Friday, October 31, 2008

October 31, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Here's a great capper to this morning's post:

"A happy childhood is the worst possible preparation for life."
-Kinky Friedman

"Considering my own idyllic childhood, I've found the above statement to be very accurate."
—Seth Wilson
October 31, 2008
As I've said before, paintings talk to me. Invariably, as I'm laying in the washes bits of dialogue come floating into my mind. Case in point:

The morning stage from Anton Chico contains three passengers: a minister, a woman and El Kid. I looked through my scrap file (named "Femme Fatale") looking for the right type of female to be on that stage. As I began the painting she was quite demure and spinsterish. But then:

But then, she turned into Angelina Jolie (or a young Pamela Anderson). And what she said to me (or more accurately, to young William Bonney), is this:

"You certainly know how to take advantage of a bumpy ride. What did you say your name was?"

"Bonnie. James Bonney."

Can't really use this, although I think Westerns could learn (and do well to borrow) a few things from James Bond.

Meanwhile, here's another image, in progress (from the same sequence):

These scenes are painfully slow to develop. My goal is a movie on paper and in a complicated scene like this with three passengers, a stage driver, two bandidos on the ground, one on a butte with a trained Winchester on El Kid, and four nervous horses in harness, well, I sure could learn to reduce things to symbols, if you know what I mean.

Got a call the day before yesterday from my Kingman Cowboy Cousin Billy Hamilton. It was great talking to him about his ranch activities and his horse operation.

Speaking of Kingman, I'm going to lunch today with one of the bandmates who saved my life. Terry Mitchell is coming out to Cave Creek to grab a bean. Mike Torres is supposed to come with him.

Which always gets me to thinking about growing up in Kingman. As much as I like to complain about—and make fun of— my hometown, I really had a pretty decent childhood. My parents were honest and hard working and I had friends among the Hualapais and the Mojaves (Moon!) and the cowboys and the cheerleaders. And all of this, on glorious Route 66 in its heyday! Yes, all in all, it was a very idyllic upbringing, and perhaps that is my problem.

"Bad childhoods are a human misfortune, but for writers they are often a stroke of luck."
—Dan Chiasson, in The New Yorker

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October 30, 2008
Most of us at True West dressed up in Halloween costumes today, continuing a tradition that goes back to 2001. Here are a few photos of that tradition:

Yes, this is the first year, 2001. I'm dressed like a fighting clown. There was some reference to someone in the news (Mike Tyson?) although I can't remember now who it was. Some other highlights:

I'm dressed as John Kerry on vacation, so this must be 2004.

That's Joel Klasky at right as a "doctor" and I think I'm "The Graduate" which is an inside joke at my house because I'm the only one without a degree in the whole fam damly.

This one got the biggest laugh out of Abby this morning. I'm on the ground, and apparently came as Stephen Hocking:

And finally, here is this year's group, taken out back of the True West offices:

Left to right: Sue as Honkytonk Sue dressed as a pirate (very clever): Allison as a peace loving hippie, Tom as vaquero, Lauren as a cowgirl, Meghan as a pirate: BBB, this year Kathy put quarters all over my body and on my top hat and I came as "Change you can actually believe in.": Robert as Farmer John, Abby as the Scarecrow and Sheri as the very Wicked Witch of the east (or, would that be the West, as in True West?):

"Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike."
—Alexander Hamilton

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October 29, 2008
We've been working on a historic ride with Steve Shaw in New Mexico. Here's an ad that's going to start running in the magazine:

Yes, this was designed by Dan the Man Harshberger. This is going to be a ton of fun. Mark your calendars.

Big coyotes were waiting for Peaches and I this morning as we went for our walk. Went back to the house twice, finally brought along a can of mace. I'm not kidding. These guys are aggressive and I would have brought a gun but my favorite neighbor called the law on another neighbor when he shot into a beehive recently.

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
— Newt Gingrich

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

October 28, 2008
Got some feedback:

"Of course, Canned Heat was named after a song about an alcoholic who turned to Sterno for a little that's hardcore.

"One other thing you and Fito have in common--survivors. You went through the two heart attacks. Fito--the only original member of the Heat still around--had to watch as founders Bob "Bear" Hite (heroin overdose at Fito's house) and Alan Wilson (suicide by barbiturate OD) went across the river. Most folks would have packed it in and called it a day, saying this band's time is over. But Fito kept things going through Lord knows how many different lineups.

"Come to think of it, you've done the same basic thing with True West, especially through those early days when you (and the mag) were bleeding money. I'm still not sure how you did it...

"Anyway, as brother Neil Young says, rock and roll will never die..."
—Mark Boardman

Cardio Rehab, Or Not?
"$10 for something that's got you in the best shape ever? And girls you like beside? A bargain!"
—Will Shetterly

Free, At Last Arrives In Mailboxes Worldwide
“I got my new [November-December] True West yesterday. I sat down last evening and read it cover to cover. I have been reading TW since I became one of the original maniacs back in the beginning. This may be the best issue I have read. If it's not, it's right up there at the top. The Mickey Free Story was worth the wait (but probably not worth the heart attacks) The stories on Butch and Sundance etc, everything was great. I laughed out loud at Prof Hutton's remark about struggling to not strangle you!!!"
—Hugh Howard, Maniac# 9

[read on for a good example of why.]

