Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Fund Fight at the OK Corral

by Bart Bull; Washington Post, August 31, 1987
(There's a bit of a back-story that goes along with this one, from my brief but curious Post go-round. . . but hell, there's always a bit of a back-story with any decent piece of reporting.  Still, maybe I'll tell it sometime.)
TOMBSTONE, ARIZONA -- The marshal of Tombstone reaches down to his gun belt, runs his hand over the black leather loops that hold the cartridges in an orderly row. His dry fingers push bullets up against the loop, six of them, one after another. One after another, he pushes six bullets down.
The squad cars are parked with their bumpers backed up to the gate of the OK Corral, ready to roll. The southern Arizona sun is rising but the morning is still cool and quiet -- maybe too quiet. The fellow with his boot up on the bench outside the marshal's office asks, "So this is it?  Today's the day?"
Doc Holloway, marshal of Tombstone, the Town Too Tough to Die, just laughs from behind his sunglasses. "Today's the day." He pushes six bullets up, he pushes six bullets down. "Today's the day I head on down the road."The car he's leaning on has the marshal's star on the door, a five-pointed silver star just like the one on his shirt. The Tombstone marshal badges they sell in the souvenir stores that line Allen Street have six points and cost $2.25 apiece. And will Gerald (Doc) Holloway take that star of his off his chest today, the last Friday in August, his last day on the job, and throw it across his desk just like the marshals of the movies?
"I've spent 28 years in law enforcement," he says. "I'm going to leave this job like a professional, as a professional.  I'm just going to fade away."  He pushes his dark glasses back against his brown temples, going gray at the sideburns, and he smiles. "There was no controversy."
There was a controversy, and the newspapers covered it in full. Not the Tombstone Epitaph, however, which is a monthly that goes out to Old West history buffs -- the shootout at the OK Corral is still breaking news at the Epitaph, and has been since it hit the headlines on Oct. 27, 1881, the day after the bullets flew and the blood was spilled.  The controversy this time was only slightly clearer than the much disputed details of the set-to between the Earps and the Clantons.  Holloway asked the City Council for more deputies to support the three officers he had, and his request was ignored.  The marshal and the council had something of a verbal shootout in his office behind the Corral, and after nine months as marshal, Doc Holloway decided to set off toward the sunset.
"I hope you got some money out of 'em," his friend says over his shoulder, heading off to a car parked near the Corral's adobe wall.
"Hell, the City of Tombstone has lots of money," Holloway tells him. "They just spend it all on wooden sidewalks."
Mayor Alex Gandillos sees it a mite different. "I can understand Doc's feelings," he says, leaning on the counter of his print shop. "I think when you come to a town like this one, it's easy to think you're going to be semi-retired. But a small town like this has a lot of activities going on."
Vigilante Days have been over since the second weekend in August, but Wild West Days are scheduled for Labor Day weekend, and Tombstone will be without an official marshal to keep the peace. The job should be filled by Helldorado Days in mid-October, but you never know. The sign posted on the community bulletin states a particularly slim set of particulars. It reads: "Help Wanted -- Marshal" and lists a pay rate of $11.58 an hour.
Doc Holloway reckons his most notable accomplishment to be the elimination of abuse of Tombstone's criminal-information computer, but a man has to do a lot more than administrate to earn his eleven-and-a-half an hour. There was a manslaughter case not long ago -- four fellows were drunk and waving a gun and one ended up shot in the face. Those young shavehead soldiers from over to Fort Huachuca can raise a little more ruckus than the other tourists might care for, and the kids from the high school have been known to squeal out of the parking lot in four-by-four trucks going far too fast for a town full of sightseeing pedestrians.  And right now, that damn hand-painted motor home with the wagon wheels over the wheel wells that belongs to Roy McNeely ("Roy Mac -- the former marshal of Tombstone, now booking TV-Movies-Clubs-Commercials") is parked partway in a yellow zone right out on Allen Street.
But it's not Doc Holloway's job to worry about that, not after today. The mayor and the city clerk and the chairman of tourism had a little ceremony at City Hall about 10 o'clock or so, gave Doc the key to the city and a photo of himself in uniform with all their autographs on it. They're looking over applications now to fill his boots but they don't figure they'll make their decision for another week or so.  "A lot of these applications we get are from fellas who just want to say they applied for the job of marshal of Tombstone, you know," the mayor says. "And then they probably go around saying they turned the job down."
Doc Holloway has turned it down in any case, and now he's sitting on the rail fence next to the Blown Glass Shop, the heels of his cowboy boots kicked back against the wooden sidewalk.  It's high noon, nearly halfway through his last day as marshal of Tombstone, and the streets are filling with tourists.  From where he sits, he can see the sign painted on the second-story window over the Crystal Palace bar that says, "Virgil W. Earp, City Marshal." Mayor Gandillos comes tooling by in his 1949 Ford pickup, and the question arises: Is Doc Holloway going to hold onto that badge of his, keep it as a souvenir?
"They said I can keep it," he says.  Then he gets up and walks past the Blown Glass Shop's window display of six-pointed stars, $2.25 each.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Aphorism No. 93; (One of an Series — Collecty the Whole Set!)

