Tuesday, March 31, 2020

When Cartoonists Meet Their Heroes

March 31, 2020
   One of the best Mohave County historians working today is Andy Sansom, who posted this newspaper clipping from the Mohave County Miner from 1935:

When I was in grade school, my mother worked for Judge Wishon at the Kingman courthouse. This was in the mid-fifties. One day, after school (Palo Christie) I came down to the courthouse to get a ride home. There was a case being tried so I sat in the gallery and drew pictures. Afterwards Judge Wishon came over and complimented my drawings and told me he wanted to send my sketches to the editorial cartoonist at the Arizona Republic, which he did. A couple weeks later, my mom's boss showed me the response, and it was a letter from the legendary Reg Manning saying I should keep drawing and someday I might actually be published. I've lost the letter, but I never forgot the advice.

Fast forward 25 years and, in the early eighties I won the best editorial cartoon for the year from the Arizona Press Club and I was honored with finally meeting my hero. He was retired by then but he actually signed a cartoon to me and here it is:

Reg Manning Shows The Love

When he finished signing this he handed it to me and made this comment: "People today sure like negative humor." He was shaking his head, as if the entire country had gone off a cliff and he didn't understand what had happened (truth be known, I think he was actually referring more to the new editorial cartoonist at the Republic, Steve Benson, but I was known for being even more edgy and outrageous than Benson, at least in the New Times orbit).

I remember wondering if I too would wake up, when I was Reg's age (late sixties!), and think the world has gone off a cliff in terms of humor. I have to honestly say, not really, although I am such a humor snob, I probably wouldn't admit it even if I did think it had. Ha.

"A rule of thumb with humor: if you worry that you might be going too far, you have already not gone far enough. If everybody laughs, you have failed."
—Christopher Hitchens

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Razz And The Rurales On The Move

March 30, 2020
   Jack Alves and Hans Olson have been working in the studio to produce an original soundtrack for our Geronimo video edited by Rick and Sally Engelmann for my art opening back in January. I want to post it online, but we used AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and I can't really post that to Youtube. Hans, Jack and I were in a band called the Razz Band. Jack sent me an early newspaper clipping when we played the No Name Saloon on north 16th Street in Phoenix. This looks to be about 1978-79. This is before Hans joined the band and we were a power trio, a la ZZ Top. Steve "rode" a stand-up bass, literally. We were very loud. And proud.

The Razz Revue Revue: BBB, Mahavishnu Blackjack Bottleneck Alves and Steve Dennis.

   I've been having a blast in my studio.

Daily Whip Out: "Rurales On The Move"

   Still jamming on campfire light. Love the red eye on this one.

Daily Whip Out: "Wary Eyes In The Dark"

"In a dark time, the eye begins to see."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, March 29, 2020

I Need Me Some Stinking Badges!

  • March 29, 2020
   Rewatched a classic last night, "The Treasure of The Sierra Madre" (1948). I agree with a reviewer who commented that there is a rousing yarn under all the hollow laughter.

Walter Huston yucking it up at the end.

   And, it just isn't the director's father yucking it up, check out these classic Mestizos (they filmed much of the outdoor scenes in Durango, Mexico) on horseback with the mucho guffawing

Horsemen Laugh By

   Supposedly, it's one of the first Hollywood studio films to actually film in Mexico, and it has great faces, like this screen shot from John Huston's iconic portrayal of greed gone amuck.

Classic Faces Captured by John Huston

   Also, the hats are pretty stellar as well.

Great hats and great faces

   Director and co-writer of the script, John Huston, first read the novel, "The Treasure of The Sierra Madre," in 1935, and thought it would make a great film with his father in the main role. 

   However, Walter Huston didn't want to do it because his son wanted him to do it without his dentures and the old man still thought of himself as a leading man. The son finally won him over and the elder Huston kills in the role, leading his co-star, Humphrey Bogart to quip, "One Huston is bad enough, but two are murder."

   Originally, the studio had George Raft and Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield in mind for the three prospectors, but then World War II intervened and the project was shelved. Another version of the story was set to be filmed during the war, but the script was nixed by the Motion Picture Production Code for being "derogatory" towards Mexicans. By the time John Huston came back from his WWII documentary phase, Humphrey Bogart was the biggest star on the Warner Brothers lot and he got the plum role.

The famous "Badges" scene

   That's Alfonso Bedoya, as Gold Hat, on the right, and his actual line is, "We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" In popular culture the line has been condensed to, "We don't need no stinking badges!" but that is probably because Mel Brooks used this shorter version in "Blazing Saddles" when he appropriated the bit.

