Thursday, May 31, 2007

May 31, 2007
Had a speech yesterday at Kiwanis up at Harold's Cave Creek Corral. Had fun, they are a ribald group. Gave away two boxes of mags and made everyone promise to subscribe. Also had a design pow-wow with Dan Harshberger, Abby Pearson, Meghan Saar and Robert Ray. Went over graphic concerns. I feel the current issue (July) is a bit claustrophobic. Talked about ways to air it out, etc. Good meeting. Design is a moving target and each issue brings challenges that stress the templates put in place. I guess my biggest relief is that they all care and want to put out a superior product, just like I do.

A Full Blown Confession
I was wrong. When I stated on the Westerns Channel that there are no photos of cowboys wearing hats with swept-up, winged brims from the 1870s and 1880s, that has proved not to be the case.

Johnny Western mailed me a photo (below) that clearly shows performer Buck Taylor of Buffalo Bill Wild West Show fame wearing a hat with almost comical winged sides (it sort of looks like those big, goofy, oversized cowboy hats they sell at the fair, doesn't it?). Amazing.

I have been looking at Old West photos all of my life and virtually all of them, I have seen—of cowboys—resemble this photo (below), which shows Salt War Texas Rangers, 1878, including one labeled Billy the Kid, at far right. This image was sent to me by Steve Sederwall of Capitan, New Mexico and is certainly an intruguing find. We know that John Kinney and a band of volunteers rode down from Silver City to participate in the Salt Wars, and it's possible Billy was with them. However, Paul Cool informs me that none of the Rangers named in the photo match the Rangers who were at San Elizario at the time of the infamous Salt Wars.

But I digress. What I wanted to point out is these men are wearing the style of hat that is virtually a uniform headgear look among cowboys on the American frontier from the 70s and 80s. But, upon seeing the Buck Taylor photo, rather than humiliated, I actually feel invigorated about it. This moves up the timeline on our theory about when the winged-phenom first hit the scene. By the 1890s you begin to see more and more range cowboys in hats that are winged. Could Buck have been a trendsetter? Did he start the movement away from flat brim to winged? Also notice his tiger-skin chaps and he has his name across the loops of his holster. Evidently, by 1887, Buck, or the costume designers for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, were getting quite flamboyant. And this predates Tom Mix and his wild costumes by 20 years, or so.

Wait a minute. I just reread the caption and it says the first cowboy as hero dime novel was released in 1887. That doesn't mean the photo is 1887. Could it be this photo was taken in the 1890s? If so, scratch my confession. Ha.

And while were at it, here are a few corrections from elsewhere:

I enjoyed your commentary on the new True Grit DVD, however, I wish I had known you were going to do it. Here are some of my reactions:

1.) The discussion on why we mount a horse from the left struck me as odd because it was assumed "cowboys' started it. Actually it comes from the military. It is difficult mounting a horse from the right side when weraring a saber on one's left side. Swinging both leg and saber over the horse's back is simply too cumbersome. Because of this, mounting from the left side while swinging the right leg over the horse became standardized.

2.) The big pistol Kim Darby used was a Colt's Walker which was also used by Clint Eastwood when he played "Josie Whales".

3.) You started to comment on Wayne's 1892 Winchester rifle, but somehow never finished your thought. There is an interesting story behind that rifle. While preparing to make STAGECOACH, John Ford decided he wanted the "Ringo Kid" to have or do something theatrical to quickly identify his character as being unique. Someone associated with the production remembered seeing the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show as a child. In the remembered performance, when the "Deadwood Stage" thundered around the arena, the guy seated in the messanger's seat thrilled the crowd by "spinning" his rifle. He could do this because the Winchester had a specially constructed large circular loop as its lever. Hearing this, Ford had such a lever made up and thus Wayne obtained his signature rifle. Because it had already appeared in STAGECOACH, HONDO, and RIO BRAVO, the rifle reminds the audience of TRUE GRIT it is John Wayne they are watching. I think the Wayne - Buffalo Bill connection is fascinating. Yes, the '92 rifle is an anachonism, but it's theatricality is so engaging that this historical quibble can be readily forgiven.
—Jeff Morey

Onion Headline de Jour
Unhealthy Online Support Groups: The Incest-Loving Daughters of The American Revolution

"Nothing changes more than the past."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30, 2007 Bonus, Bonus, Blog
Well, Dan "The Man" Harshberger is in the house for an art direction meeting and I asked him about the price of gas in Kingman in 1965 and he weighed in with this:

"When I worked at Hafley's Texaco, across the street from the Holiday House [on Highway 93 north] I think gas was about 49 cents a gallon, but the locals got a seven cent discount."
—Dan Harshberger

One possible answer: gas prices varied wildly throughout Kingman and at any given time you could get gas at Whiting Brothers for 29.9 while it was 39.9 at Richmond and possibly 45.9 at Phillips 66. At any rate, it's too funny that so many tourists drove through, saw the price and flipped off the attendants (we all had that experience). Today they would be kissing our feet. Ha.

"What do you have in your gas? Gold!?"
—Tourist after tourist, who actually stopped for gas in Kingman, in 1965
May 30, 2007 Bonus Blog
Well, it seems like I'm being challenged on every front. Now the price of gas in Kingman in 1965 is being contested:

High-Priced Gas Memories
"The price of a gallon of regular gas at McCarthy's Richfield station in 1965 was 39.9 a gallon. And some people would look at it and flip us the finger as they pulled through."
—Charlie Waters

Sorry, I distinctly remember gas at my father's Phillips 66 at 45.9 when the tourists flipped us off. I wonder how we could find out who's right? Maybe we should call Johnny Western, who, by the way, wrote and sang the theme to the classic TV show "Paladin."
May 30, 2007
Two weeks ago, I was on the Johnny Western Radio Show in Wichita (KFDI-FM 101.3) and while we were in commercial break, Johnny challenged me on one of my statements in a True West Moment that ran on the Westerns Channel a year, or so, ago. Here is the shooting script for the segment in question:

Hats Off to Ya
The traditional cowboy hat is known worldwide by its distinctive shape and style (I am holding a swept up brimmed modern cowboy hat in my hands). But did the cowboys in the Old West actually wear hats like these? The answer to this question may surprise you.

In looking at thousands of cowboy photographs from the 1870s and 1880s there is not one cowboy with a hat on that resembles this one. [photos flash by, of chuck wagon cowboys and in the studio, scanning quickly to the heads and hats. Gus, we need some good head shots of big, flat brimmed cowboy hats.] The modern cowboy hat with the swept up, curled brim was not favored by the authentic trail drivers and buckaroos of the Old West.

What they did wear, was this: a shapeless crown, perhaps with a haphazard dent, (I dent the hat in my hand), straight brims, sometimes pushed up in front seems to be the uniform style of the American cowboy in the Wild West era.

Now that’s not to say there weren’t hats out West that curled up on the sides, but they aren’t seen on cowboy’s heads [we run several photos of soldiers and even one of the Promitory Point railroad spike celebration where a guy has on a swept up sides hat, plus a famous photo of Custer with swept up sides hats].

Nope. Not a one. It wasn’t until the late 1890s and early 1900s that we see cowboys gravitating to the style of headgear that we today recognize as the cowboy hat.

[need a few good shots of cowboy hats evolving into the swept up sides style.]

Once the monster peaks and curled, or winged brims caught on, it became an integral part of the cowboy uniform to this very day. But it didn’t exist in the cowboy heyday of the Old West. Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

I’m Bob Boze Bell and this has been a True West Moment

Johnny claimed to have a photograph of a cowboy in the 1880s wearing a swept up sides, modern looking cowboy hat. I asked him if he was sure it was the 1880s, because me and my hat Nazi friends have studied thousands of photos and we have never seen a cowboy in a swept-up sides hat from the 1870s-1880s era. They start showing up in the 1890s, but not before. Johnny assured me he had one, and I was so cock-sure that he didn't, that I wagered him a free lunch at El Encanto, on me, if he could produce the photo, AND it was from the 1880s, or earlier.

Yesterday, Johnny sent me the photograph from a book "The Peacemakers" by R.L. Wilson and dated (in a caption) 1887 of Buck Taylor, a Buffalo Bill "cowboy" wearing a hat with definite swept up wings. I'll run that photo tomorrow with a full confession.

