Thursday, April 28, 2011

Santa Clarita Here I Come

April 28 2011

Flying out to Burbank this afternoon to attend the Santa Clarita Festival. Speaking tomorrow at the Repertory East Playhouse in downtown Santa Clarita, then on Saturday I'll be on a True Grit panel discussing the two movies and the book. I will sign books afterwards. All of this takes place at Melody Ranch in the Buckaroo Bookstore.

"As far as I'm concerned, 'whom' is a word that was invented to make everyone sound like a butler."

—Calvin Trillin

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Allen Barra on Kevin Jarre's Tombstone

April 27, 2011
My good friend Allen Barra weighs in on Kevin Jarre's version of Tombstone. He starts off by reacting to a string of posts on my original blog of Jarre's passing, where Unforgiven implies that perhaps the version of the movie "Tombstone" we ended up with, is better than Kevin's version, since we all love the movie:

I can’t entirely agree with Unforgiv’s post. The fact is that we loved and still love Tombstone not because of its limitations but IN SPITE of them. As I wrote in my book, Inventing Wyatt Earp, Jarre’s script (a copy of which he sent me shortly after the debacle of his firing when I interviewed him for the Los Angeles Times) is “the great unread Wyatt Earp novel.”

Who would not have wanted to see Robert Mitchum (whose voice survives over the opening and closing credits) as Old Man Clanton? Who wouldn’t have wanted to see the precise, more accurate version of the Vendetta Ride instead of the bloodbath that George Cosmatos imposed on the film?

More to the point, who wouldn’t have wanted to see some of the scenes that we’ve seen restored to the film? In the so-called “director’s cut,” Val Kilmer’s Doc leaves Kate (Joanna Pacula) to join Wyatt and asks her rhetorically, “Well, dahlin, have you no kind words as I ride away?” echoing the lyric from Frankie Lane’s rendition of Gunfight at the OK Corral.

I have seen rushes from Tombstone before Jarre was fired, and there’s one terrific sequence that definitely should be inserted. When Kurt Russell’s Wyatt finds out his horse has been stolen as a prank by Thomas Haden Church’s Billy Clanton, he rides out to retrieve the animal and finds himself unarmed and surrounded by Cowboys. Russell says something like “There’s no harm, kid. I even got mixed up in this kind of thing when I was your age,” thus adding a bit of Wyatt’s own personal history.

When the Cowboys surround Wyatt, Powers Boothe’s Curly Bill says, “C’mon, boys, let’s show his some hospitality. His brother’s the marshal. maybe we can all live and let live” – a line that should have reverberated when, later in the existing film, Bill Paxton’s Morgan says, “Let and let live, huh Wyatt?” It’s the only time in the movie we actually see the Cowboys do what they did: cattle rustling.

It’s important for yet another reason: Wyatt meets Sherm McMasters (Michael Rooker) and asks him why he’s involved with such a mob of cattle thieves. It’s Wyatt’s first and only scene with McMasters before Morgan and Virgil are shot. Rooker’s McMasters replies, “You’ve got your brothers, but these men are my brothers to the bone,” The line sets up Wyatt’s “Brothers to the bone, eh McMasters?” But since their first meeting was cut, we don’t know what it refers to.

With luck, some day in the future Jarre’s original script as he wrote it will finally be filmed in the way it should have been intended by Jarre all along: as a mini-series.

The Hacendado

April 27, 2011

Got up this morning and grabbed a sunset study out of my M file. Added a vaquero on a palomino (poached from a recent issue of True West, of the artist Ed Borein on horseback in a parade). Got it about half done, but had to go into the office.

Had several meetings, did two phone interviews. One with the Arizona Republic on the history of guns in Arizona and the other with Rebecca Tanner of the Wichita Eagle on a 150-year-old cabin salvage benefit which Michael Martin Murphy is lending his support to. We intend to support the cause as well. My motto is: if we don't support each other, who will?

Went home for lunch, watered the chickens (no sign of the second rattler), then sat down in the studio to knock out the Hacendado:

A Hacendado is the landed gentry on a hacienda. The big dog, El Jefe, the boss of the world on his land. I think. Ha.

"Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves."
—Emily Bronte

Jeff Hildebrandt Waxes Poetically

April 27, 2011

Got this from Jeff Hildebrandt today:

Flint Eyed

He crouches on a grassy perch above the prairie;

Flint eyed, focused where each sunrise

brings with it the

comfort of yesterdays.

He crouches; silently seeking signs

in the cycle of sameness

but sensing sorrow.

He knows tomorrow

long shadows on short grass

foretell an end to what has been.

But for now, he crouches;

moist eyed

as sunrise leads to sunset.

Jeff Hildebrandt © 4/26/2011inspired by a Bob Boze Bell painting.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Orme Due Diligence and Flint Eyed Carney

April 26, 2011

Over the weekend I found an unfinished illustration of Flint Carney (I think he came out and posed for this image in 1994 when I was hot on the trail of Geronimo). Last Saturday I was working on something else, a commission (see below), so I immediately stopped doing the work I was supposed to be doing and bailed into this.

Nice monotone. Meanwhile, here is one page of the Orme aerial map due diligence sketches:

And here is another aerial sketch of Orme:

And here's a due diligence aerial of the entire property:

Great potential. Learned a ton about aerial perspective and cheating on that perspective.

