Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Tombstone Road Trip And Classic Book Blurbs From Hell

 February 28, 2023

  Stuart's Tahoe is packed and we are ready to roll for a Southern Arizona book tour road trip. Going to be out for six days. 

  First stop is at 2:30 this afternoon at the Apache Junction Library.

   Then off to Tombstone for their first ever book festival tomorrow, March 1st. We are meeting in the historic Schieffelin Hall.

   Get ready for scenic photos along the way. Maybe even some historic ones.

A historic,  friendly photo of Earp researchers
meeting and sharing ideas in Schieffelin Hall
back in 2000

    We won't be going by the Blue Swallow but I am thrilled to have found this old postcard of how it looked in the beginning.

Blue Swallow Court

   You can expect to see this postcard, plus the full history of the famous motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico in our next book, "The 66 Kids."

  If you read all my favorite bad reviews yesterday, you might be amused to know my partner, Ken Amorosano (full disclosure: he was an agent in Hollywood before his publisher duties at TW) culled this classic quote from a so-so review:

"Bommersbach and Bell tell stories to intrigue and entice, giving readers curated pieces of women’s history in an enthusiastic mosaic."

—Julie Morrison, LA Review of Books

   Do you ever read book blurbs like this one and wonder if the sentence they poached actually matches the overall review? Here is the actual review so you can see for yourself.

The Actual So-So Review

“There's no way you're going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover."
—Metropolitan Police spokesperson, on a blurb request from the graffiti artist Banksy, who used it on the back cover of his book

Monday, February 27, 2023

My Favorite Bad Reviews

 February 27, 2023

   I've enjoyed a few rave reviews in my day. In fact, here's one that just came in this morning:

"I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed Hellraisers and Trailblazers. What a wonderful book—beautifully written, great photos and of course the artwork is amazing. I think it's your best book yet. Hope to see you in Tombstone at the Western Book Festival!"

—Kirby White 

   I've also had some scathing reviews (be sure to read to end). A review published today in the LA Review of Books, is, well, somewhere in between.

   "Hellraisers and Trailblazers highlights women from Sacagawea to Sharlot Hall who shaped some part of 'the West.' Readers meet Martha Summerhayes playing tennis at Fort Apache, in present-day Arizona, alongside Sarah Winnemucca on a mission to 'correct the sins of the reservation system.' The presentation of one woman after another is as fondly pell-mell as a reel of a high school graduate’s childhood milestones: stories wrapped around portraits, photos, maps, newspaper clippings, playbills, and photos. There is no table of contents, just a full-color dive into the authors’ accumulation of research and reporting, with credit given to historians, researchers, and writers on the last page of the book, but with very few references included in the text.

   "Bommersbach and Bell have published the equivalent of a film documentary with many engaging pictures, not often stopping to say where they’re from. The writing is approachable to the point of colloquial, giving equal weight to fact and argument, as in the description of stagecoach robber Pearl Hart: 'They were captured, and the press at the time […] went nuts, making her a celebrity whose notoriety spread across the nation. Her trial and incarceration — the first jury acquitted her even though she’d confessed — are gems of Western History.'

   "The prose is like a tour guide’s script for a women’s history museum, and it would likely entertain its visitors to the point of tipping the guide. But in a book, I would prefer a less superlative and more substantiated take on history, trading admiration for annotation."

—Julie Morrison

   Julie is not alone in the "I'm sorry, I can't take you seriously because of your lack of footnotes" complaint. Here's a review I got from a Brit many moons ago: 

   "In conclusion, the reviewer admits to ambivalent feelings about these two publications [he was reviewing both my Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp books]. The artwork is very admirable but without the drawings and simulated photographs recreating historical events, the book appears as a visual equivalent of the so called 'faction' books such as Kid Curry by F. Bruce Lamb. History should not need the sugar coating of fiction to make it palatable."

—David Griffiths, London, England, writing in The Journal: The official Publication of the Western Outlaw Lawman History Association, summer of 1995

   Spot a trend here? My takeaway is these last two reviewers believe history needs footnotes so it can be taken seriously, and two, they don't like all this sugarcoating with good maps and especially colorful artwork! Dammit, they didn't have color in the Old West!

   But the most scathing review I have ever received is a one-liner. It had to do with a series of cartoons I did for New Times Weekly back in the eighties. Here is the cartoon that really honked off Ms. Rollins:

"I don't think Bob Boze Bell is funny, period."

