Friday, March 30, 2007

March 30, 2007 Bonus Maniac Offer
Samantha stuck her head in my door at 4:30 and said, "Could you plug a couple specials on your blog for us?"

Well, of course. And these are some pretty cool specials. Check this out:

The 5 Year Maniac Club is being offered at $99 through 3/31 and the first 50 people to sign up on this deal get a FREE copy of the True West Moments DVD (see box on previous post). It can be added to the end of an existing subscription or started as a new one. Sign up now!

The DVD that Jim Clark ("The Trainman") produced on The 125th Anniversary of The OK Corral is now available right here:

October 26, 1881. A day that lives in history, as four lawmen took on a group of cowboys in Tombstone, Arizona. Legends were made and blood was spilled in an empty lot behind the O.K. Corral.

Fast forward to October 2006. People from across the world came to Tombstone to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the shootout. Slick gun handling and expert rope tricks. Western movie stars of the past. Top authors in the Old West field. Tours of the Town Too Tough to Die. And gunfights galore.

Join the festivities, captured on the new dvd “The Official Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” Available now—from True West. Hey, it's only $20. That's a great deal. Get your copy now!
March 30, 2007 Bonus BBB Hat Style Blog
When I got up at 6:30 I walked out to the end of the driveway, got The Arizona Republic, came back to the studio, turned on the computer and had breakfast. When I got back out to the studio, the first thing I read was this email:

"First, I always enjoy the magazine. I have a question though. I have at times seen Mr. Bell around Cave Creek and am curious as to what style hat I always see him in, What is it? Thanks."

Mr. W.,
For many years (1977-2005) I wore what is generally known as a Tom Mix crease (see my photo, above). Some have also referred to this style as the "grab and pinch" and "the Gus" after Robert Duvall's crease in Lonesome Dove. After Dove took off, the style became so ubiquitous I decided I wanted to graduate to a more mature style lid that would usher me into old age with hopefully some style, but also with a smidgen of dignity, or, at the very least, something that would pass for maturity.

In the summer of 2005 I drove to Bisbee, Arizona and consulted with master hatmaker Grant Sergot of Optimo Hat fame. I told him I wanted something not quite as wide, and not quite as dramatic on the crease (Grant calls it "a long crease"). Grant developed two hats for me, one a business model with a six inch brim and one with a seven inch brim which I call my "performance" hat.

I guess we need to name this sucker. I called Grant this afternoon and he had the following suggestions:

• El Cabrone (The Old Goat)

• El Viejo Bozo (The Old Clown, Ha. Funny but where's the dignity, much less, the maturity?)

* The Bozeman (clever, but the town will be blamed, or get the credit, and if it was in Arizona, maybe)

• The Old Hand (that's kind of perverse, hmmmmm)

• The Triple B Crease (the most accurate, but a mouthful)

None of these seemed to grab me, so I told Grant, "Never fear, my blog readers are more creative than the two of us put together." So? Let's get creative.

March 30, 2007 Bonus Billy Blog
More news on Buckeye Blake's Billy In Death sculpture. Here's a message from his son, plus two pics:

"As you know dad is going 'Billy Stir Crazy' as of lately, it is has been pent up for 20 years now, and I dont think he can hold it together much longer, especially with the unveiling of the corpse coming up so soon.

" I walked in dads studio the other day and he had the corpse covered with an old navajo blanket, for two reasons I think, one to kind of respect the dead and the situation, and two... to hide it from mother as I am not sure he has even told her about it. It gives new meaning to hiding a body in the closet. Anyways, he is headed to get some good pictures of it tommorrow and to take it to the foundry, as I am sure you know."
—Teal Black (Buckeye’s son)

From Diva to Billy And Back Again
I asked our movie editor, Henry Beck, what the hell the movie Diva was about, since I didn't like it much. Here's his reply:

"Haven't seen it in a long time, Bob, but I suspect you had to be there in 1981, and be there with a crowd. It was the first or one of the first very very cool new wave movies from Europe and you had the soundtrack, the singer, the cool bad guys, the hot Asian chick and scooters or motorbikes, good chases, fast editing--but what came out of that stylistically was Luc Besson, who is a one man supershow and one of the producers of Three Burials [Tommy Lee Jones' classic West Texas film].

"If you want to see a movie that grew from the seed of Diva, try Leon The Professional with Natalie Portman (don't settle for the shorter version called The Professional)--if you can't find it and you're interested, you can borrow mine.

By the way, here's a trailer of a new film produced by the guy who made Diva. This will give you a kick

These Boots Were Made For Washing
"This was NOT the image I was hoping for when you said you were washing the car. Where’s the halter top? Where’s the thong? Where, oh where are the big boots?"
—Alan Huffines

March 30, 2007 Bonus Bllog
Went home for lunch and got in a red and black color scheme mood again. Proof positive:

Better Red Than Dead (Brown)

I've also been working on Insurgent Faces for Paul Cool's Salt War project and after reading a half dozen chapters, here's a cross section of the fighters at San Elizario:

I want to portray them as more than the typical serape-wearing peon that we seem to gravitate towards in our renderings of our Southern neighbors. They were businessmen, ranchers and farmers, like in any typical American or Mexican community.

And speaking of Mexican communities, Drew Gomber and Scott Turner showed up here the other day and we had a good talk about Scott's tour biz in Mexico. Scott is from Fort Davis, Texas and he has a historian who accompanies the tours to Mexican Revolution sites including Columbus, New Mexico and Casas Grandes and Parral where Pancho Villa was assasinated. They are going on a discovery trip in late summer and he invited me to list all of the Frederick Remington and John Reed sites I want to visit and he'll take me along. Boy Howdy! Am I excited about that! Now if I could only get the Top Secret Writer to get over his Alamo phobia. Hmmmmmm.

"The world does not need tourists who ride by in a bus clucking their tongues. The world as it is needs those who will love it enough to change it, with what they have, where they are."
—Robert Fulghum
March 30, 2007
Quiet in the office. Robert Ray and I are grinding it out on CGIII. Lots of little gaps to fill. He did a very nice job of fleshing out the Custer fight. We have so much great imagery to fall back on and Robert took full advantage of it.

A couple days ago Jim Clark ("The Trainman") dropped by the office and regaled me with his latest train adventures. He's got big plans in New Mexico. Imo Gene Hughes is the owner of the Bonanza Creek Ranch south of Santa Fe and she has jumped into the movie game in a big way. Recent films such as 3:10 to Yuma, Hogs, Commanche Moon and The Farmer Astronaut have all filmed on her ranch. She wants Jim to lay some permanent track and set up shop there with his trains. Jim is very excited about this.

One thing you can definitely say about Jim is that he knows how to have fun. He recently hired a Sean Connery lookalike to come down to Tombstone and cause some mischief. Dennis Keogh is the chap's name and just check out the cleavage, I mean attractive women who glommed onto him.

Jim picked up the tab for the entire weekend, and "The Best Bond Ever" was mobbed all over town. According to Jim, bikers even knocked on his motel room door at 3 in the morning, waking him up so they could pose for photos with him. Mr. Connery oblidged them all.

Dennis parks cars in Phoenix.

Onion Headline de Jour
U.S. Foreign Policy Hurting American Student's Chances Of Getting Laid Abroad

"It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, March 29, 2007

March 29, 2007
Surprisingly cool this morning. Perhaps it's one final cold spell before the brunt of summer squats on our collective faces. Almost started a fire in the studio stove this morning, but ran out of time.

Working hard on two Classic Gunfights at the same time. We're going to do a six-page El Paso Salt War gunfight for the August issue based on Paul Cool's forthcoming book, and that incident will round out the CGIII book, which goes to press in two weeks. I have a bunch of art to do to finish that, in addtion to the next gunfight, Black-faced Charley Bryant's shootout aboard a baggage car in Oklahoma. We are using Robert DeArment's excellent coverage of that fight.

Robert Chenal came in yesterday. The young marine, and close friend of my son T. Charles, is shipping out to Iraq in a couple weeks. He has had special training on IEDs (improvised explosive devices and the number one killer of our troops) and the latest ways to spot them. The insurgents use trash bags, kids and anything that suits them so it's not the easiest thing in the world to do, as the death count illustrates). He also told me he was up at the Hideaway (a local biker bar) and after his twentieth beer, Sonny Barger offered to pay for a U.S. Marine Corp tat. So now Robert has a big tattoo on the inside of his right arm of the Marine Corp symbol. Sonny is the legendary former president of the Oakland Hell's Angels, and also a marine I believe.

Onion Headline de Jour
Teens: Are They Laughing At You?

"Over the lips of evidence passes the truth of the dead."
—Steve Sederwall

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

March 28, 2007
As you may have noticed, the two arms of my family are in many ways polar opposites. My mother's family is all cowboys from Arizona and New Mexico and my father's family is all Norsky farmers from Iowa and Minnesota. Sometimes I have to shift gears when I go from one to the other. My grandmother on my father's side, Minnie Bell, was a Hauan, and one of her neices got married at the Linden Church outside Thompson, Iowa and I was tapped to be the ring bearer. During rehearsal we got half way down the aisle and I put down the pillow with the ring on it, ran up the aisle and yelled out, "I gotta go pee pee!" This made everyone nervous during the actual ceremony the next day, but they tell me I was quite civil the entire time. Actually, I should have been, since I was eighteen at the time.

Just kidding. I think I was three, so that would make it 1949, or so.

Anyway, that couple, Lowell and Gladys Heldstedt, came by to visit me recently and they parked their RV in the True West parking lot for the night and I came into work and we had a very nice visit. Here is a photo of them:

And I received a nice note from them this morning:

"Thanks for the obituary and all the information of your mother. We received it a couple days ago just after we got home from our winter travels. Sorry we couldn't stay for her Graveside service.

"We had quite a trip--Lowell's Aunt died in Minot, ND and we had hoped to go there, but we had problems with our motorhome--it kept chugging and we thought it would die out, so we stopped at a shop and they worked on it all day'; then we went on further and it kept on chugging all the way home. We got home March 27 and can have it repaired near here.

