Monday, January 31, 2011

Western Artists In Corsicana, Texas

January 31, 2011

Back from a long weekend in Corsicana, Texas. Attended the tenth anniversary of the Western Artists of America Art Show in the Pearce Museum at the Navarro Community College. I was the Master of Ceremonies at the awards banquet on Saturday night and we had a grand time. Met a bunch of great artists and enjoyed some very fine artwork.

Also, learned some Texican slang. A retired policeman from Houston, Tim Vanya, was telling me about herding cattle near College Station, Texas when his horse "Indian," hit a bog in the center of a stream and "yard darted" him into a river bank and broke his collarbone. Excuse me, I said, it sounded like you said the horse "yard darted" you? And he laughed and said, "Yessirree, that hoss yard darted me right into that river bank." Never heard that one before. But the funniest part was when he told me he rolled over, saw his hat floating away and said, "Doc, git my hat."

Priorities. Get my hat, then we'll deal with this broken bone. Ha.

Learned some other tidbits about Texas: they have no Indian casinos because they have no Indian reservations because they killed 'em all. Ha. Pus they have no state income tax and they pronounce Navarro as Nav-er-ough, instead of Na-VAR-oh. One old boy told me, up in Dallas they pronounce it as Never-ough. Gotta love those Texans and the colorful English they seem to occasionally speak.

Got home yesterday afternoon. Got up this morning and finished a scene of Mickey Free crossing an ancient sea bed. Call this one Dry Lake Rider:

"It's the 'might-as-wells' that kill ya'."

—Oliver Albrittan, president of the Navarro College Foundation describing the expanding cost projections that come from the tendency to say, "Well, since we are building this, we might as well. . ."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

OK Rockabilly Cloud Picker

January 26, 2011

My OK quote has gone viral and is showing up all over the place in Medialand, including the Daily Kos, Atlantic (Online), LA Times, etc.

Had a Fox 10 news crew in this morning to film me talking about Arizona Wild, as it's becoming known. I'll let you know when it runs. Going to be part of a show, or series on the local affiliate.

Went home for lunch and finished a little study I call "Rockabilly Cloud Picker":

This is for the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2011 program. Yes, it has an Ed Mell cloud feel, because frankly that's where I got the inspiration. Also wanted to make him a bit ethnic to show off the Southwestern angle of Arizona style Rockabilly, sometimes called Chicken Scratch (or, at least that's one arm of the movement). Maybe I should have named it "Sky Scratcher."

"Stay off my blue suede buttes."
—Blue Suede Shoes, Arizona version

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rain Rider

January 25, 2011

Had lunch today with a well known director. Talking about a future project together.

Here's another one of the studies I completed this weekend called Rain Rider:

I love weather, at least the proof against it, as a famous poet once put it.

Lots of insanity going on in the Facebook world. Stolen "friend's" identities, hackers spamming like crazy, instantaneous celebrity everywhere. Where is all of this going? I wonder what my fellow trouble maker Banksy has to say about all this?

"In the future everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes."

—Banksy, notorious Brit grafitti artist

Monday, January 24, 2011

Who's The Clown Drummer?

January 24, 2011

Went home for lunch and worked on an assignment for the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Started with this study:

Who's The Clown Drummer?

Only one problem: none of the 12 inductees is a drummer. Still, I wanted to give a face to a question I often heard whenever I played, "Who's the clown drummer?"

The inductees this year are: Chico Chism, Goose Creek Symphony, All McCoy (although he could really beat the skins), The Reed Family, Tanya Tucker, Billy Wiliams, Dolan Ellis, Lee Hazlewood, Sam Moore (who, I believe is a Soul Man), Marshall Trimble, Dick Van Dyke and JD's (in the River Bottom, a club I walked into legally at midnite on December 19, 1967 to see Waylon Jennings).

"What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend? Homeless."
—Old Guitar Player Saying

In Hell On A Fast Jack

January 24, 2011

Nice weekend, although quite windy. I just had new canvases stretched and prepped by Bob Stienhilber. Had five of them stacked in the breezeway, outside my studio door when a strong burst of wind lifted three of them in the air and deposited them fifteen feet away. Big rips in two of them. That hurt. Paid $500 for the stretcher work, now need to have half of it redone.