—Chiquita Rollins, Women Take Back The Night

Sunday, February 26, 2023

A Navajo Hitcher Off Old Route 66

 February 26, 2023

   Marshall Trimble gives us a wonderful memory of being on the road with his family.

   "My dad had a soft spot for hitchhiker’s and was always stopping along the highway to pick up some down-on-his luck holdover from the Depression. I suspect he’d done a lot of that himself. If somebody was pulled off the highway fixing a flat, he’d stop and offer to help. Mom was always warning him that someday someone was going to knock him in the head and steal his empty wallet.

   "One time we were on our way back to Arizona after visiting relatives in Colorado. We were crossing the Navajo Reservation near Shiprock. My brothers and I had been arguing in the back seat since we left Rifle and driving our parents nuts when he stopped to pick up an old Navajo (Hastiinsani) thumbing a ride to Gallup.

Daily Whip Out: "Navajo Hitcher"

   "He slowly climbed into the back seat and parked himself in the middle of three little boys. He didn’t say a word and just stared straight ahead. His wrinkled face and long silver hair pulled back and tied in a knot. We sat mesmerized, scrutinizing this enchanting old man. Not a word came from the backseat all the way to Gallup.

   "We pulled into town and the old man touched my dad on the shoulder and pointed to a street corner. He got out, turned and nodded to us and walked away.
   Mom looked at dad and said, “Do you think we could talk that old man into going with us all the way to Ash Fork?”
—Marshall Trimble

   Now this is exactly the kind of stories you are going to find in the second volume of "The 66 Kids." Get ready for plenty road trip action.

“I'll tell you a secret. Old storytellers never die. They disappear into their own story.”
—Vera Nazarian

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Bacanora From Sonora & Sympathy for The Drummer

 February 25, 2023

   Yesterday, I had a distinguished visitor to the Triple B Art Studio and that is the noted Nogales historian, Greg Scott, who waxed poetically on all things historical from his neck of the woods (Badger Clark, Thomas Rood & Caborca artisans, for starters).

Greg Scott sips Bacanora & digs deep

   He is also distinguished because he brings me bacanora (a Sonoran delight).

A Bacanora shot glass put to good use.

   It was also a bit chilly out so I had a rip-roarin' fire going in the Big Bug Creek Wood Burning Stove:

Stayin' warm and stokin' hot!

   As you may know, I am somewhat partial to Southwestern headgear, but my good friend, Carole Glenn, sent me a link to some hat styles from around the world and I especially dig this one.

A Pawel Domurat photograph

Great hats are worldwide!

   Had lunch today with Tom Vickers and his wife Victoria at Tonto Bar & Grill which is on the Rancho Manana property and we had some good laughs. Tom was a writer for Rolling Stone magazine back in the day, and he turned me on to one of the zaniest book titles I have ever heard:

Sympathy for The Drummer

   "Sympathy for the Drummer: Why Charlie Watts Matters" is both a gonzo rush—capturing the bristling energy of the Rolling Stones and the times in which they lived—and a wide-eyed reflection on why the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World needed the world's greatest rock 'n' roll drummer."

—By Mike Edison

Shiprock & Marshall

   One of the coolest stories in our next book, "The 66 Kid" has this prominent landmark as the setting.


   Sketches tomorrow along with the poignant memory that left Marshall and his brothers speechless.

"The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, February 24, 2023

I'll Take Outrageous Over Sexy Any Day

 February 24, 2023

   A very busy day. Took a crack at this cover concept for our upcoming Humor Issue.

Daily Whip Out:

"Tea On The Terrace, Madam?"

   I love her, but I'm very sorry about the farmer's tan.

"Being sexy is all about attitude, not body type. It's a state of mind."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, February 23, 2023

We Just Watched "The Greatest Movie of All Time"

 February 23, 2023

   It took us three nights to do it, but we finally finished the "Greatest Movie of All Time." Here's a couple hints: it wasn't "Citizen Kane" and it wasn't "Vertigo," and it wasn't "The Searchers" or "The Godfather." Frankly, I had never heard of the film before. Perhaps you might recognize this scene?

Jeanne Dielman peels potatoes

   Now, do you recognize the movie? She peels all those potatoes, by the way, with no dialogue and no cuts. Earlier—in the three-hours-and-twenty-minute film—she does this:

Jeanne Dielman shines two shoes

   Jeanne also makes a meatloaf for three-and-a-half minutes with no cuts (to the film). According to the British magazine Sight and Sound, the greatest movie of all time is "Jeanne Dielman, 23, Qual du Commerce, 1080 Buxelles". They should know, because they have been publishing a list of the greatest movies, once a decade, for the past 70 years. And, yes, for fifty of those years, "Citizen Kane" was at the top of the heap, and plenty of other movies you would recognize, showed up prominently, like "Breathless," "Apocalypse Now," "The Godfather," "Taxi Driver," "Seven Samurai," "The Searchers," "Chinatown," "Rio Bravo," "Lawrence of Arabia," "The Wild Bunch," "Once Upon A Time In The West," oh, and, "Goodfellows," of course.

