March 2008 Edition                                                                    Penny McQueen, Editor

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The March 2008 High Chaparral newsletter brings you:

  • The first quarter of the year brings us Chaparral Birthdays.
  • Ted Markland talks with Penny McQueen about joining the cast, acting, and his early career in stand-up comedy.
  • Susan McCray will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate.
  • Jan Lucas re-visits Hollywood legend Gilbert Roland - Uncle Don Domingo Montoya.
  • Join in our new Guess the Chaparral Actor contest.
  • Friends and fans remember HC writer Alex Sharp, in this memorial by Andy Klyde.


Alex Sharp

by Andy Klyde

It is with deep regret and sorrow that I have to report the passing of Alex Sharp in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 6, 2008. He had suffered from heart and stroke-related ailments in recent months.

A veteran of the Korean War, Alex was a tremendous athlete, a quality that served him well during his fifty years in Hollywood. He was a founding and lifetime member of the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures, but it was his outstanding writing skills that endeared him most to BONANZA and THE HIGH CHAPARRAL enthusiasts.

Alex authored some of the most beloved and fondly remembered episodes, including "Hound Dog," "Old Sheba" (directed by his long-time friend and golfing buddy, John Florea), "The Hayburner" and "The Covey."

A man of limitless energy and enthusiasm, and one of the all-time great raconteurs, Alex will be missed by his legion of fans whom he regaled with his tales at BONANZA and THE HIGH CHAPARRAL conventions.

Alex is survived by his devoted wife Keo. Memorial details will be posted when available.

ANDY KLYDE, for Bonanza Ventures, Inc.
For further information: AJKLYDE@yahoo. com,
Or (718) 261-4128

Doctor Susan McCray

Getting To Know You
host Susan McCray has been chosen as this year’s recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Eastern Connecticut State University, to be conferred during the school’s commencement festivities on Sunday, May 18, 2008.

Susan is connected to The High Chaparral in many ways, since she worked in casting for the show, is the daughter of famed composer Harry Sukman, and is married to Kent McCray, producer. As a supporter of the Theater Arts department at Eastern, Susan established The Susan McCray Account for The Theater Arts which supports special initiatives and programs for its students. She has given seminars and brought actors and writers as guest speakers to Eastern. The school’s acclaimed J. Eugene Smith Library, is the proud recipient of a collection of music scores composed by some of the great masters of classical music donated by Susan. The books were part of the incredible Harry Sukman collection. Susan felt the music should be at Eastern in order to inspire its students, staff, faculty and friends.

This doctorate marks the second in the McCray family, as Kent McCray received his last year. Congratulations, Susan!

Ted Markland, Child's Play

by Penny McQueen
January 15th brings us our first Chaparral birthday of the year, Ted Markland. Originally working as a stand-up comic, Ted was spotted by David Dortort during his act. “It was during my stand-up comedy days at the Troubador. I had worked for him before, so he knew me from Restless Gun. Bobby Fuller and I, that was for both of us, one of our first jobs, I think, out at Republic. We played the young bad guys. It was pretty good, really.” That first job as a young bad guy turned into good news for Markland. “I was doing my nightclub act, and he stopped in after the show to say hello. He said, “Listen, how would you like to work regular, and be a regular on the show?”

“I said, ‘Aw no, I can’t do that! Of course I’ll do that, what do you mean!’ It was great, he said, ‘I’ll be calling you,’ and he did, he got in touch with my agent and all that, and the rest of what happened is sort of history. Bonanza, Chaparral, they’re just perfect.”
Swept up into a new phase of his career, Ted left stand-up behind him when he accepted the role of Reno and took up his post on the ranch house roof. “We all started Chaparral, we all went in and got ready and did the pilot in Old Tucson, I knew Jerry Summers, then we all became friends doing The High Chaparral.” Like all of the Bunkhouse Boys, the tall, good-looking Markland came in for his fair share of attention. “All the girls who came on the set would ask or write and ask for the fringe - the leather fringe from the shirt. I guess it was sort of famous or something. ‘Oh Reno, can we get a piece of the fringe, the fringe.’ I thought it was just a costume, you know, so I’d cut off a piece and give it to them. The guy from the wardrobe went crazy. ‘No, no don’t do that, you won’t have a shirt left! Here’s a whole roll of it, just cut it off that.’”

“I was answering all the mail myself, it was a lot of mail. Months had gone by, and I got this big pile of fan mail from a lot of ladies. So I waited a while to see what kind of scenes I’d get, and I said ‘David, can I get bigger scenes? Look at all these people?’ But of course Dortort just laughed because actors always want more lines. He said he’d see, and I got some good scenes. Dortort was great, he let me do that last Bonanza when I had long hair, playing the bad guy. He was good to me.”