"If he works for you, you work for him."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29, 2007 Bonus Blog
More shots from Winterset, Iowa and the big 100th birthday celebration at the John Wayne Birthplace. Here's the director of the gift shop, Carolyn Wilson, on Friday, when I walked in to touch base with her. She told me she was up at 3 A.M. and looked quite fried. Meanwhile, out in the store, the place was full of people like this (below right) who were buying everything in sight. My unofficial, random polling indicates that the fans were spending about $100 per person, with more than a few in the $1,000 range, and it wasn't all men. At the Friday night dinner I sat next to a couple, Nick and Terry Schaub, who started the statue fund several years ago (which led to the unveiling on Saturday). They have a tricked out van with John Wayne scenes painted on every square inch of the vehicle, and here's the kicker: Terry is the John Wayne nut. On their first date, she picked the movie, a John Wayne Western of course.

Also at the dinner, I fell in love with the trio "Carin Mari and Pony Express" who played as we were getting seated. The little band consists of two brothers and a sister, from Buena Vista, Colorado. The lead singer, Carin, is 16 (and she was discovered by Michael Martin Murphy); the mandolin player, Colin, 15; and Evan, the bass player, is 12. One of their songs, "Buckaroo Man," made me grin (great song) and I went up and asked if they had a CD. Went right out in the hall and paid $15 for "Old Log Barn" which has the Buckaroo Man tune on it, then proceeded to play it in my rental car over and over (I am quite obsessive when it comes to tunes I like) all the way to Des Moines and back to Winterset. Check them out at:

I met their parents (below) and we had a nice talk the next day at the fairgrounds. Mom is an artist and dad is a land surveyor (and harp player), so we had a whole bunch to compare about rear chainmen and drummers, both of which I was at one time.

"Communication is best achived when pictures and words reinforce each other, when they can be made to work in concert."
—Angus McDougall
May 29, 2007
Here's more photos from my Winterset Sojourn last weekend. Many celebs were in town for the big unveiling, including U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, 51, who is running for president (below, right). As I waited to go on Saturday, Brownback and his wife Mary (center, back to us) came through and introduced themselves. The Brownbacks are talking to Ethan Wayne (left) who was on hand to uveil the statue of his dad and destroy the last wall of the gas station which was standing in the way of the new museum.

Unfortunately, some things sound good in meetings ("And then we'll have Ethan put on a hard hat run to the Hogster and push over the entire wall and the crowd will go wild!"). What actually happened is that Ethan, in a hard hat, ran to the heavy equipment, brought the claw down and a tiny piece of the corner of the last remaining wall came down. He got out and shrugged. That's it. This passes for bigtime entertainment in Winterset, Iowa. Ha.

"Grandpa, were you there when they brought down three of the shake shingles off the roof of the old Sinclair Gas Station?" "Yes, my grandson, I was on my father's shoulder, looking at one of the speakers hyperventilating. Then I remember a loud pop and I looked up and three whole shingles just flew through the air and I thought, 'I've never seen something this wild in ma life,' and then I went back to the house and my dad shucked a bushel of hard corn right in front of me. Most exciting day of ma life."

Before and after the speech, crowds lined up in the rain outside the birth home (at left) and the museum gift shop (right) and they brought in more on school buses (extreme left):

According to a financial column I read on the plane, we are suffering from “feature creep.” I know I am. Basically what it is, is when we look at a new product in a store we think that the more features there are, the better. Unfortunately, product returns cost a hundred billion dollars a year because we can’t figure out how to use the damn things. The puncline: “even when you give consumer what they want they can still end up hating you for it.”

Dire Prediction #3,469
By 2010 a typical life will fit on a cell phone. Lifeblogging is on the rise and one of the first to do it is Gordon Bell (no relation) who is archiving his entire life online, including wearomg a head camera to record and post people he meets walking down the street.
The interior stories we tell about ourselves rarely agree with the truth.

Invariably, when we talk about the past we lie with every breath we draw.

What greater paradox of history: a war that must be won, and the victory
results in consuming misery and instability, leading to more wars.

“The only thing worse than a great defeat, is a great victory.”
—Duke of Wellington

“Just tell the truth.”
—Chang Chong-chen, a student at the Brussels Academy of Fine Arts

Gas in Arizona is closing in on $3.25, but in London it’s $6.65 and Hong Kong is’s $6.30 and Tokyo it’s $4.49. Meanwhile, in Baghdad it’s $1.19 and in Riyadh it’s 49 cents a gallon (the price it was in Kingman in 1965!).
Wired magazine

Also from the pages of Wired: How profane was HBO's Deadwood? “Think Cormac McCarthy
with Tourette’s syndrome.”

Live And Let Dad Die
"Thought this might interest you...Calculate your life expectancy based upon your habits and medical and family history. The quiz takes about 7 minutes and is pretty cool! I am going to live until I am 77 (YIKES) so I need to make some major changes... anyone else with me?!?
—Deena Bell

"I took the test and unfortunately, I died last year."

Monday, May 28, 2007

May 28, 2007
After a layover in Denver, got to Phoenix at 9:30 on Saturday night. By the time I got my bags and got on the right bus (Sky Harbor now has two buses, The Roadrunner and the Gecko that run to the East Economy Lot and of course I was on the Gecko, but should have been on the Roadrunner). Paid for three days covered parking ($30 biz account), drove up 44th St. Got photo radar flashed near the Praying Monk. Shouted obscenities all the way to Lincoln: it's a $125 fine, plus an all-day prison sentence in "Traffic School". Got home at 11, too tired to go to sleep. Read all the newspapers I missed, finally went down at about 12:30.

Tried hard not to do anything on Sunday. Almost succeeded. Had to do my six drawings, of course, and feed the chickens and go for a bike ride. Watched The Sopranos (the one where Tony's worthless son tried to off himself, we are two weeks behind), read, took two naps, crashed at about nine. Exhausted, but fulfilled. One of the fans who came up to me in Winterset said, "One of the things you get to do is go all over." He's right. I have to remind myself that it is very cool to have experienced what I did this weekend.

Washed the '49 Ford today and fed the chickens. Had lunch with Kathy at El Encanto and we both had Sonoran enchiladas and iced tea ($24.43 Sue account, includes tip), then came up to the office to load my photos from the trip. Read on the plane about the latest in blogging, which is called Lifeblogging. Guys with cameras on their heads (the pioneer in this is a guy named Gordon Bell, no relation) recording everything they see, and it goes right up to the web. I'm not there yet. Ha.

Here's a series of panorama shots at the unveiling of the John Wayne statue in Winterset on Saturday at noon. We're looking north towards the town square. I think you can see why I got nervous.

Before I went onstage, I handed my camera to a guy standing next to me and he shot off two shots of me doing my speech (afterwards I thanked him profusely and promised I'd mention him here, but I forgot his name). The MC is at right (you can make him out in the closeup) and you can see he's smiling, so that's a good thing. However, the guy to my right, and below me, with his arms folded doesn't seem that impressed with what I'm saying, does he?

More pics tomorrow. Wanted to get these up.

"It's not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."
—Sir Edmund Hillary

Saturday, May 26, 2007

May 26, 2007
Woke up this morning to rain and lightning. Drove down to Winterset in a light drizzle at seven A.M. Really socked in. Stopped at the John Wayne Birth Home to check on the planned, noontime unveiling of the John Wayne statue where I was scheduled to give my remarks. Just like yesterday, the place was jammed with people. The poor besieged staff didin't want to let me in the back, but I insisted on talking to someone about the speech. Were they going to go on with it, in spite of the rain and the lightning?

One of the head honchos came out and told me yes they were going ahead rain or shine. I asked if they planned on having a tarp or something covering the stage, considering the live microphones and he said no. I said, "Well, I came down here to be close to John Wayne, but I don't know if I want to be that close."

He laughed, but seemed confident in what the day had to offer. I dropped off two boxes of True Wests, caught breakfast at the Starlight Cafe (bacon and eggs, coffee and milk, $7.33, left her $10 cash), and fought my way out to the fairgrounds, bumper to bumper all the way. Still raining. Someone estimated 40,000 were in town for the weekend's events which included concerts by Michael Martin Murphy and Riders of the Purple Sage.

