Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Inside Skinny On Doc's Diet

May 31, 2018
   File this one in the Can't-Leave-Well-Enough-Alone slot. 

   Two friends on Facebook ripped me on the previous illustration of Billy the Kid, showing a dreaded tie-down ("Bob, I dare you to find a tie-down on any pre-1900 photograph."). So, I got up this morning and took another run at it

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy Title Page Redo, Number Two"

The Inside Skinny On Dennis Quaid's Diet
   Turns out Dennis Quaid is going to be the Grand Marshal of the Doc Holliday Parade on August 11, in Tombstone. I thought it would be a good time to finally interview Dennis about how he lost 38 pounds to portray the deadly dentist.

Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner) and Doc Holliday (Dennis Quaid) in a scene from 1994's "Wyatt Earp." Quaid had a doctor on the set to monitor his health and he does, indeed look like death warmed over. Photo by Ben Glass

So, thanks to the photographer Ben Glass, above, I was able to get in touch with Quaid's manager who gave me the following instructions:

"Okay, Dennis is a very busy guy. I am going to give you his cell number and you need to call him at 4 P.M. on Saturday. He probably won't answer, but he will see your number and call you right back. Be concise, don't waste his time and you will be okay. Got it?"

   Got it.

   I lined up two phones, one to tape off of and the other to call with. As four o'clock approached, to be honest, I was a little nervous. At exactly four, I called the number and it rang and rang, then went to an automated answering service (not his voice). I left my number, and waited. 

   And waited. 

   Saturday turned into Sunday and by Monday morning I chalked it up to celebrity arrogance and got on with my workday.

   At noon, our publisher, Ken Amorosano and our regional sales manger Greg Carrol, got in my Flex to go to a business lunch. I was driving down Scottsdale Road and we were discussing ad revenue projections when my cell phone rang. I looked down and recognized the number. My Flex picked up the call and ran it through my console speaker. I hit answer and said:

"Hey, Dennis."

"I'm calling about the interview."

"Listen, I can't talk right now. I'll have to call you back in an hour."

   I hung up. From the back seat, Greg says, "Who was that?"

   "Oh, Dennis Quaid."

"Vengeance is a dish best served cold."
—Old Vaquero Saying  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

My Son Takes Me to School

May 30, 2018
   I remember taking my son Tommy to drum lessons when he was a struggling lad. At the time I was hoping against hope he might actually amount to something.

Thomas Charles Bell at So-Hi Estates
outside Kingman, Arizona, circa 1995

   Yesterday this same son sent two used books to our post office box. The first book, a ragged paperback— formerly the property of the Scarsdale Public Library—is "The Power And The Glory," by Graham Greene.

    Full disclosure: my son had warned me that the books were coming and he asked me if I might bring them to Seattle in July when we are meeting at Deena and Mike's house.

   I don't know if the little bastard planned it, or not, but I had to take a gander. And, oh my, the subject is Mexico (Muy, muy Mexico!) and the prose is damn near poetry.  Here's just a few random tastes of the first chapter which I read last night:

"he gave the impression of unstable hilarity. . ."

"the vulture moved a little, like the black hand of a clock."

"Of course. . .that was how one lived, putting off everything."

". . .they moved across the little burnt plaza where the dead general [a statue mentioned earlier] grew green in the damp and the gaseosa stalls stood under the palms."

But the one line that hooked me and nailed me in one fell swoop is this one:

"There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in."

Hot Damn and Sweet Jesus! My son just took me to school! And by the way, my father and I were the black sheep of the Bell family. Both his siblings and his mother were teachers. Not my dad and not me. But my son got the right genes (probably from the Radinas) and now he is both a teacher AND a coach. I guess those drum lessons paid off after all.

Tommy straddling a 1,000 foot drop
at Canyon de Chelly

"Any new venture goes through the following stages: enthusiasm, complication, disillusionment, search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent, and decoration of those who did nothing."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Did Billy the Kid Really Wear A Sugarloaf Sombrero?

May 30, 2018
   Now that I'm reclaiming a few pages for the third edition of "The Illustrated Life & Times of Billy the Kid," I have returned to the image of the Kid wearing a sugarloaf sombrero. The reference comes from Pat Garrett, himself, who claimed, in his 1882 book, that the lawmen got wind Billy was reported to be wearing a Mexican sugarloaf with a green hatband. This was during the December, 1880 manhunt, and, unfortunately, Garrett's posse shot Charlie Bowdre who was wearing the same exact hat (or, he borrowed Billy's to go feed the horses at Stinking Springs).

   Anyway, I wasn't happy with my previous version of Billy wearing the sugarloaf, so this morning I did this new one:

"The Kid Sporting A .45 and A Sugarloaf"

   Now some have questioned whether this style was popular at the time the Kid rode, and that the sugarloafs we celebrate came into prominence during the Mexican Revolution, c. 1914-17, but I have found a photo from pretty close to Billy's time, taken in Old Mexico that seems to confirm the style was probably concurrent with the Lincoln County War period.