It was Thomas Charles' 28th birthday on Sunday and the Radinas met us and the birthday boy and Pattarapan at Playa de Mariscos just below Roosevelt on 7th Street. It's T's new, fave Mexican food place. Great food, try the mocajetes dish, big steaming bowl of various meats bubbling in a hot red sauce. Excellent pintos (whole, rather than refried) and Tecate on draft. When asked what his favorite memory of growing up is, the Tom Bomb said, and I quote, "Family road trips." Ah, no doubt about it, that's my boy.

Worked this weekend on a half dozen studies. Got up this morning and finished one of them before I went into work. It's Mickey Free on a mammoth jack he can barely control, riding through an ashen maze of fire choked desert:

Hellish, I know, but it's getting late—as in late in the game, late in my life, late in the window of opportunity given to us by the success of True Grit. Speaking of which, it appears The Wild Bunch will be remade. Expect more, including, if the rumors are true, Shane and The Searchers.

"When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."—Samuel Johnson

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dude Ranch Association & Tucson Safeway

January 22, 2011

Just got back from the 85th Annual Dude Ranch Association Convention at Tanque Verde Guest Ranch. Lots of great comments. We really are respected by Colleen, Russell True and the board, and many ranch owners came up to me and thanked us for putting out such a great magazine that their guests rave about and one guy from Canada said he especially appreciates us paying for the shipping "all the way over the mountain."

One ranch owner said he loved our census feature (Gus Walker map) where we tracked 1870 populations and then showed the 1880 census and the current census numbers. He said he would love to have that as a big map to hang in his lodge. Store item?

One rancher told about a new program where if someone comes to your website, or sends you an email, the next time they go to Huffington Post or one of the major sites, your ad shows up on the header and the person thinks, "Man, these guys are big!" The rancher said it costs about $500 a month, but he said it's "the best thing I've done all year."

Some other gems: the fastest growing demo for them is women over 55. Think about it. The kids are gone (at least the first wave) and they want to travel. In fact, the largest demo for booking dude ranches is females, age 45-54. This also dove tails into the theory that women make 75% of all purchases. And, if you need more data, of all the people who took their online survey, 73% were female.

One of the Dude Ranch Association's branding lines is the four Hs: horses, hats, history and hospitality. This applies to oursleves as well, no?

One of the problems online is "cyberdust," which is data collecting faster than it can be analyzed. This creates marketing opportunities when a brand, say True West, is valued because we sift the cyberdust and give you the gold. We've said this before—we're the source—but it bears repeating and seeing it in a new context.

In a related note, one of the speakers said the current challenge is to link "answer seekers" with "problem solvers."

On the way down to Tucson we took a detour at Ina Road and drove over to Oracle to see the Safeway. The entire shopping center was bustling with normal activity and was much more developed than I remember (I used to live in Tucson in the 60s and 70s). The Safeway is tucked back off the corner and there are several clusters of outlet-retail stores along the road, shielding the Safeway. Somehow I pictured it being more exposed and open, but it's a very confining space where the shooting took place. Customers were coming in and out of the Safeway, but to the left of the front door is a shrine and a knot of people were taking photos and leaving items. it was a small area, or, at least smaller than i thought it would be, but then, I seem to feel that way about every historic site I visit (Ford Theatre, the house they took Lincoln to. Perhaps the only site that seems much larger than I envisioned is the Custer battlefield). Given the horror of the events that took place on this spot it seemed rather normal and I guess that is a good thing, although, it also had a kind of, "Wait a minute, this is hallowed ground, be more respectful" flow to it. All in all, quite surreal and disturbing and yet, somehow comforting to me to see. I'm always drawn to these sites and I'm half embarrassed to say so, out of fear of sounding macabre or creepy, but it seems to be part of the historical bent in those of us who seek historical truth.

Kathy and I had lunch with Wayne and Marilyn Rutschman on Friday (at Molina's Midway, Wayne bought) and they know one of the men who tackled the shooter, while I had to admit that I was once a character witness in Judge Roll's federal court. Small town indeed.

