Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


This blog is dedicated to my great friend,
Robert Florczak,
who is writing a book on Errol Flynn
that will become an instant classic when published.


The lead-in is long. It is also important, as it introduces you
to why I am capable of writing a film list.

I discovered film early in life and loved it, to the point that I wanted to be an actor. I studied acting in junior high school, high school, college, and then years after in professional theater groups. I worked in the industry for fifteen years (theater, film, TV, commercials, and print).

This image of LK was taken at Tujunga House on 5jan2017. I’m listening to something that I didn’t buy into … The story of my life, … and maybe yours. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

… But it didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to go in and I walked away “cold turkey,” just like quitting smoking, … and I didn’t gain a pound.

  • I study film (at least four times a week). What? Why? Simple, I can’t tell you how much I learn about a storyline, plotting, dialogue, character development, scope, and on and on.*


    * A few years back I functioned as a consultant to a person who wanted to write a novel (and what I told him also applied to how I view film). I’m not going to share his writing problems, but they were large. I provided a detailed redline of his manuscript pages and each review included pages upon pages by me that told him what he had to do to improve his story and prose (and this included many face-to-face consultations). … I wasn’t seeing any improvement and asked him if he read a lot. “Yes!” “Fiction?” “Yes.” … “Here’s what you need to start doing,” I told him. “When you read a book, what do you like about it? This would include what excited you, what made you cry, what made you turn the page, and so on. What didn’t you like about the book? Did it bore you? How and why? Did you put the book down and never return to it?” Moving forward. … “Could you improve the book that you were reading? If yes, how? … These are notes that you need to take, and you need to study them, for they will give you an insight on how to write fiction.” … 
    As I said, I study film and I study everything I read (and I do research each citation—you learn a lot about lies and fiction here).

  • Film has always been with me, and I have always studied it (and from many angles) … but there is one thing that I cannot accept and that is film or nonfiction or fiction rewriting history.*


    * Proven facts: Ned Wynkoop did not participate in the 1864 massacre and butchery of Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children in Colorado Territory; George Armstrong Custer did not survive the 1876 battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory; and Errol Flynn did not spy for Nazi Germany.

A film must grab and hold my interest from beginning to end. And just as important I must care about at least one character.

What follows is totally personal.

I write for me

… and I always have. This blog is for me, and it isn’t unusual for everything I write is for me. … Books, talks, plays, articles, blogs. My friends, regardless of what you think of this lead-in, everything I write is because I care about the subject matter. My hope is that you have an interest in it and read some of my words. … If not, I have just struck out.

LK hitting a home run for the Warriors, a team I filled in for when they didn’t have enough players on any given game. I played third base for them, and in this image I slashed a hooking line drive to left-center field that resulted in a home run. My team was the Cool Aid Kids, and I played for them from spring 1980 until March 1990 (and our seasons were year-round). (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

Baseball has always been a part of my life (but not so much during the last twenty-seven years). It was when I was a kid, it was when I was a young adult, and it again entered my life in1980 (after my mother’s death). … Sorry. I’m vague, way too vague. I know this as my friends ping me all the time.

Baseball. There’s one major thing about baseball, and I love it. If you don’t come to the plate and bat you can’t strike out, … if you don’t come to the plate and bat you can’t hit a home run. I love hitting home runs. … This ended forever on March 6, 1990.

A film list?

I never wrote a list in my life until a few years back. A fellow named Hans Florczak (formerly known as Robert Florczak) insisted that I do a list of 10 Elvis Presley songs. I did this but then he got greedy and wanted Presley’s top 10 songs from the 1950s ’60s, and ’70s. At the moment I have 10 from the ’50s (but two are Christmas songs and one is religious), for the ’60s I currently have 40 songs (cutting this list is a waste of my time for I’ll never be able to complete the hack job), but, alas, I only have one firm song from the ’70s. This shouts out loud and clear that Elvis’s creativity came to an end early in that decade. At least for me.

(art and cover design © Louis Kraft 2016)

For the record, Elvis’s lone song from the ’70s* is heard while a yacht (The Newborn) is anchored off Santa Catalina Island (Los Angeles, California) in The Discovery. It is a medical thriller. The cover asks: “Can a birth 21 years in the past destroy a man’s life?” It can destroy a lot more than one life. The novel is a character study of people under extreme stress.** (Warning: It contains stark violence and is erotic.) I know, disgraceful, as I’m plugging one of my books … in a film-list blog.

* Burning Love (1972).

** One of the reasons I decided to partner on The Discovery was because I needed to play around with a number of leading and supporting players in a story that was a mixed-up mess over two decades. I’m a biographer, and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is a much bigger mess to smoothly move between the historical people who drive the story to conclusion. I easily spend eight hours doing research to two hours writing nonfiction. Facts, facts, and more facts; mix them up with who is currently driving the story, and don’t fall on your face for believing errors (on purpose or not) in previously published works.

This is my sister, Linda Kraft, about an hour before she became Mrs. Greg Morgon in Long Beach, California, on 3dec1988. I took the wedding photos and had access to candids like this image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

The following is for Robert/Hans and his Annette

Hans is a good friend, but he moves to Deutschland in July. My sister Linda Kraft-Morgon (she was an LA County Sheriff and an investigator for the LA County District Attorney’s Office) had huge law enforcement connections with Germany, and she and her husband, Greg Morgon (my bro for all time, and he retired as a lieutenant from the LA County Sheriff’s Department) visited often and their German associates visited them in SoCal. … Will I ever see Hans again? Doubtful. … There might be a research trip to England for the pirate Drake (which is almost spitting-distance close to Germany, and I love Eurorail), but if I don’t move to the southern coast of either Spain (research heaven!) or France a fair guess is that I will never return to Europe. … However, I did write an epic tragedy about Germany* (and, as almost always, my theme was racial and anti-war).

Jürgen Prochnow played the U-Boat commander in the great German anti-war film Das Boot (The Boat). In 1982 I played Miles Hendon in a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California, and I choreographed the duel. When Das Boot opened in San Francisco I saw it without knowing anything about the plot. The film featured a lone U-Boat patrol. When the tour ended I fired Ed Menerth, my screenwriting agent. I had completed Wonder Boat in early 1981. He had told me, “I love it,” but he also told me that he couldn’t sell it as it was about racism, WWII, was a tragedy, and the hero was a U-Boat commander. … BTW, great performance by Prochnow. Oh, Das Boot made my top 50 (or will it be a top 60?) film list (which will be the topic for an upcoming blog). The struggle with 50 or 60 films is because certain films, which should be on this list will be dropped if only 50. One is John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Ford’s American Indians are mostly faceless “savages.” My view on this? You don’t want to hear it, and certainly not if you love Ford’s work. However, John Wayne’s racist performance in The Searchers is magnificent, and because of his performance, and only because of his performance, this film belongs in my upcoming list, and I will figure out a way to include it.

* My best ever screenplay (agented, but not sold) dealt with the destruction of Germany during WWII as seen through the eyes of a U-Boat commander who wasn’t a Nazi (most U-Boat commanders refused to join the Nazi party but fought for their country with honor and with conscience). The title was Wonder Boat, and although the screenplay dealt with the various phases of the war and the U-Boat commander’s relationship with a Jewish woman (that’s right, a Jewish woman) the title referred to a U-Boat that was being developed, but the German high command’s hope that a fleet of these “boats” could prevent the inevitable never happened. The war ended before the first “Wonder Boat” launched for a combat mission. There is a copy of this script in the Louis Kraft Collection (Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico). … I still have all of my research. If finances go south, and I experience a forced exit from the USA, this story is a top contender to become a novel.

Let’s talk about something that means absolutely nothing

Huh? Sorry, but I’m back to the reason for writing this blog—film lists. … I know—who cares? Heck, I do now (thanks Robert, … I mean Hans), and I hope that some of you do too.

Annette and Robert Florczak at brother Richard Florczak’s great restaurant—Flame Pizzeria—in Reseda, California, on 24jun2017. A good night as I said goodbye to them along with a gathering of their friends. His beautiful Annette is so sweet and kind; Robert is one lucky man. … I sat with Adam Bendorf and his family and the producer of Robert’s last album and his lady. Good conversation all around, and best I got know Adam’s wife (Anna) and his oldest daughter, who sat next to me. For the record, Adam and I used to watch Flynn films at Robert’s apartment when he lived in Van Nuys and then have a round-robin discussion about the film we just viewed. Good times that I dearly miss. I took this picture of them just before I left, and we shared some good thoughts, one’s I’ll not forget. (photo by Louis Kraft; © Annette & Robert Florczak and Louis Kraft 2017)

I also know that Hans will not much care for the following list. … A few years back I sent him a 50-film list and he told me that he hadn’t seen most of the films on it. What goes around comes around as I hadn’t seen all of the films on his 50-film list. Love it, for it shows that even though we are talking about film … we’re also dealing with oranges and apples in what we (Hans/Robert & LK) have seen. If you haven’t viewed every film how can you make a top 50 (or top 60) list? (I can certainly do a list on Flynn as I have seen all of his films wherein he had leading roles except Murder at Monte Carlo (1935), a British film that was never released in the USA (and unfortunately may be a lost film); and Hello God (1951), an anti-war film, in which EF had the original negative destroyed as he thought that the subject matter, and perhaps the quality of the film, might hurt his career. I believe that the patched together film has screened in Europe (and supposedly a number of reels have been discovered and are being restored). My view: I certainly hope so.

The above makes it clear that opinions on any artistic creations (fiction, nonfiction, plays, films, TV, song and music, poetry, and art) can never be totally valid.

Top film lists and what they are

I’ve always been able to create a top 10 Errol Flynn film list (since my first Elvis list). It has made certain people grind their teeth and complain (to the point that I don’t think that they any teeth left, … just the nubs). Actually there are always Flynn films that are on the cusp of my list and could bump a current film and make the list. For some time I have avoided this by creating a follow-up Flynn list that included films 11-20. This is ridiculous and I don’t like it. Thus, the following will only include one Flynn list (top 12).*

* Upcoming blogs will focus on other film lists including a top-50 (or perhaps 60) without Flynn, and top-10 film lists of the following: 1) Drama, 2) Comedy, 3) Thrillers, 4) Action, 5) War, 6) Westerns, 7) Race, and 8) Swashbucklers. Dramas, Thrillers, Westerns, and films that deal with Race have plenty of contenders; the other categories are difficult to fill. Obviously sequels are coming.

Finally on to the main event, … Mr. Flynn.

Top 12 Errol Flynn films

The top six films are alphabetical and are not in order (for the record if I could only keep five Flynn films they would be Adventures of Don Juan, They Died with Their Boots On, The Sea Hawk, Gentleman Jim, and The Sun Also Rises). 

  1. Adventures of Don Juan, director Vincent Sherman, and w/Viveca Lindfors, Robert Douglas, Alan Hale, Jerry Austin, Romney Brent, Ann Rutherford, Raymond Burr, and Douglas Kennedy (1948)

    I think that it was Stan Maxwell, a good Flynn source and a better friend, who supplied Mr. Sherman’s address and phone number. This bit of information led to letters, phone calls, eventually a day meeting with Vincent wherein our conversation focused on Flynn and Don Juan. Afterwards, Vincent graciously answered follow-up questions that I had. All this information is locked away in a secure location, as are all of my other communications and transcriptions of interviews until I need them, including a couple of decades of contact with Olivia de Havilland (by the way, she is now Dame Olivia de Havilland). (photo in LK personal collection)

    As Adventures of Don Juan is alphabetically first I need to say something immediately: Flynn’s Juan de Maraña, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Mike Campbell, and George Armstrong Custer are my favorite performances by him. Flynn had his own personal choices and one was Corbett (I will deal with them in upcoming books). In regards to Don Juan, Flynn liked and respected John Barrymore, the great stage actor who became a major silent film star. My grandfather (Eugene Small) saw Barrymore star in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had been told that he was amazed with Barrymore’s transformation from good to evil on the New York stage. One problem here: I can’t find any proof that Barrymore played the dual roles on stage, even though everyone on my mother’s side claimed that my grandfather did. He did play Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on film (1920), and my guess is that this is what he saw. Since my family is long gone (other than a cherished cousin that I haven’t seen in person since she was about eight years old), and she is wonderful but I’m a recluse or worse. My life revolves around Pailin and two others whom will remain unnamed. This is my life. Actually it was my father’s life during his last nine years after my brother’s death. There was a family across the street, along with three and a half people that were major to his life at that time (me, my brother’s best girlfriend of all time, the fellow who lived next door, and another person who can’t be named).

    Oops! I’m supposed to be on Flynn’s Don Juan. Guess what? Mr. Flynn apparently liked Mr. Barrymore’s silent portrayal as Juan. This meant one thing, he wanted to follow in the “Great Profile’s” footsteps, as he counted himself lucky to know and befriend this great actor. Yes, Flynn, who often trashed himself playing heroes, wanted to play the great Don on film.

    This is actually a tight shot of Flynn crossing blades and soon daggers with Douglas (who instantly became Flynn’s major swashbuckling nemesis even though he wasn’t very good swinging a rapier). This image, which is numbered, was taken by a staff photographer assigned to the film. … But what happened here? A good portion of the image is out of focus, there is a head in the foreground (an extra, someone watching the action?). This image—and with all its problems is magnificent even though Queen Margaret (Lindfors), King Philip III (Romney), and Don Sebastian (Austin) are out of focus—as it shows Flynn and Douglas in mortal combat. One will survive (and yes, the film is a tragedy). Douglas has yanked out his dagger and within seconds so will Flynn to parry the thrust. At this point in time the duel steps into another world of swashbuckling reality. (this torn, crinkled, and numbered image is in LK’s personal collection)

    And did he! When filming began in October 1947 Flynn not only understood who he was, but also what the public expected of him on film. His performance as Juan is sad; it’s full of charm and charisma that only he could deliver; full of a life lost and yet not forgotten; it is also full of laughs that are based distinctly upon his screen persona (yes, Flynn had no problem laughing at himself). The film Adventures of Don Juan belongs to Flynn and to no one else. He was able to combine his screen presence with his ongoing life and come up with a middle zone that presented who he was on film and in real life. Flynn’s Don Juan is heroic while also being tragic. In my opinion this was Errol Flynn’s best performance on film. This includes every other film in this list, and a major reason why each of these movies made the list was because of Flynn’s performances in them.

    It has been oft-stated that Flynn had to have short takes during the dueling scenes. If you have ever swung a blade and fought competition (and I have), let me tell you that you are feeling it after a 30-second exchange. Yes, Flynn’s smoking certainly impacted his stamina, but you know what? It is what is on film that counts—and all of Flynn’s dueling in Adventures of Don Juan is the best that I’ve seen on film. (The Sea Hawk’s final duel is second).

  2. This publicity image of Flynn and Lupino was published as a full-page color image in a 1947 movie magazine. While in junior high school and waiting for my mother to pick me up after a fencing lesson with the great Ralph Faulkner I spent my time in a large used book store next to his studio on Hollywood Blvd. The bookstore (sorry, but it is long gone and I don’t remember the name) had shelves and shelves of movie magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. I sat on the floor and turned pages. Magazines that featured Flynn I bought (I had money as I worked). A few years later I met a girl one year younger than I (Judy Groh) at a friend’s party at his parents’ house. We hit it off and she became my first girlfriend. In those days everything in my life was innocent. Back to Flynn, … I showed her this image. She laughed and laughed and laughed. She pointed at Flynn’s hair and laughed some more. This image is simply WBs publicity—it is tender and yet has a hint of eroticism. I don’t know when the image was shot (I haven’t researched this film yet) but I think that the image was taken after Escape Me Never was filmed for Flynn didn’t look like this in the film (if I’m wrong, it was taken before filming began). (photo in LK’s personal collection, and it is not a scan of the 1947 magazine image, which I still have)

    Escape Me Never, directed by Peter Godfrey and w/Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young (1947).

    I hated this film, absolutely hated this film when young. The last time I had seen it was perhaps thirty years before it was finally released as a Warner Bros. Archive print-on-demand film.
    The production value, as critics complained, could have been better and it was just as I remembered. But when I saw it recently I was overwhelmed by the flow of the plot, and more important, Flynn’s subdued performance as a composer. Flynn was hurt and angered by the reviews of his novel, Showdown (1946), at the time he filmed Escape Me Never, and worse this film would be pounded by critics, and this affected him in more ways than one. I don’t blame him for he provided one of his better film performances as a man torn between two women, as a man who wants to do right but finds himself weak, as a man who finally realizes who he is and what is important to him. As for Showdown, I’ve read it at least six times and it has been a page-turner on each reading. … Flynn and Lupino were friends, although I’m not certain when their friendship began, and it registers in Escape Me Never. For the record, and this should be known, actors and actresses usually perform better together when they are friends and/or are in a relationship. I’m not implying anything here, for as far as I know Ida and EF were friends and I believe good friends (but that was all). Also for the record, a man and a woman can be friends, good friends, and it has nothing to do with sexual intimacy.

    Sebastian Dubrok (Flynn) holds Picolo (as far as I know not credited; also, whenever possible producers try to hire twins) while a minister (Frank Reicher) marries him and Gemma Smith (Lupino). (photo in LK’s personal collection)

    All of the above said, this film is about a woman (Lupino) who totally loves her man (Flynn). He loves her too, but his classical compositions have gone no where and his focus is on success and not his small family, which also includes her infant son, Picolo. They are poor and from the wrong side of the family. Without giving anything away, Flynn is a musical genius. Enter Parker, and she has what Lupino doesn’t have. He is also weak. More, and as you and I know, reaching for the stars is a difficult thing to do. You succeed or you fail. When you fail, that is you or I (and I only speak here from my point of view) the results can be disastrous. This was a view of life that Flynn wanted to explore, and in my opinion he succeeded here. This film holds my interest from the first reel until the end, and it moves me in ways that none of his other films have ever done. As an added bonus the great composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who scored seven of Flynn’s films (including 1935’s Captain Blood; 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood; my favorite, 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex; and 1940’s The Sea Hawk), created this absolutely marvelous score, which also included an incomplete ballet (Primavera).

  3. Gentleman Jim, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, Ward Bond, and William Frawley (1942)

    This is a video cover for Gentleman Jim. It is accurate, and is a pretty damn good representation of him in this this film. Warners, and not only for this film, but others, totally misrepresented what Flynn looked like in numerous films. This heinous stuff, and shame on Warners Bros., as Flynn didn’t have a mustache in this film even though their publicity sold him with a mustache (we’re talking major promotion here, including the 1942 USA one-sheet).

    Flynn wanted to play James J. Corbett, who would become the first heavy-weight boxing champion of the modern era. To this point in time boxing was flat-footed with charges at their opponents in the ring. Corbett would change that as he used his feet to avoid punches and counter-punched. The film is a light-hearted romp as Flynn’s cocky attitude upsets the rich as he strives to be accepted in society while rising in the boxing world (a lot of which was outlawed as the nineteenth century neared its end). The film is funny, fast paced and Flynn’s Gentleman Jim is a delight to watch. He trained with Mushy Callahan (a former welterweight champion) and was coached by sports writer and Corbett expert Ed Cochrane. Smith, a society woman, presented the perfect foil to Flynn’s attempts to climb in society. BTW Smith and Flynn were friends, and they make a dynamite combination in this film. Bond shined as heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan, who against betting odds, Corbett defeated at the climax of the film. Their scene together when Bond appears at Flynn’s celebration party is touching. Flynn, for the most part, was not doubled in the ring and the fight scenes really stand out. Luckily for Flynn Jack L. Warner was absent from the Warner Bros. lot during most of the filming and this allowed him to get away with murder while working on this film. Flynn constantly had his own idea of what lines were best for his characters, and often he changed lines during script development and during filming. When on set and shooting this is called “ad-libbing.” He was often called lazy for not learning his lines. Perhaps that happened at times, but not always and Flynn often had a hand in his dialogue. His reason for the changes was that he felt they improved his character. All of this will be documented in my books on Flynn. Flynn’s performance in this film was a revolution when viewing his acting capabilities, and better he pushes everything he knows about acting to the next level. … Jim Corbett is Flynn’s cockiest, assured, and most athletic persona on film.

  4. The Sea Hawk, directed by Michael Curtiz and w/Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains, Flora Robson, Alan Hale, Henry Daniell, Una O’Connor, and Gilbert Roland (1940)

    The 1940 1-sheet for The Sea Hawk (in LK personal collection)

    I’ve talked about The Sea Hawk for years, and I’ve made the comparisons to the pirate Drake’s life (see The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft). I’m not going to repeat any of this here.

    All I’m am going to say is that by 1939 Errol Flynn had discovered who he was as a film actor. From this time forward he had control over his performances, and many of them—not all, but most—dwarfed every film role he performed in 1938 or earlier except for The Dawn Patrol (below) and Four’s a Crowd (which was in this list, but was bumped by That Forsyte Woman, 1949, below). This golden decade (actually eleven years) of Flynn’s acting (1939-1949) had a number of misses (that is average films for multiple reasons) but this eleven-year period contained most of his great acting performances (the only role outside of this timeframe was his portrayal as Mike Campbell in The Sun Also Rises, 1957). … I know, that for many this is pure heresy. It isn’t. If I extend this list to 15, you can bet that Captain Blood (1935) would make the cut (if for nothing else than the great slave auction at the beginning of the film), and this still gives me two other films (one would definitely be Four’s a Crowd and most-likely Silver River, 1948). But remember the key here is Flynn’s performances, the creative quality of the film, and not if the film was a mega hit, for this is something that I don’t care about.

    This duel with Gilbert Roland ends peaceably at the beginning of the film when Flynn takes the Spanish vessel that transports Spanish ambassador Claude Raines to Elizabeth I’s English court. But later in the film, Roland would have the upper hand on Flynn. For the record, Roland would also have leading roles in film, including That Lady with OdeH (1955). In this first duel in The Sea Hawk Flynn displays how much his sword capabilities have advanced since The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). (photo in LK personal collection)

    We need to talk about Brenda Marshall here. She made one other film with Flynn, the decent comedy, Footsteps in the Dark (1941). She is okay in the comedy, and, again more heresy), she is absolutely fine as the Spanish lady in waiting who views Flynn as a pirate. Their scene in an English rose garden after Flynn has received a verbal rebuff from Queen Elizabeth I in front of the court. Robson was light-years better than Bette Davis’s psychotic and almost spastic mess of a queen in 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. BTW, Flynn was fine in Elizabeth and Essex, and Olivia de Havilland absolutely shined as Lady Penelope Gray, a small role that was part of her punishment for daring to pursue being cast in Gone with the Wind (1939).

    This scene was after Robson (Elizabeth I) verbally punished Flynn for attacking the King of Spain’s ship that transported his ambassador (Rains) and his niece (Marshall) to England. What Marshall doesn’t know here is that Flynn has since had a private interview with Robson and she has bought into his next piratical expedition to the New World. … It matters not, for this might be my favorite love scene of all time (and to this point in time Flynn is little more than a pirate that Marshall wants no contact with although she is happy that he wasn’t punished, that is sent to the Tower of London). Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s love theme for this scene is to die for; it is marvelous. (photo in LK personal collection)

    By 1940 Flynn was no longer the novice star of Captain Blood or the blooming mega-star of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) but a full-blown leading man who defined what a swashbuckling leading actor could do in a major pirate film. The Sea Hawk is Flynn’s film from start to finish and he is in total control whenever he is on screen, and it matters not if he confronts Robson’s Elizabeth or Marshall’s lady who spurns his advances or the evil Daniel whom Flynn will eliminate in an extraordinary duel at the end of the film. Flynn’s Geoffrey Thorpe is magnificent from the first time you see him before he launches an attack on a Spanish galleon.

  5. They Died With Their Boots On, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Hattie McDaniel, Charley Grapewin, Sidney Greenstreet, Gene Lockhart, Stanley Ridges, and Anthony Quinn (1941)

    February 2008 American History cover. I wrote the cover story for this issue, and at that point in time it was the magazine’s all-time best selling issue (don’t know if this is still true).

    As I have made clear over the years this film has had a major impact on my life. I’ve written four articles about the film and I’ve spoken about it in Texas, Missouri, Montana, and California twice (I need to add Oklahoma to the list, as I think that they may buy into the idea). The best article was a cover story for American History in 2008. For the record, this film is fiction and yet it is so close to reality at times that it is scary. Warner Bros. had a long track record for shying away from facts and real historical people for the simple truth that they feared being sued.

    The errors in the film are massive but when you look at how closely some of it is to reality while being disguised there is a lot that holds up nicely. However, when it came to the battle of the Little Bighorn the writers and Walsh chose to deal with mythic legend and an heroic end with Flynn holding his saber defiantly. The film end happens in a valley as Crazy Horse (Quinn) has set up a trap and attacks the soldiers. No, no, and more no. Custer divided his force into four independent commands and the battle began when Major Marcus Reno (he isn’t in the film; actually none of Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry officers are in it) crossed the Little Bighorn River (also not in the film) and moved to attack the southern end of the massive village.

