The High Chaparral Reunion 2007
Dear High Chaparral Fans:
This issue begins a new feature - "My Favorite Episode." We welcome contributions from everyone, at email@example.com.
The talented Denny Miller is our featured interview. What a joy it was to spend time with him at the Roy Rogers Festival in Ohio, and a privilege to be allowed this special interview. He and his wife Nancy have become good friends to many High Chaparral fans - we hope they will be joining us at the reunion.
We also get a history lesson. Jan Lucas paints a vivid, in-depth picture of Pete Kitchen, whose life was the basis for The High Chaparral.
Don't forget - reunion fees go up $10 as of July 1. Make your reservation today!
The High Chaparral
Now Hear This
High Chaparral News
Kent McCray, producer of The High Chaparral, received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Hartford. The following is the citation read by Susan McCray and University President Walter Harrison at the graduation ceremony:
Kent McCray, you were the first theater major at the University of Hartford, graduating from The Hartt School in 1951.
From here you became a television industry pioneer whose groundbreaking career has spanned more than five decades. You worked on legendary programs with legendary performers: "The Milton Berle Show "The Red Skelton Show," "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx and "This is Your Life" with Ralph Edwards. As an associate producer for the legendary Bob Hope, you traveled with him on USO trips with the rank of first star general to entertain the troops, for which you were presented the Dept of Defense Certificate of Esteem for patriotic service
On the home front you produced the NBC westerns The High Chaparral and Bonanza. Your thirty-year partnership with best friend Michael Landon produced some of the most popular shows in television history, "Little House on the Prairie," "Father Murphy" and "Highway to Heaven."
Your success in Hollywood has not diminished your devotion to your friends at the University of Hartford. You served as an alumni regent for a decade and you remain an honorary regent today. Your generosity on behalf of our students includes a generous leadership gift in 2005 for what is now called the Kent McCray Television Studio, a major gift to the University of Hartford Performing Arts Center and you established three endowed partnerships at The Hartt School to support students studying opera, theater and musical theater. Your integrity to quality family entertainment, throughout your illustrious career makes us proud.
Kent McCray, the University of Hartford is proud to call you an Alumnus. In recognition of your professional achievements and Personal generosity that bring wide-ranging benefit to our entire Community, I am honored to present you with the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa.
High Chaparral on the Web
2007 Reunion Fees
R eservations are $45, and your remaining balance will be $135. After July 1, fees will be $145.00 Registration closes August 1.
Payments must be made in U.S. dollars and can be made by: personal check, money order, or Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Note that full payment is due by July 31, 2007. Your registration is non-refundable. Cancellations made before July 1 will be refunded in full, and a 50% refund will be given to cancellations made after July 1. Unfortunately, no refunds after August 1.)
My Favorite High Chaparral Episode
"Champion of the Western World"
A fast-paced episode, that leaves you with a big smile for the rest of the day.
Watching this episode you get the feeling the actors were having a lot of fun doing this, they are bursting with energy and it never seems forced or artificial.
It all starts when Blue sees a beautiful Mexican saddle and his only chance of getting it is winning the 4th of July contests. The bunkhouse boys, Buck, Mano and John lend a helping hand so that he can achieve his goal. From the very beginning until the very end it's a chain of funny scenes.
It would be hard to choose "The Funniest Scene" from this episode, because there are so many extremely good ones, yet there I've picked four scenes which I think are worth mentioning.
The first is when John who tells the men not to get into a fight in Tucson (or if they have to, to do it where Victoria can't seen them) and then starting a fight himself.
When Paddy asks her if this 'big, ugly, dirty, man' is her husband, she reluctantly answers, "Unfortunately, yes."
The second when John considers entering the wild horse riding contest and Sam, Victoria and Blue are having difficulty keeping a straight face, because they think he is too old. Blue can't help but laugh and says: "I just don't want you to get hurt, Pa".
Hilarious is the scene where Mano loses the race because Perlita is showing of her new hat, which he has previously stolen from Victoria, and Mano, Blue and Sam stomp on her 'beautiful' hat in anger and frustration.