"Looking at the world from above, is a new experience."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Road to Nowhere

April 25, 2011

I have always been mesmerized by heatwaves. It's no accident that the name of the cafe where The Doper Roper and Honkytonk Sue hang out in, is called the Heatwave Cafe.

As a young kid traveling with my family, I distinctly remember seeing that high desert phenom of rippling heatwaves at the crest of a hill, on Route 66, west of Holbrook, 1950s, and an oncoming car floating in that heatwave, suspended in mid-air.

This is not an easy atmospheric effect to paint. I have tried it more than once without success, but this morning I grabbed a painting out of my M file and was pushing paint around and, by total accident, hit on the effect, by backing in the distant mountains. I call this Road to Nowhere:

This was exciting, but I was supposed to be finishing another assignment. Which led me to this conclusion:

"Sometimes I do my best work when I should be working on something else."

The Coontail Rattler Who Ate The Easter Bunny

April, 25, 2011

Had a nice Easter get together yesterday at our house. Deena and Frank drove in from LA, Thomas and Pattarapan drove up from Phoenix. James Radina drove in from San Diego. Brad and the "The Prom King" EJ Radina drove in from Peoria and Debbie Radina motored in from Surpise and brought Grandma Betty from Sun City.

Much of the talk was about the rattler who ate the Easter Bunny.

On Saturday I went out to feed the chickens and when I went over to the corner to turn on the water, I noticed a coon-tail. Not any ol' coontail, but a coontail of the coontail rattlesnake variety. The back end of the rattler went into a hole next to a palo verde tree and on the other side of the tree was a little bunny, sleeping. Or, so it seemed at first. I could clearly see he was breathing and twitching. On closer inspection I noticed that, next to him was the head of the aforementioned rattler. Here's a photo of that scene:

When the critter stopped moving, the coontail rattler unhinged his jaw and ate that Easter Bunny whole:

I'm not a snake expert, but I've heard that coontail rattlers are the most dangerous kind. Unlike other rattlers, they don't always give you a courtesy rattle to warn you off. And, while most rattlers want nothing to do with you, and will retreat, a coontail is much more aggressive and will attack, without warning.

So, obviously I could not allow this desert dweller to continue to live in my yard. I did let him enjoy his last meal, however.

"A snake in your hand is better than a snake on your leg."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dixxy Diamond, Part II

April 22, 2011

After lunch today, I noodled a couple more sketches of Dixxy Diamond.

Too femme fatale and ditzy (Ditzy Diamond!) although I could see Joan Cusack playing her. This next sketch has some potential although I'm not fond of the fireman lid:

I see Dixxy Diamond as a small, wiry cowgirl with dark, short hair (as opposed to the typical super hero with wall to wall muscles and boobs). Now this next one has potential:

Especially in her meek role. She is bullied, manhandled and dominated, but not when she puts on that flying hat, Baby!

"A good hat makes everything else fall into place."

Dixxy Diamond, Part I

April 22, 2011

Got up this morning early and decided to do a concept sketch of a new super hero cowgirl character I am noodling.

Don't ask me how wide that hat brim goes, but it's waayyyyyyy out there. Juni Fisher suggests that it is her foil and helps guide her through the air, as she swoops to and fro. Hmmmmmm, like that.

Working title: Dixxy Diamond: Off The Grid.

Kevin Jarr Update
Mark Boardman points out that funeral arrangements for Kevin Jarre were handled by—The Pearce Brothers—the same LA outfit that handled Wyatt Earp's remains.

Jeff Morey points out that my memory is slipping. The infamous Tombstone "P Photo" incident described in yesterday's post, happened in 1994, the year after our rendezvous when I read Kevin Jarre's script. Still, in my defense, the same group of guys (with an exception or two) went to the Crystal Palace, got real smart, came back to the same Tombstone Boarding House, where I read Kevin Jarre's script.

Still, I'm haunted by the reality of the Oldtimers Syndrome: each time a geezer tells the story, the closer he gets to the center of the stage.

"The only graceful way to accept an insult is to ignore it; if you can't ignore it, top it; if you can't top it, laugh at it; if you can't laugh at it, it's probably deserved."
—Russell Lynes

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hugh O'Brian Turns 86

April 21, 2011

Last Saturday I had the honor of attending Hugh O'Brian's 86th birthday party in Hollywood.

His birthday parties are legendary. A friend of Hugh O'Brian's, Jim Turner of film preservation fame, told me he has been to several of O'Brian's B-day parties, including his 77th birthday which included a Cinco De Mayo celebration and his 78th which included a chili cook-Off. His 79th which featured numerous guests hanging around his bar, "The Last Chance Saloon". Jim told me Hugh celebrated his 80th birthday with a 3-day event, including Hugh's VIP Cocktail Reception.

Hugh was a bachelor for a long time. He and his wife Virginia were married when he was 81. Hugh christened that event as " A wedding to die for". Debbie Reynolds serenaded them with a song she reworked, titled 'It Had To Be Hugh.' Here's Virginia and Hugh cutting the cake:

His 84th birthday was styled as, "I'm 84 and there's so much more." Likewise, his 85th begat, "I'm 85 and still alive." Funny. The last time we talked, in February, he was still noodling 86—I offered "And still trying to pick up chicks," but he pretended he didn't hear it.

