Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Thin Skin vs. Brown Skin

June 11, 2019
   If you have been following along here, you know I really tortured myself and ended up way out in the weeds on the recent Billy the Kid cover. 
   So, forgive me, in advance, for perhaps overreacting to this email we got yesterday.

To the editor:

   Though I sure understand America's push toward 'political correctness,' 'inclusion' and 'diversity' I'm puzzled, perplexed and bewildered as to why Billy the Kid is portrayed as African American on your July cover.
—Dan Katz, Westport, Connecticut 




   This irritated me to no end and I quickly wrote this reply:


Dan,

  I must commend your vivid imagination for seeing race where none was intended. I didn't paint my Billy cover portrait to make him look like an African American but then I didn't set out to perplex some blind idiot from Connecticut either.
—BBB

   Before I hit send, I asked Carole Glenn to come into my office and read it. I asked her if it was over the line, and, without saying so, she said I might consider rewriting that last line. So I did:

Dan,
   I must commend your vivid imagination for seeing race where none was intended. I didn't paint my Billy cover portrait to make him look like an African American and I'm a little puzzled how you got there as well.
—BBB

   This morning, I received the following reply:

   Sorry, Bob, that you took my comment as an insult. I meant it to be humorous because I, and four other readers who contacted me, think the likeness does, indeed, look African-American. I regret the misunderstanding.
—Dan

   I was picturing this guy as a young, angry Twitter-type guy, but with this sincere reply I suddenly felt immature and more than slightly chagrined. So I sent this:

   Oh that is too funny. Yes I took it as an insult. In fact I had a nastier response which I didn’t send, and I’ve got to send it to you because it’s so amazing what happens when you realize that someone is joking. Kind of insane but there you go. Thanks for being such a zany guy. I’ve got to go back and look at the cover. As you may or may not know I had a really difficult time with this drawing and had a better face on another image but at the last minute it was too late and I couldn’t exchange it. There you go. Thanks for being out there. And being so damn funny.
—BBB 

All The Damn Billys (21+ covers!)

   To which Dan replied:

   And thank you, Bob, for being so candid and accepting. . .very nice to have had the exchange.
—Dan

   Now I'm really intrigued. Who is this guy? So I asked him and got this reply:

   I know you through Brian Lebel. He and Melissa are close friends of my wife and mine. I've known Brian for twenty-plus years, go to his auctions. I am a lawman-gun-badge and cowgirl memorabilia collector. You published an article some years back on the Wyatt Earp gun I bought at Brian's auction back in Cody and have subscribed to True West magazine since then (2002). I'm 81 and thanks for the funny compliment.

   I have always thought you to be unusually broad-minded in your approach to history and unusually curious about your present and past surroundings. Both of which have given True West the luxury of being a read for both the mental yahoo and the intellectually curious and liberal. A pleasure for that reason.
—Dan

   So, for the record, here is the image, below, that should have graced the cover. 


Best Damn Billy

   A much better likeness and the vest is much better. However, it was too late in the game—Dan The Man did 24 covers!—for me to torture him anymore, and so that's how we ended up with Shaft on the cover.

  So, in conclusion, imagine how incredibly smart this wonderful man from Connecticut became to me. In my mind his IQ went from the low eighties to somewhere above 160. Isn't it passing strange how we react to perceived slights and digs?  Thin skin, oh yes. 

   Perhaps old Charlie said it best:

"In the end, everything is a joke."
—Charlie Chaplin


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