Friday, December 31, 2010

No Pardon for Billy

December 31, 2010

It's official. Gov. Richardson did not pardon Billy the Kid. I'm being interviewed at 9:20 a.m on Channel 3 in Phoenix about it, then at 1:20 p.m. on CNN. I'll have more to say later. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Billy the Kid-Wallace Pardon Info

December 30, 2010

It never ceases to amaze me that new historical finds show up at this late date. Well, Mark Gardner has discovered an interview with Lew Wallace in May of 1881 that is quite astounding. For one thing, the Kid is at large (he escaped hanging in April of 1881) and hasn't been tracked down yet so Wallace's comments have the added value of breaking news.

In terms of Wallace promising the Kid a pardon, the governor gives a pretty clear opinion on why he doesn't think he needs to honor that. It's also fascinating that the Boys (Dolan, Evans, etc.) evidently threatened to literally spank Wallace and he spends some time telling how he avoided that punishment.

Here is the link to the article:

After reading it I told Mark Gardner I thought it really puts the pardon in perspective, at least from Wallace's point of view. Here's Mark's response:

Hi, BBB. Yes, this article offers ammunition for both sides. There is the use of the P-bomb, but there's also that all-important "providing he also led a different life." You're absolutely right, though, this is Wallace's side of the story. It's clear from Billy's correspondence and his quote in the Mesilla Times that he felt he had lived up to his side of the deal.

But there's other neat items. Did you notice that it says Wallace sent word to the Kid through his attorney? I'm guessing that's Leonard, and it explains why we don't have a written response from Wallace. That makes sense. Also, Wallace says that Billy is 21 and that he spent "some years" in Indianapolis. I believe that may be the first published reference to the Kid having grown up in Indianapolis. Wallace, of course, was from Indianapolis as well. That was something they had in common and I'll bet they chatted about it. It's something Wallace would have remembered. That makes sense, too.

I was ribbing you a little about being a Billy hater, but those quotes in The Wall Street Journal seem to be pretty telling, I think.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Who Is Reno Browne?

December 29, 2010

My old bandmate Steve Paroni came by on Christmas Eve and gifted me a couple fifties style Western magazines. One of them features "Reno Brown: The Screen's Famous Western Movie Star!"

My question to you is: Who the hell is Reno Browne? The contents page has a 1950 date, so she must have been some Western wannabe. Anyone know what she appeared in? I'd love to know.

"I'll make you famous."

—Emilio Estevez, as Billy the Kid in Young Guns

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Doc Holliday I Presume?

December 28, 2010

Old photographs inspire me. Case in point, John Langellier recently pitched us on doing a feature on frontier army bands, as in musicians. He sent along a bunch of great photos and one of them, taken at Promontory Point on the day of the final spike ceremony, May 10, 1869 caught my eye. This image was one I had never seen before:

As usual, I check out all the bystanders. Perusing the spectators, I found this guy:

I really dig that hat, and, in fact, it appears to me to be the kind of hat Doc Holliday probably wore in Tombstone. This inspired me to illustrate this:

"This is funny."
—Doc Holliday's last words, when, on his deathbed, he spied his bare feet (he predicted he would die with his boots on)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wall Street Journal Interview on Billy the Kid

December 27, 2010

Did a phone interview with the Wall Street Journal at lunchtime today.

They are doing a story on Governor Bill Richardson's threatened pardon of Billy the Kid. Supposed to run in tomorrow's edition. Did another phoner with a Durango, Colorado radio station about them being crowned a Top Ten Western Town in our current issue.

After the interview I whipped out a nice little fire rider study:

Working on a quotes page for 2011. I love quotes and quotes pages and find it almost impossible NOT to read one. It really is like a bag of potato chips—bet you can't just read one:

"There is almost no English surname, however ancient and dignified, that cannot be instantly improved by the prefix 'Spanker'."
—Christopher Hitchens, gleefully attacking the conservative, family-values author Paul Johnson who was outed for an 11-year affair that involved spanking

"The worst truth to be confronted with is always the one that you already know."
—Justin Taylor

"A thousand probabilities do not make one fact."
—Old Vaquero Saying

"He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils."
—Francis Bacon

"Imagined history can be more persuasive than fact."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Applause for True Grit

December 27, 2010

The immediate members of my family, that would be Kathy, Deena and Tommy, are not fans of the Western. I take total blame for this, having basically ruined so many oaters by my pompous commentaries before, during and after the many Westerns I have forced them to endure for the last three decades.