"And THANK YOU for the visit with you at your shop--it is a very nice parking place for a motorhome, too!!! It was fun to see you and the area around where you work. Have a good SPRING--and Happy Easter coming up soon!!!"

—Lowell & Gladys

Onion Headline de Jour
County Fair Judges Blown Away By Heifer

"What is virtue but the Trade Unionism of the married?"
—George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

March 27, 2007 Bonus Blog
While in LA on assignment for the NY Post, our movie writer, Henry Cabot Beck managed to get back together with Kurt Russell for the first time since he spoke to Russell about Tombstone last year (see October, 2006 bombshell issue). The ever-congenial Russell, who was doing publicity for the Quentin Tarantino half of the movie Grindhouse, where he plays a homicidal muscle-car maniac named Stunt Man Mike, told Henry that he liked the article and enjoyed even more knowing it was our best selling issue. With luck, there may eventually be some opportunity to follow up and have Russell elaborate in greater depth on the curious history of the Tombstone production.
March 27, 2007
By now you should have received the Billy the Kid issue (May). In my editorial I talk about fellow Kid Krazy Artist Buckeye Blake, who has created a sculpture of Billy in death, which he intends to put atop the grave (or cage?) at Fort Sumner on July 14. Here is a sneek peak at that work and I must say it's quite strong:

Had a planning meeting at 8:30 and went over schedules, covers, CGIII, events and editorial calendar. Lots of exciting stuff coming, I must say. Office is buzzing with activity. Everyone on task.

Onion Headline de Jour
Kool-Aid, Hi-C Make Backroom Deal To Destroy Tang

"Who does not in some sort live to others, does not live much to himself."
—Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

Monday, March 26, 2007

March 26, 2007
Lots of business today. Many decisions on a variety of issues. Had a good meeting with the sales staff on new departments and categories we are going to be instituting in the next several months. True West is finally in excellent position and is poised to break out of the pack this year. We finally have the team that I have always wanted, with the experience that we have always needed. I have always believed in our chances but now I have the confidence in our team to actually back it up.

Last night Kathy and I watched Diva, 1981, a French film directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix. I can't remember where I read that this is a must-see, but once again, I found myself saying over and over. "Oh, this is so French." And it was.

Onion Headline de Jour
Woman Begins To Regret Dating Someone Spontaneous

"What is now proved was once only imagined."
—William Blake
March 25, 2007
Nice day at home. Grabbed my camera and decided to give you a POV of my morning:

You See What I See
Went outside at about nine and found Kathy planting around the pump house. She had gone down to Home Depot and bought iceplants, I think they are called. Pretty sweet. Helped her dig some holes but she didn't like my digging style (one scoop then plop them in):

Went out back to feed the chickens. They all get to yackin' at once and crowd the gate like little wedding crashers:

Of course Peaches has to run around and bump the fence with her nose and try to scare them. Somtimes she does:

Went into the garage to start the '49 Ford. Check out the river boat steering wheel:

It started right up, pulled it out onto the Spanish Driveway and got the hose:

Washed the family car down, back to front:

Stepped back to take a look and admire my hose job:

Went into the studio to get started on art. Note the photo reference of the Apache medicine man (see yesterday's post):

Got stuck on a painting, so I went out to unload the Ranger. Had some paintings out at the Fountain Hills Museum, plus they gave me some photo blowups that Allen Fossenkemper had done for a show several years ago. May donate them to Richard Ignarski's Gunfighter Museum:

Left the True West dolly in the back and loaded the big photos into the garage:

Helped Kathy replant a rope catcus (I just made that up) that had fallen over from the heavy rains:

At about 10:30 we decided to take the dogs for a walk:

"Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today."
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Friday, March 23, 2007

March 23, 2007
More rain. Soggy and sprinkling out (2:27 p.m.) Working on finishing up Classic Gunfights, Volume III. Robert Ray and I designed several pages this afternoon. I'm going to work this weekend on finishing artwork. Goes to the printer in three weeks.

My cousin, Dr. Michael Richards of Des Moines, Iowa came by for lunch today. We went down to El Encanto and sat inside. In spite of the rain they were packed. We both had a beer and the daily special, a salmon salad (I bought, $24.92 plus $5 tip, Sue account). Mike lost his mother (my father's oldest sister) several months ago so we had much to talk about in that regard. He no longer practices medicine, but in addition to several endeavers he is currently in the casino business—in Iowa! No Indian tribes, just corn-fed local control. Hard to believe that Iowa is more like Nevada, that is, if you take out the lurid sex and excitement.

We've got a new poll up: Are you a cowboy mounted shooter?

Two of Paul Hutton's lovely daugthers, Laura and Lorena, came by the offices for a visit this afternoon. We sat in my office and talked about life, history and movies (Laura saw 300 and enjoyed it, while Lorena is not going to go see something so base and violent. So I was left with no other choice but to question her genetic lineage to the Distinguished Professor. Lab tests are pending).

A big clap of thunder just rolled over Saguaro Hill, behind my office (2:40 p.m.). Rather gray and dismal out.

Onion Headline de Jour
Citing Slow Summer Box Office, Hollywood Calls It Quits

"We want to make money but we don't want to be perceived as commercial."
—an academic, who consulted with friends of mine about publishing an arts magazine

Thursday, March 22, 2007

March 22, 2007
Rained during the night and Buddy Boze Hatkiller broke in the front door, waltzed into our bedroom and went to sleep at the end of the bed. I distinctly heard his snoring. Or, was I dreaming? I mentioned my dream to Kathy when we woke up this morning (Buddy was outside by the door sleeping and we could see him through the glass door). She went out and sure enough, the front door had been doggied.

For some reason I keep coming back to red and black. This color scheme really speaks to me. Here's today's sketches, done at the breakfast table (3,435 sketches, six a day without missing):

The big question is, can I sustain this color scheme for the Top Secret Project and how would I incorporate that with full color stuff, or would I?

Once upon a time, long ago, the Mohave County Union High School Bulldogs baseball team returned from a weekend double-header in the Valley of the Sun, and in the wee hours of the morning The Traveler (as our bus was affectionately called) pulled up behind the New Building (as it was un-affectionately called). The players, including myself, stumbled out into the cold to our cars. Lo and behold there was a note in a feminine hand attatched to the driver's side windshield wiper of my midnite blue 1957 Austin Healey. The message was flirtateous and I might add, quite arousing, even in a brisk wind and at three in the morning.

Fast forward to the next weekend and the JV cheerleader who wrote the note and I are making out in the trunk of a car. Yes, it was the old sneak into the drive-in trick, as an excuse to, well, make out. Little did I know at the time that I was copping a feel. Or should that be feeling a cop?

Groundless Accusations Or The Ring of Truth? You be The Judge!
"I finally had time to catch up with your blog and was sorry to hear about your Mom's passing. I also found her obituary posted on the Kingman Daily Miner website. I didn't realize she had been struggling with Alzheimer's and had been 'gone' from you for some time. As an only child you were always such a 'Momma's Boy' (please know that I mean that endearingly), and I 'm sure it was difficult to have to deal with by yourself. You're so fortunate to have the great family you have, and I love to read the funny things you write about them.

"I think your Mom may have, at some time, lived with Dr. Paup's family while she attended high school. I think that's what my Dad told me long ago. He was about 8 years old when his family moved to Kingman from Needles (previously lived in Southern CA), and he has many stories to tell about growing up in Kingman. Dr. Paup died when Dad was 17, so I never knew my Grandfather (although he did deliver his first grandchild, my cousin Melanie Morris). We did grow up having all the old folks in town stop us to ask if we were Dr. Paup's twin granddaughters, though.

"As the family genealogist, I have attempted to gather as much information as I can. I am often regretful that I didn't think to ask more questions of my mother before she died in 1999, and her mother (Sylvia Lillian McComas, born 1907 in Silver City NM....yes, related to Charlie McComas whose family was murdered by renegade Indians on the Lordsburg Trail) before she died in 2001, or at least to journal or record EVERY STORY they ever told me....!!!"
—Sergeant Corinne "Coe" Mitchell, Department of Public Safety

Onion Headline de Jour
Inhibitions Found In Seedy Motel Room

"There is that in the glance of a flower which may at times control the greatest of creation's braggart lords."
—John Muir

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

March, 21, 2007 Bonus Blog
Working hard to catch up. Robert Ray and I are attacking the first ten pages of CGIII. Many excellent photos from Bob McCubbin. Very sweet.

Fellow artist and friend Roberta Hancock is representing the Arts & Business Council of Greater Phoenix and has asked me to provide artwork for "Masterpiece Doodle" that will be framed and auctioned next week at a fundraiser called "Martinis and Masterpieces. The event will be held at the Gold Spot Gallery at 1001 North Third Avenue deep within the Beast at 5:30 March 28th (next Wednesday).

I warmed up on a page of doodles last night utilizing black and red felt tip pens. Here they are:

Came into the office early and whipped out a dozen doodles, some on paper provided by A&B, including one on a drink napkin. That was fun.

Carole Glenn treated me to lunch at Pei Wei and we caught up on families, friends and movies

Like most of you who have made out with a cop in the trunk of a car, I've found myself more often than not on the right side of the law. Until yesterday. A certain highway patrolman from Kingman, (and who is a twin) sent me a scathing indictment regarding my relationship with my mother. That email tomorrow.
March 21, 2007
A big, fat plug for my Franklin Daytimer. We received three or four family photo albums about three years ago on the Wobblies deportation in Bisbee. Many of the photos have never been published and although we scanned them, no one in production bothered to input the photo credits, or contact information on the scans. There was a date though and that was June, 2004 and that was enough.

At lunch I went home, pulled down my 2004 daytimer files and brought it back into the office. After an hour and a half search (I know, this is not the best usage of my time) I found the entry on November 21st for Jason Ferrier and his phone number. I called the number, hoping it was still good and it was. Jason is coming in Thursday to nail down the history of the photos.

Of course, as I was looking for Jason's name and number I found a ton of things to earmark, such as my notes on the first WETA convention I went to a Keystone, Colorado, on June 4, 2004. "look for the second right answer," and "Hispanics buy the boots," and, "hire the twinkle," and "We cannot become what we need to be by being what we are now." Good stuff.