    LK standing where Flynn-Custer’s small command marched to the Little Bighorn (13jul16). The west entrance to Lasky Mesa, a massive mountainous and valley area (in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve), is on Victory Blvd. in Woodland Hills (a town in Los Angeles) in the San Fernando Valley. I’ve seen it printed that it is a seventy-mile drive from Universal Studios and worse that it took a day to get to the location from Warner Bros. (which is on the east side of the SFV). For the record I live three miles from Universal Studios and six miles from Warner Bros. I can make the drive to Lasky Mesa on surface streets in about an hour. Even with dealing with some dirt roads in 1941 this would have been a fairly easy “drive to” from the studio on a daily basis that September. … There are places in Lasky Mesa where a river could have flowed and if WB wanted to film Custer’s end on terrain similar to where it happened in southeast Montana Territory it could have been done. But, … there’s always a but; the film was over budget. … Robert Florczak took this image on a great day almost a year ago when I believe we braved 100-degree weather and he showed me some locations for several great films. (photo © Louis Kraft and Robert Florczak 2016)

    For the record, a lot of what has been published about this film in recent times is pure fantasy. Director Raoul Walsh, who directed Flynn for the first time in TDWTBO when EF made it clear to WBs that he would never again work with director Michael Curtiz, only to see their relationship end before the 1950s began. In my personal opinion the Walsh-directed Flynn films were much better than most of the Curtiz-directed Flynn films. … And better the Flynn persona would grow and change, and there would now be a dark side, but not yet.

    A publicity shot of Olivia and Flynn as they travel to the American frontier. (photo in LK personal collection)

    And the uniting of Flynn and de Havilland one last time—although neither of them knew this at the time—is a pure pleasure to watch as they work together and age in the film. They had been through a lot over the last six+ years both professionally and personally, and they certainly had their ups and downs in their relationship with each other. All this gave them a backstory that they could, and did, use as Mr. and Mrs. Custer. Their last scene in the film (but not the last scene they filmed together), was just before he marches toward the Little Bighorn River (again, there is no river in sight in the film) and destiny is so simple as she helps him prepare to go on campaign (a routine that they must have done every time he left on campaign) and yet is so poignant.*

    * Max Steiner did the music for the film, mixing period music with his composition. However, the love theme that he created for George and Libbie (the correct spelling of Elizabeth Custer’s nickname) is mixed with bugle calls as the command prepares to march to Montana Territory and with Garry Owen (which was actually the theme song of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry as chosen by Custer) as they say goodbye and he exits to destiny. This is by far my favorite scene of Olivia and Flynn together.

    LK with Olivia de Havilland at her home on 3jul2009; the third time that  I was with her. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

    I did open up a can or worms the first time I visited Livvie in her Paris home (2004). We talked a lot about this film and it being their last together (this was just something that happened as both were considered to costar in upcoming Warner Bros. films but it never happened as soon after she took the studio to court over her contract). At the beginning the TDWTBO conversation, she told me that “no,” she didn’t feel any different shooting this scene as opposed to others, but by the time it had gone deep into the night she came back to it for the third or fourth time. Surprisingly now it was suddenly different, for now she came up with a premonition … a premonition she now totally believes (and has since stated on camera).

  6. Uncertain Glory, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Paul Lukas, Jean Sullivan, Lucile Watson, and Faye Emerson (1944)

    This Uncertain Glory (1944) video cover represents a tragic love story that should have had a happy ending. Jean Sullivan (above) delivered a very delicate and open performance. I found her different from most of the female leads in Flynn’s films, and honestly quite refreshing. Unfortunately she didn’t become a star, and I don’t know why. … Looking at this image, I have no clue if she had blue eyes (the film is in B&W). Looking at this same image I know damn well that Flynn’s eyes weren’t this color. … How many “artists” got this wrong? … I’d probably need a full page to document this error, which I’ve seen way-too-many times.

    Let’s begin by saying that Flynn’s portrayal as French criminal Jean Picard is one of my favorite performances by him of all time (and this has always been so). It’s restrained, and yet he allows the old Flynn persona to appear every now and again. The charm is present and so is the humor, and yet this film is a tragedy from the beginning. Worse, you care for the criminal Flynn from the get go and he is only alive as he has escaped the guillotine when German planes bombed France during WWII and destroyed the prison where he was about to be executed. He is a con-artist who’s only out for himself.

    You know where the film is heading and yet you don’t want it to get there—at least I don’t. I want a happy ending as the story has redemption written all over it. … Actually it comes down to a question of how valuable is our life if we could trade it and save 100 innocent people from death. … What would I do? What would you do? What will Flynn’s character do? The film is a drama, and there is no action, and yet I’m on the edge of my seat every time that I watch this film.

    The bottom six films are in numerical order.

    I know that some people will consider me little more than an unfaithful cretin as major Flynn films, such as Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) didn’t make my list, and for multiple reasons. But again, I choose from a lot of criteria, and the following six films meet my criteria. I’m not going to discuss why these three great films didn’t make my list (and all three are great), and that Flynn did with de Havilland, … and trust me that they will be discussed in Errol & Olivia. But if you’d like to know more (about two of these films that didn’t make the list), see Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view.

    Although I won’t discuss top film lists in Errol & Olivia, I will deal with all eight of their films in detail. What I say may surprise you and perhaps even shock you. … Hey folks, this is a comin’. Alas, Errol & Olivia will only deal with Olivia’s and Errol’s introduction to Hollywood, their life and times during their films together, and a very long epilogue. Trust me, for every hour it takes me to complete this manuscript will create a new understanding for you of these magnificent human beings who happened to be damned-good film actors. It will change a lot of what you currently thought you knew about them, correct egregious errors, and better it will be a book that I hope you read time and again. I know, the preceding statement is egotistical, but a writer must have an attitude when he dares to challenge fiction sold as nonfiction.

  7. Virginia City, directed by Michael Curtiz, and w/Miriam Hopkins, Randolph Scott, Alan Hale, Guinn (Big Boy) Williams, and Humphrey Bogart (1940)

    Virginia City has everything I want in a western, and this basically starts with that there aren’t any “bad guys” other than a supporting character played by Humphrey Bogart, who was still a few years shy of super-stardom. This film, this western, deals with the Civil War on the western frontier. … As I have always claimed in my nonfiction writing, “there are two sides to every story,” and it is certainly true in this film. Virginia City had a great cast, and that included Hopkins and Scott—two actors I wish that Flynn could have worked with again in the future. It was never to be. Our loss. (this is a cropped image of a photo in the LK personal collection)

    Over and over and over again I have heard complaints why de Havilland didn’t play the lead role in this film. There are at least two reasons why, and one is that there is no way she could have danced in a saloon and made the audience buy it. Actually the anger is even larger, as de Havilland’s fans refused to accept Hopkins’ performance. Why? Some said, “Because she was older than Flynn.” Who cares! I don’t! Hopkins played a dance-hall siren who enticed every miner, drunk, and soldier in Virginia City, Nevada, which was a Southern stronghold during the American Civil War. … And best Flynn was infatuated with her singing and dancing too. This film required a raw sexuality that Hopkins provided, for if there was no Flynn-Hopkins draw to each other this film had no chance of working (and to place a target on my back, it would have had zero chance with de Havilland). At this late date I have one major regret here, and that is that Flynn and Miriam Hopkins didn’t work together again. (Those of you who hate this comment, sharpen your daggers and sabers but remember that I’m damned good with both.) I do know that by this time film audiences wanted Flynn’s costar to be de Havilland (but let me tell you that a lot more goes into this than meets the eye). … Can we call TDWTBO a western? I think so. If yes, what is Flynn’s second best western. The LK view: Virginia City with Dodge City a distant third.

  8. Objective Burma, w/Henry Hull, George Tobias, and William Prince (1945)

    After the raid on the radar station Flynn split his command. They had a set meeting place. Flynn and those with have just reached this destination. (photo in LK personal collection)

    More than any other film, this non-heroic picture gives us Flynn at war but not with his usual screen persona. He is reserved, and focused on completing a task: Parachuting into Japanese- controlled Burma during WWII and destroying a radar station. As Flynn and his men slowly inch toward their target the atmosphere is tense, and understandably so as everyone is aware that one mistake, just one slip-up, could mean disaster as there was no backup. The dense jungle that they cut their way through is alive with the sounds of nature, and it helps build tension. Some of Flynn’s command are typical cliché characters, but for me this was okay as you get to know them, their hopes, their desires. Without giving too much away, the film is just half over when the attack force reaches its target.

    Detail of an image of Errol Flynn and Henry Hull during a lunch break during the filming of Objective Burma. Let me add something here, and it is totally opinion. When working on film I ate with people that I liked. I certainly can’t talk for anyone else, but this is what I did. (photo in LK personal collection)

    A reporter (Hull) accompanies the mission; older than everyone else he struggles to keep up, but his performance is decent as he vents his views on what he sees. More, it presents a Flynn who shows an emotion that I don’t think he ever shared in any of his other films (the closest might be The Sun Also Rises, 1957), and the sadness that affects him when he watches something happen rips my guts up every time I see the scene. I first saw this film on TV in the late 1960s or very early 1970s at my then-acting manager’s house in Hollywood. His name was Coy Bronson, and in the 1950s and early 1960s he worked with and knew some the then-film greats. I knew that he had worked with Montgomery Clift and I was interested to hear what he had to say. Nothing. He clammed up and said it was none of my business. If I dare to share what I saw and learned during my time with him in an upcoming memoir you will be shocked. On the night of my first viewing of Flynn’s Objective Burma we had gone out to dinner before watching the film in his living room as we sipped drinks. Bronson didn’t know Flynn but had a very negative attitude toward the film. My guess then (and now) was that he still had anger when his acting career didn’t take off. At this time he managed Samuel French’s Hollywood office (they were then leading play publisher in the USA; don’t know about now) and directed plays at the Pasadena Playhouse (Charley’s Aunt was one that I saw).

  9. That Forsyte Woman, directed by Compton Bennett and with Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Young, and Janet Leigh (1949

    Flynn getting rough with wife Greer Garson. (photo in LK personal collection)

    To begin with this film bridges the gap between Gentleman Jim and The Sun Also Rises (see above and  below) in multiple ways: 1) Period-piece plot construction, 2) Ensemble-cast performances, and 3) A real grasp of time and place. But it also had one additional element that was first displayed in Silver River with Ann Sheridan, 1948, and later in The Sun Also Rises, and that is a Flynn, totally foreign to what his fans expected of his films (there were other films at the end of his career that also provided this—most notably Too Much, Too Soon, 1957, when Flynn played John Barrymore). Like The Sun Also Rises, this film’s leading characters all work well with each other and their performances (along with a first-class supporting cast, read minor supporting players, all capture the culture and class-separation during the ending decades of the 19th century. This achievement was a combination of casting, directing, editing, and the result is extraordinary. The film is based upon John Galsworthy’s The Man of Property, the first of a trilogy of books that are now known as The Forsyte Saga. Flynn is this man of property and one of his treasured possessions is his-long pursued wife (Garson). What Flynn had created in Silver River he pushes to the next level. He’s ruthless, he’s jealous, he’s possessive, he’s in love, but he doesn’t know how to experience or show love, … much less make a relationship work. He’s clueless! But this is because he is a man of his times. Flynn’s performance is riveting, and so is Garson’s, Pidgeon’s, Young’s, and Leigh’s, and these five actors are first class in this film.

    A candid of Flynn and Robert Young, who is absolutely marvelous in this film. (photo in LK personal collection)

    As you can guess by now, That Forsyte Woman is a tragedy but I don’t want to share any of the details of the film for if you haven’t seen it you need to experience it first hand. Like many people who love Flynn’s film acting I didn’t much care for this film, actually early on I dismissed it. At this point in time someone should hit me in the head with a baseball bat for my prejudice against the film. All I can say is that I was an idiot when younger. Flynn’s performance is pristine! It was F—ing Oscar worthy. Shame on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences! This film, like The Sun Also Rises, is a mix and match of human beings at one point in time and place. They are who they are, and because of who they are, they react to situations predictably. Without giving away the plot I can’t expose what happens, but trust me for if you view this film with an open mind (in regards to Flynn) it is one that will grab your attention from beginning to end. Not many films do this for me.

  10. The Dawn Patrol, directed by Edmund Goulding and w/Basil Rathbone, David Niven, Donald Crisp, and Melville Cooper (1938)

    (1938 poster in LK personal collection)

    Joanne Woodward, an Oscar winner, felt that Flynn’s performance as Captain Courtney was perhaps the closest he came to playing himself on film. I totally agree with her (see the best documentary that I’ve seen on Flynn’s life and film career for more of Joanne’s comments about him; The Adventures of Errol Flynn, 2005). I think that I should say that until modern times (and that is decades after Robert Redford’s poorly executed film The Great Waldo Pepper (1976), I haven’t liked any WWI arial films until I saw two modern films: Flyboys w/James Franco, Jennifer Decker, Jean Reno, and Martin Henderson (2006); and The Red Baron with w/Matthias Schweighofer and Lena Headey (2008, but not released in the USA until 2010). Flynn’s film is definitely dated, but this statement is totally based upon what could be created on film in 1938.  … Do not doubt it, Flynn and Niven were close friends moving into the beginning of the 1940s, and this definitely gave both of their performances in Dawn Patrol extra spark and a relationship that was totally believable on film. I don’t know what happened between them, but something did for in the 1940s there is no mention of the end of their relationship, but it did end. Flynn and Niven are totally alive in all their scenes. More, they are rebels who don’t like being controlled by authority (Rathbone’s Major Brand). They are not James Dean (thank goodness!), but they are rebels and act and react to what is in their souls during this heinous time of WWI when human life didn’t mean much (hell, this is little more than a small piece of humankind and civilization). This is basically a character study of pilots in an extreme situation wherein they had a job to perform but with a life expectancy that wasn’t long. Flynn shines as Captain Courtney.

  11. Dodge City, directed by Michael Curtiz, and w/Olivia de Havilland, Bruce Cabot, Allan Hale, Guinn (Big Boy) Williams, Frank McHugh, Victor Jory, and Ann Sheridan (1939)

    Flynn at the beginning of the film. (photo in LK personal collection)

    I’ve spent a lot of time with Dodge City elsewhere in these blogs, as I really like this film. What I like most—other than Flynn’s introduction to a genre that he felt totally miscast in—was Olivia de Havilland’s absolutely negative attitude that she brought to the film. She was angry, and rightfully so, for how Warner Bros. dissed her after her breakout performance in Gone with the Wind (1939), which included her first Oscar nomination. Better, she allowed her anger to direct her performance (and not her time on set, which happened during The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex).

    Publicity photo for Dodge City. (photo in LK personal collection)

    My view: She was a total delight in Dodge City. Back to Flynn. He was clueless to who migrated to the American frontier in the 1860s. Clueless! Do you know how many Irishmen were on the American frontier? Flynn didn’t. The character he played was Irish. He wasn’t a lone Irishman; he was one of thousands. Oh yeah, and you can take this comment to the bank. Dodge City spreads over time and during it we see a life growth in Flynn’s character. Better, the film moves forward in a logical plot that must reach resolution. The film sparkles in each act except for the climax. Here, the villains are disposed of way-too-easily (and I’m being kind with this statement). These words led to a Virginia CityDodge City flip while writing this blog (actually Virginia City was higher on the list and Dodge City dropped lower).

  12. The Sun Also Rises, directed by Henry King and w/Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Juliette Gréco, and Robert Evans (1957)
    According to Patrice Wymore, Flynn’s third and final wife, she told him that he didn’t have to be drunk to play a drunk. She also hinted that he didn’t want to do the film as he would have fourth billing, but that she talked him into taking the part. For the record, this film is based upon Ernest Hemingway’s novel of a lost generation after WWI and it bores me to tears every time I read it. Reviews pinged the film as all the leading players were too old to play the roles. You know what? I don’t care. … Power, an actor who I usually find terribly leaden in his screen performances, plays a writer who is impotent due to wounds suffered during the war. But his life is about to change when Ferrer becomes an unwelcome visitor in his office. Power refuses to join him for a night in Paris, France, as has a date with a woman and he doesn’t know her name (Gréco, who calls herself a working woman). BTW, Gréco’s part is small but it just oozes with sexuality during every minute she’s on screen. … The “date” moves from day into the Paris nightlife. Power is thrown for a loop when he stumbles upon Ferrer (good stuff as Gréco turns an introduction into chaos), but it gets worse when he sees Gardner (who he has had a past life with), and even though it has no where to go she can’t take her eyes off him.

    This is a detail from a scene that Eddie Albert is also in. Flynn (left) is getting his shoes shined (something he does more than once in the film. He is with Gardner and Power. (photo in LK personal collection)

    Power is sick of the entire situation, but has an out for his friend (Albert) and he have plans to travel to Pamplona, Spain, to see the bullfights.This is just the beginning of a character study of four men and Gardner, who is a flittering bird that can’t control herself while still caring for Power. Surprise of surprises—Ferrer told Gardner of Power’s destination, and she, Ferrer (who has already lost Gardner’s affections) and her broke, drunk, and on again and off again “fiancé” whom she’ll never marry (Flynn) are already Pamplona. This is an ensemble cast that works well together. They are at all times full of life, regardless if they are pleased or angry or experiencing the world of bullfighting in Henry King’s gorgeous-looking film.*

    * For the record, when in elementary school, I saw this film as a second part of a double bill; I didn’t know who the heck Flynn was at that time but loved his performance.

    In February 2000 Ferrer kindly answered some of my questions about Flynn when they worked together. Don’t think I’ll share any of them here, other than to say that everything he said about Flynn during the filming of The Sun Also Rises was positive. They will eventually see print in an upcoming book.

    This is near the end of the film. From left: Mel Ferrer, Errol Flynn, Ava Gardner, and Eddie Albert. (photo in LK personal collection)

    The running of the bulls is delightful fun when Flynn and Albert get caught in it. Their rapport on film is a standout in The Sun Also Rises. But the problems in place since the beginning of the film grow in Pamplona, and Flynn, who is love with Gardner but sick of Ferrer hanging around, and finally of an-up-and-coming bullfighter (Evans) who Gardner chooses for her next lover. … Although the focus is on Flynn films, I want to say that this cast worked well together and had well-defined characters without nary an unbelievable moment (the only exception being Evans, but he is okay).

    Flynn photographed by Bruce Davidson as used on the rear dust jacket cover for the first edition of Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways (image © Esquire, Inc. 1958)

    Flynn gave a magnificent performance and I don’t give a hoot if he was drunk or sober when he was on camera. He was charming, funny, drunk, sarcastic, hurt, and at the same time his performance was terribly touching. There is a scene near the end of the film between Flynn (sitting on a bed) and Power (standing). They are basically saying goodbye (even though there are a couple of more scenes of them together), but there is much more here for when Power exits the room and the camera holds on Flynn we see a man who has lived life but has nothing. This reminds me of the great image of Flynn on the first edition of his memoir (My Wicked, Wicked Ways, 1959). Is Flynn an image for all of us as our lives near conclusion? At times I think yes (at least for me*). … In my opinion this was by far his best performance during the decade of the 1950s.

    * For those of you who think I have a negative attitude on life I want to share the following. … On May 31 I told my pulmonary specialist that I planned to live to 130. He chuckled and said that he did too.

Finally … 

Errol Flynn was a great film actor. He was natural at a time of over-acting. More, he was a human who could easily fit into our modern world of a mix of colors and race, for one simple reason—he wasn’t racially prejudiced and accepted people of all races as equal (and I can prove this).

— Louis Kraft

The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


Recently I proposed several ideas of what I might deal with in
my next blog on social media. A good friend of mine quickly asked me to
highlight the pirate named Francis Drake (and she had a great reason why; you’ll
meet her below). … This lady’s request confirmed my desire to do something
that has been with me for a long time and was long overdue.

Alas, and like most of my blogs, this post includes some personal stuff. This is never intended but always happens (I know the reason why, and probably you do too). … Here I’m also talking about Francis Drake; a man that if you don’t know him—you should, as he was centuries before his time.

Centuries!

The LK introduction to the pirate Drake

Francis Drake had many names, but perhaps the most important—or fearful—was what the Spaniards once called him, El Draque. To them he was the dragon, for he time and again appeared out of nowhere to steal their gold and silver, and worse put a dent in their domination over the New World in the 16th century.

I discovered him in the fifth grade, actually the first school in my life wherein I would spend more than one year in the same school. This short two year period would give me the first friends who, although not for all time, would become a good memory of my youth. Ladies and gents I love and cherish my time as I walk between our past and my current life. I’m one lucky cowboy—Ouch! I think here a better word might be pirate as I explore the past while walking into my future.

Believe it or not it was three or four years before Errol Flynn’s death when I saw his great 1940 film The Sea Hawk for the first time on TV. This film, along with Flynn’s 1941 They Died with Their Boots On (when he played George Armstrong Custer), would impact my life more than I could ever have imagined if I had tried. I was still a year or more away from the fifth grade so I hadn’t heard of Drake yet. …

LK on 31oct1958 at my first and only permanent home during my school years (Reseda, California). I believe that this image (right) is the first of me holding a sword. A proud moment for me. Within three years I would be studying the sword with the legendary American Olympian, Ralph Faulkner, who went on to double stars in American film, choreograph cinematic duels, and teach fencing in Hollywood, California, for perhaps half a century. My mother created the costume for me in this image. Unfortunately we didn’t have a morion (a helmet worn during the 16th century) or other armor that Drake might have worn. My costume was closer to pirate attire during the two golden ages of piracy in the Caribbean; late 17th century/early 18th century. My favorite pirate during this time period was Henry Morgan, but it would be years before I discovered him. (photo © Louis Kraft 1958)

I had begun buying books on Flynn before his death, and I bought his memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways when it was published (available in LA in late 1959 or early 1960). When my mother saw it she asked: “Where did you get this?” “I bought it.” No more questions were needed as my first job was in elementary school—I had a seven-day-a-week newspaper route (not to mention that I made the rounds picking up glass bottles, and they were worth cash at the local market; oh yeah—Way back then!). Good money in those days. “Okay,” she said, “but I don’t want you talking to any of your friends about this book.” I readily agreed.

This joint image is a colorization of a publicity photo of Flynn from The Sea Hawk (Warner Bros., 1940) and this artwork by Clark Hulings appeared on the cover of F. Van Wyck Mason’s novel about Drake’s 1586-86 “West Indies” voyage, Golden Admiral. I believe that this was the first paperback publication of Mason’s novel (1960s), and Hulings’ art shames the U.S. and Australian hardbound book covers. I really like Hulings’ painting and hope to use it if I complete my planned books on Drake.

I actually didn’t make the Drake-Flynn/Geoffrey Thorpe (who EF played in The Sea Hawk) connection until sometime in high school when I began to read real books about Drake. … The Warner Bros. screenwriters Howard Koch and Seton I. Miller (and they were top-notch), wrote the screenplay for The Sea Hawk. It was based upon a story that Miller drafted called The Beggars of the Sea. I’ve never seen Miller’s draft, but it apparently detailed Francis Drake’s early exploits on the Spanish Main and the Caribbean Sea. If you are familiar with Drake and you have seen The Sea Hawk this is a no-brainer connection.

The USA one-sheet for The Sea Hawk (1940).

The film’s title is from Rafael Sabatini’s great novel about an Elizabethan who became a Barbary slave but who eventually became a feared Tunis pirate in the early seventeenth century. A great plot and story by Sabatini and a book that I enjoy every time I read it. Sabatini’s book would become a silent film, but one I’ve never seen. Warners, who owned the rights to the novel and (perhaps) the silent film, opted to go with a fictionalized Drake story. As Warner Bros. constantly did during the Golden Age of Film, they steered clear of being sued. Read that they changed names and facts to protect the innocent—mainly, yours truly, Warner Bros.

Some of you know that I’m writing a book about Errol Flynn; actually I’m writing three books about Flynn. They are all a comin’, and sooner than you might think. For the record, I have a list of what I think are the ten best films Flynn ever made. See Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view for my list. Four of those films are extraordinary and The Sea Hawk and They Died with Their Boots On are two of them (perhaps someday I’ll write a blog that explains why).

Racism in the 1580s and in LK’s life

Yeah, racism existed in Drake’s time and it still does in our time. Usually when I talk about this subject I concentrate on race, but today I’m going to focus more on ethnicity. I was born a Catholic (you had better sit down before you read the rest of this paragraph). I would eventually become a Lutheran (who Drake was) and then a Methodist (who Ned Wynkoop was), but none of these choices by me had anything to with who I have written about or will write about. I’m me, and changes happen. I’m a citizen of the world and I’m free to choose how I worship God. For the record all of my choices throughout my life have been Jesus, my life and savior, God, and Christianity. This is what I worship and I will do so as long as I walk our world. … I have been pounded way too often because I have also cherished and cherish Mary, the mother of Jesus … Moreover I have been attacked for I am able to accept people who worship their God, be it Buddha, Maheo (the Cheyenne God), Ussen (the Apache God), or any other religion (and that included a screenplay that I wrote that dealt with an interracial relationship between a Persian woman and an American in Los Angeles at the time of the fall of the shaw of Iran in the 1970s). If you have trouble with this; it’s on you and not me.