"The future ain't what it used to be."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dude Ranch Association and Tanque Verde Guest Ranch

January 19, 2011

Heading for Tucson this afternoon. Speaking at the Dude Ranch Association's annual confab at Tanque Verde Guest Ranch tomorrow. Kathy's going with me. I heard the Tucson Train Station has canceled their Wyatt Earp shooting Frank Stilwell re-enactment because everyone is still "too raw" from the shooting two weeks ago.

Worked all morning on upcoming issue, which will feature the two True Grit movies vs the book vs history. Going to be fun. As mentioned I received photos of Jeff Bridges in several different hat styles for his role as Rooster Cogburn. Sorry they picked the one they did. Sketches to follow.

As promised, here is a photo of "The True West Girls" at the Milano party in Denver last weekend.

Sheri Riley (left) and Allison Cabral, here flanking seven time world champion Larry Mahan caused quite the stir at the WESA event and made friends everywhere they went. Not hard to see why.

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mickey Free's Fight With Doroteo Arango

January 18, 2011

The "True West Girls" Allison Cabral and Sheri Riley created quite a buzz at the WESA convention in Denver last weekend. Pics to follow.

Meanwhile, here are two more scenes from the next Graphic Cinema sequence, "When mammoth Jacks Attack":

This is Doroteo Arango, leader of the Sonoran banditos who attacked Mickey Free south of Fronteras. A huge battle erupted, led by Mickey Free's aggressive jack.

Yes, the dust swirled and the braying, oh, the braying, could be heard by big horn sheep on the highest ridges, miles away.

As someone I am related to once said, "He was louder than a jackass makin' love in a tin shed."

Yes, this was someone on my mother's side of the family. And yes, they were from the Big Sandy, and proud of it.

Meghan was rather startled yesterday to discover that the latest episode of Mickey Free was not based on an actual historical event. I told her it was "based on true events," which is the latest Hollywood film hedge, or, catch-all phrase. Which reminds me of this saying:

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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mickey Free Keeps an Eye Out for Enemy Camp

January 17, 2011

Finished the "When Mammoth Jacks Attack" episode of Mickey Free for the current issue with a couple hours to spare. Issue is being uploaded, via ether net, to our printer in Kansas City even as you read this. Really hanging out on this one, with Cowboy Christmas, yearly budget meetings and all the Billy pardon, media madness (Wall Street Journal, CNN and Horizon and Channel 3).

Now it's on to future Graphic Cinemas, like this one:

Went home for lunch and pulled out a landscape study out of my failure pile and took another crack at it. Added the blue along the distant ridges (which really popped the depth), added the figure of Mickey Free to bottom, peering over the ridge at the "Enemy Camp." Put a canopy on the campfire smoke (it usually curls straight up and then canopies out, I assume because it reaches a cooler layer of air?), and added Mick's mammoth jack. Unfortunately, I ended up with a donkey rather than a mammoth jack. Need to rework that a bit for the final.

Mick is on a quest now and he's deep in Mexico, and, to boot, he's got random fires burning (besides this campfire) everywhere, which adds to the choked sky.

You Can't Be Serious
I'm reading Hitch 22, the memoir by Christopher Hitchens and the older I get the more I realize that seriousness should be taken in very small doses. Hitch is quite funny and I'm enjoying his stories.

Most people use the term, "You can't be serious!" as if it's an accusation of frivolity, but my take is— If you are going to survive and thrive you can't be serious. Consider this title taken for my autobiography.

Well, that, and this for my coda:

"Life is like a B-movie. You don't want to leave it in the middle of it, but you don't want to see it again."
—Ted Turner

More Mammoth Jack

January 17, 2011

Spent the weekend working on five scenes for the next installment of Graphic Cinema. The theme of which is, "When Mammoth Jacks Attack."

Here is one of the scenes, of Mickey on his stud mule, surrounded by banditos mounted on agitated horses (they want nothing to do with Mick's mammoth jack).

Especially when he starts chewing his bridle. Ha. Here's where that leads:

That bad boy is ready to fight. And, here's what it looks like when the party is over:

Yes, I shamelessly poached a bunch of Remington scenes to get the prostrate banditos and horses for this scene. Normally, I disguise my thievery better than this, but this is embarrassingly obvious to even the untrained eye, no?

