Its editor, a genial westerner named Bob Boze Bell, is someone I knew from long ago, at which point in life he was a cartoonist for a Phoenix newspaper, and the strip he was producing was called “Honky Tonk Sue,” a cartoon about a feminist cowgirl who went around beating up male chauvinist cowboys in country and western bars.
The thinking, mine at least, was that “Honky Tonk Sue” would make a fine vehicle for Goldie Hawn, who was a big star at the time.
Around this same period, a piece of London Bridge—or a part of one of London’s bridges—was brought to Arizona by a speculator and set astride the mighty Colorado River. I soon produced a script in which the big battle between Honky Tonk Sue and the bad cowboys takes place on London Bridge and involved the game of bingo, which was popular then in Havasupai country. The Havasupai are the tribe of Indians who live in the nearby Grand Canyon.
Alas, the movie didn’t happen; many, many potential movies don’t. Goldie Hawn’s manager at the time had never heard of bingo, although she was born and raised in America. That script joins the many unproduced screenplays that languish on shelves in studio warehouses everywhere in Hollywood.
But Bob Boze Bell became an editor and decided, to our surprise, to make a big splash and create an award naming the True Westerner of the Year. This first year, he chose us—Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana—as the 2013 True Westerners of the Year.
We accepted, and last Saturday, we trekked to the Westin La Paloma in Tucson to get our little statue sculpted in bronze in the style of wonderful cowboys once drawn by yet another cartoonist, J. R. Williams, who called his cartoon “Cowboys Out Our Way.” (My father loved these comics; he read J. R. Williams before breakfast and was irate if for some reason the paper was not there at 5:00 am, the hour at which he took his first meal of the day. He seemed to feel that they contained accurate descriptions of cowboy life, and he was a stern critic. My mother was fonder of the strips called “Why Mothers Get Gray,” although in fact she never turned gray.)
As awards ceremonies go, this one was particularly enjoyable. Low key and little fanfare. Old friends numbered among the guests: Michael Wallis, author of a number of fine books, including the biography “Pretty Boy Floyd,” and Steve Harrigan, born in Oklahoma but raised in Texas and a former editor at “Texas Monthly.” It was gratifying to see them appear.
I noticed that there were only a handful of women at this event. Women are still under-represented in Western affairs, much as they were in the time of “Honky Tonk Sue.” And though they gave the statue to both of us, it will live in Diana’s home. Since Diana functions both as a writer and producer, she has accumulated an impressive number of statues and do-dads in the years since “Brokeback Mountain” made our fame, and name. The True Westerner prize will be a fitting addition to her army of awards.
Our award was given to us at a standup cocktail reception in the Cottonwood Room, and was attended by many gentlemen wearing cowboy hats. Diana wore a pair of her beautiful boots; whereas to my embarrassment I was without boots, mine having been swept away by a recent move. Diana looks better in boots than I do; in fact, she looks better in anything than I do.
Along with our statue, we were allowed to carry away an impressive poster of Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones—Gus and Call, the immortal couple—riding into glory.
Read more about the True Westerners 2013 award at True West’s website: www.truewestmagazine.com