On June 11th is this bromide: "Too much Monday morning quarterbacking is bad for morale." Hmmmm.

On July 15th: "Art is a unification of contrasts."

On July 24th: "I lay under a creosote bush watching the vultures sail over us on quiet wing." John Reed, Insurgent Mexico

On July 26th: "An idle soldier is always thinking of war." Ditto, quoting Pancho Villa.

On August 8th: "I thought you said a smart man knows when he's whipped?" "Who says I'm smart?" Lines from Westerns from a book I bought at the Autry.

On August 19: "Many a man thinks he's famous when he merely happened to meet an editor who was hard-up for material." —Old Vaquero Saying

On September 16: "We are in a niche business. Our customers have something in common. They all have a desire for a particular lifestyle. We help enable that lifestyle. We enable that lifestyle through an eclectic collection of products. When I go out and talk about Tractor Supply, I say that you can find everything in our store someplace else, but you can't go anywhere else and find everything in our store." Blake Bohl, of Tractor Supply, who could be describing True West.

Onion Headline de Jour
Unwatched Netflix DVD Stares At Area Man With Single Unblinking Eye

"There is somebody smarter than any of us, and that is all of us."
—Michael Nolan

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March 20, 2007 Bonus Blog
One of the benefits of being "Kid Crazy" is that everyone alerts you when anything Billy the Kid is in the air. Such was the case this morning when I got a call from my lovely wife at 9:30 saying, "Some guy is going to be talking about Billy the Kid on Diane Rehm at ten this morning."

Next came a phone call from Mad Coyote Joe alerting me to the same show. Then I got the following email:

"Just heard that Billy will be the subject on KJZZ at 10:00 a.m. today. You likely already know, but just in case."
—Larry Willis

So, having heard about the show three times (see marketing saw, or maxim, below), I went into production and Robert Ray turned on the Diane Rehm show and there was Michael Wallis talking about his new book on Billy the Kid. I must say Michael is very good. His ability to spin out the story in an enteraining way, yet keep the facts, is quite impressive. Michael's book is full of my artwork and even a photograph (I took a panorama of Cook's Canyon in 1993 when Paul Northrop took me out there and it is the opening spread of the book).

And our Billy the Kid issue is being shipped to subscribers this week. So it looks like the Boy Bandit is back in the saddle. Just wait until the Hutton exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum opens in May. It's going to be Billy's year all over again. Amazing.

And speaking of Paul Hutton, even Wallis poaches from the theme of the "Dreamscape Desperado," the title of the article Hutton wrote for New Mexico Magazine in 1990 (Wallis uses "Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride" as his version). In my editorial for the May issue I deem Hutton's paragraph (below) the most potent ever written about Billy:

"Billy the Kid just keeps riding across the dreamscape of our minds—silhouetted against a starlit Western sky, handsome, laughing, deadly. Shrewd as the coyote. Free as the hawk. The outlaw of our dreams—forever free, forever young, forever riding."
—Paul Hutton
March 20, 2007
Still chilly in the mornings, but the long-sleeved days are over for this year.

Mark Boardman reports on Tombstone:

Tombstone's newly elected mayor, Tom Wright, died on March 16 of a stroke. Most of the folks who post on the boards seem to feel that he was headed in the correct direction in preserving and honoring the town's history and heritage. Seems to be a real loss.

Just two days later, the long-time editor of the Epitaph, Dean Prichard, passed away at the age of 80. He'd stepped down from the job last year after a nasty fall.

And speaking of Tombstone, it was on this date in 1882 that Tucson turned on its gas lights for the first time, spelling out "gas company" illuminated in jets of gas over the utility's office. Residents were so proud and excited that they shot guns off all over town, thus hiding Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday's 21 gun salute to a prone Frank Stilwell, lying on the railroad tracks not 200 yards from the celebrating. Here's my painting of that gassy event:

Onion Headline de Jour
Bush Vows To Eliminate U.S. Dependence On Oil By 4920

Deadlines Out My Patootie
With the trip to New York (a month ago today) and my mother's funeral I'm behind the eightball on a variety of deadlines, including Classic Gunfights, Volume III and The Top Secret Project. Not to mention my regular deadlines on each issue and several other projects, which I won't go into now, but trust me, they are legion. Somehow I hope the healthy aspect of career stress wards off Alzheimer's, but that's probably just another example of me being twelve emotionally.

"The great thing about being older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been."
—Madeleine L'Engle

Monday, March 19, 2007

March 19, 2007
Bob Brink brought me in an obit from The New York Times this morning and said, "Isn't this one of the editors we had lunch with?" Yes, Jay Kennedy from King Features was one of the guys who we had lunch with and not only remembered Honkytonk Sue, but remembered I lived on MacKenzie Street. He interviewed me when he wrote "The Underground Comix Guide." in 1982. He drowned in a riptide while on vacation in Costa Rica last Thursday.

Jay is credited with reviving "Prince Valliant" and introducing "Mutts", and "Zits," written by my good friend Jerry Scott. Kennedy was also guest editor for the "European Humor" issue of the National Lampoon in 1985.

Robert Ray, Abby Pearson and I took a field trip to see 300 this afternoon. I wanted them to get excited about the graphics and they did. This state of the art CGI film is really making waves in the industry and we need to be up on those kinds of things. Robert hadn't been in a theatre in about eight years he said, so he was blown away by the sound and optical effects. Of course, this is my second viewing so I noticed a ton of things I missed the first time around. When I mentioned to Paul Hutton that there are some here who don't get it (the movie) he laughed and said, "The reason you and I get it is because when you and I die we will both still be twelve."

I have nothing to add to that succinct commentary.

Came back to the office and worked late getting some of our June issue together. Had a good talk with Trish Brink and Seth Hoyt about Fesitival of the West and some of the market trends we spotted. Trish and Samantha interviewed quite a few festival goers about their internet usage vs. the magazine and that was quite enlightening.

Onion Headline de Jour
Breathalyzer Big Hit At Cop Party

For the past several weeks I have not had a chance to work on the Top Secret Project, but it is there, not far from my thoughts. And, recalling my insecurities of late about the project is painful, but I made a vow to tell the truth about the entire project and that's how these things go. Need to get going again, and I will.

"Like an ox-cart driver in monsoon season or the skipper of a grounded ship, one must sometimes go forward by gong back."
—John Barth
March 18, 2007
Cleaned out the chicken house, started the '49 Ford and pulled it out onto the Spanish driveway and washed it off. Went on two bike rides with the dogs. Sketched and painted on a variety of unfinished studies. Great to be back at it. I've spent some pretty hectic weeks and although I'm still doing my six sketches a day, I haven't had a chance to sit down in my studio and paint. Here's a half dozen that turned out rather nicely:

Watched some NCAA basketball action. I'm rooting for Oregon and UCLA, both PAC-10 teams.

Onion Headline de Jour
Nobody In Ukraine Notices Absence Of Government

"I paint life as I would like it to be."
—Norman Rockwell
March 17, 2007
Attended the 17th Annual Festival of the West out at the new Rawhide. I was there to present Mary Brown the Best of the West award for Best Festival in the country.

A very hot day. Almost a hundred when Kathy and I parked in the far parking lot at Wild Horse Pass. Big crowds everywhere. We were in the big exhibition hall.

I went backstage at two and met Peter Brown (Lawman), Buck Taylor (Tombstone), James Drury (The Virginian) and Shirley Jones (Oklahoma, The Music Man, Elmer Gantry and The Partridge Family). Got on stage at about 2:30 and presented Mary the award, went back to our booth and met many Maniacs and readers, including Kevin Johns, former ranch manager at the Diamond Bar. When I told him I was Billy Hamilton's cousin he said, "No way!" and I said, "Way."

Drove from there to Scottsdale and had dinner with Deena and her roommate Gregg at My Big Fat Greek Restuarant in Scottsdale ($86.56, I bought, includes tip). Got home at about seven. Long day. Been on the run for several weeks. Plan on staying home tomorrow and getting back into the painting groove.

Onion Headline de Jour
Alcoholic-Beverage-Consumer Confidence Skyrockets

"A man never describes his own character so clearly as when he describes another."
—Jean paul Richter

Friday, March 16, 2007

March 16, 2007
Back in the office catching up on work. Robert Ray and I went over the hangouts on CGIII (Classic Gunfights, Volume III) and we are getting closer to the finish line. Only seven gunfights with holes in them, and now I need to fill 'em with good art. Speaking of art. I finished my sixth sketchbook on Wednesday and the first drawing in the new sketchbook is a impressionistic image of my mother's funeral. All blue sky, with Radar Hill in the background. This is a stubby mesa that I grew up playing all over, and you can see it clearly from my mother's grave, and ironically, from my father's grave also. They are both in the same cemetery, separated by one hundred yards and eternity.

Also catching up on emails. Here's one I wouldn't mind getting every single day:

“Can you please increase our shipment [of True West] this month by 100 magazines? It is Spring Break, and a lot of families love reading your magazine.”
—John Huguelet, the Westin Kierland Resort, Scottsdale, AZ

They are a great resort. Please ask for the Bob Boze Bell Suite when you check in.

Another constant concern we have is where our business comes from. The following exchange spells out a pretty strong TV to mouse trail:

"Mr. Bell, I've just read Classic Gunfights 1 and 2 and I just want to say, OUTSTANDING. The research must have been fun and exhausting. Your artwork is fantastic, it reminds me of of a contemporary Charles Marion Russell. I am an artist myself and I very much enjoy your work. Your writing gives a fresh outlook on the old classic gunfights that I have not seen before. You have a new fan."
—Mark Nufer , p.s. All my life I cannot get enough of the old west.

Thankyou. A message like this makes all those sleepless nights worthwhile. I mean it. How did you find the books?

