Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Baz (some say Bass) Outlaw As He Looks Today

January 31, 2012

Very busy day. Started with a blood test at 7:45, then a biz breakfast at C4 in Cave Creek and then a long day scrambling to finish our 10th Annual Travel issue. Lots of Texas Rangers work, including this shot of Bass Outlaw as he looks today. Ha.

"I've always thought that writing isn't really that hard. It's having a good idea that's hard."

—Lyle Lovett, in Esquire magazine

Monday, January 30, 2012

Phoenix Founders Founder

January 30, 2012

Went home for lunch and whipped out a pic of Jack Swilling, one of the founders of Phoenix who died poor (all the founders did):

All of which leads to the old conclusion that pioneers get the arrows and settlers get the land. I originally titled this True West Moment as "Founders Flounder" but I recently saw the usage of founder as "a ship filling with water and sinking. . ." so would it be better, or, at least groovier, to say. . .

Founders Founder?

Meghan Saar thinks not.

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

—Mark Twain

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bells Ring for Wedding Bells

January 27, 2012

When it rains it pours department: Lew Jones dropped by today and left me a standard marriage form in case Kathy and I want to tie the knot again. Since I have two kids who are tying the knot in the next six months, this would be funny, or the final straw. Not sure which.

Meanwhile, it was Lew who gifted me the board plaque with a piece of original wood off of William Antrim's outhouse. Here is a photo of the outhouse in its final days:

And here's Billy the Kid's stepfather (center, with beard) while he was a mine manager in Mogollon, New Mexico. This mineshaft was probably within spitting distance of the outhouse shown above. Mogollon is a in a very compact canyon.

One of the last hand drawn sign painters in America, Alan Scott, is going to redo our True West sign on the True West World Headquarters in Cave Creek, AZ. Here he is after doing our original sign in 2002. New design to follow.

Earlier this week, I whipped out a little study I call "Religion Finds Don Pedro":

"A ring is a circle with no beginning and no end. It is the symbol of the sun and the earth and the cosmos, of wholeness, perfection and peace. The rings you give and receive here today are symbols of the abiding love into which you enter as husband and wife."
—Lew Jones, from his standard wedding ceremony form

Outlaws To The End

January 27, 2012

Ever heard of a story slam? I hadn't either, until my old friend Mark Goldman (from my radio days) contacted me and asked me to come down and participate in The Great Arizona Story Slam. Basically each story teller gets five minutes to tell a story (tonight's theme is "Like Butch and Sundance: Partners In Crime—Friends to the End." Coming off at the Doubletree Inn at 44th Street and Van Buren tonight from six to nine. Tickets are $10 advance, or $15 at the door. I am bringing along a box of the new Arizona Centennial issue, so if you want a free one, now would be your chance to get one.

Let's see, who would my partner in crime be? Certainly the oldest partnership would be this outlaw (Dastardly Dan, on left):

Many wild ones have come and gone and come between us, but here we are still working on Old West graphics (hint: Big D is the True West art director since 1999). The only ding against Dan The Man is probably the fact that he is the most honest, hard working, frugal, funny bastard I have ever known. Not much of an outlaw, unless you count the mocking of Arizona politicos.

Speaking of which, Dan and I produced The Razz Revue (1972-1976) and I don't think either one us owns a complete set. Imagine our surprise when this appeared on ebay:

One of the things Dan and I prided ourselves on was publishing wildly inappropriate comments out of context and at the wrong time. Thank God we outgrew that!

"Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good."

—Joe Paterno

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bert Lindley Defended by Paul Andrew Hutton

January 26, 2012

Taped a table read for our proposed TV show "True Arizona" late this morning. Marshall Trimble, Jana Bommersbach and I marched through a ton of material to fill a full 56 minutes of screen time. Going to eventually take the show on the road.

The True West website has been buzzing with comments about Bert Lindley, the first actor to allegedly portray Wyatt Earp in a movie. Here's a still of him from Paul Hutton's collection:

This led to the following posting:

Here's a puzzle concerning the supposed stills of Bert Lindley portraying Wyatt Earp for Bill Hart's 1923 film "Wild Bill Hickok." I checked imdb.com and friendsofhartpark.org, both of which list the full cast and crew of Hart's film, and guess what --- although the cast of characters includes Hickok (played by Hart), Calamity Jane, and Bat Masterson, there is NO Wyatt Earp, nor is Bert Lindley listed among the actors! Now silenthollywood.com says that Abraham Lincoln also makes an appearance in the movie, and he is not shown among the characters either, so possibly Earp (Lindley) appears momentarily, but did not warrant a listing in the cast.

What did P.A. Hutton say about where he obtained the photos of Lindley(provenance)?

—Murray A. Gewirtz

I emailed Paul Hutton and asked him if he could cast any light on these questions, and, without further ado, here is the Distinguished Professor:

BBB: Well, you know just how much I appreciate internet research! And especially the notoriously error-ridden imbd.com (check my two listings--they list me as two people--and both are wrong.) Wild Bill Hickok is a lost film, although a partial print surfaced a decade ago. I have been collecting materials on it for over twenty years because of my interest in the historical characters in the film (it started with trying to get a still of the Custer charcter, then Sheridan, then Earp). My stills are original studio photographs released at the time of the film with (in the Lindley case) the ORIGINAL STUDIO SNIPE pasted on the back (incredibly rare) identifying Lindley as Earp (I have three stills with the Lindley character in it--two portraits and the group shot). I also own a copy of the original pressbook for the film--with full cast listed. I also own a rare little pamphlett entitled "William S. Hart in Wild Bill Hickok" by William S. Hart (Los Angeles: Will A. Kistler Co., Printers, 1923) which is a prose version of the screenplay. It not only has Earp as a character but also lists Doc Holliday, Luke Short, Bill Tilghman, and Charlie Bassett as the other men along with Hickok, Masterson and Earp in the scene where they meet the hide men from the East (I sent you that still). Thus this must also be the first appearance of Doc Holliday in a film (although we dont know the actor). I also have several stills of the Lincoln character in the film (one with him alongside Sheridan) and several of the Custer character. Also the Masterson character. The Masterson character was featured far more prominently than the Earp character, which is interesting considering the Earp-Hart relationship. Of course Masterson, who was friends with both men, had just died in October 1921. Is that bright enough light for ya? Any more questions? PH

"There are lies, damn lies and then there is internet research."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Art Blazer

January 25, 2012

Still finding little gems in my studio (while cleaning and organizing). In 1991 I traveled to Ruidoso, New Mexico for a Billy the Kid symposium. All the big time authors and Billy the Kid experts were there: Fred Nolan, Robert Utley, Paul Andrew Hutton, among others. This was before I published my book on the Kid, so I was there to learn. One of the field trips scheduled was a bus ride to Blazer's Mill to see the site where Buckshot Roberts shot it out with a group of Regulators led by Dick Brewer. To our pleasant surprise, the grandson of Doctor Blazer met us and gave us a tour of the site. Here he is telling where Dick Brewer hid behind a pile of logs as he peered over to take a shot at Buckshot Roberts.

Of course, Buckshot had been gut shot by Chuck Bowdre in the first exchange of gunfire at Blazer's Mill and Roberts holed up in an office in Blazer's building and grabbed a rifle off the wall (he emptied his Winchester into Bowdre and the crowd surrounding him). Bleeding like a stuck pig from the gut wound Roberts grabbed a mattress from a bed in the room and threw it across the doorway, laid down with the foreign rifle to defend himself. The leader of the Regulators, Dick Brewer, ran down to a saw mill about 100 yards from the doorway where Roberts was holed up. Brewer hid behind a wood pile and popped off a shot at Roberts. His shot was a tad high and thudded into the wall behind Roberts' head. Noting where the puff of smoke came from, Roberts looked down the hill and trained his rifle at the spot where he saw the report. Brewer, meanwhile, waited a few seconds then peered over the cord of wood to see if he got his man. Roberts factored in the distance, took aim and pulled the trigger. The bullet entered Brewer's eye and took out the back of his skull.

