June 13th, 2014
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June 13th, 2014
What happens at The High Chaparral Reunion? How do you get there, what do you wear, how to do you talk to the stars?
You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers in the FREE eBook you can download now at ‘How To Attend The High Chaparral Reunion!’
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June 13th, 2014
Why We Still Love The High Chaparral
by Jane Rodgers
Nineteen sixty-seven in the United States saw the country increasingly divided over Civil Rights and the Vietnam conflict. The following year, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would be murdered in Memphis. The Viet Cong would launch the Tet Offensive, shocking both the Joint Chiefs and Lyndon B. Johnson, the Commander in Chief, with the truth of the enemy’s determination and resilience. Shortly thereafter, LBJ would announce his decision not to run again for the presidency. That summer, Democratic front runner Robert F. Kennedy would be tragically gunned down in Los Angeles.
Scenes of violence stayed commonplace on the nightly news: student demonstrations, race riots, war footage. Each evening’s news ended with tallies of the daily body counts from Vietnam.
We looked to television to escape. The Lucy Show was in its final season. Gilligan’s Island was nearing the end of its “three hour tour.” The starship Enterprise, in the midst of the three year run of the original Star Trek, ventured boldly where no man had gone before. Gunsmoke was a weekly staple as it had been since 1955; the Cartwrights of Bonanza continued that show’s run begun in 1959. And in 1967, The High Chaparral debuted, the long awaited second series from Bonanza creator and producer David Dortort.
With the INSP cable network currently exploring the feasibility of adding more original programming to the channel’s staple of classic TV reruns and family friendly fare, it is welcome news to High Chaparral fans that the network is considering producing a sequel to the series. The proposed show will be a “about the children and grandchildren of the original characters, and would include as many original cast as can participate,” according to Penny McQueen, who administers the High Chaparral Reunion web page and is the force behind the High Chaparral Reunions of devoted fans and remaining cast and crew, held annually at Old Tucson, Arizona.
Ginny Shook, co-administrator of the 2,000+ member High Chaparral Facebook page, recently posted the following news about Next Generation: “Guess who had a meeting to take a giant step forward into turning this dream to a reality? That would be Don Collier, Linda Cristal, Henry Darrow, [INSP] producer Mark Headley and Penny McQueen. Our beloved cast members are very enthused about the project. Nothing has been signed yet, but their interest and support means that besides a Next Generation of Cannons, Montoyas, and Butlers, it looks like we’ll also be able to experience the original cast as well, hopefully on a weekly basis…on our favorite channel, INSP.”
Pending funding for a pilot and the acquisition of sponsors, The High Chaparral-The Next Generation could become a reality. Of the show, Headley promises in an INSP press release, “This will be a return to the values that shaped the American West and this entire nation. There was never a grander time in human history.”
The original High Chaparral was last broadcast in 1971. Until recently, with its coming to INSP, the show was relatively unavailable. DVD sets sold by the High Chaparral Reunion are produced in the Netherlands, with all four seasons only recently becoming available in the U.S. through the Reunion. Episodes are posted on YouTube by fans such as BigJohnCannon, whose screen name pays homage to the show.
Why, nearly 50 years later, has The High Chaparral retained its appeal? Why does its ever growing Facebook page attract thousands of folks and its annual reunions, hundreds? After all, most of the original fans of the show, like most of its stellar cast and crew, have passed on. Most HC Facebookers were kids or teens when the show first aired. Many were not even born. True, thanks to INSP’s exclusive airing of the show’s reruns since 2012, The High Chaparral is gaining a new generation of fans. But why?
Better to ask, why not?
The High Chaparral is more than good. It’s great. “Magnifico,” as Manolito Montoya, my favorite character from the show, would say.