"My wife and I met some friends that we had not seen for long time at Calico ghost town, just north of Barstow, the 'print shop' had copy's. Had to have them. I had seen them advertised in Cowboy Chronicle, or Guns of the Old West and had not gotten around to order them so when I saw them, HAD TO HAVE EM. I first saw you on the History Channel. Impressive, I think you could do a whole series for movies or t.v. based on your writing turned into screen plays. Just Tombstone and the boot heel of N.M. stories alone would go a long way. Well sorry, I am rambling. More More More."
—Mark Nufer

There is an old marketing saw that says you need to see something three times before you make room for it in your head. Or, more importantly, pull the trigger on a purchase. And what a trail he spells out! He saw me on the History Channel, then saw the ads in Cowboy Chronicle, then walked into a Calico book store and boom, "had to have 'em." As Napoleon Dynamite would say, "Flippin' Sweet!"

Here's another Happy Accident:

Howdy Boze!
"I've been lookin' around at the True West website and just got done readin' yer bio. Like you, I love the west. Even though I'm currently stuck in Ohio 'cause I ran out of money when I lived in Montana and had to move home. It's great here! We got yuppies and prefabricated houses and people who treat you like shit fer no reason other than yer in the same place they are. Needless to say, I can't wait to git the hell outta here again.

"Anyway, I'm sure you get a pile of email everyday so I'll keep this quick. I just wanted to say that I think you got a real good sense of humor and that's why I wanted to send you a link to some a my weird old west inspired cowboy songs with an outlaw twist and my kinda weird humor. I got real sick of lookin' fer other folks to play somethin' more creative than the recycled crap you hear all the time so I gave up on everyone and just learned how to play everything myself. People seem to like it so I'm hopin' you will too. I'd be honored if you'd give it a listen: and there's more at .

"Thanks fer takin' the time to read this!"


I did check it out and particularly enjoyed "Cowboy's Lament." Very funky and Americana (a music category I'd like to explore more). There are several other interesting groups listed, such as, The Billy Bastards. Now that is a cool name.

Onion Headline de Jour
Friend Whose Mom Just Died Allowed to Pick Pizza Topping

"The hilltop hour wouldnot be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse."
—Helen Keller
March 15, 2007
Kathy and I left the house at 7:45, met Deena at Albertson's near I-17 and Carefree Highway. She got in with us and we took off for Kingman. Got there at 11:30, went by Sutton Funeral Home and handed the director my yellow scarf to complete my mother's ensemble.

Kathy, Deena and I then went to Cracker Barrel on Stockton Hill Road for an iced tea, vegetable soup and a sando ($14 includes tip). Bought a Kingman Daily Miner (50 cents) to see if my mother's obit made it into the paper, but unfortunately, it was Wednesday's paper. I paid $37.50 to get the obit in the paper (includes fee for photo, although I sent a 72 dpi jpg, and knew it would be weak).

We got to Mountain View Cemetery at 12:30 and parked in the shade of an iron tree and walked down to meet all my mother's family. The Linns, the Hamiltons, the Weirs, the Guesses and the Stockbridges were all there, plus several friends of the family including Anne Glancy Collins and Linda Smith's mom, Elsie Smith. Charlie and Linda Waters drove down from Vegas and picked up Charlie's mother Martha Waters. One of my favorite Kingman classmates, Karen Johnson Collins, sent flowers, as did the staff at True West, Carole Glenn sent another batch and Trish Brink and Samantha Somers also sent floral arrangements.

It was quite warm in the sun and fortunately the Sutton staff provided umbrellas for us, which was nice. The other blessing is that it was not windy (a Kingman staple). Last week I asked for a representative from each of the five Guess girls to be a pall bearer and Bill Weir represented Sadie Pearl's family, Billy Hamilton represented his mother Mary Guess Hamilton, Deena Bell represented Bobbie, Robert Jerl Stockbridge represented his mother Patsy Guess, and Bud Linn, husband of Jean Guess and the last surviving Guess girl, rounded out the family reps. For the fifth pall bearer I chose Charlie Waters, longtime friend, bandmate and one of my mother's favorites of all my friends.

Pastor Stan Simonik struck me as a nice old man (I would have guessed he was in his mid-seventies) who was close to retirement and during the service he told of the history of Grace Lutheran Church and my mother's involvement in helping to found it. He also praised Jesus, reading several texts from the bible and as I looked at my mother's casket I knew she would approve of his message and the service. I could almost make out her head nodding, but since it was a closed casket, perhaps I was just seeing things

Afterwards I thanked him for his comments and he told me how he almost died from a brain annuerism earlier this year, but thanks to the prayers of his congregation, it is now gone. I felt a strong empathy for someone of his advancing age and asked him how old he is and he said, "I just turned sixty." As I shook his hand one last time, I realized he is younger than me.

Welcome to the fourth quarter, Mr. Bell. Or is a better sports metaphor, The Two Minute Warning?

From the cemetery we all drove up to Keven and Brenda Stockbridge's home for a snack and a chance to sit down and catch up on each other's lives. That was wonderful, and as we ate Subway hogies and iced tea (no one makes better iced tea than Guess descendants!) we caught up on each others lives and laughed and told the great family tales. My cousin Billy Hamilton is operating what some believe is the largest ranch in the country. With his annexation of the Diamond Bar (Tap Duncan's old spread) Billy controls more cattle country than the fabled King Ranch in Texas.

Jarom Lewis made us all custom dinner bells which was a sweet treat and I plan on putting mine up in the breezeway to irritate the dogs. Ha.

We took off for home at three. Bud and Jean Linn had a 12-hour-hike ahead of them back to Fort Sumner, New Mexico and were planning on making it to Flag for the night. I think I talked Bud into taking the southern route through Datil, Magdalena and Socorro, rather than fight the trucks and eighty-mile-an-hour-congestion on I-40. On their way over to the funeral they got caught in Albuquerque rush hour and it took them an hour to get through.

We got home at six. A long day, but quite memorable. Also, I learned that Duke got knocked out of the NCAAs in the first round so maybe there is a god.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March 14, 2007
Went up to Bashas and got groceries last night after work ($46.44 house account), came home and made tacos for Mark Boardman and I. We then watched The Shooting, which is an "offbeat" Western I have heard about for decades. It was directed by Monte Hellman, who also did Two Lane Blacktop, one of my favorite all-time films. Shooting stars Will Hutchins (Sugarfoot), Warren Oates, Jack Nicholson and Millie Perkins (who must have been sleeping with someone high up on this film, see producers below, because she is awful). The film isn't much better. Obtuse, erratic and ultimately boring, but of course Warren Oates is always interesting to watch. Nicholson is surprisingly droll (he's also listed as co-producer, along with Hellman). Not really worth seeing, but I can finally check this "must see" off my list.

Evidently, the Iranians are going nuclear about 300 and the history it purports to show. Of course the Persians are the villains in the hit movie and they are portrayed as "demons, without culture, feeling or humanity, who think nothing except attacking other nations and killing people." That is a quote in Ayende-No, an independent Iranian newspaper. I totally agree with them, but that's why the movie is so satisfying. Clear cut villains with no sympathy.

And since this is basically the same story as The Alamo, the people who made that film could have learned a thing or two from 300. As Paul Hutton puts it regarding the box-office disaster that was The Alamo, "Unless you portray Santa Anna as Osama Bin Ladin, it doesn't work." And unfortunately, the filmmakers chose a "balanced" look at Texas history, pointing out that Jim Bowie had slaves and that both sides were made up of noble people, who had justification for their beliefs. And while we're at it, why can't we all get along? Great sentiment and one I support, but it doesn't make for a very good movie. And to be fair to the producers of The Alamo, there is no way they could have made that movie. It's too politically incorrect. That and the fact that the Mexicans I know would have burned down every movie house in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Speaking of Mexicans I know, I got a call from Jeanne Sedello (real name Sedillo) yesterday, asking me if I saw the report that comedian Richard Jeni had commited suicide. She reminded me that he appeared on our radio show several times and had made a pass at our beautiful producer Katherine. Of course I remembered him and thought of him as a true Zane Master. Very funny guy. But like most funny guys, the humor evidently masked a sad clown.

"I think that's how Chicago got started. A bunch of people in New York said, 'Gee, I'm enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn't cold enough, let's go west.'"
- Richard Jeni

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March 13, 2007 Bonus Blog
In meetings all day. Trying to catch up with my regular duties now (5:32 p.m.)

We had a gunfight up the street last Saturday. The Arizona Republic is reporting that Ramiro Rodriguez pointed a rifle "at a group of neighbors" behind the Roadhouse Bar on Cave Creek Road. This is about a half mile east of us on the same side of the street. A neighbor armed with a .357 Magnum brought him down. Rodriguez was taken to John C. Lincoln-North Mountain (within the shadow of the Deer Valley 30 where we were watching 300), and he was arrested and booked into jail after his release from the hospital.

Mother Pioneering Memories
"Thank you for e-mailing Bobbie's biography! I am Pastor Stan Simonik from Grace Lutheran in Kingman and I have the honor of officiating at Bobbie Bell Cady's Committal Service this Thursday. Bobbie was a valued charter member of Grace, very instrumental in getting the congregation started over 40 years ago. Together with Vern and Jeanette Torgerson she got things going with the help of Bishop Falde in 1963. The congregation was formerly organized in March of 1964 and the church building was dedicated in July of that year. Our church family deeply appreciates the vision, courage and determination of Bobbie and her friends. What a rich legacy of faith they leave for us!

"At the graveside service I would like to share highlights of Bobbie's biography, three Scripture readings: Romans 8: 35-39, John 3: 16, John 11: 25-26. Two prayers and the Lord's Prayer will also be included, and the Benediction.

"I am looking forward to meeting you."

Pastor Stan Simonik
Grace Lutheran Church
Kingman, AZ
March 13, 2007
Terry Garrett is in town and for the past two days has walked us through a primer on state of the art internet business. Yesterday, the entire staff, including Dan Harshbeger who drove out, went through the drill, sharing with Terry what the web has done to our lives and our business and ultimately what we can do to change with the changes. Very thoughtful and inspiring stuff.

Last night, I took Terry and Mark out to dinner at El Encanto ($109 biz account). We were joined by Lauri and Joel Klasky and my Kathy. Forty-five minute wait to get a table (we are "in season"). Drank beer and margaritas and solved live. Terry, Joel and I worked together at New Times back in the early eighties, so we traded war stories. Mark later told me it's all the same stories, just different towns.