Here's Hugh with a couple of his friends, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart. Babe magnets all. The photo is autographed to me. He has this same photo blown up and it was perched on the staircase landing as you come in the door to his magnificent home overlooking Benedict Canyon.

I flew in to Burbank last Saturday and my daughter Deena picked me up. After meeting up with her boyfriend Mike, and a tasty lunch at the Alcove on Hillcrest in Los Felez ($42 cash, I paid), we drove to Sherman Oaks, then headed up into the Hollywood Hills on legendary Mulholland Drive.

Got to Hugh's spread at about five. Party started at four and we just missed astronaut Buzz Aldrin but Arizona photographer David Spindel got his picture (and everyone else picture here at the party are David's images). To see Dave's entire photo album go to David's site:

Hugh O'Brian Birthday Photos

Hugh told us he bought the property in 1955 for $55,000. It had a two bedroom house on it and he knew about it because he did the owner's yard. He related a funny story about having lunch with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds before Hugh's career took off and Gene kept saying, "You look familiar. I could swear I've seen you around." And Hugh finally said, "I mow your lawn."

Of course Hugh had more roles besides playing Wyatt Earp on TV. About six o'clock, in waltzed a spry but spirited neighbor of Hugh's. She looked ravishing. I whispered to Deena and Mike, "Holy mole, that's Debbie Reynolds," to which they both said, "Who's Debbie Reynolds?"

I couldn't believe it. I finally said, "You know, the mother of Princess Lea in Star Wars," to which the thirty-somethings said, "I don't remember her in the movie," to which I said, "Not in the movie, that's Carrie Fisher's real mother! The actress who played Princess Lea—HER REAL MOTHER!"

When we first arrived, Hugh had a name tag waiting for me which said, "BBB—I'll tell you about the true west". Two very nice women at the front door gave blank name tags to Deena and Mike and encouraged them to write something under their name. Deena wrote "I'm new to LA" which was a great conversation starter. Mike, who's from Minnesota, wrote "lion tamer." He thought it was zany and would perhaps produce disbelief and a chuckle. To him it was, after all, obvious hyperbole. But not in this crowd. If you've got a former astronaut, Eddie Fisher's ex and Hollywood stunt men walking around, why not a lion tamer? Well, of course. A lion tamer would fit right in. When Hugh spied the name tag (two seconds after the below photo was taken), he yelled at an assistant to go get a photo album out of his office so he could compare notes with this young man in the "lion taming business."

The assistant brought out the album and all eyes were on the mortified "lion tamer":

As you can see over the Lion Tamer's shoulder, the view off of Hugh's deck is incredible. Very rural, right in the center of LA! Hugh's neighbors include Charlie Sheen, Ann Margret, Johnny Crawford and Pat Boone, among others.

Hugh and Debbie held court poolside, telling Hollywood stories. Here you can see Deena and I on the deck listening to their zany banter. The Lion Tamer is hiding in the house because he's afraid Hugh is going to call him out to share a story or two about his many adventures (the photographer even told Mike a lion trainer joke!).

Here's a shot of the living room in Hugh's house. I am standing just outside Hugh's office (full of photos of him with presidents and rulers from around the world). I am talking to Dr. Richardson a passionate fan of the Old West, and a friend of Hugh's. We are comparing notes on our children. He has two daughters. One a doctor and the other who's in the Obama administration (he's a Republican, so he kind of winced telling me). I told him, that's nothing, my daughter is dating a lion tamer.

I gave Hugh a small scratchboard of the real Wyatt Earp in the basement of the Bird Cage in Tombstone, checking out the soiled doves.

Had a wonderful time and Deena and Mike have a story to tell their children: "So we went to this big Hollywood party and saw Hugh O'Brian." And their kids will say. . .

"Life well spent is long."
—Leonardo da Vinci

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kevin Jarre Dies

April 20, 2011

Saw a posting by Tim Fattig on Facebook at lunch time, saying that Kevin Jarre had passed. When I Googled it, I was stunned to see that he had died on April 3rd. For those of you who don't know, it was Kevin Jarre who wrote the best screenplay on Wyatt Earp that many of us have ever read.

If only they had let him film it.

In June of 1993 a group of Old West buffs, loosely calling ourselves The Renegades, met in Tombstone to break bread, drink margaritas and solve the mysteries of the Old West. After dinner and several pitchers of margaritas at that Mexican food joint catty-wampus from Schieffelin Hall, the gang sauntered up to Allen Street and landed at the Crystal Palace Saloon. A band was playing. It was loud and we couldn't talk. Before we left I recognized a notorious character, a self-style bounty hunter, named Bob Burton. I recognized him from a photo I saw of him in the Arizona Republic. I am not a fan of Mr. Burton. He had taken it upon himself to single-handedly banish my first edition of Wyatt Earp from the Arizona Highways bookstore.

As a matter of fact, the week before our Tombstone trip, I received a phone call from the publisher of Arizona Highways, Hugh Harrelson, informing me that this same bounty hunter had called to complain that my book was pornographic and he was going to the state legislature and tell them that Arizona Highways, a state funded publication, was sending pornogrpahy through the mails.

