days now, sleeping on a cot.

“The board of county commissioners went after me with a petition asking for my resignation,” Gary told me on a cell phone from his office.

Specifically, the county commissioners want the sheriff to cease and desist on what they see as “this crazy digging up Billy the Kid project.”

I heard an electric shaver in the background and asked Gary why are they fighting it so hard? “We’re still after the truth and they’re so afraid that if we don’t find Billy the Kid it’ll ruin the economy and DeBaca county will dry up and blow away.”

The sheriff believes no matter what they find, it will increase interest in the area and he said. as proof, that tourist numbers are already up 45% over last year and he attributes this to the interest in digging up the Kid to see if he’s really there, or in a grave in Hico, Texas.

I thanked the sheriff for the call and asked if he was worried they might use force to get him out. Graves was quiet for a moment, then said, “I will defend this office to my dying breath.”
April 22, 2004
A good friend of mine, Bart Bull is in town and he came out yesterday and we went to dinner at El Encanto last night (we split fajitas and had two Pacificos, $27 cash, includes tip). Lots of laughs and good conversation. He knows quite a bit about magazines and had lots of ideas and inspiration. I think we are going to go down to the Nogales, Tombstone, Bisbee, Lordsburg, Hachita, Pelloncio Mountains, Gray's Ranch area this weekend. That should be fun. On The border with Boze and Bull.

Finally finished the copy for the Bill Doolin shootout this morning. It can now go into production.

We are having a sales meeting lunch (Carole is ordering pizza from Barros’) to get the sales staff up and cranking. They have been a tad down and they need a lift.

I’ve been thinking of all the nicknames of kids I grew up with. It’s funny, I don’t really think we had that many, but I’ll be talking to someone and I’ll say “I was talking to Chicken and he said Tinker died recently,” and people will act like I’m making it up. Here’s a few of the Kingman nicknames off the top of my head:
• “Tinker” Alvarado
• “Chicken” Esquebel
• Richard “Squibe” Nish
• “Moon” Nish
• Ray “Buns” Bonham
• Charlie “Bugs” Waters
• “Low Pants” Vance
• Arnold D. “A.T.” Thomas
• “Roxy Coxy” Redican
• Jim “Cove-a-ruby” Covarubias

I could go on, but I won’t.

“What you get is insignificant compared with what you do with it.”
—Ralph Marston

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

April 21, 2004
Gregg Clancy just came into my office (9:47 am) and told me one of the legends of Cave Creek died yesterday. Honkytonk Jack was a rollicking piano man who played the Satisfied Frog and every other CC waterning hole going back at least 30 years. Evidently he had allergies, it quickly progressed to pneumonia, then some other horrible disease and he was found, passed out on Saturday. Lived a short time. Sad. Great guy. I usually saw him at the post office, reading and culling his junk mail at one of those stands. He had tattoos up both arms, usually wore muscle shirts, red bow tie, derby and his skin was weathered and leathery somewhere north of grizzled.

Worked most of the day yesterday on outlaw Bill Doolin’s demise. Extrapolated between two books, Glenn Shirley’s West of Hell’s Fringe, and Bill Doolin: Outlaw O.T. by Col. Bailey C. Hanes. Bill rode with the Daltons and that’s where the Eagles song “Doolin-Daltons” came from.

Kathy took yesterday off and worked on the yard, weedwacking and pruning and hauling branches. Hippie George Coppock came out and sawed out an opening in our old block wall to give access to the damn dogs into the new backyard.

The Little Bighorn Battlefield has ordered extra copies of our July Custer feature. And speaking of Custer, here’s Custer expert, Bob Reece’s take on The Alamo : “Hancock's movie is outstanding. It got even better with my second viewing. The critics have been totally unfair—Roger Ebert is the only one that got it right. Gave the movie 3 1/2 stars. Looks like it will bomb at the box office though. John Wayne's Alamo movie bombed too, however it was remembered at Oscar time. Wayne's movie received seven Oscar nominations—Film, Supporting Actor (Chill Wills), Cinematography for Color (they were still making black and white films back then), Sound, Editing, Music—Original Song, Music—Original Score. Out of the seven nominations Wayne's movie walked home with one Oscar for Best Sound.”

Inspired to do some stagecoach scratchboards along with the cover I’m working on for Mark Boardman’s forthcoming book.

"You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
—Jack London

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

April 20, 2004
Overcast today. Went for a walk with the dogs before I went in to work and unfortunately Buddy spied a mother duck and all her babies swimming along behind her and Buddy dived in and the babies were caught or so it seemed but as Buddy’s mouth reached out to nabbed the little brown critters, they ducked under water and escaped. Buddy lumbered up the creek after the mother and the little babies gathered in the tall grass, shivering and waiting. I didn't want the big, bad doggie to come back and gobble them up so I led him up the trail without getting any rocks. That was my excitement for the morning.

Working hard to get a Bill Doolin piece done for the July issue. Marshal Heck Thomas brought down the elusive outlaw at Lawson, Oklahoma which is just east of Stillwater. I visited there several years ago with the Renegades and historian Glenn Shirley, took us on a guided tour of the exact spot it happened so I have a pretty good idea of how that looks.

Got an update on Thomas Bell’s itinerary while he was in Morocco. Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

“We got into Tangiers by ferry where we pìcked up the rental car and then drove an hour to Hamzas house in Tetuan. We stayed in this really nice government hotel for free and ate at Hamza’s house. That´s when we had the really good roast beef dish.

“From there we drove south to a town called Chechouan or something similar. The old quarter there was all painted blue and was nestled into the mountains behind it. We stayed the night near a quaint ski town in the mountains at another one of Hamza’s connection places. There was a lake in the town and it looked a lot like Switzerland.

“We continued on to Fez the next day. The old quarter, or medina, in Fez was huge and we took a guided tour of it. The city has some cool ancient ruins including an old jewish cemetery. Not many jews left in Morocco. They all went to New York or Israel.

“From Fez we drove all day south into the Sahara and did the overnight night camel camping trip. I got diharrea and had to burry some poop in the desert. The next day we drove all day again still sandy and dirty from the night before almost all the way to Marakesh stopping only to see this huge ass canyon. We stayed in some town and drove into Marakesh the next day.