Someone in our group asked Art if the Blazer family still had the rifle. Art chuckled and said:

"We all used it for hunting, but nobody in the family could hit a damn thing with that rifle."
—Art Blazer

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Photo of Wyatt Earp Armed?

January 24, 2012

Here's a photo of my son Thomas Charles "Wombat" at his favorite taco stand with his fiance Pattarapan.

We met here at noon on Sunday, had tacos, then proceeded to go to five other cafes, restaurants and bars to imbibe and inhale his favorite liquids and solids. If you want to try this fantastic place yourself, it's just south of Van Buren on 16th Street. Great tacos!

Meanwhile, I sent John Boessenecker two other sketches of Sheriff Bob Paul:

John's publisher, leans towards this one:

Meanwhile, Paul Andrew Hutton sent me a packet of his incredible Wyatt Earp images. These are stills of actors who have portrayed Wyatt in movies. One of the pics is from 1923. Here 'tis:

What's amazing about this photo is that Wyatt Earp was a "consultant" on the film "Wild Bill Hickok" a William S. Hart movie. On the back of this publicity photo it says, "Wyatt Earp, deputy sheriff to Bat Masterson of Dodge City, known as one of the three greatest gun-men that ever lived, along with Bat Masterson and 'Wild Bill' Hickok. Bert Lindley. . . .Wyatt Earp."

At first glance it doesn't look much like our image of Wyatt Earp, but take another look. If you blond out that mustache this is pretty close to how Wyatt actually looked in Tombstone. Add to that the fact that Wyatt probably had a hand in Lindley's wardrobe and stance (notice the cigar) and this is absolutely striking. Anyway, it's all quite convincing to me. What do you think?

"All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they dream their dreams with open eyes, and make them come true."
—T.E. Lawrence

Tall Paul

January 23, 2012

My son, Thomas Charles, turns 29 today. Yesterday I treated him and his fiance Pattarapan to a day of feasting. I asked Tommy what his favorite restaurant was and I'd take him there. He thought for some time then said he couldn't make up his mind between three places. I said, Hell, let's make a day of it and go to all three! So we started at noon at 16th Street and Van Buren at La Frontera for street tacos. Then over to La Posoleria, then to his fave sushi place on Northern and I-17. It was a long day, but we paced ourselves.

My good friend John Boessenecker is doing a biography on Sheriff Bob Paul, the intrepid sheriff who stood a solid six foot four. Most photos show him as an older man. My challenge is to show him in his prime when he loomed over Southern Arizona.

Lots of goals for the coming weeks. Lots to do.

"The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score."
—Bill Copeland

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kingman Cow People

January 20, 2012

Found the very first cartoon I ever sold to the Arizona Republic's Arizona Magazine. The editor was, I believe, Bud DeWald. Got paid $75 for a page of cartoons about growing up in a small town. Caption says: "If you were at the movie and you got a message from home, they would flash it on the screen."

When I was growing up, this happened at the State Theater in Kingman all the time. I think they wrote the note on a piece of paper and slipped it into the projector in front of the film. I remember it would flutter and bounce around a bit, totally taking you out of the movie, but hey, what a sweet memory it is.

On the back it says, #2 page 50, 5/28/72 ($75). It's interesting to note that I make almost double that today.

Meanwhile, here's a decent little concept piece I sent to the National Lampoon five years later.

They rejected it, but they went out of business not long after. Not that I'm gloating.

Okay, maybe a little.

And here's a edgy doubletruck (suggested by New Times Weekly publisher Jim Larkin by the way) that caused a little damage eight years later (1985). Literally. When this piece ran in the Tucson Weekly their offices were firebombed by radicals who took offense at the humor. No, really.