   Two things happened that changed everything. One is, in 2012, the magazine expanded the number of respondents from 63 to 846, and two, a whole bunch of those new voters became turned off by the "male gaze" and the men who produced films about "sexist" subjects. 

   Meatloaf, anyone?

"When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everyone will respect you."

—Lao Tzi

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Wind & The Liars On Route 66

 February 22, 2023

   Woke up in the middle of the night to howling winds. My neighbor said gusts were hitting 60 mph. Made me glad our house is constructed of block. Big winds continued this morning as this huge, nationwide storm moves through Arizona. 

The view from our front yard

yesterday afternoon.

   The front edge of the storm rolled in yesterday. And here was the forecast last night:

"The winds tonight will be memorable and damaging."

—Brian Klimowski, National Weather Service Flagstaff meteorologist-in-charge

The Wind & The Lion?

   Meanwhile, we want your stories.

Dan The Man's Concept for A Second Go

Make That The Wind & The Liars!

   Yes, we want your Route 66 memories, legends and stories. They don't even have to be true! Just make sure they are fun and in the spirit of that ol' two-lane blacktop we all love so much.

"The 66 Kid is a lot of fun to read. I didn't buy this book when it first came out, but it has become my go to for a nostalgic good time. It's like Tic-Toc for old people...just silly fun! Love the book!"

—Bradley Ross

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Repaving Route 66 Just Don't Forget Winona!

 February 21, 2023

   The last couple of days I have been reminiscing about my early years growing up on Route 66 when my father ran numerous gas stations in Mohave County, including his first, in Peach Springs, Arizona in 1947.

If you have read the first volume, you know who The 66 Kid is, but that book is sold out and Dan The Man and I are considering a second volume featuring even more 66 Kids. If you have Route 66 memories we want to hear them. Besides, it gives us an excuse to run all the new-old photos we have found of the Mother Road since the first book came out. Like this one.

Peach Springs in The '20s before pavement.

  Which begs the question: exactly when did Route 66 get paved? There are clues:

Paved With Good Intentions

"December 15, 1929, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Route 66 was paved in Illinois and Kansas. About 2/3 of the route in Missouri was paved. The highway was completely unpaved in Texas. Just 64 miles of the 1,221 miles between New Mexico and California was paved."

If I had to guess, I would imagine much of those 64 miles of pavement were in Albuquerque, perhaps Flagstaff, or other semi-urban bergs on the route.

I absolutely love the following Bozecard that Dan designed incorporating the iconic Andreas Feininger photograph of Seligman, Arizona for Life magazine in 1947.   

Get Some Kicks, Indeed!

   Of course, in the second edition we will have even more bulgemobiles and big-finned-desert-destroyers.

Daily Whip Out: "Dodge Desert Destroyer"

Dan The Man's Bulgemobiles!

   Oh, and don't forget Winona!

   And, of course, a certain Flying A will definitely make a cameo.

   Because, truth be known, I was the designated Kid who iced those jugs.

   And, who knows, we might even get into pajamas along the way.

Route 66 vs. Cowgirl Pajamas

   Lots of miles to cover before we sleep. So, let this road trip begin!

"The past is always attractive because it is drained of fear."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, February 20, 2023

Mountains to Climb, Questions to Answer

 February 20, 2023

   I must say, being a grandpa is quite the deal. One of my favorite things, is all the questions they ask. My first grandchild, Weston Allen, wanted to know:

  "Grandpa, did you ever climb a mountain?"

Weston and Uno waiting for the answer

      This tickled me to no end. I laughed and then said, "Funny you should ask."

Deena C. on Castle Rock

   Many years ago my father lived in So-Hi Estates on the edge of Golden Valley, outside of Kingman, Arizona. One day, long before you were born, my kids and I decided to climb to the top of Castle Rock, the tallest and grandest geographical outcropping in the area. This is a photo, above, I took of your mother as we neared the very top.

Thomas Charles Mountain Climber

   Here's a photo of your uncle, Thomas Charles. also taken at his grandfather's spread in So-Hi Estates northwest of Kingman. That is Castle Rock in the upper left corner. The same mountain we all climbed together long before you were born.