This art of LK meeting the Virgin Mary is based upon a great photo taken my friend Glen Williams at Mission San Fernando (city of San Fernando in Los Angeles County) in May 2012. This lady is with me today, tomorrow, and always, … and I don’t give a damn about what you think. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

Let’s make this clear right now: Mary will always be with me regardless if I pray to my God in the Catholic or Protestant religions. Always. Now and forever. I am strong and I can survive whatever criticism that might come my way (there are stories here, but they are too personal to share). If you don’t agree or like this, again that’s on you (and it is for you to do what you believe is right for you).

I speak with God and Jesus every day. Your decision of what you do is yours and it will not affect my life or my religious beliefs in any way. Nor will I ever curse you as you don’t worship your God as I do mine.

Back to the Dragon …

Both Drake and Flynn were adventurers. Both made an impact on their chosen professions. Most important both stepped outside the racial times of their day (although this last point I didn’t realize until years later when I was actually writing and selling freelance words).

By the mid-1970s I was still an actor but I had begun to write with a purpose. A harrowing experience during a summer of dinner theater in Texas had landed me a screenwriting agent. It had also landed me an acting manager. Although the push was to get me acting work, the manager, and his name was Richard Steele-Reed (alas, no longer with us), was well aware of the writing direction that had begun to take hold of my life. He suggested that we write a novel together; that is I write it and he function as an editor during the process. I liked the idea.

This art by an unknown artist that dates to the 1960s and the world of discovery and piracy. It was a baseball card, and from an unknown card set. This may, or may not, have been Francis Drake’s early entry to the New World after the disastrous Hawkins’s slave-trading expedition of the late 1560s. Here Drake would show his true colors as he partnered with escaped African slaves that married into the indigenous tribes of people who lived in the area prior to the appearance of Columbus at the end of the 15th century. … As for the image: The men are obviously Cimarrons (more about them below), but the vessel is too large to be Drake’s Swan, which, without digging, I believe was his ship during his early 1570s sailings to the New World.

My choice for a novel: Francis Drake’s early solo voyages after the massive John Hawkins trading disaster to the Indies in 1567, wherein his slaving venture (and Drake was one of his ship captains) from Africa to the Spanish colonial cities looked to amass a huge profit. By the way, the Spanish outlawed this, but it didn’t stop the trading and selling of human cargo. There was a hurricane and Hawkins’s fleet put into the protected harbor of San Juan de Ulúa (current Vera Cruz, Mexico) to repair damage before attempting to cross the Atlantic and return to England. Bad timing placed the Spanish fleet arriving there at this time. The English fleet, and Drake commanded a small vessel called the Judith, was formidable and Hawkins worked out a truce with the Spanish viceroy. … But treachery followed and all but two English ships were sunk. The two to get out of the harbor and flee were Drake’s Judith, and he took some heat for not waiting for Hawkins, who escaped on (if my memory is good) his damaged flagship, the Minion. English seamen that were captured had a future of prison and the Spanish Inquisition (some would luckily survive the ordeal).

This is a detail of  a newly authenticated portrait of Francis Drake. It is on loan and currently displayed at Buckland Abbey, Drake’s home that he bought 11 miles from Plymouth in Devon, England, after his return from the circumnavigation of the world in 1580. Drake’s first wife, Mary Newman, got to enjoy their magnificent new home but not for long as she died the following year. Four years later Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham. This art, which definitely captures Drake’s features is, unfortunately, not dated (and worse the artist is unknown). It predates his 1585-86 expedition to the Spanish Main and his 1587 raid on Cadiz, Spain. And it perhaps predates his triumphant return to London after the circumnavigation. If so, this pushes the date of the painting to the of end of his successful 1572-73 West Indies raid or after he served as the the navel commander for Walter Devereux, First Earl of Essex, in July 1575. The painting has brilliant colors and is alive. I love it.

This was key for both the times, which then was in the midst of a religious war that would heat up, and was also combined with the fight to control the New World, or the Americas. Currently Spain and Portugal had divided this land (what would become Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Sea, although the Spanish had made a foothold in what would become the American Southwest and Florida) between themselves and were doing everything possible to protect what they considered their private domain. The English were interlopers (and very aware of the wealth the New World contained) and Spain realized the threat.

Drake, who was a Lutheran, now viewed Spain as his deadly enemy. Turning pirate, he launched his personal war with Spain’s New World empire. … And this was the premise of my co-authored novel with Steele-Reed. It dealt with his first exploratory voyages as he befriended Cimarrons, mixed-blood escaped African slaves who joined and married the indigenous people (that is the people who lived in the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World) that struggled to remain free from Spanish domination. Partnering with the Cimarrons Drake learned how Spain shipped gold and silver overland via mule trains to the eastern coast of what would become Central America. He planned, he plotted, and at the same time he became a small thorn in mighty Spain’s personal domain when he attacked mostly undermanned shipping that could not avoid or repel a piratical attack at that time.

This image was taken during LK’s first time aboard Drake’s Golden Hinde II in August 1976 (San Francisco, California). I’m on (I think) the aft deck, and I’m certainly talking to my crew. There’s nothing better than living in the moment even though in this instance the moment isn’t mine. … I guess that I should share something here; when I walk in an historical person’s shoes I do whatever I can to live their moments. I want to know what they felt, and more why they did what they did. I’m a firm believer in cause and effect, and I need this to write about them in their view. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

This incomplete Drake draft is not in the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe; it is still with me and awaiting my return to it. It is one of two Kraft planned books on Drake. The other will be nonfiction. Like Wynkoop and Sand Creek I don’t share my nonfiction plot lines until the books are published (this reason should be obvious, but if not I do not want to give the story away for one major reason—I’m slower than any historian that I know and I don’t want them to publish their book that is based upon my idea before I do).

I write about extraordinary men: Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Charles Gatewood, and Errol Flynn. I also write about a magnificent woman: Olivia de Havilland, who plays a major role in Errol & Olivia. … More important, in the not-too-distant future Drake and Kit Carson will join my writing world that Flynn will soon dominate. It’s a comin’ folks, it’s a comin’. Trust me.

Who was Francis Drake?

And more importantly how do I walk with the pirate Drake and present him in words; both fictionally and in reality? I know. Actually I’ve known for decades. He is in line with above-mentioned writing subjects. By that I mean Drake stepped beyond racial prejudice and hatred and dealt with his fellow man (often his hated enemy) in a humane way. The enemy were killing his brethren, and often butchering them, torturing them, and ripping their bodies to pieces. He dealt with that, he lived with that, but when in control—that is with Spanish prisoners—he didn’t reciprocate. Conversely, he treated them as human beings.

This is Rod Taylor playing the Francis Drake in the 1963 film Seven Sea to Calais. He was brilliant as Drake (but the film never comes close to equaling his performance), and if he had decided to walk in Flynn’s steps and become a swashbuckler—and of course improved his sword skills—we would have had a great successor to Flynn’s glory years. Taylor did not, and alas we have still not seen an actor who could have followed Flynn’s swashbucklings steps. At this late date perhaps we—that is me—will never see someone who can fill Flynn’s legacy. … I’m good with this; oh baby am I good with this. It should have been Rod Taylor. That did not happen, and everyone since Rod’s time have been total failures. … It is what it is and I’m good with this. Bottom point? This just shows you just how great Flynn’s screen presence really was (and that included performing in numerous film genres).

Perhaps not in 1573, one of Drake’s most magnificent years, for he did capture and secure a Spanish treasure caravan. It would make his fortune, put his name in circulation, lead to his short association with Essex in 1575 (mentioned below the above Drake portrait currently displayed at Buckland Abbey), and more important lead to his introduction to Thomas Doughty, an aristocrat. Actually Drake’s participation was small. Sailing the Falcon (a frigate), he commanded the fleet that transported John Norrey’s army to Rathlin Island, off the coast of Ireland. On July 25 Drake used the canons on the Falcon to batter the castle’s stone walls until they crumbled. At that point Norreys began the assault as Drake sailed the coast to ensure that no Scottish ships attempted to send reinforcements. That day the fortress with 200 soldiers surrendered, and the following day the English rounded up 400 civilians who had fled to hide in caves when the English appeared. Men, women, and children, and many of them Scots who had been sent to the island because it was thought to be a safe haven. The English put them to the sword (just a saying, meaning they murdered all 600). The “Rathlin Island Massacre,” as this infamous event is now known, shows that the Spanish were not the only ones who dealt harshly with the enemy. It is unknown what Drake’s reaction was when he learned of the massacre, but his participation in this heinous event led to a friendship with Doughty (who served as Sir Christopher Hatton’s personal secretary), and this would eventually lead to his introduction to Queen Elizabeth I of England.

This is the Golden Hinde II, as it appeared in the Robert Shaw, Genevieve Bujold, James Earl Jones, and Peter Boyle film Swashbuckler (Universal Pictures, 1976). If I remember correctly Universal paid $1,000,000 to rent the Golden Hinde II. Unfortunately there were no battles at sea (guess the production only had enough money to rent one vessel). Here Shaw’s pirate ship (The Blarney Cock) is bombarding a stone execution gibbet that is just above the Jamaican town of ??? (can’t remember; Port Royal?) before making a daring rescue of Jones, who was about to be hung.

Better, it would lead to his proposal to attack the Spanish settlements on the western coast of the Americas (advertised as a trading voyage to the Nile). This would lead to riches beyond belief for him, his crew, his queen, and the investors in the piratical raid. This included his circumnavigation of the globe*, which led to his knighthood in 1581. This voyage, if studied, is mind-boggling. Yes, it is that magnificent, and again it demonstrates in bold letters Drake’s daring as well of his view of humankind and Spain. His relationship with indigenous people continued as he circled the globe. At times he wined and dined his Spanish captives aboard the Golden Hinde; (after transporting the treasure from the Cacafuego, see below italicized note, which took five days, Drake released the ship and its crew on the evening of March 5) treating them with humanity and respect, something that wasn’t expected during the second half of the 16th century.

The Golden Hinde II under full sail.

* Drake did not initially plan to sail around the globe. Instead he hoped to return to England by discovering the western entrance to the (still thought to exist) Northwest Passage and sail this unchartered waterway back to the Atlantic Ocean. Reason: He knew that his raids along the western coast of the Americas, and this included the March 1, 1579, capture of the Spanish treasure ship Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (also called Cacafuego) off the coast of what would become Ecuador, guaranteed that a Spanish fleet would be waiting for him to return to the Strait of Magellan, the 373-mile water passage below southern-most portion of mainland South America and north of Tierra de Fuego. When Drake realized that the Northwest Passage didn’t exist he had but one choice to return home—sail west into the Pacific Ocean.

Yep, Francis Drake, a lowly born Englishman, became a member of the realm. He was a self-made man, and by that I mean a person who dared to step outside the stated doctrines of his life and times, and stand firm for his country, religion, culture, and freedom.

“I vote for Drake! Please?”

How could I refuse the lady’s request? … And especially since Drake has been with me for a long time. “My friend, El Draque (the Dragon) it is.”

This is MaryLou Backus. She is a beautiful and slender person that I am lucky to know. We are close on many subjects from the American Indians and into our world of today. When I had raised the question of perhaps writing a blog about Francis Drake she immediately replied yes. (art of MaryLou © Louis Kraft 2017)

When I had raised the question of who I should next highlight in my next blog on social media a long-distance friend spoke up quickly with the words in this heading. Her request was quick (actually she was the only person to reply on the first day of the post).

Back to this lady, and I haven’t shared her name except in the image to the right. She is MaryLou Backus. … She and I have much in common even though we have never met. Better, she is a lady after my heart. Unbelievably her family believes that that they are directly related to Francis Drake, who, to repeat myself, lived in a time of extreme racial and religious prejudice, as well as hatred and butchery. He refused to murder other human beings. … And he was a pirate. …

I’m still with MaryLou. She is an absolutely gorgeous lady who luckily I’ll meet sometime in our future. Social media linked us in our joint interest in the American Indian wars. When I proposed this blog to her, MaryLou had this to say: “Wonderful! I grew up on tales of him [Drake] having been an ancestor. I have no idea if it’s true, but of course it created a fascination.” I can’t walk away from MaryLou’s hope. Not today; not ever! I wish that I could join her and claim that Mr. Drake was also my relative. I can’t. Her claim is real; it’s alive, and I’m certain that the back story to what she has heard has the possibility of being true. My view? Wow! MaryLou, you are so lucky to have the pirate Drake perhaps being your relative.

… And there’s more to MaryLou’s extraordinary reminiscence of her family’s living history and connection to the pirate Drake who would become Sir Francis. This remembrance of MaryLou must not be forgotten, and here’s another reason why. … “And somebody was supposed to have some old doubloons squirreled away,” she told me. “As a kid, I always dreamed of finding them in somebody’s attic. Ha!” Good stuff.

Knighted and a national hero

When Drake returned from his circumnavigation and was knighted, he had no idea that his service, which ranged from piracy to loyalty to his country, had not yet ended.

This is the April 1581 Nicholas Hilliard miniature of Drake. It is a portrait of Drake the year after he completed the circumnavigation of the globe in 1580. It is in the National Maritime Museum on the Thames River in Greenwich across from London proper. Also in this museum complex is the Queen’s House. In 2009 I visited Olivia de Havilland at her home for the second time upon her invitation. I don’t fly to Paris without a full agenda to wrap three weekends around two weeks. My then special lady wanted to also see London (cool for me, as I wanted to see some of the classic paintings of Drake in person). I would have liked to have traveled to Plymouth do research and see Buckland Abby but that would have added another week as I would have had to do some serious Drake and Devon research. Heck, I got to spend time on the Golden Hinde II for the third time as it is now docked in London (and I assume that it is still berthed on the Thames River). Believe it or not, my lady and I had the ship to ourselves during this visit (it pays to be an early bird); some good research material at the shop that handled visits aboard this oh-so famous replica vessel. … I’ve missed flights, and on this trip I almost missed two—that’s right—two Eurorail trips (from Paris to London and London back to France). My lady was okay with the first mess up as we threw our bags onto the train and boarded it seconds—yes, seconds—before the doors closed and we were thrown to the floor as the train jerked forward, but when we almost missed the train back to France she was livid. The reason was simple: We would have missed our return flight to the USA. … Back to the story, we took a Thames boat ride to Greenwich and explored the National Maritime Museum (a wonder!). We saw Hilliard’s miniature and other decent art of Drake, but not the 1591 jewel portrait of him. It was supposed to be at the museum. I asked, and was told that it was in the Queen’s House (a part of the museum complex). We hustled to the house (perhaps a 300-yard distance from the National Maritime Museum), but it closed at five and it was now a few minutes after five. For the record this was not Elizabeth I of England’s house but James I’s (the Scot who succeeded Elizabeth on the English throne as she left no heirs) wife’s house, and it was built a little over 10 years after Elizabeth’s death. My friend and great historian Eric Niderost (who is also a professor in Northern California) shared this information with me, and I am forever grateful. … My lady and I couldn’t talk our way into the building. Devastating! We took our boat ride back to Big Ben and then the subways to our hotel. After dinner she said to me, “We have time tomorrow morning. Let’s go to the Queen’s House.” This was based upon the misinformation that had I shared with her of when Eurorail would take us back to France (yeah, sometimes Kraft isn’t the smartest pirate wandering our modern world). Another roundtrip on the Thames and me seeing the Drake jewel portrait became my second highlight of the trip; seeing Livvie, as Flynn called Olivia de Havilland, for the third time was definitely number one. … A print of this great Drake portrait is in the personal LK collection.

The Spanish threat of death to all heretics continued; that is death to all that did not accept  Catholicism. Drake enjoyed a short but peaceful time in his homeland, but he lost his first wife (I don’t know how she died). Several years later he married a second time. Life was good, but the Spanish threat refused to go away. Ever the pirate the now patriot Drake helmed a massive invasion of the New World. He would attack and seize major cities, including Cartagena (the western coast of Columbia, current South America). While in control of the city he sent an African emissary to negotiate with the Spanish only to watch a Spanish officer murder his negotiator. Drake could not accept this and demanded that the officer who committed the crime be delivered to him. This was done and Drake had the murderer executed. The Spanish threat of death to all heretics continued. Elizabeth and many in England felt vulnerable to invasion. Spies reported King Philip II of Spain was amassing a huge armada in Cadiz.

I have shared larger copies of this image elsewhere on social media but never before on my blog. I am at the helm of Drake’s Golden Hinde II on 10jul2009, which means that I was in a live-world heaven. Originally the helm had a whipstaff for the wheel didn’t exist in Drake’s day. I’m on the half deck of the Golden Hinde II. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Francis Drake (the British pirate) and Francis Drake (the British knight) was a man for all time. … For the record he would have easily walked with frontiersman Ned Wynkoop, Cheyenne chief Black Kettle, and actor Errol Flynn as they all stepped beyond racism. As already stated Drake lived during a time of extreme religious prejudice, a time of absolute butchery of the foe (let’s not forget the American frontier or the modern world of warfare). I have not yet figured out how Drake could step beyond his times and accept people who were of different color and in the case of the Spanish prayed to a God that, although similar to his, preached the elimination—that is the murder—of everyone that did not accept and pray to Jesus as viewed through the Catholic Church. This was a harsh time wherein “infidels,” that is those that did not cherish and praise Jesus Christ exactly as those who accepted Catholicism as worshiped in the Spanish empire were evil and needed to burn at the stake. I can’t begin to imagine the Inquisition or the horror of this kind of death.

This artwork of Sir Francis Drake (1594) is perhaps a copy of the magnificent 1591 jewel portrait of him (a copy of the jewel portrait is in his cabin on the Golden Hinde II, currently docked in London, and the original painting is in the Queen’s House in Greenwich). This unknown artist rendition is rough—at best.

During the attempted Spanish Armada invasion of England in 1588 Drake again played a major role, although he also acted as he had in the past, mainly as a pirate acting on his own hook. I hate authority and love this. Regardless of how we view his actions at this climatic time in England’s history he was a patriot.

Francis Drake was born a protestant, and he would die a protestant. He was born into a world of racism, and his entire life would exist in a harsh climate of religious hatred and brutal murder of those who prayed to a different Jesus Christ and God.

But Francs Drake was different. He was a pirate, and later a knight of the realm. He and those he loved were always at risk of death if the Spanish conquest of England won out. It didn’t, and he and his family survived. Francis Drake would never know Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, or Errol Flynn, and they most likely never considered his life, and yet all of them are tied between the ages and time in that they accepted people of a different race, color, and religion as just people.

This is something that everyone currently walking our world should do. Lordy, if all of us could just do this, what a better world we would have. Think of it … a world without racial or religious prejudice and hate, … a world without conquest and genocide, … a world wherein a woman and a man are equal.

Yep, I dream for a future that I’ll never see.

— Louis Kraft

The Sand Creek, Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


I thought that for the third time my next major blog would deal with race and racism in my life, as this has always been a major piece of my world and always will be.

Actually on other social media it had been advertised as the next blog
as an introduction to dealing with some of the explosive comments
that my blogs had garnered that were both hateful and
threatening. Those who responded, and almost as
a total group, uplifted me from the dark swirl
of what amounted to threats.

I have no intention of shortchanging my world but
at the moment I need time, … and want to keep focused on
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

I have a major announcement to make in regards to
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
(It will appear at the end of this blog).

Who am I?

I’m a pirate, a duelist, an explorer, a frontiersman. More important I’m a person who has walked between race in my world and in past worlds that I never experienced but know intimately (the last half of the 16th century, the 1860s and 1880s, and the 1930s through the 1950s and into the 1970s).

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LK leaning against Ned Wynkoop’s restored home/U.S. Indian agency just outside the perimeter of Fort Larned in Kansas on 22sept2012. I represented Wynkoop that evening when the Santa Fe Trail Association inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Photo by Fort Larned NHS chief historian and my great friend George Elmore. (image © Louis Kraft 2012 & 2015)

My books all deal with the human experience (regardless if they are nonfiction or fiction). They deal with time and place while none of them are in the present. For the record, the only book I’ll ever write that deals with the here and now will be my memoir (and I had better be dead at least one day before it is published). Trust me that my research on this fact is on target and that there can be no room for deviation from what must happen before this book is published.

These are not dark words. Rather they are truths in our modern world. Most people who write about their lives (or have someone else write about their lives for them) steer clear of truth. The reason is probably twofold: 1) They don’t want to be sued for telling the truth, and 2) They do not want to present themselves as less than an exemplary person. Unfortunately fully ninety percent of the autobiographies or memoirs that I have read fall into this category. These books are glossed-over bores that quickly put me to sleep. This must be good for I certainly need to sleep, perchance to dream.

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Of course this book has an LK story. It was distributed to book sellers early in 1960. As said Flynn had seen the galleys but he did not live to see publication (he died on 14oct1959). … At the time of publication I was in elementary school, and I had a job—a paper route—that I worked seven days a week. When the book was published I purchased it. My mother was upset and asked where I got the book. “I bought it.” “The book store sold it to you?” she asked incredulously. “Yes.” My mother knew that Errol Flynn meant a lot to me, even at that early age. “Okay,” she said, “as long as you don’t tell anyone you have the book or what is inside it.” I readily agreed. … Flynn wrote a book that contained a lot of truth—(and to repeat myself) so much so that for the second printing a lot was removed as some people didn’t like what he had written about them. They couldn’t sue Flynn for telling the truth for he was dead, but they made their anger known. … Many people have since spread the word that a lot of the book was fiction (certainly in the early portion of the book; Tasmania and New Guinea, that a book I own but don’t totally agree with documented). … I have a lot to say about this. Mainly 1) Flynn changed names and facts to protect friends and himself (trust me, this is not strange in memoir); and 2) I write nonfiction (Custer, Gatewood, Geronimo, Wynkoop, and Flynn and that includes Olivia de Havilland as she plays a large role in my first book on Mr. Flynn). Guess what: All of these people never documented their past accurately. Why? I’ll tell you why—I can’t document my past accurately. Reason: My memory has changed; it has forgotten or it has evolved into a new view of my life over time (thus I keep boxes upon boxes of documentation for my memoir). … Ditto Custer, Gatewood, Geronimo, Wynkoop, Flynn, and de Havilland. And there is what I said above about Flynn: Protecting himself and friends. … If I have learned a major thing from Flynn’s memoir (and this is my favorite book of all time), it is that when my memoir is ready for publication that it must be published after I am dead for this will be the only way I’ll be able to tell the truth.

The one autobiography that I have read that has forever stayed front and center in my life is Errol Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1959). Mr. Flynn had magnificent help from writer Earl Conrad, who spent prime time with him in Jamaica when the actor-writer had trouble completing his memoir. Of course, Flynn’s story raised eyebrows. Certain personages were misnamed. Read: To protect friends (or Flynn himself). Other people Flynn spoke too truthfully about. Read: You pick them (but you had better have a first edition of MWWW, for if not a lot of the swashbuckler’s truths vanished in subsequent printings). Although Flynn knew he was dying (something that he had known for quite some time) he didn’t know that he wouldn’t see the publication of his memoir (although he did see the final galleys and approved them), … and he knew what he could possibly face (and thusly ignored the last love of his life in the book; he simply dedicated the book “to a small companion”).

Relax, my life doesn’t come close to the life that Mr. Flynn lived and shared with the world. But that said I have stories to tell that will result in people pounding on my front door with knives, sabres, Colt revolvers, and other instruments of destruction. I’ve had knives at my throat, guns pointed at me, but perhaps the worst was a surprise package in a plain white envelope with bold red letters that proclaimed: SHAME! This was from an editor in software that I worked well with and liked, and the contents was long dark hair. You won’t believe what her voice evolved into on voice mail messages—It was unnerving and chilled me to the bone. Luckily she lived and worked on the East Coast and I lived in SoCal, for otherwise I would have spent my days with my back to a wall while holding a brace of Colts in my hands as I waited for the front door to be bashed open. Are these words extreme? You bet! Are they the truth? Yes. Can I write about this lady and not get sued? Now that is the million-dollar question! … Yes, Mr. Flynn changed names and altered some facts but believe me he did some of this to protect himself (and some of it may have been because his memory had faded, but trust me for he never forgot the name of his friend Hermann Erben).

We have a lot of homeless people in Los Angeles and some I know on a
first-name basis—but I don’t want to join their ranks

I do walk the streets, but not as a hunter seeking prey. No! Absolutely not. I walk to be able
to walk, I walk for exercise, I walk for my health, and I walk so that I can survive. During these times (almost daily) I’m wary of my surroundings. At the same time I’m open to a human connection, and some of these people are homeless. I enjoy meeting and knowing
them (while knowing that I can’t offer them much). There is a lady named Sandy who shaves her head (the royal Egyptians of Nefertiti’s time shaved all their hair for cleanliness). She has a bicycle, is friendly, and we have talked on numerous occasions. I always carry a phone but
I have never asked if I could take her picture (and I have never taken a photo of a homeless
person, for they have a right to their privacy). This said she is a delight to know and I pray
God every day that soon the tax leveled on Los Angeles home owners in the 8nov2016 election and which goes into effect today (1jan2017) will build housing for these unfortunate
people (and not end up in politicians’ pockets).

What the hell?

