ctober 2007                                                                                   Editor: Penny McQueen
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The High Chaparral Newsletter

Susan McCray,

Getting to Know You

Live October 23

On Tuesday October 23, 2007, "Getting To Know You" will air Live at 6:30 p.m. pacific 9:30 p.m. eastern. The KSAV phone lines will be open for Susan to take your calls and answer your questions.

Hear the promo

for Susan McCray, Live!

Sounds of Reunion

You MUST NOT miss the chance to hear on-the-scene interviews with Henry Darrow, Rudy Ramos, Don Collier, Bob Hoy, Kent McCray, and all the guest stars, crew, and fans who attended The High Chaparral 40th anniversary reunion. Susan McCray's very special broadcast, recorded at the reunion, is available HERE.

Be sure to let Susan know how much all HC fans appreciate this great memento of the show and the reunion - email her at susan@ksav.org.

Letters to the Editor

Want to write us? We're all ears! Send a telegram via Western Union, a smoke signal, or email us at info@highchaparralnewsletter.com. Read this month's letters here .

Read past editions of the newsletter at Highchaparralnewsletter.com

Henry Darrow and Cameron Mitchell screen captures provided by Tanja Konstantaki

High Chaparral on the Web

The Official High Chaparral website
The High Chaparral Reunion website
The High Chaparral Newsletter
Don Collier
Henry Darrow
Bob Hoy
Ted Markland
Susan McCray
Rudy Ramos
Mark Slade
Out West Entertainment

To subscribe to The High Chaparral newsletter, send an email to info@highchaparralnewsletter.com .

Welcome again to another list of new High Chaparral articles:

  • A special tribute to Rose Dortort.
  • Fascinated by the dashing Manolito Montoya? Don't miss Jan Lucas's extensive new interview with Henry Darrow.
  • Penny McQueen discovered Cameron Mitchell is still remembered by his friends, as they reminisced at the HC reunion.
  • More High Chaparral questions? Mark your calendar for Susan McCray's live show on October 23, and call in to ask!


In Memory, Rose Dortort
Rose Dortort, beloved wife of David Dortort, passed away on Sunday, September 30th, 2007. Friends and fans send their sympathy and support to the Dortort family.

Susan McCray provided her personal memories of Rose Dortort here. A transcript follows:

"I have remembrances of Rose Dortort of sitting in our living room with my parents, humming along to the music when my father played the piano, when my mother played the piano. She was adorable, she loved the music, she loved to sing along. She wasn't a great singer, but always had a lot of fun. She admired people with talent, she loved music. And I think the one thing that I can remember about Rose was the comarardie and love she had for friends and family. She considered my parents and myself family, as does David. And so I consider myself an extension of their family and I'm proud to say that she felt that way about me. I truly will miss her. Her smile, her laugh, her sarcastic wit. She did have a wonderful sarcasm about her, and sometimes you really didn't know if she was funning with you, or if she was being really being nasty or giving you a barb. And sometimes maybe she was, but you could accept it because she was such a good woman, kind hearted, caring, good woman. She loved David more than anything in this world, and her guidance and her love for him took him to the heights that he became such a successful man. I loved Rose and I will miss her forever. But her memories of fun and laughter will remain in my heart forever." ~ Susan McCray

By Jan Lucas

Saturday of the High Chaparral reunion, spellbound fans packed the hospitality room as Kent McCray described behind-the-scenes and on-camera action. McCray was emphasizing Mark Slade's
scheduled fifth season return when a trim, silver-haired gentleman opened the back door and stepped inside. Flashing a dimpled grin, the newcomer declared, "When Mark left, that meant more lines for me!" Henry Darrow's surprise entrance won enthusiastic applause.

"It was fantastic! The whole thing just sparked me up," he said. "I was thinking my God! This is what it was about years and years ago." A born performer, Darrow thrives on interaction with live audiences.

He was a bold, confident stage-actor in his twenties. "I wasn't intimidated by anything," he stated. That included Bill Whitney, who directed Darrow in the theater years before they met again on The High Chaparral. "He said I was moving my head too much," the actor recalled. But arm around an actress and prop gun in his hand, he ignored Whitney. Playing the scene his way, he was thrilled when Whitney said, "Well, it looks like we have a Spanish Barrymore."

"I went home that evening and wrote my mother. 'He said I was a Spanish Barrymore.' She wrote back, 'Sweetheart, John Barrymore was known for being a hambone, an over-actor.'" Laughing, he added, "At that time, young actors from the Pasadena Playhouse were considered to be over-actors and indeed we were. In fact, I screen tested several times and proved it over and over."

