November 12th, 2009
The High Chaparral Reunion: Saturday
Kent McCray talks to fans at The High Chaparral set.
Photo by Patty Schantz.
Destination Tucson 2009
By Penny McQueen
“This is the country we came over a thousand miles to see.”
~John Cannon, Destination Tucson, The High Chaparral pilot
Kent McCray, production manager/producer of The High Chaparral, began the day Saturday, November 17, 2009, early by taping footage for a special souvenir DVD. One of the most unintentionally comic moments of the day was provided by the guard at the employee gate, who innocently asked Kent – who personally chose Old Tucson for the location shoots and handled daily production at the site for over 4 years, “Have you ever been here before and are you familiar with Old Tucson? Do you know how to find The High Chaparral set?” As Kent answered with a firm, “Yes!” and the other occupants of the car snickered, the bemused guard waved in HC’s Big Daddy, back to The High Chaparral.
Standing in front of one of the remaining original adobe buildings at Old Tucson, taping footage for the DVD, Kent said, “We filmed a lot of shows here, our main ranch is here at Old Tucson, we filmed in the streets, the Mexican square. A lot of times some of the smaller interior sets were here. This was our home away from home when we left Los Angeles. 65% of parts of the shows were filmed here in Arizona.”
Henry Darrow signs autographs on Saturday morning. photo by Ginger Kullman
Don Collier, waiting for the fans to arrive, laughed, “We’re waiting here for the Reunion to start – all we’re going to do is eat and drink! We’re not going to kill any Indians or shoot any Producers, that’s all we’re doing today.” Describing the morning’s planned activity Don said, “We’re going to greet the people, sign some pictures and tell a few stories. We’re all here, and the rest of the folks are here in spirit I think.” As the cast members walked the familiar set, looked at their own photos, touched the porch poles and ran hands along the divider, they told stories and expressed thanks for the fans who’d brought them home to Tucson.
And once the entrance gate opened, that’s exactly what happened at the Cannon ranch house. Fans streamed through the gate and swarmed the location set, quickly filling the house and spilling over onto the porch and yard. Local extras, stuntmen and actors from Tucson who worked on the show came to reconnect with their colleagues and meet fans, telling their own backstage stories and adding to the excitement.
Fans arriving at the ranch. photo by Ginger Kullman
Reunion organizer Penny McQueen was pleased with the turnout, noting, “We had people attend the full weekend from all over the world, and great turnout at the gate from local Tusconians. So many people here were impacted by the show and remember it, my phone has been ringing off the hook. Not bad for a forty-two year old TV show.”
The original buckboard used in the series was at the ranch compound, along with a special sign board of cast photos. The buckboard, on loan from a western museum, is on display at Old Tucson until January, and was obtained specially for the Reunion.
The stars – Henry Darrow, Don Collier, Ted Markland, and Rudy Ramos – set up for photos and autographs inside the ranch house at tables, and business was brisk. It was difficult to tell who had a better time, the fans or stars. “Marvelous,” said Rudy Ramos, whose career began with his breakout role in the 4th season of the show. “It’s good to be back here and see so many fans.”
Susan McCray talks with fans Crystal Hudson and Penny McQueen on the porch of the Cannon ranch house. photo by Ginger Kullman
Don Collier agreed. “I always look forward to seeing my fans. It’s nice that people still remember the old series. If they have more reunions I’ll come. This is fun.”
Standing on the Chaparral porch and squinting into the bright sunshine, Rudy Ramos told a story about seeing his first horse fall stunt in that very yard. When doing a fall from a horse they dig a hole and fill it with sand, then the rider will into the sand to cushion the fall. On occasion they miss and on this particular stunt that’s what happened. Rudy said, stomping his foot, “The ground here is hard, almost like cement. When the stuntman fell, you could hear bones crunch. I thought he’d killed himself or was really hurt, but those stunt guys are so tough. He jumped up, brushed himself off and said, ‘Dammit, I missed. Let’s re-shoot it.’ And they did. I couldn’t believe it.”
Henry Darrow drew many who were determined to meet the famous heartthrob. Commenting first how energizing it was to meet dedicated fans and reconnect with friends from the show, he also quipped, “What I don’t like to see is that we’ve gotten older!” Darrow was delighted and stunned to meet the newest generation of fans at Old Tucson, 7 and 9 year old boys attending with their parents. The littlest fans became hooked watching Chaparral episodes on YouTube, proof the show has weathered the years and is still captivating an audience in the digital age.
Ted Markland with his photos inside The High Chaparral ranch house. photo by Ginger Kullman
For many being at the actual location was an amazing day. Penny McQueen, kept busy with organizing reunion details said, “Between Old Tucson and the reunion folks it seemed like I was on call everywhere so they were zipping me around on a golf cart with someone saying, ‘take Penny to the ranch’ all morning. On one trip back to the set I suddenly realized, it really was THE ranch – The High Chaparral! Wow!”
After a private lunch at El Vaquero – with gifts of a custom made High Chaparral tote bag from Kola’s Screen Graphics of Tucson and a gift bag that included samples of popcorn from Copper Kettle Popcorn – the afternoon program at the Grand Palace Hotel and Saloon started with a slide show and music presentation. As it played on the big screen the cast members took the stage. For over an hour Kent McCray moderated questions from the audience as Henry, Don, Ted and Rudy answered.
Don Collier and Rudy Ramos with fan/webmaster Ginny inside
The High Chaparral ranch house. photo by Ginger Kullman
A very special highlight was a recorded message from Bob Hoy, made by Susan McCray. Bob sent his greetings to all the fans, cast and crew, saying he couldn’t make this reunion but would be at the next one. He recognized all his friends in attendance, and thanked the fans. Everyone gave Bob a standing ovation.
Saturday’s festivities concluded with a Cowboy Barbecue on the patio at La Posada, and episodes in the hospitality room.
For the complete panel discussion and coverage of the entire day at Old Tucson, get your copy of The High Chaparral Reunion 2009 DVD.