This morning, Trish and Bob Brink and I met with Terry work on a plan of attack. Strong insights and good feedback from everyone. We went to lunch at noon up at Bob's golf club.

Art Solutions came by while I was gone and picked up 28 Billy the Kid paintings for the big show in Albuquerque. On the condition report they put: "dusty & dirty, unframed/finger prints."

Onion Headline de Jour
Someday, Son, All This Cheap Crap Will Be Yours

"You can paint the same picture twice, as long as you don't do it exactly the same way."

Monday, March 12, 2007

March 12, 2007
We showed up at Deer Valley 30 at 1:10 yesterday for the 1:30 IMAX showing of 300, but every show was sold out until 10:30 Sunday night, so we took the 2 PM regular screen showing.

Mark Boardman and I then walked over to Claim Jumper for a bite (Caesar salad and iced tea, $13 plus $3 tip), then walked back over and found a full house in the regular theatre for the 2 PM showing.

I was not disappointed. The CGI is spectacular, and the sweep is epic. As one of the critics has said, it's "uberstylization" and the end result is a hyper-realism that is breathtaking. When the Persian advance team rides across the Greek tundra, they are a thundering mass of sweeping horseflesh, unlike anything I have ever seen (in fact the movie horses are much more dramatic than Miller's drawn version, however, it's obvious they were emulating his exact sequence). Since I read Miller's graphic novel of 300 last weekend I recognized all of the plot points and most of the dialogue and the set pieces. Virtually all of them are religiously lifted directly from the GN. However, the movie makers have added an entire sidebar on Leonides' wife Gorgo (the beautiful and sexy Lena Headey) that lifts generously from Homer, or, as another critic put it, "an outtake from the HBO series Rome."

And speaking of sex, the movie has a much more explicit angle on nubile femmes than the GN, and here again it's much more, ahem, entertaining. There is an irony though. I mentioned earlier that the story and the movie are not new and that those old Steve Reeves movies had the formula down with the three Bs: Big biceps, big battles and big breasts. While the movie has the first two (some would say with a heavy dose of steroids), there are not big breasts. In fact, the ones that are flashed in slow mo, no less, are quite petite, but that probably says more about breast augmentation than anything else. And by the way, isn't that an odd twist on our culture, that big breasts would end up connotating "fake"? hmmmmm.

One of the critic's comments rings true: "To cast the Spartans, the producers must have emptied all the health clubs in Hollywood." (Bill Muller, Arizona Republic)

The historic battle ready Spartans evidently resembled beetles more than the cape and shield version worn here, but it is about style, not historic accuracy and on that account, the movie looks to be a blockbuster. It grossed $70 million this weekend and the buzz is off the charts.

I think this heralds a new genre of films and perhaps Sin City (Miller's first GN to movie metamorphosis) will be The Great Train Robbery of our era.

"More than any other historical epoch, our sense of reality is severely challenged. It is the internet, Photoshop, digital effects in cinema, video games—tools that have arrived with instant impact. It is like warfare. For centuries, warfare was the same: the medieval knight with a sword in combat. Suddenly he was confronted with firearms and overnight was never the same. It is now a moment of the same magnitude for us."
—Werner Herzog, in Esquire

Sunday, March 11, 2007

March 11, 2007
Kathy and I got our eyes examined yesterday. The eye doctor told me my peepers haven't gotten any worse, which is great news for a guy my age. When I asked him what I might do to keep them that way he said without hesitation, "Drink at least one glass of red wine every night." I took him down the hall to where Kathy had her head in one of those chin-strap eye-test-day-for-night goggle deals and I said, "Honey, the doctor has something to tell you and I want you to listen very carefully."

From there we went to Costco and bought a whole bunch of mega-packaged groceries, then drove out to Betty Radina's house for lunch. And from there we landed at Deer Valley 30 to see The Ultimate Gift. Tickets were expensive ($9.50 each and a medium popcorn is now $5, up from $3.50). Our AMC movie cards gave us diddly ( 50 cents off an over-priced combo) so I think I paid back plenty for the freebee we took on The Departed a couple weeks ago. In fact, these prices are teetering on Not Worth It.

The Ultimate Gift, although highly recommended, was quite sappy with cliches piled on top of cliches (the girl from Little Miss Sunshine is dying of Lukemia and says precious, mature things to a young man who has lost his way.) Still, I found myself reacting to the movie and I actually enjoyed it, in spite of its predictable ending. And I must say, for a movie that was trying to teach the true value of things in life, they sure piled on money as a reward ("I know we gave you $100 million before, but since you gave it away, we're going to give you $2 billion.")

After the movie we drove over to El Conquistador for dinner. Great food. ($35 includes tip).

Came in this morning to work on my mother's funeral program. Both Bea and Robert Ray came out. Robert to work on Classic Gunfights, Volume III and Bea is helping me design the program. I had her add a subtle yellow background, because me mother loved yellow. In fact, every house she had, she painted it yellow, or had yellow trim. So that was nice. Finished at noon.

Mark Boardman and i are shooting back down to the theatre to catch Frank Miller's 300. Starts in an hour. Then out to Winter Range and back to Cave Creek for dinner with Chiz, the head dog at SASS.

Tom Chenal came by and told me his son, Robert, is shipping out to Iraq in April. He's a marine, one of Tommy's best friends. Scary.

Onion Headline de Jour
Philandering String Theorist Can Explain Everything

"Facts do not interest me much. Facts are for accountants. Truth creates illumination."
—Werner Herzog

Friday, March 09, 2007

March 9, 2007
Finishing the copy for my mother's funeral program. Goes to the printer this afternoon. My cousin's daughter, Brenda Stockbridge, called to say we could meet at her house after the funeral and that is a load off my mind. Almost all of my relatives have moved away from Kingman and we were facing having to go to Pizza Hut, not that's there anything wrong with that.

Yesterday I got a call from Scott Turner in Fort Davis, Texas and he does historic tours throughout the Southwest and he wanted to know if I'd come down and speak to a tour or two in Tombstone. When I asked him what other tours he does he told me he does extensive tours in Chihuahua and Copper Canyon with tour guides who know the Mexican Revolution. They go to battle sites with the experts. Man, do I want to go on that! Very cool. Personally, I believe the Mexican Revolution is the next big thing. With so much attention on the border and the people who live on it, well, it all just makes sense.

Phil Spangenberger just called and he wants to plug auction items for this year's Gold Boot Awards in Beverly Hills. He and Al Frisch are rounding up some amazing firearms and I promised him we'd promote it in the next issue of True West. Phil also sent us a photo of him with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman (from last year's Boot awards). Phil made Clint's gun rig in Pale Rider and most of the rigs in Unforgiven.

Speaking of Al Frisch, Dave Daiss finally managed to coordinate getting the tapes we shot at Cimarron, New Mexico several years ago and they are really sweet! In fact, Al plays one of the lawmen involved in the shootout with Wild Bunch members Sam Ketchum, Will Carver and others. Al had a great look as a 1900 lawman, and is a natural actor. Quite impressive. My goal is to edit this tape into a new show, which we are going to produce later this year as an offshoot of Classic Gunfights. By this fall we will have three volumes out, featuring some 75 gunfights, with the best maps, photos and narrative, bar none. Now if that's not a TV show I don't know what is.

Were there dinasaurs in Tombstone (besides Ben Traywick?). That is the question we will answer in the next issue of True West.

Bill Muller gave 300 a mixed review in this morning's Arizona Republic (the headline is "Greek Travesty" but he gives it three-and-a-half stars. Hmmmm). His best line is about a "grotesque hunchback" who wants to join the Spartans, but is rejected because, as Muller puts it, "the Greeks don't want no freaks." Now that is clever.

Onion Headline de Jour
Report: 92 Percent Of Souls In Hell There On Drug Charges

"A commited giver is an incurably happy person, a secure person, a satisfied person, and a prosperous person."
—Eric Butterworth

Thursday, March 08, 2007

March 8, 2007
Over the weekend, Kathy downloaded a very cool song from iTunes for me. About a month ago we went to see the Western Seraphim Falls at Deer Valley 30 (thirty theatres in one big mall). After we got out of Falls, which I didn't like very much, the theatre across from ours was playing The Departed, so we snuck in to check out the Oscar buzz on the Scorcese film. Wow! About two-thirds through the film I leaned over to Kathy and said, "Now this is a movie!" A line of black limos was driving across a Boston bridge and on the soundtrack there was this punk rock Irish song playing. At that moment I would have given the movie a ten. Unfortunately, it kept going and the plot holes mounted up, and the triple whammy ending was just, well, too much. I ultimately gave the move an eight, but the culmination with that bridge scene was so cool, and if only someone had grabbed Martin by the shoulders and said, "Wrap it up now Dude and we'll have a killer movie!"

Well anyway, Kathy said to me, "Are you interested in the soundtrack to The Departed, and I said, only if it's that Irish punk song. She hit play and there it was. The tune is "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," and it's by the Drop Kick Murphys, and it's on heavy rotation on my iPod. Thanks Kath and Steve Jobs. And I admit I owe Deer Valley 30 the price of another ticket.

Speaking of Lutheran guilt, I talked to Grace Lutheran Church in Kingman this morning about my mother's funeral service, and the pastor, Bill Phillips, told me that he has been interviewing the congregation and he has found out my mother was instrumental in founding the church back in the early 1960s. Several of their "oldtimers" remember her and her efforts. My mother would have enjoyed that comment.

As Promised, Apache Saddlebags
Here's two photos of those Apache saddlebags from Cowboy Legacy Gallery. Ain't they cool?

More Passings
I got word yesterday that our good friend and Old West piano man Duane Bond died of a heart attack on his way to Old Tucson to play, I think it happened two days ago. He was due up here in Phoenix this weekend for Winter Range. He was a big bear of man, who loved the West. Several years ago he played piano next to our booth at Festival of the West and he was a hoot.