"There is no blue without yellow and without orange."
—Vincent Van Gogh

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mickey Free: Sand Dune Rider

January 14, 2011

Worked at home this morning, wrapping up the next Graphic Cinema. Also trying to nail the title of the featured article by Paul Andrew Hutton on the Alamo defenders, their death and what it means. Wanted something snappy and short like Death Stand, or Dead Something. Never got what we wanted. May go with Last Stand as the head with a clarifying sub-head. Hmmmm.

Finished a Mickey Free scene of him crossing the border near Naco on his mammoth jack. There are these lone mountains on the Mexican side that resemble these two. Never been south of Naco but this is my guess at what it looks like:

Need to lay this out and execute a couple more scenes for coverage. Going to be tight. Monday, all files have to be in Kansas City for printing. Strong issue. Plan to work all weekend, although work is a bit strong.

"Work is only work if you'd rather be someplace else."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Horizona Appearance Link

January 13, 2011

Working hard with my staff to wrap up a big 20-plus-page package on the 175th Anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo. Paul Andrew Hutton, Wade Dillon, John Foreman, David Zucker and Bart Bull are among the writers, reenactors and directors weighing in the many aspects of this amazing historical event.

Meanwhile, if you missed the Horizon interview last night, here it is:

Horizon Interview

On the program they showcased me going through my many sketchbooks on my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings. This is my desk and artspace where I completed most of that three year marathon quest:

"Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads."
—George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ajo Landscapes

January 12, 2011

Went home for lunch and whipped out three studies (I was waiting for the termite guy and he finally showed at about 2:15). Meanwhile, Kathy is hosting bunco tonight (everytime I hear this term I am reminded of Doc Holliday who, I seem to remember, was branded a "bunco steerer" in Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1880, which I assume means someone who suckers suckers into playing a crooked game of bunco?).

Here is one of the studies I did, which I call Civil War General:

Looks a bit like General Crook, but not quite. He looks like someone though.

Meanwhile, on the drive back from Ajo yesterday. Carole drove and I looked at the moonscape to the west of the highway. Really dramatic country down there. This is my impression of that expanse:

There was a ranch out among the mesquite and we could just make out the roofline among the palo verdes. That's a quick take on that.

News From The Front Lines
Carole Glenn keeps me posted on the phone calls from time to time to give us a good idea of where our readers are coming from. Here's a call she took today:

"Mrs. Griffith called to check on a gift sub today and told me that her husband loves TW and keeps up with you online. They live in Monroe, NC."
—Carole Glenn

"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning."

—Frederick Douglass

PBS Landscapes

January 12, 2011

Great trip to Ajo yesterday. It's a little over two hours south of here. An old copper smelting town, not far from the Mexican border. The mine is long closed and today the old homes are filled with retirees and hippies-artists with names like Lone Wolf. Spoke to a full house the library. Great crowd. Really enjoyed it. Sold a bunch of books and met some great people, including a local judge, now retired, who lives in Russ Shaw Senior's house. Russ Shaw Junior is one of my closest and zaniest friends (you may know him as Wonderful Russ) and his father, the senior, ran a Ford dealership in Ajo. Had to go see that house.

I have a tv appearance tonight on PBS' Horizon show. Going to be talking about my artwork. Last Saturday a cameraman came out to my studio and wanted to film me working. I whipped out this little study while he had two cameras trained on me:

Funny, because he was filming I let my brushes stay really wet, or more wet than I would if working alone. Notice the cool effect of the brittle weeds at bottom. That's all a happy accident. If you watch Horizon tonight you'll probably see this painting happen. I did one other painting in this fashion for the camera and here it is:

I also captured a couple things I wouldn't have normally, like the billowing clouds which I captured by using a wadded-up paper towel on the wet paint which gave it a very cloud like effect. Thanks PBS!

The Arizona Republic has asked me to write 500 words on gun violence in Tombstone. This is in reaction to the Tucson sheriff who said we all live in Tombstone now. By the way, I thought it was odd that the national press didn't capitalize tombstone, giving it an odd meaning, at least to me. Anyone else feel that way?