But irrepressible Henry Darrow also proved talent, versatility, good looks, drive and practicality gets parts. He recalled, "I'd take anything. Paul Regina, the kid who played my son in Zorro and Son, didn't want Zorro to be a big thing, because he didn't want to be typecast. And it's like oh, God! Paul, what you want to do is work! You want to establish yourself."

While some consider close association with a character detrimental, Darrow views it as triumph. "You have succeeded in embedding your character into the heart of your audience." Delighted to be entrenched in the hearts of long-time fans, he was recently amazed when girls in their twenties recognized him as Manolito Montoya. "And I thought, my God, they saw High Chaparral reruns in Guatemala or Honduras! There I am in the middle of the hallway, signing autographs, posing for pictures. I'm kneeling on the ground and they're saying, okay, goodbye, thank you and I'm saying no, no, no. My knees are bad. You have to help me get up!" he said. Confirming that bad knees aren't all bad if coupled with a certain loveable charm, he added with a smile in his voice, "That worked out nice." It would have been an unlikely interlude had Darrow been successful in his own youthful attempt to avoid typecasting.

Born in Manhattan, teenaged Enrique Tomás Delgado spoke only fluent "New Yorkican" when his family returned to Puerto Rico. The transition was difficult, but he fell in love with the island and stayed until an acting scholarship took him to California's Pasadena Playhouse. There, he deftly tackled drama, romance and comedy. Easily mimicking voices and accents, he portrayed diverse characters with dead-on accuracy. He also danced and sang well. After graduation, with skills honed at the Playhouse and Las Palmas Theater plus can-do attitude, he pursued film and television roles. The future looked golden. "Back then," he explained, "you got your little degree in movie and television acting, got married and went to live in the Hollywood Hills. I thought, hey, man I'm ready!"

But in Hollywood during the late 1950s and early 1960s, Sicilian-American Guy Williams was television's Zorro and Hungarian-Jewish funnyman Bill Dana rose to stardom as a bumbling Mexican bellhop. Except for a few plum roles, real Hispanic actors had bit-parts as Indians, servants, border guards, gigolos or other riff-raff. His agent kept him working, but said Darrow, "I played Martinez, Lopez, José, Pepé and Carlos for a number of years." And whereas theater casting usually hinged on an actor's skill instead of ethnicity, film and television judged differently. A gifted baritone of Russian descent played Daniel Boone's Indian friend Mingo, but "Delgado would not be up for the part of Corporal Leutz from Germany."

During ten years of tiny parts, voice-overs, dubbing movies and eventually a few solid secondary guest-roles, pragmatic Enrique Delgado became Henry Delgado then finally, Henry Darrow. "Hector Elizando knew I had changed my name and he said hey, you do what you can to work, that's the whole idea," he said, stressing one of life's twists. "Now that was the irony of it, because after changing my name to Darrow and working a season at the Pasadena Playhouse, I got a part in a series playing a wonderful Mexican character."

Inspired only by Shakespeare, Darrow let creativity fly and made Manolito Montoya shine. Upon seeing the pilot, TV Guide critic Cleveland Amory wrote he hoped Darrow would at some point stop laughing, but viewers fell in love with Manolito. Reflecting on favorite scenes in "Destination Tucson" and "The Arrangement", Darrow said, "Denne Bart Petticlerc was a wonderful writer. That scene where I saved Leif's life had everything in it -- the serious, threatening kind of demeanor and the humor of the character." Cleveland Amory kept watching and declared Darrow's captivating performance worthy of an Emmy. "I brought a kind of freshness to the role because I had no approach. I wasn't that aware of the camera, anything like that. I had no tricks." But the older actors had plenty and he was a zealous student.

"It was like I was taking a four-year college course in a year," he recalled, noting Cameron Mitchell taught Upstaging 101 brilliantly. "When we did the pilot, Mark Slade and I were talking. 'That scene with the three of us, wow! That's great, working with Cam Mitchell!' Then we went to the dailies to see it, and any time you'd see our faces, he'd hug us and turn us around so our backs were to the camera. When he grabbed you, you were going to be a prop of some kind." A quick study and a diplomat, Darrow learned to fall down or dip off-camera. "They'd yell 'Cut! Hey Cam, don't hug Henry so tight, he looses his balance.'"

With temperatures over one hundred, dressed in leather and wool, Darrow remained enthusiastic. "I wanted to be in on everything!" If anyone had dialogue they didn't like, he asked for it. After a while, he was told to stick with his own lines. "The producer said, 'Henry, you gotta shut up. It's somebody else's turn.'"