“The True West cover is, I think, the best ever. I can see why you and Paul were attracted to the Free story. Charles Bronson is long gone, so who is left to play Free in the cinematic version?
—Dan Buck

Hutton's Notion of Who Could Play Mickey Free
“BBB: Micky Rourke.”
—Paul Hutton

Micky Rourke? Who do you see playing Sieber? Mickey Rooney? Let's try to stay in this century, not the last.

"Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays."
—Henny Youngman

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 27, 2008
Went to cardio rehab at four. This is my 33rd visit. Very physical workouts, about an hour and a half of major cardio, actually never been in this good of shape. My insurance runs out at 36 visits. Have to decide whether to continue at $10 a visit. I do it because of the girls who work at cardio (Beth and Christie: it always comes down to the girls, doesn't it?).

Here's a photo of the two left-handed drummers:

That's me and Fito of Canned Heat at El Encanto last night. the only difference between us is that he toured the world in a major rock band and I passed out at the Elks Club in Kingman and woke up in Kingman Regional. Other than that, we're exactly the same.

"United we stand, divided we fall, come on people, don't drop the ball. Let's work together, come on people let's work together."
—Canned Heat
October 27, 2008
Went home for lunch and finished another El Kid piece. This one is called, "Manos Arriba!" (Hands up!):

I like the dust effects and it looks like the landscape around Anton Chico.

PHOENIX (AP) — Tony Hillerman, author of the acclaimed Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels and creator of two of the unlikeliest of literary heroes — Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee — has died. He was 83.

Hillerman's daughter, Anne Hillerman, said her father's health had been declining in the last couple years and that he was at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque when he died of pulmonary failure Sunday.

Hillerman lived through two heart attacks and surgeries for prostate and bladder cancer. He kept tapping at his keyboard even as his eyes began to dim, as his hearing faded, as rheumatoid arthritis turned his hands into claws.

"I'm getting old," he declared in 2002, "but I still like to write."

"By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."
October 27, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Here's a photo I got from Sherry Monahan of her shoot at Bonanza Creek Movie Town in New Mexico. This is the street where I did my gun tricks:

She also sent me a photo where she's getting ready to film a bit on drinking. As she put it: "That’s a champagne flip I am getting ready to drink. Raw eggs, sugar, and champagne at 9 a.m. Yuck. What I do for history…"

"What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing."
—Pablo Picasso
October 27, 2008
Worked all weekend on El Kid images. Here are two closeups of talking heads:

And here's another one, called "Scarred Bandido":

I just got word that the "Real Cowboys" show I did for the History Channel last week is supposed to air beginning in February. It's going to be a six-part series with one episode playing each month. The one Sherry Monahan and I did is supposed to air in April. I think they are starting with the Lonesome Dove one, the Billy the Kid one, then ours.

Last night I got to meet one of the legends of Woodstock: Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra, the drummer for Canned Heat. Fito flew into Phoenix for a gig at the Dead Goat Saloon in Mesa, and then he had a benefit show in Casa Grande yesterday for "Bikers Against Diabetes." He and his ex, Sheri Riley (who works for me, and by the way, they get along famously), met me at El Encanto last night for dinner. We sat at the bar, ordered the mole enchiladas and talked about drumming and documentaries. He's just finished a doc on "The History of Mexican Rock 'N' Roll," which he produced. Both of us are left-handed so we had some comparing to do on customizing drum sets to meet our peculiar predicaments. Great talking with him about all things percussion and, of course, he has crazy stories of being on the road.

The most famous Canned Heat tune is probably "Goin' Up The Country" which is the signature song of the Woodstock film. They also had a million seller with "Let's Work Together." Other hits include "Got My Mojo Workin'" and "Spoonfull."

"In painting, as in the other arts, there's not a single process, no matter how insignificant, that can be reasonably made into a formula. You come to nature with your theories, and she knocks them all flat."
—Auguste Renoir

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 24, 2008
Working on storyboarding for El Kid. Have some great photo reference on mountain stagecoaches and muy malo bandidos.

We are featuring one of my favorite cafes in our seventh annual Best of the West issue and Meghan asked me if I had a photograph of the place. I assured her I did and spent all morning yesterday trying to find one (I must have a half-dozen but they were nowhere to be found). Instead I found all kinds of other classic stuff, like this shot of my daughter Deena, on the road from Gleason to Tombstone in October of 1984.

We were traversing the winding dirt road at sunset and I stopped the car, told Deena to get out and handed her my hat. The pose is all hers.

Sent: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 9:48 am
Subject: Appaloosa, the movie

"We saw this movie last weekend and, of course, thought of you. Have you seen it? Did you like it? I thought it was a little slow, yet it worked. I found the film endearing. Ed and Viggo were spot on. Loved Viggo's shooting stance at the end."

Yes (saw it), yes (liked it), yes (I thought it was a little slow—and hard to swallow—in the third act), yes (they saved it at the end), yes (Ed and Viggo were quite believable and excellent), yes (the dueling, sideways stance was quite accurate) and yes (I ran out of questions, but I still say yes!).


