I am writing this with a big grin on my face. Why? Because a half century ago (actually 55 years ago, almost to the day), I had a dream of someday owning a fringed-leather pullover just like the Range Rider's, and now I'm wearing it as I type this:
TV was a brand new phenom and we were living in Swea City, Iowa where my dad had a Phillip's 66 gas station. We were one of the first families on our block to get a television. All my friends hung out at my house to watch the five hours of programming before the TV went to snow. There was a Western daytime kids' show out of Mason City and they had a contest—if you could draw something, they would get it for you. I became obsessed with drawing the Range Rider's pullover. I tried to enlist my Norwegian uncles to help me but they just laughed and continued to drink coffee. In fact, this led to me drawing my own pictures, but I never got the chance to turn in that drawing to the show.
In January of 1956 we took off for Arizona. My father was going to open a big Flying A in Kingman, Arizona where my mother's family lived. On this migration I was still obsessed with getting that pullover. As we motored into Texas and New Mexico on Route 66, I would run into the curios shops every time my dad stopped for gas (he wouldn't stop for much else) and try and find a Range Rider pullover. At first nothing, other than mocassins, but then, near Grants, New Mexico I came close. They had a fringe deal, but it was a jacket, not a pullover:
See how the kid (above) has a cheap jacket on (probably made in Taiwan) and the Range Rider (Jock Mahoney) has that cool pullover? No comparison, Man. And speaking of Man, here's Mr. Easy Rider in his signature fringed jacket:
Dennis Hopper made it cool for a while, mainly for hippies, which didn't sit well with my Kingman cowboy cousins and so fringe started to go south on the acceptability scale. Of course, fringe fashion really began with the mountain men back in the early 1800s, then on to Buffalo Bill and the scouts. Then it seems to have died down a bit but came back with a vengeance with Shane (1950):
From Alan Ladd in Shane, it then appears on two of the new TV shows, The Range Rider and Wild Bill Hickok In my book, these shows took fringe to another level:
This morning Carole brought in a priority mail package from Bellvue, Colorado. I opened it with some enthusiasm. Thanks to a reader of this blog, I contacted Mike Guli, of River Crossing Leatherworks, who made me a custom Range Rider Pullover Deluxe, exactly like Jock Mahoney's (he even bought the DVD so he could study the garment from every angle!). There was only one problem: I was wearing sweats (yoga class this morning). Robert Ray and I looked at the above images before I went home for lunch. Someone under thirty said to me, "Are you actually going to pose in that?" Hell, yes, I waited 55 years to get this, I'm not letting a little thing like respectability stop me now!
"Is Jock wearing a shirt under that?" Nope. Bear-chested (or, should that be, barely chested?) Ouch! Well, I came this far, I'm going to go the entire distance. I went home, put on the pullover, grabbed a neck scarf, went out to the studio to grab my custom-made Apache Kid Gunbelt (made just for me by the legendary John Bianchi), came back to the office, wearing all of the above.
And that's when the laughter began. Some people never grow up. That's my excuse, what's yours Abby Goodrich? She just howled. I told Abby to go to her room. She couldn't, she was on the floor, convulsing in a fit. Robert Ray set up the lights, got out the TW camera and squeezed off two dozen shots. Here's one of them, just for grins:
More later. I know some of you have heart conditions like me, so I don't want to tax your laughter muscles too much. And speaking of which, do you know who I blame for ruining fringe for the rest of us?
Yes, the Village People. I know they meant well, but can't we get back to Range Rider cool?
Didn't think so.
"Fringe is just another way of saying fruitcake."
—Old Vaquero Saying