   Jack L. Warner was conned into letting Huston film in Mexico on the premise that it would be quick and cheap. It was neither. (Huston claimed they would be in and out in a matter of weeks, but the filming lasted five-and-a-half months!) To boot, the filming started off on the wrong foot when the cast and crew showed up in Tampico, Mexico and the local government wouldn't let them start. Turns out a local newspaper editor was miffed that he didn't get the mordida ("the bite," a bribe) and he wrote that the production was unflattering to Mexico. With help from two of Huston's friends, the artists Diego Rivera and Miguel Covarrubius, they went to bat with the president of Mexico and got the ban lifted.

   John Huston originally wanted to cast Ronald Reagan for the part of James Cody, but that fell through when Warner wanted the future president of the United States for another role.

   As Jack Warner saw the mounting weekly expenditures he almost went berserk and while watching some of the rushes, he told the producer,  Henry Blanke, "Yes, they're searching for gold all right, MINE!" After the budget topped $3 million, Warner called everyone back to the U.S. and they filmed the rest of the movie on back lots and in the studio.  Those are the weakest scenes, to me, and it's the authenticity of the Durango countryside and the street scenes of Tampico that gives the film it's iconic shine. One other tidbit: the Mexican kid who sells Dobbs (Bogart) a lottery ticket is Robert Blake, the child star from Red Ryder who later killed his wife in a sordid Hollywood Babylon finale.

“If that son of a bitch doesn’t find water soon I’ll go broke!”
—Jack L. Warner watching rushes of Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) crawling through the Durango desert looking for water

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Donner Party of Five

March 28, 2020
   For me, almost everything I do, comes circling back to history. For example, after almost two weeks of family lockdown I'm starting to question whether the Donner party was even hungry.

   When I mentioned this to my neighbor, Tom A., he said this reminded him of the Robin Williams' line, "Donner, party of five," which is almost funnier, with less of a setup.

   Still seeking a certain spy in the Mexican Revolution. She is described, as dressing all in gray, with gloves and an absurd, little hat.

Daily Whip Out: "Helene de Troy" 


   The other thing that constantly amazes me, is that in the study of history, the parallels to the current time are always too close for comfort.

In the summer of 1910, Porfirio Diaz finally had cemented the final piece of the national puzzle to his liking (which means he controlled all aspects of Mexico society) and everything was hunky dory.

"You cannot understand what barbarians we used to be, before Porfirio civilized us. . .Thirty-five years in the saddle; no more squabbles and revolts; no foreign emperors (like Maximilian); peace and prosperity all around. . .there is a Man. . ."

—Don Pablo Escandon, governor of Morelos, praising his boss

"This year (1910) is the year of the centenario, the hundredth anniversary of Mexican independence from Spain."

Porfirio Diaz and Enrique Creel at a ceremony honoring Benito Juarez in July of 1910.

   What could possibly go wrong?

   Well, for one thing,  in several months time, the entire country will be torn apart and over a million will die as the peons (styled as peones in Spanish) revolt.

   Oh, and 300,000 Mexican citizens will die from the Spanish Flu pandemic.

"If there's one thing people can't stand, it's intolerance."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, March 27, 2020

Negro Pendejo vs. Azul Vaquero

March 27, 2020
   The sheltering in place continues and the campfire studies proliferate.

Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Doubting Tomas"

   Sometimes I spy a discard pile sketch and have to give it another go.

Daily Whip Out: "Huaraches Vaquero"

   Hard for some gringos to believe, but many of the oldtime vaqueros actually wore sandals (huaraches) with spurs and leggings. I kid you not.

Daily Whip Out: "Azule Campfire Vaquero"

Daily Whip Out: "Negro Pendejo"

Still pursuing the elusive spy from Mexico City.

Daily Whip Out: "Helene de Troy"

Sideyard blooms

"After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this week I discovered that wasn't the reason."
—A Shelter In Place Realization

Thursday, March 26, 2020

When Women Were Birds

March 26, 2020
   The first time I ever heard of females being referred to as "birds" was during the early days of the English Invasion of 1964. The Beatles landed on Ed Sullivan in February, then came the Stones and the Dave Clark Five and the Mercy Beats and the Who and Freddy & The Dreamers and a hundred others. Somewhere in all that Limey influx and influence, I heard a band member refer to "all the lovely birds," as in the "fairer sex," and, or, female fans, some of whom graduated to being groupies.

