January 3, 2011Back 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.
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