   But that's not the highest mountain I ever tried to climb.

A Mountain to be moved

   This is a photo I took in September of 1999 in Stillwater, Oklahoma when Steve Griegert, center, the co-owner of True West sold us the magazine and all the back issues. This is a magazine I read when I was your age.

   And this, Weston Allen, is a mountain I am still climbing.

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen.”

—Rene Daumal


   Weston asked his mother: "Does Grandpa Ha Ha always mix his metaphors?"

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Taking Stock, Self Flagellation & Soupy Sales

 February 19, 2023

   Sometimes it's rewarding to look back on my progress, and sometimes it is just painful and, frankly, pure torture.

Daily Whip Out: "Barbed Boze"

   I have always fancied myself as a modern Mark Twain, but I'm afraid I actually landed somewhere to the south of a regional Soupy Sales. And, that's being generous because Soupy was a huge deal in his day.

   On the scratchboard front, I can be a little more confident, even cocky, because of scenes like this one.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Vincent van Gunfighter II"

   Very Vicente-ish with a Triple B twist if I do say so myself. Meanwhile, I've got some decent passages going in this cantina scene.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Bellies Up to The Bar"

   And, when it comes to frontier whores, I have a knack for their convoluted visages.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Hogtown Hussies #8"

   Finally, about that obscure reference at the top.

   His real name was Milton Supman and he was born on Jan. 28, 1926, in the North Carolina backwater of Franklinton. The Supmans were the only Jews in town. Sales’ father ran a dry goods store that sold sheets to the Ku Klux Klan. The family name was often mispronounced as “Soupman.” To make matters worse, his parents, who had nicknamed his brothers “Hambone” and “Chickenbone,” dubbed him “Soupbone.” Eventually, Milton became just Soupy. He estimated that he was hit by more than 25,000 pies in his lifetime.

  • "One of my younger fans made the mistake of heaving a frozen pie at me before it defrosted. It caught me in the neck and I dropped like a pile of bricks."
  • —Soupy Sales

Saturday, February 18, 2023

A Royal Lancer Meets Doroteo Arrango Meets Al Bell's Flying A

 February 18, 2023

   I would have to say, this is the photograph of the year. Great design and movement. In fact, it's the best photo I have seen in a long time.

   The photo is by Eric Esterle and was published in Nat Geo, of a nomadic eagle hunter, Asiibec, who is prepping his golden eagle, Burged, for a horseback hunt in Mongolia. This is a tradition going back 3,000 years. Eric said he was laying flat next to the stream in the foreground and when Asiibec rode by, inches away, he splashed water all over him and he covered himself and his camera as best he could, but dammit, he got the shot! Congrats Eric. Just the coolest.

   And, speaking of the coolest. Let's go back when cars competed with barges and knights of old. 

A 1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer

   Often derided as Land Yachts, these bulgemobiles, were literally honking down the highway.

Daily Whip Out: "Doroteo Arrango"

   Of course this bandido named—Dorothy?—is better known as Pancho Villa. Also, bandido is Spanish and bandito is apparently Spaghetti Western speak.

   One of my prized possessions is a Tim Prythero miniature of my father's gas station in Kingman, circa 1955-1960.

Tim Prythero Rocks!

      And, here is the source material.

Al Bell's Flying A, 1956

   And speaking of driving someone to drink.

Daily Whip Out: "Bien Barracho Vaquero"

"Be the reason someone smiles today, or, the reason they drink. Whatever works."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, February 17, 2023

The Happy Hoarder: Saving everything so you don't have to!

 February 17, 2023

   I just heard this tippity-tip-ticking going up the wooden staircase in my studio and came around the corner to see what was going on and spied this poser at the top of the stairs. Such a ham.

Staircase Poser

   Here's another view.

The Sentry II

   As you can no doubt surmise, I am easily amused.

Speaking of Doggone Cute

The Happy Hoarder

   I'm saving everything, so you don't have to bother. Yes, I save so many photographs it's not even funny. And, every single one has a story.

A.T. heading home for the last time.

Picture Perfect

   Our country worked in the 1950s because large groups of strangers could cooperate successfully by believing in common myths. Today, virtually all those common myths are contested—or denied—which has led to extreme polarization. Not pretty but, it's the truth.

   Of course, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Free for All

   I don't know exactly why, but I keep coming back to that crazy captivo with the glowing eye.