Drove out to the fairgrounds and tried to set up in the assigned tent. Wind blowing, hardly anyone there. Gave away probably a half box of mags. Rather discouraging. Realized from yesterday's encounter with the guy from Ohio that a whole bunch of guys had big budgets to spend. The first guy I met spent $700 on John Wayne memorabilia. I started asking as soon as I met someone. Well, how much have you spent, or how much is your budget?" The guys would hedge, but the wives would roll their eyes when the total was too low. The spending was all over the board, with one guy claiming he had a $1,000 budget to spend. Another guy said he only spent $300, but he admitted he already owned most of the stuff anyway. Most confessed their wives think they're nuts, and almost all have an entire room or basement dedicated to John Wayne.

Left the fairgrounds with about two boxes of mags spread out on the table and fought my way back to the birth house at about 11:35 for the noontime dedication. A huge crowd had gathered at the old service station on the corner, where Ethan Wayne was scheduled to demolish a corner of the old building to dedicate the beginning of the new museum. Had to park about three blocks away. There must have been 1,500 or 3,000 people gathered there (I'm not good at estimating). People were pouring in from everywhere. I took a panorama with my digital and will run it next week. It looked like Woodstock to me, or should that be Waynestock? Ha.

I fought my way to the back stage area and heard the MC ask if I was there. I pushed my way forward (there was no security or cordoned off area, it was all civilians everywhere, fighting for space). The sky cleared slightly. They had a big PA and the statue was covered in white cloth. The MC asked me to keep it short, five minutes or less. There were several other politicos in front of me. I suddenly got very nervous. Down front were all the celebrities who worked with John Wayne and his family and TV cameras everywhere. My mind was reeling with every single thing that could go wrong. Why do I get myself into these things? What if they start booing? What if I pass out? The usual, ridiculous thoughts I never seem to get away from, no matter how many times I do this.

I went over to a sound truck to sit down on the tailgate (which was wet, but I didn't care). I felt faint. I suddenly didn't know what I would say. My heart was beating clear up into my neck area. A young kid looked over his father's shoulder at me like I was a goonball freak. He was so right. He had me pegged.

I heard my name, I fought my way through the crowd and took the microphone. I boomed out my opening line, "When I was a lad growing up in Swea City, Iowa. . ." and, I was fine. Got a couple decent laughs, edited myself as much as I could and cut to the chase, and the punchline. Jumped off the stage and the MC thanked me profusely (I think he was shocked at how brief I managed to be). Numerous people pressed forward to request a photo with me. I had survived. I had lived, and of course, for the rest of the day thought of all the things I could have said, that would have been better. Ha. What a goober-headed nutjob I am.

Dropped off another box of mags, then fought my way back out to the fairgrounds. Had to go up a back street, to avoid the crush, parked in a culdesac, walked across a muddy field to get to my tent. All the mags I had left were gone. Broke out two more boxes and they just flew out of the tent. Everyone wanted me to sign the issues, and everyone wanted to know what town in Iowa I was from, because they heard me on the square. And no one had heard of Swea City. Ha. That was fun. All the mags were gone by two, packed up, drove out of town, went the backway to Des Moines, stopped at Skip's, a restaurant Mike Richard's had recommended when Mike Melrose and were through here several years ago. Had a nice salmon caesar salad and two glasses of cabernet ($22 biz account).

A very successful weekend. These are our people! And I got about 1,000 magazines into the hands of people who care about John Wayne and the West. Very encouraging. Now if I can only do 5,000 more of these, we'll be in good shape.

"Our problem was the opposite from 'Field of Dreams.' We had people coming, and we thought, 'maybe we should build it.'"
—Dave E. Trask, the former director of the Winterset Chamber of Commerce when (1980) they spearheaded the drive to buy the house John Wayne was born in.

Friday, May 25, 2007

May 25, 2007 Bonus, Bonus Blog
Just got in from a big night at the Stoney Creek Lodge in north Des Moines. Almost the entire Wayne family was in attendance and they were quite gregarious and fun, posing for photos with everyone and laughing. Life is so ironic. One of John Wayne's grandsons is a priest, Father Matt Munoz, and he has a long pony tail and a fu manchu mustache, looking not unlike Frank Zappa (he is celebrating mass in Winterset tomorrow at 5:30 P.M.). Met many stars from the Wayne movies including Edward Faulkner who sat at our table and Barry Corbin, who was a hoot. He came up to our table (#4) and said, "Bob Boze Bell, I watch you every night on the Westerns Channel." Gave away a box of True Wests. Could have done quite a few more, but it was good that people were clamoring for them.

But the big surprise, was saved for last when Jennifer Wayne, 23, another grand-daughter, took the stage to do two numbers. She is a striking blond who somewhat resembles Faith Hill. She had a real funky guitar player with her, who had blond, spiked hair and one of those Charlie Chan chin whisker-pointed outgrowth protusions that is sort of a King Tut deal. He accompanied her on two songs and really carried it off well (I have been around enough guitar players to know how difficult that is). When Jennifer did an original rocker called "God Bless John Wayne," and she got a standing ovation, she introduced her guitar player as "the famous Jeremy Popoff." He was pained, and waved her off, like he didn't want his name even mentioned.

Afterwards I walked to the back of the room and as he was putting his guitar away, I said, "Okay, who do you really play with?" And he smiled and said, "Lit." Of course I didn't have a clue who that is, but I knew I would soon find out. Came back to the Michael Richard's condo and Googled "Lit" and "Jeremy Popoff" and there they were: their 1999 CD "A Place In The Sun" was number one for three months and the breakout single "My Own Worst Enemy" was a huge hit. Can't wait to tell Thomas Charles. I'm sure he knows who they are.
May 25, 2007 Bonus Blog
Just got back from Winterset. Place totally jammed. It looks like the Christmas scenes from "It's A Wonderful Life" without the snow. Luckily found a parking space about a block from the John Wayne birth home. Big tent, chuck wagon cook-off, guys with big shopping bags everywhere. I didn't make it ten feet before someone stopped me and wanted a photo. Gregg from Ohio said, "Excuse me, are you that guy on the Westerns Channel?" He gave his camera and his bag to his wife and asked her to take a picture. When I asked her if they had been inside yet, she rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, yes, and he spent $700 in there."

Wow! I could see he had a pencil drawing of the Duke (looked to be a print), but Man, are they rolling in the dough. Waded into the gift shop (place wall to wall with old guys buying anything and everything), went down the hall and found Carolyn Walker, besieged in her office. "I've never seen so many people" she said sighing. I reminded her "this is a good problem," but I think she was fried. She said she had been up since 3 A.M.

Found out the schedule: I'm speaking at the dedication for the new John Wayne museum up on the corner where a partly demolished gas station now stands. I believe Wayne Davis told me they are going to implode one of the walls during the dedication. The entire Wayne family will be on hand, so that adds some pressure to my remarks. I probably should start writing them pretty soon.

Went from there out to the fair grounds. The poor gal in charge out there was going crazy because she thought they had reserved one of the cow barns, but the county said no, so she was scrambling to find places for all the vendors. A gunfighter group from Omaha came sauntering by and wanted their picture taken with me, so we all posed in the middle of the street.

Left our mags with Mike's Icre Cream wagon (he put them inside in case it rains) and I took off, going the back roads to Des Moines. Really a beautiful day, and the rolling hills and wetlands are just striking. Beautiful farms all the way. Having been in Mexico last Christmas, it really is striking how rich and fertile Iowa is.

More later. Going to the big dinner tonight at the Stoney Creek Lodge.
May 25, 2007
Got into Des Moines at 10:40 last night. Virtually every flight on US Airways is oversold. It is both pathetic and stressful to be sitting at the gate (B-16) and hear each podium beg for volunteers to get paltry (misleading!) vouchers. The poor people who have to do this, flight after flight, all day long, it must be stressful on them as well. There has to be a more efficient way to handle no shows and this epidemic of overbooking.

Plus, once I got into my seat on the plane (8A), the kid in the seat in front of me kept farting—all the way to Des Moines. Really bad stinkers. I know the woman sitting next to me thought it was me. I bought her a beer ($5, correct change is appreciated). She works for Wells Fargo and was on her way home from San Francisco. Nice talk with her about her two kids, but I know she got home and told her husband, "Man this cowboy kept ripping these stink bombs while he was sketching! I thought I was going to die!"

Enterprise was out of cars when I got to their window and they handed me off to Budget at the next counter. So I got a full-sized, red Impala. Had Mapquest directions to my cousins's condo in West Des Moines. Got pulled over by an Iowa Highway Patrolman on Army Post Road. "We got a complaint from Brenda at Wells Fargo. Would you step out of the car, sir. I need to check your pants."