 You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him think.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Guns N' Roses — Maybe The Only Great Band Of The '80s (from SPIN; December, 1988)

(One of the great advantages of living in LA in the 1980s, especially if you were West Coast Editor of SPIN or Vogue or Details — or hell, even if you weren't — was the whole hilarious buzzing hive of hair-bands swarming the Sunset Strip at night.  Not that almost any of the bands were any good, by my lights (always, always, always with the exception of Guns N' Roses, who were magnificent in decay long before they had been around long enough to decay, or won any actual success to destroy).  No, what mattered was the scene! The glorious unorganized scene blocking traffic on Sunset, the litter and the glitter and the purple spandex, the ripped jeans and the ripped fishnets under the skimpiest of skirts, the high-flying gravity-defying hair and underneath it all, paving the way by paying-to-play, a cluttered shag-carpet of flyers, of pastel gig posters. Literally — the sidewalk was solid flyers on any decent night, spilling and splattering across the westbound lanes of Sunset, which was pretty much at a complete halt anyway. The two ideal accessories any dude in a band aspired to posesss were a stripper girlfriend and a buddy who worked at Kinko's.)

In just the last few months, Axl has died of AIDS, OD'd on junk, and committed plain old simple suicide.  The kids who keep track of each fresh version of his demise are desperate, determined to believe in his death.  No matter how badly last week's rumor failed, they know this week's death-and-destruction story must be true.  If not, next week's is a sure thing.

A generation of kids raised to shut up and succeed hear Guns N' Roses as a whole new way to just say no.  They're right.  Guns N' Roses are the great band of the '80s, maybe the only great band of the '80s.  It looks to be okay with them if rock'n'roll is cemetary-bound, just as long as they can crash the after-party.

Placing style far in front of substance — exactly where it belongs — Guns N'R Roses flaunt a flash that jets them bast their peers. They look cooler onstage than everybody else, Axl dances way better than all the rest of the hair-rockers, Slash has that stupid stoned sheepdog thing of his cranked up past cartoonishness the original album cover offends everybody who can work up an excuse to be pissed off over it, their tattoos are a step above everybody else's, they spill liquor and cigarette ashes, they reek of sex and drugs and unspeakable acts.  They're personal friends of Traci Lords.

It would be infinitely stupid if it didn't work.  By rights, nothing should be as dopey as one more set of hairspray rockers, gang-banging all the usual cliches.  It may even be infinitely stupid, but their huge audience can feel just how powerfully these guys believe the cliches, how intent they are to live their lives by them, how ravenous their appetite for destruction really is.  The other bands of their ilk never seem to transcend their creepy need to please, never manage to seem much m ore than leather-clad yup-rockers, obsessed with record deals and management and Making It.  Guns N' Roses seem obsessed with Fucking It, whatever it may be.

Style counts big, make no mistake.  But let's say what hasn't been said: These guys are greater than style alone would allow, because the music is so wicked, so strong, so raw, so right.  Axl is a wiser singer than all the rest of his generation; the band swallows their influences whole.  Style counts big; something substantial lurks beneath.  "Welcome to the Jungle" is a grim definiton of the city thata defies descripton, as dead-on as the Doors' "LA Woman."  Raymond Chandler would have recognized its horror but there are no private dicks in this Hollywood.  "Sweet Child O' Mine," on the other hand, is the high-sucrose doggerel that teenage girls hope the cute boy from biology will be inspired to scrawl in their yearbook on the last day of school just before vanishing into dreamy summer — and as such, as doggerel and pap and powerful true sentiment, it's brilliant, moving, an unimpeachable hit, the song that will define the summer of '88 in ten million hearts.

If it's amazing that the great band of the '80s should arrive ion the guise of that great empty vessel of the '80s, the long-haired hard-rocker, it's only all the more surprising all the more fitting.  It's a little bit as though the Sex Pistols waited until everybody had short spikey hair and played fast and sloppy and wore ripped clothes with slogans and then, once things were locked in place and predeictable, emerged full-blown, fully-bloomed, terrible in their beauty and elegant in the absence of limits.  Every time Guns N' Roses llaunches into another commercial possiblility and then Axl shouts its chances right off the radio with one more "fuck off," with one more boast about drinking and driving, with all the band's will to be better than everybody else dat being bad, Guns N' Roses looks like all that's left of rock'n'roll.  And that's a lot.



Monday, March 2, 2020