Monday, September 30, 2013


Tommy Cook, Joely Fisher, Connie Stevens,
Jon Voight and Andrew Prine

On Friday night, September 27th, I had the pleasure of covering the 16th Annual Silver Spur Awards at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.   The Awards is the big annual celebration of The Reel Cowboys, an event that started when Pat Buttram passed away, and the Golden Boot Awards ceased. 

The event is always run to benefit a deserving charity, and for the second year in a row, that charity was the MVAT, the Military and Veterans Appreciation Trust (learn more at

I arrived shortly after the doors opened at six, but a large throng of elegantly western-dressed folks packed the place.  Once inside, I checked out the silent auction.  Spread around the tables were many DVDs of the excellent HEATHENS AND THIEVES (see my review HERE ) . And in addition to the event program, with a cover designed by Spencer Tracy’s artist grandson, at every seat of the twenty-five banquet tables was a T-shirt from the exciting HOT BATH AND A STIFF DRINK (read my story about their rough-cut screening HERE ).

Louis Gossett Jr.

I quickly spotted one of the evening’s honorees, Louis Gossett Jr.  I asked him if he was excited.  I am very excited.  It’s an honor to get this blessing from cowboys.”  I asked him what his favorite western was.  “My favorite western is LONESOME DOVE.  My favorite western that’s not with me is RED RIVER.”

Just then, Hugh O’Brian entered, dressed in some of his elegant Wyatt Earp finery.  With so many actors portraying that lawman in recent years, I acknowledged him as the best, but asked who the second  beat Earp was.  “The second best?  I guess it was me.  The best was Wyatt himself.  He was a helluvah man.  He died here, by the way, in 1929, on 19th Street.  He lived here in Los Angeles the last three or four years of his life.  He made money doing appearances and stuff.  The people just west of Newhall, that huge area between there and Las Vegas, like 150 miles by 200, they put up one notice at the upper entrance.  It said ‘This Property Is Guarded by Wyatt Earp.’  Nobody ever came on it again,” he told with a chuckle.

Robert Wagner and Hugh O'Brian

I told him that the day before I’d spoken to Morgan Woodward, who played Shotgun Gibbs on 81 episodes of THE ADVENTURES OF WYATT EARP.  Morgan just turned 88 last week, and Hugh was disappointed that Morgan wasn’t at the Spurs this time, unlike last year.  “The success of the WYATT EARP SHOW gave me the opportunity to put on what is now the largest youth organization in the world.  98% of every public and private high school in the United States lets their 10th graders know about the program, and each high school selects one or two students to go to the HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth) program on the local level.  We get over 200 10th graders together at a time.  In California, for instance, we have six locations.  We focus on 10th graders because when I was in 10th grade, that’s when I had to decide to fish or cut bait.  To go to college or whatever.  It’s a very, very formative year.  You really have to make decisions.  But you also need to know what the opportunities are.:  You can learn more about HOBY by going HERE 

Just a few steps away from Hugh O’Brian I saw Robert ‘R.J.’ Wagner, who was to be one of the evening’s honorees.  I told him I’d just spoken to Hugh O’Brian.  The two, along with Earl Holliman and the late Richard Widmark, played the four sons of Spencer Tracy in the excellent western BROKEN LANCE (1954).  I asked if BROKEN LANCE was his favorite among his westerns.  “Yes, undoubtedly.  I think it’s one of Hugh’s, too.”

Tommy Cook,  Little Beaver from both the original ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER Republic serial with Don ‘Red’ Barry, and on the radio with Reed Hadley, was the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.  He took the stage, and began by thanking the band.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Reel Cowboys have an outstanding show for you tonight, paying tribute to world famous stars of film and television who embrace the western traditions.” Then he introduced some guests in the audience, including LAND OF THE GIANTS star Deanna Lund, MAGNUM P.I. regular Larry Manetti, and Silver Spur winner, Republic Western star Donna Martell.  Rhonda Fleming, who could not attend, provided a table for Mvat service members. 

Donna Martell

90 year-old cartoon voice artist Jimmy Weldon led the pledge of allegiance, and actress  Elaine DuPont, widow of Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan, sang the Star Spangled Banner. 
Elaine DuPont

Tommy Cook made an introduction.  “When I played Little Beaver on the Red Ryder Radio Show, she played Little White Cloud.  We were about twelve years old.  She’s one of our former honorees.  Miss Terry Moore.”  The Oscar nominee for COMEBACK LITTLE SHEBA took the mic and said, “Nobody’s done a better job at this than Tommy.  He’s worked so hard; all he talks about are The Silver Spurs.  It means everything to him.” And she added with a grin, “And now it’s time for him to get an award, and he doesn’t know it – it’s a surprise for him.  I’m sorry Dick Van Patten couldn’t be here, because Tommy and Dick and I all grew up together.  We love each other.  Tommy, this is for you, The Jack Iverson Founders 

Terry Moore

Tommy Cook, Terry Moore, Reel Cowboys Pres. Robert Lanthier

The next honoree was one of the stars of THE MIRACLE WORKER, Andrew Prine.  In addition to starring in several feature westerns like CHISUM, TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER, GETTYSBURG and guesting in many western series, he starred in two of his own, THE WIDE COUNTRY, with Earl Holliman, and THE ROAD WEST, with Barry Sullivan.  His award was presented by his lovely wife of 27 years, actress and producer  Heather Lowe.  After a series of film clips, Andrew Prine took the stage, commenting, “I die good, don’t I?  I died in all those pictures.  Were they trying to tell me something?  This is a great honor.  All I ever did was have a good time as an actor.  I’ve had the most wonderful time of my life doing cowboy work, pretending to be a real cowboy.  Also I married a pretty good-looking woman, so I’m just gonna see what she’s up to later tonight.  Thank you very much.” 

Andrew Prine

Andrew Prine and Heather Lowe

The next presenter was movie and TV villain, and professional drummer for Trini Lopez and Johnny Rivers, Mickey Jones.  He discussed the life and career of stuntman Chuck Hicks, from the Merchant Marines through amateur and then professional athletics, from extra to stunt man to actor.  Chuck was cast as one of THE UNTOUCHABLES, but series star Robert Stack thought he was too good-looking, and had him cut.  He was Clint Walker’s double on CHEYENNE.  He went on to work in nearly all of Clint Eastwood’s films, BONANZA and GUNSMOKE.  They rolled the clips, and in addition to an exhausting-just-to-watch brawl with Hoss Cartwright that TV Guide described as the best fight of the year, there was a scene from BREAKING BAD, demonstrating that he’s still in the game.   Hicks spoke with modesty and humor, acknowledging actors who were athletes, like Michael Landon and Mike Connors, who could have done their own stuntwork if they wanted to, and derided the 400 pound actors who claim straight-faced that they do their own stunts.  This became the running gag of the evening, and almost every actor who later took the stage apologized for taking credit for stunts they didn’t really do. 
Mickey Jones, Chuck Hicks, Nikki Pelley

Next was the musical comedy act of Evans and Rogers, followed by the next presenter, actress Joely Fisher, who introduced her mother, the vivacious Connie Stevens.  Connie, who will always be Cricket from HAWAIIAN EYE to those of us who grew up on it, also acted in one MAVERICK, one CHEYENNE, two SUGARFOOTS (Sugarfeet?) and a TEMPLE HOUSTON, and has directed her first movie, SAVING GRACE B. JONES.  Set in small-town Missouri in the 1950s, it stars Michael Biehn, Tatum O’Neal and Penelope Ann Miller.  She’s next set to direct PRAIRIE BONES, a story about a young couple who must survive an unthinkable tragedy in a hostile wilderness.  The rumor is that it will star Franco Nero.
Connie Stevens, Joely Fisher

Joely recalled travelling with her mother on USO tours, and described her mother as a story-teller.   When Connie came out on stage, the first thing she asked was, “Is Robert Fuller here?”  We wish he was.  “Me, too.    We dated when I was 18 years old.  That film clip (from MAVERICK) was the first thing I did at Warner Brothers when I was 17 years old.  I was doing HAWAIIAN EYE, but they could never find me, because I was always hiding out with the cowboys.  As a crazy kid I went down to some country bar with some stuntmen, and we slit our wrists and mixed our blood, so we would really be related forever.  I think I really am.”  Turning to Joely she added, “There’s a lot you don’t know about me, hon.  I’m really happy to be here.  There’s a lot of testosterone in this room.  It’s hard to come by these days, in the movies.  In Hollywood.  But I’m very happy to be here, with some of my favorite people – Jon Voight, Lou Gossett – holy cow, do I love these guys.  I always wanted to do westerns, so the closest I got was I moved to Wyoming.  We still have a few cowboys there.  I hope to see you again.  I thank you very much for this award.” 
Lucky Ewing

Next to be honored was familiar western henchman Ewing ‘Lucky’ Brown, who now runs a production facility in the San Fernando Valley.  Among his more notable roles were one of the Ryker men in SHANE, and in PONY EXPRESS with Charlton Heston.  “I tried to get into westerns right after World War II.  Monogram, P.R.C., Argosy.  I got to be very good friends with a director who worked all the time.  It was like a stock company.  He was Oliver Drake.  One day I said to Ollie, ‘These western pictures we’re making.  What do they cost?’  He said, ‘Forty-five thousand dollars.’  That included the writer, the director, the horses, and the star!  I thought, wow!  In those days, if you did a fight, that was part of your job – that was not considered a stunt.  That was not until I was on SHANE, and George Stevens asked me if I could fight.  By the way, I was originally hired on SHANE as the gunfighter.  They wanted Jack Palance originally, but Palance was doing a film at 20th Century Fox. So they screen-tested a bunch of people, and I happened to be picked.  Then this agent calls and says, ‘Jack Palance has just finished his picture.  He’s available, if you still want him.’  Well, I get this arm around the shoulder by the assistant director.  He says, ‘You know, we’ve got a better part for you.  You’ll be one of the brothers.’  I got the same money, because of the contract, as Jack Palance did.  But I can’t see anyone but Jack Palance in that role.  And we became good friends, and I told him so.  But anyway, it’s been one helluvah ride, and it ain’t over yet.  Bless you and thank you.” 

The next presenter, Bob Minor, was stunt coordinator on MAGNUM P.I., and the film GLORY.  He was presenting to Louis Gossett Jr., whom he’d worked with going back to the ‘70s, on films like TO KILL A COP, J.D.’S REVENGE, and THE CHOIRBOYS, into the 1990s and IRON EAGLE III.  Mr. Gossett acknowledged the applause as he took the stage.  “Thank you very much.  Westerns have always been my favorites, even though I come from Brooklyn.  I came to California to film a series called THE YOUNG REBELS.  I was playing a horse expert.  They brought me to a ranch, taught me how to ride horses, how to take care of them, to curry them, to saddle them.  It’s a pleasure to be here with Bobby, who made me look good, who’s been my stuntman.  And it’s really a pleasure to be in the presence of some of the greats at this table. This is my 60th professional year.  I’m very fortunate.  And I’m very deeply grateful to be here.”  With a grin, he added, “I’m deeply grateful to be anywhere.”           

Mike Connors and R.J. Wagner

Next up was Mike Connors, TV’s MANNIX, to talk about R.J. Wagner, back when they first started in the industry.  “Back then you had to sing, and dance, and fence.  You had to ride horses; ride camels.  R.J. pretty much rode just about everything in Hollywood.”  And when that brought smirking chuckles, he added, “Wait a minute.  And at that time R.J. learned to really ride.  And I remember the stunt men and cowboys saying, ‘That R.J. sits that horse very well.  He sits that saddle.’  And he’s had horses all his life.  When he lived in the Pacific Palisades he had horses and stables on the property.  When he had a ranch out in the Valley he had stables and horses.  And at one time he owned about 184 acres in Simi Valley with some friends, that they bought from Bing Crosby, out northwest of Simi.  In fact the horse Seabiscuit is buried on that property.  He’s one of the few actors that have bridged that gap from old Hollywood to Hollywood today.  He worked with people like Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Jimmy Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck.  (Note: if you read R.J.’s autobiography, you’ll know why Mike Connors is having fun dwelling on Barbara Stanwyck.)  And today he’s working with the young stars of Hollywood; he’s bridged that gap, and still doing great work.”

R.J. said, “I’m very honored to be an honoree with all these other people.  It is indeed a very big privilege to me.  When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a cowboy.  And tonight you made that possible.  And now I am a real cowboy.  I’m going to give this wonderful honor to my grandson.  And when he sees it, I can tell him that I am a real cowboy.  Thank you so much.”
Jon Voight

Tommy Cook introduced Jon Voight, noting that he had starred in MIDNIGHT COWBOY, DELIVERANCE, won his Oscar for COMING HOME, and can currently be seen on Showtime in RAY DONOVAN.  Voight recalled, “I started out in Yonkers, New York.  Grew up with two brothers, and we were always a very rambunctious threesome.  And I remember playing in this park across the street from the house.  We would play cowboys.  And I would always imagine I’m on a white horse.  I had a hat and gun.  I got to play a good guy all the time.  And then the team in my neighborhood said, ‘Jon, you’re always playing the good guy.  You’ve got to play the bad guy.’  I said, ‘Good.  I’ve got a black horse.’  I mean, this all came from movies.  And you know, it’s a wonderful thing, cowboy movies.  We used to go to a place called Bronxville, which was up the road from Yonkers, and we used to see all the trailers, and it was Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers.  And then we would come back in the afternoon, and play cowboys all day.  And then as I grew up, I found myself in the film business.  And my beginnings were as a cowboy.  And I always knew, when I was playing these roles, when I was doing these movies, that there was something about them, a morality in all these pieces.  There was a good guy, and we all knew who the good guy was.  And we knew what the good guy did.  And we knew what the bad guys did.  And there was a rule.  You knew if there was a bully, and he pushed people around, somebody had to stand up to him.  We learned a lot from cowboy movies.  And now I have to say, as I look around today, what we need is good cowboy movies.  And when we face the world situation – not to get political – we want to know who the good guys and bad guys are.  We need to go back and watch SHANE or watch HIGH NOON.  And we’ll figure out what we have to do, because you don’t let the bullies get away with it.  Anyway, I’ve had a wonderful run.  And I’ve done several movies where I’ve played older parts in cowboy films.  I did RETURN TO LONESOME DOVE, worked with Lou Gossett.  I played a sheriff in a movie called JASPER, TEXAS, with Lou Gossett.  And it seems, being here with Connie and Lou, I see them all the time, supporting the troops, as this group does.  And there’s something right about that.  It’s appropriate.  Without this military, these great people, these heroes, we wouldn’t be the country that we are.  We wouldn’t have the peace and freedom that we do.  I feel very honored to have a little piece of it.  And Chuck, I used to say I did a lot of my own stunts; I’ll never say that again.  Anyway, I’m very honored to be among you, in this wonderful group.  And I’ll be very proud to show this to my grandchildren.  And when they ask me what it is, I’ll say, ‘You see, I am a western hero.’”
Earl Holliman

It was a very enjoyable evening.  Coincidentally, on Saturday morning I was at the Actors & Others for Animals banquet, Best in Show, where I ran into Earl Holliman, Hugh O’Brian’s and Robert Wagner’s brother from BROKEN LANCE.  Small world, Hollywood!


We have an unusually busy month of live western and history-related events all over California.  I’m sure there are plenty in other parts of the country, and the planet, and if you’ll let me know, I’ll be very happy to share them. 


Plenty is happening at the ‘Home Of Ramona’, near Piru.  On Sunday, October 6th, it’s the California Mission Ride, as a 600 mile horseback journey through the past and to the future comes to the Rancho.  At 10:00 a.m. you can greet the horseback riders who are traveling from Mission to Mission “to discover life and land of current communities in their Mission era  context.”  Museum tours will also be available for the usual five bucks, free for kids.

And at 2 p.m., there’s a show featuring Hollywood stuntmen and Silver, from this summer’s LONE RANGER.  The stunt performers in the show are the very talented and experienced Jack and Clint Lilley, and Rod Rondeaux, who I interviewed for the Round-up HERE 

On Saturday, October 12th, NCIS fans, choked up at the loss of Zeva from the show (I know I’ll miss her), can tour the locations at the Rancho where the season’s premier episode, “Zeva’s Farewell,” were shot.  This is expected to sell out, so reservations are a good idea.

Finally, on October 19th, Trafalgar Day (so I am told), Camulos welcomes Napoleonic War re-enactors!  From noon ‘til 6pm you can admire period costumes and watch military battles!  To learn more about these events, and everything else happening at the Rancho, go HERE.

Now through May 31st, 2014, experience Journey of a People: A History of the Cahuilla and Chemehuevi Tribes in the Coachella Valley, Indio.  Displays of prehistoric Indian artifacts, historic photos and individual histories from the five local tribes.  To learn more, call the museum at 760-342-6651, or visit


There will be food, crafts, a parade, music and entertainment at the San Dimas Civic Center Park, and San Dimas Rodeo Grounds.  Learn more at 909-592-3818, or visit


The maze is 11 acres, plus hay rides, pony rides, rig races, pumpkin bowling and more.  It’s at Big Horse Feed and Mercantile.  Call 951-389-4621, or visit


A guided walking tour where historical ghosts tell stories of the Chumash, explorers, pioneers and others who once populated the Valley.  Friday and Saturday nights at Strathearn Historical Park.  805-526-6453


Celebration of American folk music as performed on fiddle and banjo.  Both competitions and showcase performances, tours of the historic Stow House, music workshops, kids activities, and eats.  805-450-2243


Demonstrations, pony rides, frontier games, pumpkin patch, petting zoo, food and raffles at the Walnut Grove Park.   760-744-9128


Enjoy hog calling, pig racing, arts & crafts, a chili cook-off, car show, live music  and more, at William Peak Park.


If you’ve been hankering for a return of the Great Depression, it’s your lucky day!  At Sunset School, at the intersection of Weedpatch Highway and Sunset Boulevard, enjoy musical entertainment, historical displays, square dancing, booths for kid and adults, fried bologna sandwiches and more, from 8 am to 3 pm.  If there’s a phone or website, I don’t have it.


Stunt ropers, bullwhippers, flea circus, roping range, and music abound at the Underwood Family Farms.  805-529-3690


Have a great week, pardners!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright September 2013 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

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