The High Chaparral was a pioneering show featuring a blended family (the Cannons and Montoyas), ethnic diversity, and a realistic, gritty setting. Shot partly on location in the Arizona desert and Old Tucson, the show offered reality not possible from a Hollywood back lot or soundstage. Indians played Indians. Latinos played Latinos. There were, as Buck Cannon would put it in season two’s “The Deceivers,” “good A-pach and bad white.” Sometimes the whites were the bad guys; the native Americans, the people of principle and honor, if fierce and courageous foes. Apaches never lied, except one rather nasty fellow called Soldado who stretched the truth…showing a facility with verbal loopholes to rival that of any modern trial lawyer in the first season’s episode, “Survival.”
There were Mexican bandits like Anthony Caruso’s El Lobo and Latino crooks turned political opportunists like Fernando Lamas’s El Caudillo, but the Montoya family was cultured, educated, well mannered, and much less dusty than the Cannon crew. No wonder the show was popular among Hispanics, too long underrepresented in Hollywood.
The High Chaparral offered sensible examples of how to live in turbulent times. As protests against America’s involvement in Vietnam grew on the home front, High Chaparral presented the military as flawed but generally well-intended. “Blue bellies” may not always understand the Apache enemy, but they are willing to die bravely. Some officers are wise, others not so much…and they often pay with their lives or careers for their ignorance. Who can forget Colonel Biddle in “Ride the Savage Land,” who never makes it to his next post? While the buffalo soldiers in “Savage Land” meet a horrific fate, an award winning episode in the second season, “The Buffalo Soldiers” ends more happily, albeit no less heroically, showcasing dozens of talented young African American actors in the process. The High Chaparral featured more black characters as guest stars than any other TV western in my memory. Yes, there were black cowboys and even Indian cowboys in the “real” West, the latter group depicted in the first season’s episode, “Bad Day for a Thirst.”
The High Chaparral had international appeal. The five main cast members and the show won Bambis in 1970, the German equivalent of the Emmy. The appeal continues, if the numbers of international Facebookers in High Chaparral online groups are representative. Recently, reruns even returned to the UK.
The High Chaparral affirmed certainty and acknowledged absolutes in a time in which absolutes were questioned and uncertainty the norm. John Cannon maintains the rule of law is right, even when following the law involves considerable risk, as in “Mark of the Turtle.” Victoria is a woman of faith, praying to our Lady, attending mass, imploring God for guidance and wisdom. Mano, self-described as “religious in [his] own way,” asks his sister to “add” his “thanks” when John regains consciousness from a near fatal mishap in “Trail to Nevermore.” Buck Cannon realizes that Sister Ellie of the Salvation Army is offering something Mano and he truly need in “The Glory Soldiers,” and that hanging around with the likes of Father Sanchez in “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” and Padre Guillermo in “A Joyful Noise,” can only improve him.
The High Chaparral cowboys are gritty, dirty, flawed humans who womanize, drink too much, fight like heck, and are sexy as heck also.
All this brings me to why I love The High Chaparral. My reason is hardly profound. Henry Darrow was my first crush.
My friends fell for Mark Slade’s naïve and young Blue Cannon, and while I could certainly understand their affection for the blond heartthrob, bad boy Mano was my guy.
I was ten when the program premiered; we had recently moved to San Antonio, where the show, with its heavy cast of Latinos, was embraced by the city’s large Hispanic population. I had never seen a character like Manolito. Most Latinos in movies or television were bandidos, or worse, irrelevant or humorous sidekicks. Manolito was charming, rascally, brave when necessary yet ever ready to avoid a fight if possible. He loved his sister dearly yet filched her dresses and hats for his questionable girlfriends. He had great affection for the father whom he constantly disappointed, and whose overbearing demeanor must have made being the hijo of such a hacendado downright impossible. Mano was a thoroughly charming, complex character, the likes of which we have not seen since on the large or small screen, brought to life by the very talented Mr. Darrow. To a young girl, he was the embodiment of all that I would never want or dare to bring home to Mom and Dad but might dream about anyway. I even named a dog after him. Manolito and Victoria were our pet brother and sister pups: chihuahua mixes, naturally.