"You sons of bitches have been looking for a fight, and now you can have it."
—Wyatt Earp

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ajo Visit And Canyonlands Revisit

January 11, 2011

Got a speech today in Ajo, which is about a two-and-a-half hour run down to the border. Carole Glenn is going along to keep me company and help me sell books.

Meanwhile, over the weekend I uncovered an old photo I took near Moab in 1984. We were coming back from visiting the Bell family in northern Iowa and came back through Canyonlands, Utah. The kids (age four and two) were asleep so Kathy and I hiked out into the sandstone wilderness. Took a photo in the early morning light. Thought it had potential for a painting, came home, went back to work at New Times, tried to make ends meet by joining a radio show (Jones & Boze) and then promptly forgot aobut the image.

Fast forward to last weekend and there it was in a box full of other landscape photos waiting to be rediscovered. Added a rider and here it is:

Nice study. Very Maynard Dixonish.

"And so we turn the page over

To think of starting. This is all there is."

—John Ashbery

Monday, January 10, 2011

True Grit vs Wild, Wild West

January 10, 2011

For all you keeping score, here's how True Grit stacks up against the last two Westerns to top $100 million at the box office:

1. Dances With Wolves: $184,208,848 (release date 11/9/90)

2. Wild Wild West: $113,804,681 (release date 6/30/99)

3. True Grit: $110,430,000 (release date 12/22/10)

Meanwhile, here's a couple studies I did this weekend:

Mickey paraded a female prisoner (Beauty) up into the Sierra Madres, taunting the Apache Kid to come out of hiding. The ruse worked.

The Apache Kid had other enemies, including Curly, the San Carlos scout who was married to Beauty for a short time. Here they are ascending Black Mountain to do battle:'

"Art is anything you can get away with."

—Marshall McLuhan

True Grit Still Riding High

January 10, 2011

Big weekend. Scott O'Connor and I hosted a party in Phoenix last night for Austin folksinger Slaid Cleaves. 106 of our closest friends feasted on roasted pig and great tunes by Mr. Cleaves.

True Grit continues to ride high, holding down the number one spot last weekend, pulling in another $15 million, putting it at $110.4 million, the first Western to go over $100 mil since Dances With Wolves way back in the 1990s. Great news for all of us.

The next big Western in the pipeline comes out this summer: Cowboys & Aliens, directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), and it stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, along with Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Buck Taylor and Adam Beach. Both True Grit and Cowboys & Aliens share the same executive producer— Steven Spielberg. Hmmmmmm.

It's being billed as Star Wars meets the Magnificent Seven. The cowboys and In-dins of Silver City, Arizona (ironically there is no Silver City in Arizona, but the movie was filmed in New Mexico which does have a Silver City), put aside their differences to battle illegal aliens, I mean space aliens. A space craft crashes into the town. The movie has a huge budget (I want to say $130 million) and some pretty spectacular special effects, however, the previews, shown last month in some areas produced unwanted laughs. Not sure why. I saw the trailer and thought it looked okay (hated Daniel Craig's fedora), but I didn't think it was off-putting goofy. Evidently, some cutting is going on back at the lab, but probably on more than just the trailer. I can guarantee that someone at Universal is nervous. Ha.

This project is quite interesting to me because the entire premise was based on a concept, spec drawing by a cartoonist of a cowboy riding along with a big spaceship over his head, with the title Cowboys & Aliens as the mash-up title. The concept drawing resulted in a $500,000 movie deal. Hmmmmmm.

Worked this weekend on a variety of Mickey Free scenes, inlcuding this one of the Mickster riding through the fires of hell (actually Chihuahua, Mexico):

If only, I had put a spaceship in the background. Although, I do see a bit of a space alien in that smoke.

"It's very Baptist. If you're going to give up sin, you got to sin."
—Dawn Rizos, explaining the inordinate amount of strip clubs in Dallas in the New York Times

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Clouds On The Horizon

January 6, 2010

Long day doing budgets and planning. Hard work, but worth the effort.

My son called me yesterday and said, "Adrian's is dead to me." I laughed and instinctively knew exactly what he was talking about. One of our favorite Phoenix Mexican food restaurants has always been Adrian's on McDowell Road. Ed Mell turned us on to it and many times after returning to Phoenix and landing at Sky Harbor, we have stopped at Adrian's for a welcome home meal. Evidently, someone decided to "improve" the place and changed the name to Ricky's Rocket Tacos, or some such hipster name. Anyway, T. Bell's comment was to the effect that he was never going back, but he said it like someone in the family had betrayed him, and, in a way, someone did.