Not really.

Got to the condo, without incident, at 11:30 P.M. (9:30 our time). Watched a bit of Conan O'Brien. Someone tell him to quit moving around so nervously during his monologue. He looks like he's crapped his pants (End of scatalogical comments—for this paragraph).

Woke up at eight this morning, got dressed and drove up to Living History Farms and ate a big, hearty Iowa breakfast at the Machine Shed. Had the Country Market Skillet ($6.49 plus coffee $1.49, and a T-shirt $12=$21.39 includes tip).

Oh, Say Can You See?
"Drat, I can't read the text on that Honkeytonk Sue t-shirt!"
—Emma Bull

It's says: "If a man has to brag, he'll be the first to sag." it seemed so edgy and funny in the early eighties when I wrote it, but I kind of cringe now. Kathy blacked out the type on her shirt because everyone at exercise class would come up to her and say, "Oh, that's an interestng shirt, what does it sayyyyyYuck!"

"Jana Bommersbach's neat item regarding the phony photo sparked this thought, for the millions of your subscribers that are hooked on top ten lists (As in: Top Ten Worst John Wayne Movies. Sorry. Not sure where that came from. May God strike me dead. Besides, how do we limit ourselves to ten?) How's about a top ten fake Old West photos? Each one autopsied by an expert. E.g., the Hunter's Hot Springs portrait that Jason Leaf dissected. The diaphanous Josie Earp image, which is the subject of a new book by, I forget. Each grizzled overworked obsessive corner of Old West history —Billy, Jesse, etc.— must have an iconic fake photo. Get them all together. Drive garlic-rubbed spikes through each and every one of them."
—Dan Buck

Driving down to Winterset, Iowa this morning to check in with the girls at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum, and pick up 100 True West magazines for tonight's bash at the Stoney Creek Inn (in Des Moines). Going to put mags on all the seats and circulate, doing the missionary work for the magazine. I made a note to myself this morning at breakfast: "True West will be successful when I get it into the hands of the right people." And that's why I'm here, braving bad farts to bring the truth about the Old West to the heartland.

" Pleasure is very seldom found where it is sought; our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks."
—Samuel Johnson, who could've added that those sparks can lead to bad gas. . .

Thursday, May 24, 2007

May 24, 2007
Well, Penny the groomer really did a gay number on the dogs (see, Peaches and Buddy below, left), complete with neck scarves and prissy haircuts. Notice how they are prancing and dancing with the stars, heads up, tails out. Disgusting. In a cute kind of way. On the right are the Brinks two new dogs, Tucker and Tyler (being held by Carole Glenn, left, and Samantha Somers). Bob Brink wanted them to have Western names so Mark Boardman gave them a Western pedigree by reminding the Brinks that "Dangerous" Dan Tucker was a Western lawman and Johnny Tyler was a gambler who got his ear bent by Wyatt Earp in the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona. Bob Brink is happy.

My goal this week was to have four Honkytonk Sues in the can before I left for John Wayne's birthday. Started out rough, what else is new. Wanted to get a nice Sue in shadows going, but I overworked it. Not really her.

My second efffort was more successful, this one showing the Queen of Country Swing getting ready to dispense some pearl of wisdom, straight out at us. And by the way, I have gone back to black and white on Sue. The color was not working.

I have great photo reference on Sue going back some 25 years. Here's a photo of a Phoenix model (below, left) who ended up in New York with her boyfriend photographer, who also took this photo. I can't remember their names but they were quite successful in New York. He had me paint a Boze background on butcher paper, then shot his girlfriend with the signature hat on. She's wearing a T-shirt I designed (which my wife hates because of the slogan on it). Very nice. In about 1983, John Riskas, the owner of Boots Nightclub on Camelback Road sent over one of his bartenders claiming she was the spitting image of Sue. John was right. She was pretty hot and I think she was from Iowa, of all places. Wish I could remember their names cause I'd like to run these shots in the magazine.

In the early 1980s there was actually a niteclub on Scottsdale Road called "Honkytonk Sue's" and I often went there and acted like a crazed goon. Here I am dancing with a Honkytonk Sue lookalike during a rodeo celebration. I remember she used to appear on Bill Heywood's radio show as Sue, quite often. And, of course, I have had my Kathy pose as well (right).

There's more, but I've got to get ready for my flight this afternoon to John Wayne's hometown. And speaking of Wayne, here's two more friends weighing in on the Duke:

"As Shakespeare said of Caesar:

"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
and say to all the world 'This was a man!'"
—Fred Nolan

"The Wayne phenomena is so unique. It is almost a state of reverence. I find it striking that neither THE ALAMO, from a few years back, or FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS displayed any episodes of valor. This is especially odd when we recall that of the 84 Medals of Honor awarded the Marines in WWII, 27 came from Iwo Jima. It seems movie producers no longer believe in American valor. I really think it is the cynical eclipse of the 'hero' which has maintained Wayne's stature. He has become the last classical 'hero'. People want heros, countries need heros, but who has come along since Wayne? Eastwood changed the American "hero" into a killing machine. Then came Rambo, a killing machine on steroids! John Wayne may have been a celluloid hero, but he made people belive in the possibility of valor. And, if we don't even believe in valor as a possibilty a new question will haunt us - what happens to nations which have no heros?

"Did you know there is a photo taken on a Marine base in the mid-fifties. Wyane is seated at a long table chowing down. Way back, in a brightly lit kitchen doorway stands Lee Harvey Oswald."
—Jeff Morey

Onion Headline de Jour
Puppy Dies Adorable Death

"The excitement of learning separates youth from age. As long as you're learning you're not old."
—Rosalyn S, Yalow

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

May 23, 2007
Had to take the dogs to the groomer this morning. Peaches got her anti-anxiety pill at about seven. Hung her head on my arm all the way to Patty's Grooming, next to the Dairy Queen. Buddy Boze Hatkiller looked at the scenery and had that look that said at every turn, "How do I get that in my mouth?"

Lots of good comments on my John Wayne trip. Here they are:

"When you go out to Winterset, Iowa next week be sure to visit the Bridges of Madison County. Clint Eastwood directed his film right there where John Wayne was born. I stopped in a few years back and took some photographs myself. Have a great trip!"
—Jim Hatzell

"Can you imagine the now famous/infamous "boxers or briefs" question posed by Laetitia Thompson to President Bill Clinton in 1984 sprung on John Wayne? And the Duke's solomn faced reply? "Why no baby sister, they're longjohns." Actually, would anyone possibly consider asking the Big Man actor what presses against the cheeks located under his holster where heparks his hogleg when it's not in action?"

"I think he's exactly like Queen Elizabeth, a human symbol. With John Wayne, you've got the Liberty Valance question: print the truth or the myth? The fair thing is to do both, but does your audience want what's fair? I would point out the man was a better actor than he gets credit for."
—Will Shetterly

"When I was a pup in Cherokee, Iowa I helped deliver RC cola, Nehi grape soda and Frostie root beer to the little stores in the little towns in northwest Iowa. One of those towns was Winterset, even then (1963) they were very proud of Marion (that's what many of the residents called him). I remember talking to some of the old timers and they said his family was dirt poor and headed west to see what they could find..... and as they say the rest is history and legend. God bless the Duke."
—Kevin Mulkins

"I just caught up on your blog after a relaxing weekend. Now I read and get quite jealous of you today. I have tried to figure a way to get to Winterset the last several months. It simply did not work out. I would like to be there for this celebration. I have mentioned before John Wayne was and is my one hero.

"I was about 8-years-old in the early 50s when I saw Hondo for the first time. It was just my mother and I when I was growing up. Here was this mother and son alone and this guy comes and rescues them. I think I
probably adopted Mr. Wayne's screen persona as my father figure. A guy could do a lot worse. I will raise a glass of Suaza to him on the 26th. The values he displayed on the screen work well today. It also gave me an unquenchable desire to study/read about the West. By the way, my SASS alias is Hondo Howard. Have a great time and give a great talk, Pilgrim
—Hugh Howard, Maniac# 9

No Country Update
"I was checking out the trailers for that movie... looks interesting. Here's release dates from


19 May 2007
(Cannes Film Festival)

13 June 2007
(Naples Film Festival)

9 November 2007

21 November 2007

6 February 2008

7 February 2008

8 February 2008

"Full release is in the States this November. The European releases, as you can see, are film festivals. We'll have to see if it does as well as Sicko at the Cannes! :o)"
—Harold Roberts, Tucson

My goal is to finish four Honkytonk Sue's by tomorrow, then I'm flying to Des Moines at six, arriving there at 11 P.M. Driving to Winterset on Friday and Saturday. Home Saturday night, then start on The Battle of Big, Dry Wash for August issue, and finish the script for The Top Secret Project. Too much to do. I wonder what the old vaqueros have to say about that?