And, coming full circle, if you think I only make fun of people of color, here's a drawing that's close to my heart, my home and my family.

This is "Kingman Cow People." If you went to school with me you know exactly who this is.

"Home is where the ha is."
—Old Vauqero Saying

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Texas Rangers Faux Photo

January 18, 2012

Kathy and I trained our kids early to enjoy road trips. Here they are at a Fina gas station on the road to see Billy the Kid's grave in the summer of 2004. That's Thomas Charles, 1 1/2, and Deena, 4.

Fina Deena, indeed. I drove by last year (north of Socorro, at the I-25 exit, Hwy 60 to Mountainair, Vaughn and Fort Sumner) and this place was closed up, fenced off and falling over.

Cleaning in my studio I found this historic photo.

Actually, it's a faux photo, based on a famous Texas Rangers image. It was taken at Festival of the West in 2003. Can you name the gents in this pic? Hint: one of them was in the TV show Lawman, and another was in Gunsmoke AND Cowboys & Aliens.

"That ol' boy was always sittin' on the south side of his pants."
—Old Texas Saying

Studs With Guns

January 18, 2012

My third day in the studio emulating Ron Carlson and Jerry Seinfeld. Ron told me to commit two hours a day to my graphic novel project and Jerry told me to make a big, red X on every day I succeed. So far, so good. Ha.

Another studio find: in 1991 I was doing research on Billy the Kid at the University of Arizona Special Collections Library. As I walked across campus I saw a sign for a luncheon honoring the author Ray Bradbury. Walking up the steps to the Student Union, I followed the noise and found the room. I leaned in the door, just in time to hear Ray say about writing, "Throw up in the morning, clean up in the afternoon." As he finished and walked by, I took this photo.

I've been throwing up ever since. That is, I write everything down that comes out of my mind. Don't try and rework it, just throw up all over the page. Then, after lunch, come back and clean it up. Great advice and I just happened upon it. Serendipity, no? Or, do I thank Billy the Kid?

Been noodling possible cover images for this year. What do you think of this shot?

File this under, "Studs With Guns." Recognize who this is? A hint: HTWWW.

"Write every day, without hope, without despair."
—Another piece of advice that has served me well

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Rose of Cimarron

January 17, 2012

Last night I was killing time before Kathy got home from work and I found myself watching "The Cimarron Kid" (1952) starring Audie Murphy on the Westerns Channel. At about eight, Kathy walked in and joined me in the living room. Intrigued, she sat down to watch a bit of it with me. In addition to the Daltons and Bitter Creek Newcomb, there is a character in the film called The Rose of Cimarron. Kathy asked me if Rose is based on a real old West character.

I smiled, put the movie on pause, went out to the studio and grabbed this cover (which I found over the weekend while cleaning), came back and plopped it down in front of her.

"That depends on who you believe," I said as casually as I could.

"Should history be taught as a mode of contrarian argumentation, a communion with past Truth and Beauty, or just one f---king thing after another?"
—Alan Bennett

Jackie King Jackpot

January 17, 2012

Went home for lunch and worked in the studio on a new project for author John Boessenecker. Took a break and looked at more of my photo files and found a couple more shots of Jackie King. Here she is in Durango spreading the word about True West magazine (September, 2004 Wild Bunch issue):

And here's Jackie with her faithful dog:

And here she is stretched out after a hard day's photo shoot:

I believe her sister shot these photos and sent them to me. They have been lost in my studio for eight years! Crazy. And, finally, here she is on the trail above Durango. I assume that's the Animas River roaring below her.

"Nothing beats a horse between your legs."
—Honkytonk Sue

Shootin' Shetlands

January 17, 2012

Just got off the phone with a foundry in Prescott Valley that wants to convert my painting "Not So Gentle Tamers" into a bronze statue for the town. I've never done sculpture before, but I am honored.

Still cleaning my studio and finding little gems like this Empire Magazine, from The Denver Post, dated March 27, 1983:

Didn't know Jay Dusard at the time. Just really dug the pics. I met Jay in 1986 while on assignment for Arizona Highways. He was living in Prescott at the time. We are still friends to this day.