Did a radio interview with KPCW in Park City, Utah this morning. Interviewed by Larren Warren and Linda Gordon. They saw me on CNN and wanted me to regale them with all things Billy the Kid. I could have phoned this interview in, and, as a matter of fact, I did.

Went home for lunch and finished a little cloud study:

Kind of dig the colors and may expand to a larger piece.

Worked late, but then so did Ken and Lucinda Amorosano, Meghan Saar, Sheri Riley, Allison Cabral, Robert Ray and Carole Glenn. Lots to do if we are going to become the best little ol' magazine in the entire West.

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

—Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

mammoth jack in gear

January 5, 2011

Went home for lunch and worked on a study of Mickey Free getting his mammoth jack in gear:

A little rusty from the holidays, but there are some nice little passages worth saving. Need to spread it out a bit, the cloud, and angle the Mickster more at a 45 degree angle.

"When a mammoth jack pins his ears, better hunt cover."
—Al Sieber

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

True Grit Set to Break $100 Mil

January 4, 2011

Just got word that True Grit is at $89,292,295 as of yesterday and has taken the number one position away from The Fockers. At this rate it looks to break the $100 million mark very soon, making it the best opening of any Coen brothers film ever, and the first Western in a long time to break into this territory. This is great news for all of us who love Westerns.

Got another call from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. They're going to be interviewing the Coen brothers and the reporter asked me what I would ask the boys. Here's what I said:

I would love to ask the Coens several questions about their approach. One website attacks their treating the Indian kids in the film so badly: Rooster kicks the kids off the porch. Here is the blog post about it (not mine):

"Cogburn and Mattie, the fourteen year old played by Hailee Steinfeld, come upon a meager looking farmhouse in Chocktaw Territory that is home to Indians, including a couple of children sitting on the porch. As he enters the house to find out if the inhabitants have any knowledge of the whereabouts of Tom Chaney, he kicks the children on his way up the stairs. For good measure, he kicks them on the way out. What point were the Coens trying to make, that Cogburn was not a nice guy? I think that was pretty well established from the outset. Audiences would probably get a chuckle out of this since it is part and parcel of the sadism that pervades Coen movies. But using Indian children as butts for this kind of humor is pretty tasteless in my view. One imagines that it would be off-limits to see Black children being kicked around in this manner, but Indians are a different story apparently."

Personally, I love this scene because the kids were torturing a mule and Rooster lets them have it. The fact that they were Indian kids made it richer, BECAUSE it defied political correctness. I felt the same way with the two black characters. It's tempting to make them somehow independent, or less indentured, but that's not how it was in the real Old West and the Coens do not duck this. I find this exhilarating. Very brave film-making, in my book.

Here's a couple of questions I would love to ask them:

• Were there scenes you loved that had to be cut? And, what were they?

• How nervous, or intimidated were you about tackling an iconic film that John Wayne basically owned?

• What possessed you to pick the hat that Rooster (Bridges) wore? Please defend that. (I've seen the other hats under consideration by wardrobe and they were quite cool. The hat they ultimately picked looked like a homeless dectective's fedora).

• I've heard through the grapevine that you wrote an original Western. What happened to that project? And why did you switch gears and do this?

• What, if any, did executive producer Steven Spielberg add to the story telling, or the scene selection?

End of questions. I'll keep you posted on that article, and also, I'll see if I can post some of the sketches of the hat styles they didn't use for Rooster in the new True Grit.

"What people want is often what they have, had or thought they had."

—Peter Applebone in the New York Times

Monday, January 03, 2011


January 3, 2011

Back in the office for a new year. Ken and Lucinda Amorosano are here from New Mexico and we're meeting to go over goals and strategies for 2011. Very exciting. 1010 was a good year and we're hoping for a better year coming up.

