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MAY 2019

Howdy! “Life is tough. It’s even tougher if you’re stupid!”—John Wayne. ^ ^ I know a guy. His name is Mel Neuhaus. He writes about TV. He shares his thoughts and feelings with folks who log onto <> Recently, Mel wrote about “Sugarfoot”’s first season. He called, asking me to go down happy trails of memories. Episode One, “Brannigan’s Boots”—O fabulous joy! Whatta show! Whatta cast! Merry Anders, Slim Pickens, Sheb Wooley, Louis Jean Heydt, Dennis Hopper, Arthur Hunnicutt! Next, “The Reluctant Hero”—Wonderful Will Wright played my boss as he did in two other TV shows. His face was as craggy as Mount Rushmore and just as honest. A pleasure and honor working with Steve Brodie, a consummate gent and actor. We had a smash-bang bunkhouse brawl. Steve punched me out pretty good. No stuntmen were harmed shooting the scene. After a few more shows, Clint Walker asked me, “Hutch, who’s your stuntman?” “Huh? I’m supposed to have a stuntman!?” “Well…Yeah.” “Hmmm” TaDa—jes’ like that (snap fingers), Roydon Clark and Acey Hudkins Jr. to the rescue. Suddenly, I was very brave. Then, “Strange Land” with Morris Ankrum. The great James Agee praised him mightily for his portrayal in “Tennessee Johnson”. “Watch Morris Ankrum as Jefferson Davis announcing the
Morris Ankrum. Secession of Mississippi. He works in a world apart from the rest of the company. He looks like a daguerreotype. He bears himself like a man of 1860, not like a studious actor in a costume picture. He talks like a half-crazy devil. He supplies the two primal requirements of the camera: living, visual, aural, psychological authenticity, and the paralyzing electric energy of the present tense, as against the rest of the show’s glossy, comfortably researched reenactment at 80 years removed.”

A week passed. RRRinggg—on the phone, Morris Ankrum’s son, David, thanking me for relaying Mr Agee’s and my deep appreciation of his dad’s talent. David and I are ol’ warhosses from the ‘70s when we appeared in live shows for children of all ages in the Theatre Arts Program of L.A. (TAPLA). Our audiences ranged from pre-schoolers to senior citizens. Tiny tots got our ‘klowns!’ show. Folks residing in convalescent homes got our musical revue, “Ridin’ High”. The star of that puppy was Jean Plummer and his piano rendition of “As Time Goes By”. The ladies out front swooned, and some crooned along, “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.” A little old lady, all dressed in lavender, demurely approached Jean Plummer at tea break. “Oh, Mr. Plummer, you play it just like Sam! How the Hell do you do it?” “Well, Ma’am, I do play it just like Sam. I worked as a musician at Warner Bros. during “Casablanca”’s filming. Dooley Wilson, Sam, did his own singing. He couldn’t play the piano. I dubbed it for him.”

David told me how much fun he had clowning around with us. I reminded him of the time he conked me on top of my opera hat. Smooshed it, he did. Kids used to laff when I popped it out. Now, it sagged, all atilt, caved-in like Ted Lewis’ old topper; springs dangling. Voila! At last, my costume was perfect! Thank you, David. Still wear my bashed beauty at bashes, Halloween parties and the like. Mostly, it lies quietly in an ancient, carved chest my dad brought back from China in the ‘30s.

David remembers another extravaganza we put on for elhi’s. In it I recited Robert W. Service’s “Shooting of Dan McGrew,” and David, bless him, mimed to it. Whatta caution, he never did it the same way twice. Well, David’s married now, lives in the San Fernando Valley, runs his own theatrical talent agency. Cheers, David Ankrum. Thank you for calling and rekindling our palship.

In your honor, I now give you my salute to Dan McGrew. In so doing, I ‘borrow’ my idea from some lyrics in “One For My Baby”. You remember—Fred Astaire sings it to a bartender in “The Sky’s the Limit”. “It’s quarter to three. There’s nobody here except you and me. So set ‘em up, Joe. I gotta little story I want you to know.” Here’s my version—I call it “The Mute Moose Saloon”. It goes something like this. Heck, it goes exactly like this: “It’s quarter to one. Ain’t nobody here ‘cept you, me, and this here gun. It’s quarter to two. I’m a’lookin’ for the lady that’s known as Lou. It’s quarter to three. Say, who’s that swingin’ from yonder hangin’ tree? It’s quarter to four. Who’s that face on the barroom floor? Oh, hi, Mom. It’s quarter to five. Dogies, Joe, we seem to be the only ones here still alive. It’s quarter to six. Hey, cute little gal, ever hear of Tom Mix? It’s quarter to seven. Buddy, you look jes’ like David Niven. Ooops! Sorry, Ma’am. It’s quarter to eight. Ok, Mr. Cock-a-roach, prepare to meet your fate. It’s quarter to nine. Consarn, if this here rotgut don’t suit me jes’ fine. It’s quarter to ten. Heh Heh, reckon this gun is mightier than your pen. It’s quarter to eleven. Doc, if that’s an ace up your sleeve, next stop, Heaven. It’s quarter to twelve. Lookee, a map of the Lost Dutchman. Let’s delve.” Hi Ho! And so it goes, on and on, reminicsin’ about 20 Sugarfeet, all now on DVD.

Yeee Hawww! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horses Silver, Scout, Topper, Tony, Trigger, Champion, Buttermilk, and…aw, I can’t see, they kick up too much dust. Return with us now to those glorious days of yesteryear. Mount up, kemosabes. Let’s ride with the Lone Ranger, Tonto, Tom Mix, Hoppy, Gene, Roy, Dale. I’m not talkin’ movies, TV, comic books. I’m talkin’ Radio! Go tell your Mom, take a tip from Tom (Brewster, that is), RADIO RIDES THE RANGE can’t be beat. My pards from yearly Friends of Old-Time Radio conventions in Newark, NJ, Jack French and David S. Siegel, put together a ripsnorter of a reference guide. They take us back to every dang blasted Western radio show there was from ‘29 to ‘67, be it network, syndicated, or local. Yes folks, Radio Rides the Airwaves all the way to your homes and into the theatres of your minds. McFarland and Co. made French and Siegel’s dream come true. What’s that, Babs? Oh, yeah, I’m proud to be part of this grand enterprise. Jack and David asked me to write the foreword. Sure as shootin’, I wrote it—Mr. Dillon, Miss Kitty, Cisco and Pancho, Paladin, Red Ryder, Little Beaver, Wild Bill Hickok, Sky King, Rin Tin Tin, a cast of thousands! They’re waiting for you. Why don’t you treat yourself to a copy?