Meanwhile, I had forgotten that I documented my big break in show biz. In July of 2002 I attended a writer's conference in Gunnison, Colorado and on Saturday we got on a school bus to drive up to a ghost town called Tin Cup. On the way up, I was sitting in the back yakking about the movie Tombstone. Halfway up the mountain the bus stopped and we all got off. A woman was setting up a camera in front of an old crumbling cabin. A guy named Jeff Hildebrandt was setting up the shot.

This Jeff guy turns and says to me, "Bob Boze Bell, come over here and look into that camera and tell us what you know about Wyatt Earp and the movie Tombstone."

Twenty minutes later he told me to shut up and we got back on the bus.

What I didn't know at the time—this was my audition for what became True West Moments on Encore Westerns. I've been doing them ever since (almost ten years!).

Of course, some of the things I found in my studio made me cringe. Here is a photo of a certain friend of mine shooting a Shetland pony in the neck.

While I certainly don't condone this kind of animal cruelty humor, I also don't think it's fair to judge people from a different time by the standards of today. As you know Shetland ponies can be quite mean and I've seen them bite little kids, more than once. Still, to take a Flintlock rifle and shoot a Shetland pony in the neck is really deplorable and I strongly object to airbrushing any photo that would imply that this actually happened, in a photo essay in the Razz Revue, circa 1974.

"Every exit is an entrance."
—The theme of my next book to be written with Charles Jaurez


Monday, January 16, 2012

Wyatt Earp Addresses Busthead

January 16, 2012

Cleaning my studio this weekend I found this photo of Jackie King Ellis, one of my models for Honkytonk Sue.

She was Miss Rodeo Arizona in the mid-eighties. I believe this photo was taken in the Strater Hotel bar in Durango, Colorado.

Speaking of cartoon characters I have created, I still want to do a time travel story featuring Wyatt Earp chasing Curly Bill and landing at the NFR finals in Vegas. While cleaning, I found my O.K. Replay notes from last year and sat down this morning to try and salvage something and start anew. Excellent notes I have poached from Huck Finn and True Grit regarding frontier slang. For one thing I want to show how dramatically the language has changed. At one point Earp says, "This jaybird aims to tell us how the cow ate the cabbage." Of course, no one form our time can understand him. Likewise, a modern lawman says, "Better Miranda him," and Earp looks quite confused.

"Well, you're a rectified busthead."
—Wyatt Earp to a gang banger in Circle K

Punk True West?

January 16, 2012

Woke up to rain this morning. Very nice out. Been cleaning in my studio and finding all sorts of forgotten gems, like this photo for an ad campaign addressing the dichotomy between the new True West readers (True Punk?) vs. the old True West readers.

That's Jesse Adams on left and Doc Ingalls on the right. Photo taken in 1999. The campaign, co-created by Marcus Huff and I, upset the old timers and didn't really attract any newcomers. Ha. But we had fun doing it. And, it does illustrate the age old conflict between your father's old West history vs. the punk kid's old West history. Being an old rocker, I've got a foot in each one of those camps.

"The problem with the past is it won't stand still."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shiprock Feeder Flows

January 13, 2012

I've been cleaning out my studio and finding a bunch of photos. Here's two I shot out of a charter flight from Telluride, Colorado back to Phoenix in the mid-nineties. We were doing a live radio show from Telluride and on the way back I got this amazing overview of Shiprock on the Navajo res. Someone told me those two long ridges are actually feeder flows of lava going up into the volcanic neck that cooled and became Shiprock. Pretty cool, no?

The bottom photo is of Meteor Crater east of Flagstaff, Arizona. Not hard to imagine the rock that created that hole wiping out a wide swath of living things (some believe it created a gaseous cloud that wiped out all life at that time, which included the dinosaurs.

