Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Two Women Who Saved True West

June 30, 2019
   It was Fred Nolan who first informed me that behind every successful man, is a "surprised woman." That's clever in a Brit kind of way, but I discovered another side to this bromide when we bought a certain magazine, twenty years ago this September.

True West staff at Clantonville, 2000

   My original two partners (standing behind me, above) and myself, put up $250,000 each. We quickly burned through that money and one of the partners bailed. After another $200,000 infusion failed to turn the boat, the second partner left, and soon enough we were out of money with a payroll in two days. It looked very, very bleak.

   Two people stuck with me.

Carole Compton Glenn and Kathy Sue Radina

   Both put their houses up for loans and we somehow, some way managed to squeak by.

    Both women have interesting back stories. Kathy Sue survived teaching eighth grade math and she once dated the "Sexiest Man Alive" (Nick Nolte) and she did her share of hobnobbing with rock stars when she was with the legendary "Voice of God" William Edward Compton.
Kathy, second from left, standing next to
Roger Daltry of The Who and that's William Edward, bottom left.

   Carole (William Edward's sister) could also be found in the company of hipsters and shakers.

Carole Compton, top row, center, seen here with the crew from Radio Free Phoenix (KCAC) 1971.

   So, the next time you pick up a True West magazine, you should definitely give thanks to its continued existence because of two strong women who stepped forward when everyone else ran away. They stepped into the breech and backed a kid from Kingman who will forever be grateful to both of them.

   "Behind some successful men, stands a woman, or two, who have his back."
—Old Vaquero Saying

“Women are like teabags. We don’t know our true strength until we are in hot water.” 
—Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Razz Revue Revived

June 28, 2019
  It was 47 years ago today, Dan The Man Harshberger and I made a momentous decision.

All 16 issues of the Razz Revue on display

"On June 28th, 1972, we decided to produce something that would be a collector's item and worth a lot of money someday. We haven't decided what yet. In the meantime we created and published the first issue of Razz Revue."

—My first editorial in the first issue, Vol. 1, No. 1

   We are now working on issue #17. Yes, we had a bit of a dry patch but doesn't everyone? As our Kingman Junior High School basketball coach liked to say, "Grandma was slow, but she was old."

   Or, as my father, Allen P. Bell, was fond of saying, "Better late than never."

   Or, as my muse, Kathy Sue Radina, puts it, "This is a totally lame project."

"The arc of history bends toward delusion."
—Stephen Kotkin

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Eyes of A Gunfighter And Other Ridiculous Efforts

June 27, 2019
   We're wrestling with another cover. The problem is that we want to feature John Ringold on the cover but there's only one known photo of him and he looks like a stuffy banker. So I noodled this before I came into work this morning.

Daily Whip Out: "Eyes of A Gunfighter"

   Not quite strong enough, although we may use it inside.

   So, our intrepid art director, Dan The Man, put together the following composite, utilizing the only known photo of John Ringold  and marrying his face to a pretty cool sombrero clad warrior.

Dan The Man's Groovy Ringo

   Unfortunately, our editor, Stuart Rosebrook does not like this and thinks it looks fake (which it is, but it's a cover representation of what Ringo might have looked like in his cowboy gear). But our production manager, Robert Ray also says it's a little too "Monty Python." So that killed this effort, much to my disappointment.

   Meanwhile, I just got the artprints from JC Printing for this little puppy:

Daily Whip Out: "Best Damn Billy"

   Art prints will be available. Stay tuned.

"Art should comfort the disturbed & disturb the comfortable."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Micks From The Sticks: The United States vs. Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin

June 26, 2019
   The new Wired arrived in my office yesterday and there is a cover story about an infamous website two of my friends created right here in Phoenix, Arizona.

The New Times Crew, December, 1978

   The two guys on the right, Jim Larkin (in white shirt) and Mike Lacey are currently wearing ankle bracelets as they await a trial date for prostitution and pandering charges for their cash cow The Backpage, which was shut down by the Feds a year ago.

   I met Jim and Mike back in the day (1973) when they called Dan The Man Harshberger and myself to work on an Arizona Republic parody they wanted to joint-produce with the Razz.

Cilbuper is Republic spelled backwards

      We were all left-leaning hippies, and we were righteously skewering the Republic's notoriously right-wing editorial staff and product. Interesting that some of the stories featured are still current (trade Nixon for Trump and it could be published this morning). By the way, that's Lacey in the photo of the ditch diggers diggin' the "chick," second from right.