“We had a problem with our booked hotel but Hamza met someone in the lobby who offered to rent us his apartment. It was a nice place. Moroccan houses traditionally have a room that is lined with all coaches to drink tea in and chat. This is where we slept. Marakesh is the biggest tourist city in Morocco and the main square is insane. It is full of people offering everything. Huge glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice for 25 cents. I would say about 50% of the tourist are old French people followed by Spaniards and Americans. At night they have snake handlers, cock fights etc. The last night I saw an old man boxing a 12 year old boy and then later a girl. It was pretty playful but hilarious none the less. We stayed in Marakesh 3 nights and then drove back to Tetuan for the last night and one last diner at Hamzas house. The next night we stayed in Gibraltar where I called you from.”

The language in Deadwood continues to be a turn-off to oldtimers. Jim Hatzell sent me the reaction of an author and historian from the Dakotas named Smith who lives on a ranch 25 miles northeast of Rapid City. As for the language in the first episode, Smith said, “I just wanted to throw up.” He claims he won’t be watching any more episodes. I wonder just how many of these stalwarts the series can afford to alienate?

“Discipline without freedom is tyranny, freedom without discipline is chaos.”
—Cullen Hightower

Monday, April 19, 2004

April 19, 2004
Watched Deadwood last night. They did the trial of Jack McCall, killer of Wild Bill, and they got much of it right: the real McCall was acquitted of killing Hickok and he did claim Wild Bill had killed his brother. In the historic Deadwood, there was a sentiment in the camp that Hickok was part of the gambling element and the jury, mostly miners, took pity, or, at least identified with McCall. I believe it was Charlie Utter who swore vengeance and tracked McCall to another town, but it appears they are going to give that honor to Seth Bullock (who never met Wild Bill by the way, having arrived the day before Hickok was killed). Still, the show has good characters and is quite edgy. During the semi-lesbian scene last night, I looked over at Kathy and said “Well, there goes another boatload of oldtime Western lovers leaping for the remote.”

Speaking of Wild Bill and the HBO series, here’s a sneak peek at the next cover of True West. The subhed is: Deadwood’s Dirty Words: Authentic or B.S.? And the tophed is: Did Custer Commit Suicide?

Listened to Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion yesterday on the way to the dump. It was the joke show, something Garrison does from time to time and one joke was so bad I remembered it: Victoria Secret is selling all of its Janet Jackson bras at half off.

Also saw a great New Yorker cartoon of a grizzled rock band on stage and the lead singer says into the mike: “The next one is a hard-rockin’, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners tune we wrote about turning sixty.”

“I don't mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.”
—Samuel Butler

Sunday, April 18, 2004

April 18, 2004
More yardwork. Sore (Oh, the humanity!). Worked the new electric chainsaw and trimmed up the palo verde trees. Loaded up the Ranger with more limbs and made another trip down to the Skunk Creek Landfill ($20, open seven days a week). From there Kathy and I drove over to Shelmita’s on Cave Creek Road and Greenway and had a Mexican lunch (a Pacifico, a Corona lite, tampiquena, bean burro enchilada style and side of guacamole, $27, includes tip)

A suggestion, or clarification from J.Rae on yesterday’s headline:

“to gain the notoriety of a true legend, you need be gunned down from behind, for what is deemed as possible miscreant behavior (ie: insulting an obnoxious & overbearing neighbor, ticking off a patient & understanding wife, smacking a disgruntled associate, slamming the phone down on a schizophrenic subscriber, flipping off a bill collector, and other madcap scenarios)— not stabbed by a prickly brush —but, rather—a slug of lead. Then you will achieve sainthood status and live on in the mind & hearts of the people, along with Abe Lincoln, Jesse James, Belle Starr and Wild Bill Hickok!”

Our number one son, Thomas Charles (yes, he’s named after Charlie Waters, who calls him T. Charles) phoned us from Gibraltar this afternoon. He’s on his way back from Morocco. Went out on camels into the Sahara Desert, saw one of the largest mosques in the world in Casablanca ($800 million), and, of course needs more money to get back to Spain, thus the call.

I told him to ask his new Muslim friends for some cash, since he likes them so much.

Not really. His mother is wiring him money even as you read this, because, frankly, like most Americans, we are made of money.

“I think we Americans tend to put too high a price on unanimity . . . as if there were something dangerous and illegitimate about honest differences of opinion honestly expressed by honest men.”
—William Fulbright

Saturday, April 17, 2004

April 17, 2004

In the same instant I imagined all the poignant eulogies pouring in, like this one: “We are not really surprised by his death,” Jerry Scott of Baby Blues and Zits fame said from his home in Malabu. “What’s so shocking is that a card carrying cartoonist would actually get caught doing yardwork.”

Yes, I promised Kathy I would carve out this weekend so we could attack the back yard and clean it up so the dogs would have a “comfortable habitat.” I had an opportunity to be on the border this very weekend researching in some funky cantina with The Bull, but no, here I am with gloves on and a pruning sheers, hacking at tangled mesquite and palo verdes that haven’t been touched in at least 17 years.

It was bad enough we had to make two trips to Home Depot for equipment. Kathy bought an electric chain saw ($43, unassembled) and a screen door ($105, no handle). I almost got into a fight when I was carrying the screen door out to where the chain saws are, got tired of carrying it, turned to put it down and clipped a fellow customer in the head. He was stunned (I barely knocked him down) and seemed to want to fight, but I think my demeanor saved the day (“Please don’t hit me! My wife made me come here! I’m just a cartoonist, who hates all of this stuff!”). I think he could read my body language and he backed wayyyy down.

As I hacked at the jungle of spines I thought of all the artwork I could and should be doing. I also thought of a half-dozen plots for movies and articles and none of them had anything to do with yardwork (although in the interest of full disclosure, I did think of this blog, and, in fact, quit working to come in and type it up).

That’s when I got cut. As I was dragging one of the spine-encrusted green limbs over to the transfer pile I got jabbed, right through the glove! Blood started oozing out of my forearm. I’m on coumadin (blood thinner), so my mind immediately flashed to the above headline. Not that I’m prone to hysterical hyperbole or anything.

As I contemplated bleeding to death, I thought of all the men in history who would never even dream of doing yardwork..For example, can you imagine Custer doing yardwork?