Peter Hanson of Golden Valley, Arizona forwarded me an obit on Robert Edward Ray, who was the last grandson of legendary Mohave County rancher Tap Duncan (who my grandfather Bob Guess worked for, see below). Robert died on February 12th.

Jesse James Grandson Passes
Mark Boardman forwarded me this bio info:

"Judge James Ross was 80 years old when he died Monday, March 5. His mother was the second oldest of four daughters born to Jesse James Jr. When Ross was little, his father--an alcoholic--abandoned the family, so they moved in with his grandfather. In fact, he came to call Jesse Jr. "Daddy" and his grandmother "Mom" (he called his real mother Joie). Jesse Jr. passed on all of his knowledge of the outlaw Jesse to Ross, who became quite the expert on Jesse Sr. (of course we have to remember that Jesse Jr. was only about 6 when his father was shot by Robert Ford).

"Judge Ross' real mother must have been quite a looker. She was romantically involved with actor William S. Hart for several years in the '30s and early '40s. There was some talk of marriage, but neither Hart nor Joie really wanted to go there. She apparently was pretty close with Henry Ford, too, although Judge Ross said that was not a romance.

"Ross served on the superior court bench in Orange Co., California for a number of years (he was a lawyer, following in the footsteps of Jesse Jr.). He wrote the book I, Jesse James. And he was the guy behind the 1995 exhumation and dna testing of his great grandfather.

"There are at least a couple of other Jesse James great grandchildren still alive."
—Mark Boardman

Onion Headline de Jour
Bar Bet Becomes Increasingly Complex

The movie 300 opens tomorrow and it got a rave review in the latest issue of Time, although it did clariify that the CGI film "isn't really a movie about a battle at all. It's a movie about a graphic novel about a movie about a battle."

I may try to see it this Saturday.

"Hollywood is a town, not a medium. And cinema is a medium you can practice anywhere."
—Frank Miller, in Esquire, when asked, "Your embrace of filmmaking is suprising, given your experience in Hollywood."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

March 7, 2007
Robert Ray just came in with the layout for my mother's service. It's not going to be a program since there really isn't going to be a service. I guess you'd call it a momento. I intend to run this great triptic photo (below) of my mother, which was taken in the mid-forties I believe.

When my mother and Lou came for her last visit last fall, I had her hold the above photos and took several pics of her by herself, but she had her eyes closed in each and every one (and I know she would hate it if I published one of those). Here she is, in the same setting, but with her neice, and my cousin, Tap Lou Weir. That's Bill Weir on the right.

Here's a nice shot of Bobbie with our daughter Deena, and Lou. This was taken outside the Good Egg in Scottsdale. One of the reasons the funeral is being pushed back from next Monday to Thursday is so Deena can make it back from a business trip and be at her grandmother's funeral.

Lots of business meetings all day. Mark Boardman and I went up to Cowboy Legacy Gallery and I took a photo of the Apache saddle bags from the 1880s. I'll run that photo tomorrow.

Onion Headline de Jour
Halliburton Given Contract To Rebuild Cheny

"Making commitments generates hope. Keeping commitments generates trust."
—Blaine Lee

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

March 6, 2007
Had a staff meeting this morning at 8:30 followed by a planning session. Lots of business to go over. Special projects, a third Classic Gunfights book, scheduling the graphic novel, postcards and postcard art, photo features and covers for June, July and August. And we need a presence this weekend at Winter Range and next weekend is Festival of the West out at the new Rawhide.

I drove up to Cowboy Legacy Galleries at two and met with Brian Lebel and Bill Welch about teaming up on some great editorial. They have great stuff. For example, they showed me authentic Apache saddlebags from the 1880s. Wow! Guess who's horse they're going to end up on? If you said The Apache Kid you would be right. We're doing a feature on all of the artifacts and photos behind the making of the Top Secret Project and this is perfect. Got really excited. I love this kind of stuff.

After lunch Robert Ray and I bailed into finishing Classic Gunfights, Volume III, which is about eight pages from being finished, or rather full (editorial and art on every page). Robert always reminds me that being "finished" involves much scaling of images and print-ready prepping and it takes another four weeks after I think it's finished before it's really finished. This one has them all from Ben Thompson, Jeff Milton, the Daltons, Luke Short, Billy the Kid, Bill Doolin, Zip Wyatt, the Youngers Tiburcio Vasquez, John Wesley Hardin, Custer, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Davy Crockett. Whew! Going to be a good one. Goes to press in April and will be out to Maniacs in June, and will premiere at the Classic Gunfights Special Event at this year's End of Trail at the annual SASS event east of Albuquerque.

Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Museum called this morning to arrange shipping 29 of my Billy the Kid paintings to their museum for the big Hutton curated show opening in May. A local shipping firm is coming out next Tuesday to pick them up.

Mark Boardman called from Dallas. He's flying in for a week of work. We are having a big website confab next Monday.

As Robert and I were slaving over the layouts and the schematic for CGIII, I got a call on my cell from the Sutton Funeral Home in Kingman. I took the call, turned my head to the side and talked low. James Sutton confirmed to me that Thursday (March 15th) at one PM is good to go for my mother's funeral. I asked about getting the yellow scarf there in time, and other details and then James asked me if I wanted a printed program. My side of the conversation sounded like this:

BBB: "So you'll do a one sheet, four-pager, black and white?

BBB: "And it's a stock image with a standard saying?"

BBB: "No, that's fine. Thanks, but I'll pass on that."

I hung up and Robert says, "So we're doing the program?" We laughed. Does he ever know me! I want my mother's photo on it and I want it to look nice and frankly, this is what we do. I don't want some Kingman ding-bat, mimeographed piece of doo doo. This is for my Mom and she's going out in style!

I thank the Universe for good friends (Robert Ray is one of them) and for calmer heads who keep me grounded, like this:

More Graphic Advice
Okay, telling you that you knew how to write and draw comics when you did the Honkytonk Sue books probably doesn't help, but maybe this will: 
1. The point of a comic book panel is not to be admired. It's to move the reader on to the next panel. Don't try to do your best work on the storytelling pages. Reserve that for the cover and don't agonize over the storytelling pages. Let those pages feel a little unfinished. 
2. Your subject is compelling. That's at least half the battle in making readers happy. 
3. You can't please everyone, so please yourself. And then the readers who like you, meaning everyone who's ever read two issues of True West and/or Honkytonk Sue, will be happy. And they'll tell their friends, and they'll tell their friends.... 
4. While you're dealing with your mother's affairs may not be the right time to work on the Secret Project, or it might be the perfect distraction. Give it a good try, and if it doesn't feel right, focus on other things for a few weeks and try again. 
5. Do a version of the whole book without agonizing over any of it. Then decide if some panels or pages or the whole thing needs to be redone. You can't know what you're making until a first draft is done. 
6. Ignore all advice that feels wrong, especially from me. 
—Will Shetterly 

Onion Headline de Jour
Bush's Approval Rating Of Other Americans Also At All-Time Low

"Seven National crimes: I don't think. I don't know. I don't care. I'm too busy. I leave well enough alone. I have no time to read and find out. I am not interested."
—William Boetcker

Monday, March 05, 2007

March 5, 2007
Sometimes your friends need to sit you down and set you straight (verbally slap you silly):

The Mapinator Maps Out The True Route
"Remember, the Secret Project is a BBB venture. Don’t get bogged down by what someone else has done with graphic novels. Do it the way you want to do it! Believe me, you could have produced an OK Corral shoot-out graphically, and almost did, better than any other artist around, with what you produced for CGIII! As in music, an original Beethoven, Beatles, Cash, Beach Boys or whatever is what folks want, not a cover. Same in art. You can admire Remington, Russell, Rockwell or whomever, but we already have them. what is needed is more original BBB! . . . in what you love and do best . . . interpreting graphically the Old West."
—Gus Walker

Yikes. Thanks.

"The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time."
—Abraham Lincoln
March 5, 2007 Bonus Blog
Some "failures" end up to be sucessful, it never fails. Case in point: several weeks ago we all went over to Wickenburg for the Gold Rush Days parade. Afterwards I was to do a speech on the Main Stage which turned out to be a portable stage with wheels, that listed towards the pavement in an alley, with a three-tiered, set of short bleachers along the wall on the opposite side of the alley. Cars were driving by, and cars were parked along the far curb, in between me and the ten people who were there to listen. Two left. So I lost almost a quarter of my audience before I stopped talking. This is known in the biz as balls-out failure.

Fast forward to this morning and Carl J. Anders, a retired Master Sergeant for the Illinois State Police, called Sam and said he heard me talk in Wickenburg and in my speech I encouraged anyone who came through Cave Creek to stop in for the "official" tour and was that offer still good? Sam assured him it was and three couples showed up at 11. I gave them the first-class tour and they bought a subscription and $275 dollars worth of books (each couple bought a set of Classic Gunfights and two bought Tales of The True West).

You just never know who you are going to touch. Here's another case in point:

“We knew ye back when. Followed your sordid career at New Times. Then wandered into Suzanne Brown's art gallery for your 2nd show, quite by accident as we were just cruising the street.

“I was quite taken by the painting of the Earps and Doc leaning into the wind, but was torn between it and the close-up of the same scene. You took down the one and brought it over to hold it up for direct comparison. We decided upon the former and you took it up to the checkout counter, while we continued surveying the other works. Back in the rear of the gallery were some leftovers from the Billy book. We picked up the one of the posse heading out to Tunstall's ranch. Upon reaching the checkout counter, I looked up and there was the map of Tombstone. We mentioned that we had just bought some property in Ash Canyon, right about there (pointing at the map). That lead to taking that one home, too.

“You then signed a couple of books for us, ‘the hippest folks in Mesa’.

“Well, we're not in Mesa anymore. In 1997 we moved to Harrison, Arkansas, yeah the scene of Henry Starr's demise. Can't get away from the history.

“Then, fast forward to last Wed. evening. I was in a hotel room, surfing the tv, and who should be on the tube, but ol' Triple B. Hey, I know that guy. And lo and behold, you're listed as HMFIC of True West magazine. Well, well, well. You finally got a real job.