Daily Reworked Whip Out:

"Mickey Free's Wild Serape"

Bass Reeves Blown Up

   A good friend of the magazine, Art T. Burton, has requested a blow up of our February-March 2021 cover and thanks to Dan The Man, who sent me his high-res work-up file, and my new Canon printer, I was able to print out this A-1 poster for Art.

Uno: "Damn, that looks good.
Mind if I chew on it?"

"Criminals drunk on impunity."

—A summation of our current malaise

Thursday, February 16, 2023

The True Tale of A Happy Hoarder

February 16, 2023

   Is it just my imagination, or do hoarders get a bad rap? How many books have been written that claim to "help" pitiful hoarders and the loved ones they "torture," with "helpful hints" on how to clean up their "unholy" messes that "nobody" wants or needs? I admit to having a couple of these book titles in my massive book collection, if only I could find them.

   That said, sometimes the fact that I have saved everything that ever happened to me, actually pays off.

   Case in point: on Valentine's Day, Jana Bommersbach and I gave a lecture on how we produced our Real Women of the Wild West book together. This was my view of the packed hall at the Cattletrack Arts Compound.

   Everyone in this photo showed up despite the inclement weather. It rained most of the day and as I left this book signing at 8:30 in a downpour, I heard later there was a microburst storm over Cattletrack that took down several trees.

   Not as many trees as it took to produce our book, but you get the idea.

Here I am deferring to Jana during our talk. What I was trying to say here is, doing the book together was very stressful and difficult but we are so proud of the results and we never want to do it again! Ha. True.

True Tales of A Happy Hoarder!
You can confirm this with Kathy, but I save everything. Thanks to the late, great Kristi Jacobs, virtually all my sketchbooks going back to the 1970s have been saved by her and organized by year!
Unrelated to the book, in the last part of the talk I told the story about a young artchitect student at ASU who approached me at the Mill Avenue Street Fair in 1985 and told me he was a fan and wanted to be my architect if we ever built a house. I told him I was, in fact, getting set to build a house in Cave Creek but I couldn't afford an architect (my salary at New Times was $150 a week). Long story short, this snot-nosed kid—Perry Nathan Becker—agreed to charge me $25 an hour, and when I finally agreed, he drove out to our property and, in his own words, "made love to the land." That involved camping on our site and rendering every plant on the property. Here is the view of our property at that time.

Aerial view of Old Stage Road in Cave Creek
 circa 1985

See the trail that resembles a little smile at bottom right? At the left corner of the smile is the location of our proposed housing site. And here is Perry's site plan sketches of all the native plants on our property which he rendered with loving care on his Site Plan.

Perry Nathan Becker's Site Plan
Where every single plant is named
and accounted for

Believe it or not, here are the actual pages of my 1985 sketchbook when I met Perry Nathan Becker at the Mill Avenue Street Fair in Tempe, Arizona.

Daily Whip Outs: "Mill Ave. Street Sketches"

I had a table at the street fair to sell my Honkytonk Sue comics but I was actually surreptitiously sketching the fair attendants, in order to do a New Times doubletruck parody of the event. When this Becker kid came up and introduced himself I jotted down his name and phone number at the top of the page (see, above). That was the beginning of a wonderful legacy.

Perry's attention to detail—drawing every plant on the property!—ultimately saved the project because it turns out we could not build on this site (zoning issues involving farms), but when the newly established Cave Creek Planning & Zoning Committee came under fire for requesting just such a site map and the old hippies and drug dealers who moved out to Cave Creek to get away from just these kinds of HOA type restrictions had a hissy fit, it saved us, because when I showed this Site Map to the P&Z people at a public town hall meeting they immediately approved the building of our dream house and we've been here for 36 years and counting. And every day I marvel at the spectacular house Perry designed for us.

Aerial view of our desert dream house
immediately after completion
(note the hook of a smile road just beyond the house which is the same one from the aerial photo)

Now, the real reason I told this story at our book signing is because Perry Nathan Becker was in the audience and I wanted to give him a shout out, and did. He actually brought the miniature, scaled model of our house (his first house as an architect!) to Cattletrack and here he is proudly showing it off.

Perry's First House

So, thanks for the folks over at the Mill Ave. for putting on the Street Fair, and thanks to the ASU architectural school, and also a big thank you to the pissed-off-hippies who didn't get their way and a bigger shout out to John "Bud" Glenn who built the whole kit and kaboodle from scratch. Love you all. I feel blessed and very, very lucky. And, to be frank, you are lucky because I am such a unrepentant hoarder.

"Sorry I am late. I was at home sitting down."
—Old Vaquero Saying