Topping it all is Blue's fight with Paddy. Just looking at him in his special outfit brightens my day, and the reactions of the other guys and Victoria are absolutely priceless.
Although things look rather bad in the end, the writer found a way to give us a great happy end, where Paddy gets the price money so that he can marry his sweetheart, the boys don't have to leave town poorer than they came in, and Blue accepts the saddle as a present from Victoria.
"Champion of the Western World is much more than 'just' a funny episode.
It's about the relationships between the Cannons and the Montoyas, between Victoria and Blue and Victoria's struggle to find her place in the Cannon family, between Buck and Blue, with Buck showing his love is rather strange ways every now and then. It's also about the friendship and the loyalty of the bunkhouse boys, and about Blue always trying to do what is right.
This issue continues with reminisces from past Reunions. Tina talks about her experiences at the 2005 Reunion.
I attended the 2005 reunion. One the things I enjoyed most were observing others, and I remember seeing the biggest smiles on faces of David and Rose Dortort. They had so much fun seeing the returning cast and the love the fans who attended had for the show. I had the pleasure of sitting with Bob and Kiva Hoy, Don Collier, Kent and Susan McCray, and Kat Garcia. Bob Hoy remembered meeting me at a Western Film Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1996. Or he graciously said he did. So did Morgan Woodard, who I also met in 1996. I had a great time talking with these wonderful folks before the panel discussion.
It was a reunion within a reunion for Kat and I, who I'd met in 1998. I finally was able to put names with faces for the rest of the group. I got a chance to chat with Andy Klyde, Mr. Dortort's attorney. Cast members spoke about those present and those who were not present with mutual admiration and respect. I was so impressed by that! When I met Bob in 1996, he spoke with great respect about Kent McCray. After meeting the McCrays that day, I understood why.
Even though Linda wasn't present, many folks sent well wishes to her, which I wrote down, compiled and sent to her. She very much appreciated that. And of course, I enjoyed watching the uncut episodes of High Chaparral on loan to us from Paramount on Saturday.
My favorite memory was that on Saturday evening -- the wonderful chat with Linda Cristal by phone. Up to that point, my contact with her had been through letters or emailing her sons. I just loved talking with her live – I adore her accent!
My advice for someone trying to make the decision whether or not to go – I absolutely recommend it! You will have a wonderful time! Debating whether or not you want to meet an HC star? Let me tell you from my own experience, it is a day you will not forget. All of the HC cast members I've been privileged to meet are absolutely delightful!
The Real John Cannon
By Jan Lucas
He also had in him more than a glimmer of Buck. Although a giant in Old Arizona, Kitchen measured only 5'9" and along with moderate physical stature, he shared Buck's love of good times and poor risks. Early Tucson resident Joe Wise recalled his friend Pete sold out to the Calabasas Mining and Cattle Company for $84,0000, but drink, gambling, bad investments and generosity depleted all the money within three years.
Born in Kentucky and raised in Tennessee, Kitchen was a teamster during the Mexican War. A crack shot and skilled Indian fighter, he served with the Mounted Rifles after the war ended, then gold fever drew him to California. By 1854, the fever ran its course and Kitchen drifted to the Arizona Territory, first establishing a small cattle-ranch in the Santa Cruz Valley twenty-five miles south of Tucson.
To ward off marauding Apaches, Kitchen recruited thirty Opata Indians from Sonora as ranch-hands and guards. Joining them were frontiersman Francisco Verdugo and sharpshooter Manuel Ronquillo. As luck would have it, Ronquillo brought his sister, Rosa, with him. Described as a beautiful girl, Rosa shortly became Kitchen's wife.
Army contracts for beef brought a measure of prosperity to Kitchen and Doņa Rosa, but tranquility proved illusive. The Bascom Affair ignited Apache hostilities. When Civil War forced the Army to abandon the West, the tribes believed they drove the soldiers out; victory against invasive Americans thought to be within reach, violent raids accelerated. Fleeing for their lives, Americans deserted mines, ranches and entire towns, but Pete Kitchen held on until Apaches burned his fortress-like compound.