There have been a few exceptions. Kathy joined me for 3:10 To Yuma, and sort of enjoyed it. Even I thought the ending was lame. But some recent Westerns have been just too hard of a sell. I saw The Assasination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford all by myself, and, although I loved it, I was very glad I didn't talk the entire famdam into sitting through three hours of that amber glow.

In truth I have become quite snakebit about recommending Westerns to my family.

That said, on Christmas Day, after opening the presents and having lunch, Deena's new boyfriend, Mike, who hails from Minneapolis and is a big Coen brothers fan, lobbied for us to go see True Grit. I tried to talk him out of it, and poo-poohed the film, which I had already seen the week before, at a critic's screening in Scottsdale. I basically told him not to expect much, that it is definitely the least ironic of all the Coen brothers' pictures. He still voted to see it, and, to my surprise, the others agreed.

Six of us, Kathy, me, Deena, Mike, T. Charles and Pattarapan went to the five o'clock showing at Harkins 16 at 32nd St. and Bell.

The theater, which probably holds 300, was half-full, mostly Boomers like myself, although there were a smattering of youngsters which my kids pointed out to me. Ever defensive, I dismissed this as "mercy dates", that is, grandkids taking grandpa to see what he wants to see on Christmas Day.

As True Grit unspooled and got going, I heard laughs, big laughs (the critics I saw the film with were smugly quiet). Deena, sitting to my left, kept poking me in the arm and whispering, "What?! This is hilarious!" When it was over, there was applause, started by, of all people, Kathy Radina (Meghan Saar said there was applause in the theater she saw it in yesterday and she had never heard this ever before. She is 28). Everyone in the family absolutely loved it. They raved about the political incorrectness of Jeff Bridges kicking the In-din kids off the porch, they raved about the talents of Hailee Steinfeld, the girl who beat out 15,000 other girls for the role of Mattie Ross and they hooted about the mountain man with the bear's head and his ridiculous speech ("So Coen brothers!")

The good news is that the applause extends beyond my family: True Grit finished the week (it opened last Wednesday) at $31.8 million and came in second for the weekened, behind The Fokkers. True Grit also provides the Coen Brothers with their highest opening ever; its three-day total of $25.6 million easily outpaced the $19.4 that Burn After Reading brought home in 2008.

Last night Kathy and I pulled out the original True Grit with John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell and Robert Duvall and watched it. I thought for sure a clear winner would surface, but I constantly found myself saying, "Well, they went at this from different directions, but they both work." I also thought Glen Campbell was much better than I remembered. He still isn't even in the same league as Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger, but he is charming and decent.

Both endings worked for me, although the Coen brothers' ending is more realistic and follows the book. Still, I liked the Duke ending, especially him jumping the fence and maybe even prefer the happier ending, but that probably dates me more than I'd like to admit.

The one thing that I think the Coen brothers are far superior at is the nuance of the action sequence. They have been showing this for some time, but they really hit the top of their game with the Chigurgh (Javiar Bardem) shootout with Lewellan (Josh Brolin) in Eagle Pass, Texas in No Country For Old Men. The very idea of showing the bullets hit their target (and since a silencer is being utilized we get the shock of the hits without the forewarning of the explosions) was brilliant and scary beyond belief.

In the new True Grit, when Rooster is heading over a distant ridge he turns to fire his pistol as a signal he is leaving. Lucky Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) is watching through a spy glass. Rooster raises his pistol and we see the smoke and then, a half second later, hear the report. Very, very cool. I can't remember ever seeing this in a Western, the fact that sound travels slower and you would see the muzzle flash before you heard it at a distance.

This is also repeated in the aftermath of the meadow shootout when La Boeuff fires his Sharps rifle just in time to save Rooster from being dispatched. We hear the shot, there is a delay for the bullet to travel 400 yards, then we see a puff of dirt kicked up beyond Ned Pepper (photographed from long distance, which works so much better than in the old True Grit where we get the standard close range camera angle). The bullet has gone through Pepper and hits the ground on the other side of him. Spectacular! Bravo! Really impressive narrative filmmaking.

I thought Barry Pepper stole the Coen brother's True Grit. I loved his look, I thought he was fantastic, but Kathy votes for Robert Duvall as Pepper in the original and goes as far as to say, "He's the best thing in both movies." Hmmmmmmmm.

"I'm shot to pieces."
—Lucky Ned Pepper

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Voice of Hi Yo Silver Is Dead

December 23, 2010

Under the weather. Got a sore throat and chills. Stayed home most of yesterday.