Hugh told me they couldn't afford the bad publicity and they were dropping my book. The "pornography" was a sarcastic reference to Hugh O'Brian's Buntline Special and the offensive word was "penis," as in "in Hugh O'Brian's other holster he has a normal length penis." It was in a cutline. I was an ill-advised attempt at humor, but still. . .really? Pornography?

Anyway, Mr. Burton walked out on the sidewalk just as we were all leaving and I couldn't help but call out his name. He stopped and turned to face us, almost directly in front of the location of Hatch's Saloon where Morgan Earp got ambushed. There were some seven or eight of us and he was alone. He wasn't intimidated in the least. I told him who I was and he laughed. Said something like, "Well, it was just a joke, but you shouldn't have done that." One of our guys smirked and said something sarcastic. His name was Jeff Morey.

That was it. It was tense, but nothing else happened (other than the next day we went back to that spot and had a group photo taken which we call "The P Photo" in honor of "The Peace Commision" photo).

When we got back to our rooms at the Tombstone Boarding House, Jeff Morey asked me if I wanted to read the new, top secret movie script by Kevin Jarre for a movie to be called "Tombstone." Tired and fried, I asked if I could read it tomorrow. Jeff told me he was leaving directly in the morning and if I wanted to read it, tonight was the night. I took it and retired, and, in a grumpy mood, read the first paragraph. A couple hours later, I sat it down on the night stand and sighed. Damn! That is the best script I have ever read on Wyatt Earp, EVER! I had the conceit that I would someday write a movie on Wyatt's life, but that was a joke. This was absolutely brilliant.

I remember thinking at the time, if they actually film this, it will be an instant classic Western, for the ages. It was—and still is—that good. The script, I mean.

Not long after, Jeff Morey called me and asked if I wanted to visit the set of "Tombstone." Here is one of the first photos I took on that trip from Phoenix to the Sonoita, Elgin area. Jeff is posed in front of the "Red River" mountains (near Elgin). This was taken on the way to the "Babocomari" set in June of 1993.

When we got to the film location, several miles southeast of this photo, and northwest of Fort Huachuca. We were flagged through security (Jeff was the historic consultant on the film) and followed, on foot the cables up a side draw to a film crew at a cowboy camp. They were filming a scene of the Earp posse riding into a cowboy camp on the Vendetta Ride. They evidently had already filmed a scene of running over a Mexican bandido (I think he was based on Florentino Cruz), who, now stared wild-eyed into the camera and barked his Spanish lines, over and over. After about a half hour, the crew broke and moved across a wash to a cowboy tent. Jeff, my daughter Deena (10) and I walked with them, and then up a small hill south of the set and sat down to watch them work.

Jeff pointed out the director in the ball cap. It was Kevin Jarre. He had never directed a movie before, but he had leveraged his brilliant script into a shot at directing.

When we originally walked onto the set, one of the crew members, a producer type, growled at me, pointing at my camera: "No pictures!" I nodded, like a good boy.

Kevin Jarre started blocking out the next scene where Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) and Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) confront a group of cowboys in front of a tent. Threats were exchanged.

I held my camera on my knee and snapped off a quick shot.

Wyatt took off his hat and threw it to Doc. At this point, the actors retired to ladders and sat atop them perhaps so the hat throwing would go faster. It didn't. Kurt threw his hat several times and Val missed catching it. Finally they got the take they wanted, dismounted and Wyatt prepared to do fisticuffs with one of the cowboys.

Kevin Jarre ran through how he wanted the fight done. We were about 50 yards away and couldn't hear him, but we could clearly see that Kevin was pantomiming a Queensbury style boxing stance (which was inspiring to me because, in fact, Wyatt was a boxing enthusiast, promoter and himself a boxer). Kurt was having none of this, and when he did it, he threw the typical Hollywood style punches with exaggerated swings and blocking blows straight out of a Magnum P.I. episode. Kevin ran through it again.

Words were exchanged which we couldn't hear. The crew took a break. Incredibly, Kevin Jarre walked towards us, up the little hill and sat down next to Jeff Morey. We were introduced. I told Kevin how great the costuming and especially the hats were. I said I had never seen such historical accuracy in a Western before. He beamed. He told me he was very proud of the look.

On an impulse I reached down and snapped the shutter. This is the shot I got:

What's not apparent in this photo (or, is it?) is that Kevin Jarre had just lost his job.

I heard several years later from a member of the film crew that the fight scene was the last straw with Kurt Russell and he had Kevin fired. There were other reasons given, of course: Jarre was moving too slow. He wanted the cameraman to shoot close-ups of the gear. He would go riding between takes.

After Jarre was fired, the movie was altered to be a bit more Hollywood. Many of the scenes I raved about in the written script were gone from the final film version. Including the entire sequence we had witnessed and which Kevin lost his job over.

Close friends say the firing really devastated Kevin. I tried to contact him several times about doing an interview with us to tell his side of the story, but he never responded.

"In the end, all films are just words on water."
—Edgar Payne

Creosote And Other Desert Super Beings

April 20, 2011

Working hard on my Orme Ranch aerial illustration. Lots of due diligence on the dozens of buildings on the high, desert campus. Going up next Tuesday for one more plein air session and then on to finish.