Joe Wise remembered Kitchen pulling arrows from his cattle after raids and contemporary newspapers note his hogs made such good targets, they often looked like pincushions. Marauding Apaches killed and scalped Kitchen's twelve-year-old son, one partner was killed and hired hands were wounded or died fending off Indians and bandidos. Kitchen fought back with fury and according to accounts, gave raiders a Christian burial in the ranch's cemetery.
Kitchen also provided a less-permanent resting place for friendly travelers. Renowned for hospitality, the ranch was a regular overnight stop for wayfarers in the treacherous borderlands. Pete and Doņa Rosa made visitors feel perfectly at ease, wrote Bourke. "If food were not already on the fire, some of the women set about the preparation of savory and spicy stews for which the Mexicans are deservedly famous, and others kneaded the dough and patted into shape the paper-like tortillas with which to eat the juicy frijoles or dip up the temping chili colorado. There were women carding, spinning, sewing and the ranch had its own blacksmith, saddler, and wagon maker."
The end of the Apache Wars in 1872 found the Kitchens financially comfortable. A Tucson Citizen article of the day reports Pete Kitchen's "crops are excellent. He has about twenty acres of potatoes planted, and has made this year about 14,000 pounds of No. 1 bacon and hams which he has sold at an average of thirty five cents a pound; also 5,000 pounds of lard, sold at the same price." The same clipping notes that the thriving ranch was at "one of the most exposed points for Apache depredations in Arizona. The Apaches have endeavored to take his place many times… Instead of being frightened or discouraged he seems only the more determined to stand his ground and take his chances."
Cattle drives took as much nerve as defending the ranch and Kitchen described drives north from the Borderlands as "Tucson, Tubac, Tumacacori, to hell." Like fictional John Cannon, rawhide-tough Kitchen persevered against all odds. Then progress succeeded where Apaches and desperados failed.
When the Southern Pacific steamed through Tucson in 1880, it brought civilized comforts and competition. Hams and produce from the East toppled prices and dislodged Kitchen as the largest supplier in the area. The dauntless man who earned the respect of Apaches, was feared by bandidos and who some called the last Arizona pioneer sold his ranch and moved Doņa Rosa to town. Pete Kitchen lived on South Main Street in Tucson until his death from natural causes in 1895.The Arizona Pioneers Historical Society paid for his burial.
In 1960, the television series Death Valley Days aired the episode "Pete Kitchen's Wedding" with High Chaparral guest-star BarBara Luna as Doņa Rosa. The title role belonged to Cameron Mitchell. Years later as High Chaparral's Buck Cannon, the actor spoke of being on location. "Just alone out there in the desert, you have a feeling you're doing something that really happened to somebody 100 years ago."
City of Nogales, Arizona (official website)
Green Valley (AZ) Hiking Club
George Babbitt Collection of Northern Arizona University
Center for Desert Archeology
Through Our Parents' Eyes (Arizona Dept. of Education)
Tucson Citizen (Monday, October 4, 2004)
The High Chaparral official website
Internet Movie Database
Denny Miller - Luck, with a Cherry on Top
By Penny McQueen
When your career spans 50 years and you've appeared in close to a hundred TV episodes, it's hard to keep track of individual roles. "I don't remember shooting The High Chaparral. I wish I did because the fans are very good to me," Denny Miller said.
After regular roles in Wagon Train and Meet Mona McClusky, his winning smile and tall frame coupled with a face that the camera loves made him a frequent guest star on series television, including The High Chaparral's A Way of Justice. His expressive portrayal of Kolos, a simple, easily confused immigrant, is a favorite with fans. "I played a lot of this character type back then, a child in a man's body," he reminisced, then deadpanned, "Guess I was good at it."
Denny Miller's dry wit sneaks up on you like that. His book, Didn't You Used To Be…What's His Name?, is filled with self-deprecating one-liners that belie the sharp mind that conceived them. Consider a sampling and get the book at www.denny-miller.com. It's a page turner, full of warmth and pithy observations. And sneaky humor.