   In the Wired cover story, Mike and Jim are referred to as "Two aging antiauthoritarians." Ouch.

   Jim and Mike are also referred to as "Two Micks From the Sticks," who basically cornered the market on alt weeklies including the Village Voice. The resulting company, at one point was valued at $100 million, but through market fluctuations (the decline of print) they ended up selling the company to their employees for a reported $30 million. You'd think they would have enough to retire handsomely on that but they couldn't resist keeping the Backpage money machine and were essentially minting money when Craig's List dropped out of the escort and sex for hire aspect of the biz. At one point Backpage was valued at a whopping $600 million before they started to get the unwanted attention of the Feds.

   The focus of the article is that this is a First Amendment issue and if they go down, all of Silicone Valley will be vulnerable to a similar fate.

   I have to personally give props to Mike who made a concerted effort to locate all the people who ever worked on his alt news weeklies and give them a bonus check. Since they had papers all over the country and the writers and production people had scattered to the four winds this was not an easy task. He, of course, easily found me, and sent me a check for $5,000 which in my mind was a class thing to do. Of course some of my high-minded (some would say moral) friends did not accept the money and that would include Jana Bommersbach, the woman at top, right, in the first photo, who is also predicting the two will receive long prison terms.

   I'd run a photo of them today, but frankly I'd rather remember them as the young turks they were back in 1978 when we knew everybody and everything.

"We are born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid."
—Benjamin Franklin



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Mad Russian & The Rurales at Cananea, Mexico

June 25, 2019
   Stuart Rosebrook is in the house and he has been going through our photo files. He's found a couple dillies, including this stunner:

Emilio Kosterlitsky (at left on white horse)
and his Sonoran Rurales

Closeup of the Rurales at Cananea, 1906

   Looking at the top photo with the naked eye makes it appear there are several boys with the law enforcement group, but in the blow-up you can see they are merely small vaqueros on small horses.

"Courage is knowing it might hurt and saddling up anyway. Stupidity is the same thing. This is why life is so hard."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, June 24, 2019

Six Sins In My Holster And Other Scarlet Hiding Places

June 24, 2019
   I snagged three old-school framed covers at a silent auction at the Western Writers of America conference in Tucson last weekend. (I think they belonged to the author Chris Enss). I bid $75 and successfully bought all three so I could get my hands on this one:

   Funny how that old-school, puritan cheesecake tickles my fancy.

  Noodled some clouds yesterday. Had fun. Saw some dust devils on the way back from Tucson on Friday and so tried to get them down on paper.

Daily Whip Out: "Cloud Cover Dust Devil"

Daily Whip Out: "Diagonal Dust Devil"

Daily Whip Out: "Eye of The Storm"

"If there's a formula, it's based on passion and commitment. That won't guarantee a wide readership, but it will guarantee the satisfaction of having written a story that matters to you: the ultimate reward."
—David Morrell, "Lessons From a Lifteime of Writing"

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Out The Window at 35,000 Feet

June 23, 2019
   Been traveling quite a bit the last two weeks. Nice to finally stay home this weekend. Did a couple paintings this morning just letting it go where it wants to go.

Daily Whip Out:
"Out The Window at 35,000 Feet"

   I had a window seat both coming and going to Rapid City, South Dakota and those midwestern topical areas produces some vague floating effects as you look out the plane window at 35,000 feet. You are looking over the tops of clouds and down into the haze of tierra firma. I didn't have a reference photo, but this is what it felt like.

   Took another stab at the sensation. 

Daily Whip Out: "Cloud Cover"

   On my drive back to Cave Creek from Tucson on Friday it was a windy day and I spied a series of dust devils near Coolidge.

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Devil #1"

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Devils #2"

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Devil #3"

"Painting has been a smiling mistress to many, but she has been a cruel jilt to me; I did not abandon her, she abandoned me"
—Samuel F. B. Morse

Friday, June 21, 2019

Crazy Armed Saguaros

June 21, 2019
   Had a wonderful Tucson morning, starting with breakfast at Prep and Pastry on north Campbell with John Langallier and Stuart Rosebrook. John bought. 

   From there I did a podcast with Mark Sublette at 9:30 this morning at his gallery, Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson. Took off from there at 11 and drove out to White Stallion Guest Ranch and met Russell True and Stan Hustad. On the way into the ranch I spied a couple gnarly saguaros and made a mental note to capture them on the way out.

 Crazy Armed Saguaros I, II, III

  Then I did something I haven't done in 30 years: North of Picacho I actually turned off of the I-10 and drove through Coolidge! It's not looking particularly good, but then, what small, farming community does these days?

