Boy, Howdy! It’s been a year since the last Cowboy WAY May-Fest and those who attended them would agree that a lot has happened between this year and last festival, and all of it good. Because the reception for the festival was overwhelming festival maven, Leslei Fisher and her sidekick, Donna Wilmeth (Spirit of the Cowboy) found a larger venue in Ardmore, Oklahoma at the Market Place on Broadway, 106 E. Broadway Street to accommodate the crowd. Needless to say there will be a third one come 2019.
A large part of this enthusiasm was due to the fact that this year the festival celebrated the popular television western The Virginian. On hand to say “howdy” to their multitude of fans was the Virginian himself, James Drury, as well as Gary Clarke, Roberta Shore, Clu Gulager, and Randy Boone, plus recurrent guest star LQ Jones and Don Collier were on hand to say “Howdy,”as well as entertain the folks with interesting and often hilarious stories and little-known facts during the panel discussions.
Speaking of little know facts, it was fun last year to surprise Roberta Shore as I mentioned her television pilot where she played Nancy Drew in the 1950s. Roberta had forgotten all about it, but due to her extensive career on film and television it was not hard to understand why she would forget this one pilot episode. Another surprise occurred when I mentioned that in the second episode of The Virginian, we find that Betsy Garth had been adopted by Judge Garth (Lee J. Cobb). The actors, including Roberta, had forgotten all about it, but their fans sure were aware of it. By-the-way, did you know that James Drury had already made a separate TV pilot for a Virginian series on the anthology series Decision for NBC in 1958. It’s very different in the story and characterization. Here’s the intro:
This year, panelists LQ Jones and Don “Little Brown Jug” Reynolds, the last little beaver in the Red Rider film series, stuck around after the panel to talk with the crowd and answer their questions for well over to an hour, finally winding down as the festival came to a satisfactory conclusion on Sunday.
Every night Randy Boone and Virginian regular, singer Joe Cannon (aka Jean Peloquin), would give an impromptu performance to a large crowd back at the hotel in the convention room, much to the delight of everyone who attended.
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:
Last year we also had the prolific film and television star 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 best remembered these days for his role on Airwolf as Michael Coldsmith Briggs III, better known as Archangel. He was also scheduled for this year, but was unable to attend.
Other very popular guests this year were noted Author/Actor Ken Farmer and his co-author/partner Buck Stienke. We were lucky to have Ken there due to the fact that he had been very ill for most of last year and was unable to attend in 2017.
Don Collier is always a treat to spend time with and Ardmore was no exception. I had already spent a couple of days with him in Willcox, Arizona for The Wild Bunch Film Festival in October, 2017 and it was at that time I mentioned to him the Cowboy Way in Ardmore was celebrating The Virginian in May of 2018. He mentioned to me that he had done a Virginian episode and wanted to know if there was room for him. “Was he kidding?”There is always room for Don at any event I have anything to do with! I was more than happy to get a hold of Leslei and arrange for it to happen, much to the delight of the fans.
Stay tuned as I keep you posted for other for news about the Cowboy Way, Mayfest in Ardmore for 2019. But for now, you can get more info at: http://www.cowboywayfest.com/
I missed the first day of the festival, due to the fact that my son Tyler and his beautiful bride Rachel decided it was important to get married on Friday, May 4th, and who was I to complain. After the wedding and reception I caught the “red eye” from Phoenix International Airport (Sky Harbor) and arrived in Dallas bright and early Saturday to pick up the rental car they had waiting for me. I was hoping to get to Ardmore in time for the first panel discussion of the day. It was not to be due to my GPS continually giving me different directions until I finally had to call Leslei and ask her how the heck to get to Ardmore from Dallas. When I finally got there Julie Ann Ream was finishing up the first panel, but I was able to handle the panel discussions for the second and third Q&A sessions that day.
Speaking of the 2017 Wild Bunch Film Festival, with head honchos, Rock and Brenda-Marie Whitehead, will be coming to Willcox, Arizona, October 19th - 21st. This is the third year of the fest and I will be hosting the awards ceremony as well as any panels and interviews. This will be my second year hosting the fest, which originated 2016 in what is becoming the film festival capital, Ardmore, Oklahoma; this is now where Rock and Brenda will be holding their second Sunny Side Up Film Festival, March 23rd and 24th, 2019.
Both fests contain some wonderful examples of the new independent filmmakers from literally around the world. I am indeed grateful to Brenda and Rock for moving The Wild Bunch Fest to Arizona which makes it perfect for me to be a part of it. For more information on The Wild Bunch Film Festival coming to Willcox, Arizona visit, http://www.thewildbunchfilmfestival.com/.
On the book front, my Lazy Susan Productions will release another of my “Short Shots” books this month, to be announced later. Once it is ready I will be taking pre-orders.
This will be the second in the Short Shots series designed to be very informative with lots of pictures and anecdotes, and yet inexpensive and a quick read, perfect for airplane trips or even a visit to the doctor. The first one, The Westerns: Creating the Myth for Film and Television, was released last year and, fortunately for me, was a hit with the fans due to the low price.
Short Shots books in the works include, John Wayne: That’ll Be the Day, and Don “Red” Barry: The Reluctant Cowboy, as well as my next full-length book, the third in the series of The Riding the Old Hollywood Trail Books on the history of Western films and television. This book will start in 1955 and go to the causes for the collapse of the Westerns on TV in 1970. I am calling it Riding the Old Hollywood Trail: from the Western Surge to the Royal Purge, and like all my books it will be available at on Amazon or my web page, http://www.silverscreencowboyz.com/aoa-wst.html
In further festival news, it looks like the second year for The Cowboy-Con Convention in Reno, Nevada is on the books for July 26th through the 29th. This year it will be located at the Grand Sierra Resort Pavillion. This is more of a convention than a festival and contains all things western, including panel discussions. This is a little different for me in that I will be sitting on the panels while Jeffrey Wayne Sutherland will be doing the moderating chores for further info on Cowboy-Con, Please check it out at, https://cowboy-con.com/index.php
For all info about the many different Western Fest coming up you can go to, http://www.silverscreencowboyz.com/wst-fst.html. Here you will find up to date info on all western festivals, conventions and events coming up through 2019.
I’ll also be getting together with Western Spirit, Scottsdale Museum of the West, next week to plan out my schedule of Western Film presentations for the upcoming season. This will be my fourth year of presenting special guests, power-point and song about all aspects of the Western film genre. We also have contests on the genre in which audience members can win prizes for participating and while we can’t give any cars away 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. Subscriptions are free. In July's edition I will be celebrating the career of The Quiet Cowboy Icon, Buck Taylor. The web site for subscriptions is, https://arizonarealcountry.com/. You’ll find many more articles of interest on all things western
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 done so, please give it a look and remember 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 we explore. You can sign-up free at, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL_BC_CdxsiQ3XJyDDPF6NA. Or if you have Amazon Prime you can also find it there as well.
If you are on Facebook, please join Friends of the Old Hollywood Trail for more news on the western genre as well as my blog, chock full of articles about western film at, http://www.silverscreencowboyz.com/ch-tj
Well, that is enough for news and shameless plugs. Until the next time we get together keep Riding the Hollywood Trail. Your Pard, Charlie
Charlie LeSueur is AZ's Official Western Film Historian, Encore Fellow @ Spirit of the West; Scottsdale's Museum of the West.