BIG NEWS FOR WESTERN FESTIVAL FANS
Boy, Howdy! It’s been a year since last Cowboy Way May-Fest and Festival Master, Leslei (yes that how it’s spelled) Fisher, would agree that a lot has happened in that time. Reception for the festival has grown in enthusiasm from the western fans to the point where the fest moved to a much larger venue in Ardmore, Oklahoma to accommodate the crowd.
A large part of this enthusiasm is due to the fact that James Drury, Gary Clarke, and Roberta Shore of The Virginian came to say “Hi” to their fans. We had a great time with the panel discussions and had a few surprises for the crowd and the cast as well.
It was fun to see the surprise from Roberta Shore as I mentioned her television pilot playing Nancy Drew in the 1950s. She had forgotten all about it. Then I hit her with the little known fact that on The Virginian her character Betsy Garth had actually been adopted by Judge Garth (Lee J. Cobb). The cast had forgotten this fact, but they were quickly reminded by their fans in the audience. By-the-way, did you know that James Drury had already made a separate TV pilot for a Virginian series for the anthology series Decision on NBC in 1958. It’s very different in the story and characterization. Here’s the intro:
Along with them we had popular actor from film and television Alex Cord who played the Ringo Kid in the first remake of Stagecoach (1966), with Ann-Margaret, Bing Crosby, and Bob Cummings to name a few. He is most popular these days for his role on Airwolf as Michael Coldsmith Briggs III, better known as Archangel.
This year’s Cowboy Way MayFest is going to be special in that James Drury, Roberta, and Gary are bringing the rest of the cast, Clu Gulager, Randy Boone, Don Quine, Sara Lane, and Diane Soter, along with guest-stars that appeared on the show, fan favorites Don Collier and L.Q Jones.
Noted western Author/Actor Ken Farmer will also be on hand to answer questions on his popular series of books he has authored with and without partner Buck Stienke
It was at the last Wild Bunch film festival that I was honored to attend along with Don Collier, and my fellow award presenter and good friend, Tammy Locke (The Monroes), that I mentioned Cowboy Way May-Fest and The Virginian cast reunion. Good old Don, who has probably appeared on more TV westerns than anyone, told me that he had been a guest star on the show and wanted to come. A quick call to Leslei and fellow fest coordinator Donna Wilmeth and it was done. Both he and L.Q. Jones are a real hoot at the fests and will be sure to liven things up.
Another highlight where my dinners with Alex Cord at the terrific Ardmore eatery, Two Frogs Grill. The food is amazing, and if you’re coming to the festival, I would recommend trying it.
Also coming is the renowned stuntman/actor Dean Smith. Dean’s a great guy, terrific Q & A panel member, and just may be the only person round that has worked with director John Ford and numerous times with John Wayne, so I’m anxious to once again have him on my panels.
Here’s where you can get more info on the May-Fest:
On a personal note my son Tyler and his beautiful bride Rachel decided it was important to get married on May 4th, the first day of the festival, so I will be flying into Dallas bright and early Saturday to get there in time for the first panel discussion of the day. The two hour drive from Dallas/Fort Worth to Ardmore, Oklahoma will be quite a thrill (hope it’s a busy day elsewhere for the Highway Patrol).
Further news coming from my Lazy Susan Productions is my next “Short Shots” book on the last days of the Republic Pictures “B” westerns, Republic Descending: The Last Days of the Republic’s “B” Westerns. This will be the second in the series designed to be very informative with lots of pictures and anecdotes, and yet inexpensive and a quick read, perfect for airplane trips. The first one, The Westerns: Creating the Myth for Film and Television, was released last year. Others I am working on are John Wayne: That’ll Be the Day, and Don “Red” Barry: The Reluctant Cowboy.
Further festival news is, it looks like the second year for The Cowboy-Con in Reno, Nevada is on the books for this summer so I’ll be talking about that later. As a matter of fact, if you’d like to get caught up on what western festivals are coming up be sure and visit my website for continuing updates at http://www.silverscreencowboyz.com/wst-fst.html.
I’ll also be getting together with Western Spirit, Scottsdale Museum of the West, to put together our next season’s presentation on western film. This year we had a great panel discussion on stunt-people with a great panel that had veteran stuntmen Rodd Wolff and Ron Nix to name just a couple of them. Another subject was the fall from grace of the television western in the late 1960s and the different causes of it. If you’ve attended one or more of these presentations you know that we have a fun time with power-point, film, guests, and audience participations for prizes and while we can’t give any cars aware like Oprah it’s still a fun time.
Two more things I’d like to talk about are my monthly article in Arizona Real Country, the Magazine. May’s article will be my final on a five part series, “Remembering Rex Allen.” Subscriptions are free.
Lastly, thanks to all of you who have subscribed and watched my YouTube/Amazon Prime show, Mysteries of the Superstition Mountains. If you haven’t please give it a look and subscription is free. We don’t just cover stories about the Lost Dutchman, there all sorts of mysteries to do with this mountain range that I think you’ll enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL_BC_CdxsiQ3XJyDDPF6NA.
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That’s it for now. Keep riding the Hollywood Trail. Charlie
Charlie LeSueur is AZ's Official Western Film Historian, Encore Fellow @ Spirit of the West; Scottsdale's Museum of the West.