Speaking of weather, it rained most of last night. This is the big storm that flooded Cal yesterday. Soggy, with juicy clouds hanging off the tops of Skull Mesa.

In spite of my flu-type doldrums, I have been pushing paint around. Did this little study a couple days ago:

Lots of color in that mono chrome, no? Also did this one called "Ahead of the Column":

And, this little puppy, called "Red Rock Rider":

Actually poached this basic scene from a Taos Seven artist's painting.

A very familiar voice died yesterday. Fred Foy, 90, died at his home in Woburn Mass.

"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi-yo, Sliver!"

The Lone Ranger opening, voiced by Fred Foy

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More True Grit

December 21, 2010

Caught something last weekend. Slight cough and fever. Stayed home. Rainy day. Slept and worked in studio.

Here's Johnny Boggs' take on he new True Grit:

I guess my main problems were why they separated Matt Damon from Rooster and Mattie (didn't happen in the original, didn't happen in Portis's novel), but my main problem was I never found any chemistry between Rooster and Mattie. Unlike in the original. But it's well-acted, and probably one of the best theatrical Westerns in a long, long time. I'd give it three stars, but a high three stars. And it's one of those movies that I can't get out of my head, like Anthony Mann's The Furies or Andre de Toth's Day of the Outlaw. I see the problems, can't quite really love the movie, but it sticks with you, grows on you, and keeps you thinking.

I read an interview with Matt Damon and he said the Coen brothers accommodated him to be with his family during the week and they shot around him and did weekends. Something like that. Perhaps that's why they separated in the movie to make that work?

Speaking of movies, for my birthday I picked a quirky black comedy called Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

It's a Finnish tale of a very evil St. Nick, filmed in Norway with subtibles, although it opens with a scene of scientists speaking English. Very clever and off-beat. In my old age i have gotten so tired of the same ol' tropes and plot twists you could literally phone in. I never could figure out where Rare Exports was going until it ended. Enjoyed it immensely. Playing only for a week exclusively in Tempe at The Valley Art Theater.

Brought home some new graphic novels from work. The Scalped series is getting better. Didn't really take to the original one, but I have to admit, it has some style and potential. it's basically The Sopranos meets Thunderheart on The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Decent story, strong artwork. Also took a gander at American Vampire, which is a Stephen King story wherein he attempts to take back the fangs, or, as he puts it in the front, "It's all about giving back the teeth that the current 'sweetie-vamp' craze, has, by and large, stolen from the bloodsuckers."

Inspired me to up my game with Mickey Free and Graphic Cinema. I am also inspired by ol' Bresson:

"Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen."

—Robert Bresson

Monday, December 20, 2010

True Grit Here We Come!

December 20, 2010

Since we're about 40 hours out from the opening of the new True Grit, let's take one last look before you go take a look:

As one of the critics, who has seen it, remarked: it's the least ironic of all the Coen brothers' movies. Being a fan of The Big Lebowski, Fargo and No Country For Old Men (okay, two thirds of it), I think this played into my expectations. I was expecting more Dude and less Duke.

An Echo of The Dude Abiding?
And speaking of the Dude and the Duke, here's Jeff Bridges, who plays Rooster Cogburn in the new version, on whether he's intimidated by stepping into the Duke's boots: "The Coen brothers wanted me, man. Come on, I'm there, man."

And he hates the Eagles, man. The group, not the huge bird. Man.

Still, it's a straight up Western with no apologies. Yes, Jeff Bridges mumbles a couple lines, but for the most part I understood everything he said and he is a hoot. And Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger (his name is pronounced La Beef, in the new version) is a mile and a half better than Glen Campbell, but then, who wouldn't be?

One final nitpick:
the big, quarter horses used in the film unfortunately puts a modern squat on the scenery. That is a later development, along with hereford cattle and to the trained eye, just grates on me. For an example of someone who got this right, look no farther than Tommy Lee Jones' Hell Bitch in Lonesome Dove. Jones brought one of his polo ponies for that ride, and it was totally right on for illustrating the kind of horses actually ridden in the Old West.

As advertised, this is a movie you can take grandma to, and you have to admit, she would probably be a bit confused by A Serious Man, or Barton Fink. Ha.

One classic exchange is preserved:

Rooster: "I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned, or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker's convenience. Which'll it be?"

Ned: "I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man."