"People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the problems of modern society."
—Vince Lombardi

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Had lunch with Jennie Torres Meines. She and I grew up together in Kingman and graduated from MCUHS High School in 1965. She just retired from Valley Bank (and all of the subsequent owners) after 40 years:

Feedback From The BBB Blogzone
"Dear Mr. BBB, I haven't corresponded with you since you had the heart attack but I'm certainly glad that you survived. Just got around to reading the August issue of TW. As usual, I'm way behind in my reading material. The article about Tom Horn stated that Capt. Emmett Crawford was killed by Apaches. According to everything else that I've read about Crawford, he was shot in the head by Mexican irregulars made up mostly of an Indian tribe that were hated by the Apaches. As I recall, Crawford had Apache scouts with him on the expedition. You should start eating something besides rabbit food. You look like death warmed over."
—Daniel James Patterson (AKA E.J. Gobbledick III

Yes, you are correct. the Crawford bit got by our proof readers and me. Also, it wasn't the rabbit food, it was the two heart attacks that created my current look.

"Your gun spinning story was great! You did the right thing. I'm proud of you for seeing it the way you did. I never was a spinner but I sure loved wearing a gun so you brought back a pile of memories. Will I be able to purchase a DVD of this event and other stories done for History? I have one DVD now of earlier clips.
—Bill Dunn

"When is that show going to be on the History channel? I hope they show the whole thing! I bet it's a hoot! I'd love to see you spinning those Colts! I bet it was a sight to behold! Ha!

"Dignity, you say? This ought to be good."

Yes, I'm sure the History Channel will sell DVDs of the show, which will be a six-part series to be called "Real Cowboys." It's not scheduled for airing yet, but I'd give it a month or two. Watch for it.

“Hey Pard: I am a two-degreed historian and a reenactor. I can't be one without the other. The water's fine--just walk into the light (mixing of metaphors brought to you by River Junction Trade Company).”

"To be idle and to be poor have always been reproaches, and therefore every man endeavors with his utmost care to hide his poverty from others and his idleness from himself."
—Samuel Johnson
October 23, 2008
A photographer for the Arizona Republic is coming by to shoot me for a feature in the paper about my book signing this weekend:

"Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work."
—Thomas A. Edison

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October 22, 2008
Yesterday I finished the big panorama of "The Morning Stage From Anton Chico." This is an establishing shot for an El Kid sequence that will run in the January issue of True West:

As I mentioned, I way overworked this puppy but I can't help it. Decent dust effects and early morning light, although the subtle twilight on the adobes in the right side of the painting are a tad crude (and I had excellent photo reference of Anton Chico that I took there in October of 1991 on a research trip for my book on Billy the Kid). Gee, I wonder what old Ben has to say about this?

"The eye of a master will do more work than both his hands."
—Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 21, 2008
Back in the office and working hard on the next two issues.

Riding A Bike While Spinning Six-Shooters
I haven't spun a gun since I stood in front of the mirror in my parent's bedroom on Ashfork Avenue in Kingman, Arizona. Yes, it was a Fanner-fifty and I used to practice for hours spinning the gun on my forefinger until I could spin it coming out and spin it going back into the holster. I was never as good as Joey Dillon or Jim Dunham, but I was the King of Six-Gun Spinning on Ashfork Avenue.

One of the setups on the shotlist for the History Channel shoot at Bonanza Creek Movie Town bothered me. It called for me to wear a holster and six-gun and walk down the street, all the while mocking a Hollywood showdown.

At breakfast on Monday morning I expressed my concerns to Pip Gilmour the director of the History Channel series. I told her I wanted to protect my credibility as a historian and that strapping on guns and parading around put me in the "re-enactor zone," which was a place I really didn't want to be video-taped in. She said we could talk about it on the set and she left in a van.

I drove out to the location in my rental car and fretted about the scene all the way. But first I had to get past the opening sequence, which went better than I expected (I was pretty nervous even though Sherry Monahan told me I was going to be fine). In fact, I nailed the first set-up on the first take. I had to walk around a corner of a false-front building, start talking at my first mark (the director walks the route and digs her heel in the dirt to mark the spots) and then turn and point out a building as I'm walking and talking, stop at my second mark and talk to the director (don't look at the camera!) and finish my comments, remembering the date (May of 1874) the name (a black hod carrier from Wichita named Charlie Sanders), the name of the river (The Arkansas) the name of the local newspaper (The Wichita Eagle) and the demand from that newspaper: "This outrageous killing led to the Wichita Eagle calling for a reorganization of the police department. . .") and the punchline: ". . .which led to the call for a stronger police force, and on this new force was a young man named Wyatt Earp.")


Then the prop guy brought out a set of Navy Colt's in a Wild Bill Hickok rig (they belonged to Hickok lookalike Thadd Turner) and I debated whether to strap them on.

Pip told me they wanted to do a parody of Hollywood showdowns and did I know how to spin the revolvers. I instantly pulled both Navys and spun them into position at full-cock and said, "You talkin' to me?" The director and the crew kind of did a Whoa! which prompted me to spin them back into the holster position and back out again and this time saying, "You sons of bitches have been lookin' for a fight and now you can have it!" At this little bit of showmanship, the director is going nuts, the cameraman pulls his rig off the sticks and starts following me. I do every spin and every twirl and flourish I can remember (from 1958!) and just like riding a bike, I'm doing it all like I have been practicing for months.

The director wants a Sergio Leone eyes shot: "Normal eyes, then squint. Yes, like that! Now pull the guns at full cock! Turn! Go low! That's it! That's it!"

I growl, I make gun noises (pistol shots down a canyon with extreme echo and I point at the sound guy and say, "That's for you." Which he loves and give me the thumbs up.)

Inspired, I go into a death crouch, grabbing my gut and giving my best B-Western grunt: "You got me!" The crew is now on their feet (actually they have been on their feet all morning, but still. . .) and I start doing even more ridiculous spins and twirls, until I finally stop, turn towards Pip and say, "Well, at least I still have my dignity."

"That's a wrap."
—Pip Gilmour, History Channel director

Monday, October 20, 2008

October 20, 2008
A whirlwind tour to New Mexico and back. Got to Santa Fe at ten on Sunday night. Had a nightcap with Sherry Monahan in the Holiday Inn bar, talked over her shooting adventures with the History Channel (we're both being featured on the same series), got up at 6:30 this morning, then hit the road to Bonanza Creek, a Western movie town about 25 miles south of Santa Fe this morning at 7:30. Started taping at eight, got all my walk and talk stuff in the can by noon (did some pretty funny gun tricks by the way), drove back to Albuquerque via Madrid and had lunch with Paul Hutton at the 66 Cafe on Central, then drove to the airport and flew home, arriving at the house at 6:30, exactly 12 hours later.

"I'm tired."
—BBB actual quote

Sunday, October 19, 2008

October 19, 2008
Worked all morning on script answers for the documentary I'm taping tomorrow in Santa Fe. Leaving for Sky Harbor in about a half hour.

Also working on a big, ambitious set piece painting of El Kid. Hit a final hurdle this morning on the stagecoach (the scene's got a sweeping Pinocchio type pan establishing shot). Way overproduced. Been working on it for about a week. Ridiculous, of course, but I don't know how to work any other way.

Yesterday, Kathy and I drove into The Beast and attended Gail Peterson's wedding. Very nice, in an old Lutheran Church in the downtown Phoenix area (1104 N. 3rd Street). Really reminded me of Iowa and the old stone churches there. The only thing different is they actually clapped at the climax of the wedding service. I kind of winced. My Norwegian kin would have frowned on that. Ha.

"Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice."
—George Jackson

Friday, October 17, 2008

October 17, 2008
Lots of Twitter responses this morning, many obscene entries (mostly from The Laib Man), plus more than a few complaints (Twitter brought up all of the email addresses on my computer and I just hit send, or select, and it bombed more than one recipient with multiple requests because they were in my computer with a variety of email addresses).

News From The Front Lines
"A gentleman and lady came to your geocache today. I gave them several issues of True West, including the April issue. The woman said she is going to be teaching a class at ASU on geocaching and will have that issue in the room."
—Carole Glenn

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
—Andre Gide

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October 16, 2008
Just got the office issues of the November-December True West and there's Mickey Free in all his one-eyed glory. Really impressive. Had to call The Top Secret Writer and share my excitement. Feels great to see all of our hard work in print.

I'm flying to New Mexico on Sunday night to film my part in a History Channel doc on cowboys.

Yesterday, Ken Amorosano was in town from New Mexico and he was raving about the new social media. He attended a seminar at the recent Folio Show and the bigtime media guys were all pushing Twitter and something called Ning?

Ironically, yesterday my good friend Jerry Scott, who writes two comic strips, "Baby Blues" and "Zit," had a gag about two kids sitting in class talking about an ancient time when students wrote notes and passed them to each other. One kid looks incredulous and says, "How long ago was that?" and the other replies, "BT: before Twitter."

So, anyway, back to Ken, who insisted that for the sake of the company I join Twitter and start posting today. Well, I didn't get to it yesterday, but this morning I had Meghan log me in and walk me through it. Seems very much like a blog for people who don't have time to blog. So, for what it's worth, I'm up there somewhere in the Twitterville and I don't really get the benefit yet, although I got this Twitter trail mail about fifteen minutes ago:

Saw the new True West T-Shirts on the BBB Blog today. Reminder to order some for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15, 2008
We have an exciting visitor today at the True West offices. She is from Sheridan, Wyoming and we are negotiating to preserve her father's photo collection. Very exciting.

Meanwhile, Hugh O'Brian—you know—the Brave-Courageous-And-Bold hero of the 1955-61 TV show "Life And Legend of Wyatt Earp," sent me a very cool photo today:

Quite a legendary quartet. Hugh O'Brian, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart. Hugh is the last one standing, and although he's in his mid-eighties, he's still a busy guy. He is the founder of HOBY (Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership), organized in 1958. Many thousands of kids have benefited from the program in the last half century, including the daughter of Kingman Junior High School rodeo queen, Jeri (Penrod) Short.

We are finally creating some new T-Shirt designs. I wanted to get these in the works before I left for Peru in August, but we ran out of time. Then, Mickey Free ate up September. But now, two weeks into October, we have a couple designs to sell for the Christmas season.

Gregg Clancy, an oldtime Cave Creeker, took the designs and printed up a couple versions for us all to ponder. We threw them on our staff, went out in the back of the True West World Headquarters and Abby Goodrich snapped off a couple dozen shots. Here's a taste:

This is a shirt design created by Robert Ray: "The Cartridge Family: Earp." Across the top it lists the Earp boys: "Wyatt, Newton, James, Virgil, Morgan, Warren." A very cool shirt for anyone who loves those Earp Boys.

Left to right: Tom Tumus, Allison Cabral (the new girl), Ken Amorosano, Sheri Riley and Sue Lambert. We've got better shots of the shirt designs but I thought this image captured some of the office energy. Yes, the other design is the Billy the Kid. More later.

"To succeed in the world it is much more necessary to possess the penetration to discover who is a fool than to discover who is a clever man."
—Talleyrand De Perigord

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14, 2008
Windy and colder out today. Walked Peaches on a leash this morning and wore a jacket for the first time in a long time.

Last week, on a whim, I grabbed a book out of our library on the history of Searchlight, Nevada and took it home. Searchlight is not far from my hometown of Kingman and is often mentioned by the oldtimers in that area as a wild town (cowboy star Rex Bell—no relation—and his wife Clara Bow, the "It Girl" retired there). The other night I skimmed through it and landed on this:

"At the zenith of the boom in Searchlight the country was in the throes of a depression. The 'silent' panic began in March 1907, a period of economic decline marked by a drop in stock prices, high interest rates, bank closings, and even the failure of some stockborkerage firms. Speculators were wiped out by the thousands."
—author Harry Reid (who grew up in Searchlight and went on to become a congressman)

This got me to thinking. I've ran across many other financial crisis in my studies of the Old West. For example when cattle king Charles Goodnight got tired of the interest rates at his local bank he decided to start his own and almost immediately got wiped out by a financial meltdown in the 1880s. Several years later, the country suffered another one. After reading of this "silent panic" of 1907 that affected Searchlight it seems to me as if the boom and bust cycles of the past were more prevalent, and that after the crash of 1929, they have been artificially held at bay for the past decades, only to have a bigger bust hit us, because you can slow down the cycles and even avoid small collisions, but just like with penicillin, it works for a while, but the strains that inevitably get around it are nastier than anything before it.

On a related note, "In the last 80 years, America has experienced 13 economic recessions—and fought back with 13 economic expansions." This was in an ad for Merrill Lynch that ran Sunday in the New York Times, but I think it speaks to the regular cycle of these things.

Kathy and I went to see the movie American Carol on Sunday which was written and directed by David Zucker, of Airplane fame and the Naked Gun movies. Zucker is a good friend of Paul Hutton's and David has been advising us on the Mickey Free project. It's a conservative parody of left-wing documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (played by Chris Farley's brother in Carol). Kathy walked out ten minutes into it (she went into a neighboring theatre and watched The Dutchess). I stayed and laughed and actually cried at the end (not from her leaving, but for the Trace Atkins song about America).

"The future is a present give to us by the past."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 12, 2008
Yesterday, our daughter Deena joined us for a movie. Went to see Apaloosa and I thought it was good, but not great. Viggo and Ed Harris and Jeremy Irons and Renee were all very good, but it kind of misfired about two thirds of the way through. Oddly inconsistent, but then it got back on track at the end. Speaking of track, I believe the train was done by my good friend Jim Clark (The Trainman) and the horse gear was excellent (also supplied by a friend David C.) and there was an obvious love for the Western by everyone involved, which went a long way towards saving the day. I loved the little details like when Ed Harris is shot up and lying on the ground, Viggo asks what happened, and Ed says, "Everybody could shoot." That was so refreshingly different. We all agreed it was a "good Western." And the really good news is that the theatre was filled solid and I wish I could have handed everyone a True West on the way out. Frankly, I wish I could have handed out a True West magazine at every performance.

We probably should consider creating a trailer type ad for True West and buy as many screens as we can when The Lone Ranger comes out next year, at this point, supposedly starring George Clooney as the Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto. That's the kind of tie-in that could really put us on the map in terms of national, break-out exposure. The History Channel hit it out of the park last year with their movie trailer-like promo for "Ice Truckers." Hmmmmmm.

Speaking of the History Channel, I'm flying to New Mexico next weekend to shoot a talking (and walking) head part in an upcoming doc. Sherry Monahan got me the gig (Thanks Sherry!) and evidently my being banished from the History Channel (ironically because of comments on this blog) has been put on hold. Or, maybe it isn't for the History Channel. Ha.

And double irony: we're filming on the same set where they shot most of Apaloosa. I intend to wear my Optimo performance hat with the Roger French customized, braided hat band. Gee, I wonder if Oliver Wendell has anything to say about this?

"Wear a good hat. The secret of good looks lies with the beavers in Canadian brooks."
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, as quoted in the new Billy the Kid: The Best Writings On The Infamous Outlaw, by Harold Dellinger)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October 11, 2008
Very nice out, finally. Doors open for the first time in months. Buddy still at his try-out home and Peaches seems to be enjoying her only child status.

Working on a series of images for a new graphic novel to be named: El Kid. This would be the Native New Mexican version of Billy the Kid. We all know he favored a sugarloaf sombrero with a green hatband (he was Irish, of course). The story is going to feature him after the Lincoln County War, when he gravitated between Anton Chico, Puerto de Luna and Portales. Also Las Vegas (New Mexico) and Fort Sumner. He spoke Spanish fluently, loved to attend the bailes. And the ladies of the region, from Celsa, Paulita to Sally Chisum, all commented on his fine manners and excellent dancing skills.

What if we gave him a pinch of The Cisco Kid (who ironically was based on Billy) and a pinch of Hopalong Cassidy's "uniform"? Could that be cool?

Story to follow.

"I'm going to have this man's nino. I know there were other women, other babies. But this one shares my body. Billy has to live for his son. For me."
—Paulita Maxwell, as rendered by poet Kit Knight, 1994 (and quoted out of a new book: Billy the Kid: The Best Writings On The Infamous Outlaw, by Harold Dellinger)

Friday, October 10, 2008

October 10, 2008
Regarding the Wickenburg Woman's upset: truth is not something that is owned by liberals or conservatives. It's not sanctioned by Fox News, or CNN. They may claim it or run it in promos, but that doesn't make it true.

On the other hand, as my good friend Leon Metz has put it, "What people choose to believe is a fact in itself."

Damn, I wish I had said that!


“BBB, You must be doing something wrong. I'm a registered Independent and a couple of Dems. at work think I'm a Right Wing Radical. Go Figure.”
—Kip Coryea

Speaking of Buddy Boze Hatkiller, he survived his first night at his new home. The report is he went swimming and licked the water off the kid's faces (That-ah-Boy!) and slept soundly in his new bed, although he barked at coyotes this morning (that's his job).

The ex-mayor of Cave Creek sent me this email:

“If Buddy does not work out at his news address, let me know. Kelly [his daughter] has a strong interest.

“Think of the karma. You got rid of your dog. You gave him away. And he would get to remain in the same neighborhood and when walked on a leash, could irritate/terrorize the flatlanders. You would still be able to hear him from your patio. Just a thought. This is an insurance policy to ensure Buddy doesn’t have an affected life expectancy if the new locale does not work out.

“Cave Creek has changed from a territory of rugged individualists to a spoiled hamlet of urban refugees living in stucco McMansions yearning for an HOA board (homeowner associations) and a few more wretches just like themselves to gather in caffeinated bitchfests. They’ve brought their speed bumps, their asphalt, their higher fees and taxes, and a lot of Midwestern and eastern urban anger. Doubt many of them have ever ridden a horse, started a camp fire, hiked a trail without the assistance of a docent and an ‘interpretive amphitheater’ or gazed into the depths of the inner Grand Canyon and gotten that free lesson on geology and mortality. They’re afraid of the wildlife, they have no interest in the history of the Old West and if it wasn’t for the air conditioner, cell phone and convenient latte, life wouldn’t worth living west of the Pecos for most of them.

"Meanwhile, I am thinking about a CC bumper sticker, ‘If Dogs Don’t Like You, People Won’t Either,’ or ‘Leashes Are For Dogs, Muzzles Are For Bad Neighbors,’ or how about ‘The Horse Traveled The West, The Dog Protected the Homestead, & My Cat Can Still Identify Vermin,’ of ‘If You Need A Dog Park, You Probably Need a Friend.’”
—Tom Augherton

"Now THAT is the truth."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

October 9, 2008
Remember the Wickenburg Woman who wrote me complaining about my Wyatt Earp comments on the History Channel? You know, the one who said, “I saw you interviewed on the program, and I have to say I was very disgusted with your left-wing spin.” And then this: “I have a couple of books that were autographed by you in Tombstone back in the 1990's. I think I would like to return them to you. I will have to figure out how to do that. I do not want them on my bookshelf here in Wickenburg, Arizona, anymore.”

So, after Mickey Free went out the door last Thursday I wrote her back:

[Wickenburg Woman],
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I have been on deadline for a major project and we just finished.

Regarding bias as it regards history, all I have ever wanted to know is the truth. Regarding Wyatt Earp I didn't say anything on the show that isn't in my books. If you'd still like to send them back to me you may do so at:

Bob Boze Bell
PO Box 4410
Cave Creek, AZ 85327


P.S. And, for the record, I'm a registered Independent, not a Liberal

End of my email. I got this reply this morning:

“Well, I guess you never did know what you were talking about then. Like my husband said, ‘It is not worth the time, money, nor the postage to return those books.’ I agree. So, I will just move your books to the shelf with all the other great opinionists like Richard E. Erwin and John Pleasant Gray (just to name a few.) I will not bother to pick up a copy of True West magazine anymore. You should consider renaming it.”
—Wickenburg Woman

How about "The Magazine That Makes People Who Believe In Myths Angry"?

Buddy Boze Hatkiller is at his new home for a tryout. They have three acres, two horses and six kids, and another dog. We're hoping they get along, for Buddy's sake.

Meanwhile, one of my neighbors (the same one who demanded that I put both my dogs down) called the marshal's office and filed a complaint because Buddy got out of the yard over the weekend and was lying in the road. I will not be nominating him for Cave Creek Neighbor of The Year.

It's funny. We moved out here to get away from city slickers like him.

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
—Thomas Jefferson 1802

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

October 8, 2008
And now, without further ado, here is Mickey Free: The Graphic Novel as it will appear in the next issue of True West:


As you can clearly see, Mickey Free wears a Navajo-Mexican-US flag-all-stitched-together serape. Meghan wonders if Cowan's Auction House got wind of our creation:

"The biggest surprise of the auction occurred when a late classic Navajo serape hit the auction block. The serape brought in $123,375 to become the highest selling item of the sale. It was estimated to fetch $8/10,000. The high sale price can be attributed to a number of factors including its extraordinary visual aesthetic, condition and age. The serape is circa 1865 with lac and cochineal dyes that are indicative of its age and highly sought after by collectors.

"'Bidding for the serape was fierce and the price soared beyond our expectations,' commented Danica Farnard, Cowan's American Indian art specialist."

Already planning the Mickey Free book. Went over templates this morning with Robert Ray. Anxious to elevate my game, and make the whole project breathe a little better. Gee, I wonder what ol' Waldo has to say about that?

"Life must be lived on a higher plane. We must go up to a higher platform, to which we are always invited to ascend; there, the whole aspect of things changes."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

October 7, 2008
Back from a relationship seminar with Kathy over the weekend. Flew to El Paso on Friday, drove up to Cloudcroft, New Mexico for a two-day John Gottman retreat for couples. Biggest insight: 69% of couples' issues are unresolvable (Gottman and associates have video-taped and tracked thousands of couples for some 30 years!). And yet we keep fighting about the same things for decades. For Kathy and I, our main issue in this arena is our house. It's my dream house, but it's somewhat of a burden on her and now that the kids are gone she wants to downsize and travel. I won't budge. She feels resentful. Believe it or not, we actually came to somewhat of a resolution through the exercises at the seminar.

More details, later.

So, Kathy and I are going to be married for at least another 24 hours. One poor guy, a cowboy from Austin, I don't think was as lucky. His wife filed for divorce two weeks ago and when he asked how he could make amends, she told him he could come to this seminar. Ouch! Felt for the guy.

Meanwhile, here are selected comments from the Mickey Free PDF roughs I sent out last week to a dozen readers. First the good news:

The Good News
“The art and the design are absolutely wonderful. Seriously. Your style is perfect for telling this. There's not one picture that I would change. It would be impossible to pick one as a favorite, because they're all so strong. And Remington's voice is charming. It's a very smart solution to narrating the story.”
—Will Shetterly

"It is so cool. I have been reading your blog now for a couple of years and what's really cool is I have seen 80% of the art work on the computer before it went into the book. It kinda of makes me feel like I've been involved with the project. I can't wait to see the finished work and get my signed copy. WHEN WILL IT BE FINISHED?"
—Roger French

“I feel like I've just watched the preview of an exciting coming attraction for a great Western movie.

“Please understand, I have never read a graphic novel before. This was my first experience and I'm very impressed. The artwork is really nice, as usual, Mr. Bell; the sketches, paintings and drawings look as if they were produced a hundred or so years ago. Hutton's words left me with a very comfortable feeling; they indeed felt as if they came from Remington's pen.

“Once I got into the style of the project, it finally opened up for me what you two are accomplishing. At first I had a little trouble with the written narration on the one side while pictures and dialogue were on the other; until I found if I read the narration first then followed with the pictorial, it moved along very well for me.”
—Steve Lodge

“HOLY COW! What can I say? It's an incredible piece. It's a great story woven through your art stringing them together like pearls. The story-line is incredible, the writer bringing the history and the perspective of the narrator, artist, and participants on a roller coaster ride through the viewers mind. No, I didn't have mushrooms for breakfast. I'm trying to convey that it's a great ride and a lot of information that goes along with the fun. It's a pleasant change from the sci-fi or ‘comic-y’ themes out there.”
—Anthony Dembek

“Color, layout and imagery are all amazing. Loved the sepia tone to the pages.”
—Alan Huffines

“EXCELLENT!! Continuity and story are great.... hats off to you and Paul, a job well done. I can't wait to see the finished piece! Loved the overall look of the piece, especially the hand written sketchbook notes, and the background wash ‘spills.’”
—Jeff Prechtel

“It's a compelling story with fascinating characters. It's well written and beautifully illustrated. I'm glad you and Paul are telling this story. I can't imagine a better team to tell the story.”
—Tom Carpenter

The Bad News
“You're right to be concerned about the narrative tracking. You're cramming too much into 20 pages”.
—Will Shetterly

“The only thing I saw that was a little disruptive to the story line was the many styles of illustration. It made me feel as if I were walking through a gallery of many artists work centered around a theme. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It's very distinctive. It made me feel like I was jumping from the central story to the story as told by many people. I was seeing many sides, as in a trial where you hear from many witnesses. At the end, I felt like I could reach the truth on my own. That being said, it was just different from other pubs, usually done by one or two artists and one writer. I think the word balloons are a little out of place, but it's subjective.”
—Anthony Dembek

“There are too many different kinds of text deliveries and it's a bit confusing. You might introduce Remington journals with a standard text box (think Watchmen) and eliminate those blurbs in the black border, or find a way to make them more obvious.”
—Jason Strykowski

“I saw little about Mickey Free and a lot about other people. All the stuff about Sieber and the Apache Kid was interesting but could not find the narrative. If it is about Free then make it so and use these others as interesting diversions and background. Who is narrating? If it is Remington then keep it that way. I counted three different voices. Was difficult to determine which story I was supposed to be reading. Balloon dialogue doesn't work well with your art. I don't have a suggestion for you but didn't think they went together at all. Perhaps coloring the balloons? Curly is carrying a Winchester and not a Henry. Narrative is telling rather than showing. Don't have Remington tell me about the snowstorm and following activity. I wanted
to SEE that.”
—Alan Huffines

“When I think of graphic novels, I base my limited understanding of the form on my reading of Max Allan Collins' 'Road to Perdition', Frank Miller's '300' and Art Spiegelman's 'Maus.'
So, what I have to offer has limits and really boils down to one question posed by every page: how do I read this? If I were to read only the marginal text--Remington's narrative--would I get the whole story? I presume so.”
—Tom Carpenter

Okay, end of comments. Yes, I admit there is a bit of a train wreck between Remington's narration and the comic strip elements in the story, and yes, we covered too much ground for a mere 20-page excerpt. It does take some cross referencing between Remington's voice and the comic and the footnotes, but here, if you have forgotten, is my manifesto, which I wrote a couple years ago:

The Triple B Graphic Novel Manifesto
Whereas I believe the vast majority of graphic novels today are nothing more than comic books on better paper, I vow the following:

• I intend to emulate and cannibalize all of the visual arts I can get my hands on. Graphic should mean "graphic," including numerous techniques (scratchboards, gouache, pencil, crayons, et al.). Layout should emulate magazine formats, with cutlines, pull quotes and maps that fill in back story and provide clues about exposition without long, cumbersome word balloons.

• Word balloons are a necessary evil, but should be used rarely, if at all. There has to be a better way to tell a story without ridiculous thought balloons coming out of character’s heads. Narrative and dialogue does not have to be part of the drawings (I often hear the term "movies on paper" but most GNs seem to be "cave drawings on paper").

• Narration and dialogue should be separate, but ideally there should be story information in the visual images that does not appear in the narration. And vice versa. The end result being if you only read the narrative you wouldn’t completely understand the story and the same on the visual side of the fence. Ideally, both should stand alone, but important information should be hidden, or planted in each, so that you have to go back and read and look at the story again to see the secret compartment on the tapadero. It wasn’t described in the text, but it was there for you to see if you looked close enough to the drawings.

• Straight scene for scene storyboarding is dull and passe. Skim action and jump cutting is where it’s going. We have seen tens of thousands of TV shows, movies, documentaries, magazines and books. It is time to blend all of these genres into something that could rightfully be called a “Graphic Novel.”

So, in that regard, our "graphic novel" experiment (which will run as a 20-page excerpt in the next issue of True West magazine) has succeeded. And, in our defense, we will have much more room in the book length version (128 pages vs. 20)) and I have a learned a thing or two from the effort here and from the comments above. It's still a bit too schizophrenic and needs to breathe more, but I still love and believe in, the various elements and I want to utilize them even more so in the book.

"Plans are nothing; planning is everything."
—Dwight D. Eisenhower

Thursday, October 02, 2008

October 2, 2008
As of 1:55 p.m. Mickey Free: The Graphic Novel (the magazine version) is finished and ready to be sent to the printer. Really hard work and I must commend Robert Ray, Meghan Saar, Abby Goodrich and Paul Hutton for putting in long hours to bring this puppy into the pound.

Speaking of the pound, it cost $751 to "board" my dogs at the vet for a week. Don't know if that's high or low, but it did produce a Yikes! from my spouse when I told her.

Speaking of my wife, she's taking me to a marriage seminar (perhaps as a treat for finishing Mickey Free, or perhaps because Mickey Free is emblematic of our relationship).

But, I digress (yes, I'm quite buggy from the deadline-heebie-jeebies).

It all started with a petty comment from a punk kid who allegedly said, when viewing our PDF prototype which I sent out to a dozen people: "In no way is this a graphic novel." This ate at me to the point I woke up at midnight, the night before last, and whipped out 11 more scenes. Yes, I said 11. Worked on this painting for four hours:

The Top Secret Writer said to me on the phone the night before, "You've got to do Sheriff Reynolds with the watch standing in front of the stagecoach at Riverside Stage Station as the nine Apaches are being loaded on the stage with Eugene Middleton on the box and Hunkydory Holmes behind him." To which I said, "Paul, it took you 12 seconds to say that, but it's going to take me a long time to execute that. Do you know how hard it is to draw a stage with the harness—all by itself?

Anyway, I finished that scene at four in the morning, slept for two hours, got up and decided I needed to draw a couple follow up scenes of Bachenol attacking Reynolds. Here's one of them:

Not a bad likeness of Bachenol either. The punk kid who dismissed our entire effort implied I didn't know how to do a comic, which really grinds me. So At about seven in the morning, I whipped out this sequence:

On a roll, and in the zone, and more than a tad buggy, I proceeded to whip out these paintings:

The "Clang!" is for the punk who thinks this old man doesn't get how comics work.

Got home at six last night, went right to bed and got up this morning and went into the office at seven (missed yoga, don't tell Kathy). Input all of the new imagery and, working with Meghan and Robert we went through every one of the pages and fixed and plugged and fretted and edited everything until we got to the last picture and Robert Ray said, "This is a 72 dpi jpeg which you obviously scanned for your blog, but forgot to scan as a tiff for the magazine. We can't use it."

So I went home at ten and turned my studio upside down looking for the original, but couldn't find it. Asked Robert if he couldn't schmooze the 72 dpi image to work and he said no. I said, "How much time do I have?" And he said, "I'll give you until 1:30." So I went back home to my studio and whipped out a color version of the last scene (the original image was a scratchboard) and came up with this:

Finished it at 1:35 and rushed back to the office, scanned it and Robert Ray put it in place at 1:55.

Can't wait to work on the longer book version. This 20-page-excerpt was really hard to do. So much information to cram into such a small space.

"If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done."
—Old Vaquero Saying