He was quieter but restless when Leif Erickson advised him to take it easy. "You're always up and about… standing… It's better if you sit down instead of standing all the time and it's even better to lie down instead of sitting."

Darrow may have slowed down on the set, but he and The High Chaparral raced to break new ground. The series was the first to feature a Latino family and offer solid roles to minority actors; it cast Apaches as Apaches, employed approximately 150 Hispanics during its run and catapulted Darrow to international fame. One of the few Hispanic stars in Hollywood, he joined Ricardo Montalbán and others to improve the image and opportunities of Latinos in the entertainment industry. Together, they formed Nosotros (www.nosotros.org). Montalbán was the first president, Darrow was vice-president and name recognition opened doors. "Ricardo and I would visit the networks and make our pitch about there should be more Hispanic actors, and they'd say, 'Yeah, but look at the percentage that so-and-so has of Latins.' And it was like 'So? They all work in the kitchen!' They'd say there's nobody qualified. And we'd say, 'Well, what are you going to do to help people qualify?' We wanted people behind the cameras, but first we wanted people in front." Darrow said progress initially came with better Latino roles, but "gradually that has broken away and you have Andy Garcia [ Ocean's Eleven] in a story about stealing some diamonds from the hotel. It has nothing to do with being Hispanic. Then you know what you were starting or trying to start is succeeding."

Recently passed over for a part on the Jimmy Smits series Cane , Darrow said, "On the other hand, now there's this new series with Jimmy Smits, Rita Moreno, Hector Elizando. I auditioned and they told me I was second choice. I wondered, who was first? And it was Hector."

Philosophical about disappointment, energetic Darrow focuses on upcoming projects. While awaiting word on another audition, he is busy crafting a one-man play. His movie Primo opens later this year and another film is in post-production. He has seldom been without work, except after The High Chaparral ended. "They felt I was too associated with Manolito still, that people would say, 'Oh, look! There's Manolito on Mission: Impossible.'" Determined as usual, he kept plugging and parts came, the memorable as well as the mundane.

Years before winning a Daytime Emmy for Santa Barbara's Rafael Castillo, portraying Harry O's acclaimed Manny Quinlan, becoming the beloved first Hispanic Zorro, blasting into outer space or delighting theater audiences as Cervantes, he went after a Native American role in Cancel My Reservation . Auditioning for Bob Hope in Hope's Toluca Lake home would have intimidated some, but not Darrow. "I wanted Hope to see I had a sense of humor," he said. When Hope asked what kind of Indian he was, Darrow responded, "Porrican." Puzzled, Hope asked where he was from. "New York," he deadpanned.

"Hope said, 'New York?! Are you Puerto Rican?' And I said, 'Yeah!' And he asks, 'And Puerto Rican is Indian?' I just lied and said, 'Yeah!' He laughed in my face and said, 'The kid's in!'" Describing to Hope a scene in Little Big Man, Darrow quoted Chief Dan George: 'Well, sometimes the magic works, sometimes it does not.'
And when Henry Darrow's magic works, the kid's always in.

photos courtesy of Kat Garcia and www.henrydarrow.com

Cameron Mitchell, Ghost of Chaparral
by Penny McQueen

They say as long as people remember you, you're never truly gone. If that's true, in some cross-eyed l way I shared a good, metaphysical stiff drink with Cameron Mitchell during The High Chaparral 40th Anniversary Reunion. As his colleagues reminisced, his name came up so often I looked over my shoulder to see if he was leaning over the bar, eating cheese and crackers with his gloves on.

Throughout the weekend, I asked and listened. Some things are clear from the minute you meet the High Chaparral cast and crew. First, you're in the midst of intelligent, creative talent. The air crackles with wit and you'd better grab something and hang on for a wild ride once the fun starts. Second, this is a happy bunch, a carryover from a set that was obviously a career highlight and filled with good-natured practical jokes. Laughter is the order of the day in this family, especially when talking about the one and only uncle.

"Cam was a slob but a good slob," Kent McCray said when I asked the inevitable 'what was Cameron like' question. "He had a rental car that was always a wreck, with mold on the back seat from spilled fast food."

"I remember that car," said Bob Hoy. "It was beyond anything you've ever seen. Coffee cups, half-eaten hamburgers, cigarette butts." After 40 years, Bob remembers details I'd forget after 4 days. When he crosses his arms, leans back and lets his eyes dance, I know a story is coming. "He got me good with that car. I had to clear off a place to sit while he pretended nothing was wrong. We'd shot into the evening, which was tough in that heat all day, let me tell you. I'd left my car at home and Cam offered me a ride." A born storyteller, Bob describes the ride, his head resting on the seat back, sleepy, watching sunlight through half-closed eyes. Then he wondered if he'd had too much sun that day. "I thought I saw something marching across the dashboard, so I rubbed my eyes, but there was another, then more. Ants. Cam was raising an ant colony in his car."