“Sorry guys, can’t go. I promised Libby I’d trim the oleanders this weekend. Good luck with that village. Bring me back a t-shirt.”

And, for that matter, can you visualize Crazy Horse or Gall doing yardwork? How about Sitting Bull? Geronimo? I didn’t think so. O.K. maybe Chief Joseph did yardwork (I’m just trying to play the devil’s advocate here).

I’d be willing to bet both my work gloves that Billy the Kid never did yardwork (no yards in New Mexico). or that Doc Holliday never did yardwork (allergies), and I can’t really see Wild Bill Hickok doing yardwork (might chap his gunhands).

And my suspicions are that even someone like Henry David Thoreau probably wrote about yardwork so he wouldn’t have to do yardwork. But that’s just a working theory.

Loaded all the branches in the Ranger and went to the dump with Kathy down at Happy Valley Road. I hate to admit it, but it actually felt good.

“It's remarkable how large a part ignorance plays in making a man satisfied with himself.”
—George Herbert

Friday, April 16, 2004

April 16, 2004
Last night Brad Elrod finished putting in a chain link fence connecting my studio with the pump house and adobe garage ($1,300 Sue account). He also customized several dog stops between openings and it all looks mighty fine. Neighbors were complaining about Buddy Boze Bell attacking their horses. So far, the little Manhattanite canine has cost us about $4K, but Kathy loves the little goober. Women and their taste in men. Go figure.

Speaking of men with questionable tastes, got permission to use Paul Andrew Hutton’s mini-review of The Alamo.. Here it is:

“Saw The Alamo today. Cried like a baby when Travis gave his speech. Thought it was not nearly as bad as folks have been saying. Of course, that doesn't mean its a good movie either. It really is weighted down with history—what the hell was that history lecture from Neill to Travis on the origins of the mission? The battle was a dandy and had some great visuals but the battle was better in Wayne's Alamo. Burwell's music was a dirge -- it made me long for Dimitri Tiomkin! Obviously the film had been gutted—but who knows if that is good or bad. Billy Bob was great but Davy is like Doc Holliday—he always steals the show. I'm going again on Saturday with Paul Andy. We'll get the real scoop from the ten year old.”

Also got this cryptic e-mail from a roaming writer who shares two of my initials:

“Okay, so I've been reading these references in your blog to meeting Theresa from Tri Star. At gas stations, on street corners, in parking lots. I'm trying to envision how this works—yes, based on yesterday's blog, the two vehicles pull up in an open space. Enforcers step out of each car and warily survey the turf. They signal the all-clear, and the two principals leave the vehicles. One drops the tailgate on the truck to reveal the neat stack of packages. Merchandise changes hands. Everyone returns to the vehicles, which drive away in opposite directions.

“Obviously, if you want more people to show up to your book signings, you have to make them look more like drug deals.”

That would be Bart Bull. Just got word from Meghan that Stetson is closing the doors on its St. Joseph, Missouri factory. Hell, maybe we should buy it and save another Western institution? Actually, I’ve got my hands full trying to save this one. Not easy as the so-called “war of civilizations” heats up.

“Self-criticism is the secret weapon of democracy.”
—Adlai E. Stevenson

Thursday, April 15, 2004

April 15, 2004
Is it my imagination or has Disney pulled in their ad and marketing horns on The Alamo. I haven’t seen jack. I know they were upset about the false launch last Christmas and even trailers I saw in the lobby last month said “Coming December 19th.” Is it possible that Michael Eisner is being hung out to dry? That the film was written off and given little or nothing in the way of an ad campaign? I don’t know. I haven’t seen much in the media except bad reviews.

One of my good friends and an Alamo fanatic finally saw the movie yesterday and “cried like a baby.” I’m trying to get his permission to run some of his “cogent” comments.

Worked all morning today with Gus getting images for the second batch of the Westerns Channel’s True West Moments. Gus finds the most amazing photographs. Got some very stunning buscadero holster shots (Bad Holsters!) and wonderful Mexican loop rigs (Good Holsters!) on real Old West gunfighters. Hope to send off first batch on CD to Denver tomorrow.

Drove into Scottsdale at 11 and had lunch with my daughter at Pischke’s in Old Town ($27, includes tip, cajun chicken caesar salad and iced tea). Tried to talk Deena out of acting just like me at her age, and more like her mother. Of course, she rarely listens to me (which is just like me) but she does a pretty good job of pretending to care (another skill she got from her old man).

Went over to Arizona West gallery and had a great talk with Abe Hays about the top secret museum project. They need $13 million to make it happen. Takes my breath away.

Drove down to the 202 and Scottsdale Road and met Theresa from Tri Star, my publisher, and signed about 200 books and a dozen artprints. As I’m sitting on the tailgate of her Toyota a guy pulls up and gets out. He’s got on a City of Scottsdale shirt on and he asks if he can buy a book. This was so weird. I have been at scheduled book signings in big malls where nobody shows up—ever, and here we are in a parking lot and some guy pulls off the road. Marketing. Go figure.

“I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.”
—George Carlin

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

April 14, 2004
While The Alamo fades like a sinking spruce goose, the new HBO series Deadwood is lighting up the Western sky like a flock of tomahawks over Baghdad. (sorry for the mangled similes)

Ironically, the latest Alamo reviews by the faithful (read that history nuts like me) are for the most part quite positive. Here’s one I got this morning:

“My husband and I saw The Alamo yesterday and thought it was very good. One major weakness that we both noticed was the failure to properly introduce the characters, leaving the viewer guessing for a while. I thought that Billy Bob was mesmerizing as Crockett, Quaid and the actor playing Bowie were just ok, and Travis was weak. I had no trouble substituting Thornton for the Duke (and I'm a big John Wayne fan) but I kept wishing for Laurence Harvey as Travis and Russell Crowe as Houston.

“After researching early Texas history for six years for my book Gholson Road: Revolutionaries and Texas Rangers, I am pretty familiar with the Texas Revolution, but if I hadn't been, I think a lot of the movie would have been lost on me. I don't agree that the movie was slow after the battle of the Alamo. I thought it became more interesting after the battle, as did my husband, and I am very glad that it included the battle of San Jacinto. Other movies that end with the Alamo leave us to believe that the Texians lost the war.