Rooster: "Fill your hand, you son-of-a-bitch."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Healthy Bacon and Larry Winget

December, 17, 2010

Someone asked me what Yoko Ono has to do with anything Western and to that I say, quite a bit actually. Last week I attended the National Finals Rodeo in Vegas and, as mentioned, the music was wall to wall Metal Town with AC/DC sort of being the house band. About the lightest thing I heard was "Get Back" by the Beatles. Given the tenor of the tunes it seemed a tad light, but then I realized they played it when one of the competitors, who was named Jo Jo, came into the arena. I couldn't remember his name, but I knew Mr. Memory would:

"JoJo Lemond is a team roping header from Andrews, Texas. He finished the year ninth in the world standings."
—Charlie Waters

See why we call him Mr. Memory? Anyway, from the National Finals Rodeo to the Beatles to the woman who broke up the Beatles, well let's just say it's six degrees of makin' bacon.

Speaking of bacon, last week I attended a seminar on how to use my new iPad down at the Apple store in Kierland Commons (a new, old style, downtown in north Scottsdale). After the seminar, I got my glasses fixed at LensCrafters and asked the woman who waited on me if there were any good places to eat around the Commons. Stephanie Snyder recommended True Food Kitchen. Well, with a name like that, I had to at least give it a go. It's one of those new food concept restaurants and very hip. I sat at the counter, actually a quasi-bar deal, very Town & Country, and asked the guy what a TLT was. The bartender-waiter told me the T stands for tempeh, I think it is, which is a soy bean product that they have morphed into tasting like real bacon. Well, I haven't had bacon since March 22, 2008, so once he assured me it was totally healthy, I ordered it, along with a green Arnie (green tea and lemonade) and I must say, it was fantastic! I am going back for my birthday dinner this weekend. What a concept! Healthy bacon.

Went home for lunch and whipped out a little study I call "San Carlos Courier".

Some nice little passages in there, and if you've ever been to San Carlos you know the butte I'm referencing here. I'm actually feeling a little more comfortable with this medium.

Meanwhile, speaking of being comfortable, I met best-selling author Larry Winget in Vegas and he sent me a packet of his books. Opened one, "You're Broke Because You Want To Be," and found this quote:

"Most people are comfortable. That's the problem. Comfortable people don't feel bad enough to change, but don't feel good enough to really be able to enjoy their lives."—Larry Winget

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Posole Warriors & Rainy Day Women

December 16, 2010

A rainy day in the Valley of the Sun. Drove down into the Beast to read a cowboy book to Head Start four-year-olds at a school near 36th St. and Van Buren. Afterwards, my son Tomas took me to the Posoleria Guerrera (Posole Warrior?). Best posole I've ever had.

Had a design meeting with Meghan Saar, Abby Goodrich and Robert Ray to go over design ideas for 2011.

"People don't care about books, they care about ideas."

—Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yoko Unrepentant

December 15, 2010

One of the couples I handed a Best of the West Source Book issue to in Vegas was Scott and Melanie Best. When the North Dakota couple stopped to talk and introduce themselves, I kind of did a doubletake: Your name really is Best? Melanie laughed and said, "Yes, easy to spell, hard to live up to."

I saw my friend Gregg Clancy a couple weeks ago and I asked him what T-shirts were selling. Gregg, who owns Strawberry Fields Clothing Company, said, "I've got a new T-shirt I can't keep in stock. It says, 'I'm still pissed at Yoko.'"

"It was not the truth that I broke up the Beatles."

—Yoko Ono, in the new issue of Esquire

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Riders, Part II

December 14, 2010

Just got a CD full of photos from Steve and Marcie Shaw's October, 2010 Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Ride. Some 20 people rode into Tombstone to ride with Wyatt's posse. Here is a photo, by Marcie, of the Earp's coming into Charleston in February of 1882:

Excellent image. The next Vendetta Ride is in March. I talked to several guys in Vegas who are dying to do this ride, so you better sign up while you can. I'll be there to give you the tour of the historical sites.

Heavy Metal Rodeo

December 14, 2010

Finished a painting commission this morning. Going to ship it this afternoon.

On Saturday night in Vegas I treated my hosts Charlie and Linda Waters to dinner at South Point Casino which is the NFR headquarters for the rodeo crowd. The hotel, which is owned by a former rodeo champion, presents the buckles and winnings every night after the rodeo and most of the competitors stay there as well. The parking lot looks like a Montana feed lot with row after row of King Cabs and Diesel Duallys. When Allison and I came into the casino and tried to find the restaurant, we walked past one of those open bar areas, which had a bank of closed circuit TVs, playing the NFR, live from the Mack Center. As we walked by, the National Anthem was playing on the screens and everyone in the bar stood up and took off their hats and held their hats over their hearts—in the bar! Wow! Imagine that at the Whiskey on Sunset Strip.