There was also Cameron Mitchell’s Uncle Buck. Who wouldn’t want an Uncle Buck in his corner? And Leif Erickson’s John Cannon…a man of character, integrity, confidence…stubborn enough to challenge the land, the Apache, and even a conniving father in law…and appealing enough to win the love of an aristocratic and drop dead gorgeous second wife. Speaking of Senora Cannon, who wouldn’t have adored Linda Cristal’s Victoria? Only a blockhead could resist. And Bob Hoy’s Joe and Don Collier’s Sam…the Butler brothers? Roberto Contreras’s humorous Pedro? The list goes on.
But for now, it’s seeking Henry Darrow that I intend to go. Jan Pippins, author with Darrow of the actor’s award winning autobiography, Lightning in the Bottle, says that Darrow, his wife Lauren Levian, and she will be at the Memphis Film Festival this June. We had already planned a trip to Atlanta. Tunica, Mississippi, the festival site 30 miles south of Memphis, will be a slight detour.
Well, okay, more than a slight detour…but why not? I have not yet been able to make it to the Mecca of High Chaparral fan events, the Reunion…so when else will I ever meet my first crush?
Who wouldn’t go out of her way to meet Manolito?
Thanks to INSP for resurrecting a remarkable show and introducing it to legions of new fans. Thanks to Penny McQueen and the Chaparral faithful, for whom the show never died.
Here’s to a New Generation!
Jane Rodgers is a freelance writer and editor from Rowlett, Texas.
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June 13th, 2014
An Interview with Penny McQueen
By WJ St.Germain
When Penny and I recently discussed what sort of article I might write for this issue, it occurred to me that readers might like to know Penny’s thoughts about the recent High Chaparral reunion. I would like to remind everyone that without our Penny, reunions would not be what they are – if they occurred at all.
Yes, I know she gets help and all credit to those who contribute their time and effort because they also play an important role. Certainly a huge thank you goes out to the cast and crew who are the key draws to these events. But it can’t be denied that Penny is the glue that gets all the pieces sorted and holds everything together. I think she deserves her moment in the limelight. So let’s hear what Penny’s thoughts are.
How did you become involved in organizing reunions?
The Reunions started over ten years ago when Bobby Hoy (Chaparral’s Joe Butler) helped a small group of fans and celebrities get together at Sportsmen’s Lodge in Los Angeles. I helped Denise, the lady who was heading them up, and when she decided to retire I thought it would be sad to let things die off. After moving the location from L.A. to Tucson and the growth of the Newsletter and our social media fan family the events have taken on a life of their own. From that beginning of 20 or so people we now have hundreds who attend from all over the world and tens of thousands who participate daily via social media. It’s been a stunning journey.
How many reunions have you organized and did you attend them all?
I’ve produced 4 Reunions in Tucson, and attended and helped for the 2007 40th anniversary Reunion.
What are some of the greatest challenges about organizing a reunion?
It’s an enormous job, one that’s evolved into year-round work, probably more than anyone – including me – realizes. I think that’s the biggest challenge, the sheer amount of work involved. I do some kind of High Chaparral work every day, many nights until midnight. Fortunately I’m blessed with many extraordinary, dedicated people who work alongside me.
What are some of the greatest pleasures when organizing a reunion?
The payoff for me – the thing that justifies the mountain of work – is the effect these events have on people. I have an endless list of stories fans tell me about how meaningful the Reunion is, how it fulfilled a lifelong dream, allowed them to recapture a piece of their youth.
We have a high percentage of folks who’ve experienced some kind of loss in life, and they tell me the Reunion is a springboard for their recovery. So I see the higher purpose of this project as a mission, an opportunity to minister to the cast, crew and fans in a meaningful way.
How many countries do you estimate have been represented at reunions?
We’ve had people attend from at least 12 countries – Guatemala, New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, Australia, Venezuela, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Canada and the United States. There may be others as we get many fans at Old Tucson who don’t go through our registration system since the event at the Cannon ranch house is open to the public.
The High Chaparral truly has an international family.