I mentioned that I have used my kids as models ever since they were tykes. Here's T. Charles Bell posing as a young, outlaw kid in front of the pump house, just north of our house.

And here's a haphazard trio, Charles Waters, BBB and Steve Price on the sitdown bass, playing a MCUHS high school reunion in Kingman in 1984 (for the class of 1964). That's Wendell Havatone and Jan Prefontaine sitting in.

And, here's Los Famdamos getting ready to jump in the air for our 1986 Christmas card photo.

Our house had just been completed by John Glenn and crew and we were getting ready to move in (note the Pella window sticker on studio window). Left to right: Thomas Charles, Kathy Sue, Deena Bean, BBB and Dusty.

"Brevity is very good, when we are, or are not, understood."
—Samuel Butler

The Bad Man from Arizona Cashes In

January 13, 2012

It was on this date in 1929 that a certain gambler known in his day as the "Bad Man from Arizona" cashed in his chips. Here's a sneak peek at my next editorial:

Working on a Texas Rangers vs. Kiowa warriors fight known as The Lost Valley Fight. This is for Classic Gunfights in April. Using Bob Alexander's book "Winchester Warriors" which I highly recommend. Bob alerted me to Rick Miller's forthcoming biography of the Texas Ranger commander of that fight, John B. Jones. Going to be talking to him as well. Love researching the researchers on these fights. I always learn something I didn't know.

Woke up with buyer's remorse. May pass on the Bird.

Worked this morning on sketches of miners and ethnic types on the frontier. It's in the cheek bones, man.

Did four of them this morning and the fifth I did last week (bottom, right).

"I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one."
—Bill Moyers, attributing the quote to a friend of his

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jock Mahoney Baloney

January 12, 2012

Worked on some new features today and looked at some very rare Old West photographs. Robert Ray redesigned a spread on a then and now deal on John Henry Tunstall's store. Frederick Nolan sent this to us and wrote up a little blurb on the history of the two photos. Love this kind of stuff. It will run in our Opening Shot slot in the April issue.

Everything Comes to The Man Who Is Patient
Like most spoiled, only children, I am prone to being impatient ("I want it NOW!"). But, the older I get the more patient I have become. For example, when I was eight, I desperately wanted a Ranger Rider fringe pullover. And, although I looked and looked I never found one. Nor did I settle for a zip-up jacket from Taiwan with fringe on it. Fifty-some years later (actually, last year) I found Mike Guli of River Crossing who made me a custom Ranger Rider shirt exactly like the one in my favorite TV show!

And, by the way, did anybody see "Dakota Joe" starring Jock Mahoney last night on Encore Westerns? What an odd movie (1957). Anyway, here is me in my Jock Mahoney mode:

Not too shabby, eh? For a Medicare guy at any rate. It only took me 50-some years, but I got it.

Second example: In 1955 my father brought home a brand new Ford Thunderbird from the dealership in Swea City, Iowa. Ford had shipped the new model from Detroit, by train to Swea City for a homecoming parade for a Korean War POW named Captain Fisher to ride in. My father, who was a car salesman at Gabby Motors in Swea City brought the sleek little convertible home to our house and gave me and two of my friends a ride out of town at 115 m.p.h. That ride made a lasting impression on me and I have lusted over someday owning a Thunderbird ever since.

Had a couple chances to buy a used one ($13K), but never quite made it happen (having kids kind of rearranges those wishes).

This morning, I drove up to the Cave Creek Library to donate some books from my library and spotted a 2007 Thunderbird with a for sale sign on it. I made an offer on it this afternoon. If I get it, this one will have only taken me 57 years to happen.

Next up: a hot blond to ride in the Bird, next to the old guy in the fringe pullover. Wait, I already have the blond AND the fringe pullover!

When It Rains It Pours Re-ups (Carole Glenn reports from the front lines)

"My husband once had a subscription to True West and looks forward to receiving it again. Not only does he enjoy the articles, but the articles give us ideas of places to go on our vacations West."