Recollections of A DiscomBOBulated Head
I'm not sure who recommended me to The Wall Street Journal, but I got a call from a reporter last week about the impending decision regarding a pardon for Billy the Kid. The reporter talked to me for about a half hour and one of her questions, was along the lines of "Are there some who don't believe Billy deserves a pardon?" And I answered, "Yes," and she asked "Why?" To which I said, "They think he's a juvenile delinquent." Of course, this is the only quote she uses, and she assigns it to me.

Fair enough.

When I got to Channel 3 on Friday morning, the reporter-anchor said to me off-air, "So you are against the pardon," to which I said, "Where did you get that?" And he said, "It's right here in The Wall Street Journal." His entire "script" was a printout of the article.

Last Wednesday, after the WSJ article hit, I got a call from a producer at CNN. She said they wanted someone to talk to on Friday, when Governor Richardson would make his announcement on whether to grant Billy the Kid a pardon. The producer, Wendy Brokaw (no relation to Tom), sent me a list of questions and asked me to answer them. Here are the questions and my answers:

Q: Why the pardon? It is not disputed that Billy the Kid was a murderer? Are some of the facts unclear—if so, what is unclear?

A: Yes, Billy the Kid killed men (certainly not the 21 of legend), but In several of the killings attributed to the Kid he was a deputized posse member serving warrants. This was true of the other side in the Lincoln County War as well. Here's the sticking point: of all the killings, and there were probably hundreds, Billy is the only one who was tried and convicted for killing anyone. Others who were just as guilty not only skated free, but ended up as leading citizens and powerful politicians. As Billy himself put it, "Think it hard that I should be the only one to suffer the extreme penalty of the law." And he was right.

Q: What is Billy the Kid's real name?

A: His real name was Henry McCarty. Billy Bonney was an alias. Makes you wonder, how many movies would you go see about Henry the Kid? Not 40, which is how many films there have been about Billy the Kid. The other interesting fact is that he wasn't called Billy the Kid until the last year of his life. He went by Billy Kid and Kid Antrim (his step-father's name) but it was a newspaper (Las Vegas, NM Optic) that coined the term Billy THE Kid in December of 1880. The Kid was killed the next summer—July, 1881.

Q: Also disputed is whether Territorial Governor, Gen. Lew Wallace promised to pardon Billy the Kid in return for testifying in a different murder trial? Is there any legitimacy to this claim?

A: Billy witnessed the killing of a lawyer in Lincoln, New Mexico. Everyone in his party were drunk and there is some evidence that the shooting was an accident. Wallace met secretly with the Kid and promised him a pardon on two conditions: that he testify against the others and that he change his ways. Billy did the first part, but fell far short on the second part, giving Wallace a wide window to let the offer slide.

Q: The victim's descendants are outraged—believe that all the fictionalized version in books, tv shows and movies romanticized him—they say he was a cold-blooded murderer—Who was Billy the Kid? Give us a true glimpse of Billy the Kid.

A. The Kid's detractors have a solid case against him. He was a cold-blooded murderer AND he was the all-America boy (resourceful, brave, loyal and by all accounts a good dancer). These two opposing, contradictory facts are what fuels this legend. We will never all agree on who he really was and what his life meant. That is why we are still talking about him 130 years later.

Q: Why does this pardon even matter 130 years later?

A: Billy the Kid was basically a boy who got caught up in a war and he was charming and had winning ways. AND if you are sympathetic to his side of the story you can't help but wonder what would have happened if he had received the pardon. Would he have lived a productive life? It's a very powerful metaphor, a youth caught in circumstances beyond his control, who fights his way to freedom, only to be cut down by a former friend. Never mind that only half of that is true, it's still very powerful. I think people have a strong desire to set the record straight and to make up for perceived wrongs. And, really, I think even his enemies would concede that Billy the Kid didn't get a fair deal. To his many fans a pardon would be a win for the underdog, it would be proof that justice prevails in the end. Of course, to the other side, a pardon would mean that justice has been perverted for the sake of a questionable legend. Like all things in this world, someone is going to be very happy today and someone is going to hate it. And so it goes.

Do you think he should be pardoned?

A: My rational mind says, "No way," my heart says, "maybe," and my wallet says, "Absolutely! Do you realize how many more books I'm going to sell!"

End of answers. The producer assured me this would suffice, and I was asked if I wanted a car to pick me up on Friday and deliver me to a studio at 46th Street and University on the Tempe-Phoenix border. I declined the car and said I would drive myself there.