Do you have any special memories from previous reunions? (Biggest thrill, best moments)
In my role as Producer I love that moment when I first officially open the doors and welcome everyone. At the High Chaparral ranch house at Old Tucson I arrive early for setup. That means I get the privilege of standing on the porch and watching the fans arrive. Many times as fans walk up the slope to the house they have tears in their eyes or are running to get there. It’s a huge thrill to see people actually fulfilling a dream they’ve had for over 40 years.
Personally there are so many favorite memories, too many to list but here are a couple of favorites I can share.
I’ll always cherish Bobby Hoy introducing me to Henry Darrow at the 2007 Reunion. About 30 fans were in a meeting room listening to Kent McCray and Henry Darrow tell stories when the Butler Brothers – Don Collier and Bobby Hoy – came in unexpectedly and created total pandemonium. The room erupted like rock stars had hit town. When I asked Bobby to introduce me to Henry he took my hand, waded through the fans like Moses parting the waters then marched me through the ring surrounding Henry saying, “Hank, I want you to meet Penny, she’s one of our special fans.” What I didn’t realize was that I was standing in front of a room full of people with two actors who were enjoying the attention and my obvious inability to react like a normal human at the moment. Henry theatrically took my hand, kissed it, looked deep into my eyes, called me something Manolito-ish and kissed my cheek, while Bobby played right along with the show.
It was marvelous and magical.
A second cherished time was being invited to Kent and Susan McCrays house along with Henry Darrow, Don Collier, Bob Hoy and his beautiful Kiva and Bob Shelton. It was pure fantasy to have a drink with that bunch, listen to their stories and see their competing Cameron Mitchell impersonations.
Of course meeting each of the stars for the first time is something you never forget, and I’m so blessed that each time I see any of them I feel the same because they’re all such dear, special people.
What keeps bringing you back to reunions?
Each year I say ‘never again’, and each year I say ‘how can I say no?’ It’s the people – cast, crew and fans. How often do we get the chance to create such pure joy for so many people at one time?
Any regrets? If you had to do things again, would you have changed anything for a given reunion?
The *real* problems stay backstage where they belong so no one knows about those! Seriously, no major ones, and that’s because I’ve had excellent advice and help from the best mentors you could ask for – Kent and Susan McCray. When Big Daddy Kent McCray has a strong suggestion about how to produce something, I listen!
I’ve had key help from Ginny Shook, Ron and Crystal Hudson and other dedicated, hard working team players who selflessly work whenever I ask. I’ve had tremendous support from Bobby Hoy, Don Collier, Rudy Ramos, Henry Darrow, and everyone else in the High Chaparral family. With that kind of support it’s easy to look good! .
Has any of what you’ve done regarding your work with reunions influenced your daily life?
Tremendously and probably in ways I don’t actually think about. It’s amazing to me that the celebrities who created HC are friends. I still, after all this time can’t quite grasp that, because at heart I’m still a fan who watched them all on TV and dreamed of going to the High Chaparral and meeting all of them. This year I have my own production company, A Penny For Your Thoughts Productions. That was born directly from the work involved in producing The High Chaparral Reunion, which led to other projects.
How would you like to be remembered when people discuss their reunion memories in the future?
I hope the experience helps people grow in some positive way mentally, emotionally and spiritually. That’s a fundamental part of the mission statement. As for me, hopefully I’m a part of making that happen, but the Reunion is about the cast, crew and fans, not me. A boat needs a lot of people rowing to make progress and someone has to be in the front of the boat to keep everyone organized and rowing together. That someone happens to be me for The High Chaparral Reunion.
The following questions relate to the recent 2014 reunion:
For those who weren’t able to attend the reunion, who of the surviving cast and crew were present?
Henry Darrow (Manolito Montoya), Don Collier (Sam Butler), Rudy Ramos (Wind), Kent McCray (Producer/Production Manager), Susan McCray (casting), Neil Summers (stunts/acting), Steve DeFrance (stunts/acting).
Also on hand were Jackie Hummer Fuller and Marcus Mitzel, Cameron Mitchell’s nephew.
What were the major topics of discussion?