“Then, when I went to the magazine website, and read your blog about your mom, it just didn't seem like a good time to give you a ration of shit. But let me say this, Walleye Patti was right. We haven't seen a True West magazine since leaving AZ. Then again, Miss Lillie's baby boy has touched more people than he knows. Every time we go upstairs and enjoy your works (all the paintings are up there on the walls in the loft) we are reminded of a fun time.”
—Jim & Debby

The TV show I think Jim and Debby are referring to, is the piece Tequila from the Cowboys Show on the Outdoor Channel did. Sam stuck her head into my office last Thursday and said, "Have you been on TV lately? We got 30 subscriptions last night on the website." You just never know where this stuff is going to come back. We taped those two pieces (one on me and one on the magazine) last fall.

I also was pleasantly surprised to see the results of our poll on whether you have read Western comics or graphic novels. 49% of you said yes. Amazing, and encouraging. We've got a new poll posted: “Do you ever volunteer for preservation projects?”

One More Bobbie Tribute Comment
“Lovely tribute to your mom. Robert. My mom sends along her condolences as well. She was always so sweet to all of us and I can almost here her voice when you did somethng: 'Oh, Robert.' I also remember the tacos made in the oven, a first for me, and her fried eggs. I hated fried eggs then, but never told her and always finished them. She had great patience with us. I didn't know she had lost two stillborn children. I look forward to giving you a hug at her services, my friend. All later differences aside, she was still quite a mom for a Kingman kid.”
—Charlie Waters

Onion Headline de Jour
Wife Always Dragging Husband Into Her Marital Problems

"All is perspective. To a worm, digging in the ground is more relaxing than going fishing."
—Clyde Abel
March 5, 2007
I'm still dealing with mortuaries and scheduling for my mother's funeral. As of this morning, they tell me her body won't leave Cody until Wednesday, arriving in Las Vegas that night. Sutton Funeral home in Kingman will drive over and pick her up and bring her back to our home town. My Aunt Jean, Bobbie's youngest sister and the last surviving Guess girl, has reserved a plot near the rest of the family. I've been asked by Lou to bring a yellow scarf for my mother to wear. Yellow was her favorite color. She has a Western outfit, which she often wore and she will be buried in that.

Underwear for Eternity
One of the oddest experiences regarding funerals happened to me when my father passed away (1998). The funeral home asked me to bring two pairs of underwear from his house. Needless to say, I felt awful uneasy about going through my father's dresser drawers to find them. It was, well, creepy is too strong, but I think you get my drift. As I carried the underwear out to the car, it dawned on me that this would be the underwear he will be wearing for a very long time. If that's not an ad for cremation I don't know what is.

I've picked out the yellow scarf and have it set aside.

On Sunday I got this voice message from Thomas Charles in Philadelphia:

"Dude, I'm being sent to Peru, to the Peace Corp. I'm gong to be doing 'Youth Development' and it's right up my alley because I was such a good youth. So I feel I should help other youth be good. Okay, later."

He was being facetious about being "such a good youth," and I have the police reports to prove it, but I admire him for commiting two years of his life, probably working in an Aids clinic in South America.

Also on Sunday, I fed the chickens and cleaned out their water dishes (got six eggs), started the '49 Ford, pulled it out onto the Spanish driveway and washed it off. Took two bike rides with the dogs and Kathy. Went down to the creek and saw the ducks. Lots of water in creek. Very pretty day. Warm. Middle seventies.

I spent most of the weekend studying the graphic novels I bought last Friday. Quite instructive. Learned a whole bunch, but also got rather down on myself. Here's my hand written notes from yesterday:

"I have studied the numerous graphic novels I bought on Friday and I must admit the Top Secret Project is on the verge of collapse. I am in a swamp of multiple styles and contradictory impulses.

"I have very limited skills, especially when it comes to hands and original torso application and especially the continuity of character traits. I have no workable guide to three-quarters of the characters and I am bogged down in two sequences (Heads In Sack, and, Dry Lake-Fire sequence) and could conceivably spend literally months trying to get them right. Sigh.

"I don't seem to have a workable solution to ending the morass either. I've tried several roughing in techniques but I have weak follow-through and I have piles and piles of half-decent artwork—all of which pales in comparison to Frank Miller and other Masters.

"That said, I don't feel they are 'perfect' either, and I know my horses and mules are better than most. Where do I find the key? One thing is for sure—not in analyzing, but in action!"

Reading this today I am embarrassed for writing something so weak and pathetic, but there it is. A bike ride and a talk with Kathy calmed me down (talk about someone who deserves Sainthood!).

If you have the will to win, you have achieved half your success. If you don't, you have achieved half your failure."
—David Ambrose

Saturday, March 03, 2007

March 3, 2007
Thankyou to all of you who sent condolence emails to me. it was actually overwhelming. I had no idea that many people were reading these self-indulgent ramblings. I have forwarded all of them to our family and it really means a lot to all of us. Here are just a couple of the responses that especially touched me:

"Your tribute to your mother was beautiful and touching. She must have been quite a lady. Like her, my mother went off into Tzheimer-land some years before the end, so I shared your feelings and sympathize with your loss. Just keep her in mind; as long as you are around, she will be. Love to Kathy."
—Fred Nolan

“Ann and I extend our sympathy. Your Mom played a big part in my early life. Time is marching on for all of us, on the sad funny side of life, I miss those inappropriately timed, half annoying calls from my mother. I am sure you will also. Our Love to her and you.”
—Mike Richards, (my cousin on my father’s side)

“Your tribute to your Mom had the tear-ducts working overtime. Really sweet.”
—Paul Hutton, The Top Secret Writer

“What a great tribute to your mom. It was just right.”
—Kevin Mulkins

“Sorry to read your blog and find out about your Mom. I'm glad that she, like my Mom, passed away peacefully. That's all we can ask for.

“And of course, now you get the ranch. (sorry, humor always gets the best of me)

“She was a wonderful person who treated me great and was always ready with a smile and I will always remember her that way. My best to you.”
—Dan Harshberger

Jackie O Corrections From Larry Gonick
“A few bloggish inaccuracies in the Jackie stuff, but that's why we're cartoonists and not reporters. She wasn't my agent, she was my editor, and she was at Doubleday, not Harper. Ann Landers never printed the corrections, and the insane sales spike more or less stopped after the Christmas season.

“The final correction is that Marisa sure seemed impressed with your stuff to me.

“I wasn't entirely kidding about 14 point type, either. The, er, point is that it imposes a certain narrative economy on the writer, who would otherwise run on until the dogies wander back to the corral. Thanks for getting a happy face in the photo!”
—Larry Gonick

Buntline Special At Your Service!
Within 12 hours, I got these two responses to Frank in Oklahoma who couldn’t find a toy Buntline anywhere:

“I emailed this link on Ebay to Frank from Oklahoma. There are 2 of the Wyatt Earp Buntlines for sale. Thought you'd like to see them."

—Lauren, Maniac #19

“Sorry about your mother. i’m glad you got to visit her recently. I know this may not be on your mind right now, but there were several Wyatt Earp cap guns produced by toy makers Actoy, G. Schmidt. B.C.M. of England, Crescent Toys, also England and Esquire Novelty. they were all metal guns. the Young Premium Co. of Calif made a plastic Buntline model with a plastic and metal clicker. it was not a capgun and was offered as a toothpaste promotional premium. the Louis Marx also made one with black plastic barrel and frame and orange grips. the Haig Manufacturing Co. in Calif. also made a plastic Buntline called, “The New Western Haig Pistol.” 13 inches long, it came with a target and lead pellets and gun safety instructions. hope some of this helps.?
—Gus Walker, The Mapinator

Onion Headline de Jour
Search For Self Called Off After 38 Years

”I would not attack the faith of a heathen without being sure I had a better one to put in its place.”
—Harriet Beecher Stowe

Friday, March 02, 2007

March 2, 2007 Frank Miller-Yaoi Rip-off Bonus Blog
After a conference call with Terry Garrett about redesigning our website, I drove down into the Beast to specifically get comp tickets to the sneak of Frank Miller's 300. When I got to Samurai Comics and walked in, the place was deserted and I felt good. "Sorry," Ray San Felipe told me, nodding his head, "the tickets were gone in nine minutes." Bummed, I asked Mr. San Felipe if the 20% off any Frank Miller product was still good and he informed me it was.

As I casually shopped, the phone kept ringing and he kept saying the same thing: "Nope, they were gone in nine minutes." Same with the door. Dad comes in with kid. "Nope. They were gone in nine minutes." Every five minutes, same thing.

So I bought the graphic novel of 300 (normally $30, but $6 off with deal). I also got Sin City; The Big, Fat Kill; Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again,and then branched out and got Cowboys & Aliens, The Dark Tower, Ghost Rider, Wolverine Origins, Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy, Desperadoes: Buffalo Dreams, Justice, Bone, Aspen Seasons Fall 2005, and, ahem, Lost Girls. Wrecked $226 but it's research I tell you. If we're going to succeed in this genre it's because we know the market.

Brought it all back to the office, plopped it on my desk and took a gander. Frank Miller is very good. Classic story and the art is epic and sprawling and bold. No wonder it's going to be a movie. A big movie. With no stars. All CG comics come to life.

At 4:30 it came time to do my six sketches and I just naturally oozed towards all of the graphic art I had just devoured. Here's my Frank Miller rip-off, I mean homage—filtered through the main character in the Top Secret Project, of course. And the second page is how our project would play if it were done pure Yaoi:

Now do you understand why my mother wasn't real thrilled with my cartoon career?

Onion Headline de Jour
Local Self-Storage Facility A Museum Of Personal Failure

"It's a wise man who knows his father."
—Old Vaquero Saying
March 2, 2007
Her given name was Lillie Louise but everyone called her Bobbie. She was nicknamed after her father Bob Guess and to hear the family tell it, she was his shadow. The third of five girls, she was born in Lordsburg, New Mexico. Her mother's name was Louise, an orphan from Tucumcari, who was fostered out to a family in the bootheel of New Mexico, where she met and fell in love with a tall, rangy cowboy named Bob Guess. They owned a ranch in the Animas Valley, and Bob's brother, John Guess owned a ranch nearby at Steins Pass, just south of Doubtful Canyon, named for the fierce Apache raids on travelers—it was know to be doubtful whether you would survive.

In about 1929 Bob Guess made his move and leveraged everything he had built up in the Animas Valley to buy the ranch of his dreams on the Gila River, about ten miles downstream from Duncan, Arizona. Bad timing. The Depression wiped him out. Selling a couple starving steers, he bought a car and with his wife and five girls he walked away (1933), taking his family to Mohave County where he had once worked as a cowhand for Tap Duncan on the Diamond Bar (1912).

I took my mother and her older sister Sadie Pearl out to the old ranch house near York in the late 1980s and they walked the overgrown banks and pointed out where the garden was and where the corrals were. It was all gone except for a vague foundation where the house sat. Both Aunt Sadie and Bobbie showed me "their rooms," the kitchen and the porch where they waited for their handsome cowboy dad to come riding up. Oh, how those girls loved their Daddy.

At the Diamond Bar, Bob Guess started over, working as a cowboy and hoping to get back in the game. During WWII he bought a lease on a ranch on the way to Oatman but it was not to be. He died, in 1945, in his early fifties at the Kingman Hospital from complications from an ulcer operation.

I was born the next year and named Robert, in honor of him. Another sister, Patsy, also named her son Robert and to distinguish between the two of us, the family called him Robert Jerl and me Robert Allen.

And they still do to this day.

Bobbie attended Mohave County High School and graduated in 1939. She was an excellent student and when her only son went to the same school, some teachers would shake their heads and wonder how the son could be so inferior to the mother.

When WWII broke out an air base was established east of Kingman and all of a sudden 500 single females (and some not so single) had their pick of 10,000 young Army Air Corp soldiers. Although she dated a Lieutentant and was engaged to one of the biggest ranching names in the area, she ultimately chose a buck private, a blond Norsky farmboy from Thompson, Iowa.

After the war Bobbie and Allen Bell moved back to Iowa, but mechanic work was tough and Bobbie got homesick, so they moved back to Arizona and Allen ran a Whiting Brothers Gas Station in Peach Springs and McConnico for a while, but he got homesick and so they moved back to Iowa. My father found a Phillips 66 gas station in Swea City, and we moved there in about 1953. My mother gave birth to a baby sister, Janet Kay, who died, unexpectedly some ten days later. The doctors at the Catholic Hospital in Buffalo Center said it was a fluke, there was nothing wrong with her and, by all means, have another. She did, another girl, Sharon, who was stillborn.

Obviously depressed (there are hints of more serious problems) Allen and Bobbie moved back to Arizona for good in 1956 where they lived with Bobbie's mother and widow Louise (she had remarried Ernie Swafford), while Allen opened Al Bell's Flying A on Route 66. He was the only employee and Bobbie would take him his dinner every night so he could keep working.

It was Doctor Arnold who discovered she had rh factor, a blood problem. As tests showed and he explained it, sometimes if your first child is a boy, he will live, but any subsequent children will die, poisoned by the incompatable blood. A simple blood transfusion would probably have saved them both.

Bobbie smothered her son with attention and love. Nothing was too good for him. This unfortunately extended to making the son wear a scarf to the grocery store, a practice he finally halted at about age sixteen. No, just joking, it must have been twelve (which is still too old!).

She was a great mother. We did have our differences. I don't think she was too fond of my cartoonist career or my rock and roll career, and if you had met her she would have raved about her son, on and on, and you'd think that the only thing the son ever did was write and provide paintings for Arizona Highways.

My parents were divorced in 1970 and she married Lou Cady, Jr, also a former WWII airman, in 1973. Lou and I also had our differences but I always felt an affinity for him because he had to constantly endure the myths and propaganda about her "perfect" son.

In the last several years Bobbie suffered from Alzheimers and given what Lou endured I would personally nominate him for Sainthood. When I went to see her last week, she said she missed the ranch and she wanted me to have it and she didn't want Lou to have anything. He was standing right next to me. There's plenty more of that, but I choose to remember the mother who drove me to and from Little League practice, stayed up all night when I had a fever, went to the work the next day at the Highway Department (secretary), worked all day, came home, made dinner, then did my father's books for the gas station until 10:30 at night. Then got up and did it the next day. Why? Because she loved her family.

That's the woman I'll never forget.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

March 1, 2007
Lou Cady called me this afternoon to tell me my mother passed away at about 11 this morning. It was peaceful and she had said to him earlier she was ready to meet her Lord.
March 1, 2007 Bonus Blog
Mark Boardman forwarded me the following rave review on the long-delayed The Assasination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. I have culled the main comments that were interesting to me, but here's the site if you want to read the entire review:

Last night I caught an advanced screening of THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (from here on referred to as JESSE JAMES for the purposes of fast typing) here at the Grove in Los Angeles.

This film is a masterwork. It's the closest thing to a Terrence Malick movie that Terrence Malick never directed. I was reminded many times of Malick's most recent masterpiece THE NEW WORLD while watching JESSE JAMES; there are stretches with no dialogue, heavy emphasis on nature, and a poetic and meditative tone. I hesitate to call JESSE JAMES a "western"....I mean, it's certainly not a "Western" like the recent OPEN RANGE, THE MISSING, or UNFORGIVEN. It’s not concerned with minutiae or artifice; it’s stark, crisp, and clean.

It's essentially a psychological study of a murder, and a murderer, and it doesn’t play to many of the more clich√© Western conventions that we’ve seen over and over again. I will keep the story description brief: Casey Affleck plays Robert Ford, and is absolutely amazing in the role. I have never thought anything of him as an actor but that all changed last night. He has a very, very tough role, playing a deeply unsympathetic guy who the audience knows will end up killing Jesse James at some point in the narrative. Affleck brings a strung-out, beaten-down quality to the character of Ford, and as the movie progresses, you watch as he becomes more confident of himself, and how he starts to believe his own madness.

Brad Pitt plays Jesse James with cocky swagger and is just awesome. He owns the role, it’s like it was tailor made for him. Just watch the way the guy smokes his cigars and moves his head and eyes….methodical and unnerving. Like Ford, Jesse isn't a very likeable guy (come to think of it, nobody in the movie is particularly likeable) but you end up warming to him a little bit (I did at least) even though he's basically asking to get killed throughout the entire picture.

The supporting cast is aces across the board, with Sam Rockwell registering best as Ford's brother. This guy is so damn good it's a crime he doesn't get enough attention. Sam Shepard, Mary Louise Parker, and slew of excellent character actors round out the cast. But the movie belongs to Casey Affleck. He's just riveting all throughout.

The film is more about style and atmosphere than anything else. It's a tone poem of sorts about a gritty, dark period in American history. It feels extremely intimate yet very epic at times, due in large part to the stunning cinematography by Roger Deakins (FARGO, JARHEAD, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?) Using what appeared to be natural light almost exclusively, and an impressionistic shooting style composed of beautiful vistas, extreme close-ups, silhouettes, moonlight, train-light, and a gauzy effect similar to Bob Richardson’s brilliant cinematography in SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS. It's just glorious. Every shot is perfect. No joke. I am a big fan of movies that lean on the visual aspects of storytelling to present information; and this being a Ridley and Tony Scott production, no expense has been spared to make JESSE JAMES look totally authentic (without being garish or over-blown) Of late, some of my favorite films have been THE NEW WORLD, CHILDREN OF MEN, THE GOOD SHEPHERD, MUNICH, THE DEPARTED, MIAMI VICE, APOCALYPTO, CITY OF GOD, MAN ON FIRE, and many others. I am attracted to the different ways that filmmakers can present their ideas through visuals, rather than words.

And I just fell in love with this film from the start. From the god-like voiceover narration that runs over the entire movie to the attention paid to each and every shot, there are moments of sublime beauty at almost every turn in this film. It's essentially an art film set in the old west. And when the story gets violent, it gets extremely intense. In fact, one of the things that I loved about this film so much was the constant feeling of dread and uncertainty that runs through each scene. Right from the start, you get the feeling that any character could meet their maker at any point. And that's one of the things about the old West that made that time period so dangerous; people got killed in a heartbeat, over simple stuff. And when people get shot in this film, it's brutal and unflinching. Not sensationalized or over the top, but rather grim and raw. Like what you'd see on DEADWOOD.

What makes JESSE JAMES better than most movies are the moral shades of gray that the characters exhibit. JESSE JAMES is basically about how one man comes to the decision to kill his idol, and in the crudest comparison, I guess maybe the movie is sort of like a stalker-thriller. Ford idolizes Jesse, wants to ride with him, wants to rob with him. But the relationship that develops between the two men is awkward and volatile, giving off an un-easy feeling all throughout the movie.

I know this review is all over the place but there are so many things I loved about this movie. The time Dominik took to tell his story, the gripping performances, the literate dialogue, the incredible scenery, and the breathtaking ending that is so perfect it's almost a joke. It's stark, visceral, beautiful, and haunting. But here's the deal---I doubt you'll all get to see this version of the movie. I got the sense (maybe from the dozen or so walk-outs, mostly female) that this movie is going to get trimmed and cut and unnecessarily messed with. After the screening, I marched right up to Ridley Scott (who produced the movie with his brother Tony) and told him in these exact words: "Don't change a single frame of this film." He smiled, we chatted briefly, I told him how amazing I thought it was but that I felt that the audience might be narrow. He seemed to agree. A cool guy, and one of my personal film heroes.

So, in a nutshell, an amazing effort from a new, dynamic voice in film--Andrew Dominik. I'd assume Warner's will release JESSE JAMES sometime in the fall, and I won't be surprised if it's a limited release at first. While it couldn't have cost a ton of money to produce, it's such a specific niche-film that I fear it will get overlooked. If that were to happen, it'd be a crime. A complete crime. There was absolutely nothing I didn't love about this movie, and I could only hope that 10 movies of this caliber would get released every year. THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES is the kind of movie that makes me happy to be a film buff, and one that I can't wait to re-watch over and over again. Please, please, please Warners---don't take anything out of this gem. You've made an art-film....treat it with the respect it deserves.