post A Chat with High Chaparral’s Head Honcho

September 12th, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:29 pm

Vintage article from The Arizona Republic, Sunday, June 21, 1970
Maggie Wilson

Leif Erickson with skipper's capWhat? Leif Erickson in a skipper’s cap instead of the Stetson he wears in “High Chaparral?” What happened?

Well, he said, he was relaxing. Spending a few days at Executive House Arizonian in Scottsdale – away from the set at Old Tucson.

And when he’s not playing John Cannon, the head honcho of the TV series’ ranch, he likes to wear that cap because: “I’ve got a schooner at home in Malibu and I like to bring a bit of it with me when I come to the desert.”

“Besides, if I wear this cap, I don’t have to glue those censored hairpieces up there on those receding spots like I do when I’m working or doing personal appearances.”

But should you think “those censored hairpieces” are censorious because of vanity, Erickson launched into a story that he, too, enjoyed about doing an exterior scene one day in Old Tucson when he was caught in the middle of a dust devil.

“That hairpiece lifted right off my head and twirled in the whirlwind until it came to rest at the feet of a visitor on the set. He got so excited he stomped it like it was a low-down, no-good polecat. That’s so precisely the way I feel about the thing, I went over and gave it a good stomp myself,” he said.

So much for vanity.

San Xavier

Actor Leif Erickson (fourth from left) with his fellow Coast Guard Auxiliarists.

So how does he feel about the role he plays on the Western series (9 p.m. Fridays, Channel 12) with the Arizona background?

“I’m kinda the anchorman,” he said. “It’s a helluva challenge to be in charge, to be expositional … the one everybody else bounces off of.”

“But it’s not as much fun for an actor. You can’t play it loose. You’ve got to hang in there being staunch, stoic and steadfast.”

“It could be a drag if you didn’t constantly con yourself into the function and tell yourself the pay is good.

“And with 80 per cent unemployment in the guilds, crafts and theatrical unions out on the coast, just to be working is Something Else,” he said.

And about ratings?

“I don’t know. I just don’t know about them. But they are the only game in town. The only measure there is. But the fallibility is that you’ve got to appeal to 45 million people; 20 million won’t do.”

“We were in fair shape at the end of the year and took off zoom! in January. February is renewal time, so the breaks were all our way.”

“But I feel the same way about theatrical reviews as I do television ratings: Even if they’re good it does not matter. Not personally.”

“I did ‘The World of Carl Sandburg’ with Bette Davis in 1959. Great reviews. Smashing reviews. But nobody came. The show closed in three weeks. Right after I rented a house for two years.”

“But that’s show biz. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s really the only game in town. And the town doesn’t matter. I’m as happy as a desert rat working in Tucson. It’s a good place to shoot this series. And a relaxing relief from the L.A. freeways,” he said.

“But this cap shakes ’em up a bit in the buckaroo bars I patronize after work,” he said. “It’s probably just a matter of time before one of those real cowboys decides to take me on.”

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