Just perused David Spindell's photos from the Hugh O'Brian birthday party last Saturday in Hollywood. As soon as he gets me the images I'll post up my thoughts and impressions of the fun party with one of Benedict Canyon's oldest playboys. Ironically, Charlie Sheen is one of his neighbors (so the dream lives on).

One of my favorite desert plants is the creosote. I've always loved the signature, pungent smell it gives off after a rain. Not easy to render, however, especially in the wild. Very delicate, scattered branches. Here is an impressionistic take on a stand of creosote on the high Sonoran Desert, at sunset:

Working on a new idea: a super-hero-cowgirl. She's either a vet's assistant by day, or, an underpaid history teacher (Paul Hutton, the Distinguished Professor, wants the latter and Juni Fisher recommends the former). Of course, by night she's a horse hopping-flying super cowgirl who can leap a gooseneck with a single bound. She also has a fantastic birth story, involving UFOs hurtling out of the Western skies and landing near her father's ranch on the night she was born.

Hmmmm. Who was that masked cowgirl? Hi-Yo-Mama, away!!!!!!

"There are three things which the public will always clamor for, sooner or later: novelty, novelty, novelty."
—Thomas Hood

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Low Pants Vance

April 19, 2011

When I was growing up, we had a kid at Mohave County Union High School nicknamed "Low Pants" Vance. He was a bad boy. I wonder if low pants have always meant rebellion? Did some of Geronimo's warriors swagger around with low slung breech cloths? Probably. I know my own son, Thomas Charles, went through a gangsta stage and wore his pants down around, well, you know:

Last weekend, when I was in LA, Deena and Mike took me to the legendary Comedy Store in Hollywood. One of the comics, Jeff Altman, did a very funny bit about creeping pants going in the other direction when we get older. "My dad's pants kept creeping up on him. By 65 he was just a pair of pants and a head. He had to unzip his pants to drive."

"I'm there, Man."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Billy the Kid: The Language Lesson

April 18, 2011

Back from Hollywood. Attended Hugh O'Brian's 86th birthday party at his magnificent home in Benedict Canyon on Saturday. My daughter Deena and her boyfriend Mike joined me. A full report and photos to come.

Finally finished the Billy the Kid episode, "The Language Lesson" for the next issue. Did three scenes today, finishing all three at lunch. Here's the Kid, in long johns, being confronted by a very angry bandido:

Also, did this climax scene of the fight.

And retooled a portrait of the Kid to give him a tad more of a rakish bent:

And, believe it or not, did a scene I didn't have room for:

Love the chaps, didn't dig the face. A little too geezer-ish. Pistol is nice, though.

Issue was uploaded to RR Donnelly in Kansas City at four. Going to be a good one.

"Horses are scared of two things: things that move. Things that don't move."
—Old Vaquero Saying (via Mark Miller)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hijole, It's Tax Day!

April 15, 2011

Tax day. Scrambling to get ours in.

Also working hard to finish the next installment of Graphic Cinema, and correct all of the proofs for the June issue.

Grabbed this muy malo bandito scene out of my U file (unfinished) and tweaked it to express surprise.

This panel will run right after El Kid pulls his gat out of his hat. Even though he is holding a gun on the Kid, the bandito says, "Uh oh," only in Spanish. I originally thought of using the expression, "Ay carrumba!" but I called my son Tomas, and he suggested "Hijole", pronounced "Ee-hole-ay." Which is a common Mexican expression, loosely translated as, "Son of a. . ."

Meanwhile, I also grabbed another study out of my U file and tweaked it as well.

This is called "Navajo Hogan In Dust Storm," and was inspired by a plein air painting trip Ed Mell and I took a year ago to Utah. As we came back through Monument Valley a huge dust storm blew through. I combined that scene with my memory of a similar scene I saw as a young kid coming through there with my family. I remember this tiny hogan parked at the foot of a giant volcanic neck—Agatha Peak?—and I wondered what that would be like to come out every day, look around and see this huge monolith towering over your back yard. Ha. Of course, there are mighty few hogans on the res today. Mostly these days, all you see are abandoned double-wides, which is a sad sight to see.

"One's prime is elusive. You must be on alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur. You must live it to the full."
—Muriel Spark

Thursday, April 14, 2011

El Chivato vs. El Billito vs. El Kid

April 14, 2011

Still mulling the name for our next installment of Graphic Cinema. Our art director Dan Harshberger came up with a movie style logo for "el Gringo Kid," but a Facebook friend alerted me to a book with the very same title "The Gringo Kid," so that kind of took the joy out of that title.

I was talking on the phone to fellow Bang Ganger Buckeye Blake and he suggested "Billito," as in "El Billito," but when I asked around the office, everyone seemed so so on that title. Meanwhile, everyone I talked to still likes El Chivato (which is a name that the Kid was actually called in his lifetime, and is Spanish for "infant rascal") except Dan the Man, who thinks it's flat. Elizabeth Fackler, a member of this board, used the title "El Chivato" in the mid-nineties and, in fact, I used it in 1992 in my first edition of The Illustrated Life & Times of Billy the Kid.