Still wondering about the wall-to-wall heavy metal music at the National Finals Rodeo I saw in Vegas last Thursday. As I mentioned it was all heavy metal, starting with AC/DC. I wonder what the older guys think about the fact that Country has been usurped by a music style I can't imagine them having in their CD collections. Do you have an opinion about this?

"It's been a long time since I did the stroll."

—Led Zeppelin, "Rock 'n' Roll"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cowboy Christmas Wrap-up

December 13, 21010

Back from Vegas and Cowboy Christmas. Met lots of readers and fans, met a ton of new subscribers and soon to be readers. Gave out several thousand True West Source Books. Got the method down to a science: I would spot a guy coming down the aisle and I would accost the wife, saying, "He's into history, isn't he?" The wife would invariable say, "Why yes he is. How did you know?" Then I would hand the Source Book to her in a bag and say, "It's for him, but you have to carry it." They would both laugh, because he had his hands in his pants, and off they'd go. I'd say I was right about eight times out of ten. Sometimes the wife would say, "Wait a minute. I'm the one who is into history." Which was always a pleasant surprise. I can't imagine asking that question an NFL stadium and getting that high of a response about history. It was a great experience and I got pretty good at spotting our reader.

The Bling Thing
Ten years ago if someone told me that hip hop bling would ever be worn by country-rodeo folk, I would have said said, "Well, maybe if they died in New York and were buried in Brooklyn by a mortician with a morbid sense of humor." But, there they were, every single female from age 10 to 87, blinged out from head to toe with shiny, studded belts, rings, necklaces and what have you. Even the young guys are wearing bling. Amazing.

Ran into Larrry Winget, the best selling author of titles such as, "You're Broke Because You Want to Be," and "It's Called Work For A Reason," and "Your Kids Are Your Own Fault and "People Are Idiots And I Can Prove It." Larry owns 1,000 pairs of boots, loves True West magazine and we made a date to get together and talk strategy for a new video show.

As mentioned, Charlie Waters treated me to a box seat (actually a suite) courtesy of his employer, The Las Vegas Review-Journal. Really enjoyed the rodeo on Thursday night. Was amazed at just how rock 'n' roll it has become. The lightest music played during events is AC/DC. That is not a joke. Lots of The Motor City Madman, The Nuge (Ted Nugent). Not one Country song. I imagine Jim Shoulders would be spinning on his shoulder, if he could see this, but here we are. Ran into several neighbors from Cave Creek. In fact, two of the flag girls at the NFR were Cave Creekers, also Pam Nabers, whose daughter is a friend of Carole Glenn's in Fountain Hills. Rodeo great Jim Pickens, Jr. and TJ Holgate, a Navajo from Window Rock who gave the grave side eulogy for Sonny Jim.

Also saw three time world champion Bull Rider Don Gay (1979-1981) at the Convention Center, which incidently, is also where I saw the Beatles and Bill Black's Combo in August of 1964.

Saw two Kingman childhood friends: Zibby Campa and Karen Richardson (Rose). Karen brought and gifted me with a copy of "Pictorial History of the Wild West by James D. Horan and Paul Sann. I have a copy in my studio library, but Karen's copy has a pristine cover jacket along with the Collector's Old West Gunfighter Gallery foldout in mint condition. Thanks Karen!

Drove over and back with our new Director of Sales and Marketing Allison Cabral (maiden name Allison Clay, which is a sweet play on Clay Allison). We were a good team and tag-teamed the booth.

The Wright Brothers Win Big

Charlie Waters' wife Linda has a niece who is married to Calvin Wright, brother of both Cody and Jesse (and one of six Wright brothers who ride saddle bronc in PRCA events). Cody Wright from Milford, Utah won the world championship of the saddle bronc riding. His brother also competed, but broke his ankle on the first night and still rode, limping out of the arena on his own two feet. Tough boys, those Wright brothers.

"This ain't my first rodeo."
—Old Business Saying

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Last Day At Cowboy Christmas In Vegas

December 11, 2010

It's our last day in Vegas for Cowboy Christmas. I've met thousands of new and old fans here at the Mandalay Bay Exposition Center. Also, I think I've met the entire Navajo Nation, who are here to support Derrick Begay, who turned in a blistering 3.8 second roping run Thursday night. Thanks to Charlie Waters I got to see the NFR for the first time, sitting in the Las Vegas Sun suite. Free food, free beer and a great view of the action. Really amazing. Having a great time. Coming home in the morning. Lots to report.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Great White Mammoth Jack

December 8, 2010
Getting everything lined up for our trip to Vegas tomorrow. Bought chicken food on the way home for lunch at Black Mountain Feed ($16 for Le Mash and a $1 tip for the guy who loaded it in the Ranger).

