Saturday, September 07, 2013

A Sneak Peek at "Gunslingers"

September 7, 2013
  Flew into Albuquerque yesterday, landing at about noon. Took a shuttle to Santa Fe and then a driver picked me up at the Santa Fe Suites for the half hour run out to Bonanza Creek Old West Movie Town. Here's the main street with my handler Ginny.

  The crew has been on a three month shoot here and at other Old West movie sets in the area. This is going to be a very ambitious docudrama series to be called "Gunslingers." I was interviewed last May at Pioneer Living History Museum near Anthem in Phoenix and talked at length about my main areas of expertise—Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp—although they did ask me questions about other icons and other gunfighters.

  I got to the set around three and they deposited me at the command center, which was a barn. Computers and sliced watermelons shared long tables strewn with props and camera equipment and battery chargers. Ginny informed me they filmed until four in the morning the night before, picking up the final scenes, including the killing of Morgan Earp. Everyone looked very tired. Johnny D. Boggs was being interviewed in the saloon so we had to be quiet even though we were 50 yards away.

Artist Thom Ross portrayed Wells Spicer in the Tombstone episode and his stunning daughter Rachel portrayed Calamity Jane in another. Paul Hutton, Drew Gomber and the other usual suspects in the talking head game also have done their part. Interestingly, one of the talking heads appears to be David Milch, the creator of "Deadwood." I was called back to plug some holes in the narrative where they needed coverage. This is tricky because they want to make certain points that perhaps I can't, as a historian, really support. For example, was it true Tom Horn was a psychopath? Here's how I answered it:

"After the Apache Wars Horn developed a hardness toward death. He had seen plenty of killing on both sides. He developed a morbid hatred for livestock theives since they stole his start-up herd. He maintained this hatred for the rest of his life. Horn killed rustlers for money and he also killed several suspected train robbers while serving as a Union Pacific detective. He admitted to Joe LeFors he knew 'he shot too much.' And there is some evidence he showed mental instability when he came back from the Cuban campaign in September 1898. He had contacted yellow fever and began to drink heavily. Friends noted he was not the same man as before."

It that sounds halfway intelligent it's because I did my homework and emailed author Larry Ball who is coming out with a much anticipated biography of Tom Horn next year. Professor Ball gave me the goods and the facts coming out of my mouth were his, not mine. Don't worry, I'm going to buy him a beer and plug his book, which, as you can see, I already am.

The shoot was hot and intense. No AC because it makes too much noise. And it isn't easy to stare into a blind glob of glass and pretend you are talking to an audience and then marshal your answers in a conversational tone and not trip over words. Here was my view for two hours:

My view of the director Chris as he reads me questions from his notes on the script.

Here's a couple more answers I managed to convey before the crew wrapped:

"After Northfield, Frank saw the handwriting on the wall and quit, but Jesse couldn't or wouldn't and he went and got some new recruits and they young apprentices were not as loyal, not as adept and most importantly, not family. That was a deadly trifecta for Jesse."

"The thing that makes Billy The Kid so endearing is he outwitted and out-bravadoed men who were twice his age. The local hispanics loved this about him and hid him and supported him. In fact, this was his secret power. He spoke their language and they loved him for it."

"One of the ugly rules of celebrity is that the higher up the flagpole you go the more people can see your rear end. Wild Bill was a walking legend and it was just a matter of time before someone would try and take him down just because of his name and his reputation."

"Creativity is remembering what was said, but forgetting who said it."
—Not BBB