William Henry Jackson photo at Abra (San Felipe), San Luis Potosi, 1883-84

   Garrett claimed the Kid got his headgear from hats made in Chihuahua and brought up the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico. So I think it's safe to say the Kid may have bought and preferred a sugarloaf sombrero, although it doesn't explain the crappy slouch hat he's wearing in his only known photograph.

Definitely NOT A Sugarloaf Sombrero!

"There is no truth, there is no history, there is only the way the story is told."
—Richard Avedon

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Wagon Train Sunglasses, and Skateboarding Jackrattlers: Crazy, But True, Old West Anomilies

May 29, 2018
   Often when we are studying Old West history we come upon anomalies that seem too modern for the times. For example, when the U.S. army wife, Martha Summerhayes, arrived at Fort Apache in 1874 she reported seeing an army officer's wife playing tennis, one presumes on the remote garrison's tennis court.

    The other day I got this from The Top Secret Writer:

   "Was reading 'A Quaker Forty-Niner,' a great memoir by Charles Pancoast, and came across this little tidbit from their journey west on the Santa Fe Trail:

"The long continuous dusty Travel over flat glaring Plains began to affect the eyes of our men, and those that had had the foresight to bring Colored Glasses were using them."

"Theo van Gogh's sunglasses"

   "If you put guys with sunglasses in a wagon train the movie people would think you were crazy."
—The Top Secret Writer 

   And, how about this ancient Jackrattler skate boarder:

Jackrattler On A Skateboard?

   Well, not quite. It's actually an In-din jackrabbit with a lizard's tale and cascabeles, holding a flower. Lynda Sanchez explains:

The ancient Mimbres culture of southern New Mexico (a branch of the Mogollon) enjoyed creating  design motifs on their now famous ceramic ware to express humor for many centuries. Some designs are really comical while others show predicaments in which man finds himself.   Creations of half animal, half man are common and combination renditions such as this jack rabbit that has a lizard tail and a rattlesnake’s cascabeles (rattlers) at the end are amusing to say the least.  That same sense of  creativity has been passed on through a thousand years after their departure from the valleys surrounding Silver City, New Mexico to the Pueblo peoples of today.

And, one final parting shot on all the White Eyes claiming to be part Cherokee:

"Just because you were conceived in the back seat of a Jeep doesn't make you Cherokee."
—Ken Skutt

Painting Until The Cows Come Home And Punched In The Nose With A Sombrero?

May 29, 2018
   Had a grand weekend. I was home alone (Kathy is in Korea serving with the troops there), and I basically painted until the cows came home.

Weekend Whip Out: "Arizona Cowboy"

   The second edition of my first Old West book, The Illustrated Life & Times of Billy the Kid, has sold out and we are going into a third printing. One of the sequences I wanted to take another run at is this one:

Daily Whip Out: "The Kid's Grand Entrance"

   "I heard a knock at the door, and I called out, 'Come in.' The door opened somewhat slowly and carefully, and there stood the young fellow generally known as the Kid, his Winchester in his right hand, his revolver in his left."
—Lew Wallace, remarking on the events of March 17, 1879   

   Earlier, the Kid jumped out of a burning kitchen into the face of the blazing guns brandished by his awaiting enemies, and, at the moment, he became the most famous man in New Mexico:

Daily Whip Out: "The Kid's Grand Escape"

   Two years later when he was shot down in the Maxwell house, he became one of the most famous outlaws in the history of the West, rising above the mountains to claim the turbulent sky.

Daily Whip Out: "The Kid In Turbulent Skies"

   I also had fun with a couple other subjects:

Daily Whip Out:
"The Oatman Wagon Train, Down to One"

Daily Whip Out: "Zero Visibility"

   Yes, this is one I couldn't leave alone and had to "fix" over the weekend. I also took a run at a scratchboard, idea I have been noodling:

Daily Whip Out: "Big-brimmed Bad Boy"

   Speaking of big, bad sombreros, I read with some interest about a computer generated joke writing program called The Headlinertron, which tries to capture the awkward incoherences and flashes of brilliance associated with open-mic stand-up comedy. The computer program was created by C. J. Henderson and he claims he created the monster by importing transcripts of shows from Dave Chappelle, John Mulaney, Sarah Silverman and Chris Rock. Here is an example:

"You ever been punched in the nose? Oh, my God, it's the only story I have. I was punched in the nose with a sombrero and thought, 'This is because of the election.'"
—The Headlinertron

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Duke of Dust Farting Into A Trumpet Aimed at The O.K. Corral

May 28, 2018
   For me, inspiration comes from many places, including Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Everyone is sniping at social media, how awful it is for our health and sanity, but I have to say I've gotten some really strong ideas and support there. It was on Facebook that Peggy ONeill dubbed me, "The Duke of Dust." And, on Instagram they have this cool aspect to it where if you "love" something, it feeds you more of that and so I have a ton of cool paintings, some being created on the spot with stop-action, sped up, which is very instructive. In fact, it inspired this painting.

Daily Whip Out: "Out of Turbulent Skies"

   Don't tell Ed Mell, but sometimes he really pisses me off. When I attended the Arizona History Conference at the Doubletree in Tempe last month, a group of us went to lunch in the restaurant off the lobby and unfortunately, I got seated in a booth with a straight on view of a big Ed Mell print of Lake Powell. I spent most of the lunch trying not to look at the brilliance of the damn thing and I won't say it ruined my lunch, but I will say, if I ever eat there again, I will face the other way. 