The High Chaparral! Fans always love the Question and Answer panels because they get to hear directly from the celebrities. 2014 was extraordinary because we had special performances by Don Collier (Confessions of an Acting Cowboy), Rudy Ramos (Geronimo, Life on the Reservation) and Vinnie Falcone (Warm Heart, Cool Hands, an evening with Harry Sukman). Kent and Susan McCray developed special surprises for the fans too. Additions like these really put the event on a whole new level.
And finally, we’d love you to share some of your best memories from the 2014 reunion.
There was a technical problem with the video overhead before Don’s Confessions of an Acting Cowboy, so 15 minutes before the show I needed to get ALL the chairs moved to one side of the theater room. Watching the resort staff, my volunteers, and Don’s family all pitch in to drag 240 chairs into a new configuration was (hopefully) a once in a lifetime experience of amazing teamwork.
After Cowboy Church on Sunday morning, Neil Summers remarking, “I’ve never experienced anything like the peace that comes from this group of people.”
Hearing Rudy Ramos greet Don Collier with a hug and, “My brother! I love you!” on his arrival. Then getting to premier Rudy’s Geronimo (and do it *right* for our beloved Wind) was such a privilege.
Seeing Henry Darrow and Don Collier banter like two pros in a comedy duo during their Q&A.
Henry Darrow driving his personal mobility scooter like he was trying to win a formula one race, running over fans in the process.
The best part of the weekend for me, besides seeing my dearly loved friends, is seeing all the details some together and watching fans lifetime dreams come true. I love taking a shy fan who’s by the hand and introducing them to Manolito, Sam Butler, and Wind. That’s the payoff for me.
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June 13th, 2014
High Chaparral stuntman/actor Neil Summers has a regular column in Western Clippings, the encyclopedia-like magazine covering western movies and TV programs. Check out Neil’s article on HC’s Joe Butler, the multi-talented Bobby Hoy.
Western Clippings is edited and published by Boyd Magers – fans will recognize Boyd as a returning guest at the 2015 Reunion and honorary member of the HC family.
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June 13th, 2014
HC at the Memphis Film Festival
Buck Taylor greets Lauren and Henry Darrow at “A Gathering of Guns 6 at the Memphis Film Festival” held June 12-14 at Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino in Tunica, MS.
Henry Darrow and Jan Pippins, author of Henry’s biography, greet fans at “A Gathering of Guns 6 at the Memphis Film Festival” held June 12-14 at Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino in Tunica, MS.
Lauren applauds her husband Henry Darrow as he receives an award at the Saturday night “Gathering of Guns” banquet from festival co-sponsors Ray Nielsen, Boyd Magers and banquet emcee John Buttram.
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June 13th, 2014
Movie Night to Kick Off
A grassroots effort to honor Cameron Mitchell in the area where he grew up will soon become a reality.
Bryan Sellers, who is spearheading the movement, says the Glen Rock Historic Preservation Society of Glen Rock, Pa, has agreed to sponsor a Cameron Mitchell movie night at the Zion Lutheran Church in September. Donations from the movie screening will be used to open a scholarship fund in Cameron’s name for York County high school seniors who pursue theater, media arts or journalism in college. The scholarship is being sponsored by The High Chaparral Reunion.
Keep watching for more information.
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June 13th, 2014
Strange Lady in Town
Warner Archives recently released to DVD the 1955 movieStrange Lady in Town.
Co-staring Cameron Mitchell, it’s descriped as “An offbeat mix of old and new Hollywood and is Greer Garson’s only Western. The regal Garson is a European-trained doctor who arrives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, hoping to demonstrate “new” medical methods, causing conflict with an old-fashioned town practitioner, an embittered, widowed single father played by down-to-earth Dana Andrews.”