   And, by the way, "Limey" is an American slang word, probably first uttered in the 1850s as Americans encountered British sailers sucking on limes to reduce scurvy.

   Fast forward to the Great Hunkerage (as my friend Vince Murray styles it), and I find myself revisiting and chuckling at those olden times when the world seemed to actually make some sense.

Daily Whip Out: "Femme Fatale"

Daily Whip Out: "Seeking Helene"

Daily Whip Out: "Elena"

Daily Whip Out: "Sharlot In Red"

      What's odd is I haven't heard the term used in a long time. Was it just the Brit bands from that period? Or merely a fad?

“Once upon a time, when women were birds,
there was the simple understanding that
to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk
was to heal the world through joy.
The birds still remember
what we have forgotten,
that the world is meant to be

—Terry Tempest Williams

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Tough Times Don't Last But We Will

March 25, 2020
   Wrapping up the May issue of True West. Goes to press tomorrow. Dialed back my editorial a bit, where I originally waxed on the current shut down of American society. 

Historical Distancing
   I always try to distance myself and the magazine from current events as much as I can because our issues lean towards being timeless, but it seemed just a tad ridiculous that you would pick up the next issue and there would not be ANY mention of the current shutdown. It's a tricky equation. I'm trying to catch the balance between being a time capsule of this period of history and also an escape FROM the events IN the time capsule! Instead of social distancing, it's historical distancing.       Anyway, not easy. This issue will hit in mid-April and who knows where we'll be?

 Oputo Burro Boy, Sonora, Mexico, 1922

     Meanwhile, back to the Mexican Revolution where things are about to get seductive. Hike up your garterbelts,  it's gonna get Western.

Daily Whip Out: "Huerta's Seductress"

Daily Whip Out: "Smokescreen"

   One of the more prevalent aspects of the revolution is the constant betrayal. It's mind-numbing.

     Another fine image from Samuel K. Dolan.

"Tough times never last, but True West will!"
—Randy Jensen

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

This Fight Has Commenced

March 24, 2020
   The True West office has been closed for over a week now and we are all suffering from isolation.

   So, we held our first Zoom conference call this morning and it was illuminating, hopeful and I must say, it is the future of our business.

   Yes, that's me taking notes, at right.

   This is actually a Mexican Revolution photo, courtesy of Samuel K. Dolan.

   The essence of the Zoom call is that the entire staff, all 12 of us, were on a conference call. About half of us were on video and the rest were just audio. We got to hear about sales efforts (our advertisers are holding strong) and we learned about our online sales (today's subscripition offer netted 190 new subs in the first two hours!). All of this points to some new rules.

New Rules for the Pandemic World
• Do not hunker down
• Demonstrate candor with your crew
• Give up more authority than seems natural
• Be connected, listen and adapt
• Be more compassionate than you think you need to be.

   Who is advocating all of this? These guys:

"We are now weathering a once-in-a-hundred-year event, and Americans are hurt—physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. Leaders at all levels in society need to embrace the changes this crisis brings rather than struggle against it. Your people need you. This is your moment, and you can rise to it."
—Stanley McChrystal and Chris Fussell

   Or, put another way. . .

"This fight has commenced. Get to fighting, or get out."
—Wyatt Earp to Ike Clanton on October 26, 1881

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Lemon Color Wheel And Leon The Peon

March 22, 2020
   I dig peons.

Daily Whip Out: "The Face of Death"

   A cover idea rough. The hat is not quite right. I want something more like this:

Leon The Peon

   I love that oversized crown. Apparently, so does this guy:

Pherrill "Big Crown" Williams

Lemon Wheel

   Por que?

"Always keep a lemon in your studio—that way you can always see true yellow and it keeps some of the minor demons away."
—Paul Housley

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Whiskerville, Part II: Last Stop ZZ Top

March 21, 2020
   I am on the road to Whiskerville and I ain't shavin' 'til this is over and done with.

Last Stop ZZ Top

   I know a few others who are doing the same and wouldn't it be a hoot if we all ended up looking like that little old band from Texas?

Faces of Fear & Hope

   These two pottery pieces were created by my Cave Creek artist compadre Judy Darbyshire and they were cemented into one of our adobe walls at a celebration party at the front entrance to our house almost 33 years ago. One has faded while the other remains strong. When I looked at it today, it struck me that it's a fitting symbol to whatever comes out of this social disruption, will be stronger than before.

   Here's to seeing you on that day with a freshly shaved face.