After my appearance on Channel 3 on Friday morning, I drove downtown and had huevos rancheros at the Matador ($15 cash, plus $1 tip to a street juggler), then stopped by Ed Mell's studio to see how he was doing, and, finally, on out to 46th street and University where I was scheduled to do a talking head remote from a free lance studio in an office building at 1:20 p.m.

Lisa met me at the door and showed me into the office complex which consisted of about five rooms. Her office was crammed with modems, cables and electronic gear to the ceiling. We were the only ones in the complex and it was very quiet, eerily so. Through a window I could see the actual studio which consisted of a lone chair, with an ear plug dangling over the back and a blurred, blown up photo of Squaw Peak, excuse me, Piestewa Peak, behind the chair. A big, camera with a massive hood stood parked across the room on sticks (a tripod stand). Unlike the sound stages at the local tv affiliates, this was a low-ceiling room no bigger than a tract house living room.

I was put in the Green Room where I could watch CNN and see the show I was going to be on. As it turns out, this was my only chance to see the show or the person who was going to be talking to me. I also noticed that the other talking heads being beamed in from remote locations, seemed to be suffering from a time delay problem. A question would be asked and then they would sit there looking dumb for a couple seconds before they said anything. As a viewer, of course, we can see both the anchor and the talking head so it looks really dumb (I instinctively knew this was about to be my experience as well).

Meanwhile, another talking head came rumbling into the building, bellowing down the hall, walking by the Green Room and calling out, "Hey Cowboy!" He had on a tie and suit, but his shirt tails were out with only jeans on below (since he would be shot from the waist up). He made a big deal about ordering Mexican food, talking to his make-up person, a woman who got his order from a nearby takeout (he ordered carne seca by the way). Turns out Toby is an analyst on The Fox Financial Network and although he is from DC, on New Year's Eve he is going to beam in his segment from this location. After makeup he came in The Green Room and asked if he could change the channel. I had seen enough of my show so I let him.

I realized I was so low on the food chain, I had no makeup person. Ha.

About ten minutes before air time, Lisa escorted me into the studio, sat me in the chair, miked me up, put the ear jack in my right ear, turned off the overhead lights, turned on three banks of spot lights which blasted me in the face and then she told me to look into the camera where I saw the white glowing corners of a white square, and a small white X in the middle. Her advice:look into the X and imagine it's the person I'm talking with. In other words I could not see anything. Not the host, the newsroom or anything. The Result: sight taken away.

I started to get really nervous. I felt trapped and a bit claustrophobic. I couldn't really move and I couldn't see. I could hear the show in my ear but even that was very discombobulated. A producer came on and told me they would do a bumper coming out of commercials. I had no idea when this would be because I couldn't see anything so I smiled and nodded like a jackass, hoping that I wouldn't look as lost as I felt. I'll let you decide if I succeeded.

The interview started out with an immediate snafu. Evidently, the producer back in Atlanta, or New York forgot to turn on my mike. The anchor, Brianna (sp?) asked if I could hear her, and I said yes, but the sound was off. Then you will notice that even though she had my scripted answers, above, she stepped on my best punchline. You'll also notice I swallowed hard several times. This is because I am pretty sure I am going to pass out. My wife Kathy (a licensed and trained therapist) worked with me the night before and had me do EMDR techniques where I tap my legs and say, "I know this material." You can't see me tapping, but that is what saved me.

By 1:30 I was in the parking lot. I had survived, but I had very mixed feelings about the experience. I got home at three and realized I had spent the better part of the day for two three-minute interviews.

Was it worth it? Well, sales of my Billy the Kid book spiked at least with the bosses of my children. Deena emailed me and asked me to send a Billy book to her boss (who read the article in the WSJ and expressed a desire to see the book). And, Deena's boyfriend, Mike, said his boss went on Amazon and bought a copy. So, at least there's two sales.

My production manager, Robert Ray spent three hours on his day off to provide them with good images, and CNN unfortunately found a bunch of bogus images online and foisted them up during my interview. Well, without further whining, here it is:

"All information is legend and experience is show biz."

—Richard Hell, in The New York Times