Coolidge Thru The Dust

  I had forgotten that the actual Casa Grande (the ruins) is on the outskirts of Coolidge and not in the town of Casa Grande, which is named, I assume, for the ancient ruins.

  I know, strange, but not this strange:

"Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak."
—Larry McMurtry

Thursday, June 20, 2019

First Blood And The Dynamite Boze Pose

June 20, 2019
   One of the striking things about Tucson is that you can be in the middle of the sprawling metropolis and still feel like you are out in the country. This is the view out my hotel window at the Hyatt on east Broadway.

The Catalinas

   This morning I was talked into taking an old-time photo downstairs in the lobby of the hotel. The concessionaires were set up to take advantage of the Western Writers of America Convention and they must have thought—correctly—we'd like to "dress up" Old Westy and have our pictures taken. However, I declined all the prop clothes, and when they asked me if I wanted to pose with a forty-five or a rifle I said I would rather hold my sketchbook because that is my weapon of choice. On the other hand, when the photographer asked me if I wanted to hold a bundle of dynamite I agreed. I put the "TNT" in my coat pocket and put my boot up on the strongbox. The smirk is not authentic, but the unlit fuse is.

The Dynamite Boze Pose

   At ten thirty I attended a session on Western comics featuring my comix comrade Jeff Mariotte. In fact it was Jeff's graphic novel series "Desperadoes" that billboarded the panel discussion. 

   Note the True West plug at bottom left. On the panel with Jeff was David Morrell who wrote "First Blood," the story that became the "Rambo" franchise. At the end of the session I asked Mr. Morrell to give us the inspiration and genesis of the story and he painted the back story of how violent 1968 was in America with the assassinations (MLK and RFK) and over 200 riots, including the Chicago convention riots and Detroit and Washington DC riots, mere blocks from the White House. When Morrell watched the news and saw Walter Cronkite reporting on the Vietnam War and then the rioting he recognized they weren't different stories, they were the same war and he wondered about a returning vet having a conflict about what he had become. His inspiration for the vet was Audie Murphy, who returned a hero from WWII, but damaged. Originally, Steve McQueen was scheduled to play the lead, according to Morrell, but the studios didn't think audiences would buy the 40-year-old as a returning vet. The irony is that "Rambo" is being rebooted even as you read this (#5) and will be played by the 71-year-old Sylvester Stallone. Everyone laughed at the irony.

"I believe it is possible to tell stories about the vanished past that bear on the immediate present. Awaken the dead and make whole what has been smashed."
—Walter Benjamin

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

One Crazy Outlaw

June 19, 2019
  We've got a different take on one of the most mysterious and misunderstood gunmen in the Tombstone story, coming up in the next issue.

Daily Whip Out: "The Mysterious Ringo"

   So, who has portrayed the mysterious John Ringold the best?

Daily Whip Out: "Biehn There, Done That"

A Crazy Idea for A Crazy Outlaw
   What if Mr. Ringo came in sideways on the cover, like this?

Daily Whip Out: "Sideways"

   That's probably too crazy, but as we like to say in Design Review: every great idea makes someone pucker.

   My new favorite song:

Western Stars

"Here's to the cowboys, riders in the whirlwind, tonight the Western stars are shining bright again."
—Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Write Every Day, Without Hope, Without Despair, Then Grab A Bean at The Heatwave

June 18, 2019
   Thanks to my curator, Kristi Jacobs, I've been reviewing my old comic strips about the Heatwave Cafe.

  All of which reminds me that when I was trying to make Honkytonk Sue into a movie the last time around, my muse, Kathy Sue Radina, told me I needed to learn how to tell a story, so she signed me up for a writing class at ASU.

The Queen of Country Swing in action, circa 1987. Dang that girl could move and she made every guy she danced with look like a country prince.

   Yesterday I was purging crap out of my studio and I stumbled across a blue, "Expert Steno Notebook" 80 sheets, 6" X 9", greentint and something called "Gregg Ruled." Inside, were all my notes from the class I took.

   I carved out time from my art director job at New Times Weekly in order to drive out to the Tempe campus for the classes. This was in the fall of 1987. I missed a few classes because of deadlines and other commitments, but I did write down the teacher's office hours: (11:30—1:30), and my notes indicate he had a keen sense of knowledge about the architecture of space and third person limited narrative.

The Handlebar J Band kicks it
while Honkytonk Sue Cuts A Rug

   Here are a few highlights from the class:

"You'll end up in jail again." (implying something we'll perhaps never find out in the story).