—Krista Bowersox

You know how most Westerns are about cleaning up wild cowtowns and how stalwart lawmen make it safe for civilization? And how it comes to a head in 1881 and ever after the towns are safe?

Here's a report from the Phoenix Republic from January 11, 1911:

City Being Terrorized By Gunmen

There have been four holdups on Phoenix streets and two daylight robberies in the last week.

We just taped a new Bobcast about our Icon issue and it's being uploaded even as you read this (on the home page of twmag.com click on the upper right hand corner).

"Good news. I signed up to receive a free leadership newsletter by email. I know it's good because it's written by some guy who used to have a job."

—The Pointy-headed Boss in Dilbert

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Clint Is In The House

January 11, 2012

Lots of meetings yesterday and today. Budget meetings and today we had a catered lunch from Rubio's to celebrate the launching of our Icons issue, which is at the printer.

For dessert, I invited two of our faithful readers, Dita and Lonnie Couch, to come by and tell us what they like about True West and what they don't like.

Last year I ran into Dita and Lonnie at Tom Aughteron's house and while chatting Lonnie admitted to me that he let his subscription to True West lapse several years ago. When I asked him why he told me it was because he "got tired of lists." This struck a chord with me because I felt we had wandered from our original path with history and were running too many sales driven lists. When Lonnie told me that he had recently re-subscribed because he likes our new (old) direction, I invited him to come in and meet the staff. I wanted our staff to see our readers and hear from them what they like and dislike (I, of course, tell them these things, but it's different when you actually hear someone say it).

Both of them were quite helpful. Dita had even taken notes for us. During our questioning, Lonnie said a very succinct thing. When asked about trail riding (we wanted to know if certain trails are more interesting than others) Lonnie replied, "It's not the trail, it's what happened on the trail."

In other words the history. It doesn't get any simpler, or profound, than that!

I have also been tabulating sell-thru stats for most of our covers going back 12 years. For the past two days I have been putting post-it-notes on each cover with the sell-thru percentages on them. The exercise is quite an eye opener. The highest selling covers feature, not surprisingly, the icons, like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Butch & Sundance, Custer, Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickok. Most have record sales. There are some exceptions. We did a "Is The Wyatt Earp Era Over?" cover and it was a dog, which probably says our readers don't want to talk about the era, they want us to tell them ABOUT the era (it's not the trail, it's what happened on the trail.)

Western movie stars do not work for us, with the notable exceptions of John Wayne and one cover on the movie Tombstone, with Val Kilmer as Doc and Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp on it.

In fact, the incredible popularity of John Wayne is jaw dropping. He defies gravity and all categories. When we were in Vegas for Cowboy Christmas, after about the 100th person mentioned The Duke I finally realized something I never really knew.

"John Wayne is way north of celebrity and somewhere just south of Jesus."

Monday, January 09, 2012

Remember This?

January 9, 2012

Spent all weekend cleaning the studio. Found a ton of stuff, including this:

What's especially amazing is that this cover is almost 25 years old and it still stands. Great graphics.

"I'll make you famous."
—Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevev)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Bye Bye John Deere

January 6, 2012

Our special issue of True West, Icons & Trailblazers: The Year In Review is on the way to the printer via The Cloud. One of the things that has revolutionized our process is The Wall of Truth, where we put up the spreads for the next issue and debate the flow and tracking of the entire book. Everyone gets to participate and we have seen huge improvements (we call them "trade-ups") in terms of better graphics, better ideas and better content. Can't believe we ever did an issue of True West any other way.

Here is the guy who made it happen, Mr. Ken Amorosano, The Father of The Wall of Truth:

You can see at the bottom left the progression of the icon cover. We even considered doing Quanah Parker on the cover (see mockup just above the rows of Clint). Yes, that's Juni Fisher in layout at top.

This morning my neighbor Joe Yaeger came over and helped me start the John Deere for the last time. My cousin Mike Richards from Des Moines, Iowa sent out a truck and trailer to cart the family heir loom back to Iowa. We pulled the aging thumper out onto our driveway for once last spin around the desert.