I originally liked "El Kid," off of El Cid, but nobody has gotten very excited about that title. I want something that conveys a young outlaw who is fluent in Spanish and is a champion of the native New Mexicans. Come on. You are creative. Here's the title painting to get you in the mood:

"Choosing the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug."
—Mark Twain

The Sweethearts of Sigman Chi vs. Hugh O'Brian

April 14, 2011

Spoke to a Sigma Chi alum group last night down at the Phoenix City Grill on 16th Street just below Bethany Home Road. (excellent food by the way, had the salmon). Decent speech, good crowd. Sold two books. Missed a pretty cool wrap-up opportunity to pay off my opening of watching "The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp" TV show with my grandmother on Jefferson Street in Kingman in 1957. At the end of my talk I should have added that this coming Saturday I'm flying to LA to attend Hugh O'Brian's 86th birthday party at his mansion in Beverly Hills. I'm taking Deena and her boyfriend Mike as well. I wish my grandmother, Louise "Guessie" Swafford, was still here to share a laugh at the absurdity of this.

I have been warned that Hugh charges guests $25 to come in his house, so I'm ready for that contingency. Ha.

Worked this morning on a couple more images for the Gat in the Hat episode of Graphic Cinema. Here's a painting of the Kid's derringer and holster sewn into the lining of his hat:

Pretty tricky, no? As I mentioned yesterday, this is inspired by an Elfego Baca tale. I seem to remember someone came into our office and actually had this rig.

"In seeking honey expect the sting of bees."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gringo Billy Hablas Espanol

April 13, 2011

Going over last minute changes and additions to the June issue. Lots of fact checking: IMDB says there have been 54 Billy the Kid movies, The Marcelle Brothers website says 51, and Paul Hutton claims 60 (although he warns that some are just mentions of the name while others are based on the Kid, like "One Eyed Jacks" with Marlon Brando playing a character based on the Kid but that's not his name in the movie).

And speaking of the Kid, we are going to change the pace in Graphic Cinema and go with a Billy the Kid story I have long wanted to do. The premise is that this gringo Kid spoke fluent Spanish in a dangerous border country. If played right that is a character that should resonate today.

The first episode is about a stagecoach robbery where all the bandits speak Spanish and all the passengers and stagecoach personnel speak English (or, so it seems). Upon realizing this, and after everyone is disarmed, the banditos start speaking in Spanish right in front of the victims, talking about the shirt they are going to take and who they want to rape, because they are going to kill everyone. Finally, one of the passengers, smiles, and corrects one of the bandits on his use of Spanish, in Spanish! Before they can react, he pulls a derringer out of his hat (The Gat in The Hat) and pops the guy in front of him, grabs the crumpling bandito's pistol and dispatches the other two. The morale: learn to speak Spanish, ese.

I'm still noodling titles. Still like El Kid. May use The Gringo Kid: In The Gat In The Hat

Or, the old standby El Chivato (The Infant Rascal) which I used in the first edition of my "Illustrated Life & Times of Billy the Kid" (1992)

Might even use Bilingual Billy. Hmmmmm.

[other possible sub heads]: In the days of the Wild West in New Mexico Territory one young gringo stands tall

Or, In the dangerous border country of New Mexico a gringo Kid stands tall

Brought in a painting of one of the banditos:

Titled: "Manos Arriba!" (Hands up!). Of course when he gets blank stares from the stage driver and the other passengers, he assumes none of them are Spanish speakers. Big mistake, ese.

"That's El Chivato to you, ese."
—Billy Bonney

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Gat In The Hat

April 12, 2011

Proofing pages for the next issue, which goes to the printer on Thursday. Among the highlights: Fort Fizzle. Really. There was a Fort Fizzle (page 75).

In the new movie Rango, Henry Beck tells us there is a character stealing water a la Noah Cross in Chinatown, who is "voiced by Ned Beatty (who played a similar figure in Network). Beatty works hard to sound like the late John Huston, who played Cross. He's also designed to look like Huston, while he putts around in his wheelchair like Old Man Potter from It's A Wonderful Life,

who was himself a deliberate caricature of that universally despised oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. Try deconstructing that!"

Ha. Henry at his best.

Meanwhile, internationally known film director Josh Becker (Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules) reviews 1958's Terror In A Texas Town, riffing on the film process. "(The pitch is: Harpooner vs. gunslinger. All right. I'm listening.)"

The Gat In The Hat
Here's a bold prediction: the next Billy the Kid movie (there have been at least 48) will be about the Kid after the Lincoln County War and will be the first movie that focuses on his affinity with the native New Mexicans (he was fluent in Spanish) and how he gravitated between the Mexican plazas of Anton Chico, Puerto de Luna, Fort Sumner and Portales, with a smile on his face and a querida in every plaza (querida is Spanish for girlfriend). And to give my prediction a humble nudge, here are a couple scenes from that episodes:

They called him "El Chivato" and as Jose Garcia y Trujillo put it: "su vista penetrava al corazon de todal la gente" (his face went to everybody's heart.)