“I also wish they could have included the other battles, such as the earlier battles of Concepcion, San Antonio and Gonzales, rather than spending time on sleeping and watching Bowie cough and spit. They made reference to Fannin, but never said that he and his troops were massacred, unless I missed that. They made only the tiniest reference to the scout Deaf Smith (properly pronuncing it Deef), who was a very important figure in the Battle of San Jacinto. The depiction of the Runaway Scrape was good. If I were directing, I would spend less time on sleeping and sitting around and include the other battles, and give it another name to reflect the entire Texas fight for independence. It did seem to be historically accurate, to the best of my knowledge.”
—Donna Gholson Cook

Meanwhile, here’s some of the better internet postings on Deadwood and the cussing debate:

"The appeal of Deadwood is its unsentimental depiction of the Old West. The tale of the white settler as bringer of civilization's light to the dark and savage land west of the Mississippi is one of our culture's most cherished myths, one we cling to a half-century after we should know better. Deadwood shoots that fairy tale right between the eyes. Its the anti-'Bonanza,' a Western for a nation too world-weary and sad to believe any of that Roy Rogers, John Wayne, manifest destiny crap.It's also the sort of revisionist history that feels spot-on in an era when many are doubting the nation's good-guy status."
—Leanne Potts, Albuquerque Journal, April 9, 2004

A writer named Stewart Edward White confirms our suspicions about Western potty mouths, when he commented in 1904: "to observe the riot of imagination turned loose with the bridle off, you must assist at a burst of anger on the part of one of these men. It is most unprintable, but you will get an entirely new idea of what profanity means. Also you will come to the conclusion that you, with your trifling damns, and the like, have been a very good boy indeed. The remotest, most obscure and unheard-of conceptions are dragged forth from earth, heaven, and hell, and linked together in a sequence so original, so gaudy and so utterly blasphemous that you gasp and are stricken with the most devoted admiration. It is Genius. Of course I can give you no idea here of what these truly magnificent oaths are like. It is a pity, for it could liberalize your education.”

And this just in from my neck of the woods:
“We are all aware of Calamity Jane's infamous aptitude when it came to profanity, but do we know what she was actually saying? I guess I ultimately find it amusing and slightly sad that it takes a woman covered in dirt swearing like a sailor in a Western to generate discussion, while feeding dead gunslingers to pigs and various other violent acts go unmentioned in most people's comments. If nothing else, this series is sure to raise issues of authenticity and a host of questions from students who will see the show. I can't help but wonder if this is a Western historian's worst nightmare, or an overdue and wonderful opportunity?”
—Bradley Gills, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Arizona State University

Please allow me to answer your question Bradley: IT IS A GOD-DAMN GODSEND!

And how’s this for a future plot twist on the show?:

“Do you know if in the second season of Deadwood whether or not Wyatt Earp and a brother [Morgan] will make an appearance? I'm sure you know that he arrived in ‘76 and spent the winter skidding in firewood as he had one of the few horses up in the hills (feed was a big problem ). Maybe you can plant the idea with some of your connections. Everything up here has Hickok's name on it but the funny thing is Wyatt was here more than three times as long.”
—Jim Hatzell

Yes, Wyatt Earp and Seth Bullock joining forces is a natural plot device. I haven’t heard anything as of yet, but I have a hunch they are going to be all over it (especially after reading it here). Ha.

We’ve got a new poll up. Do you think the Civil War caused Frank and Jesse James to become outlaws? You can click right here and vote.

“Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful or to discover something that is true.
—William Ralph Inge

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

April 13, 2004
Finally put the finishing touches on the Custer piece this morning and Abby uploaded it to the printer (the rest of the mag went out by UPS yesterday). Worked all day yesterday, pruning, adding, tweaking, designing. Woke up at 5:30 this morning thinking about two cutlines that needed fixing. I have a photo that shows Custer wearing basically the same outfit he was probably wearing at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (Yellowstone Expedition, April, 1873, with the dead elk). It was past deadline, and a tight fit, but I knew, the way it was written that I would get beaten up over the hat being wrong (he is shown wearing a black hat and we know he bought a white straw before the battle).

So I came in this morning and Meghan, RG and I hovered around Abby’s computer and kept tweaking the copy until we got all the info in, and it fit. Not easy to do, because when we would add an extra word, it would break and throw off all the rest of the body copy on the page. Here’s final cutline:

“With the exception of the dark hat, Custer, in 1873, wears the outfit he is thought to have worn at the Little Bighorn (he removed the buckskin jacket prior to the fight). He also holds a Remington Rolling Block rifle that he used in the fight.”

Whew! I love this stuff (even thought it's probably still wrong!)

Just heard from my son T-boy, who is on a “dangerous” (our word, not his) trip to Egypt and Morocco. Like most kids, he writes when he needs, well, here you read his message:

Hey dogs
I’m typing on a crazy computer right now so it would take too long to tell about my travels thus far. In brief Morocco is a gorgeous country that has everything from desert that looks like Arizona to rolling green hills with sheep that look like Ireland. Not to mention more adobe than you can handle. Entire towns. I’m very tired from an overnight trip into the sand dunes and then driving all day. When possible I’m going to need money to get back with this weekend. The ferry is 25 euros and the bus 60. I also owe Ben 75 euros for the rental car which i can pay in Valencia. I’m going to take out another 100 euros for spending money gas and lodging. Thanks. There are so many misconceptions about Arabs and them being dangerous is one. I’ll expand later.


“Humor results when society says you can't scratch certain things in public...but they itch in public.”
—Tom Walsh

Monday, April 12, 2004

April 12, 2004
As feared, The Alamo did not fare well over the weekend. Someone said it came in third. But here’s a shocker: Abby Pearson saw it this weekend and really liked it. She’s a youngster (26) and that was heartening to me. RG Robertson also saw it and said he enjoyed it.

Mark Boardman e-mailed me a piece on why it is not doing well. Here’s the link:

Quoting from the piece: “It assumed audiences knew the story. The studio may have overestimated the public's knowledge of the 1836 Texas battle, says Brandon Gray of "Instead of telling people that this was the story of Davy Crockett or James Bowie, the ads just said 'this is about the Alamo.' That's probably assuming people know more than they do."

