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post Under The Radar

March 13th, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:37 pm

Under The Radar

By Neil Summers
Reprinted by permission from Western Clippings


(High Chaparral alumni Neil Summers writes a regular column in the well known magazine Western Clippings.  The March/April issue of Western Clippings contained a special HighChaparral article by Neil, and publisher Boyd Magers graciously allowed us to reprint it here for fans to enjoy.  If you haven’t seen Western Clippings then visit the website to get a copy –westernclippings.com. )

In this issue of Western Clippings I’m varying from the usual “Under the Radar’ format to relive an important part of my early career as a professional stuntman and actor.

All I ever wanted to be was a cowboy in the movies. My primary models were Dick Jones and Jock Mahoney and the amazing action they both performed on “Range Rider”. I decided early on, “That’s for me,” and during some of my high school vacations and right after my graduation I diligently went after film work all over Arizona (where I grew up) and all over the Southwest. I went from one famous location to another seeking employment, making contacts, learning my craft.

I was working on Dean Martin’s film “Rough Night in Jericho” at Kanab, UT, where stuntman Henry Wills was doubling Dino as he was called. On day between scenes Henry told me about a script he had for a TV pilot called “The High Chaparral” that he was going to coordinate in Tucson, AZ in a few weeks. He said the project was chock full of action and he was going to need a core group of excellent horsebackers to augment the professional men he was going to bring in form Hollywood. Would I be interested in showing up in Tucson to work on “High Chaparral”? Without hesitation I of course said “Yes!” And true to his word Henry called me with the start date of production. Well, the pilot sold and we were soon into production on the series.

Henry made sure I kept working for the next four years. He groomed me, handing me simple stunts to begin with, doubling for some actors, and periodically a bit part here and there. Working on location in southern Arizona in the summer is no cake walk, it was hard work and I was in the thick of it all, being a raiding Apache, Mexican Banditos, ranch hand, Cavalry trooper or rustler and I never wanted it to end! It takes between 100-150 people to make an hour TV series and every member of our crew, under the supervision of producer Kent McCray was a joy to be around.

After “Chaparral” ended its run Henry called me to work on ”Shootout” starring Gregory Peck. I was to double one of the bad guys. We filmed it in New Mexico at Valle Grande and Cerrillos. It was on this job that Henry asked if I was ever going to move permanently to California (as I was not happy there in previous visits and kept leaving Hollywood). He said I was ready for membership into the prestigious Stuntman’s Association. Henry was my main sponsor (along with four other stuntmen also vouching for me) and I was admitted for membership. My career took off because of these men having faith in me.

Sadly, I was a pallbearer at Henry’s funeral many years later. He never let me down, we were family on “High Chaparral” and even though paths go off in different directions I periodically ran into folks from “Chaparral” and it was always brought up about how we miss the show, even though the Arizona heat was Hell (especially with Apache wigs on).

As the years have passed respect has grown for “High Chaparral” and a dedicated group of admirers now put on a yearly reunion. Spearheaded by Penny McQueen this year’s reunion will be in held in Tucson and at Old Tucson Western town on March 20-23.  In attendance will be actors Don Collier, Rudy Ramos, produce Kent McCray and the famous casting director Susan McCray.  WC’s Boyd Magers will be moderating our panel discussions.  I’m honored I’ve been invited along with Kiva Hoy, widow of Boy Hoy.

Some of my friendships with Henry Darrow, Cameron Mitchell, Boy Hoy, Don Collier and Rudy Ramos have lasted 40 plus years!  One of the big reasons I accept invitations to reunions and memorabilia shows is so I can see and visit again with dear friends, co-workers and personal heroes of mine.  Please plan to be in Tucson on the above dates to come by and visit us.  Info can be found at thehighchaparralreunion.com .

A big tip of the hat to Penny and all the ladies that keep the memory of “Chaparral” alive.  It was a classy show and I think I speak for all of us that helped make the series, we are proud to have been a part of it!  If you enjoyed “Chaparral” don’t let this event go “Under the Radar”!  

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