One of the scenes in this coming issue involves a derringer hidden in a hat. When I was in Socorro about 25 years ago, I saw a newspaper clipping in the courthouse about an incident Elfego Baca once told about the Kid which is probably apocryphal. Elfego claimed the two of them were in a saloon in Old Town Albuquerque and the Kid would shoot out one of the lights with his derringer. They had a strict law about carrying weapons, so a policeman would rush in and search everyone, find nothing, warn them and leave again. The Kid smiled, took his hat off, pulled out the derringer and shot out another light and put it back, smiling. While it's doubtful this is a true story, I have always loved that idea about the gat in the hat.

And speaking of the Kid's many queridas. Here's one he meets on a stagecoach.

"Billy the Kid came to our house several times and drank coffee with us. We liked him for he was always nice to the Spanish people and they all liked him."
—Lorencita Herrera Miranda

Monday, April 11, 2011

Billy the Kid Aerial Photo Due Diligence

April 11, 2011

Besides working the Cave Creek Rodeo last weekend, I also worked on an ambitious overhead view of Billy the Kid having his picture taken out back of Beaver Smith's Saloon in Fort Sumner.

Grabbed a bunch of old photo books and auditioned various bystanders and photogrpahers:

Got up this morning and bailed into a final. Brought it into the office to finish:

Not sure you can make it out, but Billy's pards, Chuck Bowdre and Tom O'Folliard are playing grab-ass to try and crack up the Kid. That's Manuela Bowdre in the doorway, and Pete Maxwell on the horse. Fun to do, could have been better, but the deadline looms (goes to press Thursday).

"A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a historic rendering can be nitpicked forever."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, April 08, 2011

Billy the Kid Waits for Photo

April 8, 2011

Got up this morning and bailed into a painting I have wanted to do since 1991 when I first got the inspiration.

We believe Billy the Kid had his only known photo taken behind Beaver Smith's Saloon sometime in the fall or winter of 1880. He was just becoming well known as an outlaw, at least in New Mexico. The governor, Lew Wallace placed an ad in a Santa Fe newspaper seeking his capture with a $500 reward, and so either an itinerant photographer came through Fort Sumner, or, perhaps heard about this Kid and traveled from Las Vegas, New Mexico (a likely locale for the closest photographer) to capture the boy outlaw on tin.

This photographer (his name is lost to history) probably showed up in Sumner with a wagon load of equipment. Fort Sumner at that time was barely a settlement with no church or newspaper. Pete Maxwell simply rented out the crumbling fort buildings to a variety of ne-er-do-wells who attempted to carve out a business in the sparsely settled caprock country. Pete didn't even own the land the fort is on. His father, Lucien, simply bought the buildings. It's a tenuous arrangement in a tenuous locale.

The photographer would logically stop at Beaver Smith's Saloon (and no doubt at Hargrave's Saloon as well) asking if anyone wanted a photo taken for posterity. Perhaps the same photographer who took the photos of Maxwell's home took the same photograph of Billy. We don't know.

Two people remembered that the photograph of the Kid was taken at Beaver Smith's: Paulita Maxwell and Dan Dedrick. The photographer probably set up a makeshift studio out back of the saloon.

Some have speculated it could not have been made outside because there are no shadows in the photo, but that is nonsense. If the photographer set up shop in the shadow of a wall, say the back, outside wall of the saloon, there would be no visible shadow. Of course, he needed to bounce any available light up under the Kid's hat, so he utilized a white clothed gurney and had a bystander hold it beside the Kid to reflect light on the subject. The photographer brought along a head stand (which sported a wire brace for the neck) for long exposures. As the Kid's pals, Dan Dedrick, Tom O'Folliard and Chuck Bowdre, stood by and teased the Kid, the photographer took a six second exposure.

Perhaps he took other exposures of various locals.

While the photographer developed the photos, the Kid probably went inside, played some cards, then stood by the stove as he waited for the photographer to emerge from his wagon with four images.

Photo experts say Billy probably paid a quarter for them. He apparently put them in his pocket and walked over to Paulita's to give her one of them, before riding out to a sheep camp. The Kid moved from camp to camp to avoid capture but came into Sumner often for dances and to see the ladies.

And so, the photographer rode off down the road, having no idea he had just taken the most iconic and famous photograph in the history of the West. Even if it doesn't bring the $500,000 it's expected to bring at auction this summer, the photo is the holy grail of outlaw images. Oh, if only we could have warned him, imagine what that itinerant shutter snapper could have bought with all that money!

"History is a cruel trick, played on the dead by the living."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Justified is justified

April 7, 2011

A couple of media alerts: our good friend Allen Barra thinks Justified is the best show on television right now. Here's his review:

Justified is justified

Meanwhile, I taped an Arizona centennial piece for Channel 10 in Phoenix a month or so ago, and I got a call from the producer that it will air tonight during the 9 pm news. Check it out.

"Life well spent is long."

—Leonardo da Vinci

Federales At The River

April 7, 2011

Went home for lunch and grabbed a dusty study out of my failure pile. After about five minutes of pushing paint around I finally realized there were Federales in that dust.

"They Rode to the River And Stopped." Hmmmm. I think they smell Mickey Free. This is just west of Opodepe.