"Who begins too much accomplishes little."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Well, I don't like that quote. I wonder what my Iowa, farmer, Norweigian kin have to say about that?

"If you want something done, give it to a busy man."
—Old Norsky Saying

That's more like it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

May 22, 2007 Bonus Blog
Working on comments for an address I've been asked to give at the John Wayne 100th Birthday commemoration on Saturday in Winterset, Iowa. I'm torn between giving the Duke the usual bigtime gushing that no doubt will go on with everyone else, and the fact that the guy mostly wore clothes that the studio told him to wear, stood where the director told him to stand and spoke words that a writer had written for him. Yet, somehow, someway, the guy is as big a legend as Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid and Custer, put together. How did that happen?

Of course his critics say he pretended to fight for his country while he ducked military service to make movies in WWII. And, they will point out, he was a right-wing warmonger who only managed to threaten hippies when he saw them on the street wtih a Vietcong flag, but for that small gesture he gets my undying admiration and I don't think I'm alone (and I was a weekend hippie!). Personally, I like him for other reasons. That he was an eagle scout, that he was a jock who dared to become an actor who put makeup on, that he always helped his mother (even though she never thought he was good enough), that he had a great sense of humor and he worked hard and played harder. It's more than ironic that when I was a boy, the real old west was fifty years in the past and fading fast, and today we are fifty years from The Searchers and that past is becoming as treasured and honored as the actual history the movies John Wayne made were allegedly portraying. Amazing. Happy Birthday John, you big, bad Iowa son of a gun!

Needs work. I'll take another stab at it tomorrow.
May 22, 2007
Sold two more paintings yesterday. What started as a trickle, has become a torrent. It's almost like a virus. Once it starts spreading you can't stop it. Ha.

Meghan Saar, our managing editor, and I finally got in a big planning session this morning. Lots of story ideas with good ideas and flying leaps of imagination.

One of the movies I have been waiting for is the Coen brothers new flick, No Country For Old Men. Taken from the Cormac McCarthy book of the same name, it deals with the border area in West Texas and stars Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell (ha). For some reason it's being distributed in Europe before a U.S. release, which seems odd. I got this sneak preview this morning from Alan Huffines. Here's five scenes from No Country For Old Men (warning: it's a French site). Looks intriguing but I thought the ending in the book was weak. I hope they were able to come up with something better.

Poet Red Shuttleworth sent us a booklet of his new poems and he dedicated one of them to me and Meghan. Here it is:

Wyatt Earp (1909)

The Mojave rattlers are terrified,
leave the bald man to crawl his copper holes.
He lists his occupation as Minging Dynamo
that winter. "A man of sixty-one
should not have to kill for Wells & Fargo,"
but he shovels one more grave in the weeds
for a debtor to float below sand. Sadie huffs,
helps Earp lug a fluid-dripping body
from the Packard's back seat,
nags that the brass trim is tarnished.
At midnite it rains like ten men pissing.
Sadie slips into an unbutton-me-quick chaos dress,
but Earp is not in the mood. "Why," she asks,
"are we always one step from heaven?"
—Red Shuttleworth

Meanwhile out at Wild West World north of Wichita they have a roller coaster ride installed called the Crazy Mouse. Thomas Etheridge and his artist came up with an alternative name so it would qualify as a cowboy ride. The name they came up with is "Speedy Gonzales," complete with a drawing of the banished cartoon character. Personally, I have always loved Speedy, but I predict Mr. Etheridge will be hearing from the hispanic community on this one. Still, if he's going in that direction I would recommend having another ride called the Nappy Headed Ho-Down. Just a suggestion.

Onion Headline de Jour
I Can't Stand It When Jews Talk During Movies

"The only people you should try to get even with are those who have helped you."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, May 21, 2007

May 21, 2007 Bonus Blog
In early March of 1996, my son Thomas Charles and I joined Ed Mell and his son Carson for a trip down into Old Mexico. My good friend Paul Northrop of El Paso led our group, along with a Chihuahuan native named Jorge, so we had a bit of wiggle room to visit out the way places. I wanted to visit the village of Janos, where Geronimo lost his wife and kids when a Sonoran military unit attacked his Apache encampment while he was away (the Chihuahuan municipalities in the 1800s often paid the Apaches not to attack them, giving them, clothing, food, etc. But, the warriors, Geronimo included, simply used the Chihuahuan safe houses to launch attacks into the neighboring state of Sonora, then come home to impunity. The residents of Sonora naturally got tired of this, and sent a military unit to wipe out the raiders). I had heard that the original Spanish church, built in 1830, was still there, and that Apaches often besieged it, with the frightened citizens of Janos hiding within its walls.

On the backend of our trip, we headed towards Janos, which sits on a high, desolate plain (below, left) and lies directly below New Mexico with Columbus being the nearest American town. When we got there, we had trouble finding the church, but eventually we stumbled onto the right, crooked street and pulled up to the crumbling church, just in time to see a cockfight in full progress in the dirt plaza that fronted the ruins. Two of the women on our tour were from Japan, and for some reason they thought I could stop the fight, and they pleaded with me to do something. As I got out of the van, I saw that the fight was over, one of the cocks was already quite dead and his benefactors were quite bummed, so I took a photo of them (top, right).

While the Japanese women were crying, I went inside the church to take photos. It was so amazing to be standing on the site where no doubt Geronimo, Cochise, Nana, Juh (pronounced Who) and Victorio raided and probably stood, wading through blood, no doubt, thicker than the chicken outside produced.

One of our group, I think it was Carson, said, there was some old Indian approaching on horseback. I ran out and shot off a series of photos as he rode up (see above). The cockfighters told me his name was Victorio, he was eighty (riding a horse!) and claimed lineage back to the first Victorio, who was killed about a hundred miles east of Janos in the 1880s. Needless to say, my neck hairs stood on end. I asked him to take off his cap and he oblidged. It was quite amazing to run into this link to the distant past when everyone in northern Mexico said:

"Aiy Chihuahua! Quantos Apaches? Quantos Indios Sin Huarachis?"
—Famous saying in Chihuahua
May 21, 2007
The WETA AIM Awards dinner went fine (I only mangled one person's name, Ms. Alcada, which I quipped, "Sounds too close to Al Queda."). True West won a first place for our cover "Dude Where's My Ranch?" Dan Harshberger, Robert Ray and Abby Pearson posed with the trophy with the reigning Miss Rodeo Texas, Joanne Blackwell, 23, of Center, Texas. Got down to the Millenium Resort at three, didn't get home until ten, basically a day's work.

Stayed home all day Sunday and did artwork, although "work" is only work if you'd rather be someplace else. Had fun. When we were in Wichita at the Old Cowtown Museum they had a big, old mean-looking Longhorn named Pepper which they brought out for our Chisholm Trail True West Moment segment. I ran and got my camera and took a slew of photos, then sketched like crazy. Still experimenting with the red pen and am getting pretty good at subtle sky effects.

Switched gears in the afternoon and did a series of studies copying a Gustave Baumann print I bought at the Albuquerque Museum last weekend. Gustave was a master at silk screen colors, very raw and effective. I'm not sure I captured his color scheme but I do learn from stuff like this:

Onion Headline de Jour
Bush Challenges America To Produce The Perfect Romantic Comedy By 2009

"College is basically a sleepover with grades."
—columnist in The New Yorker

Saturday, May 19, 2007

May 19, 2007
Nice to be home for a day. Yesterday, Carole Glenn made me airline reservations for John Wayne's Centennial Birthday to be held in Winterset, Iowa next weekend. I'm flying into Des Moines on Thursday night, big dinner on Friday night, then I'm speaking at the dedication on Saturday at noon. Wayne Davis, who is my contact in Winterset, told me they already have reservations from 36 states, Denmark, England and Norway. In fact, I have to stay at my cousin's condo in Des Moines. All the room in Winterset have been sold out for months.