Don Collier says, "He could act. No one could sell a scene like him. He knew every trick in the book."

"He was a hell of an actor," Bob agreed. "He knew how to make you look at him in a scene, and that's something you can't teach. Little things, like being the last person out of the room, or the last rider out of a shot."

Henry Darrow, who worked with Mitchell as closely as anyone, agreed. "He really knew how to make the camera look at him, he was always able to create some kind of business that made it through the daily cuts," he said, waving an arm and making a face in typical Buck-fashion. "There's a particular scene in the Thanksgiving episode, where we're all eating at the end. When they set up the scene, Cam and I went over the food and talked about who would take what. And I said I'd take the peas and he said he'd take the mashed potatoes. Simple enough, right? But when we shot it, he made it uniquely his." Darrow, always the expressive actor, dropped into role and re-created the scene for me, a one-man show for a one-woman audience. "He motioned for me to hand him the potatoes, then grabbed them out of my hand, and – Sploosh! – he plops an enormous glob onto his plate. There's all this energy going on around him, and all at once, he's the focus of the scene." Dimples deep in his familiar wide smile, he said, "You just never knew what he was going to do, but nine times out of ten, it worked."

"Cam knew all the tricks, that's one reason he was so effective," Kent said. "Of course, you never knew what hair color he'd show up with, but he could handle the heat. He'd sit in the watering trough, then walk into a scene but because of that black costume you wouldn't know it."

"Those gloves," Henry said, rolling his eyes. "He wore them all the time, even when he ate. I have no idea why, but he never took them off, he'd be eating all kinds of food, it was crazy, part of the character I guess. The writers finally put it into some scripts, I think."

"You could never get one up on him, he was always ahead of you," Henry continued, grinning. "Cam, Mark and myself worked so many scenes together, and we learned early that first year Cam was the master at positioning himself in the scene, but Mark learned to get in there first sometimes, so we would say, 'Oh, there's one for Mark!' But you couldn't beat Cam, he knew every actor's trick in the book. He'd tape his lines to his saddle, hat, anywhere, so for one scene when he'd taped the lines to his saddle and we were on our horses, I waited until they were shooting over my shoulder straight at him. He was looking down at his saddle and mumbling his lines." Henry dropped into another perfect Buck imitation, riding a barstool like a horse, grumbling down at an imaginary saddle in a tortured drawl, then continued, "So I quietly called his horse, it would side-step, he'd lose the line, and mumble some more. That was one day I got him."

I'd heard about legendary poker games, so I asked, setting off a round of jokes about who lost the most money to whom. Games of chance were as popular off camera as on. According to Kent, they played anything. "Poker, dominos. If they could find a rock they'd use it so the cards wouldn't blow away. There used to be a game called Pitch. I've played Gin on a mule's behind. You get to where you'll play anything to pass the time." Not every cast member was lucky at the game, however. "Cam's theory was, 'I make more money than you do, so I'm going to bet and bet, until I wear all of you out.' And he would, but most of the time he lost. His son, Buttons, was just a little kid about 4 or 5 years old, and he would stand beside his dad during poker games. We would always call him over to the game, because he'd look at Cam's hand and announce, 'Dad, you're not going to bet on that hand, are you? It's terrible!' Buttons was our best insurance when we played with Cam."

As the most experienced actor in the cast, with a wide variety of stage, movie, and TV credits behind him, Cameron's hiring gave legitimacy to Chaparral, and as David Dortort once said, "I was forever indebted to him for his wonderful performance as Uncle Buck."

When talking with these incredibly talented artists, I forget their roles and focus on the reality of Henry, Don, and Bob. Kent McCray is just as impressive, and as their boss, and he still leads with an easy going authority that is reassuring to watch. They're fascinating, charming men, handsome as ever, and as one story flows into another time escapes me and I forget everything except the excellent company. Then reality shifts, a ghost of Chaparral taps me on the shoulder, and I fancy I hear the echo of 'Buffalo Gals'. The years drop away. Joe Butler nudges Manolito Montoya. Sam Butler accepts a drink from Kent McCray, a man whose height, profile, and natural authority makes him a twin to John Cannon.

Manolito – or was it Henry? – winked at me and lifted his glass. To absent friends? Quien sabe. "Leif and Cam, between the two of them, they held that show together."

Chaparral fans will understand. I had a dizziness.

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