"What keeps us reading is not the same thing as what keeps us writing."

"Not every snap needs to be buttoned before the story is sent off to school."

"When you are building a house, you don't start with the door. it makes sense, but that's where you go in. Start on page 120 with something you know."

"We're responsible for interpreting the world in a new way."

"Our secrets are all the same." [I use this example ALL the time!]

"We're writing so we can see."

"You always think everybody has more information than you, but they rarely do."

"Write a little every day, without hope, without despair." [This is my favorite saying in the world, period. In fact, it's why I write this blog.]

The 16th and final class came off on December 8, 1987. I learned a ton from the teacher and, irony of ironies, the two of us are now talking about working together on a project, which has the working title of:

"The Last Fandango at The Heatwave Cafe"

New story, same old heartbreak.

"Success is the ability to work."
—Ron Carlson

Monday, June 17, 2019

Four Is The Toniest Number

June 17, 2019
   Four is a magic number to the Apaches. Here we see the G-Man with four distinct stars in a grizzly bear sky.

Daily Whip Out:
"The G-Man Rides Under a Grizzly Bear Sky"

  I bought a bunch of lillies before I left for Deadwood last week and when I returned they were all in full bloom. Made for a nice homecoming treat.

Lillies of The Field

  Got this flashback photo from the Top Secret Writer of a book signing in Prescott a couple years ago when Paul Andrew Hutton (in vest) launched his "Apache Wars" book at the Peregrine Bookstore. Some big dogs, right there.

Three Giants of History and a Humor Ringer

  Watched the Bob Dylan "Rolling Thunder Revue" doc by Martin Scorcese, on Netflix last night. I knew most of the story, but I was intrigued by the great hat Bobby Zimmerman wore for the tour.

Dylan hat trick

  And I must say I was quite intrigued by the massive amount of seemingly random, non-sequitur lyrics that boy from Minnesota was able to spout off so succinctly in song after original song.

"Someday everything is going to be different when I paint that masterpiece."
—Bob Dylan,

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Warning: Old Man Rant Ahead

June 16, 2019
   Received a forward from my artist pard Buckeye Blake, who, in turn, received it from his Cowboy Artist son, Teal. According to Buckeye, Teal woke up this morning and snapped this photo of Shiprock on a cool morning and sent it to his dad as a Father's Day greeting. 

Shiprock Sleeping Bags

   And so now I'm sending it on to you to do the same. According to his dad, Teal and another Cowboy Artist camped out last night on their way to an artist ride in Logan, Utah and woke up to this sight.

   A thoughtful son he is.

Daily Whip Outs: "Hatzell Times Two"

   On Saturday, after my book signing at the Adams Museum in Deadwood, I hung out with another one of my artist pards, Jim Hatzell. We had dinner at Legends Restaurant, in the basement of the Franklin Hotel. Jim showed me where Pete Dexter wrote most of his classic book, "Deadwood," and I made a point of going back there for breakfast the next morning, so I could soak up the vibes. When I asked the waitress about it, where he sat, etc., here is what she said: "I don't know."

   Not even a, "I've never heard about that." Or, "Where did you hear that?" Or, "That's interesting. You old people sure know a lot for looking so clueless."

   Now, is it just me, or is there a creeping lack of polite, personal exchange skills among a significant part of the Millennial kids? Is it the phones and living on them? I must say I had this encounter several times over the weekend, every time with young, service staff where they just couldn't be bothered with talking to you on even pretending on a superficial level. A level that was drilled into us on any job where you had to deal with the public. Somehow, it seems to me, that old ethos is being lost: The customer is always right.

   Or, maybe they're just more direct and don't want to even pretend they care?

   For what it's worth, I tipped her 20% but I didn't like it!

   Left Deadwood at ten, drove back to Rapid City, South Dakota and met Jim and Jackie Hatzell for lunch at Perkins, then hoofed it out to the airport and took a puddle jumper to Denver with a two hour layover. 

   Used the time in both airports to sketch.

Rapid City Rapid Sketches

   Then hopped on a United flight down out of the Rockies and into the furnace (Phoenix) and then another hour drive out to Cave Creek. Eleven hours, door to door.

   Almost too old to do this anymore. Or, at least I'm more cranky about it. "Get off my lawn!"

   Or, what's left of it.

Early Morning Light On The Pumphouse

   Had a nice morning and watered. It's cool out (mid-sixties) until around ten when it gets oppressive.

"It's not what you make, it's what you get to keep."
—Jim Hatzell