"A horse is not a dog. It don't love ya."
—Robert Duvall

Last Light On The Apaches

April 7, 2011

Finally got some traction on the Orme aerial map I have been commissioned to do. Worked last night on it and about a half hour this morning, before I came into the office. I have some fifty sketches and numerous failed washes, trying to capture the right overhead, exaggerated perspective needed to make a map like this compelling. Not easy: in fact, it looks easier than it is, probably because it involves taking very complex perspectives on overhead sight lines and simplifying them at the same time staying true to the actual buildings and their unique angles. Hope to have a finish this month.

Before I came into the office I grabbed a painting out of my failure pile and tweaked it to a rough finish. I call this "Last Light On The Apaches."

He does look tired, no? Need to work on the stock of the Winchester. Kind of tubed it. Not right, but it has potential.

Speaking of Apaches, found this in one of my 10,000 bad drawings sketchbooks:

The most accurate head dress is the one at upper right-hand corner. How come we never see this in movies? That headgear is so unique to the Apache and I don't recall ever seeing it in a movie.

Interviewed Lynn Anderson ("I Never Promised You A Rose Garden") at Festival of the West a couple weeks ago for our What History Has Taught Me department. Got about two-thirds done when this goonball came up and started harrassing her about tripping horses as a training method. Really upset her and she fled the tent, promising to finish later.

Our computer wizard Gerard came out to my house yesterday and hooked up my third computer in the studio. The third one is the oldest and is, according to Gerard, on it's last drive, as in hard drive going down. Need to transfer some of my files over to the newest computer. Many of the files, including all my Mickey Free notes, are in a program called WriteNow which no longer exists and my new computer will not recognize it. Need to copy each file and place each it in email, send it to my account at the office and transfer it to Word, etc.

So glad that computers have made my life more simple. Ha.

"Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle."
—Anna Quindlen

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Cowboy Artists Lose Home Base

April 6, 2011

I heard from a reputable source last weekend that the Cowboy Artists of America have lost their home at the Phoenix Art Museum. The scuttlebutt is that last year's show barely broke even and the museum did not renew their contract.

Just got off the phone with a reporter from the Arizona Republic about it, confirming that it is true. Sales have declined and they have lost many of their big name artists, with the new guys not pulling the prices. Another complaint is that the artists were showing the B stuff and saving bigger paintings for other shows. Not sure about that, but someone who is inside the bubble told me that. In terms of longevity, the CAA has lasted some 40 years, which is longer than the Taos 7, or the Ash Can Boys.

Personally, I loved the CA show and tried to go every year. One rumor is that the Phoenix Art Museum is going to create a show to replace the CA, but open it up to a broader audience, meaning more than cows and cowboys.

Speaking of old ideas made new, we are all waiting for Cowboys & Aliens to come out, and I ran across this old comic book, which predates C&A by about half a century.

Spoke to a home school class at Desert Willow Park this morning about history. Great group of kids.

Afterwards had lunch with Sue Lambert at El Encanto to talk about True West business ($25, I bought, biz account).

Back to new ideas and history repeating itself, as Harry Truman succinctly put it:

"The only thing new in this world is the history you don't know."
—Harry Truman

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Mickey In The Mountains

April 5, 2011

Went home for lunch and finished a piece inspired by a snapshot I saw at Paul Andrew Hutton's home in Albuquerque last Saturday. Paul was showing me all of his latest goodies (he's always buying stuff off eBay, etc.) and one of them was a family photo album from 1936, I believe it was. Paul bought it because they visited the Alamo and took a photo of it. I asked to look at it. I love old photo albums. Towards the back were two photos of mountain ranges. I asked Paul if he could make a xerox of them.

When I got home I kept looking at the xerox. I loved the design of the outcropping in the black and white photo. It was somewhat vague (not sure where in the West it was) but I kept studying it.

Got home from work around six last night and put in a light wash of the scene. Today, after lunch I added the rider, finishing at two and came back in to the office.

I call it "Mickey In The Mountains." Not sure about the green sand, but dig the outcropping design.

"A man can stand almost anything except a succession of ordinary days."
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Amanda Blake, The Bang Gang & Apache Runners

April 5, 2011

When I was at Westfest in Palm Springs a week ago, I bought a couple books on Gunsmoke, including a bio of Amanda Blake: Perfectly Amanda: Gunsmoke's "Miss Kitty," by Beckey Burgoyne. Kind of a sad read. I forgot that she was married five times. For her fifth marriage, she asked a friend to give her away, and he quipped, "Darling, when you're getting married for the fifth time you're not getting given away; you're getting passed around!"

Tragically, her fifth husband was bi and both of them died of AIDS. I was kind of shocked at this and yesterday I talked to a legendary Western singer who knew Amanda well and I asked him if this was true. He said, "Yes, poor gal, she didn't know he was double-gated."

Looking through my 10,000 bad drawings sketchbooks this morning and found this page of midnite Apache runners.

Wish I remembered how I got these effects. Pretty amazing.

As I mentioned, last Friday night we had our art opening in Santa Fe. Here is a photo of the three outlaw painters, Thom Ross, BBB and Buckeye Blake, known collectively among ourselves as The Bang Gang.

The photographer is Lucinda Wood. The show reamains up through April Check it out at Due West Gallery, just west of the plaza on San Francisco (a couple doors west of the old theater).

"Rose-colored glasses are never made in bifocals. Nobody wants to read the small print in dreams."
—Ann Landers