Went home for lunch and whipped out a study of Mickey Free on a big, white mule. Still working on the scale between the diminutive scout and a mammoth jack. Want the semi-equine to be massive and muscular. He is, after all, the Batmobile and the Hulk rolled into one:

Also working on a commission. It's a surprise so I can't really talk about it. Should finish it tonight.

Printed our first Sweethearts of the Rodeo greeting cards and Robert Ray picked them up yesterday. We're taking a batch to Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg tomorrow and the rest go to Vegas for Cowboy Christmas. Drop by the True West booth at Mandalay Bay if you want to see 'em.

"If a mammoth jack pins back his ears, best hunt cover."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Just Saw The New True Grit

December 7, 2010
Thanks to our Westerns Film Editor Henry Beck, last night I got to see a sneak preview of the new Coen brother's Western True Grit.

One of the pitfalls of seeing a much ballyhooed movie is being
disappointed. I remember being terribly disappointed at a screening of Young Frankenstein because I read a review in Time

magazine that said "You will be laughing before the credits are

finished." Well, not only wasn't I laughing during, or after, the

credits, it threw off my appreciation for the entire movie! Going into a

new movie with high expectations can be a curse. [Note to self: how do I

review this dang thing without doing the same to you?]

Fortunately, a bad review from a friend of mine who saw the new True Grit last week (Dan G.) lowered my expectations. He claimed it had no humor. This was a blessing because I was pleasantly surprised by the humor in the new film which came early and often. For example, Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn on the witness stand was quite funny (wanted to say hilarious but don't want to oversell it). Since we are comparing the Dude to the Duke, here is my play by play.

• The Victorian clothing and look is very good. Point goes to NTG (new True Grit).

• Courtroom scene: advantage Coen's and Bridges'. Excellent Victorian faces and beards all around. Wonderful word play a la Deadwood, but without the nonstop cursing. Point to NTG.

• Both John Wayne and Jeff Bridges were 60 when they played Cogburn, which is about 20 years older than the Cogurn in the book. Bridges did a better job of portraying a drunkard burnout (complete with vericose nose), but the Duke was in rare form. Hard to compare, but slight advantage to Wayne because he played it so damn good.

• Big Set Pieces: the Coen's took over an entire Texas town north of Austin to recreate Fort Smith, Arkansas and it looks great, advantage NTG

• The gear by David Carrico (who was just voted Best Living Western Saddlemaker in our Ninth Annual Best of the West Source Book ) is excellent. Advantage NTG.

• Hats are spotty. Did not like Jeff Bridges' hat at all—a homeless man's fedora. Matt Damon's hat was a good try (sort of an Australian Outback, one-sided wing deal). The best hat in the picture was on the head of Ned Pepper, played by Barry Pepper, who actually stole the movie for me. No advantage to either Hollywood hatters.

• Josh Brolin seemed miscast to me. He played mean and stupid, but he's too good looking. Advantage OTG (Old True Grit).

• The ending with Cole Younger and Frank James was inspired but it kind of miss-fired. I saw the original casting call for Frank James and they wanted someone who could convey evil with just their eyes. The guy they cast, was just a lumpy old fart (someone my age) with a lumbering look. Could have been so much funnier when Mattie drops her line on him as she leaves. Big disappointment to me.

• The new True Grit really seemed to revere the old True Grit (Steven Spielberg is executive producer so that makes some sense), perhaps at its own peril. Many of the sets and action sequences were exact matches to the old True Grit. For example the classic shootout at the end between Rooster and the four outlaws looked like it was filmed in the exact same meadow, even though the Duke version was filmed in Ridgeway, Colorado (at a location called Debbie's Meadow) and the Coen's film was shot in New Mexico. Since the Coen's were trying to be more accurate to the book, which takes place in Arkansas and Oklahoma, why did they copy the wrong location? Much of the movie seems to have that misplaced reverance. The guy who plays the Struthers Martin part in the new film, seems to be channeling Strothers, and that is a serious disadvantage to the new film. In fact, the new TG works much better when we aren't reminded of the old one, which unfortunately, isn't often enough.

• Mattie Ross: Kim Darby vs. Haillee Steinfeld is a tough one. Both were good, although Kim was 22 when she played the 14-year-old Mattie. A draw in my book.