Going down to the Millenium Resort at two: rehearsal for WETA's AIM Awards Show. Dinner is tonight at seven. Going to be another long day.

On Tuesday afternoon at Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, we were fighting the rain and the mud puddles when a very pretty lady named Gayla Choitz showed up riding side-saddle. We had a script for that based on a viewer's question: "How dangerous was the side-saddle and how could women gallop and stay on?"

Gayla and her friend Patty Gardner proceeded to tell us all of their research on the subject, how women started riding on a platform in the thirteenth century, being led by a man, of course, and how it was essentially royalty who rode. Then as women became more frisky, the side-saddle horn was developed and it was quite dangerous and many women were hurt and, or killed trying to cling to that one puny knob. But then in the 1830s a Frenchman, in England, invented the second horn (actually a curved, hard strap, resembling an inverted cow horn) directly under the saddle horn. Women could drape their right leg over the top horn, then place their left leg in the curve of the second horn and squeeze. She told us the strongest muscles a woman has are her thighs, and with this invention women could do everything a man could do, and not get bucked off anymore.

Of course, it took decades for Americans to accept this new invention (It was after all invented by a Frenchman) and it wasn't until the early 1880s that American women took to riding with this new state-of-the-art side-saddle. And here's the kicker: women only began to ride astride (like the men) after they got the vote! Amazing.

Jeff and I looked at each other and Jeff said, "I think we need to rewrite our script." The two of us stepped out of the shoot, walked over to a bench and furiously rewrote the script to reflect what we had just learned. Our original script wasn't wrong, it was just not complete and of course, it was lacking all that juicy detail. Thanks to our side-saddle volunteer, we nailed it.

Gayla and her husband Lloyd drove 90 miles to support Old Cowtown and be in the shoot. Amazing the support for that little ol' museum.

Onion Headline de Jour
Missing Boy Scout Earns Publicity Badge

"Experience has not text books nor proxies. She demands that her pupils answer her roll-call personally."
—Minna Antrim

Friday, May 18, 2007

May 18, 2007 Bonus, Bonus, Bonus Blog
The supporters of Old Cowtown Museum are quite amazing. One couple, Pat and Debbie Doyle, both volunteers, drove in from their ranch, 35 miles southeast of Wichita, both Tuesday and Wednesday and we used them in a couple of key segments of True West Moments. On Tuesday night, Jeff Hildebrandt came up with the idea of doing a new column in the magazine called, "In Search of The Real Honkytonk Sue." The next day, as we were setting up a shot, I turned, saw Debbie astride her paint horse and, well, there she was, the spitting image of Honkytonk Sue:

Debbie, 50, rides bareback and shoots in competition and has won numerous Reserve Championships. If you know someone who looks like Honkytonk Sue, we'd sure love to have a photo to run in the magazine.

"Grab hold of your bootstraps cowboy, I'm here to dance your socks off."
—Honkytonk Sue
May 18, 2007
During my recent string of roadtrips I have met some extraordinary people. On our trip to Albuquerque, the spectacular artifacts of Paul Hutton and Bob McCubbin in particular, were on prominent display in the big Billy the Kid show and I just have to say, their collections are jaw dropping. Just stunning, unbelievable stuff. On Saturday, I finally got to see Richard Ignarski's collection, at his house! He too has some amazing things. I thought I was the King Hat Nazi, but Richard's collection puts mine in the shade.

In Wichita, I finally got to meet Mr. Unstoppable—Thomas Etheridge—who is one part energizer bunny, one part P.T. Barnum and one part General Patton.

Of course when you meet dynamic people like this it's impossible not to compare yourself and wonder: "Gee, if I only had some of their focus, and energy, where might I be?"

On the plane going to Wichita I read a fascinating piece in The New Yorker called "Branson's Luck," by Michael Specter. It is the story of Richard Branson who went from a lowly record producer (The Sex Pistols) to owning an airline (Virgin), a trainline (Virgin) and a ton of enterprises in between (all named Virgin). Being an extreme risk taker he has also survived numerous near death experiences, but this is the one that got me: "In 1974, he went with his first wife, Kristen Tomassi, to Cozumel, to try and patch up a marriage that had suffered from numerous affairs on both sides. The area has some of the world's best marlin fishing, and one day they and another couple decided to hire a deep-sea boat. Two miles out, a severe storm began to pound the boat; after a frightening hour or so, the wind and rain subsided, but Branson and his wife concluded that they were in the storm's eye. Convinced that the boat could not withstand another attack, they urged the others to try to swim with them to safety. Nobody was willing to join them. 'We stripped off to our underwear and the fisherman gave us a plank of wood from the bottom of the boat,' Branson recalled. Somehow, despite ten-foot waves, the couple fought their way to shore. Neither the boat nor its occupants were ever seen again."

I would have stayed on that boat. And you? And, how many times do we cling to the tiny appearance of safety, when we could swim our way out if we had the courage? And, finally, while the metaphors are flying, what if that boat is True West? Ha.

"At Virgin, Branson's nickname is Dr. Yes, largely because he has never been able to bring himself to fire people, and often has trouble saying no to even the most ridiculous and unsolicited ideas."
—Michael Specter, in The New Yorker piece
May 18, 2007 Bonus Blog
Here's a couple photos from Wild West World, located four miles north of Wichita, Kansas. Cheryl and Thomas Ethridge are standing with Jeff Hildebrandt in front of the cowboy ferris wheel. Note that those are not chairs, but covered wagons. The photo at right shows Orin Friesen sitting astride a scrambler type ride outfitted with saddles, instead of seats.

I just did a phoner with an internet radio program about libraries. Here's the host's response and the link:

"Thanks again for an excellent interview. Your media experience definitely showed! All my guests have been interesting, but few have been as well spoken. You're particularly good at saying what you want to say, then stopping. A rare skill, in my experience. The program is ready to listen to or download at

—Steve Black, Reference, Serials, and Instruction Librarian, Neil Hellman Library, The College of Saint Rose, Albany, New York

At about ten this morning, Samantha came back and told me a couple up front wanted to see my "art gallery." I was posting my earlier blog (see below) and I told Sam to inform them I would be up in about five minutes. After hitting "Publish Post" I walked up front and met Dirk and Tonya Rash from Fountain Valley, California. I gave them the tour and showed them all of the paintings in the office (about 50). They really liked a Bisbee stagecoach robbery scene (from CGII, page 67, bottom) in Carole Glenn's office and asked me how much it would cost for me to paint them one like it, five feet long and 30 inches high. I said a grand and they said, no problem—please, paint us one. So then we walked up front and they stopped in the library to look, one more time, at the big Billy the Kid oil painting that was supposed to be in the Hutton show, but I forgot to send it (it was also on the cover of Arizona Highways). They asked how much that one was and I said, "Five thousand dollars." They told me that was a fair price but they didn't have it. They bought two of my books, I signed them, we shook hands and they left. Five minutes later, Sam stuck her head in my office door and said, "They're back." They wanted to know if I'd take half down and the other half in thirty days and I said of course.

Not everyone was happy with the opening of Paul Hutton's Billy the Kid extravaganza in Albuquerque last week. In the guest book I found this comment:

"He was a killer. Why is he being glorified? Is social responsibility of the museum missing here?"
—Patricia Keane

To me this just proves the old saying that guns don't kill people, people kill people, because I want to shoot her.

"We are free up to the point of choice, then the choice controls the chooser."
—Mary Crowley
May 18, 2007
Got back to Phoenix at 3:30 yesterday afternoon. Hot. Went from 71 degrees in Wichita to 101 in Phoenix. Got to my truck in the east economy parking lot, paid my parking fee ($32 biz account) and immediately got a call from Joel Klasky reminding me that we were hosting the opening cocktail part and dinner for WETA's (Western English Trade Association) annual conference at El Encanto at six.

Drove home, fed the chickens, said hello to the dogs, showered and dressed and got back up to El Encanto at six. Great party and good food. I'm hosting the awards ceremony tomorrow night.