Ed Mell's Typical Brilliant Bullshit

   Speaking of crying at the brilliance of others, the afore-mentioned Peggy ONeill sent me a link—from Facebook—to a fine piece of journalism on J.M.W. Turner, the preeminent British painter. In the article it says when Turner viewed a painting by Claude Lorrain, for the first time, he burst into tears, confessing, "I shall never be able to paint anything like that picture."

A Turner landscape

   The piece by Ian Shank, goes on to say, "Turner’s insistence on pushing the limits of artistic truth was nothing short of groundbreaking. And as with any innovation, the backlash could be extreme. Bewildered observers often alleged the artist had lost his his mind. 'Turner’s pictures always look as if painted by a man who was born without hands,' railed one incensed critic, '[who,] having contrived to tie a brush to the hook at the end of his wooden stump, [has] managed by smudging, bungling, scrawling, twisting, and splashing to convey to others a notion of his conceptions.' One Italian newspaper offered a less verbose but even more scathing indictment, simply depicting the painter, as Moyle describes it, 'farting into a trumpet directed at St. Peter’s [Basilica].'”

A typical Turner storm

   I can certainly relate to all of that. The crying, the painting without a brush, the farting into a trumpet.

Daily Whip Out: "Reflections"

"Farting Into A Trumpet at The O.K. Corral"

Daily Whip Out: "Down to One"

"This guy Turner, he learned a lot from me."
—Artist Mark Rothko, 1966 (Turner died in 1851)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

ZZ Top & The Nogales Cafe

May 27, 2018
  Everything is connected. If you pull at one strand you'll find it's connected to everything else.

A-1 Connections

   So I'm sitting in a booth at the Nogales Cafe in downtown Phoenix with the lead guitarist of that little ol' band from Texas, ZZ Top. Billy Gibbons loves gritty places and I promised him I would take him to one, after his band's sold-out show at the Coliseum the night before.

Billy Gibbons at The Nogales Cafe

Billy's limo driver, Steven Zea, winced when I told him where we were going, but there we are, parked in front of the Nogales Cafe in a section of Phoenix known as the Deuce.

   About two months later, I'm eating huevos rancheros at the Nogales Cafe when Bill, the manager, comes by and says, "Do you still want the A-1 sign?" 

   He meant, off the front of the building (see in above photo). "Well, yes, but I thought you already sold it?" 

   "The buyer from New Mexico broke it taking it down and now he doesn't want it anymore."

    "What did he pay for it?"


   "So, what do you want for it, now?"


   "Okay, sold." So, I bought the broken sign and then looked in the Yellow Pages (remember them?) and found a sign company called Boots & Duke Sign Company. I called and, believe it or not, the owner answered, who told me he apprenticed for Meyers-Lieber, the company who did all the A-1 beer signs in Arizona and he would consider it a labor of love to restore my sign. He did so and charged me $150.

   Last month, in fact on the day that Kathy flew to her new assignment in Korea, I attended the Arizona History Conference in Tempe. While manning a booth with my curator, Kristi Jacobs, I ran into this guy:

Jack Allen and Kristi Jacobs at the Arizona History Conference

   Jack was the brother-in-law of the guy at the Nogales Cafe who I bought the A-1 sign from and Jack told me that Bill has passed on. I offered my condolences and mentioned that a pool cleaning guy broke my A-1 sign about ten years ago and I can't find anybody to fix it. Jack said, "Call Dave Glover. He's the last neon guy still standing."

My broken A-1 sign

   So I called Dave Glover and he came out to the house to take a look at the damage. He got up on a ladder and made a stencil tracing.

The Last Neon Man Still Standing
Taking measurements

   Then he plotted those measurements out on a grid.

Plotting the grid.
 And then I didn't hear from him for three weeks, but we had an issue of True West going out the door on the Power brothers and I was busy and frankly, I forgot about it.

   Yesterday Dave called me and said he was coming out with the new tubing.   

A-1 Savior Dave Glover

Late in the day we tripped the switch and that bad boy lit up the Sonoran twilight.

The Original A-1 Sign from the
Nogales Cafe has been restored.

   It's lookin' pretty badass and I must admit, I sure have a big smile on my face.

"I'm bad, bad, bad, I'm nationwide."
—ZZ Top

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Big-brimmed Recap

May 26, 2018
   Been on a big-brimmed kick for a while now. Let's recap and hit the highlights:

"Say A Prayer for Lefty Too"

"Snaggle-toothed Cop Killer"

"The Sugarloaf"

"Vaquero In Sunset"

Bisti Badman

"Billy As I Want Him to Be"

"Bravo Juan"

"El Jefe"

"Sonoran Herder"

"Ishmael's Realization"


"Sugarloaf Skinner"

   Okay, to make it a baker's dozen, here's one more for good luck.

"You talkin' to me, Pendejo?"

"Or my cousins, on the ridge, behind me?"
—Old Vaquero Additional Saying