•No big-name stars. Ron Howard and Russell Crowe were once attached to the film, but backed out. The studio cast second-tier stars instead. "Historical epics generally need at least one big star to anchor a film around," says Gray.

•The John Wayne factor Older moviegoers, who were the target audiences for The Alamo, still probably remember the famous John Wayne epic The Alamo from 1960. "Substituting Billy Bob Thornton for John Wayne is going to be a turn-off unless you've something else big to offer," Gray says. "This movie didn't."

On the Custer front, I finished five pieces of art this weekend and that felt good, although I missed going over to Grandma Betty’s for Easter to finish yesterday. I know Kathy was a little disappointed and I felt guilty, but I really want the piece to be strong and needed some good illustrations. I think I got ‘em.

Speaking of movies and stars, Johnny Boggs writes from Santa Fe that he is going to be in the Bill Kurtis documentary for the History Channel on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Here’s Johnny’s recap of his multi-roles: “My incredible acting talents—did I mention that A in acting in college?—led to a myriad of roles. Or maybe it was more due to budget constraints.

I portrayed with gusto:
1. Teller during bank robbery.
2. Cowboy crossing street with lady.
3. Cowboy walking down boardwalk with lady.
4. Townsman crossing street with friend.
5. Townsman walking down boardwalk with friends.
6. Saloon patron looking out batwing doors at riders.
7. Unfortunate Bolivian soldier killed by Butch Cassidy in final shootout.

“Of course, we'll see how much survives Paul Peckinpah's cuts.”

"In war, you win or lose, live or die—and the difference is just an eyelash."
—Douglas MacArthur

Sunday, April 11, 2004

April 11, 2004
Quite windy out this morning. Reminds me of growing up in Kingman, where the wind blows 24-7. Went to the creek early and got about 20 rocks. Dogs diggin’ it.

Kathy was attending a “Pain Seminar” in Tempe yesterday, so I spared her (the pain) and went and saw The Alamo by my lonesome at the Cine Capri in Scottsdale. Big screen, Dolby surround sound (Who the hell is that behind me with the flintlock shooting at the back of my head?). Saw the 2:40 showing ($7 ticket, $6.75 for a medium popcorn, no butter, and a bottle of water. No I would not like to supersize the popcorn for an extra 75 cents and free refills for the rest of my life.).

First the good news. The main characters: Jim Bowie, David Crockett and especially Travis (Patrick Wilson) are excellent. Good writing, wry, believable and engaging. Billy Bob as Crockett is a total joy to watch. He has channeled The Davy and I was thrilled to see him do his stuff. The battle scenes are also exemplary, with cool tracking shots and one stunning shot where we follow a Mexican cannon ball all the way from being loaded to the target, a la that bomb scene in Pearl Harbor, only better. Great sound of musket fire and ricochets, walls being blown apart. I’m hard pressed to imagine what Ron Howard could have done with an R-rating version, with the possible exception of showing limbs being blown off, a la Saving Private Ryan. No, the fight for the Alamo is totally satisfying and I would give that part of the movie a solid nine (on a scale of one to 10). I felt like a kid at a Saturday matinee —I was literally grinning in the dark.

Now for the bad news. It’s too bloody long. They got too ambitious and the extension beyond the Alamo to the battle of San Jacinto does not pay off at all. And, unfortunately, Dennis Quaid is the weakest link in the chain. Quaid was magnificent as Doc in Wyatt Earp and I am a big fan, but he totally miss-fires as Sam Houston. He conjures up some gruff growl that seems totally contrived and fake. Plus, he’s wearing a stupid Johnny Tremane (sp?) hat and the movie just goes flat after the fall of the Alamo.

They staged a recreation of a famous painting of Sam Houston accepting Santa Anna’s surrender under a tree, with Houston lying on a blanket with his foot wrapped. For my money, a cut to the battle of San Jacinto, with the surrender of Santa Anna could have been accomplished in about 45 seconds and then cut to the final scene, which I won’t spoil for you.

The buzz coming out of the theatre was not good. I think everyone felt kind of numb. Too much. And just because they cut it from five hours down to two-and-a-half, they didn’t do us any favors. I hate to say it, but they loved the Alamo to death. It’s a shame because there’s probably a very entertaining movie stuck inside. Comparing it to Gods And Generals (which some reviewers are doing) is not fair. It’s way beyond that, but unfortunately, to the average movie goer, especially the “mall rats,” this is going to be too much like a high school history class on a hot day, with the windows closed. And we all know how that turns out.

"Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it."
—Mark Twain

Saturday, April 10, 2004

April 10, 2004
Allen Barra has an excellent piece on David Crockett and Wild Bill Hickok on this weekend. Check it out. It is a subscription site, but you can click on a day pass, and they let you read the article. He is quite positive about The Alamo movie and the HBO series Deadwood. I wish more people were warming up to this movie (And so does Disney. A report I read says that their last three movies, Hidalgo, Ladykillers and Home On The Range have been “disappointing” and they are desperately banking on the success of The Alamo.). But the reviews I’ve seen so far are not good. I’m going to see it today (and I’m doing a radio show about it on KTAR afterwards, live from Rawhide).

USA Today’s headline yesterday was “Alamo: too true to be good.” They end the piece with this line: “It’s a tough call, but sometimes, there’s something to be said for myth.” This speaks directly to the refrain that most of my friends and I subscribe to, and that is: “Why doesn’t Hollywood just tell it like it really was?” And usually, we add the kicker, “It would be so much more interesting.” Well, if The Alamo tanks I’m afraid we are dead wrong. Consider this: Disney hired some of the best Alamo historians that money can buy and had two of them on the set virtually all the time. They painstakingly researched each character down to their marriages, drinking preferences and diseases. Not to mention the multi-million dollar set done to the exact specs of the original, although they did move the chapel forward for camera angle purposes, but still. And, if the movie doesn’t do well, what does that say? I’m afraid it says most people would rather see John Wayne or Fess Parker, or someone bigger than life that they can root for. The biggest complaint is that there’s nobody to root for. They are too true to the history. Gulp! I hope I’m wrong. We’ll soon see.

Working hard on the Custer artwork this weekend. Meghan, RG and Gus have been working very hard to help me get the copy and maps in and we finally got almost everything shoe-horned in late yesterday. I came home at six and rewatched the Michael Donahue Custer ride video, on the actual battlefield. They video-taped two riders going from Sharpshooter Ridge all the way down to Ford D. It was helpful to see the landmarks like Medicine Tail Coulee, Calhoun Ridge, Keogh Horseholder Draw, Weir Point, etc. Really rough land, harsh and spread out with that big, Montana sky. Inspiring though and I really want to go there and see it in person.

“Coaches have to watch for what they don't want to see and listen to what they don't want to hear.”
—John Madden

Friday, April 09, 2004

April 9, 2004
New York Times reporter Allen Barra called me Wednesday morning. He had seen the sneak of The Alamo the night before and he loved it. He kept trying to tell me scenes and I kept trying to shut him up because I want to see it first (I’m going tomorrow).

The film opens today and the newspaper reviews are pouring in and they’re not good. The Arizona Republic mauled it this morning, calling The Alamo ”uninspiring,” and “stiff.” They gave it two-and-a-half stars. The headline “Forget The Alamo,” seems to be catching on, as I heard Jerry J. say that the LA Times is running the same head for their review.

Perhaps it’s too historically accurate. I’m hearing and reading the same complaints that shadowed the film when it was tested last Christmas: “if you show all the faults of the Alamo defenders, who are you going to root for?” Bart Bull’s quote nails it, “Too bad accuracy isn’t art.” Amen.

More fallout on Deadwood’s raunchy lingo. I got this from a good friend of mine who is a huge Western fan and clothing expert (she specializes in making authentic women’s wardrobe):

“I subscribed the other day to HBO so I could watch Deadwood. Well I watched it for the first time yesterday evening. I was so appalled by the foul language that was being used that I couldn't watch it. After 15 minutes I turned the channel. I called HBO this morning and canceled my subscription. I told them in my opinion, the show was beyond [expletive] trash.”
—Jenny Smith

And here’s more feedback from friends and family:

“I want to like Deadwood, after all it is a Western, and it has a pretty good look, but I too am appalled by the language. The producers say they researched and found that folks talked that way back then. Well, who did this research. I bet it wasn't any of the known scholars we are familiar with...probably a studio research assistant. Regardless of what words were used in 1876--even by the rough-hewn crowd, I can't believe anyone taked that way in Victorian times. I have been in the army, I've been around some pretty rough crowds, and I never heard that much swearing (almost every three words is a profanity), but the Hollywood crowd knows so much more don't they?”
—A certain gun expert who shall remain nameless. He has a column in True West

“I tried to get into the Deadwood series, but have given up after two tries. I have no idea how accurate it is to history, but it is just too dark and violent for me. I know the old West was a tough place, but this is just too much for me.”
—Charlie Waters

The only person I know, besides Carole Glenn, who is totally taken with the dark and dirty series is my wife Kathy. She tells me she loves the “damaged” characters and potty-mouth talkers. At first this seemed rather odd, but then I remembered who she married.

“We have the power to do any damn fool thing we want to do, and we seem to do it about every ten minutes.”
—William Fulbright

Thursday, April 08, 2004

April 8, 2004
Got up at five, went into the office early and attacked Custer copy. Got in the copy about him being done in by beavers. That was easy, but then it took the whole day (finished at six pm) to knock out the big, cover story sidebar: Did Custer Commit Suicide? Here’s part of that copy:

Regarding his bullet wounds, Custer had been struck with a bullet near his left temple and he had another in his ribs, below the heart. Tellingly, the rib wound and thigh slash were bloodless, while the temple wound was bloody. This would indicate that the head shot happened first because his heart was still pumping blood, but that by the time someone shot him near the heart, he was already dead (so scratch all the paintings of Custer standing and holding his side). If Custer was dead and prone when he received his rib wound, it would only stand to reason that the person who shot him would have to stand over him and shoot down at him. If so, then this wound would most likely have had a powder burn.
John Wagner, a Vietnam Vet, retired police lieutenant and longtime Custer buff says emphatically, “The odds of being shot in the temple in a battle are astronomical. It has always seemed like a classic case of suicide to me.”
Most Custer historians are just as emphatic that it wouldn’t be in Custer’s nature to commit suicide. “My God, he was a fighter!” says Custer expert, and True West contributing editor, Dr. Paul Hutton. “He had been in worse situations and fought his way clear.”

Speaking of Hutton, here’s a photo of him taken at Festival of the West which I call “Two Girls for Every Custer Guy.” Photo is of Paul’s stunning wife Tracie (on left), Paul with that smug grin he’s famous for, and Andrew Prine’s stunning wife, Heather. I tell you, those history guys get the babes.

Went over art possibilities with RG, Meghan, Gus and Robert Ray. Very strong piece. Lots of help from Michael Donahue, Jim Hatzell, Thom Ross, Paul Hutton, Janice Rae, and even my e-mail friend from Finland, Kari Tielas.

We are also working on a new deal called the True West Maniacs Club. Would you join our club if you could get a lifetime subscription, a free t-shirt with the Maniac logo, a free book (Classic Gunfights), discounts at museums and TW merchants for up to 20% off, and an annual confab pow-wow with all the experts named above? And would you join the Maniac club if you could get all of that for $149? Click right here and tell us.

“Why do so many, fear so much, over so little?”
—Steve Sederwall, one of the dig up Billy principals

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

April 7, 2004
Going full blast. Haven’t had a moment to write. Big production meetings yesterday, trying to get a handle on ad problems. Our art director Dan Harshberger was out so he helped out quite a bit. Everyone respects him and he helped smooth the waters a bit. For that I bought him lunch at the Satisfied Frog ($22, chicken salad and iced tea, includes tip).

Wrote up the Custer narrative and got it off to Michael Donahue and Jim Hatzell. Many mistakes, historical blunders and bone-headed typos (It’s Major Reno, not Captain Reno!). Fortunately Michael and Jim have caught all the bad stuff. Now on to the sidebars and editorial.

Working on editorial. Here’s my current idea for a headline: Was Custer Done In By Beavers?

Believe it or not, it may be true. I’ll explain later.

Raining out right now (5:25 pm). First time I’ve had a moment to catch up in here. Big meeting this morning at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. A well-known Western museum is considering building a branch museum in the Scottsdale area and they invited about seven of us to a breakfast focus group run by an LA firm (I knew they were serious when the blueberry muffins were warm). Marshall Trimble was there. So was Troy Murray, a legendary art collector (he once owned 80 plus Frederick Remington paintings), and through the course of the meeting I discovered Troy is from Seligman! This is a big deal because Marshall is from Ashfork and I’m from Kingman. Of course, Don Imus is from Peach Springs and Ted Danson is from Flagstaff. What do we all have in common, besides being gay? We all grew up on Route 66. Hmmmmmm.

Had Deena and her boyfriend over last night for my homemade tacos (gives new meaning to the term Taco Bell). Deena related a story about working the front desk at her hotel job. Some guy came in at 11:30 at night, said he was meeting his sister at the hotel and asked if she was checked in already. Deena took the name, looked it up and said no, she hadn’t checked in yet. He asked if he could go to the room and wait for her (he was tired and had been travelling all day). Deena asked for a credit card, started to give him a key and then said, “I’m sorry, your credit card has been denied.” He looked so sad and weary. He pleaded with Deena that his sister was right behind him and he’d like to get some sleep. Deena gave him the key.

Deena met with the police the next day. The credit card was stolen, the guy and his associates, stole everything they could out of the room, broke all the mirrors and destroyed everything else they could lay their hands on. Big life lessons.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing that you will make one.”
—Ellen Hubbard

Monday, April 05, 2004

April 5, 2004
My son Thomas is studying in Spain and when school’s out he wants to travel to Morocco and to Egypt. Of course his parents are worried to death about him, but they mask this fear with attempts at lame humor and metaphors about college basketball. Here’s a recent e-mail from dad:

“Choices. That's what it is. I hear you say that you are choosing to live, and for that I commend you. Just don't come crying to dad if you get killed over there.

“And speaking of choices, Lute Olson had to pick between several all-American point guards last year and he chose to go with Chris Rogers, Shakur and Salim Stoudamire. One guy who saw the handwriting on the wall, was poor Will Bynum. He knew he would get piddly playing time, so he regretfully left the team, got a scholarship at a lowly school in the south and started over.

“Last night, with 1.5 seconds left in a final four game, Will Bynum scored on a layup to help Georgia Tech beat favored Oklahoma State to advance to the title game. It is the first time the school has ever been there.

“Chris Rogers, Shakur and Salim Stoudamire watched the game on tv. End of sermon.”

Meanwhile, yesterday’s posting on the Exits drew this clarification from bandmate Charlie Waters:

“The song could have been ‘Surf Beat’ because it certainly does have a sax part in it. In fact, for those days, it was a wailing sax part. Call me and I will hum it for you.”

Charlie is right. And as regards the drum riser, that elicited this response from musician Emma Bull:

“In my experience of drummers, which is not insignificant, they're the last members of the band who ought to be allowed to mess around on tall surfaces. Never mind potential damage to themselves; if they're five feet above the rest of the band, when they knock over the cymbal stand the guitar player gets decapitated by a Zildjian. Not pretty. It'd be a memorable show, though.”

Went to the dentist at three and got a partial planing of the upper right quadrant. Not pretty. Tons of novocaine (I’m typing with a puffy mouth).

Sent off a big proposal to Northfield today. We are all excited about the potential.

"Fly on the damn plane! Calculate the odds of being harmed by terrorists. It's still about as likely as being swept out to sea by a tidal wave."
—John McCain, in his book Why Courage Matters

Sunday, April 04, 2004

April 4, 2004
I couldn’t find the real Exits photo yesterday. Searched and searched. Of course I found a dozen other things I have lost (including my hand written notes from my visits to the Tombstone movie set and the Wyatt Earp movie set), but not the photos of Kingman’s most legendary, mediocre band.

(my graphic novel project that Kathy hates). Without further ado, here’s the real, the one and only Exits, circa New Year’s Eve, 1964. Photo was taken in the Girl’s Gym, Mohave County Union High School (nickname: Mucous). Left to right: Wendell Havatone, Terry Mitchell, Charlie Waters and Wayne Rutchman. The guy with the huge ego, I mean, ears (he paid Rick Ridenour $100 to build a drum riser in shop class just like Ringo had on Ed Sullivan. Rick went overboard and built it four feet high. It weighed about 300 pounds and took an extra truck to get it to the gigs). The matching Beatle jackets were bought in Vegas with band funds ($80 for four jackets) and had a three collar option (without collars, black velvet, or reversed with blue. Pretty groovy, eh?). Wayne’s mom sewed on the Old English “E”s on each jacket. We bought them in downtown Phoenix at a letterman jacket store on Monroe. The drummer’s suit is a full, three-piece George Harrison number which he got out of the front window at Central Commercial for $17 (they couldn’t sell it of course and it was on clearance). The drums are Ludwigs, with zebra toms, just like Ringos ($450). The song being played, if I remember correctly is “Walk, Don’t Run” by the Ventures. Or it might be “Surfbeat” by Dick Dale. Hard to say, because Wayne is pretending to play the saxophone and there is no sax in either tune. So maybe it was “Farmer John”. Two things you can count on—it was loud, and it was bitchin’. We were stoked.

“Turn down! Turn down! You’re too loud! We can’t talk!.”
—Miss Deines and Miss Harris (teachers and chaperones)

Saturday, April 03, 2004

April 3, 2004
By the way, I got burned by Minnesota Mike on April Fool’s Day. He came into my office with the newest Route 66 Magazine and told me there were some very good articles in there and that I needed to check it out. I was in the middle of a Custer cluster deadline and muttered something and added the mag to the general pile next to my computer, and went back to work. About a half hour later I started printing out some of the Custer copy, and as I was waiting for the printer, I picked up the magazine and took a gander. When I got to page 34 I did a double-take and jumped out of my chair. There, big as life, was a photo of a sixties rock band looming before me and on the bass drumhead were two words: “The Exits.” I flipped out! The Exits is the name of the band I was in! Is it possible there was another band with our name? What are the odds? I jumped up with the mag in my hands, but as I rounded my desk, in the light of the window, I finally saw that the drumskin in the photo had a little round addition pasted over the top of the real name (The Fireballs).

“Melrose!” I blared as I got to my door. “You son of a gym teacher!” He was already laughing. He got me good. Here is the photo of the Fireballs (with the addition) and a photo of the real Exits. Mike thinks the Fireball's drummer has a close resemblance to the Exits’ drummer, especially the big ears.

Kathy and I watched the fourth episode of Deadwood last night. When you see it a week from now, you’ll find out why they haven’t let out the name of Jack McCall. Very clever and shocking, if Kathy’s reaction is any indication (I didn’t tell her on purpose). They handled it quite well. Very accurate to what happened. The Number 10 Saloon’s layout is perfect. There is a scene where McCall tries to mount a horse, but the cinch is loose and he falls in the mud. This actually happened. The only problem is, the saddle, which they show in close-up is a “bad saddle.” It’s a modern, 1950s roll back. Peter S., who worked on the series told me he offered to provide them with authentic, period saddles, but some mid-level production person owed a favor to a kid and he got the gig. Too bad. For Old West authenticity fanatics like me (and I want to stress that there are at least forty of us in the United States alone!) it ruins the whole show.

Not really. But it did make me wince. Why would they go to so much trouble on everything else and then blow it on a saddle? It would be like showing JFK in the back of the limo playing a Gameboy in Dealy Plaza.

“Television is actually closer to reality than anything in books. The madness of TV is the madness of human life.”
—Camille Paglia

Friday, April 02, 2004

April 2, 2004
Rained all night last night. Went for a soggy walk this morning with Kathy and the dogs. I had on a big cowboy hat and Kath had an umbrella. The dogs got soaked but were still prancing and dancing like it was their birthday (Oh, to have the outlook of a dog).

Kathy and I watched the third installment of Deadwood last night (it will run this coming Sunday). Big poker scene with Jack McCall (he still isn’t I.D.d, although I think someone called him “Jack” last episode). Check it out and see if you agree if yesterday’s claim is on the money. Also, the description of the real McCall was that he was “cross-eyed” but the producers evidently decided to give him a sleepy eye, which makes sense. A cross-eyed character would be a tad hard to portray, and an actor would be hard pressed to cross his eyes take after take and even if he could it probably would be way too distracting for the viewers.

Powers Booth (Curly Bill in Tombstone) is a guest star and his character is starting a rival saloon across the street from the villain’s crib. Unfortunately, Booth doesn’t get much to do. Hopefully we’ll see him get his evil mojo going in the fourth episode.

The Neilsen numbers for Deadwood are quite convincing. With the Sopranos lead-in on Sunday night, Deadwood pulled in 5.3 mil the first week and 4.9 the second. That was evidently enough for HBO to greenlight 12 more shows. By the way, the Sopranos pulled in 9.4 mil.

The roaring success of Deadwood caused us to take a look at our Classic Gunfights calendar for this year and we seriously considered whether to put my Wild Bill Hickok book (which is about three-quarters done) in place of the top secret extension of Classic Gunfights, Volume II. We finally decided that if Deadwood is on next year we will still be in good shape, so we are staying on our original schedule.

On the Custer front, I’ve been getting almost hourly updates on questions and info from Michael Donahue and Jim Hatzell. Excellent stuff. In addition to the well-placed arrow (which by the way was stuck up the end. Ouch!) and a six-inch-gash in his left thigh (the Sioux believed if they slashed your thigh in death, you’d have trouble mounting a horse in heaven), and here’s the kicker, Custer was totally naked, except he still had on his socks. Argyles, perhaps?

This morning, Gus, Meghan and I are going to go over all the new information and get it shoe horned into the seven pages allotted for it (we added a page yesterday because of the stunning new material). Finally, we will see an accurate narrative of what Custer did in the last 45 minutes of his life.

“If only accuracy was art .”
—Bart Bull

Thursday, April 01, 2004

April 1, 2004
Watched the second installment of Deadwood last night. At the end, Kathy started clapping. I looked at my liberal wife with my mouth agape. Could it be possible she actually digs the show? A Western?! She does! Amazing. It is a rough ride, to say the least. Pigs eating cadavers, knives in the ribs, pinching, biting, and gouging whores, pecker wielding Johns (full frontal nudity), not to mention the salty language. Here’s what Dan Buck has to say about one of the words that’s getting wide play (8 mentions in first episode) :

“[rhymes with rock mucker] first appeared in a dictionary, per Lighter, in Farmer and Henley, SLANG AND ITS ANALOGUES PAST AND PRESENT, vol. II (1891). By the early 1900s, Dos Passos, Sandberg (in a private letter, not a poem), and Hemingway were using the word, which would indicate it had by then a wide currency.

“This raised a different question, one that scriptwriters and other literary entertainers face, assuming they spend much time thinking about such topics at all. Can the use of a word be historically accurate but sound out of place because the audience is not expecting it? Or, conversely, how about using an anachronism because the audience expects, is accustomed to hearing it, even though it's inaccurate?

“Did cowboys talk like more like Tony Soprano or Gabby Hayes? Do we want to go there?”

Excellent point and it speaks to the heart of the matter. Which West is it we want to watch? The sanitized Roy Rogers version, or the Unforgiven Satan-ized version?

Almost all of the plot points in Deadwood have a historical origin. The family slaughtered by Indians that turn out to be anglos framing Indians, and, when Seth Bullock and Sol open their hardwear tent, a guy starts to say he bought some soap and found money in it. Seth moves towards him menacingly and tells him to front his scam somewhere else. This is a real scam that the infamous Soapy Smith plied in Creede, Colorado and allegedly across the West all the way to Scagway, Alaska (where he was shot and killed).

I spotted Jack McCall in the first episode (even though he’s not named). And I believe the makers of Deadwood used True West to costume this nefarious character. Here’s why: Thadd Turner, who worked on the series, personally told me that the director, Walter Hill (Long Riders) had the Wild Bill True West Collector’s Edition on his desk in his office before shooting began. Exhibit number two is this: here’s page from that issue where I did three drawings of McCall (no photos of him exist). If you watch the show on Sunday, see if you think they have used my artistic guess of the man who killed Hickok. I rest my case.

“A good conspiracy is unprovable. If you can prove it, it means they screwed up.”
—Old Vaquero Saying