post 200+ Come Home to the High Chaparral

June 23rd, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:08 pm

By Jane Rodgers and Penny McQueen

Tucson—More than 200 fans from as far away as New Zealand and Australia came “home” to Tucson, Arizona,March 19-22, to celebrate the iconic TV western “The High Chaparral,” and to meet cast members, show runners, guest stars, stunt people and others associated with the groundbreaking series.

“The High Chaparral,” which ran from 1967-71, was filmed partly on location in Tucson. The show was the brainchild of “Bonanza” creator David Dortort who insisted on a gritty realism previously unseen in network television. Apaches played Apaches; Latinos were cast as Latinos as Dortort strove to accurately depict the story of the Southwest.

The series, currently being rerun in the UK and Europe and airing Mondays-Thursdays and Saturdays in the United States on basic cable’s INSP channel, claims a substantial fan base and continues to attract new viewers.

While THC reunions have been held since 2003, this year’s was the largest to date, and the first western fan festival to be webcast as author Charlie LeSueur moderated a live feed to subscribers around the world.

Reunion events were held at Tucson’s Casino Del Sol, White Stallion Ranch and Old Tucson Studios.

Three of the show’s original stars attended the 2015 reunion. Henry Darrow, the ALMA and Emmy award winning actor who hit it big as Manolito Montoya in the series and later played hundreds of stage, film and TV roles, including Zorro, came. So did Don Collier, veteran film and television actor who portrayed ranch foreman Sam Butler. Also in attendance was film and stage actor Rudy Ramos who played Wind, the half-breed teenager who became a regular on the series in its final season.

Darrow, Collier and Ramos kicked off the weekend’s festivities with an appearance on KGUN9’s “Tucson Morning Blend” TV show.

Ramos later performed his one man show “Geronimo: Life on the Reservation” for a packed house at Casino Del Sol on Saturday evening, while Collier offered a humorous and revealing look at Hollywood through his “Confessions of an Acting Cowboy,” the reunion’s Sundaynight closing event.

Kent McCray, production manager of “The High Chaparral,” who worked in similar capacities on “Bonanza” and the Michael Landon ventures “Little House on the Prairie,” “Highway to Heaven,” and “Father Murphy,” shared his wealth of Hollywood knowledge with fans. McCray was accompanied by his wife, Susan, who moved from casting “The High Chaparral” to become casting director for Michael Landon. Mrs. McCray is currently an FM radio host, author and entrepreneur. Her father, the late Harry Sukman, composed the series’ award winning musical score.

Among other guests interacting with fans were legendary Hollywood stuntmen Neil Summers, Steve DeFrance and Stan Ivar. Summers and DeFrance worked closely on the series with famed stunt director, the late Henry Wills.   Jackie Fuller, stunt double for series star Linda Cristal, visited with fans as well.

Also on hand were stuntmen and actors Denis LeHane, Buck Montgomery, Jeff McCarroll and Tino Luciano. “High

Chaparral” crew member Ray DeWaay, extra Nancy Bohman, and “Geronimo” playwright Janelle Meraz Hooper were among many other guests. Marc Mitzell, nephew of the late star Cameron Mitchell—Uncle Buck Cannon—flew in from Pennsylvania to represent the Mitchell family.

Western Clippings magazine publisher Boyd Magers moderated panel discussions while reunion producer Penny McQueen emceed events.

Thursday’s reunion schedule included a welcome reception, screening of episodes and dinner with entertainment by Bill Ganz at the White Stallion Ranch, one of the locations where the series was filmed.

The KTHC Live! webcast began on Friday as fans enjoyed meeting actors, crew, stunt and production people. Magers hosted a fan trivia contest and moderated a celebrity panel. After lunch, the McCrays offered insights on series post production. Reunion sponsors mingled with stars and guests that evening at a special dinner highlighted by the auctioning of a kiss from Henry Darrow and entertainment by the Tucson Boys Chorus.

The reunion moved to Old Tucson Studios on Saturday where fans made a pilgrimage to the original exterior set of the series. Lunch at the Cannon ranch house highlighted a day of trail rides, autograph sessions and exploring. Guests helped Old Tucson founder Bob Shelton celebrate his 94th birthday as he posed for pictures and regaled listeners with stories.

Sunday’s morning and afternoon events included Cowboy Church, brunch, a photo and autograph session and the conclusion of the silent auction. Following a stunt demonstration by Buck Montgomery and Jeff McCarroll, guests enjoyed a rousing “High Chaparral” spoof by Montgomery’s Ricochet Radio Ranglers, a final Q & A panel discussion moderated by Magers, and a special screening of director William Claxton’s original cut of the series pilot.

“The High Chaparral Reunion continues to grow and although 2015 was our biggest and best yet, with the support we have from the Chaparral family I think the next one will be even better,” Penny McQueen said.

Reunion sponsors included INSP, Arbuckles’ coffee, Pot of Gold Estate Liquidations and

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