Among the many movie cowboys I have met, two of the most interesting were Paul Newman and Robert Redford who took the oater film to new heights with their semi-comedic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Of the two, I first met Newman on his arrival in Hollywood for his initial film “The Silver Chalice”. It was at the home of my good friend, actor Bob Patten. At that time Patten had a roommate who was also an actor named Warren Stevens who was also present. When I noticed that Stevens was sort of down in the mouth I asked Bob what Stevens’ problem was, Patten replied that Warren had just lost his girlfriend to a young actor from the East named Paul Newman. He said the bad part was that Newman and the girlfriend, named Joanne Woodward, were coming over for cocktails. When the pair arrived Warren left and the four of us spent a couple of hours imbibing. As I was about to leave Newman asked if I knew L.A. very well. I replied I could get around pretty easily and he inquired if I knew of an inexpensive place to dine. I told him that Steaks R Us on La Cienega would be my first choice.
As for Redford he came to Reno for the world premiere of his movie “Downhill Racer” and before the premiere there was a cocktail party held in the SkyRoom of the Mapes Hotel. I visited with him and his co-star Gene Hackman, and the wife of the producer of the film, Natalie Wood. Redford was still wearing the droopy mustache he had sported in the Cassidy film. I was surprised to note that Redford was of the same medium height as Newman.
The first movie cowboy I met was William Holden when he came here in 1948 to star in the movie “Apartment for Peggy” which also stared actress Jeanne Crain. As students we picked up “extra” work in the film and in one scene we preceded Holden across the Tram and got to visit with him during the several takes.
One of the most burly western actors I met was Clint Walker on the occasion of his 70th birthday at a ranch near Susanville California. In person he was a very soft spoken individual much unlike the stoic hero he played in “Cheyenne”.
In addition to meeting Hackman in the SkyRoom I encountered him a second time when he and Al Pacino came to Reno to do a scene in a bar for the movie “Scarecrow”. The reason I was involved was that Tommy Shaw, the assistant director of the Misfits had called me from Hollywood with a request to find a seedy bar on Lake Street for the shoot. I met Hackman again years later when he was a participant in the Clint Eastwood Celebrity Tennis Tournament at Lake Tahoe. On one occasion my wife and I shared a booth with him at dinner in Hugo’s Restaurant on the Lake.
One of the more interesting cowboy types who came to Reno was the gruff actor Jim Marshall. At the time I met him he was a young guy starring in a TV series called “Rescue 8”. Since one of my clients, Crescent Creamery, was a sponsor of the show I was tasked with taking Jim around various school assemblies where he would give a talk and extol the virtues of drinking milk—particularly Crescent. During the evening hours of his sojourn here I would accompany him around town and the liquid we drank didn’t resemble milk. Years later I would catch him in movies where he would play the bad guy and the good guy in a large number of western flicks.
It is amazing how many of the super stars of show biz took a turn at riding in the saddle. Chief among them would have to be Frank Sinatra whose most famous appearance would have been in “Dirty Dingus Magee”. I first met Frank when he was at the lowest point in his career, shortly before he won an Oscar for his role in “From Here to Eternity”. At that time he was appearing at the Riverside Hotel and on his arrival in Reno had busted the camera of AP reporter Ed Olsen. A friend of mine called me mid-day from his desk at the Nevada State Journal and asked me if I could arrange a picture taking session with Sinatra between shows that night. We were able to take the shot and because Ava Gardner was in the photo we were able to sell it for twice as much money.