Filming in Bartlesville?

Ironically, having just returned from two film festivals now I have been contacted by a film company with an interest in my project. They hope to come to town to interview the remaining key players and shoot some footage on location. Will this solve the mystery or just add to it? Stay tuned…..


More from Down The Road

This is the latest installment from my travels west….

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back. This past weekend Bartlesville had what you might call a perfect storm with three big events going on all at once. Thursday night was the kick-off for the 24th annual Oklahoma Indian Summer Festival at the Bartlesville Community Center and it was also the night of the big homecoming parade downtown. Throw in the start of the Tulsa Fly-in out at the Bartlesville Airport and I think you get the picture. Most of the hotels were full and I found that local restaurants had crowds in them way after normal business hours. Although the inclement weather on Friday was a challenge on the football field, at Oklahoma Indian Summer and out at the airport, both the game and the Fly-in went on as scheduled and better weather on Saturday brought out big crowds to both the Oklahoman Indian Summer Festival and the Fly-in..I personally got to fly in the 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane and if the Tulsa fly-in group brings it back next year you’ve got to go for a ride. It has three engines and a pair of wings hooked on to a corrugated tin travel trailer that flies. The wonderful history of this plane and all the others that participate in this great air show is a real plus for ourcommunity and our local economy.

The big news coming of the Oklahoma Indian Summer Festival is all the talk about next year’s event which will be the 25th anniversary of the festival. The committee has already signed a big name recording artist for an outdoor concert and there are rumors flying around about VIPs who might attend and even a possible parade.

I am bringing up this next story because I just returned from Pagosa Springs, Colorado where I had heard that the Springs Resort and Spa had commissioned an engineering and hydrology firm to determine the true depth of the hot springs on their property. Naturally I wanted to check it out and on August 20th in front of a crowd of onlookers, the consultants verified that at 1,002 feet the pool is the deepest in the world, setting a new record for the Guiness Book of World Records. This natural phenomenon was discovered hundreds of years ago by the southern Ute Indians and called “Pag-Osah” a place of peace and healing. It is claimed that these waters relieve arthritis, normalize heart rhythms, lower blood pressure, convert blood sugar to energy, strengthen bones and promote at least fifty  other physical improvements including brain function and hair growth.  The Springs Resort and Spa offers luxury accommodations, a full service spa and 24 four hour a day access to 23 individual hot springs and a large fresh water pool.

While you’re at the Resort there are plenty of things to explore including many cliff dwellings and historical sites such Chimney Rock Archaeological area which is one of my favorites. This place where the Pueblo people lived hundreds of years ago sits on top of the highest peak in the region. Why these ancient people chose to live there has been a mystery since the discovery of the site in 1920. The hike alone can kill you as the narrow trail leading there is sometimes less than ten feet wide and a fall would send you off the mountain to instant death. Mysteries and myths, legends and theories, you’ll have your own after this day trip.

Chama, New Mexico is an hour and a half south of Pagosa which is the home of the Cumbres and Toltec railroad. The old steam engine and the original cars have been completely restored and offer you a ride that I promise you’ll never forget. Through narrow, steep passages and dark steam filled tunnels, you cross over the continental divide, stopping at an old railroad station for lunch and then come back down. It’s an all day trip and you’ll want to take your camera.

Soon I will be telling you more about this place that’s only a day’s drive away and explaining how you will have the opportunity to bid on a stay at the Resort and passes for some of these day trips.

Till then, I’ll see ya down the road…


Telluride Film Festival

This is my report from the Telluride Film Festival where I just spent five days going to films and making contacts for the project, several of which seem to have real potential.

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back. All the action at this year’s Telluride film festival was once again based around the New Sheridan Hotel. The original hotel was a wooden structure built in 1891 four years after the town was founded and when it burned down three years later the hotel was rebuilt in brick in 1895 and renamed the “New” Sheridan Hotel. The early days of the Sheridan were splendid and the hotel was the center of social life in the town. The restaurant was considered to be on a par with the famous Brown Derby in Denver and featured large private tables designed for discreet conversations about either business or romance. The hotel was a landmark for years but with little upgrading it went downhill until 1994 when it underwent its first major renovation in 100 years restoring the hotel the restaurant and the bar to their original elegance. Today the hotel features twenty-six luxury   rooms and suites, a beautiful hand carved mahogany bar and a collection of Victorian era antiques and artwork. Thanks to the dedication of owner Joe Steinberg the New Sheridan is once again the place to go in Telluride and this is another story of man investing millions of dollars in a business that he will probably never recoup in order to save an historic place. I am hoping to have the opportunity to interview him and learn more about his vision for the hotel in the near future. I understand that he is also very involved with the planning and direction of the festival.

Sitting on one of the many benches in front of the New Sheridan it is common to see celebrities passing by such as George Clooney who was drawing a big crowd when I saw him out walking. His new film “The Descendants” got good reviews here and my report is that it will do well at the box office. Tilda Swinton who won an Oscar for her performance in “Michael Clayton” was also hanging out at the hotel regularly and the town was buzzing about her new film “We Need to Talk About Kevin”. I saw this film also and from the opening minutes you know that there is something creepy about this kid Kevin. I’m not going to give anything up but I predict that this will be another box office success.

One of my personal favorites that will certainly be a big hit with Beatles’ fans is Martin Scorsese and Olivia Harrison’s new film “Living In The Material World.” This is the life story of George Harrison which incorporates never before seen images and interviews with the famous guitar player from his youth up to the time of his death. I had a fluke introduction to Olivia and then had the opportunity to visit with her on a couple of different occasions. As you can imagine she was very kind and I observed that she was gracious to everyone who approached her. Here’s a couple of things she mentioned while we were visiting :

v     George was a packrat and kept all of his photos and video recordings.

v     He learned early on that fame and the money he made were not terribly important to him and he was much more interested in the spiritual aspects of life

v     Director Scorsese cried when he read the letters George had written as a youth

v     George wanted the film to be faithful to the facts of his life and it took 3 years to make.

I personally saw the film right after our last visit and it runs a full 3 ½  hours with interviews not only with Harrison but also with Eric Clapton, Tom Petty and many other famous friends who discuss their feelings about George as a man. The film also includes new, previously unheard, music composed by George. As you might guess this is a top of the line piece of work from a couple of nice folks who are devoted to preserving George’s  memory.

I also saw Glenn Close’s whose new film “Albert Nobbs” was getting a lot of attention as was  “The Island President” and the German film “Pina.” In my opinion the sleeper in all these new movies is called “The Artist” and believe it or not it is a silent film shot entirely in black and white. “The Artist” was made in France last year and stars Penelope Ann Miller, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin who won the best actor award at this yer’s Cannes Film Festival for his role.

There were many other films showing in different locations around town and you just can’t see ‘em all but it’s a lot of fun trying. This weekend there was another big event taking place at fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s 20,000 acre ranch just ten miles away. Three past Presidents are rumored to be in town, along with Johnny Depp, Oprah Winfrey and many more celebrities. Many locals have been hired to work at the event and I have been told that they all have signed confidentiality agreements. All I know for sure is that 27 year old Lauren Bush, the niece of  former President George W. Bush, will marry Ralph’s 39 year old son David at the ranch on Sunday and 200 people are invited.

You may think about going yourself next year so mark your calendar for Labor Day weekend 2012 for the 39th Telluride Film Festival.

Right now I’m burning up the highway to get back to Bartlesville’s own Oklahoma Indian Summer Festival which starts tomorrow at the Community Center. Dee Ketchum and the rest of the committee have worked hard to put together the 24th annual event which provides a showcase for Indian culture and history that is intended for the general public. This is going to be a great weekend and I guarantee that it will be well worth your time.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…..




Whitey Bulger

I was fascinated by this story about another long time fugitive with ties to Oklahoma…..

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back.   According to the L.A. Times, James “Whitey” Bulger reportedly started his life of crime hijacking delivery trucks in the 1950s before he was captured and sent to prison on Alcatraz Island. After his release from Alcatraz he joined the powerful Winter Hill gang in Boston where he and his chief ally Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi quickly seized control, running the rackets, shake downs and drug deals for over 40 years. Then in 1994, facing a federal indictment and years in prison, Whitey vanished. FBI Agent John J. “Zip” Connolly had tipped him off to the indictment and later did prison time himself as a result.

17 years later, after following up on leads in 19 countries and spending thousands of dollars, the FBI’s relentless efforts paid off when they arrested Whitey at apartment 303 in the Princess Eugenia apartment building in Santa Monica, California where he been all along, living under the name of Charles Gasko. His arrest resulted after the FBI aired 350 public service announcements offering a 2 million dollar reward for his capture.

The ads weren’t directed at Whitey but at his 60 year old girlfriend who had been a dental hygienist before she met him. She was known to frequent beauty salons and just a couple of days after the ads with her description started running a tip came in that led to the Princess Eugenia.

Bulger faces federal charges in Massachusetts of racketeering, murder, conspiracy to commit murder, drug dealing, extortion and money laundering. He is also charged with murder in Florida and in Oklahoma where he has been linked to the 1981 death of Roger Wheeler who was gunned down in broad daylight after playing golf at Southern Hills Country Club.

Inside Bulger’s apartment FBI agents found 822,198 dollars, most of it in hundred dollars bills hidden inside the walls which had allowed him and his girlfriend Catherine Gray (aka Carol Gasko) to live quite comfortably. They also found thirty guns which Whitey told agents he had carried when he traveled back to Boston on several occasions “to take care of unfinished business.” He also told them that he had gone to San Diego where he crossed over the border into Tijuana, Mexico to buy medicine. He claimed that he had “previously stashed money with people he trusted” but did not name names.

Bulger has been the subject of several books and in the 2006 Martin Scorsese film “The Departed” starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Jack Nicholson, Nicholson plays a Bulger like character.

He was quickly extradited back to Boston where according to papers filed by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz Federal prosecutors plan to put the 81 year old crime boss on trial “as soon as possible.” They are also analyzing the two cell phones found in Bulger’s apartment to find out if he had help during his 17 years as a fugitive.