Available at warnerarchive.com
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June 13th, 2014
Bob Hoy Takes Pay CutVintage Article Reprint, December 1967
Bob Hoy Takes Pay Cut to Get Job as Actor Vintage article reprint from December 1967 Bob Hoy is a member of the regular cast of the NBC television network’s new “The High Chaparral” color series but he had to take a pay cut to get the job. Hoy, one of the top stuntment in Hollywood for the past 10 years, decided he wanted to take a shot at acting as a career, and producer David Dortort gave him his chance when he signed him to portray Joe, one of John Cannon’s ranchhands on the High Chaparral. “Hollywood is a land of illusion,” explains Bob. “They pay good money and put in plenty of hard work to make the viewer think that what he is seeing really happened. If the man who was hired to fall off a horse in place of John Wayne starts shooting off his mouth about how he did the fall while Wayne sat and watched, it disillusions the viewers.”
Relieved of Stunts
Hoy says that a good, dependable stuntman can make 40 or 50 thousand dollars a year – but no matter how good he is, he’ll be out of work if he doesn’t hold his tongue! “The best men in the business are almost completely unknown by Hollywood reporters. They come to work, draw their assignment, settle on a price for doing it, do it, open their wallet – and shut their mouth.”
“Whenever a star decides that he’ll do his own fall a hundred people hold their breath and cross their fingers,” says Hoy. “If the star breaks a leg or cracks his head it means that all of t hose people are out of work until he gets better. If a stuntman breaks a leg they just call in another stuntman.” Now that Hoy is an actor he doesn’t do his own stunts anymore. A stuntman has been hired to do his dangerous work.
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June 13th, 2014
Vintage Article Reprint, November 1968
Everybody who meets Leif Erickson who plays Big John Cannon on NBC’s The High Chaparral asks him when Cannon is going to loosen up a little bit and smile.
The questioners invariably get a laugh and a smile. Then Erickson answers quite frankly, “Why should he smile? He’d rather have all you folks tuning in every week waiting for the big moment. Personally, I hope you wait five years or more.”
Erickson has a great deal of confidence in the series and expects it to soar in the ratings this season. He and the entire cast work hard on the show and, at 57, he’s got several busted ribs, a sprained hand and other assorted bruises to prove his point.
When we inquired why he should be in such bad shape since he undoubtedly had a stunt man, Leif – not John Cannon – laughed again and said, ‘You should see my poor stunt man. He’s really busted up.”
About half of Chaparral is filmed in Tucson, Ariz., where the ground is hard and even a fake fall can sometimes get out of hand. Leif liked the Arizona studio so much that he bought into the operation last season giving himself more than the customary proprietary interest in the series’ success.
“It’s already returning a healthy dividend,” admitted the actor, who has a god eye for a dollar. “You know the tourist business has increased since we’re on the air and visitors come through all the time, buy our photos for a quarter and then besiege us for autographs.
“I hinted that we could handle the action real friendly like and sell the autographed pictures personally for 75 cents a copy but a lot of the brass didn’t think it would dignified. I didn’t really expect them to approve.
It was suggested that perhaps Leif might like to move in on Lorne Greene’s plush territory and lead rodeos, act as a parade marshal, make records and become something of a one man money making machine.
“I haven’t got the energy,” he conceded. Lorne’s a much younger man (we estimate less than a 10-year spread). I might give the recording business a whirl…after all I broke in as a singer.”
But the former band singer with the Ted Fio-Rito Orchestra has no intention of back-tracking. His current plans call for recording a western style tone poem with he performed last year in front of a symphony orchestra, and judging by a few lines he tried out on us it could very well be a best seller.
In addition, he’s contemplating recording a poem his teenage daughter, Suzie, penned but such a move will be made only if the first album sells. A suggestion that he makes an LP of happy western tunes under the title of “John Cannon Laughs in Song” was not appreciated.
An actor who is recognized whenever he goes thanks to the magic of a TV series, Leif, like his costar Cameron Mitchell, had a long and distinguished career on Broadway and in Hollywood before Chaparral, but he’s obviously loving every minute of his new career.
An ardent sailor, he misses not being able to spend as much time as he used to on his boat, but envisions The High Chaparral as a possible ticket to retirement in Florida where he can boat until he’s water logged.
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