When High Chaparral ended, Ted continued to work, becoming a fixture as a guest star in episodic television and movies. With a long list of credits on his resume, such as Simon and Simon, Night Rider, The Hulk, and many more, he’s recognizable in re-runs through decades following the Reno years. Including Wanda Nevada, his favorite role. “That was like a western set in the 50’s, with Peter Fonda and Brooke Shields. I played the heavy with Luke Askew. I had this wonderful character that came through for me, this guy that shook his head, was always grabbing himself. I got great reviews. We shot all over the Grand Canyon, we’d fly down to little remote places on the river.”

Actors take their inspiration from many places, and Ted recalls with fondness where he found his motivation for his Wanda Nevada character, Strap. “Everybody was doing wardrobe. Peter (Fonda) was having this boring suit all tailored for him. Luke, who played the other heavy with me, had a suit being fixed. The wardrobe guy came over, brought me up this one button roll thing, right? Pegged pants, bow tie and black and white shoes. I said, ‘What are you doing? These guys are gorgeous.’ The wardrobe guy said, ‘I know what they’re wearing, you put this on and look in the mirror.’ I put it on and looked in the mirror, I had on this little porkpie hat. The wardrobe guy said, ‘Would you buy a used car from this guy?” I said, ‘Hey…wanna buy a car down in Vegas?’ From that moment on, I was the guy - Strap."

When Ted talks about acting, he says the secret is simple – return to the simplicity of childhood. “Yeah, to be that open, like a child, that’s what works. We were doing a play once near Albuquerque, the little kids came out and wanted to act, and we’d say be a butterfly, be whatever, and they were that. They did it. You get old and you get self-conscious, you have to go to acting school. But those little kids, that was a good lesson for me. ‘Be a fly’ I said to one of them.’ And he was, he was.”

Happy Birthday Ted, and may you always be as open as a child.

Getting to Know You on KSAV.ORG
Tuesday nights, 6:30 p.m. Pacific and 9:30 p.m. Eastern

Now on KSAV and WWUH in Hartford, CT

March 11th
  • Film and television actor Gil Gerard guests with Susan McCray on a two part Getting To Know You. On Part One, Mr. Gerard discusses his career as a chemist and manager of a large chemical company - and his career in New York leading up to his regular role on daytime television in the soap opera The Doctors to his well known role as Captain Buck Rogers on his NBC series Buck Rogers - the 25th Century. He talks about being a pilot and how he was invited to be a guest by the US Air Force and Navy to fly four different military fighter planes. An exciting and interesting interview.
March 18
  • Actor, writer, director, producer Gil Gerard talks intimately about his life long struggle with weight and his year long journey back to health after being diagnosed with life threatening conditions which led to him undergoing a life saving Mini Gastric Bypass procedure. He also talks about the Discovery Health Channel documentary about his survery, Action Hero Makeover which won a Freddie Award in the Health and Wellness category from the International Health and Medical Media Association. This interview is personal as well as helpful to thousands struggling with the same problem.
March 25
  • Actress, Author, Radio personality, Decorator, "Real Estate mogul- ette" (and as Chaparral fans know, wife of Henry Darrow) Lauren Levian guests with Susan McCray to talk about her background, puppetry, one woman shows, success in real estate and authoring a new book.

Who's by the pool this time?

Which High Chaparral actor is this? It could be any of them! Take a guess who this very young actor is and send your guesses to All correct answers will be listed in the next newsletter, and all results will be posted.

Linda Cristal, Chaparral's First Lady
by Penny McQueen
In February we celebrate the second cast Chaparral birthday of the year – Linda Cristal. Born on February 23rd, during her tenure as one of Hollywood’s hottest starlets, Linda – like many of her contemporaries – kept the press guessing about the actual year of her birthdate. There are conflicting reports in the popular press of the 50’s and 60’s concerning Ms. Cristal’s age, and according to HCDG moderator Tina Sweet, Linda still keeps her fans guessing.

“Linda’s birthday has been reported in many different publications as the 24th and 25th, so I emailed her son Greg several years ago, and he set me straight on the correct date. It’s February 23rd,” Tina said recently.

“He also told me he and his brother discovered at an early age the women didn’t like to reveal their age. They tried several times – unsuccessfully – to get their mother to reveal hers.” Deciding a little Sherlock Holmes work was in order, the boys plotted. One night while working a jigsaw puzzle, Greg asked, “Mom how old were you when I was born.” Linda thought for a moment and replied, he had an answer and said, “Ah ha!” Greg said he received one of the looks Victoria used to give Manolito when she was upset with him.

The good news is, he lived to tell the story. And being a smart young man, he was careful not to reveal his mother’s age when sharing the anecdote.

To all her fans, Linda Cristal will always be Victoria Montoya Cannon no matter what her age, so Happy Birthday to the first lady of The High Chaparral.