My cousin Mike has a farm near Lake Okoboji where the tractor will be treated with loving care. It was time to pass the sweet machine (A Model B, Serial No. 8, 1941) back home where it belongs. It was an honor to have it. My dad and I rescued it at a farm auction near Thompson, Iowa in the seventies. I paid $200 for it and it had a cracked block. My father had it restored at Webster City, Iowa and then shipped out to Kingman. I inherited it from my dad when he passed in 1998 and I had a garage built for it (far, background) but it was open and rats and pigeons were doing damage to it.

Both Mike and I grew up riding with our grandpa on this tractor, so it has special meaning to both of us. I'm trying to put together a Bell Family Farm Legacy Tour for this spring and hopefully we'll get to to see this Thompson, Iowa icon in its proper glory.

"Nothing runs like a Deer."
—John Deere slogan

Thursday, January 05, 2012

When Icons Collide

January 5, 2012

In the winter of our lives thoughts invariably turn to mortality. This happened to the author Glendon Swarthout who was shaving one night before a party and thinking of all his friends who were getting cancer and dying. He missed the party. While shaving he had a brainstorm that became The Shootist, the story of an aging gunfighter with terminal cancer who has one last hurrah. Of course, this ended up to be John Wayne's coda film.

In his last years, Wyatt Earp frequently visited Western movie sets around Hollywood in the 1920s. One story has it that the aging lawman met a young prop boy named Marion Morrison on one of these location shoots. Of course, the prop boy later took up the stage name of John Wayne.

Today Clint Eastwood is roughly the same age as Wyatt Earp when the latter icon visited the movie set where he met a future icon, John Wayne. If this isn't a perfect story and a capper to Clint's career, I don't know what is.

The Man With No Name Meets The Man With THE Name

"Suppose. . .suppose. . ."

—Wyatt Earp's last words

Future Phoenix Comes True

January 5, 2011

I gave a talk last night down at the Phoenix Art Institute. My good friend Robert Steinhilber (he has done the title lettering on all my old west books), invited me to speak to the Tiny Army, which is a group of animators, cartoonists, graphic designers and photographers. I gave them a Cliff Notes take on my checkered career, starting back in 1972 with the very first Razz Revue, up through Honytonk Sue and my work at New Times, and on through the Old West books and True West magazine.

I wanted to show some of the youngsters how primitive it was in the old days to paste up a page, so I grabbed a layout board from my Low Blows series. Here's the layout:

Seems ancient by today's standards. Notice the type pasted down on the blue grid boards (the camera that shot these boards and turned them into printing plates did not see blue, thus the outdated term "Blue Line," which was printer slang for looking at the paste ups before going to plates.

What's kind of amazing about this board is that it is a prediction piece I did from 1983. I'm making wild, absurd predictions about what life will be like in Phoenix in 1999 at the end of the millenium. Many of these crazy predictions actually came true:

• The Suns choked in playoffs, again. Duh.

• Even transients will be using computers. Yikes! I didn't dream I'd see transients checking messages on their iPhones, but I see it every day now.

• No alleged recruiting violations at ASU this year, speaks for itself.

• I personally have stood on the corner of Cave Creek Road and Dynamite and said, "Back in 1983 I could have bought this land for $10,000 an acre."

Close, Dang Close

• Christown and Metro Center were at the height of their mall glory in 1983 and my prediction that they will be leveled for urban development is dang close to being true in 2012.

• The Stones haven't played the Sundome yet, but Linda Ronstadt has.

"In the year 2525 will man still be alive?"
—Dumb song from that period

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sneak Peek at Clint Eastwood Issue

January 4, 2012

We are feverishly working on our 12th issue, a Year In Review featuring Clint You-Know-Who:

Subscribers will get it for free, but if you are not a subscriber, you can order yours right here:

Icons of a Generation

"You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."
—Blondie (Clint Eastwood) in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly