Ten years ago this month, Carole Glenn and I flew to Stillwater, Oklahoma to finish negotiations and preparations to move True West magazine to Arizona. And, we wanted to graft on our newly designed logo and cover art onto their January, 2000 issue. As I've stated before we wanted to own the new century and even though the sale wasn't quite finalized, the then owners of True West, the two Steves, agreed to allow us to graft on our cover to the issue they were putting to bed.
100 Covers: The Beginning
For the image, one of my partners, Robert McCubbin, offered up a never-before-published photograph of Buffalo Bill Cody. Dan Harshberger designed the new logo and created the cover design:
By November, the transition was complete and we were in our offices behind the Goatsucker Saloon in Cave Creek, Arizona and we were hard at work redesigning the entire magazine. For our second cover, I went to one of my neighbors, Cowboy Artist Roy Anderson, and picked out a striking Native American painting:
Our editor at that time, Marcus Huff, then suggested a cover featuring the actor Richard Farnsworth who had a movie coming out and he lived in Lincoln, New Mexico. It had been many years since True West had run an actor on the cover (many oldtimers were incensed with this cover and began to tell me that Joe Small, the founder, would be "spinning in his grave," but I went back and looked at old issues and found more than one. Selective memory is a problem we all face):
Really striking cover. Unfortunately, I told Marcus early on we needed to get an edge in True West and so Marcus insisted on asking as one of the questions we posed to Farnsworth: "What is the worst fart a horse has ever laid on you?" We didn't hear from Farnsworth for a week, so I called and apologized profusely. We still almost lost the interview. (Yes, I know, it's amazing we survived any of these stupid mistakes.)
For our next cover, I pulled out a small photo I had purchased in San Francisco from the Argonaut Bookstore for $200. It's of Lotta Crabtree, the famous actress, and she is smoking a cigar:
By this time we were finding our sea legs, and at the same time getting ready to publish another title we owned, which we renamed Old West Journal. That cover later.
In the meantime, for the May issue I illustrated an image of the original Walker, Texas Ranger:
We were losing money at this time to the tune of almost $30,000 a month. If only we could come up with a cover that would hit a home run and save us. What would that be? I know, how about a gang banger cover? Bob McCubbin had a photograph of a half-breed with gang designs that was shockingly contemporary:
It sank like a stone on the newsstand. We were starting to lose even more every month but it hadn't hit yet, because in the magazine business all of the decisions you make have consequences that come back to you in three to six months. This is a very scary place to be.
It would get even worse before it got better. We would lose our editor and have to start over. Those covers tomorrow.
"What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner."