Sunday, October 23, 2011


On Friday, October 14th, the Reel Cowboys presented their 14th Annual Silver Spur Awards, in the Empire Ballroom of the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.  The successor to the Golden Boot Awards, Reel Cowboys President Robert Lanthier explains, “We are pretty much the Oscar awards for Westerns.” 

(Early arrivals check out the silent auction)

The Reel Cowboys is made up of people in and around the motion picture and television industry with a Western bias.  The Spur gala’s purpose is to recognize career excellence, and it is also a fund raiser for a different worthy cause each year.   This year’s recipient is the Autry Center’s ‘All Aboard!’ program.  Lanthier explains, “It provides free bus transportation to California children in Title 1 schools (to the Autry), so they can learn more about their history and discover the different influences that play a part in their lives today.  This program has brought over 17,000 kids to the museum.”  Additionally, those kids and their parents receive a years’ membership at the Autry.  Currently there are more than fifty classes on the waiting list, hoping to take part.

(Karin McKechnie and the pink corset
 she contributed to the silent auction)

The doors to this very elegant event opened at six, and early arrivers, dressed in stylish western-wear, began streaming in, many of them eager to check out the items at the silent auction.  These included art, posters and lobby cards, autographed DVD collections, costume items and other mementos. 

(Dick Jones, A.J. Fenady and their ladies) 

Music was provided by Cowbop, featuring lead singer Pinto Pammy.  Among the early arrivers were singer Johnny Western.  One of the most distinctive voices in Western music, long associated with Gene Autry and Johnny Cash, he’s best remembered as the writer and singer of the theme from HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, The Ballad of Palladin.  He also co-wrote songs for BONANZA and THE REBEL.  In addition to singing a medley of Western themes, Johnny Western would co-emcee the evening with Sam Neely, known as ‘The Cowboy Auctioneer.’

(Producer Rob Word beside a picture of himself as s child,
visiting John Wayne on the set of THE SEARCHERS)

Other early arrivals included past Silver Spur recipients, the beautiful Stella Stevens, television's WYATT EARP, Hugh O'Brien, and infamous Western villain (and WYATT EARP co-star) Morgan Woodward.  Near the silent auction I spotted one of the night’s recipients-to-be, Andrew J. Fenady, and I asked him about the importance of the occasion.  He grinned. “Well, I read the obituaries.  They’re pretty damned depressing.  But if I see my name’s not there – any day’s an important day.  But seriously, there’s a lot of old friends here who I haven’t seen in quite a few years,  people that I’ve worked together with during the things that we did: THE REBEL and BRANDED and HONDO, and unfortunately your paths don’t cross  as often as you would like them to.  So it’s a great opportunity to see some of us survivors.  It’s a happy occasion – it beats the Hell out of funerals.”

(Hugh O'Brien arrives)

A few minutes later I ran into producer Rob Word.  “I’m here to present to the great Andrew J. Fenady, the writer producer of THE REBEL and BRANDED and HONDO – he even named one of his sons Duke.  And he wrote and produced one of the last of the epic films that Wayne did, CHISUM.  And it’s an honor for me; Andy was the one who nominated me for a Golden Boot Award, so it’s nice for me to be able to present to him. “     

(Morgan Woodward lets me squeeze into a picture with him)

When everyone had found their seats, the program officially began with Presentation of Colors by the Merced County Sheriff Posse, the Pledge of Allegiance led by World War II veteran Ivan Creggar, the singing of God Bless America led by Erwin Jackson, and an invocation by former Wheel of Fortune hostess Dr. Susan Stafford. 

(Autry Curator Jeffrey Richardson and Mrs. Richardson)

While eating our steak and salmon we were serenaded with a Western medley by Lloyd Reading, whose voice is as full and melodic at 92 as it was when he was singing with the Rocky Mountain Cowboys in the 1940s.  Later, Johnny Western would delight us with a medley of his own and others’ Western TV themes.  We were welcomed by Reel Cowboys President Robert Lanthier, introduced to several 911 First Responders who were honored guests, and heard from event producer Cyndi Tracy, Autry National Center President Daniel M. Finley, and were treated to a brief auction by Sam Neely, who sold, among other items, a sailing trip on the late Spencer Tracy’s yacht!

(L.Q. Jones and his wife chat with Courtney Joyner and his finace, Mary)

After dinner, the first award was presented by 2003 Honoree Ann Rutherford to Fay McKenzie.  Fay started her screen career at ten weeks old, playing Gloria Swanson’s baby, and was a busy child actress on stage and screen,  Starting in 1934, at age 15, she played Western female leads opposite Wally Wales, Ken Maynard, Randolph Scott, and above all, Gene Autry, with whom she costarred five times.  Presenter Ann, equally remembered as Polly Benedict in the ANDY HARDY films, and as Scarlet O’Hara’s youngest sister in GONE WITH THE WIND, revealed that she has the distinction of being both the first and last girl to get a big-screen kiss from Gene Autry.   The reaction of the largely boy audience was so negative that Gene went back to kissing Champion.

(l to r front row -- Johnny Western, Andre Veluzat, A.C. Lyles, John Moio, Ann Rutherford, Fay McKenzie, Dick Jones, Rob Word, Renaud Veluzat.  Back row, Sam Neely, Ted White, L.Q. Jones.  Far right, applauding, Cyndi Tracy)

Next up, Rob Word presented The Silver Spur to A. J. Fenady.  Fenady, looking back on his career, talked about the luck of timing, that he arrived when television was so new that anyone who had an idea had a good idea.  “There’s an old saying that you can tell a lot about somebody by the company he or she keeps.”  He paid tribute to an amazing string of actors he’d worked with over the years, starting with, “Nick Adams, Jim Drury, Stu Whitman, Steve Forrest, Peter Graves, Jamie Farr… and that giant of all giants, John Wayne.”  It was an impressive list even before he got to the Oscar winners.  Gloria Grahame, Ben Johnson, Ray Milland, Don Ameche, Arthur O’Connel, Dean Jagger, Broderick Crawford, and that beloved Ernie Borgnine.  And someone who should have won at least one or two of those, for CAPE FEAR, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, HEAVEN KNOWS MR. ALLISON, Robert Mitchum.  I hope that maybe a little of their talent, and accomplishments, rubbed off on me.  A long time ago I wrote a line for Dick Powell:  ‘When you get old, you start tripping over your memories.’  But some memories are worth tripping over.  This is one of them.”

(Erwin Jackson, Cyndi Tracy, Johnny Western, Robert Lanthier)

Then treasured character actor and all-around wild-man L.Q. Jones took to the stage to honor James Drury, and actor who will always be recalled as the unnamed character The Virginian, whom he portrayed in 249 episodes.  Speaking about the grueling pace of production, Jones pointed out that each VIRGINIAN was 90 a minute TV-movie, and they started a new one every eight days!  Drury recalled, "I was in Fredericksburg, Texas recently, making a personal appearance.  And this man came up to me and said, 'It must be wonderful to be Jamie Drury, The Virginian.  Because everywhere you go, people are happy to see you.'  Well, I hadn't really thought of it that way.  But it's true.  THE VIRGINIAN moved so many people, on so many levels.  And now that it's back on Encore, I have grandfathers calling me -- and I'm a grandfather -- and saying, 'Jim, my kids are watching your show without being asked, and without being told.'  And that's the most gratifying thing that I could possibly hear." 

In one of the more sentimental moments in an already very sentimental evening, Johnny Western and Dick Jones stepped to the podium to honor the late, great Gene Autry.  Dick Jones, a child actor of the 1930s and 1940s, remembered by many as the voice of the little wooden boy in Disney’s PINNOCHIO, had an even busier career in Westerns due to his skill as a horseman.  Known as The World’s Youngest Trick-Rider and Trick-Roper at age four, by six he was performing in Hoot Gibson’s rodeo.  His horsemanship was shown off to great effect in dozens of movies, ROCKY MOUNTAIN (1950) with Errol Flynn being one of the best.  But his connection with Autry was legendary, starring in five features with Gene, with appearances in Gene’s own series and ANNIE OAKLEY, and two starring Flying A series of his own: THE RANGE RIDER, with Jock Mahoney, and BUFFALO BILL JR.  Both Jones and Johnny Western, the self-described “Last man standing in the Gene Autry Music Organization,” said they felt like Gene was a father to them.  So how perfect that his widow, Jackie Autry, is a recorded appearance, said that Gene, who never had children, thought of Johnny and Dick as his sons. 

A well-deserved, yet highly unusual, award went to Andre and Renaud Veluzat.  These brothers bought Melody Ranch from Gene Autry in the 1990s, after it had been largely destroyed by fire, and painstakingly rebuilt it to its former design and former glory.  It’s now one of the busiest and finest of movie ranches, and soon to be the home Quentin Tarantino’s new Western, DJANGO UNCHAINED.  The award was presented by the Ambassador and Elder Statesman of Paramount Studios, and unquestionably the most dapper man in Hollywood, A.C. Lyles.   Lyles, who started his career at Paramount in 1928, and is still there today, began producing with RAWHIDE, was consulting producer for DEADWOOD, and in the interim produced more than a dozen Western features. 

(Cake in the shape of a boot with a Silver Spur)

The final honoree of the night was stuntman Ted White, whose presenter was John Moio, a fellow stuntman whose career goes back to THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL and THE CINCINNATI KID.  A Marine wounded during World War II, White used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Oklahoma, where he excelled in football and boxing.  When he came to L.A., he met legendary stuntman Roydon Clark, who encouraged Ted to get into the business.  Ted not only took the advice, in 1961 he and eleven other stuntmen formed the Stuntmen’s Association.  Ted has doubled Clark Gable, Rock Hudson, Fess Parker, John Wayne, and many others. 

All too soon the evening was over, and folks started making their way home.  But the good news is that, while The Silver Spurs are given out only once a year, the Reel Cowboys are accessible all year round.  Robert Lanthier explained, “Saturday mornings we meet at Big Jim’s Restaurant in Sunland – at the corner of Lauren Canyon and Sheldon.  The public is welcome.  And we discuss upcoming events, what’s going on in our organization, and then we have about a half hour of fine country music.  And we’ll be doing that again tomorrow.  Hopefully Johnny Western will be able to come there and sing with us.”  I understand Johnny Western sang for 45 minutes on Saturday.


Probably the first case of animal sacrifice that I heartily approve of! In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, producer Bruckheimer, explaining how they cut the budget from $250 million to $215 million said, “We cut a sequence involving a coyote attack—supernatural coyotes—and a small animated segment.” 


Although no deal-memo is signed yet, reportedly Quentin Tarantino is hoping to add Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of INCEPTION and 500 DAYS OF SUMMER,  to his cast.  No details yet on who he’d play. 


And speaking of TCM (okay, nobody was), have I mentioned that the segment I was interviewed for is now viewable here?


Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.


A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.

The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.


Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.  INSP is showing THE BIG VALLEY every weekday at noon, one p.m. and nine p.m., and Saturdays at 6 p.m..  They'll soon be adding DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN to the mix.


Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run DANIEL BOONE at 1:00 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic. 

AMC has been airing a block of THE RIFLEMAN episodes early Saturday mornings, usually followed by Western features.

And RFD-TV is currently showing THE ROY ROGERS SHOW at 9:30 Sunday morning, repeated several times a week, and a Roy feature as well -- check your local listings.

That’s all for now! 

Happy Trails,


All original content copyright October 2011 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


  1. Thanks for the great update on The Silver Spurs! Sounds like a very fun nite!

  2. From Ann Rutherford to L.Q. Jones, holy cow... Just terrific.