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JUNE 2020

Will Hutchins in phone booth holds phone out to horse Penny.Remember “F-Troop”? I remember the first time we saw Melody Patterson. I remember the last time we saw Melody Patterson. Same time. At a Fest o’ the West in Knoxville. Whatta sweet patootie. What fun being there with her. Melody has passed on thru, but she lingers in our hearts and in “F Troop” re-runs. How thrilling to see her astraddle Penny in the saddle, galloping majestically into town. I rode Penny on “Sugarfoot”. When we trotted into town, you gotta glimpse of the wide open spaces. I mailed Melody a signed 8x10 glossy of Penny and me. It came back—wrong address. Later, I sent the photo to Boyd Magers. I know his address. He’ll print it. Maybe Patterson will take a gander at it up at Melody Ranch. Lookee there! Melody and Penny ridin’ down the canyon, headin’ yonder into an eternal sunset.

Many moons ago—meeting of the Masquers’ Club in Antonio Moreno’s ol’ digs, Virginia O’Brien was guest speaker. Look, Maw, she’s smiling. Ms. O’Brien informed us during her stint at MGM, Louis B. Mayer never (repeat: Never!) put a hit on her. Her dad was Chief of Police of Culver City.

Got a burr ‘neath my saddle on El Rancho Rankle. Been festerin’ for years. Back in the day, I was a member of the Grand Parade at the Sheriff’s Rodeo at L.A. Coliseum. Johnny Cash sang ‘n strummed. Barbara Stanwyck was Grand Marshal. Grand she was. She graciously walked over to the stands’ front row to say howdies to my bro, sis-in-law, and two nieces. Barbara (love that name) was famous for never failing to find her keylight on the set. No problema. Sun was out in all its glory. Too hot to wear my Buster Brown “Sugarfoot” jacket with corduroy trimmins. Wore my WB checkered shirt. Wore my usual kerchief, my regular boots and shotgun chaps I bought from Frank Kandelin, who made ‘em for me. When WB put me out to pasture, I forgot to retrieve ‘em. Wonder who’s wearin’ ‘em now. The Colt company gave me a gun. I toted it. Gotta admit, I bought a new hat for the occasion. My TV hat had suffered the whups and wallops of outrageous fortune. The band struck up a lively tune, the Big Parade began. My borrowed hoss and I got along, easy lopin’. I smiled and gave my permanent wave to all the folks. They smiled and waved back. All but one, my nemesis in a WB suit, Hugh Benson. He kept his hands on his popcorn and gave me a sneer, ‘neath his mustache. Come Monday, he sent me an inter-office memo. He was most displeased with my qitup. He wrote WB spent a lotta moola on publicizing my silhouette. If I continued re-designing my costume, WB would no longer send me out on P.A.’s. Shudder! He said I looked like Howdy Doody. The Monday La La Times and
Sheriff Bixcailuz, Barbara Stanwyck and Will Hutchins mounted for Sheriff's Rodeo Parade.throwaway featured a big photo on the front page of Sheriff Biscailuz and Stanwyck astride their mounts. Hey, I was in that picture, too! (left) The caption credited the Sheriff and Barbara. Fine and dandy. But it went on, something like, “What the hey was Will Hutchins doing there?” First time in history, a TV performer ever got a lousy review in a rodeo. Do you get a wee inklin’ that WB wielded a leetle influence, huh? Do bears hibernate in their caves? Boy, I’d say that critic was a regular Dr. Heckle and Mr. Snide.

Phone call for you, Hutch. Sweet Old Bob Colbert, by gum. One helluva dude. We chatted, reminiscin’ ‘bout our fondness for the ‘50s. We gotta boot outta recallin’ the famous WB writers’ strike. Did it deter Bill Orr’s TV department? Not on your tintype. Scripts from previously aired shows were assigned to other shows on the lot, tailored to fit, and re-made. One of my shows, “Hideout”, was shot again, this time in fur, ‘stead o’ denim, in the guise of an episode of “The Alaskans”. They wanted me to do a re-hash
of “The Roaring Twenties”, but I refused. No way could I sing and dance and re-create the aura of Dorothy Provine. Those doctored screenplays were credited to the mysterioso W. Hermanos (Warner Bros. en Espanol). Bob Colbert (right) considered changing his name to W. Hermanos. “Think of all those residuals!” He emailed us a poem he’d written back when his long show biz journey was beginning. Titled “Endeavor”, it reminds me a tad of Kipling’s memorable “If”. He expresses his dreams and how he’d attain them: Straight and clean, no dirty tricks. Fair play and a helping hand along the way. His “Endeavor” has not been in vain. Congrats, Robert Colbert on nailin’ the good life!

But don’t get me wrong—I love Warner Bros. I saw a documentary on WB’s glorious history. Gulp! So much more has taken place after I left than before I got there. Time flies like the wind, and fruit flies like bananas. In one segment Efrem Zimbalist Jr. speaks fondly of Col. Jack L. Warner. Efrem was a frequent guest and tennis buddy at J. L.’s house. Hey, Ef, did you lob ‘em like Bobby Riggs or smash ‘em like Pancho Gonzalez? Efrem got to know the inner man, not the sometimes goofy public persona. Jack Warner wanted to be Jack Benny. Once, on stage one, a fancy shmancy luncheon was catered to plug a Warren Beatty flick that was screened prior to the muncheon. All the usual suspects were rounded up: Pat, Edward G., Annie Pie, Joan, McHugh, Jenkins, Virginia. Turned into a roast, and Col. Warner, good naturedly, was the roastee. Got pretty roughhouse. Then, Bette Davis walked to the dais, “Papa, you gave me my first chance in this business, and I’ve always loved you, and I always will. Thank you, and God bless you.”