… and how do I illustrate this section?

Perhaps I can use the artwork that I created of the Los Angeles 405 freeway
for my upcoming blog on race, as it is a nightmare. … Don’t think so.

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Cheyenne Dog Man Chief Bull Bear (left) and Cheyenne Peace Chief Black Kettle. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Just this; we all have lives and all of my subjects (except for Olivia de Havilland and less than a handful of people that I love) have moved on to the next world. … I must treat their lives with the same respect and accuracy as I would Livvie (Ms. de Havilland), Pailin, and everyone else in my life. I can’t treat them with anything less than the truth as my research defines it. Ladies and gents, this also includes my Sand Creek manuscript (Left Hand; John Chivington; John Evans; Charley Bent, BTW I think his brother George almost but not exclusively referred to him as “Charles”; Black Kettle; Bull Bear; George Bent; John Smith; Silas Soule; Ned Wynkoop; Little Raven; Scott Anthony; William Bent and everyone else I’m writing about.

HighamBookCover_ws

This 1980 book sold a lot of copies, and it is well-written. Unfortunately Higham wrote a lot that wasn’t true (and his major fictions have been debunked). Years later all some people know about Flynn is that he was a Nazi. Nothing printed about him has been farther from the truth. … Ah, the power of words!                                                             For the record, when I spoke with Olivia de Havilland about Higham’s biography about her and her sister, Joan Fontaine, all she shared with me was that Higham never contacted her and that he was “an unscrupulous man.”

Unfortunately you can defame the dead in the USA. In my opinion this is a massive crime and should be punished. It isn’t, but just because it isn’t writers and historians like me shouldn’t be able to have an open door and write untruths about people who can no longer defend themselves (and in many cases prove their innocence). … Anyone who writes about the past and calls someone a Nazi supporter or a rapist or a racist or child molester or a butcher of innocent people should be held accountable if he or she cannot provide proof for their statements. Writers who sell books and articles while destroying an historical person’s reputation should be called upon to prove what he or she has written or face a civil trial.

I can’t begin to tell you how many untruths I have seen in print (and unfortunately have heard verbally) about people that I write about and of which I know the facts from decades of study. Often I get pinged (and I’m being kind to me here) for taking so long to complete a manuscript. Put simply, I’m asked time and again why can’t I complete a 125,000-word or (in the case of Sand Creek) a 135,000-word manuscript in a year when writers for New York publishers can write a 400-500 page book in a year or two. You don’t want to hear this answer. … All I’ll say here is: Use your brain and think about it. My comments in the following paragraphs are a slam dunk reason why. You connect the dots.

I bought a book on George Armstrong Custer (2016) that won a major award, and immediately went to the index, and checked two pages that dealt with an historical figure that I know intimately. Guess what? Both pages had major errors (it’s on you to recognize them). The author cited a piss-poor so-called “autobiography” of Edward Wynkoop that was assembled by someone who’s research was horrendous (by the way, this “autobiography” was little more than an incomplete first rough draft that was less than half completed). For example, this compiler-editor’s research had Wynkoop resign his commission as U.S. Indian agent on November 27, 1868*, and had Custer attack Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River on November 29, 1868. If you know your history; enough said! … If not, reverse the dates. No! Not enough said, for it gets worse. The compiler-editor states that the great Peace Chief Black Kettle was born in 1841, became one of the four principle chiefs of the Cheyenne Council of Forty-four in 1853 (at twelve years of age?). … For the record I have written about Wynkoop and Black Kettle for decades, and these types of errors should never see print.

* The above-mentioned Custer book had Wynkoop resign as U.S. Indian agent prior to Custer’s attack on Black Kettle’s village.

fromcochise_togeronimo_bookcover2_wsAn Apache wars book that also saw print in 2016 listed (in my opinion) the best Apache wars book of all time, Edwin R. Sweeney’s From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches 1874-1886 (OU Press, 2010), in its bibliography. For the record, Sweeney’s book proved without a doubt that an Apache woman named Lozen was not with Geronimo and Naiche when they told Lt. Charles Gatewood that they would surrender and end the 1886 Apache war in Sonora, Mexico (August 1886). This book (and again I’m not naming it) totally ignores what Mr. Sweeney’s work proved for the simple reason that it didn’t agree with what the writer chose to push on a clueless public. As this book has sold a lot of copies it has yet again reintroduced a proven error as historical fact.

My friends, this type of supposed historical writing is little more than fiction perpetrated by authors who have preconceived premises that are set in stone and to hell with facts or truth. Is it lazy research? Maybe, and maybe no; at least I hope not. But it matters not, for they have set back real history by a number of decades.


I know, the above is something that I should shun and ignore.
I cannot! Two upcoming blogs will deal with Indian wars and Errol Flynn
errors, fictions, and lies, and everything will be totally documented.
But first my Sand Creek manuscript must be in production with OU Press.

Finally
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
and the winding road to today

In case you don’t know, I never studied to become a writer. Simply put, and even though the late 1960s started this process, it was the decade of the 1970s that set me in motion to realize a future I never dreamed possible for it set me on course to walk my own road of decision and discovery. … If it wasn’t for the pure hell that I experienced while acting in Texas in 1976 I never would have become a writer. The events that I saw and lived through that summer placed an exclamation point on what I experienced in Austin (Texas) and Sapulpa and Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) in 1970. The year 1970 made me realize who I was while 1976 set me on course to become a writer. Both years put me at risk and yet pushed me to reach beyond anything I had yet imagined.

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LK the December after working for VISTA. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

Over the years a lot of people have been in my corner. They have done many things to help me survive in the real world. This certainly began with my father (who always had my back) but then took off in 1970 when Cheetah Gates, my Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) supervisor, told me that if I wanted to live I had better ditch the cowboy boots. I did. He then taught me how to survive while walking the streets of Oklahoma City at night (and this was after I had saved myself from having my throat slit in the wee hours of an Austin morn). It was during that long muggy summer where I found myself dead center in a racist storm. Oh, I should state that I was living and working with African Americans.

Six years later I again maneuvered through a Texas hotbed of racism and other nasty things. Richard Steele-Reed had cast me in What Did We Do Wrong and he almost had a heart attack when I threatened to quit when my salary was reduced after the seven days of rehearsals ended and the play opened.

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LK as Charlie, a struggling actor, in Eat Your Heart Out (Hayloft Dinner Theatre, Lubbock, Texas). I was on stage throughout the entire play. The Lubbock theater was in the round (the audience was on all four sides of the stage), and I have always loved performing this way. I also love breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the audience (which I again did with Cheyenne Blood and the Wynkoop plays in this century). (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Steele-Reed insisted that I behave (I said that I would as long as I received all my contracted salary for the run of the current play and that the next play included a hefty raise). He directed me in the following  play, Eat Your Heart Out. The part of Charlie would be the best role that I ever played (actually twice; also in SoCal in 1977). But the key to that summer was that it led me to write a screenplay about this experience, and it landed my first literary agent, Ed Mernerth. Over eight years he not only taught me how to write character, dialog, and plot but did everything possible to sell and option my screenplays.

But the times were changing. By the mind 1980s I quit acting cold turkey and started selling freelance articles and talks. The learning process continued, but from this time forward it was on me. In 1986 I landed my first job using a computer without ever touching one. There was one catch, I had one week to learn how to use a computer. I did, and within a year I brought desktop publishing into the company. This landed me a publishing position with a “how to succeed in business” company. I then used this publishing experience combined with my freelance writing to land a technical writing job in 1990. When I asked the manager for training, he laughed and said: “I hired you as a technical writer; you’re on your own pal.” Soon after Jackie Johnson, a New York editor, bought my first novel, and for the next 20 or so years I combined freelance and software writing (and let me tell you that the days and nights and weeks were long).

Enter Chuck Rankin

Charles (Chuck) Rankin has been the editor-in-chief at the University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press), the top Indian wars publisher in the world, for many years. Chuck befriended me years back and did what he could to improve my writing. This was during the time after I walked away from an absurd second Charles Gatewood/Apaches book contract with the University of New Mexico Press but before the University of Nebraska Press turned Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir into my best selling book to date. During this time of short-lived uncertainty before Nebraska jumped on the Gatewood manuscript, Chuck and I began a long off-and-on discussion about Ned Wynkoop and his journey from being a racist to someone who became a hated white man when he dared to stand up for Indians (and in particular the Cheyennes and Arapahos).

Mr. Rankin & the OU Press staff

The following reviews (see below) would not have happened if not for Chuck Rankin’s patience and guidance.

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LK at the Western History Association convention in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. On this day I introduced Pailin to Chuck Rankin, and spent good time great friends John Monnett and Durwood Ball (who, as then editor-in-chief at the University of New Mexico Press, jumped on Gatewood & Geronimo as soon as he read the manuscript in 1999), and Clark Whitehorn (currently executive editor at the University of New Mexico Press). (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

For years Chuck hung close with me as we worked on the Wynkoop contract. After it was signed he stood firmly behind the manuscript. During this time he did everything possible to make the book as good as possible. Without Chuck and the entire OU Press staff, and this certainly includes production manager Steven Baker and copyeditor Beth Hadas, I’d probably still be wandering alone through a blazing SoCal desert without the possibility of publication. … For the record (and I touched upon this in my previous Sand Creek blog, John Smith, Chief Gordon Yellowman, and the Sand Creek Massacre) I am demanding. Chuck and the entire OU Press production staff, and this definitely included the art director (I think he has left and I’m kicking myself as I can’t remember his name), dealt with me without revolting and insisting that I walk a pirates’ plank and drop into the shark-infested sea off the coast of Los Angeles. Without OU Press’s entire staff Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek would not have been what it became. I am forever grateful to everyone involved.

A few Ned Wynkoop reviews

Editor Greg Lalire (Wild West, April 2012): “Kraft . . . has produced the first full biography of an unusual fellow whose humanitarian stance toward Indians, empathy and ‘brave act of conscience’ made him, in the eyes of many, a villain or a traitor. … Certainly Wynkoop’s stance against the Sand Creek attack not only changed his life forever but also defines how he is remembered today. He had stepped beyond the accepted mores of the day and kept speaking his mind. Kraft compares Wynkoop to screen legend Errol Flynn, but Wynkoop’s life did not play out according to a Hollywood script. ‘Of course,’ writes Kraft, ‘Flynn’s humanity and his stand for justice always won out by the final reel of the film, whereas Wynkoop walked away from the pinnacle of this life knowing that he had failed.’”

Novelist and Editor Johnny Boggs (Roundup, April 2012): “Before he earned fame (or infamy among Indian-hating people in Colorado and Kansas) for speaking out against John Chivington’s massacre of Cheyennes at Sand Creek, Wynkoop led a colorful life … What’s the best way to fix the ‘Indian problem?’ Wynkoop was asked in 1868. ‘[T]o extend American citizenship to the Indians, and allow their representatives seats in Congress,’ he answered. No wonder he carried a gun [Boggs proclaimed]. This engaging, intelligent and well-researched biography is also even-handed, showing the dark side of an early champion of Indian rights. One of the best biographies of a Western figure to come out in years.”

Historian R. Eli Paul (writing for True West, December 2011): “Louis Kraft’s special skill as a biographer is taking a figure from Western history—one whom the general public should know but does not—and telling the story of a meaningful, significant life. He did this expertly with Lt. Charles Gatewood of the Apache wars and now has repeated the feat with frontiersman Edward Wynkoop. In an American history that trumpets great ‘last stands,’ Wynkoop spoke out against the mistreatment of the Plains Indians and made his own stand of conscience, one to be studied, remembered and admired.”

Historian and novelist Thomas McNulty (writing for Dispatches from the Last Outlaw): “This is the third of Louis Kraft’s books that I have enjoyed, and I believe this book is a masterpiece. I am selective in my non-fiction reading choices, and for good reason. There is so much available that is unreadable, if not incomprehensible, and from all of the New York publishers. History sells, and it has always outsold fiction ten to one. This is a historical fact. But the market is glutted with unreadable biographies. What really matters is a love for the topic. That, my friends, is a rarity among historians and biographers these days. Louis Kraft does not fall into that category. He cares very much about Ned Wynkoop, and his passion for his subject is evident on every page. … Although I have studied American western history at leisure, I had only a smidgen of knowledge about Ned Wynkoop. Thanks to Mr. Kraft, I am now enlightened, and immediately grateful. Wynkoop is fascinating, his story compelling, his era unlike anything we had seen before or since.”

Working as a biographer to create the Sand Creek manuscript

I have no clue what your current views are of what will perhaps be the most important book that I ever write, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. … I am deeply connected with my book projects and the focus is always on people and their actions. This does not mean that I research or write with a preconceived bias for I don’t. As I have written in the past: I think that just about everyone I know, have known, or have written about think that they were right when they did what they did. This view will never change.

Louis Kraft coming in from the light. Photo by Glen Williams (Image © Williams & Kraft 2012)

This image shows what I’m trying to say here. Mainly that until I have found what I need to propel the story of Sand Creek to conclusion it is a lonely path as I struggle to find and assemble the actions and facts that will allow me to complete the manuscript. Photo by Glen Williams. (image © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Our actions define us, and actions can and at times do include what we say. Documenting only the good in a person’s life makes them one-dimensional and unrealistic. Everyone does things that they later regret. Certainly I have. I know that I’ve hurt people, and I have been hurt by people. This doesn’t make me bad or them bad. It simply means that something happened. It adds dimension to a life and gives it color. Without color—that is the ups and downs, the good and the bad—a life becomes boring. Making a life worth knowing (and perhaps studying) requires multiple shades of color.

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This photo by Glen Williams also deals with the search for a nugget that can perhaps become a piece of the puzzle. (image © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Do not doubt that the 1860s were a time of aggression and war, a time of hatred and butchery, and a time of fear. The Sand Creek manuscript is about people whose color, race, and religions were different. It is about people in conflict as they deal with the events that led up to an attack on a Cheyenne-Arapaho village populated by people that thought the U.S. military promised their safety until the U.S. government decided their future. It is also about the attack and the aftermath.  If I do my job as a writer-historian you will walk with the leading players as they did what they thought right. What happened on November 29, 1864, affected a lot of people at that time, it has affected a lot of people since 1864, and it has affected me for decades. A writer-historian should never judge the people he or she writes about for this is for the reader to decide.

Chuck Rankin and a major announcement

I want to say something and I also want to make it absolutely clear by repeating myself. Chuck Rankin became my friend long before I ever became attached to the University of Oklahoma Press. Back in time when I wrote for publishers other than OU Press he didn’t shun me. No. Instead he talked with me, shared information with me, befriended me. He did what he could to aid my second Gatewood/Apache book see publication even though it would not be with OU Press. His kindness went far beyond friendship.

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This is Chuck Rankin, my good friend and great editor. All I can say here is that without Chuck my writing life and world would have suffered. I’m lucky to know him and look forward to our relationship as it moves into our future. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

Our working relationship began in the early part of this century and over time led to the Ned Wynkoop and then the Sand Creek contracts. Chuck has supported my work and effort every step of the way.

But … BUT …

Years pass and life changes. Several months ago Chuck Rankin retired as editor-in-chief at OU Press (effective 31dec2016).

When I heard the news I was shocked and concerned, as he has been the driving force behind my Sand Creek manuscript. This began years back when he pitched me to write the book about the 1864 attack on the Sand Creek village. I had said no, that I don’t write about battles. Chuck immediately made it clear that the book would not focus on the battle; rather it should focus on the lead-up to the attack, the attack, and the aftermath. I hesitated, thinking that this wasn’t a project for me. … Our conversation continued, and a year passed. FinalIy I pushed for writing a manuscript driven by peoples’ actions. Eventually Chuck and I agreed on a storyline. Next came the written proposal and this in itself was a project (the final draft was 37 pages long) but it defined what I needed to do to create a manuscript that had value. …

When I spoke to Chuck about his retirement he let me know that he had worked out a deal with the press that would allow him to continue working with selected projects. Best, he made it clear that he was behind Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway one hundred percent and would see it through to completion.

I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am. Thank you Chuck from the bottom of my heart.

— Louis Kraft

The Tom Eubanks, Louis Kraft, Ned Wynkoop, & Errol Flynn connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


I want to say upfront that my friend Tom Eubanks is the most talented person that I’ve ever known. Moreover, he has unlimited focus and energy to bring all his projects to fruition. He’s a terrific friend and to date my only director since I quit working in theater/film/TV/commercials etc. in the mid-1980s.

This blog deals with our initial literary connection, theatrical relationship,
and to where it hopefully leads us next.

Enter Tom Eubanks stage right

In spring 1990 my then wife and I bought a terrific house in Thousand Oaks, California (in Ventura County, the county north of Los Angeles), which was a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Although this image of LK dates to later than 1990, it pretty much represents my clean-cut look at that time when I wasn’t wearing boots and wide-brimmed hats. George Carmichael took this image on a beach in northern San Diego County. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

At that time I had been selling magazine articles and giving talks mostly about race relations and the Cheyenne Indian wars of the 1860s but also baseball (current and history). I also wrote for a telecommunications software company. Even though I freelanced nonfiction I studied fiction at UCLA at night taught by a visiting professional. … I met George Carmichael at UCLA. He was a retired aerospace engineer who sold magazine articles and had an unending curiosity in the world. We remained close friends until his death on 2apr2014. After the class ended George and I continued to study with the UCLA writer at her Westwood office/home. As at UCLA, she oversaw the discussions and critiqued the work.

Actually, some of the wanna-be novelists at this time seemed to be from other planets (but not George). One of the Westwood writers was drafting a story about Jesus Christ, who was the quarterback of a high school football team. He was serious. … How do you keep a straight face while frantically trying to figure out how to say something constructive? Not easy to do.

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The Thousand Oaks house played a role in the publicity for The Final Showdown (see below).

After the move to Thousand Oaks a novelist that I no longer associate with suggested that I become a member of the Ventura County Writers Club and join one of the fiction groups of five, six, or seven that met weekly. I did. At these meetings the writers read from their current project and their peers reviewed their words—sometimes with insight but more often than not with chatter that was useless. Sometimes this was difficult to do, for way too often the people in these groups were not professional and never would be (and this included most of the would-be writers that I had seen at UCLA and Westwood). That said, there were some talented people present and they knew how to review constructively.

It was at these Ventura County writer meetings that I met Tom Eubanks. He was opinionated (and at first we didn’t connect), and it was shortly after I joined the group that I also learned of his theatrical training and interest.

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As I don’t have any photos of Tom that date to the 1990s I decided to use this image of him that I took on 13aug2016. (photo © Tom Eubanks & Louis Kraft 2016)

I believe that at this time he had already directed a number of stage productions. One night our words crossed swords over a play that he directed (and I think that he liked), The Owl and the Pussycat, and some years back that I had been assigned to work on at the Melrose Theatre Company, a professional theater group in Hollywood that I became a member of in the 1970s. I didn’t like Bill Manhoff’s The Owl and the Pussycat. Most likely because I was probably the worst Felix ever. The play focused on Doris (the pussycat) and Felix (the owl), and had some great scenes but I never came close to connecting with the character. For me, he was a pure “nothing” (Barbra Streisand and George Segal played the roles in the 1970 film version; I’ve always liked Barbra’s singing and acting, but didn’t like this film). This was not a great beginning to a potential Eubanks-Kraft friendship.

A lady in the Ventura group read the opening chapter from her novel as her character watched the panorama of spectacle and debauchery in pre-history England as it unfolded on the plain below the tree from which she saw all that happened. When I asked her the name of her major character, she didn’t know what I was talking about. I rephrased the question: “Who was the person in the tree?” “An extra.” It was my turn to be confused. “What?” “She is nobody and doesn’t need a name,” came the reply. “But everything that happened in your story has been seen through her eyes. She reacted to what she saw and is the focus of the scene. So far she is your only character, and …” “No!” “Why?” “You’ll never see her again.” … This woman was beyond help.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take me long to realize that Tom was almost always right on with his comments. He had a quick wit, was funny, and always contributed constructive comments that could benefit the writer on the hot seat if she or he listened. Better yet, a friendship began to develop.

The Final Showdown

That same year of 1990 I attended a Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Portland, Oregon (unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera to fully 95 percent of the first two-thirds of my life and there are few images. At that time I had a literary agent (not my first for earlier I had had three screenwriting agents, and the first one—Ed Menerth (1976-1982)—took me under his wing after I submitted a fictionalized screenplay based upon my surviving a harrowing summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, in 1976.

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A publicity photo from the Hayloft Dinner Theatre in 1976. I was  performing in the generation-gap What Did We Do Wrong in the evenings while rehearsing Eat Your Heart Out during the days (and this photo is from one of the daytime rehearsals), which was about an actor who waited tables while struggling to survive in Hollywood. That’s Robin LaValley, an LA actress in the background. I don’t remember if the leaping onto the chair was in the script or not but it was always a balancing act. This was one of at least two plays wherein I dueled with imaginary swords on stage. … With luck, one more time. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Actually, I was lucky to get out of the Lone Star State without being tarred and feathered, or worse (I had lived and worked with racism and violence in Texas and Oklahoma in 1970 but the 1976 racism was worse).

Back to the 1990 WWA convention. One late night that June my then agent Cherry Weiner, Walker and Company editor Jackie Johnson, I sat in the Oregon hotel lobby sipping drinks and chatting.

I pitched a story that took place during the lead-up to the Medicine Lodge Peace Council in 1867 Kansas, the council, and the aftermath. While most of the characters actually lived (Cheyennes Black Kettle, Stone Forehead, and Bull Bear; Kiowa Satanta; reporter Henry Morton Stanley; Captain Albert Barnitz (Seventh U.S. Cavalry); and Indian agent Ned Wynkoop; the three leads were fictional. It had action, was romantic, and it dealt with Cheyenne-white race relations.

Two or three months later my agent called me. “Have you drafted three chapters?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The story that you pitched Jackie Johnson. She wants to see three chapters.”

Sometimes I’ve got a few screws loose in my brain. “I didn’t realize that she was interested.”

“She is. Get on it!”

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LK and editor Jackie Johnson chatting at the 1991 Western Writers of America convention. (photo © Louis Kraft 1991)

It took me a couple of months to draft the requested chapters, and as I wrote I presented at the weekly meetings of the fiction group. Tom, and others, helped me immensely. I received a contract on those three chapters.

The lead players in The Final Showdown

I based the three fictional leads on real people. Ex-soldier Ned Morgan, who had been at the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory, was based on Wynkoop* (while never calling the real Wynkoop “Ned” and referring to him as “The Tall Chief Wynkoop,” which I steer clear of in my nonfiction writing); I used the famed Northern Cheyenne war leader Roman Nose as an inspiration for The Wolf’s Head; and a lady friend I once knew for Elsa Wells (she read and liked the book, but never realized that I had pulled from her inner being to create Elsa). … Here’s a warning to my lady friends: Be careful with what you share with me as you might become inspiration for one of my fictional female characters, and often they are on the adventurous side.

* The real Wynkoop was not at the Sand Creek Massacre.

This placed Tom front and center with Wynkoop from almost the beginning as I moved between various media time and again as I struggled to figure out who he was. Tom would eventually see some of my articles about the soldier turned Indian agent but never heard any of my talks that dealt with him.

25feb13_finalShowdown300By fall 1991 The Final Showdown was at the publisher’s in New York City. Everything should have been good.

Unfortunately it wasn’t for my marriage was limping toward its end. My time in Thousand Oaks ended a month or two before the divorce was final in early April 1992, and it marked the beginning of the end of my membership with the Ventura writing group. When I moved my belongings to an apartment in Tarzana, a town in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles city and county), Tom Eubanks played a major role in getting my handful of belongings back to LA and safety.

Instead of this disaster marking the end of my friendship with Tom, it marked the beginning.

Before the divorce was final the publisher had submitted the book to the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle, and a staff writer called me at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet) in El Segundo, California, to interview me. He wanted to come to the Thousand Oaks house. I told him that I worked as a technical writer in the South Bay, which is south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and that I had a two-hour drive each way (all true), and that I’d prefer a phone interview. He was good with this, called back twice, and we spoke for perhaps three hours.

Before hanging up the last time we spoke the reporter told me that a photographer would visit me at my home. “Why does it have to be at my home?” I asked. “You must live in Ventura County; if you don’t, there won’t be an article,” he snapped. “Do you live in Ventura County?” “Of course!” I gave him my former address and we set a time for the photo shoot the following Saturday.

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LK in the courtyard entry to the Thousand Oaks house in April 1992. Photo used by permission of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle.

I called my ex-wife, explained the situation, and asked if the paper’s photographer could take photos at the Thousand Oaks house. “Yes,” she said, “as long as you don’t come inside.”

When the photographer arrived at my former home I met him in the front yard. After leading him into the courtyard and suggesting an archway opening that I thought would make a great photo, he agreed, set up his lights, and snapped away. He then suggested that we go inside and shoot photos of me at my computer. (Oh horror or horrors!) “That’s a terrible idea,” I said (yes, I did prep for what I could not let happen). “Why?” “Do you take photos of all the authors your paper writes about sitting at their computers?” “Yes.” “Well, damn, by now that is cliché.” He agreed and I began to breathe again.

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The cover page for the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle “Variety” section. LK is sitting near the top of the hill to the west of the 101 Freeway. This is the image that saved the interview.

I suggested a hill on the west side of the California 101 Freeway after exiting at Lynn Road. He agreed, we drove to the hill, climbed it, and luckily we got the images he needed. … I later called my ex-wife and thanked her, and that call was from my heart.

Tom’s Plays and the passage of time

As said above, my move to Tarzana ended my days as a member of the Ventura County writers group as it was just too far to drive, and especially as my days at Infonet began at 6:00 AM. Of great importance my relationship with Tom didn’t end. He began inviting me to see his plays at the Ohai Art Center Theatre in the Ohai Valley (Ventura County, Calif.), and our friendship grew. He had a wide range of plays that he directed, from the famous (such as Equis) to the not-so-famous (can’t think of an example) to plays he wrote. Yes, Tom is a terrific writer; fiction and plays, and over the years the number of plays that he has written has grown considerably. I’ve seen a lot of them, and they are damned good. I’ve not asked, but I hope that other directors have staged some of his plays.

I met Tom’s wife, Judy, in those wild early years of the 1990s and from the moment that we first met I’ve always enjoyed spending time with her. Tom has three daughters, Cassie, Alex, and Hannah (who’ve I’ve known since she was an infant). … I have more to say about Tom, for not only is he a bright fellow who does a great job of bringing his writing and plays to fruition, he’s open, friendly, generous, and funny with a very quick wit, but probably best of all he is a wonderful husband and father. Judy and his daughters are lucky to have him.

The years passed and I enjoyed our friendship at his home in Casitas Springs and at Tujunga House (which became my home in January 1993).

A trip to Yuma & its importance

I’ve been to Yuma, Arizona, twice, and this section deals with the first trip.

In 2000 Gatewood & Geronimo was published, and I delivered a number of talks. One was in Yuma.

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Cover art © Louis Kraft 1999)

All I can say about this place is that it’s hotter than Hell during the summer months. On this first trip I spoke about 1st Lieutenant Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua Apache chief, and the people with them into ending the last Apache war. The book had just been published and the two maps were an assembly of dots and totally useless. I was told that in the blue line the maps were fine. I replied that this was bullshit (I had seen too many blue lines to doubt my view sight unseen), and I must have been correct for the publisher recalled all the books (and it had been printed in hardback and paper at the same time; a costly mistake). BTW, I never saw this blue line until years later when it was sent to me, and it proved that I was right in 2000—the maps were a disaster and no one at the press had checked the blue line. I quickly forwarded it to the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but I don’t know if the archive kept it or trashed it (hopefully the former).

I had been thinking about writing a one-man play and had already outlined one on George Armstrong Custer. But during the drive home from the talk in Yuma I began thinking about Ned Wynkoop, who had gone from being a racist to someone who accepted Cheyenne and Arapaho people as human beings. Ladies & gents, I hate to say it but this is still a major problem in the USA 150+ years after Wynkoop decided to live by his conscience and damn all who disagreed with his choice.

For the record this is my choice. A good person is a good person, and
I don’t give a bleep what his or her color is, where they were
born, or what their race or religion is. We are all human
beings living on earth by the grace of God.

This didn’t happen until Wynkoop, as a major in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry, attempted to end the 1864 Cheyenne war when he without orders and at great risk to himself and his men, rode to a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas and discussed ending the war with Cheyennes and Arapahos.

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While traveling to the still unseen Cheyenne and Arapaho village on a tributary of the Smoky Hill in western Kansas Wynkoop’s small command was confronted by a battle line of perhaps 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors on 10sept1864. Original art © Louis Kraft 2015, and first published in “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” August 2015 Wild West magazine.

No violence happened at the confrontation and later that day Wynkoop met in council with Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs. Although threatened and at times in a desperate situation he would eventually receive four children prisoners and was able to talk seven Indian leaders into traveling with him to Denver, Colorado Territory, to discuss ending the war with Territorial Governor John Evans (the council eventually took place at Camp Weld, just south of Denver). Wynkoop and the Indian leaders thought that peace had come to the land. They were wrong. Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon (Colorado Territory), and Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand moved their villages from the post and to Sand Creek, about 40 miles to the northeast. Wynkoop traveled to Kansas, where he expected to be court-martialed for being absent from his post in time of war (without orders he met the Indians on the Smoky Hill and brought them to Denver). Three days after Wynkoop set out for Kansas Colorado Volunteers attacked Black Kettle and Left Hand’s villages—villages that thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military until it decided to end or continue the war.

What happened on that tragic November 29, 1864, day rips me apart every time I think about it.

On that drive home from Yuma I conceived a one-man play on Wynkoop and the Sand Creek tragedy. I called Leo Oliva, a Kansas historian and friend who played a major role in the Fort Larned Old Guard, an organization that deals with the history of the Fort Larned National Historic Site (NHS), and pitched the idea. For years Leo had been instrumental in bringing me to Kansas, and nothing had changed. He loved the proposal and said, “How about next April.” Although thrilled I had to say, “No,” as I didn’t have an outline, a play, or a director. “How about April 2002?” I offered. … It was a go.

I pitched the idea to Tom and he liked it.

Wynkoop one-man shows in Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma

As said above not many photos were taken but by the early 2000s a change was a comin’.

lk_NWpubicity_valleyOfFire_30nov2001_wsTaking a one-man show on the road is not a cup of tea; it is 14-or-more-hour days as a set needs to be created, lights need to be set, and technical rehearsals need to happen. If anything can go wrong, I guarantee that it will.

As 2001 neared its end Leo Oliva requested a publicity photo of me as Wynkoop. This was impossible as the hat and costume were still being made. However, that November I spent some time in Nevada and this image (right) was taken at the Valley of Fire State Park, northeast of Las Vegas. I printed it and sent it to Leo, and it was subsequently printed on the cover of the Fort Larned Old Guard newsletter, Outpost, promoting An Evening with Ned Wynkoop. Of course it garnered me a complaint from a California historian: “Wynkoop didn’t dress like that!!!” No kidding. Publicity with a photo is always better than publicity without a photo.

As soon as I had the costume (a wife of a former superintendent of Fort Larned created it for me) and hat I took some photos at Tujunga House and sent them to Leo Olvia, but I don’t believe any were used in the publicity.

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I’ve always liked this image that was taken in front of a shed that no longer exists at Tujunga House. Baron Hats (Burbank, Calif.) made the hat for me (it is based upon the 1867 woodcut of Wynkoop that appeared in Harper’s Weekly in May of that year). They make a lot of the hats used in films, and since this hat they have made all of my hats. I didn’t include this image in the package that I had sent to Leo Oliva. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Kansas

I first traveled to Fort Larned, Kansas, in 1990 for The Final Showdown research. On that trip I met (now) chief historian George Elmore, who has been my friend since we met. I can’t begin to tell you how much he has done to help my Indian wars writing over the years.

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I think that this picture is the only photo I have of George Elmore (right), Leo Olvia (left) and me together. We are walking on the Fort Larned parade ground. The photo, by National Park Service ranger Ellen Jones, dates to the morning of 28apr2012 when I was a banquet speaker at the annual Fort Larned Old Guard conference.

For the record I don’t get stage fright (acting or talks), and I guess that this comes with the number of performances and talks over the years. If true, the talks, which have been prepped are script-less, and by that I mean that although I know what I’m going to talk about I don’t memorize while at the same time I work at getting a flow to the talk (the only things I memorize, that is try to memorize, are quotes). Glitches happen, and over the years I’ve learned how to deal with them as best as possible.

But the one-man show would be different. Both Tom’s and my ass were on the line. If the worst happened I’d be standing alone on stage while Tom ran for the closest exit. Luckily this scenario has never happened as each time Tom has pulled off a miracle: Getting a set built, lights set, and when people volunteered or were assigned to run lights and sound weren’t technical and were placed in a difficult situation he coached them until they were able to pull off the impossible.

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LK enjoying Fort Larned while dressed as Ned Wynkoop in early May 2002. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

The day before Tom arrived I dressed in the Wynkoop costume and my then girlfriend and I hung out at the fort (doing a little living history) and took a series of publicity photos.

The city of Larned had a huge and first class proscenium theater (it seated at least 2000), but although we requested skilled light and sound technicians we were given two people—kind and giving ladies—that were clueless. Read long-long hours (from roughly eight each morning until after midnight) of getting the lights angled and set, and after learning how to run the complicated light and sound board Tom had to teach the ladies how to perform their cues. … George, Leo, and a number of Fort Larned’s maintenance crew built platforms to Tom’s specifications, built a stool which also substituted as a horse, built a podium, and rounded up the requested log, desk, and chair, and delivered everything to the theater on the morning after Tom’s arrival.

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I had recently used a very tight cropping of this photo elsewhere on social media. The reception had been surprisingly good and I decided to use the uncropped image here to hopefully mellow my rambling. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Pure hell for LK, for as the hours passed (I think that we had three days to pull it off), I didn’t have a technical or dress rehearsal. I was on the stage at all times, and basically functioning as my own stand-in. As showtime neared, and I didn’t have any rehearsal other than getting familiar with the set and mumbling my lines under my breath, only to again and again stand or sit in a specific location for technical issues.

My apologies for complaining
but Tom and I had put in a lot work in California just to get
ready to travel to Kansas. The time was short. Tom, with the generous
support of George Elmore, Leo Oliva, and others connected with Fort Larned,
pulled off nothing short of a miracle to create a set, angle lights (Tom), and set
the sound and light cues (Tom). From then on everything was related to the technical
end of getting the two volunteers to learn how to run the lights and sound.
I needed at least one complete rehearsal on the real set and
there hadn’t been any since arriving in Kansas.

I did have my dress rehearsal just hours before showtime. And I was miked, but during my only run-through of the play the mike fell from the costume and slid across the stage. The rehearsal continued without the mike while not missing a beat, but I was well aware of what could happen. Luckily when we had an audience everything went soothly on stage (and I presume in the sound and light booth).

California

Soon after we were both back in California (I had driven while he had flown to Kansas) Tom asked if I’d like to take Wynkoop to Ohai. You bet, for I had always wanted to act on the Ohai Art Center Theatre stage.

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This photo of LK as Wynkoop sitting at his desk was taken at the Ojai Art Center Theatre by the Ojai Valley News in May 2002, and is used by permission.

Tom, who was the artistic director, slipped An Evening with Ned Wynkoop between major productions. He used an incomplete set (partially seen in the above photo) and had platforms built to his set-design specifications. As in Kansas a log represented an Indian village, a podium New York City, and so on. Again we had proscenium stage but much more actor friendly (120 seats, 150 seats?). Much more intimate, which I prefer. An Evening with Ned Wynkoop played in Ojai in June 2002.

Colorado

Next up was Colorado, and I rewrote the play—now called Ned Wynkoop: A Matter of Conscience—to focus a little more on the horrific 1864 attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village, a tragedy that has still not healed for these people. The former Colorado Historical Society* (CHS) had a huge auditorium and they guaranteed to fill all 400 seats.

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LK as Wynkoop seeing the remains of the Sand Creek dead for the first time months after the 29nov1864 butchery. Pal Johnny D. Boggs (a writer, editor, and photographer) took this image at a December 2008 dress rehearsal in Oklahoma. I have no images from the performance in Colorado. I believe that it was in Colorado when Tom lit this scene in red for the first time. … At the end of the Sand Creek scene I knelt down at stage right as close as I could get to the audience to look at what was left of a Cheyenne girl and as Wynkoop said: “I couldn’t believe what I saw. This wasn’t the savagery of animals—what stared at me was the creativity of civilized man. This was the work of my compatriots, … of white men. … What I saw could have been Louise—could have been my children.” (LK: Louise was Wynkoop’s wife.)

Again, it would be another challenge taking the show on the road, but a friend, Anita Donotello, whom I had met in El Segundo, California, when I spoke at one of Dick Upton’s symposiums (miss them), volunteered to run the lights and sound. Doable as she had moved to Colorado. She was everything for us including our driver and Tom’s go-to assistant. After the show ended and Tom flew home I stayed at her house for another week while I did Wynkoop research at the Society and at the Denver Public Library. As I had worked out a deal to remain in the terrific hotel room that the Society had provided Tom and me, I had some leverage with Anita. I told her that I’d gladly accept her invitation if she invited Indian wars historian Jerry Greene over for a dinner that I’d cook. I didn’t know Jerry, wanted to know him, and knew that they were friends. I got my way and the four of us, which included Anita’s son Nicholas, enjoyed our evening together.

Again I think that we had three days (but it might have been two) to create the set and deal with the technical aspects. This trip wasn’t as frantic as Kansas as Robyn Jacobs, the CHS Adult Public Program Coordinator, was on top of everything (and she had a budget). She had even ordered metal frames to build a multi-leveled stage. Tom had come up with a great log to represent the Cheyenne village but an inspector or Society bigwig saw it and demanded that it go because of the threat of termites. I don’t know what Tom said, but the log stayed.

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Near the end of the play events in Wynkoop’s life began to haunt him when he was ordered to Indian Territory to collect his Indian wards at an area designated by the military. As he traveled through deep snow in November 1868 he sensed another massacre. Suddenly he thought he saw Isabelle Eubank, a three-year old girl he received from the Arapahos in 1864. He yanked the wagon to a halt and ran to comfort her, but couldn’t for she changed into the Cheyenne girl who had been raped again and again by soldiers at the Pawnee Fork in 1867 Kansas. … It couldn’t be, for both were dead. Alone, he needed to make a decision and allowed his conscience win out. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs in 2008.

Better, Tom and I had time to enjoy great breakfasts at the hotel, one lunch during our first day in town, and a great dinner after the show closed.

Sometime during our time in Denver I had proposed adding a scene for fun when Wynkoop, as the lead in The Drunkard (which garnered him great reviews in Denver), struggled trying not to take a drink at a climatic moment in the play. We rehearsed it and Anita (or Annie as Jerry calls her) was good with the last minute insertion. Both the technical rehearsal and the dress rehearsal went smoothly the morning of the performance. After notes Tom and I retired to our hotel room to relax.

Due to the low hanging lights that Tom had to use to light the stage I could see the audience. This wasn’t a problem as I couldn’t make out details, and even the faces of those in the first three rows were little more than blurs. This has always been a blessing for me and certainly has helped me keep my concentration, which is of major importance.

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I based this illustration on one of the photos that Johnny D. Boggs took of me in Oklahoma. … And, yes, it illustrates that moment when LK/Wynkoop took deadly aim at a CHS patron that was sitting at stage right because the Society decided not to turn away walk-ins on the night of the performance. Am not complaining, for I loved this audience. (art © Louis Kraft 2008)

The show ran smoothly and I had an absolute blast playing to 440 people (40 over the seating limit). Some of the overflow sat stage right, which was fine as I played to them too. One problem occurred when I yanked out the 1860 Army Colt and pointed it with deadly intent. Instead of aiming at an invisible enemy I now had a CHS patron in my line of fire. Oops! A quick jerk of the wrist and the revolver pointed upstage right. … For the record I swept right by the Wynkoop drunk scene without missing a beat. Afterwards Anita teased me, saying something like: “It’ll make the next show.” All I could do was shrug and agree. … It didn’t matter for I had had one hell of a good time.

Mike Koury (Order of the Indian Wars & The Old Army Press) has been a terrific friend since we both spoke at an Indian wars conference in SoCal in February 1987. He said he planned on seeing the show, and it was great seeing him afterwards.

Tom and I ate a great dinner at a restaurant on the walk back to the hotel (we passed the restaurant twice each day, and this dinner was planned). A good time as we chatted and enjoyed our food and drinks. I hated that the evening was coming to an end, but then I’ve always had good times with Mr. Eubanks.

* Sometime in late 2011 or 2012 the Colorado Historical Society became History Colorado and moved into a spectacular modern building a block away.

Oklahoma

A few years passed and I gave a talk about Ned Wynkoop and Cheyenne race relations at a 2007 Western History Association convention in Oklahoma City. The session was Indian wars-based and the three speakers enjoyed a standing-room only audience with another 12 or more people lining the back wall or struggling to listen and see from the doorway.

Afterwards, Dave Schafer, then chief of interpretation and operations for the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, and his wife Valerie (who also worked for the Park Service) along with Richard Zahn and Drew Hughes (NPS rangers) in Oklahoma caught up with me after the session ended.

lk_te_BoggsPrayArt_websiteDave and the others liked the talk and wanted to know if I’d like to present at the Washita Battlefield. Of course I would, but as we walked my mind raced. I wanted the talk but I also wanted to do an updated version of the Wynkoop one-man show. I pitched both and Dave bought both. I’d perform Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita on two days and talk about him on the last day of the festivities that marked the 140th anniversary of the battle that resulted in Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later’s deaths on 27nov1868 when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh U.S. Cavalry attacked and destroyed his village in what is now southwest Oklahoma.

The image (right) is based upon a photo that Johnny D. Boggs took during one of the final dress rehearsals for Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita in December 2008. That’s director Tom Eubanks on his knees begging LK to remember his lines. I like this description but, alas, ’tis not true. He was discussing the prayer at the end of the play, and as you can see my nose was red. Yep, LK was doing some crying. Tom was showing me how I could improve the scene.

George Elmore kindly lent me an 1860-period revolver for the performances, and saved me the hassle of dealing with the airlines, which is no fun.

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Tom Eubanks (left) and LK going over Tom’s notes after one of the dress rehearsals in December 2008. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs.

Tom and I had two performances in a huge proscenium theater in the Cheyenne High School, and there were no problems for the school provided technicians that knew what they were doing.

A great time for me for I cemented my friendship with some Cheyennes, including Minowa lk_asnw_okdec08_sc1_boggsuse_wsLittlehawk (who would later become a godsend when she helped me with the Cheyenne words I used in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, OU Press, 2011) and Dr. Henrietta Mann (one of the founders of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma).

LK as Wynkoop (left) seeing the butchered remains of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people at Sand Creek months after the tragic event. It was evident that children were shot in the top of their heads, that sexual organs had been hacked off bodies for trophies, and, although Wynkoop probably did not see the body, a soldier had cut an unborn baby from its dead mother’s womb. This is my favorite image from the Johnny D. Boggs December 2008 photo shoot.

In the pictured scene (above) LK as Wynkoop described what he saw:
“Bodies littered the ground. All were at hideous angles, … naked, …
frozen in time. I dismounted and walked toward the carnage. … What I saw
ripped at my guts and I had to struggle not to vomit. Wolves had come
and feasted, but their hunger didn’t obscure what had come before.”
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LK with Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (left) and his nephew Jake in Ivan’s fully functional lodge during the last day of the Washita Battlefield NHS’s 140th anniversary of the destruction of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village. … It’s been too long since I’ve visited the Washita Battlefield (the last time was in 2012 when I flew to Oklahoma City for the Wrangler Awards), and methinks I need to pitch a talk for 2017. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

The performances went smoothly on the first two days of the event, but for me the final day turned into pure Cheyenne heaven (unfortunately Tom had to drive to Oklahoma City, to catch a flight back to SoCal before the second performance, which was in the evening). I met Henri (Dr. Mann) after the first performance, and after my talk in the morning on the last day of the event we spent a lot of time together, and it cemented a friendship to this day.

Other friends attended the last day of the event, Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (a wonderful man who opened his heart to me, but unfortunately this would be the last time I would ever see him in person) and Kiowa James Coverdale. I had met both of them at a major Fort Larned event years before and we had kept a long-distance friendship over the years.

Cheyenne Blood

Tom and I had discussed doing a play dealing with the same subject matter that we had used in the one-man shows by 2007 and perhaps a little earlier. I had come up with a script with a cast of 1000s but most of the characters would have been played by actors that would play multiple roles. It wasn’t very good and never had a second draft.

cheyBloodPosterTom came up with the idea of a two-character play, and this appealed to me. There had been two leading women in the initial draft: Louise Wynkoop and Monahsetah (photnetically pronounced “Mo-Nahs-e-Tah,” per my request of Dr. Henrietta Mann when we spent time together at the Washita in December 2008). By this time I knew that it would be a two-character play and It made sense to make the second character a Cheyenne (I think that we were both in agreement on this). Obviously Black Kettle would have been a good choice. Tom suggested Monahsetah, who was perhaps 17 in 1868 (but most likely younger). I liked the idea, mainly because there isn’t much known about her, and if George Armstrong Custer hadn’t been drawn to her when he viewed the captive Washita prisoners in 1868 she may have been lost to history. Due to her father’s closeness to Black Kettle, she often traveled and camped with the council chief’s village. As Little Rock, her father, and Wynkoop knew each other and seemed to get along, this meant that there was a good chance that Wynkoop knew her.

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Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Wynkoop during the drinking bit from The Drunkard. Obviously Monahsetah never saw the play but Tom added her to the scene and her presence added to the audience’s enjoyment of the bit that was played for laughs. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Also, and this was important, for other than Monahsetah’s contribution to Custer’s peaceful roundup of still-warring Cheyennes in 1869 Texas she was, and still is, little more than a heavenly shadow that his heart-felt words brought to life when he wrote about her in the 1870s.* Her absence from the history that she lived through allowed us to have her present but watching from afar or simply just representing a Cheyenne woman when not actually performing as herself. As it worked out, audiences accepted Tanya Thomas’s performance as Monahsetah at all times.

* Custer’s My Life on the Plains is still in print, as is Elizabeth Bacon Custer’s Following the Guidon, in which she shares her view of the young Cheyenne woman who spent time with her husband in the field and who obviously liked him. For secondary books see LK’s Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, 1995) and Peter Harrison’s Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive (The English Westerners Society, 2014). There is biography by a supposed relative called Princess Monahsetah: The Concealed Wife of General Custer (2008) that is little more than bad fiction and should be avoided.

I finally had a draft of Cheyenne Blood early in 2009, and rehearsals began in March at the Petit Playhouse in Heritage Square.

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A tense moment during the ride to Denver. Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Ned Wynkoop react to what is going on around them. This did not happen in reality, however, the seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs did ride in a wagon to Denver. Wynkoop was mounted on his horse during the September 1864 trip. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Cheyenne Blood was a difficult play to learn, and I should admit up front that I’m terrible at learning lines. During one of the rehearsals I couldn’t remember the lines and ad libbed what the thought process was behind the words.

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LK as Wynkoop breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. The Petite Playhouse was intimate and I enjoyed this no end during the run of Cheyenne Blood. In the one-man shows we had also broken the fourth wall but here if I knelt down on the edge of the stage I could have touched a person in the audience. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Tom stopped the rehearsal and said: “You didn’t say the correct lines.” There was more, but not for your viewing pleasure. “What I just said are now the lines,” I said. “Huh?” he replied. “I just rewrote my script. Did you write the new words down?” Tom grumbled, and I looked at the script to put the lines back in my head so we could continue with the rehearsal. I think that Tanya quietly enjoyed the exchange.

Actually Tom and I had many exchanges over lots of thoughts and views that had nothing to do with getting Cheyenne Blood ready for its premier. All fun and games as we toyed with each other with words, … and Tanya quietly chuckled. At one point she said something like: “You two are a hoot.”

It’s fun to work with people you like and trust.

Without a doubt Tanya Thomas is the best actress that I’ve ever been fortunate to act with on stage. This is a big compliment. I enjoyed every minute of the time that Tanya, Tom, and I spent together during the production.

The Elite Theatre Company’s new home

The Elite Theatre Company (ETC) moved from its original location at the intimate Petit Theatre in Heritage Square where it had been since its inception in 1994 to its new home at Oxnard’s Channel Islands Fisherman’s Wharf in 2013.

Pailin meets Mr. Eubanks

Pailin and I made the drive to the Elite Theatre Company’s new home on 24apr2014. The theatre complex is housed in a two-story wooden Cape Cod-style building with two proscenium stages and is a joy to behold.

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of The Art of Something.

On this evening Pailin met Tom for the first time and obtained a first-hand introduction to the theater world that is in my blood and will be until the end. As a bonus she saw a play performed on stage for the first time in the USA. And best, I knew that it would a good experience for her since would see a story that Tom wrote and directed.

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I took this image of Pailin and Tom before the final dress rehearsal for The Art of Something. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tom Eubanks, and Louis Kraft 2014)

On the night of the final dress rehearsal for Tom’s The Art of Something at the new venue Pailin also met Tom’s wife Judy and daughter Hannah.

Since that first day and evening when I met Pailin at a dinner party at Tujunga House in June 2013 (it was supposed to be two couples and myself but one of the ladies pushed me to allow one of her friends to attend and then she pushed Pailin that she needed to make it a party of six) when she was quiet but totally attentive to what was going on around her, I have come to know that this is a major part of her inner being. … And it was same when she saw The Art of Something on that night over two years ago but which still feels like last week.

Yes it had been a good night for Pailin when she met Tom and part of his family, but it had also been good for me to again hang out with him if only for a short while after a way-too-long passage of time.