From NBC – The Full Color Network
Biography for Linda Cristal, Co-star, The High Chaparral, Sundays, NBC Television Network

Mechanical trouble on a ship sailing to Europe started Linda Cristal on her way to becoming Victoria Cannon, co-star of the NBC Television Network’s The High Chaparral.

Born Victoria Moya, Feb. 24 in Buenos Aires, Aergentina, daughter of a French magazine publisher and his Italian wife, she was raised by brothers Miguel and Antonio following the death of her parents at 13.

When she was 16, older brother Miguel sent her to Europe for further education but the ship put into Vera Cruz for repairs. Mexican producer-director Miguelito Aleman, son of the then president Miguel Aleman, spotted the raven-haired brown-eyed beauty. She was an immediate success in her first film, When the Fog Lifts. She starred in nine Aleman films in four years.

After three more Spanish-speaking films she noticed an ad in a Mexican paper for an actress who spoke English (she can speak English, Italian, French and Spanish) and obtained a co-starring role with Dana Andres in Comanche. She then worked opposite Gilbert Roland and Lorne Greene in Last of the Fast Guns.

Before coming to Hollywood under contract to Universal (1958-1963) she made a series of films for European producers in France, Italy and Yugoslavia. Linda’s Hollywood films include The Perfect Furlough, for which she won a Golden Globe Award, The Fiend That Walked the West, the feminine lead in The Alamo, and co-star in Two Rode Together. Linda has 30 films to her credit including American, Italian, French, Spanish and South American. Linda is the mother of two boys, Jordan, 3 and Gregory, 5 by her past marriage to producer-business man Yale Wexler.
NBC-New York, 8/1/67

The Epitome of a Star
by Jan Lucas
The son of a matador, graceful Gilbert Roland seemed destined for the bull-ring. But in 1911 his family fled the Mexican Revolution, settling in California where teenaged Roland was recruited as a movie extra. Stand-out handsome, he readily found bit-parts, then fame as a “Latin Lover” leading man. Talkies killed the careers of other silent-era Romeos, but Roland’s silky voice ensured a seamless transition.

A ladies’ man off-screen, Roland’s legendary liaisons included stars like Norma Talmadge and Clara Bow. Nervy as any toreodor, his audacity eventually worked against him. “He’d been blackballed because he’d been caught messing around with one of the top producer’s wives,” said an incredulous Henry Darrow. “Those guys played poker together!”

The small, supporting roles available to Roland in the 1940s might have signaled a dying career. Instead, his talent, panache and work ethic made an indelible impression on critics and fans. Kent McCray first saw him on the set of Bonanza. “I really marveled at his creativity as an actor. And when the time came for him to replace Frank Silvera on Chaparral, I was more than thrilled because I always respected his work, having seen him in many different movies.” Calling him a “superstar”, McCray found Gilbert Roland was always on time for work and always prepared. “He was a sheer joy.”

Susan McCray remembered him as the epitome of a star, wowing her when he entered the casting office with an exquisite black and gold walking-stick and said, “I am going to use this in the show. This is priceless to me, and I want it to be used in this role so that it shows the character and fineness of the man [Don Domingo Montoya].” To her, Roland was “exceptional and he was in fact a dynamic character and a charmer. Even at his age at that time, just charming! You could not resist that feeling of your heart pounding when you looked at him.”

Coming face-to-face with Gilbert Roland, Henry Darrow was in awe, but if his heart pounded, it was not entirely due to the older man’s star-power.

As a young stage-actor, Darrow was impressed by the on-screen Úlan of Roland’s Cisco Kid. “He’d put his hands on his hips, but not like with the thumbs to the back. He’d put his hand on his hip like a bullfighter, with his thumbs to the front.” Imitation being the sincerest flattery, Darrow copied the pose and was comfortable using it until Gilbert Roland appeared on the set of The High Chaparral.

“And all of a sudden, here he is walking toward me and I’ve got my hand on my hip and I’m thinking, oh, my gosh, this is his bit! That’s the man I stole this from! I didn’t know where to put my hands at the beginning.”

Darrow eventually shrugged off his embarrassment. “Then I thought, ah, what the heck? And it was a pleasure working with him. He exuded such confidence and style, it was a delight.”

Roland traveled with his own wine, a 1966 Pommard, and promised fellow oenophile Darrow a bottle. But at the end of the wrap party, Darrow was without wine and sure the offer was forgotten. “He shakes my hand, gives me un abrazo. I’m saying goodbye, it’s been a pleasure and I’m thinking about the wine, that he’s not going to come through.”

Catching the younger man by surprise, Roland said, “Henry, come with me to my car.” Upon reaching the sleek white Cadillac convertible, Roland opened the trunk and presented a bottle of Pommard, declaring, “When Gilbert Roland gives his word, he keeps it.”

Our contributing authors love feedback - send yours to

Chaparral Birthdays

Ted Markland - January 15

Linda Cristal - February 23

Guest Stars:

Gregory Walcott - January 13

BarBara Luna - March 2

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