Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. This week I’m in Oklahoma City, partially on business but mostly for fun as its time again for the Western Heritage Awards which open to the public on Friday night with Jingle Jangle Mingle.
This opening night event takes place up and down the hallways of the Western Heritage Center, or as I’ve said before, the Cowboy Hall of Fame. There’s food and beverage stations everywhere as movie stars, film producers, writers, politicians and corporate leaders mingle with everyday folks in the setting of this beautiful museum. Questions and cameras are welcome and autographs are given out freely upon request. In the past year I’ve traveled from coast to coast and have attended my share of gatherings and friends the Friday night Jingle, Jangle, Mingle is at the top of my list for great events.
Saturday the festivities start off early with sit down conversations with the “legends of westerns” as I call them. Last year the famous film producer A.J. Lyle, Patrick Wayne and Stuart Whitman were just a few of the big names who were there and they would just basically pull up a chair and talk. There will be several of these seminars going on throughout the day, leading up to a black tie awards ceremony on Saturday night.
The awards ceremony this year will be hosted by Academy Award winning actor Ernest Bourgnine and Wyatt McCrea, the grandson of the late actor Joel McCrea. Bourgnine’s sixty year career includes close to 200 films including Marty for which he won an Oscar. He is probably still best known for his role as Quinton McHale in the 1960s TV series McHale’s Navy.
Wyatt McCrea is the President of the Board of Directors for the Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation in California and he is very involved with several other not-for-profit boards. An actor with his own production company, Wyatt has also been the executive producer for many T.V. and movie projects but like his grandfather, at heart he is a rancher. Wyatt is also dedicated to keeping the history of the old west alive and preserving the memories of the men and women who made that history. His stories about growing up on his grandfather’s ranch and playing with the likes of Gary Cooper and Alfred Hitchcock are sure to flow when he and Bourgnine hit the museum’s front door.
One of the things on the agenda for Saturday night is induction into the Hall of Great Westerners and I wanted to mention two of this year’s honorees.
Bruce Boxleitner has been in dozens of films beginning with The Chadwick Family in 1974. His television career started with the role of Rick on the Mary Tyler Moore show in 1973 which was followed by work in Hawaii 5-0, Gunsmoke, Baretta, Police Woman and How The West Was Won. Boxleitner will for sure be a draw for both Friday and Saturday nights.
The second fellow will receive this honor posthumously as he died in 2010. Originally from Texas, Fess Parker became a household name after Disney signed him up to play Davy Crockett, King of The Wild Frontier in 1954. It was a big hit and in 1964 Parker starred as Daniel Boone in another Disney box office hit. He went on to play several other western heroes in productions for Paramount and Warner Brothers studios.
In 1986 Parker began a second career in Santa Barbara where he built two first class hotels and then purchased 714 acres in the Santa Ynez valley. He established the Fess Parker Vineyard and Winery on the property in 1987 and today his son and daughter run the business. In 1998 Parker purchased the Grand Hotel in Los Olivos right down the road from his winery. He renamed the hotel Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn and Spa and was often seen eating there right up to his death. Parker was passionate about the performing arts and his generous gifts to various arts organizations became as legendary as his own acting career.
If you can’t make it this weekend, don’t worry. Next week I’ll bring you all the scoop on the Western Heritage Awards including a behind the scenes story on just what it takes to put on an event like this from my friend Wyatt and Ernest Bourgnine.
Till then I’ll see ya down the road….