“To be or not to be”* Wild Bill Hickok

I can’t remember when, but years back Johnny D. Boggs sent me his novel about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Jack Omohundro on a theatrical tour of the East called East of the Border. Hickok quickly realized that acting wasn’t for him. Bored, he drank too much and allowed his disgust with the situation show. Eventually he realized that if he fired his revolver loaded with a blank too close to a dead Indian on the stage the extra playing the corpse jerked spasmodically while he screeched out in pain. This tickled Hickok’s fancy (I assume that this was Mr. Boggs’s invention) and continued to do it to the dismay of Buffalo Bill and the extras. … It tickled my fancy too—but then I guess I may have enjoyed knowing Mr. Hickok if given the chance—and I decided that I wanted play the scout-gunman-gambler on stage.

* Although I quoted William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (written in 1601 or 1602 and first performed in 1602) I’m not depressed or considering ending my life. Just the opposite, I’m thrilled to move into my future. … I’m just having a little fun with the Bard’s words at Wild Bill’s expense.

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LK as Wild Bill Hickok. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Now came the hard part; getting Johnny to buy in on his novel being turned into a play. I approached him on this numerous times over the years and he never replied. In 2012 when I attended a WWA convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I again approached Johnny. No reply, but Lisa Smith, his wife and my friend, said: “That’s a great idea.”

Of course I wanted Tom to direct East of the Border if Johnny had agreed to me writing a play based upon his book, but this was beginning to be little more than wishful thinking. Worse, Tom was also lukewarm to the idea until I gave him a couple of books when I saw a play that he had directed called Men of Tortuga at the Elite Theatre in May 2016 (one 38-minute scene with two actors—Ron Rezac and Adam Womack—sitting at a table was riveting and had me on the edge of my seat).

lk_aslk_orwildbill_attujungahouse_sept2015LK (right) as LK (or Wild Bill) relaxing at home in September 2015 (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

To this point in time I still wanted to play Wild Bill Hickok on stage and thought that Johnny’s novel would be the perfect vehicle to bring my desire to fruition.

Back to the books that I gave Tom; one was Boggs’s East of the Border. Tom read it, called me, and we discussed what he thought needed to happen to make the novel work on stage (mainly condensing the story, removing the repetition, and focusing on three or four characters). This would have certainly been doable if Boggs would only buy into the idea.

Since Cheyenne Blood I’ve wanted to return to the stage, and thought it would be fun to play Hickok as he was burned out and certainly out of his element play-acting on stage. Alcoholism and a sadistic sense of fun would have made him a wonderful stretch for me.

After my phone conversation with Tom ended and I hung up I knew what I wanted to do … what I really wanted to do.

In the Midst of All that is Good

On Saturday 13aug2016 I saw a great play written by Tom Eubanks. I’ve seen a lot of the plays that he has directed or written and directed since 1990, but this one was special.

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of In the Midst of All that is Good.

I had hoped to create this blog that dealt with Tom’s and my friendship, our working relationship, In the Midst of All that is Good, and Wild Bill Hickok before the play closed at the Elite Theatre on 21aug2016 to give it additional publicity. Good attempt by me, but there just wasn’t enough time as I also had to pound the midnight oil as I push to complete my manuscript, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, which may be the most important book that I ever write (and this currently includes a great ongoing communication with Gary Roberts, who has written numerous books and documents about the tragedy), as well as deal with yet another operation (my nineteenth). Tom has written and directed a lot of plays that have been extraordinary, but this play is by far my favorite.

While all six characters have underlying problems that they must deal with all are engaging and I wouldn’t have minded calling any of them friends in real life.

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Josh Carmichael (Vic) points his gun at Jeff Ham (Reverend Bob) while his children Hannah Eubanks (Maddie) and Alex Czajka (Carson, who is deaf in the play) nervously react to the threat behind their father). David Fruechting (Lloyd, Reverend Bob’s disgraced and long-retired father) is about to jump Vic from behind. Johnny Avila (Dennis, Vic’s brother-in-law and partner isn’t shown in the image). Photo courtesy of the Elite Theatre Company.

According to Tom (whose father, Sam Eubanks, is an evangelical pastor), he spent, “most of my early life planted in a pew.” His early life started a spark that pushed him “to get a few things off my chest,” and write In the Midst of All that is Good. I think he told me that it took him a year to write and fine tune with comments from six friends that he mentioned by name in the program. I’m certain that after casting was set and rehearsals began that the play continued to evolve. I couldn’t take my eyes off Josh Carmichael, who was totally natural while at all times a threat to everyone else on stage as he raised questions and protected his livelihood. Jeff Ham also shined, as did David Fruechting, who was terribly sick during the performance that I saw and had been in the emergency room the previous night. If I hadn’t known, I would never have guessed. Hannah, Tom’s youngest daughter, played a key role in the play; she’s fifteen and was terrific, as was Alex Czajka, who as a young actor was totally believable as her deaf brother. Finally, Johnny Avila, as an almost flashback to the days of love-ins and hippies, reminded me of my brother’s best friend and our baseball teammate for 10 years until a mere flick of time ended Lee’s life in a flash.

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LK and Tom Eubanks at the Elite Theatre on the evening that I saw In the Midst of All that is Good. Obviously religion has played a large role in Tom’s life. Over the years he has prayed for me and I have for him. (photo © Louis Kraft & Tom Eubanks 2016)

See the theater’s website for upcoming plays: http://www.elitetheatre.org/.

Adios Wild Bill … enter Errol Flynn stage left

During our time together at the Elite Theatre that August 13 night Tom and I had time to chat. Early on I told him that I wanted to discuss something (and I’m certain that he thought it would be Mr. Hickok). … When we finally had the chance to talk I went for broke and threw a curveball at Tom a la Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I knew one thing moving forward, adios Mr. Hickok. … And honestly I didn’t know what to expect when I made the pitch.

I think that the role that I enjoyed playing the most on stage was Charley in Eat Your Heart Out. I played Charley at the Hayloft Dinner Theater in Lubbock, Texas (1976), and in Inglewood, California (1977). I luckily landed a great part in a great play. Eat Your Heart Out is about an actor trying to land acting work while waiting tables.

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Errol Flynn circa 1940-1941. LK personal collection.

There are four other actors in Eat Your Heart Out: Two women and two men who play various roles, and this is how I pitched a play on Errol Flynn to Tom but with a second historical figure on stage with him (can’t name him, sorry).

While proposing a play dealing with Flynn I also pitched using additional actors to play various roles but was vague if it would be two or three men and two or three women on stage with Flynn and the mystery man. I lean toward Flynn/other person plus six for a total of eight actors but know that Tom prefers a total of six actors. There could also be a compromise and have three actors (Flynn, one male, and one female) that play one character, and two men and two women who play various roles (for a total of seven).

Obviously identifying the characters is of utmost importance, and if truth be told they have already been selected. Don’t ask, for I ain’t a sharin’ their names. Once each player’s relevance to the play is in place an outline is mandatory to insure that this is true and that the actors that play various roles will have time to change costumes and characters. Unfortunately all of the details must remain secretive until the play is in production.

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See … LK can clean up as this photo by Steve Buffington proves. More important, I know Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft & Steve Buffington 2010)

History repeats itself: Like Leo Oliva in 2000, Tom asked if I could have the play written by next year (due to some changes that might happen with the Elite Theatre Company’s future scheduling). I told him “no,” as I needed to complete the delivery draft of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway first. Once the Sand Creek book is in production at OU Press I’ll be on Errol & Olivia* full time and it will be perfect timing for doing a play on Mr. Flynn.

* For the record I plan on writing three books about Errol Flynn, but will space them between Indian wars books that deal with race relations (that is if I’m able to successfully pitch my next Indian wars subjects to OU Press).

Upcoming Blogs

  • Sand Creek updates
    Sand Creek and the Tragical End of a Lifeway now dominates my writing life. I envision twelve-to-fourteen-hour days seven days a week except when I drop or socialize. (Wow! It almost sounds like I’m again writing for the software industry or film and TV.) As time permits I plan on posting numerous “short” (I know, Kraft doesn’t know what the word “short” means) posts with updates, questions, and whatever catches my fancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer a few teasers that won’t give away the story. There’ll probably be between two and three Sand Creek posts by the end of summer.
  • Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland book updates
    As you’ve seen in past blogs one or both of these screen legends appear whenever I have the time or the urge to write about them. As you now know, Errol & Olivia will be my next published book after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and as time moves forward I need to keep them before you. When they appear, and currently one isn’t planned, they will be short … similar to the blog that I posted on Olivia in July 2016: Olivia de Havilland 100 BD LK blog.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted. My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront. Actually, I’ll also include a subject that I didn’t know about until recently; the connection between the Thai people and the Cheyenne Indians (the Cheyennes didn’t come from Asia; they migrated to America from what became Europe). This blog will deal with two totally different people who are closer than I could have ever guessed. It will also deal with life (past and present) and an uncertain future.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact. It is time to address this creation of history that is error-riddled or fiction sold as truth. (The blog dealing film history—read Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland—is currently being drafted, but won’t go live until sometime in 2017.)

— Louis Kraft

Green Card 2016 … Two lives since September 2014

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog
If any images are too small use your view menu to increase the size


This blog continues with our lives since Pailin received her
first Green Card in September 2014. You will again travel to the
American West, you will travel to Thailand, and you will be introduced
to the special people in our lives while seeing a glimpse of our
cultures, work (Green Day Spa & LK’s writing), and how it
relates to who we are and the love that we share.


On 9Sept2014 Pailin, our lawyer, interpreter, and I met with the Immigration officer who interviewed us in downtown Los Angeles.

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Pailin and LK with our lawyer, Priscilla Tasanont, on 9Sept2014. We were across the street from the Federal building in Los Angeles. It is about 15 minutes after Pailin had been told that she would receive her Green Card, and we were two happy people. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

It was a good day. We passed and Pailin would soon receive her first Green Card, but as it was only good for two years we are again preparing for our next meeting which will be in late summer or early fall. As we had in 2014 we are creating a photo album and this blog, which will share some of the highlights from our lives.

To see the blog that I created for this meeting with U.S. Immigration, and which I
delivered as a printout to the official who interviewed us see:

http://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2014/08/10/pailin-lk-and-an-upcoming-date-with-our-future/

The 2014 blog deals with when we met in June 2013, the beginning of our relationship,
Pailin’s introduction to the Southwest and a part of my world,
our marriage, and some of our friends.


Colorado, New Mexico, & Texas here we come!

As both of us are positive and work at what we want to accomplish we felt that Pailin would obtain her Green Card in 2014, … I set up a research trip to the West to give her a taste to my writing world and introduce her to some of my good friends. The trip began on 28sept2014 with our first destination Lafayete, Colorado.

John Monnett and Sand Creek massacre research

Good friend and great Indian wars writer-historian John Monnett, and his pretty wife Linda, invited us to stay at their house while John aided my research for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (under contract with University of Oklahoma Press).

It was a long two-day drive from North Hollywood (a town in Los Angeles), California, to Lafayette, Colorado. During the first day we detoured to The Valley of Fire, which is north of Las Vegas, Nevada, and off I-15.

valley_ofFireCollage_28sept2014_diffFONT_wsOnce we got out of Nevada the landscape improved. Utah is gorgeous. The second day started out nicely in Utah, and again the landscape was beautiful to behold. But soon the climate changed. It started out with showers mixed with sunshine as we cruised through the eastern side of Utah and closed on Colorado. At Grand Junction, Colorado, it turned cold and we drove through a three-hour downpour. It was downhill from there, and looked like a repeat of the last two or three times I had visited Colorado. After we closed on the Rocky Mountains the temperature dropped to 37, 36, 35, 34, and then 33 degrees.

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Pailin’s photos remind me of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s nocturnes. He and Vincent van Gogh are my favorite artists.

Thirty-two degrees. Ouch! Snow began to fall and traffic slowed to a halt. I called John Monnett and left a message that we wouldn’t arrive until evening.

COLO_29sept2014_apr2013_psk&lkCollage_diffFONT_wsIt started to look up when the snow returned with a vengeance. Visibility dropped to perhaps 20 feet or less, … and I hate to admit it, but I don’t know how to drive on ice. Apache wars historian and good friend Layton Hooper told me what to do, but knowing and doing are two different things and I had Pailin with me. Caution and driving safely were the only things on my mind. … We arrived at John and Linda’s at six o’clock that night without a mishap. Linda prepared a great dinner and we enjoyed our time together.

Research with John and Linda

The next day we began the Sand Creek tragedy research with John.

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While I dawdled Pailin discovered my book, Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, in the museum. John suggested that I sign the Boulder History Museum’s copies of the books and they agreed. This was just the beginning of what John shared with Pailin and LK on this day.

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John Monnett with Pailin and LK a the “Chief Niwot Legend & Legacy” exhibit at the Boulder History Museum. Niwot (called “Left Hand” in English) died from wounds he suffered during the tragic attack on the Sand Creek village on 29nov1864).

This visit to the Boulder History Museum was Pailin’s introduction to research. Over the coming days I wore her out with what I requested she do, and she came through admirably.

psk_jMonnett_FtChambers_BoulderMontage_diffFONT_wsJohn took us to other historical sites and to museums, and on October 1, Pailin lived through her first day of doing archival research at the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library (DPL). Almost everything I looked at was pulled from the DPL’s vault and she served as my official photographer with her iPad as it couldn’t be photocopied. The day was long, but Pailin seemed to enjoy it. I told her that this was just the beginning, and she said, “I’m good as long as I’m with you.”

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Pailin with John & Linda Monnett at Bear Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park on 2oct2014. It was chilly but we had a good time. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, John & Linda Monnett 2014)

By Thursday, October 2, the archival and museum research work in Colorado had ended. John and Linda Monnett drove us to the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was a short drive from their home. Beautiful vistas and landscapes.

John had hoped to get us above the snow line but the roads were closed. There were remnants of a recent snow on the ground at Bear Lake.

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(photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

As Linda, Pailin, and I snapped photos John rolled a snowball for me. I wound up a la Sandy Koufax (the greatest baseball pitcher I have ever had the pleasure to watch perform in person and on TV) and went through the motion of flinging a fastball while John and Pailin snapped away.

The next day John and Linda drove us to that tragic and yet now holy land that is a long-long drive into the middle of nowhere Colorado—the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (NHS).

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I don’t remember what John was saying at this moment, but my guess is that he was pitching my Sand Creek manuscript. Pailin took this image on 3oct2014 just outside the Sand Creek Massacre NHS visitor center. (photo © John Monnett, Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

This is perhaps the most important of all the Plains Indian war sites for what happened there paved the way for the conscious destruction of American Indian people and their lifeway. What has come to be known as the “Sand Creek Massacre” created a searing wound in the Cheyennes and the Arapahos that will never heal, while at the same time made it clear that greed, prejudice, right, wrong, and conscience really have a major impact on history and that it defines the participants. This location—and I don’t care if it is in the middle of Neverland, USA—this sacred ground is magnificent, and along the bluffs that skirt the western perimeter of the property present a marvelous view of the massiveness of the ground on which the November 29, 1864, attack on a peaceful Cheyenne-Arapaho village took place.

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My lady on the bluffs above the Sand Creek village site on 3oct2014. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

To gain an understanding of all the parties involved in the massive project of purchasing the land, creating the NHS, and then piecing together all the historical events has been a joint project with many factions involved, read Ari Kelman’s book A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013).

Although Kelman’s prose is a page-turner, especially when dealing with the events in the last 30 or 40 years as he brings the modern-day Sand Creek story together—and it was a fight for the Cheyennes, Arapahos, U.S. government, land owners, historians, would-be historians, and National Park Service to create this historic site, but be wary of his information related to the battle and the events surrounding it.

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Pailin on the bluffs above the Sand Creek village site on 3oct2014. Don’t know if you can see it, but as I photographed her, her sunglass lenses captured me. She is an explorer in the mode of frontiersman Kit Carson. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Although Kelman used, at least his notes claim he used, primary source material, there are many errors. Why? I don’t know why. Perhaps there was a poor understanding of the primary source material, not checking facts, or a rush to go to print. There is a warning here: While in modern times and dealing with the fight, and it was a fight, to create this much-needed NHS that protects this oh-so-sacred ground, Kelman’s book is a wonder. However, if writing about the participants and events of that horrific time during the 1860s be careful or you will repeat his errors.

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The four of us are at the second and final bench on the walk skirting the village site. John is checking the brochure, which has a small map and I’m asking Pailin what she is doing. “Taking a photo” (with her iPad). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, Linda & John Monnett 2014)

The attack had been a running fight. When you walk the bluffs above the grounds you easily see the immensity of the village site and the open expanse on which the butchery took place. As Johnny Boggs’ quoted me in his terrific article, “Trail of Tragedy” (True West, November 2014, page 53), “War doesn’t give soldiers the right to murder, rape, and butcher. Not yesterday, not today, and not ever.”

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Dinner at The Fort. I wanted to use a photo that I took of John, Linda, and Pailin but there was a problem with the image. Linda took this photo with Pailin’s cell phone. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft)

On our last night we went to dinner at The Fort in Morrison, Colorado. I always enjoy going there, and I think that John and Linda do also. This was a first for Pailin. My lady and I had duck (a first for me), while Linda enjoyed quail and John, I think, had a steak. Pailin and I often share, as she is small and I don’t want her to grow larger (always more than enough food for both of us). I like buffalo and would have loved to have had shared buffalo with her but many years ago she swore off eating any large animals (buffalo, venison, elk, beef, and so on). I’m good with honoring her wishes when we share, and on this night we did. Loved the chile and orange duck!

For those of you that aren’t familiar with The Fort, it was built to represent one the trading posts that William Bent and company built in the early half of the 19th century to the east of the Rocky Mountains in the land that would become Colorado.

Tomas Jaehn, Santa Fe, the Louis Kraft Collection, Taos, Kit Carson & Pailin doing more research

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The Lensic Theatre, which is just off the Santa Fe Plaza, in the early evening of 5oct2014. In the previous decade Tomas Jaehn (you’ll meet him below) attempted to get the Wynkoop one-man show into the Lensic but (if memory serves me) the cost was too high to rent this historic and gorgeous theater. A shame; I drooled when I saw the interior of the Lensic. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

We arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the afternoon of 5oct2014. After unpacking at our lodging, Pailin and I drove to the historic district and ate at the Blue Corn Café. Afterwards I led her the short distance to the Santa Fe Plaza, showed her the exterior of the Palace of the Governors, and finally the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, which for years has housed the Louis Kraft Collection. While walking back to the car I pointed out the Lensic Theatre to Pailin. For one night in December 1940 it played a large role in the lives of the people of Santa Fe and surrounding areas when the Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland film Santa Fe Trail premiered in Santa Fe (actually in three theaters).

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We are in front of the New Mexico Museum Art Shop, which is just off the Santa Fe Plaza and near the original entry to the Chávez on Washington Street (the entry for the Chávez is now through the recently completed museum and auditorium complex) on 5oct2014. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Santa Fe is home to me. Our visit was to introduce Pailin to Tomas, make a delivery to the LK Collection at the Chávez, do research, and let her explore the city, the culture, the mix of people, and the land. We both love Los Angeles and Pailin has a wonderful family of Thai friends living there (LA has the largest Thai population in the U.S., and better there are over 200 languages spoken in Los Angeles, also the largest in the U.S., according to the LA Times), which means that living in LA is very important to her. She is also aware that the City of the Angels is a very expensive location to call home, and the prices continuously climb.

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Pailin, Tomas Jaehn, and me enjoying coffee at his favorite coffee shop on the morning of 6oct2014. (photo by Pailin and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, and Tomas Jaehn 2014)

On 6oct2014 Pailin and I met Tomas Jaehn at the entry to the New Mexico History Museum. In the early part of this century Tomas approached me about creating the Louis Kraft Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library. I liked the idea but it took a year for me to make a delivery and sign the contract. Over the years Tomas and his family have become good friends. On this day Pailin entered a new world, … my world of culture, race, and history.

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Currently the Louis Kraft Collection has 20 boxes (20 linear feet) that are available for researchers to view plus one of photos and art. In this 6oct2014 photo I am touching the 18th box (a portion of a 2012 delivery, this delivery, and three magazines that I gave Tomas in April of this year when he visited LA were catalogued in April 2016). I can’t begin to tell you how much Tomas has done for my writing career over the years. He’s a great friend. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft; © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, and Tomas Jaehn 2014)

After completing the delivery Pailin and I did research in the Chávez archives. We were looking for subjects for magazine articles as well as additional information on the Sand Creek tragedy.

I must add that although Pailin had done a lot of work in Colorado both in archives and in the field, in Santa Fe the research was demanding.

Click Louis Kraft Collection to see a listing of its contents.

psk_Chavez_6oct2014_1_wsThere was nary a complaint as Pailin smoothly completed each research task I asked of her, and as they related to her photographic capabilities she never had a chance to rest.

Pailin took this self portrait on her iPad on 6oct2014 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014) in the Chávez History Library after we spent more prime time with Tomas but before we focused on Ned Wynkoop’s scrapbook of documents and news clippings, especially those related to Sand Creek and Kit Carson. Tomas’s office is behind Pailin’s left shoulder, and yes, the time on the clock is correct (only a little after nine in the morning; we still had the entire day in front of us). 

Note: The Wynkoop scrapbook has been robbed of at least one document and it is fragile. Tomas has talked about professionally photographing it as it is an important piece of Americana as related to Wynkoop’s life, early Colorado, and the Indian wars. I hope and pray that this becomes reality.

Before moving  on, I want to announce that my great friend Tomas Jaehn is now the director of Special Collections/CSWR, University of New Mexico Libraries as of 1jul2016. I couldn’t be more thrilled for him. Congratulations Tomas.

When we finished at the Chávez and said goodbye to Tomas, Pailin visited with the Indian traders on the portico of the Palace of the Governors (including the interior of the building), took a closer look at the Plaza, walked through the narrow streets of Santa Fe with her camera constantly clicking. Images for her and for me.

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Pailin loves art, and Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the U.S. after New York City and Los Angeles. Santa Fe has art on the streets and in the galleries in the downtown area, and in galleries that surround the historic district. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for her to explore even a portion of all the roads that are lined with galleries. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2014)

Afterwards I took her to Tia Sophia’s. We ate chicken and green chile stew especially prepared for us by the chef as the only green chile stew they made that day had beef. Good for me; a little warm for Pailin.

On the seventh Lisa Smith, my long-time friend and real estate agent in Eldorado (a housing development Santa Fe), showed us two adobe-style homes on an acre plus of land.

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Actually, Pailin said: “Why? Why?” I replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Why all these big beautiful houses (Monnett’s, Williams’, and the houses in Eldorado) and ours is small?” I explained to her that the cost of homes in Los Angeles is high and that if we moved away from LA we could buy a larger house for less money with or without acreage (I prefer acreage). We saw this house on 7oct2014.

Santa Fe has four Thai restaurants that I know of and another that serves Thai food once a week. That said I failed to learn the size of the Thai population in Santa Fe. It will be small, but I know that the chef and owner of Thai Vegan (a great restaurant) is Thai, so that means that at least one Thai person lives in Santa Fe. Pailin would make two.

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Yes, Pailin fit right in with the International Museum of Folk Art. LK photo on 7oct2014. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

After we said goodbye to Lisa we headed to a destination that I had seen only once (in 1987 I think). I had been bored to tears decades ago but thought Pailin would love it.

I don’t remember the other museums on Museum Hill but they could have been there in the 1980s. Certainly the exteriors and everything now in place didn’t look like I remembered it, and this is good.

ps_Intl_Museum_ofFoldArt2_7oct14_wsPailin fell in love with the Museum of International Folk Art the moment she started to explore it. And you know what? So did I. Like good wine, the folk art from around the world sparkled with life and color. “Multiple Visions: A Common Bond,” which has been on display since 1982 is a marvel of culture and art. This is the exhibit that bored me in the dark ages. All I can say now—other than what I said above—is that I must have been blind when I was younger.

Taos and Kit Carson’s home

Next up was Taos and Kit Carson’s home, which has always been primary on my list (for upcoming writing projects). Taos was another example of a city with adobe and adobe-style buildings and an artistic aura, which I wanted Pailin to experience.

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By now you know that Pailin is my sole mate and lady. She is like no one I have ever known in the past. I’m lucky. She’s an adventurer and open to anything; my kind of person. I took this close-up is of her sitting in front of the Kit Carson House on 8oct2014. Although the building has been stuccoed and its exterior is no longer an adobe structure, the look and feel is close to what Kit and his family lived in more than 150 years ago. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The Kit Carson House has changed ownership and this has affected the size of the historic site (to the better) and the interior appearance (again to the better). I believe the last time I had been to his house was about a decade earlier. This was my fourth or fifth visit; the first was in 1987.

If you’ve visited the Kit Carson House you know that the front three rooms were the rooms in which Kit, his wife Josefa, and their children lived in during the time that they called Taos home. Two rooms were added later, with the larger of the two being added in the early 20th century (a stable); it is now the entrance and gift shop of this historic site.

Yes, Mr. Carson has been with me for a long time. After Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published, Kit will take center stage in my nonfiction Indian wars writing world. I have already begun a slow, very slow, conversation with Chuck Rankin, the editor-in-chief at OU Press, regarding making my next nonfiction Indian wars book deal with Carson.