Bulger is said to have boasted that he corrupted 6 FBI agents and more than 20 police officers and in sworn testimony his right hand man, Kevin Weeks, said the gang boss stuffed envelopes with cash around the holidays saying that “Christmas is for cops and kids.”

Trial dates for Bulger are being set now and his girlfriend ‘s next court appearance is scheduled for September 29th after she pled not guilty to helping him evade authorities, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 5 years.

According to federal indictments compiled by the L.A. Times staff writer Victoria Kim Bulger is believed to have been involved in the following string of murders:

March and April 1973: Michael Milano, Al Plummer, William O’Brien, James Leary and Joseph Notorangeli, members of a rival gang.

December 1973:            former associate James O’Toole

February 1974:             Al Notorangeli, leader of a rival gang

October 1974:               James Sousa, criminal associate

November 1974:          Paul McGonagle, member of the Mullins gang

June 1975:                    Edward Connors, potential witness

November 1975:          Thomas King, member of Bulger’s gang

December 1976:          Richard Castucci, FBI informant

May 1981:                     Roger Wheeler, owner of the gambling     operation World Jai Alai in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Late 1981:                    Debra Davis, girlfriend of Bulger associate Stephen Flemmi

May 1982:                   Brian Halloran, FBI informant on the Wheeler killing and Michael Donahue who was riding in the car with Halloran

August 1982:                John B. Callahan, former President of World Jai Alai  who could implicate Bulger in Wheeler’s death

July 1983:                     Arthur “Bucky’ Barrett, alleged safecracker and bank robber whom Bulger targeted for extortion.

November 1984:          John McIntyre who was cooperating with law enforcement on the gang’s involvement in shipments of arms and ammunition to the Irish Republican Army.

Early 1985:                   Deborah Hussey, Flemmi’s stepdaughter.

Authorities in Oklahoma are waiting their turn to get their hands on Whitey and have filed the paperwork to have him extradited back here if he lives long enough.

Up next my report from Telluride on the films and film stars I saw at the festival.

Till then I’ll see ya down the road…..





Bob Funk’s Big Event

I’m on the road at the annual Telluride Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado and soon I’ll be posting a full report on the films and film stars I’m seeing here. In the meantime here is a story from the Big Event in Yukon, Oklahoma.

            Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back.   Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, former Governor George Nigh, singers Anita Bryant and Ty England, rodeo star Billy Atbauer and entertainer Jim Stafford were among the many guests who gathered in Yukon, Oklahoma on Friday for what is known as “The Big Event”.

Bob Funk, the owner of Express Ranches puts this party on very year to promote the ranching industry and what a gala it was. The two day event kicks off with a cow sale on Friday morning that is televised around the world.  Its just like a regular cattle sale except on Friday the cattle are still in pastures and a film crew is out there with them, broadcasting back to the Express Ranch sale barn where a dozen workers are taking bids over the phone selling cattle in bunches of everywhere from thirty to fifty at a time.

That night after the sale a big party is held under a giant tent where the various dignitaries give speeches about the important of the cattle industry. Governor Fallin sat at a table next to mine at dinner and she told me that Mr. Funk has given millions of dollars in college scholarships to high kids who want to get into the cattle business and he is also the second largest donor to OSU after T. Boone Pickens. I learned more of Mr. Funk’s philanthropic work from Heather Wilson, a former U.S. Representative from New Mexico, who told me that his St. James Hotel and the Express UU Bar Ranch in Cimarron are the largest employers in that area. She said he pays good wages, provides health benefits and offers profit sharing all of which makes him a hero in this economically depressed community.

After the Friday night gala I thought the event couldn’t get any better but Saturday turned out to be the real showcase when the auctions started off  with the individual cattle sales. These cows were in the sale barn and although I didn’t understand all the talk about genetics and DNA I could see that this is what today’s big cattlemen look for.Better animals, better prices for the ranchers and better steaks was what this greenhorn understood.

“The Big Event” is held every August at the Express Ranch in Yukon, just a few miles west of Oklahoma City. The sale is free to attend and open to the public and it is truly an educational experience. “Check It Out.”

This next story shifts from the best of mankind to the worst and it has a small tie to our area. Charles Gasko as everyone knew him at his 1012 3rd Street apartment in Santa Monica seemed fairly normal. According to Barbara Gluck who lived across the hall he walked his dog regularly and was usually well dressed with an elegant jacket but he could at times be mean to his female companion, especially when she spoke to the other neighbors. Their 800 square foot rent controlled apartment was just a couple of blocks from the Santa Monica beach and in a wealthy enclave of beautiful homes and apartments. But on June 24th, just a few days before I arrived in California the world discovered that this was not your average 81 years old but James “Whitey” Bulger, leader of the notorious Winter Hill gang in Boston.

Whitey had been on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list since 1994, right below Osama Bin Laden and I’ve got his story coming next week. Till then, from Telluride, Colorado where I’m attending the 2nd largest film festival in the U.S., I’ll see ya down the road…..