• Historical accuracy? Well, if we're talking about staying true to the book, the advantage goes to the new True Grit. A much more realistic ending. Still, it's not hard to see why the original movie ended as it did. Different time, different expectations.

All in all, I enjoyed the new one and want it to succeed, but I don't see a big hit.

"Remember, the farther up the flagpole you go, the more people can see your rear end."
—Dandy Don Meredith, who died last Sunday at 72

Monday, December 06, 2010

John Clum Apache Agent Hat Rant Recap

December 6, 2010
Just got in the new Cowan's Auction catalog today (December 10, 2010), and it has some wonderful new images in it. First up, here is a photograph I have never seen of John Clum of Tombstone Epitaph newspaper fame. This was obviously taken before Tombstone, when he was the agent for the Apaches at San Carlos:

I think the caption in the catalog is wrong. It says the 1874-78
photograph shows "Clum seated at the left and his assistant M. R. Sweeney on the right." I'm pretty sure that is John Clum on the right (the guy on the left seems too old for Clum, what do you think?). And check out that cowboy hat on his head! Great sweep with winged sides, just like Tombstone Territory (the TV show not the place). See, this is the kind of hat that is banned from modern Western movie sets and here it is on the head of a famous Old West character in the early 1870s.

Oh, and how about that Rastafarian Apache in the middle? Ha. Now I would split a gut if I saw that in a Western, but there you have it. Photos don't lie, too much, anyway.

I have a theory that these sweeping, winged hats were more popular among the general population in the sixties and seventies and then they kind of go a bit flatter in the eighties. Case in point, check out this Kansas Jayhawker. J. H. Green, from the 1860s:

Now that is a great cowboy hat. Or, I should say a Jayhawker hat. Big, deep bowl brim. Fantastic. Give me this in a Western and I'll stop my hat rant, in a Boss-of-the-Plains minute.

"There is nothing sexier than a man being honest."

—Honkytonk Sue

Going to see True Grit tonight

December 6, 2010
Worked hard this weekend trying to wrap up a series of paintings before departing this Thursday for Cowboy Christmas in Vegas. Was supposed to go last week, but last minute changes in our cover story forced me to change schedules with another staff member (Sheri Riley).

Going to feature Mickey Free and his 16-hands-high mammoth jack in the next installment of Graphic Cinema. Here is the Mick, astride that mammoth jack:

As the Old Vaqueros are fond of saying, "When a mammoth jack pins back his ears, best hunt for cover."

Looks like I'm going to get a sneak peek at the Coen brothers' True Grit tonight in Scottsdale.

Also whipped out a scene of a bruja (Mexican witch) visiting her lover in the Versailles Room (this is what happens when a Kingman cartoonist visits Paris, France):

And, here's another scene of the burned-out desert the Mickster has to cross to get to El Muerte:

Worked hard all weekend, but that's actually a bit of a reach because work is only work if you'd rather be someplace else, and I love doing this. Gee, I wonder what ol' Coward has to say about this?

"Work is much more fun than fun."

—Noel Coward

Friday, December 03, 2010

Red Storm Rising & The Dude vs. The Duke

December 3, 2010
Still tweaking our January cover which goes to the printer on Tuesday. Working from home, Meghan Saar emailed me she wants to get in our coverage of the new True Grit (The Duke vs. The Dude), which Henry Beck did a great job on. So Dan The Man added that cover blurb to the mix.

Several of my friends have already seen the new True Grit and the reviews are mixed. Dan G. saw it several nights ago at a director's guild screening in LA and said it is basically shot for shot of the Duke version, but with little or no humor. Ouch! Coen Brother fans (that would include me) have been hoping that they would add at least a dollop of their patented demented humor quotient to the deal to give it their unique cinema stamp, but this is troubling, if, in fact it's true. I'm supposed to go to a press screening next Tuesday in Scottsdale with Henry.

Went home for lunch and whipped out a nice little study called "Red Storm Rising":

Nice storm effect of a big thunderhead dumping the deluge across the desert floor. Mountains and In-din rider to be added later.

"When you rub science and superstition together you get fire."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Steampunk Cowgirls At Cowboy Christmas

December 3, 2010
Got these photos from Allison Cabral at our booth in Vegas:

That's a Steampunk deal around Allison's neck. Steampunk is all the go now. We are doing a cover story on the phenom shortly. Bascially, it's Victorian Science Fiction, best exemplified by the old classic TV show "Wild, Wild West," which had as a theme, "James Bond on a horse." So you get fantastic inventions like computers, or ray guns, but in the grand tradition of Victorian style.