As I mentioned, Jeff Hildebrandt from the Westerns Channel inspired me to really push the envelope on our taping at Old Cowtown Museum last Tuesday and Wednesday. One of our segments was on Wanted Posters in the Old West and Jeff had his art department whip out the following posters:

He nailed these up along the main street and it really made for a zany bit, with me doing a doubletake as I walked along in front of the camera. Speaking of the camera, here is a photo of me taping a True West Moment on how they measured distance in the Old West. We picked the working farm (in background) that is totally authentic to the 1870s, and we had two horseback riders in the background (you can just make them out back there), and as the camera rolled, I walked along and did my spiel, and at the last minute I say, "Oh, and by the way, a rod is five and a half yards and those riders behind me are two rods and closing fast." And then the riders explode by me. This was tough to do because of the timing issues, and it was Wichita Windy all during this shoot and the soundman was going crazy, duck-taping my silk scarf to my shirt and generally freaking out:

Here's my POV as I walked along. The camera is on a steady-cam rig which attatches to the cameraman's waist, and all of the power, and teleprompter are attatched to the camera. As I walked along, I could look into the lense and read the script. This works really well when it is cloudy, but when the sun is out, the words in the lens wash out and it's really tough to read, much less walk and talk naturally. I'm embarrased to admit I flubbed take after take on both days, as I tried to look natural, walking and chatting and frantically trying to read the script as it floated by in a shimmering heatwave, catching just part of words here and there. Despite all of this, we did get 16 in the can.

As I mentioned, the teleprompter guy, Jim Siebert, had his hands full as well, trying to see his Mac laptop screen (which is where the teleprompter script is stored and runs from). He has to put this oldtime photogrpahers cloak over his head to see what he's doing:

Jeff Hildebrandt told me that he and the original host of the Westerns Channel, Dennis Weaver, had been to Old Cowtown and shot all of the street stuff many times (and Dennis would knock off 30 bits before lunch! Ouch!). I realized that most of the main street stuff is all the same and we might as well have been at Pioneer, Arizona, or Old Tucson, or Arizona's Cowtown, they all look the same. That spurred me to try and find different angles and unique parts of the park, such as the Victorian house district which has beautiful two-story homes. This is where we shot the sidesaddle segment and I'll tell you about that one tomorrow.

Onion Headline de Jour
Anti-Chewing Tobacco Activists Speak Out Against Secondhand Spit

"The more authentic you become, particularly regarding personal experiences and even self-doubts, the more people can relate to you and feel safe to express themselves."
—Stephen R. Covey

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 17, 2007
Just finished a whirlwind of appointments and taping. I'm waiting at the Wichita Airport for a 2:49 P.M. US Airways flight home to Phoenix. Jeff Hildebrandt and I appeared on the Johnny Western Radio Show at 11 this morning. Got in a good plug for True West and Old Cowtown. Jeff wanted to eat again at the Nu Way Cafe so we, once again, had a great lunch at one of Wichita's oldest burger joints (founded in 1930).

Last night Jeff and I drove up to Wild West World and got a personal tour from Thomas and Cheryl Ethridge of the new $30 million dollar theme park. Really a staggering array of "cowboy rides" (cost: $10 mil for rides, including changes to the ferris wheel from seats to covered wagons, and mock saddles on all the scramble rides, which by the way, have all been renamed to reflect cowboy themes). Thomas told us his payroll is $86,000 a week and when I asked him what his biggest challenge has been he shrugged and said, "There's a new one every day." And then he added that a Pepsi deliveryman took out two of his pickup trucks during a delivery, and a woman, slightly injured on a tram car, is threatening to sue. "And that's just one day," he added laughing.

The park opened on the weekend when Greensburg, Kansas was obliterated by a tornado (Johnny Western said it "looked like Hrioshima"). That weekend Kansas had 132 tornadoes in 72 hours. So the expected 14,000 opening day crowd turned into some 4,000. Fighting setbacks like this seems to energize Mr. Ethridge, and as we walked through the unfinished park (recent rains have made it hard to finish many of the courseways) he enthusiastically clicked off all the expansion he intends to finish in the next couple of weeks and months.

Of course, I got an earful about Old Cowtown, but I was polite and didn't confront him on my allegiance to the endangered historic park in Wichita (where we filmed for the past two days). The two properties seem to embody the extremes of Western commerce. One (Old Cowtown) is restricted by its charter to be as authentic in every detail as is humanly possible, and the other is hell bent to harness every carnival ride and Country pop phenomenon on the face of the earth. Personally, I understand and empathize with both schools of enterprise and I'm intrigued to see who will still be standing when the smoke clears. Just like an Old West gunfight, I imagine it will be bloody.

"If you are first, it's a race. If you are not, it's just sailing."
—Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, Airlines, ad infinitum

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May 16, 2007
Shot TWMoments all day. Got nine in the can. Some quite ambitious. Running out the door to visit WildWest World tonight. More later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 15, 2007
Woke up to rain. Got out to Old Cowtown Museum at eight. Went right into makeup, took too long to light the saloon. Slow going. Taped all day, only got eight TWMoments in the can (we wanted ten). Rain gave way to Wichita Wind, police sirens, mega-jets going over. Tired. Got back to the hotel at ten, after a drive up to Prairie Rose and a late dinner. Going to hit it early in the morning. That's it. Too tired for a quote. Oh, hell. . .

"See things as you would have them be instead of as they are."
—Robert Collier

Monday, May 14, 2007

May 14, 2007
Tonight I'm in Wichita, after the Billy-fest in Albuquerque over the weekend. Got back to Phoenix at four yesterday. Kathy picked me up and we drove out to Betty Radina's for a Mother's Day feast. Got home at nine, got up this morning at 5:30 and traipsed back down to Sky Harbor and took off at nine.

Jeff Hildebrandt met me at the gate and we drove into Wichita for lunch at the Nu Way Cafe for a wicked local treat. Jeff's wife went to school near the cafe and used to eat there every day. Homemade rootbeer, chopped beef burgers, homemade malt. Really a treat. Jeff, or I should say The Westerns Channel, bought.

After lunch we drove out to Old Cowtown Museum to scout out locations for tomorrow's shoot. I really want to push these new installments of True West Moments. I'm tired of the same old store fronts and saloons. We need to tweak this and get more creative. Had a good idea session with Ed LeRoy of Old Cowtown and his staff and we all came up with some ambitious ideas. More on that tomorrow.

Checked into the Hyatt, then Jeff and I sampled The Scotch and Sirloin Steakhouse east of town. Jeff described it as Hooters meets a good restaurant and he is right. Had the filet and a glass of merlot (once again, on the Westerns Channel). Jeff and I discussed the state of all things Western and he had a great idea for a new department in True West: In Search of The Real Honkytonk Sue. Run photos of the cowgirls throughout the west who qualify as the real deal. The first one is aleady in the can, with Jackie King, who we shot last year. Great idea, Jeff. Thanks, I'm stealing that one.

"In my opinion, most purchases [made by males] are governed by four words: the zipper is down."
—Matt Umanov, who owns a guitar store in Greeenwich Village, as quoted in The New Yorker whcih I read on the flight to Wichita, and laughed out loud, spitting trail mix everywhere. By the way, they stopped serving peanuts. Where have I been. The stewardess said it was because of sinuses, but I smell cost-cutting. Damn! I actually looked forward to those peanuts, and I didn't eat breakfast this morning!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

May 12, 2007
Sue Lambert and I travelled all day yesterday. Hard to believe, since it's only a little over an hour flight from Phoenix to Albuquerque. Left the house at nine, got to the airport at ten, got on the plane at 11:30, sat on the tarmac for what seemed like an hour, airborne by 12:15, flight over sold (what else is new), bumpy landing at 2:18 (lost an hour), got a shuttle at 2:45, got to the Best Western near Old Town at about 3.

Checked in, then Sue and I walked down to Old Town and ate at a charming little patio restaurant called Church Street Cafe, recommended by The Top Secret Writer and his staff, and the driver of the shuttle and the check-in clerk at the hotel. We sat out back on the patio and enjoyed the New Mexican clouds hovering over the adobe walled skyline. I had Sue take a couple photos, and I'll post those next week. I had a Negro Modelo (Mexican beer) and a cup of posole and a small order of the house specialty, which is a chile relleno concoction with pork, red and gree chile, very good. Sue had a Philly, which was actually more like a Chilly and we talked about the goals we wanted to accomplish on the trip, so I can legitimately write off the lunch ($33.57, includes tip, biz account)

Paul Hutton invited the artist Thom Ross, Rusty York and myself to arrive at the museum at six to get a sneak peek at the show (the invitation only opening began at seven). Paul proudly walked us through the mammoth rooms (I think there are at least seven stages to the show). It begins as you walk past a picket fence (see my Billy book) and into a darkened bedroom. There in the dim light is the actual bedroom furniture that was in Pete Maxwell's room on the night of July 14, 1881. Although it isn't pointed out, Paul leaned down and showed us the bullet hole in the wash stand (Pat Garrett fired twice, hitting the wash stand and the other bullet hitting Billy in the heart). At the next stop, we were looking at the actual gun Garrett used to kill the Kid (estimated worth, $750,000, owned by Jim Earle of College Station, Texas), then we came to the actual bench Billy was laid out on (it still has blood stains underneath and they have installed a mirror on the floow with a pistol symbol pointing the way, and a small flashlight hanging by a string helps you see it.