Interviewing him is a challenge, in the same way it's challenging eating a chocolate sundae while drifting down a sun dappled river in a canoe. Distractions are everywhere, and the rapids are just ahead. He speaks slowly, considering every word, in a velvety actor's voice soft as buttermilk. Mesmerizing, that voice, coupled with intelligent eyes set in a weathered face grown more interesting with age.
Ask him a question and he ponders, considers, and answers seriously, drawing you into a delicious trap that springs shut behind you. "I was lucky. Unbelievably lucky. I was supposed to be a basketball coach, but instead I was discovered on the street moving furniture." No zinger there and it's the truth. Some starlets are discovered at a soda counter, but this gorgeous athlete was working a summer job while studying at UCLA. The first of three talent agents spotted him, checked his hairline, and pushed a business card into his hand. It's an amazing story, well-told in his book, and in person. Denny is still amazed at his good fortune. "I didn't know what a screen test was. What I had to do was silly to me. The great director George Cukor once told me he'd hit me on the head with a banana if I came through the door again that stiff." He described drama classes, reading the Gary Cooper part in the script The Cowboy and The Lady for an audition in order to get a theatrical agent. "The audition took place in the agent's office and I must have done something right because that agent got me a real screen test and a studio player's contract." He talked of working in the studio system at the end of the contract era, then said solemnly. "It was luck. My ex-wife says I've got a horse shoe embedded somewhere in my anatomy."
He played Floyd, nephew to Cameron Mitchell's Deshay, in Buck and the Preacher, and recalled the two months working with Chaparral's favorite uncle. Everybody says Cameron Mitchell was a character. "I think everybody is right," Denny nods, scratching his chin. "He had a huge appetite and was very generous. He invited me to dinner one night at his hotel room. His two small boys were staying with him, and when I arrived he called room service and ordered one of everything on the menu. The waiters brought tray after tray, burying the coffee table, the end tables. He adored those kids and never said no to them, they ate like a fraternity food fight. I never saw anything quite like it."
"The stunt men loved to play poker with him. After they'd play with him once, they figured out he was a bluffer, so he'd make a lot, but at the same time he'd lose a lot. He definitely loved his life. He was an incredible actor, creative, marvelous, just very, very good. I've never been a cowboy, but Cam was a horseman, he could ride much better than I could."
Other High Chaparral actors earn special kudos. "Henry Darrow has always been one of my favorites to watch, just a special talent. I'm not surprised he's still working because he's that good. Of course I know Bob Hoy and Don Collier from their reputation and from these autograph and western event shows. Such good people and well known in the industry."
His eyes crinkle at the edges as he talks about favorite people and experiences. Gilligan's Island and Tina Louise. Capitalizing on his size in a variety of TV guest shots. "I got beat up by the star a lot. I was bigger and I made him look good." As he aged and moved from pretty-boy gorgeous into handsome maturity the roles changed. "I played tougher bad guys, but never had to worry if my hair was combed, dirt was on my nose, or if I had a hole in my pants." He considered for several moments, then said intently, "It bothered me in the later years that I was doing so many violent parts. But as an actor, I finally justified it by deciding that if I made it as ugly as possible, I was demonstrating to people how terrible it really was. So that's how I became reconciled to it. That I would do everything I could to make it as awful and ugly as I could."
Denny Miller played tough guys in his career, but he muses that maybe he should've been a basketball coach. "Acting is a team sport, that's why a lot of jocks make it. It's all the same. You have to be able to take 100% rejection and deal with that day to day."
But there are lots of basketball coaches. Few people got to take Wagon Train west. No one else has been one of the world's most recognized logos (the Gorton's Fisherman), and one of the best known literary characters in the world (Tarzan). "I guess that's right. I've been very lucky. I decided a long time ago that I'd never be guilty of squashing a dream because so many people don't have one. And I've been lucky with mine."
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