And speaking of the old Wild, Wild West TV show, I talked to the star Robert Conrad on the phone yesterday about doing an interview (there is talk of another movie) and I told him about Steampunk (basicallly the above paragraph) to which Mr Conrad said, "I don't know what the hell you just said."

Ha. Gruff guy, just like the character he played. Okay, here's a couple of cowgirls labeled by Allison as Steampunk Cowgirls at the booth:

Steampunk is attracting Boomers, Gen-Xers and Goths, which inspired this joke:

"Goths discover brown."

—Snide commentator of youthful trends

Hat Rant San Carlos Style

December 3, 2010
On Monday John Langellier dropped off a batch of Apache photos from his substantial collection and we are using quite a few of them in our opus Apache Wars feature (Jan.-Feb. issue). One of the photos we won't be running, but is very cool, is this image of Troop C, U.S. Cavalry at San Carlos in 1883:

A great array of hat styles, but two that caught my eye were these:

The two, at left, appear to have winged brims (especially the second guy—that is a modern cowboy hat if I've ever seen one and would certainly be banned from most modern Western movie sets), and even the guy lying down has a modern sweep to his hat. Also interesting that the old buy with the white beard was a cavalry trooper. He kind of resembles Mose, the John Ford regular with the bald head. What was that guy's name?

"There is a greater symmetry of design in asymmetry."

—Old Master Artist Saying

Thursday, December 02, 2010

150th Anniversary of the Bascom Affair

December 2, 2010

Home stretch on our big Apache Wars package for the January-February issue. We are telling the story all the
way from Felix Ward's kidnapping to the Cochise, Cut-The-Tent,
so-called Bascom Affair, on through the 1880s and up to and including
the latest Geronimo movie. Quite a spread of images and text, with a
massive timeline, wonderful original photos from the collection of R. G.
McCubbin, John Langellier and the Sharlot Hall Museum (two I've never
seen before of Mickey Free) and excellent history coverage by John
Langellier, with expert help from Allan Radbourne, Doug McChristian and
Larry Ludwig. Couple that with excellent editing by Meghan Saar and
superb layout and design by Daniel Harshberger and Robert Ray and we
have a sweeping package that we can all be proud of on the 150th
anniversary of the Felix Ward-Cochise-Bascom Affair. And, by the way, a
party will be held at Apache Pass on February 12, 2011 with battlefield
rides, complete with period food and military interpreters. Do not miss this one!

Here's a sneak peek at the opening of the feature:

"The way of truth goes through the dark."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Our Women Warriors At Cowboy Christmas

December 1, 2010
Allison Cabral and Sheri Riley motored to Las Vegas today, meeting Ken Amorosano at the Madalay Bay Exposition Center to set up our booth for this year's Cowboy Christmas. Here is Allison in the booth:

That is a sneak peek at our January cover, "Sweethearts of the Rodeo" (which goes to press tomorrow, but we made a banner of it for Vegas) behind her. Meanwhile, here's Sheri:

If you are going to be in Vegas for the next two weeks, come by and see us. I'll be there next week from Wednesday to Sunday.

"See you there, or be square."

—Every radio guy who was on the air in the eighties

Beh-to The Mexcian Apache

December 1, 2010
Worked at lunch today on an image of Beh-to, also called Victor, a captured Mexican boy who grew up to be an Apache warrior. And, in fact, is the leader of the Coyotero raiders who kidnapped Felix Ward on January 27, 1861. I wondered what a Mexican boy raised as an Apache might look like, so utilizing some stills I took off the TV a month or so ago (the Mexican Pancho Villa movies that ran on the Westerns Channel), I extrapolated between Hispanic facial structure and Apache hairdos to end up with a laughing Beh-to:

I wanted to show Beh-to, not as a villain but a raider who likes to have a good time. I believe "Ya-Goosh" is a Navajo saying, but I seem to remember the Hualapais I grew up with using a similar expression, "Ya-Shoosh" which is a sort of catch-all expostulation like, "Oh, Man, that is funny," as in, "Ya-Goosh, that is funny."

Meanwhile, at lunch, I also did this scene as well, of one of Beh-to's men cornering Felix Ward in a peach tree. "Baje!" is Spanish for "Come down." Most Apaches spoke Spanish, and it's ironic that young Felix could speak both Spanish and English. He is about to learn a third language.

Normally, Apache raiders would kill a 12-year-old boy because by that age they are usually beyond molding, but Felix, who was in fact 12, looked young for his age. And, perhaps Beh-to saw himself in the young captivo.

"Quien sabe."

—Old Vaquero Saying ("Who knows?")