"What does not kill you, makes you stronger."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, March 20, 2020

On The Road to Whiskerville

March 20, 2020
   Our cleaning lady informed us today she is working from home but she gave us instructions on what to do.

   Meanwhile, I quit shaving five days ago with a vow not to touch a razor until this is over with. Could get hairy.

Daily Whip Out:
"Off The Grid And On The Road to Whiskerville"

   Thanks to the Top Secret Writer, I revisited an old George Carlin bit that seems scarily prescient now.

Carlin On Germs

Daily Whip Out: "El Pendejo Rojo"

   He is a troublemaker, a transformer and a noble trickster. He is also the prince of chaos. Yes, this could get interesting.

   More great photos recently posted by Samuel K. Dolan on the Mexican Revolution.

Muchachos Soldados (Boy Soldiers)

Pancho Trio

   Never seen either one before. Thanks Sam.

   To help facilitate social distancing in the town of Cave Creek our town council has stationed banjo players on every other street corner to discourage public gatherings.

Who's Hiring?
   State unemployment offices, that's who.

   They said a mask and gloves were enough to go to the grocery store.

   They lied. Everybody else had clothes on.

Finally, Some Good News
   The Coronavirus has halted the release of new Cardi B music.

"Para un largo hay otro mas largo."
—Old Vaquero Saying (For every clever person, there is a person more clever.)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mopeds And MacDonald Mayhem

March 19, 2020
   Went for a walk this morning and caught this break in the clouds up on Morningstar.

A break in the storm? Hope so

   Thanks to Wonderful Russ for finding this stand up by Norm MacDonald just before the quarantine, on March 13. These are not "bits" or even "jokes" it's just Norm, being Norm, and giving voice to all of our anxieties, which takes courage to do, Man.

Norm MacDonald Didn't Plan On This

   Here's a great then and now photo comparison:

Same couple, same location, same "bike"

   I believe that is a moped and I had one like it which my dad ordered out of Montgomery Ward in 1963. We rented a cabin in the Hualapais for a week in August and the moped came in a box in the mail and my dad brought it up the mountain and assembled it and Dan Harshberger and I took turns driving it around the paved loop where the CC cabins were located.

Dan The Man and BBB on
Montgomery Ward Moped

   This is in the side yard of Dan's parent's house on Chambers Avenue in Kingman, about 58 years ago.

   And, here we are, still hanging out together with our wives.

The D's and B's at the Arizona Inn in Tucson

   We go back.

   Still wrestling with my so-so writing. Saw some inspiring advice recently.

"When I read a page of my own writing, if it doesn't upset me a little bit, it's too bland for my taste."
—Wallace Shawn


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Home Alone, Sheltering In Place

March 18, 2020
   I am still "sheltering in place." For the most part it feels like a summer vacation, or, even early retirement. The problem with this last sensation is that I have some pretty strong superstitions about retirement. My father, who worked at Ford Proving Grounds in Yucca, Arizona, impressed upon me that virtually all his working cronies died within two years of retirement. He maintained you had to create a reason to get up every day, or you are dead. 

   In addition to this, two of my Kingman classmates couldn't wait to retire, both counted the days and hours to "Cobra Out"—as one of them styled it—and both were dead within a year of actually retiring.

   So, based on this I have some mixed feelings about working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic. It seems, at the very least, like a dry run for retirement. It makes me a little anxious.

Daily Whip Out: "Death In The Dust"

   Yes, my anxieties may have had something to do with the theme of the above picture. And, probably this one, as well.

Daily Whip Out: "Melancholy Mex"

   Or, another title for this could be, "Floating Anxiety." I like that his lit up sombrero almost looks like the surface of the moon, as if he encompasses an entire universe.

Hope For The Quarantine Future
   I just read that in 1665, Isaac Newton had to work from home when the University of Cambridge temporarily closed due to the Bubonic Plague. It turned out to be the most productive period of his life, and he used that time develop his theories on calculus, optics and gravity.

Daily Whip Out: "El Pendejo In Red"

   When Leonardo's Mona Lisa was stolen out of the Louvre in 1911, Pablo Picasso was questioned by the Paris police, but he had a convincing alibi and they let him go home.

   I was once questioned by the the Chief of Policia in Nogales, Mexico in 1968. After spending a fitful, uncomfortable night in the Nogales jail, myself and three other U of A students paid a fine of $55 each and they let us go home.

   There is perhaps a theme in all of this speculation, but I have yet to discover it. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands?

"Apparently this year is being written by Stephen King."
—Old Pandemic Saying