I was delighted to see there were several True West magazines and True West related items in the show, including at least three covers, one of Aby Pearson's postcards and even our "I Dig Billy" T-shirt. Bob McCubbin's incredible photo collection was placed throughout including several doucments I had never seen, like the several page, hand-written letter Billy the Kid wrote to Lew Wallace. Very nice handwriting, but he had trouble spelling "imagination," and added several letters here and there, evidently trying to fake his way through. Typical Kid, and kid, behavior. Amazing.

Prominently displayed were 28 of my paintings, pen and inks, inlcuding a couple oils. In fact I sold one of the paintings when a guy walked up to me and said, "Can I buy that?" It seemed like an odd place to do commerce (in a museum?) but I whipped out a credit card machine and took his vitals.

Not really (but I did sell the painting).

There's more to the show, but I've got to go sell ads with Sue.

"Are you kidding?I have been ready for this show for fifty years!?"
—BBB, when asked by Paul Hutton if I was "ready to see the show."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 10, 2007 Bonus Blog
This post makes 1,700 (there is a counter on the home page when I log on). Pretty amazing. This is also my eighth year pushing and pulling the True West wagon. Funny, because it feels much longer. Ha.

The Mapinator Weighs In
"Hope you guys get the mag out on time. When i was in basic training the drill instructors were always yelling 'Stand Tall,' 'Stand Tall.' the Dan Coomer illustration splendily captures that phrase."
—Gus Walker, The Mapinator

Speaking of Gus, Robert Ray just infused the Gage Train Robbery image, below, into the Mapinator's map of the event, blending the smoke up into the map, but behind the call-out boxes. Very groovy.

Due Dilligence
I worked hard on the reference sketches (below) and had some good photos of train wrecks to go from. Unfortunately, I had to rush the painting because of the deadline and it's my own damn fault. I cheated myself by pushing it to the last minute.

Went to lunch with two old Kingman Kids, Mike Torres, 58, and DeDe Alvarado, 54. Fun catching up on their lives. DeDe is also a drummer, and when I did my first gig (1963) I rented his brother, Sonny's drums. We went to El Encanto and sat by the pond (had the half-fajitas lunch special, $15 cash each, split three ways, includes tip). Lots of our mutual friends and girl friends are not doing too well, not to mention, being dead. We must have filled half-a-graveyard with stories ("He's dead? Are you kidding me?!").

Mike played us a new CD he made just for our TV efforts. He calls it "Bull Ride" and it's got big drums and even bigger guitar. Mike is way talented and I enjoyed the groove. He gave me a CD of it and I'll post it if I ever learn how.

Coincidently, another old bandmate and Kingman friend, Terry Anderson, called yesterday from Prescott. He was visiting Janet Childress and they called me. Terry is on the way to Vegas on his Harley, to meet his brother Mark. Their father, Tom, had mining claims and property in and around Oatman, and now that area is booming, and the two brothers need to clean up some title work. I'm glad they are finally getting a payback for all of their father's efforts in the mining world of Mohave County. I know he struggled for a long time.

Onion Headline de Jour
Roommate Not Seen For, Like, Five Days

"Who then is free? The wise man who can govern himself."
May 10, 2007
Whipped out a nice little gouache of rancher Dan Coomer, one of the heroes in the Silver City, New Mexico Jail Escape Shootout in 1884. Mr. Coomer was coming out of the bakery in Silver City when the escape began, he ran home for his rifle (many ranchers have a home in town to do business from), came back and borrowed a horse, and along with a brick layer (on another borrowed horse) they charged off after six heavily armed escapees. Unlike most impromptu citizen posses, when they got within range, the outlaws stopped, turned and fired at them. At this point Dan Coomer said, "We better charge them. . ." and off he went. At one point, the outlaws saw he was alone on a hillside and charged him on horseback. Dan simply dismounted, went to one knee and dropped one outlaw and killed a horse from underneath another. Now charging on foot, Coomer shot it out with another two, killing one and taking the fight out of the rest. Amazing courage for an unarmed guy walking out of a bakery.

These are the guys who are fun to write about. I've got another ambitious illustration I want to do this morning of the Gage Train Robbery, with the locomotive in the ditch and one of the outlaws, Mitch Lee, shooting the engineer. Worked until nine last night trying to get the wrecked train right. Still not right. Issue goes out the door this afternoon. Got to move.

"The doors of opportunity are marked 'Push' and 'Pull'".
—Ethel Watts Mumford

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

May 9, 2007
Working hard to finish June issue, or is it July? I get lost. We work so far in advance and on several issues at the same time. Yes, it's July (I had to walk into Meghan's office to find out).

Last night we had a scare. We've got all new equipment in production (Mac Server 10) and at about four I heard a commotion and it turns out someone nuked a fourth of the magazine (could have been anybody). Frantic inventory of all the computers trying to find the missing stuff. Robert Ray joked with me, "We've been putting out issue after issue, right on time. Can't we miss one issue?" Robert, Meghan and Abby were still here when I left at seven last night.

Things are calm this morning and are going to have a meeting to determine how to protect ourselves (fortunately Robert had all the scans backed up, and Meghan had her work-up files, so we dodged a bullet. Or, should that be a mortar?)

And speaking of mortars, if you've been keeping track you know I've been obsessed with Gettysburg. Here are a series of my sketches over the last few weeks: most of these are from my collection of Civil War books, and a couple are obvious (the Reb captured at Gettysburg is from a famous photo. Great hat!). That's General Sickles, upper right, and Al Sieber, bottom right.

This page shows a famous Confederate General (can't think of his name, love the spit curls), the attack in the Peach Orchard, and the death stare from a Mathew Brady photo (nice subtle red, a mistake, of course):

This bayonet charge character is poached from an Audie Murphy movie still and the flailing bodies are from the movie Gettysburg:

More studies lifted from Gettysburg and a Rembrandt knock-off (I'm trying to learn from his masterful shading). Putting the two sequences together makes for an interesting patchwork:

I found a an excellent photo of an African woman holding a baby outside her adobe home. I love how her figure is swallowed up by the massive shadow, behind her. The riderless horse and the exploding troops are from the movie. Once again, all of the images work into the whole and makes some, strange narrative sense:

More battle sketches and generals, ad nauseum:

Onion Headline de Jour
Mega-Churchgoer Hopes To Appear Devout On Jumbotron

"The average celebrity meets, in one year, ten times the amount of people that the average person meets in their entire life."
—Jack Nicholson

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

May 8, 2007 Bonus Bonus Blog
Watched the rest of Gettysburg last night (it's four hours and fourteen minutes long). Found the scene where Jim Hatzell rides up on the circus horse (the white one, at left). I can't tell he's nervous at all, can you?

I believe it's General Hancock and staff riding up to an Irish prayer meeting before the battle. Here's a close-up, with Jim second from left, again. Good job Jim. Mighty fine military bearing.

They filmed parts of the movie on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, with supplement scenes nearby, also in Pennsylvania. I thought Jeff Daniels was extraordinary, as was Sam Elliott. Our good friend Buck Taylor as usual is a joy to watch ride (I met a woman at Festival of the West who gushed, "I'd pay nine dollars just to watch him ride a horse." Yes, Buck is poetry in motion astride any mount). The big disappointment to me, was Martin Sheen as General Robert E. Lee. Who was he channeling, Jimmy Carter? Or was it Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy? Man, that was embarrassing. It was like a Saturday Night Live skit, only weaker. And unfortunately, Tom Berringer wore a big ol' fake beard and, he was good, but I couldn't get past that. The film, done in 1993, is based on Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Killer Angels. If you haven't seen it, it's worth the time to check it out.