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This is the middle of the three rooms that Kit and family lived in during the 20+ years that he and they lived in Taos. While walking these three rooms I tried to focus on the size of the rooms and their layout. Reason: I think a lot of what is in these rooms now are not current to the Carson family tenure (certainly there are Carson portraits that date to after his moving away; they should be in the small museum section of the building). This room served as the kitchen and eating room for the Carsons, and their guests, which included numerous Native Americans from a handful of Indian tribes that considered Carson their friend. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

The quiet adobe pueblo of Taos dates way back, perhaps as early as 1615 with Spanish colonization. When the Mexican-American war ended with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) Mexico ceded a large section of land to the United States and this included Taos and the area that became New Mexico Territory.

psk_TaosPlaza_8oct14_collage_diffFONT_wsKit Carson’s presence dated to the early 1840s, and Taos has been a favorite destination of mine since 1987. It was during that time that I became hooked on the real Kit Carson.

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This is a portion of the Taos Plaza as it looked on 8oct2014. Pailin took some images of the plaza area but I can’t find any of them. The plaza was most-likely dirt with scattered adobe buildings surrounding it during Kit’s time. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

The shops enclosing the plaza (and the plaza) grabbed Pailin’s interest and she looked at some of the merchandise (but didn’t purchase anything as she isn’t a spontaneous buyer). She focused on the plaza, enjoying its serenity of the late morning, and listened to my telling of Carson rescuing the American flag when malcontents threatened to burn it. I’m certain that at times she thinks that I’m a motor mouth.

Taos Pueblo

Next we drove to the Taos Pueblo, and here Pailin enjoyed meeting the Taos people and seeing a little of their life and culture.

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La Hacienda de los Martinez

Finally, on Linda Monnett’s recommendation, I wanted both of us to see La Hacienda de los Martinez for the first time.

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Pailin leans against the archway that separates the first courtyard from the second at the Martinez Hacienda. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

A drive into the country to the southwest of Taos, and I think closer to the Río Grande Gorge but not on the road that crosses this magnificent river, a narrow street wrapped in almost a horseshoe to this cool building that the Martinez family occupied from roughly 1804 (their arrival in Taos) until the 1930s. I’m going by memory here, but I believe it was in the 1950s when two gentlemen borrowed money on their homes to ensure that the hacienda would be not only restored but would become protected and made into a museum. There weren’t enough signs and those we saw were small, and at times we wondered if we had made a wrong turn. At one point I continued straight but luckily Pailin saw that I should have turned right. … A U-turn, then a left and we were back on course.

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LK leans against the same archway that separates the first courtyard from the second at the Martinez Hacienda. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

La Hacienda de los Martinez is off the beaten path and we almost had it to ourselves. As you drive into the dirt parking lot you get the feeling that it was built as a fortress. There are no exterior windows, and only one exterior door and one large double gate for wagon and livestock entry at the front of the building (and one double gate for entry into the second courtyard). At the top of the structure, which has two courtyards is a surrounding wall with notches for defending the structure if need be from attack. Rooms are at the base of the rectangular fortress enclosure and again slicing through the middle of the structure, which creates the two courtyards. The rooms are decorated and furnished in a manner that represents how it might have looked during the hacienda’s heyday. Lighting in the rooms makes it easy to study and enjoy them.

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This is the first of the two courtyards at the Martinez Hacienda. The second is dirt, as are all the rooms, which encompass the hacienda. … Not sure about the grass during the hacienda’s heyday. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

The Martinez family certainly predated Kit Carson’s arrival in Taos and choosing it as his home. What we saw has been restored and decorated to represent 1820 (or later, as it took time to build), but it also provides a great insight into how the Spanish families (and employees and slaves) lived before and probably up to the time that Kit’s tenure in the area began.

Pailin and I took our time as we explored every nook and cranny of the hacienda. I could picture myself living there in the early 1800s. When we entered and before we left we spent time with the lady who greeted the handful of visitors, and I learned a lot from what she told us. Our western states could use more of this type of preservation as it allows those of us that want to step back in time and get the feel of what it might have been like to live as our ancestors did.

The Bosque Redondo & Kit Carson

For those of you who don’t know what the Bosque Redondo (eastern New Mexico) was, General James Carleton, who in 1852 saw the land and thought it would be good for farming, decided to turn it in an Indian reservation in the 1860s. Fort Sumner was constructed and beginning with the 1863 Mescalero Apache campaign and then the 1863-64 Navajo campaign it would now provide the perfect location to incarcerate the defeated Indians.

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This is a detail from one of the placards at the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner. It deals with Carson accepting the Mescalero Apache campaign (with Carleton). The artwork at this memorial is exceptional.

One of his commanders, Colonel Kit Carson, had quickly forced the Mescaleros onto Carleton’s reservation. They lived south of the Pecos River. After Carson forced the mighty Navajos to capitulate by waging a burnt-earth campaign with very few deaths (with any other commander the death count could have easily grown into the hundreds or more). He didn’t participate in the Long Walk of the Diné, as the Navajos call themselves, to the land that would become hell on earth. Actually he didn’t want anything to do with the Bosque Redondo. Carleton refused to listen to him and ordered him to command the reservation that was anything but a garden place. Winds blew, nothing grew, the Mescaleros and Navajos didn’t get along, Comanches raided, and people died in large numbers from disease and hunger. Carleton provided nothing Carson requested and, frustrated, Carson resigned his military commission. Carleton refused to honor it. The third time Cason submitted his resignation Carleton again refused but did transfer his unhappy subordinate.

I didn’t know what to expect, but a wonderful visitor center/museum has been built (replacing the smaller and earlier structure next to the remnants of Fort Sumner). The museum isn’t complete, but judging by what the Bosque Redondo Memorial currently has in place it is going to be impressive. There is a lot of land to walk but Pailin and I didn’t have time to spend a day or longer at this important piece of Mescalero and Diné memory.

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Pailin took this image of us while we were at Navajo Treaty Rock, which has a Diné prayer attached to it. The Navajo Treaty (signed on 1jun1868) is a short distance southeast from the Rock. The treaty freed the Diné and allowed them to return to their homeland. Oh yes, there was a harsh sun on that 9oct2014 day. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

There is also a nature trail with plush vegetation (natural to the area?) that obscures and skirts the Pecos River. This area is as perhaps Carleton envisioned it, as the Bosque Redondo and the surrounding area looks to be good farmland today. Alas, for the Diné and the Mescaleros it was just a land of death and desolation. During their deadly occupation of the Bosque Redondo their crops mostly died from insects, drought, and perhaps bad luck, which included bad water and a failure of the U.S. government to supply them adequate supplies.

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Pailin in the former visitor center of the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner. Photo by LK on 9oct2014. It is now furnished to represent soldier barracks. Pailin, like myself, avoids the sun. On this day the sun blazed and the wind whistled (although not as much as I’ve encountered in this portion of the U.S. in the past). At times she looked like a Bedouin mounted on a camel roaming the sandy deserts of the Mideast in times long past. This is to protect her face. I call her my “Bedouin.” I also call her “Chiquita.” (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Sound familiar? A resounding yes! “Shameful” is a word that accurately sums up what happened during the 1860s and throughout the American conquest of the Indian people.

By this point of the trip Pailin knew exactly what I wanted from her and at the Bosque Redondo and at the remnants of Fort Sumner she split away from me to capture what hopefully will provide a good basis for understanding what this land—so barren when the Mescaleros and Navajos were imprisoned here—looked like … minus the vegetation that now thrives. My lady is in her element and it’s a joy to watch her work.

Texas with Glen & Ellen Williams (and Glen’s sister Linda)

Glen and Ellen Williams have been my friends since the 1990s when we began socializing outside the workplace. They moved from Torrance, California, to Denton, Texas, in 2012. The visit with John & Linda Monnett and Sand Creek and the delivery and research with Tomas Jaehn in Santa Fe moved to Texas and Ellen and Glen on 10oct2014 (it was great to finally meet Glen’s sister Linda). Our visit had the added bonus that Glen, Ellen, and Linda welcomed Pailin with open arms. They talked with her, hugged her, and she immediately responded and became a welcome a member of their household. Better yet she joked and laughed and felt a little more comfortable in joining the conversations.

The next day Glen drove Ellen and her mother, Judy, to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Pailin rested, I did some work. Later that day Pailin, Linda, Glen, and I enjoyed talking in the living room, which is like a great room in an adobe-style house in the Southwest. Glen and I never run out of subjects to talk about, and he and Linda included Pailin at all times.

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In earlier blogs I have said: “Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand?” In Justin’s Pailin and Linda looked at clothing while Glen and I looked at hats. I told him that Barron Hats in Burbank, Calif., which makes many of the hats currently seen in film, makes mine for me. Before we left Pailin wanted to see the hats. As I led her through the aisles she liked this one and tried on her size. “Do you want it?” “Yes.” “Let me snap a picture.” More proof that Thai cowgirls really do exist. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

On Sunday (12oct14) Linda, Pailin, Glen, and I visited one of the Justin Boot Stores (boots, hats, clothing, and so on) in Justin, Texas. Pailin likes hats and has more than I (actually she wears two cowboy hats that I previously gave her). Lunchtime arrived, and the four of us went to Mom’s in Justin. This was a funky place with cool and long-gone stuff on the the walls, including Elvis.

Good times. Yeah, this is social time with my longtime bud, his sweet sister, and my lady, and let me tell you it is as important as the Sand Creek and Kit Carson research, and the LK Collection delivery. Tomas Jaehn is also a long-time business associate and friend. John M. is a friend, and now Pailin and I consider his wife Linda a friend. People are what our world is all about. People are our lives. Some are forever (some aren’t), but without people we have no lives.

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From left: Glen Williams, LK, Pailin, and Linda Williams at Mom’s in Justin, Texas, on 12oct2014.

Sorry, but I need to repeat the following: No matter what I think about my research and writing and no matter how much importance I place upon it, without Pailin, Glen, Ellen, Linda W., Tomas, Linda M., and John my life is empty—nothing. They, and others like them, are key to my and Pailin’s lives, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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Glen took this great candid of LK and Pailin in front of the entry to the courtyard of his and Ellen’s home in Denton, Texas, on 12oct2014, and Pailin is wearing the hat she found and liked at the Justin Boot Store. My bro Glen Williams has taken many great photos of me, but this is one of my favorites. For the record, Pailin and I have a good time laughing together. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft, and Glen Williams 2014)

Glen and Linda relaxed (Linda also prepared to return home) while I worked and Pailin corresponded with her family and friends in Thailand and California.

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The lady in the light blouse is Linda Williams, Glen’s sister. Pailin is holding Sophie, Linda’s dog. My lady has made great strides in her command of the English language, but still she holds back (except with me) as she is conscious of her pronunciation of the words and of her sentence structure (both of which she continues to improve). That said, she gets along with animals fabulously (perhaps as there isn’t a language barrier). That’s Glen w/Linda & Pailin in the left image. These images were taken just before Linda returned to her home on 12oct14. Left image is by LK and the right image is by Glen. (photos © Glen & Linda Williams and Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Soon after Linda left for home the three of us drove to the grocery store for supplies, including celery, parsley, carrots, and lemons to make juice. Like the previous day, we enjoyed each other’s company, rested, and got some work done until we went to the Blue Ginger, a Japanese restaurant in Denton. Good food.

ellen&glenWilliams1_14oct14tight_wsEllen & Glen Williams (left) have been my great friends for decades. As you can see Ellen is petite. She is bright, funny, open, and kind. She is also gorgeous. It was terrific seeing her again, and it was also good to see her effort to befriend Pailin, which gave my lady the confidence to open up some. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Ellen & Glen Williams and Pailin Subanna-Kraft, 2014)

Ellen returned home, and I’m glad she did in time to be with us, and especially Pailin. After dinner, Ellen, who was beat, went to bed early, and so did Pailin. This allowed Glen and I to talk deep into the night. Recently Pailin called Glen my brother, and I told him this he said yes, “we’re ‘bros.'”

On 14oct2014 we said goodbye to Ellen and Glen and began the long trek back to Los Angeles. The drive was boring, but we had each other and this made the miles pass quickly.

Gallup, New Mexico, and Pailin’s research introduction to Errol Flynn

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This is supposedly the room that Flynn slept in during the Rocky Mountain location shooting in New Mexico.

I’ve been passing through and sometimes staying in Gallup for a week or longer while using it as a base for Kit Carson and Navajo research. This is not my favorite town and I’m not crazy over the food served in the restaurants. Love the red rocks, and at the same time this gorgeous area always makes me sad. Errol Flynn’s last western film, Rocky Mountain (Warner Bros., 1950), was basically a location shoot (not entirely, but close) and a good part of it was shot in the area near Gallup. Flynn, the other actors, and the film crew stayed at the El Rancho Hotel, which is now a national historic site. So why am I sad? The film was shot in black and white. With the red rocks the centerpiece to the film, and they are something to behold—the film should have been shot in color. Warner Bros. was cutting back on film budgets as it continued to end its relationship with its major stars, Flynn included. Too bad, as Rocky Mountain is a decent film.

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Unfortunately you can’t see the EF signature on the Flynn photo at the El Rancho Hotel. It is not only a fraud, but the person who signed Flynn’s signature had no clue of the spelling of his name. Flynn’s Name is “Errol” Flynn but the forger signed it “Earl” Flynn. This crap is all over the place when dealing with signatures. If you buy signatures be careful. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

In the past I’ve explored the El Rancho Hotel’s expansive entry and upper floor that is open to the main floor as well as photograph the exterior. On 15oct2014 this would change as I felt it would be time to expand the physical research, which in turn would be right up Pailin’s alley. It was and she gleefully took requested photos along with ones that she wanted. After exploring we shared a salad in the hotel’s restaurant (it was decent) but afterwards we weren’t able to see the bar, as it didn’t open until 5:00 PM. I told them I was a writer doing research for a book, that I didn’t want a drink and just wanted to see the bar. This opened conversations about Flynn’s time in Gallup but it didn’t open the bar, which was locked—Some other time.

Since leaving Glen and Ellen we had covered roughly half of the 1400+ miles needed to get home. …

Pailin, Thailand, & the opening of a new world and people to me

On October 31 Pailin flew to Thailand, and on November 12 I followed her to her homeland.

Put mildly my flight to Bangkok was a nightmare. The plane boarded an hour and 20 minutes after the anticipated take off; which meant I should have missed my transfer in Taipei, China. Instead of reaching Bangkok at 12:15AM Thai time (15 hours ahead of California time), the plane landed at 1:45AM. There were long lines to get through immigration and when I finally did get through the lines it was a little before 3:00AM. The baggage claim conveyer belt had shut down and my luggage was missing, but luckily I found my suitcase. I managed one email to Pailin. She was awake and worried as I had warned her from LAX that I’d be late.

The beginning of my entry into the Thai world

Pum and Mana Subanna (two of Pailin’s brothers) and Pen Saelee (Mana’s wife) were to meet me at the airport at 1:45AM. As the time inched toward 3:30 only a handful of people still worked, and I couldn’t find them. I tried to email Pailin again—no internet. The phone number she gave me didn’t work. … I wandered the airport.

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It was about 5:30AM when I took this photo of Pum (left), Pen, and Mana at the Bangkok Airport. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

One of the support ladies was concerned about me and suggested I go to a cheap hotel where there would be internet access. I refused. My relatives were in the airport and I wasn’t about to stand them up.

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LK in the Bangkok Airport (cool airport; I like it). It was about 6:30 when Pen took this picture with my camera. She also made the necklace of welcome flowers for me. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

About 4:00AM Mana, Pen, Pum, and I found each other, and had a great time for the next three hours. Using a pidgin English-Thai we were able to communicate somewhat, and better we were able to share images and ideas with our phones, Mana’s iPad, and my computer.

Before it was time to go through security for my next flight I was one tired cowboy as I hadn’t slept in over 25 hours (sleeping while sitting in a cramped plane seat is an impossible task for me).

Lampang (a city in the north)

My flight landed in Lampang about 9:30 that morning.

Pailin had given me explicit directions on how to exit the baggage claim, go downstairs, exit the airport, walk to a raised railroad track, pass under the railroad bridge, and she would be waiting for me. I fell for her directions hook, line, and sinker. …

When I stepped from the baggage area, Pailin and some her family and friends surrounded me (I love a good joke, especially when I’m the target). I met Not and Font Subanna (her sister and brother-in-law), Somnuck and Noi Subanna (her brother and sister-in-law), as well as Daranee Konsin (her sister, or so I thought) and others at this time. Pailin later told me that they were happy and excited to meet me.

I spent most of the day sleeping at a resort we spent one night in while Pailin ran errands. In late afternoon Daranee picked me up and drove to a mall. Here we joined Pailin and some of her key relatives for dinner.

The next morning (Friday, 14nov14 in LA/Saturday, 15nov14 in Thailand) Daranee arrived and we ate breakfast at the resort.

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Pailin and Daranee Konsin look at what is displayed in the outdoor eating area after we enjoyed sweet crackers, sweet bread, and strong coffee. For the record, when I was young I was a “cookie monster.” Back 20 or 30 years ago I stopped eating sweets; I liked cookies and pie, but never cakes or candies (I love ice cream but it doesn’t like me). I cheated and enjoyed a few cookies, which were good, and so was the coffee. (photo by Louis Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Daranee Konsin, and Louis Kraft 2014)

After we checked out Daranee drove us to her house, where we stayed in Lampang. She is a retired colonel (Thai Army), and is bright, open, fun, and caring. We quickly became friends. Her English is much better than she thinks and we had little problem understanding each other. She is a sweetheart and now she’s my “sister,” but not as I originally thought (more later).

Several things about the Thai people became obvious immediately: 1) Religion plays a huge roll in their lives, 2) The King is honored and treasured, and 3) Thai people are open and friendly.

Later that morning (15nov14) we drove to a house in Lampang. Not and Font were there as were Somnuck and Noi, and many others. They ate and talked and joked. Not told some hilarious stories and held everyone in stitches. She is open and lively.

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Pailin as LK’s interpreter on 15nov14. As said in the flow of the text, I wanted Pailin to share my views on our relationship. I spoke words and she translated them to what appeared to be a captive audience. This is my Thai cowgirl in action and I enjoyed watching. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

I was the welcomed stranger and I asked Pailin to translate for me as I wanted to share Pailin’s and my relationship and gain a knowledge of what was being said about us.

I said words and she translated. Not and others spoke and she translated. How good was Pailin’s translation of our conversation? I don’t know. Knowing that her mastery of the English language was limited at that time I’m certain that what everyone heard was not exactly what I said, and also that what she translated for me also wasn’t as originally stated. (This brings me to white and Cheyenne negotiations during the 1860s Indian wars and makes me totally aware of how easily mistakes and misrepresentations can happen when words are translated.)

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The pig’s head and other assorted piggy pieces, along with the chicken and whiskey on the table would soon become offerings to God. Yes, Pailin is having a heck of a good time at my expense. Others also had fun with my problem with this gorgeous pig’s head. That is Tim sitting next to Pailin. She is Font’s sister. Over the coming days I would see a lot of her. BTW cowgirls like to have fun, and especially at their hubby’s expense; all fun and games as I began my relationship with the Thai people and their culture. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

All this time a pig’s head had been staring at me on the table under a cover that sheltered the front yard of the house where everyone gathered. The pig’s head was so pristine that I thought that it was plastic. Of course I asked about the head and learned that no, it was real and would be an offering to God. Time now moved quickly toward an event that I didn’t realize would soon happen. But of course, first Pailin and others needed to enjoy themselves at Kraft’s expense. I’m okay with this. Actually I like it and feel no ill-will toward anyone who can chuckle over things that don’t quite fit into my life and which make me feel uneasy.

Every time I looked at the pig’s head it seemed to glare at me, causing me to look away. Of course this generated more chuckles of delight.

Pailin told stories about us (I hope that they were sexy ones—Whack! LK is a bad boy.), and next she shared images on her iPad.

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Before the prayers began, Pailin shared some images of our life together with Not Subanna (left), Font Subanna, Pua (wearing glasses), who owned the house, and two unidentified neighbors. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

On the street a table had been set with the pig’s head, chicken, and other offerings. Incense was lighted and candles lit. The Thai people prayed—Not, Font, Daranee, Pailin, and many of the others. Even though I’m Christian I have prayed at Wat Thai of Los Angeles in North Hollywood many times, but at this time I watched and photographed the prayers.

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After chatting and everyone getting acquainted with LK, those who would soon go to Wat Thai of Lampang prayed (others would soon arrive to join the caravan). I photographed the prayers, as did Daranee. From left: Unknown neighbor, Tim (Font’s sister), Noi, Somnuck, Not, Pailin, and behind Pailin Font (purple shirt), and Pua. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

After the prayers ended, Font took the lead as everyone prepared to caravan to Wat Thai of Lampang. To this point in time he had been someone I saw and observed but hadn’t connected with. I liked what I saw for he was a special human being, and this would grow in the coming days.

Wat Thai of Lampang is gorgeous. In front of the temple they have begun to build another building, and everyone on this day came to donate for the completion of the building. Soon after we stepped from the autos people began to sing and dance as we moved toward the temple entrance. I joined in immediately.

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As soon as Not, Pailin, and others began to sing and dance toward the temple, I joined them. This was a cultural event and one I could take part in and experience. To this point in time I had been an observer. No more. I think to this point in time people looked at me with quizzical eyes. If there had been a turning point in my introduction to Thailand, these few moments may have been it. (photo by Daranee Konsin, and © Daranee Konsin, Not Subanna, Louis Kraft, & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

To date I hadn’t had much of a connection to the Thai people in their homeland but suddenly I had an entry into their lives and culture (that was different than in Los Angeles). This wasn’t manipulative on my part; rather it was the joy of participation.

The interior of this temple is a wonder to behold, and it is my favorite of all the temples I would see in Thailand and back in Los Angeles. Regardless of me not being a Buddhist, I have always felt welcome in Buddhist temples. Always. Moreover I’ve always been at ease with monks for they have been open and kind.

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After the prayers completed and everyone prepared for the donation (and I photographed part of this), I saw that the Monk Sak sat and quietly and waited. I stepped to him and using a pidgin English/Thai we communicated. I told him that I wasn’t Buddhist, but now visited Thailand with my Thai wife who was Buddhist. He was pleased that I took part in the prayers. I asked if I could photograph him, and he agreed. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

My Thai companions came to pray and donate to the temple. I was the outsider and yet wasn’t a creature rejected. What I saw was communal. This word, “communal,” is key to what I would soon realize in my historical writing of the Cheyenne Indians. It was also something that hasn’t been a part of my life since my early years growing up in Reseda, California. This youthful experience—communal—vanished soon after I reached manhood, but on three later occasions it returned: My mother’s death in 1980, my brother’s death in 1990, and my father’s death in 1999. During those three days, when people celebrated their lives and mourned their passing, the communal days of my early life returned. In Thailand, and on one occasion in North Hollywood years later I observed and experienced this first hand.

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Sak at Wat Thai of Lampang, Thailand when everyone prepared to leave. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

I had just begun to experience the communal world of Thailand.

After the initial prayers with Sak everyone participated in preparing the donation to the temple.

A short while later, and after the donation had been made by Font, and everyone began to exit. Sak stood and moved so that he could watch. I again approached him and we again spoke for a few minutes. Pailin saw that we talked and rushed to us. She then knelt down next to Sak, and told me that when in the presence of monks I should kneel (I had  in Los Angeles, but no one had told me that it was mandatory and that I should).

I had again photographed Sak (including with Pailin kneeling next to him) before departing. My last view of Sak was of him standing at the entrance to the temple and watching everyone’s departure, and I captured a long shot of him and the temple. I don’t know what he thought of me, but I liked him. Will we meet again? Time will tell.

During our time in Lampang, Daranee, Pailin, and I were a threesome as the two ladies introduced me to what I requested and to other locations that they thought I’d enjoy seeing.

We saw temples (one was very old), an extraordinary open-air grocery store, and an elephant preserve. I listened, I observed, and I learned. …The Thai Elephant Conservation Center was special as we spent a lot of time up close with a cow and her calf.

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Pailin was just like a little girl on 15nov14 as she fed both an elephant cow and her calf. It was fun to watch her and the elephants react to each other. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

On 16nov14 Daranee, Pailin, and I went to the Thai Army Base in Lampang as I wanted to see the three restaurants that Pailin owned and operated before she left Thailand.

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Pailin’s visit to the Thai Army Base in Lampang was special as she not only relived some of the events in her life when she owned and ran restaurants, but also got to see some people who were special in her life. From left: Tun, Pailin, LK, and Daranee. Second Lieutenant (and now Captain) Nanta Homkanchan took this image with Pailin’s phone in her office. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Visiting the Thai Army Base and seeing the two buildings that were still restaurants was certainly one of my highlights. Better yet, seeing the people light up with smiles while they gave Pailin big hugs. Certainly seeing Bunjob (see below montage), who was and still is Pailin’s “brother,” and let me tell you that his eyes filled with joy when he saw her.

16nov14_GolfREST_bunjob_Montage2a_wsA major road, Phahonyotin Boulevard (which is like a highway in the USA), splits the Thai Army Base in Lampang from the army hospital and golf course (which are across the street. Pailin’s first restaurant (1987) was in a cool old wooden building; it served everyone, the snooker room (also everyone), and a huge ballroom (only officers). In 1990 she added the restaurant on the Thai Army golf course, and finally her restaurant in the army hospital (2002), which no longer exists.

Our time in Lampang finished way-too quickly and before we knew it we were celebrating our last night with Daranee at the Riverfront Restaurant in Lampang, which is on the Wang (pronounced “Wong”) River. The next day Font would pick Pailin and I up and drive us to Uttaradit.

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Pailin and Daranee Konsin at The Riverfront Restaurant in Lampang (late afternoon on 17nov2014). (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Pailin and Daranee have known each other since they were both young and living in Uttaradit, which means that they aren’t sisters by birth but are “sisters” because of a close friendship (Cheyenne Indians often call those close to them brothers and sisters during the 1860s and today). With the truth finally revealed to me, and as Daranee and I had bonded when we first met, she is now my sister for all time.

wangRiver_LampangI took this photo (right) of a bridge crossing the Wang River through a window to Daranee’s left shoulder in the Riverfront Restaurant (above photo)  just before darkness arrived. … I took more pictures like this (landscapes, buildings, traffic, etc.), but during my introduction to Thailand I was mostly interested in the people in Pailin’s life. I decided to share this image as I loved the colored lights on the bridge and the reverse image that the water captured of the bridge. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Early on our last morning with Daranee a retired nurse who had worked in the hospital on the Thai Army Base in Lampang drove 50 U.S. miles to see Pailin.

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LK, Pailin, and Sue Lyn at Daranee’s home just before Font Subanna arrived on 17nov2014. (Daranee took this image with LK’s camera)

She was quiet but open and a good listener. Sue Lyn, her Thai nickname, was a person I liked a lot.

Around nine Font Subanna arrived to drive us to Uttaradit.  Before setting out the five of us went out for brunch at a cool two-story restaurant on the Wang River. As always the food was good with a total cost of about $20.00 U.S. As it turned out, this meal would also be our dinner.

Uttaradit, two brothers, a niece & a special lady who lives forever in my heart

During the trip Pailin sat with Not in the front of his car while I sat in the rear. Pailin’s and my baggage took up most of the back seat and all of the rear of the auto. I had hoped to sleep. Fat chance!

The drive seemed endless. At one point Font said to Pailin, “I don’t know what to say to him.” (Pailin told me this later.) From the opposite point-of-view I had no clue what I should say to Font. … They chatted until we reached a magnificent temple. Font asked if we’d like to visit it. You bet!!!!

Suddenly it was three people exploring the temple, its grounds, and museum. My camera went belly up as the batteries had died. … Daranee had a statue of the “soldier with the broken sword” in her living room. I had asked about him and learned a little. The museum had the same statue of this soldier. Pailin translated as Font and I tried to talk about this special man. I learned a little more.

Font made two stops when we arrived in Uttaradit—one at a mall where he bought batteries for my camera, and then at his daughter’s (and her husband, Sophon’s) food and juice shop. It was here that I met Lek Subanna for the first time (she is Sabrina’s sister, who you’ll see a lot of below).

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On 18nov14 an unexpected moment took me by surprise. Luckily I had loaded my camera with the batteries that Font had just bought. From left: Unknown woman, Font, Pailin, and Lek Subanna in Lek and Sophon’s restaurant. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

It was shortly before dark when we reached Font and Not’s home. We settled into our room and shortly after dark Lek, Sophon, Mind (their daughter) and Ford (Sabrina’s son) arrived and I met them, never dreaming that I had just met my extended family. Mind and Ford studied English in school, and both Sophon and Lek had a terrific comprehension of the English language. As I had first learned with Daranee, then with Font on the drive to Uttaradit, I now realized that I could communicate with Thai people mixing English and Thai words with hand and body movements and facial expressions.

Without missing a beat Not and Font welcomed Pailin and me into their home, into their world, and into their lives.

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My loving wife is one of the most generous people that I have ever known. Back in her dark ages a tragic event happened and it destroyed her. It took her years to recover and if wasn’t for her mother, Daranee, and other magnificent people in her life, she wouldn’t have made it. At the time of the tragedy she owned and ran three restaurants mentioned above, she owned a home, and by any standard she was successful. Everything ended. In this 20nov14 image she is relaxing in Not & Font’s home in Uttaradit, and sitting upon a magnificent chair that she gave to her sister and brother-in-law when she left her homeland to roam the world. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Unknown to me and to my initial displeasure when I learned this, Pailin had shared my ailments with Not in Lampang. … I had not traveled to Thailand to improve my health. No! I had traveled to Thailand to experience Pailin’s homeland with her. That said, what Not had told Pailin that she would do for me was unbelievable, but Pailin had to convince me to accept the treatments, which included detoxing, mineral baths, special juices, and deep tissue massages. … I’m not going to go into detail of the physical problem that I’ve had since the 1990s, but words below will give you a hint of what I’ve had to deal with.

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Pailin and LK during our two-hour bath in mineral water on 21nov14. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Not and Font’s home was also Not’s medical center: She was a master of deep tissue massage combined with juices, minerals, medicinal pastes, and other healing techniques I had not seen practiced. Not had many licenses and certificates to back up what I just said, and people traveled long distances to become her patients. As Not had said in Lampang, she took me under her wing, and Pailin too. We became front and center of Not’s healing and massage practice.

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Pailin after her bath in mineral water on 21nov14. Later that day she rubbed healing paste onto her skin. (photos © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

But our time in Not’s clinic was not only to improve our physical health but to also give us ideas on how to continue bettering our health after we returned to the USA.

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Not teaches Pailin how to make her honey-lime (read honey-lemon) drink on 21nov14. (photo © Louis Kraft, Not Subanna, and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

It also included Pailin learning new massage techniques (she watched and studied while Not worked on me (and Not allowed me to watch while she worked on Pailin). And the training went well beyond types of massage and health techniques for it also included learning of a special juice that is beneficial to our health.

Not improved our physical lives. For me, and after my second full treatment, I would begin to see and feel an improvement.

I think that I should say something here that I have hinted at to friends on my blogs and other social media—mainly that I struggle to walk (every step is pure pain) and sleep at night is non-existent at times. This has been ongoing for two and pushing three decades. Over all of these years I have done everything possible to walk pain free and to get a good night’s sleep. Recently, that is now in 2016, the bar of what I need to do has increased yet again. Major testing has again begun; will it obtain the answers that I need to continue protecting and cherishing Pailin? Don’t know. That said, … I’ve got at least 30 years still in front of me, and they will happen.

Trip to Chiang Mai (city in the north)

On 23nov2014 Lek and Sophon picked us up and we drove to Chiang Mai. … A long drive to see Nat Rongkun, the White Temple. Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat conceived his religious grounds as a tourist attraction, and it is. That said, it is much more for the entire layout of the grounds that he designed is extraordinary in both conception and execution. The environment that he created is a joy to explore, and I believe at the time that Lek and Sophon took us to the White Temple the project had been ongoing for over 10 years (with how much more work still to come?).

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As Pailin and I chatted with Chalermchai Kositpipat under a blazing sun Sophon called out that he was taking a photo. I think that only Pailin found him in the crowd and looked toward him. The cement work in question (in the paragraph below) is directly behind us. (photo by Sophon Yamsavai 2014)

While we were there we passed by Chalermchai Kositpipat as he gave instructions to a couple of his cement artists that were creating a walking area near his art gallery. We stopped and watched as Chalermchai made clear what he wanted done with the wet cement. When he finished speaking with his workers Pailin and I stepped to him and he graciously spoke with us for a few minutes.

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Sophon and Lek at the White Temple on 23nov16. They are filling out ornaments with Pailin’s and my name that will hang forever on the trees of life. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

The White Temple (which was then not complete inside; actually artists painted the walls while we enjoyed the sacred and religious milieu) and art gallery and tourist attraction were amazing. We couldn’t use a camera in the temple (totally understandable) or in the gallery that displayed Chalermchai Kositpipat’s art. I should have used a flash to fill in shadows on everyone’s faces in the harsh sunlight when they stood before the temple but didn’t. (I think that the two-shot portrait of Lek and Sophon is perfect for this blog’s storyline.)

Our agenda didn’t end after we left the White Temple for now we needed to meet up with Natapron Subanna. Pong (her nickname) is another of Pailin’s nieces and Somnuck and Kulab’s (nickname Rose) daughter), and Anuchat Sanganit is her husband (sorry as I don’t know his nickname)—both are lawyers. They met us at a shopping area and we followed them to their absolutely gorgeous house. We were to spend the night there (a surprise to me). After we chatted and settled in Natapron joined us on a trip to the King’s Garden.

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I took this image of Pailin outside the perimeter of the King’s Garden in Chiang Mai. I took a lot of photos and many were decent of everyone (two- and three-shots), but I especially like this image of Pailin. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Unfortunately the King’s Garden had already closed for the day when we arrived but we were able to explore the garden outside of the gated land that looked magnificent from a small hill on the exterior grounds that we climbed.

Afterwards we drove to a great restaurant in Chiang Mai, called Im Plapao that featured seafood.

psk_pong_ImPlapaoREST_group_24nov14_Collage2a_wsAnuchat, with his and Natapron’s son, joined us shortly after we arrived.

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I shot a number of images of the performance. The fellow with the white mustache and bikini had just lost his clothing that had been pulled from him. He appeared to be the “bad guy” of the play. It was a hoot, and I think I’d enjoy doing street theater (something I’ve never done) but, alas, not wearing a bikini for my costume. LK may have been on the wild side in the dark past but he is considerably more conservative with the image he presents to the world now. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

After eating at the restaurant Natapron, Anuchat, and their son drove back to their house while Lek, Sophon, Pailin, and I followed in their pickup. After driving through a portion of Chiang Mai we passed an outdoor theater performance that was just off the street. Sophon saw that it had captured my interest and asked if I’d like to stop. Yes! After parking we walked to the back of the audience, which extended almost to the street, and watched for five or ten minutes. I totally enjoyed myself (think Pailin did too).

The next day we explored the temple ruins in the “Old Town” area of Chiang Mai that are called “Wiang Khum Kham.” We were a group of five: Pong (that is Natapron, but I knew her as Pong), Lek, Sophon, Pailin, and myself.

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The temple ruins were amazing, and although not like the Indian temple ruins in the Americas they were surprisingly similar. There were underground tunnels that connected all of the many temples. Wish we could have experienced the tunnels but this wasn’t allowed. Pailin took the photo of me hamming it up like Wynkoop or Booth and I took the image of the ruins. (photos © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

We then drove to doiSuthep the hillside area above Chiang Mai that had a cool and ongoing bazaar and yet another temple that looked down upon the city of Chiang Mai far below.

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As we slowly worked our we through the bazaar in doiSuthep on 24nov2014 I hustled forward to capture this image. From left: Lek Subanna, Sophon Yamasvai, Ko Subanna (Pailin’s brother), Pong, and Pailin. This was an absolutely fun time for me. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

We only experienced a portion of the bazaar when we crossed the street where Lek and Sophon bought tickets for us step aboard an ancient elevator on a hook that slowly took us to the top of the hill where there was a huge temple grounds that we explored.

psk&somkid_Temple_above_doiSuthep_24nov14montage_wsDuring our wanderings Ko watched out for me, and whenever I fell behind as I wanted to experience and capture what I saw he slowed his pace to ensure that I didn’t get lost or left behind. I enjoyed my time with him.

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Pailin was looking at jewelry after we left the temple and returned to the bazaar in doiSuthep. From left: Pong (Natapron), Pailin, and an unnamed woman. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

I love to wander through bazaars and chat with the sellers. I’m not good at bartering, but as I’m mostly a “lookie loo” it’s a lot of fun. I purchased (actually, I should say that Pailin “purchased” for me) a couple of gifts for my daughter and her mother.

After we returned to our autos Ko gave Pong a ride back to her home while Sophon, Lek, Pailin, and I began our return to Uttaradit. But first we had a short detour in Chaing Mai to an area called Tawai, where we looked at first class art, furniture, gift, and jewelry shops.

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This is Sophon’s Isuzu in Tawai on 24nov14 just before we started the long drive back to Uttaradit. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Night arrived quickly and Sophon handled all the driving, much of which was on dark one-lane mountain roads. … As Sophon reached a curve we could see headlights peeking around it. As he moved through the turn suddenly a stalled pickup with everyone in it blocked the road right front of us. Sohpon couldn’t swerve to the right (Thai roads are like Great Britain’s and the opposite of the USA) as the oncoming vehicle was too close. Without any chance to brake (even though he couldn’t have been going any faster than 20 MPH U.S. speed) he swung to the left and off the road and around the small pickup that was a disaster waiting to happen. Ladies and gents, I’ve been in a lot of tight scrapes with vehicles, including taking a motorcycle over a cliff and living through the destruction of a Corvette at high speed, but let me tell you that Sophon’s driving on that night was the best that I have ever seen. Thank you, my brother, for you saved everyone from major injury or worse.

24nov14_dinner_uttaradit_collage2_wsThat night after our arrival in Uttaradit, we shared meal as we talked and joked and enjoyed each other’s company. It was on this night that Font looked at Pailin while he pointed at me and said: “When are you going to teach him the Thai language so that I can talk to him?” Everyone laughed. Wow! What an opening for a little more fun. About an hour later I looked at Pailin while I pointed at Font and said: “When are you going to teach him the English language so that I can talk to him?” Everyone laughed again. Good times!

Beginning of the end of our trip to Thailand

Days of preparation wrapped up early on 27nov2014, a day that would be huge at Not and Font’s home in Uttaradit.

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On 27nov14 Not and Font hosted two ceremonies, the first was religious and the second honored Font’s birthday. Left to right: Boy (the minister who performed the ceremonies) and Not. Directly behind Not is Ann (the religious woman, who with her sister and Boy, created most of the decorations. Centered between Boy and Ann are Kai Subanna (Lek and Sabrina’s brother) and his wife Cat. Pailin can be seen in the background at the right side of the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

On this day they hosted two ceremonies. Both were religious, but the second honored Font’s birthday.

If my memory is good there were two full days of preparation (making the decorations from flowers). When it was time for the religious ceremony to begin, Sophon and I sat beside the holy structures at the front of the house and faced everyone who took part in the prayers (we photographed the religious ceremonies).

There was a renewal and hugging and tears as those closest to Not and Font lined up to share their views of these two special people. I missed most of this as I didn’t realize it would happen. Actually on this day I was more of an observer than a participant and a lot of what I saw was mysterious.

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After the ceremonies were completed, chairs were set in front of the holy decorations and loved ones of Not and Font came before them and shared their thoughts (Sophon and Lek are also pictured). Although I couldn’t understand the words, they were touching for often I saw tears. (photo Louis Kraft 2014)

There were a number of amazing things going on, and Font and Not allowed me to photograph them, and that they, and all the other Thai people allowed me to participate in/or watch the Buddhist ceremonies when I don’t practice their religion. This was one of the best things that I experienced in Thailand.

Shortly after some group photos were taken.

After the ceremonies people danced in the front yard. I like dancing and certainly enjoyed seeing my lady easily move to the music.
pskDance_27nov14_montage_wsI mistakenly thought that the day would revert back to normal, but without massages. This would have been good for me, as I could get in some writing, relax, and chat with family and friends. No.

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After the ceremonies (27nov2014) a number of photos were taken, including this one by Sophon Yamsavai  using LK’s camera. Left to right: Ann (the holy woman, who is partially hidden), her sister (I don’t know her name), Lek, Font, Not, Pailin, LK, Tim (Font’s sister), and “Doctor Na,” who spoke English (Pailin told me that she was a neighbor; we talked, and I enjoyed knowing her, if only for a short time). (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

The major event(s) had ended and Sophon and Lek invited us to go out for lunch and then to explore a little of Uttaradit.

I had no clue of what was to come. …

We enjoyed soup (Tom Yam) at Guay Teaw Pakmo, and it was the best that I enjoyed in Thailand, a land where all the soups were extraordinary. Lek told me that the bowls of soup cost $1.00 in U.S. money.

uttaradit_GuayTeawPakmo_REST_27nov14_montage_wsAfter eating Sophon and Lek introduced us to some of the sights of Uttaradit, all of which Pailin and I hadn’t seen as almost all of our time had been spent at Not and Font’s home, while she used her amazing skills to improve our health.

On this day I saw portion of Uttaradit that I never imagined existed.

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LK’s office in Uttaradit on 26nov14. I enjoyed and drank Thai coffee. The empty mug held the juice that Not had made for me that morning.  (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

A glimpse of a portion of LK’s days in Thailand. I had brought work with me: The Sand Creek manuscript (only editing what I already had as I couldn’t bring research), The Discovery, and “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” which would become an October 2015 cover story for Wild West magazine (again, only rewriting as I didn’t bring research material). During those days and nights I wasn’t anti-social. While working on my projects I was completely open to spending time with Font and Not’s friends who visited and with Not, Font, Ford, Mind, Lek, and Sophon. Believe it or not, I actually lived in the perfect environment for a writer to function on all cylinders. I had found a home that wasn’t my home, but was (if that makes any sense).

I had seen the statue of Phraya Phichai Dab Hak (“Dab Hak” means “broken sword”) at Daranee Konsin’s home in Lampang. When Font drove us from Lampang to Uttaradit and we had stopped at a huge temple complex I again saw the statue of Phraya Phichai Dab Hak, and I had mentioned him to Sophon and Lek. They told me basically what I had already found on the internet in English. As a historian I knew what I had learned was totally unusable to create a magazine article or book, but still it made my interest in him grow.

We saw a lot that afternoon, but two locations will remain with me forever, and if I am ever able to collect primary documentation about Phraya Phichai Dab Hak in Thai and have it translated to English, I do believe that he will become an important project for me.

Two of our stops on that afternoon of 27nov14 were major to me: 1) The Uttaradit Folk Museum and Wat Pratansilaart (the Thai temple in Uttaradit), and 2) The city hall complex of the province of Uttaradit.

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The entry to the Uttaradit Folk Museum, which shared the same huge parking lot with Wat Pratansilaart. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Sophon and Lek had a definite reason for taking us to the Folk Museum, which had a lot artifacts that dated deep into Thailand’s past. It was a wonder to explore.

It didn’t take long for me to discover why I wandered the aisles … a painting of Phraya Phichai Dab Hak by Dr. Prakujputmanjrak, who was also a monk at Wat Pratansilaart. (Actually he had created three paintings of Phraya Phichai Dab Hak.) It almost appeared as if the artist might have been familiar with Frank Frazetta’s fantasy art that has adorned 100s of book covers, many film posters, and are displayed in museums, the Galaxy Press (Hollywood, Calif.), and private homes in the USA.

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The statue of Phraya Phichai Dab Hak was in deep shade as the sun was at the back of this major hero of Siam’s fight for freedom when I took the photo at the Uttaradit city hall complex. As I couldn’t see his face, Lek bought the 3×5″ photo of the statue for me (lower left). The art is a detail of one of Dr. Prakujputmanjrak’s paintings of Phraya Phichai Dab Hak (lower right). (photo of Phraya Phichai statue © Louis Kraft 2014)

After praying in and viewing Wat Pratansilaart, which, by the way, also had paintings of Thailand’s history by Dr. Prakujputmanjrak adorning the walls, I remembered seeing a monk talking with a man with a German accent in the Folk Museum. Sophon and I returned to the museum and indeed it was Dr. Prakujputmanjrak. The German fellow spoke English and he translated for the doctor and myself while we talked about Phraya Phichai Dab Hak.

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There was also a cool Sword Museum on the city hall grounds of Uttaradit. Those of you that know me know that I can’t resist swords—love them. Other than swimming, there is no sport I like as much as stage combat (swashbuckling) or competition dueling with sabres. There was a mirror behind the two-handed swords dating back (I think) to the time of Siam. I need to take lessons when next I travel to Thailand. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Our next stop was the city hall complex of the governor of the province of Uttaradit, but it wasn’t to see the impressive building. Rather it was to see the statue of Phraya Phichai Dab Hak (see above montage). When Thailand was still Siam, a boy named Choi eventually came to the attention of King Taksin as Thong Di when he won a boxing match. This eventually led to him becoming a general under the king and leading guerrilla warfare against Burma, which occupied much of Siam. He became known as the “soldier with the broken sword” when he fought in front of his army with two two-handed swords and one broke. Instead of retreating he continued to fight. Eventually the Burmese army was driven from Siam. From then on he was known as Phraya Phichai Dab Hak.

On this day I experienced a wonderful moment, and it didn’t matter if it happened in Thailand, the USA, Spain, or Costa Rica. After seeing us, a group of school kids raced to Pailin and myself and surrounded us. …

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The little boy to the right of LK (left in the image) clung to me from the moment that we met. He didn’t understand a word that I said and I didn’t understand a word that he said, but we connected. We had a golden five minutes or perhaps more. In the inset (above) I’m pointing toward Sophon and trying to make him understand that I want him to look toward the camera. He understood, but unfortunately the little girl standing in front of him blocked Sophon from capturing a good image of him.

Pailin and I stayed at Lek and Sophon’s home for the first time on this night.

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LK sitting in Sophon and Lek’s living room at the end of a special day in Uttaradit. (photo by Sophon Yamsavai and © Louis Kraft and Sophon Yamsavai 2014)

As daylight faded into darkness that evening we ate outside at Lek and Sophon’s (we had moved there to make room for Kai and Cat at Not and Font’s for the religious ceremonies). Pailin and I enjoyed our time with Font, Not, Kai, Cat, Ford, Mind, Lek, and Sophon.

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Good company and good food at Lek and Sophon’s home on 27nov2014. Left to right: Pailin, Sophon, Mind, and Lek. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

The next morning (28nov14) we detoxed and drank honey and lime juice. Afterwards we walked to Not and Font’s home. Pailin and I spent two hours in the mineral waters but there were no treatments on this day. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to work on the medical novel on this day, and to date only had little over 40 new pages from scratch (I had hoped for 90 pages of brand new prose but was happy with what I had). Actually I wanted to spend time with family members and guests as I knew that my time in Uttaradit was coming to an end.

The next day (29nov14) would be our last day in Uttaradit. It was on this day that Pailin and I enjoyed our final treatments in Not’s health clinic.

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The front of Not and Font’s home in Uttaradit. You can still see the decorations on the right side of the image, along with one of the two permanent religious buildings in the front yard. From Left: Ann’s sister, the holy woman Ann (Tanakarn; don’t know her last name and in Thailand the ladies’ last names often remain their maiden names), Somchit Sawaddee (a police officer and Ann’s husband), LK, Ford (Sabrina’s son), Pailin, Font, and Not on 29nov2014. Ann, her sister, and Boy, the minister at the ceremonies created most of the decorations. Somchit is a gentleman, a good friend of Font’s, and often visited (I enjoyed all of my time with him). Good times were nearing an end; a happy and yet sad time for LK. (photo on LK’s camera and © Louis Kraft 2014)

Our last day in Uttaradit ended with a meal with Pailin’s and now my family at the P.N. House Resort Restaurant. The group photo of my extended family (below) marked the end of a key piece in my life, a part of me that I’ll never forget (and hope that I’ll revisit).

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This image was taken just before we began our goodbye dinner at the P.N. House Resort restaurant (29nov14). Left to right: Pailin, LK, Ford, Font, Not, Mind, Lek, and Sophon. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

After dinner, we again spent the night at Lek and Sophon’s house. The next morning Font and Not arrived at four in the morning and we began our trip south to Bangkok in Sophon’s extended pickup (pictured above). We arrived at Phichit, the city of Pailin’s birth, which is still in the north, while it was still dark.

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After a quick stop to see some of Pailin’s relatives, we went to the crocodile preserve and got to see these marvelous creatures just as they were waking up, and as close as the preserve allowed us to get (it was tempting to jump down to them, but it didn’t look as if I’d be able to climb back up onto the bridgework if they decided that I’d make a tasty breakfast and started chasing me). Afterwards we returned to Sophon’s pickup and Not served us juice she had made that morning.

Phichit is a special city to Not and Font also, and it was with sadness that we left.

lk_pig_30nov14_wsWe still had many miles to travel before we reached the land to the north of Bangkok. The time passed quickly as Pailin, Not, and Font chatted in Thai and I watched everything that we passed (and sometimes asked questions).

During the drive Font pulled off the main road and we stopped for breakfast. Of course I was interested in soup and fish, and they were the major portion of our breakfast.

Before continuing our trip, I sat on a small pig and Pailin took a photo with her iPad. What can I say, other than, “Once a cowboy, always a cowboy.” (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

On the outskirts of Bangkok (middle Thailand)

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Pailin entering Buengchawark Underwater Sea Paradise on 30nov2014. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

When we reached the Supanburi province Font (and all of us needed a break and he took us on a side trip into the countryside to see a special amusement/science park, which was on Bung Chawak (Chawak Lake). I’m talking about the Buengchawark Underwater Sea Paradise. It was large, and unfortunately our time was limited for we had a set time to hopefully meet up with Mana Subanna and Pen Saelee, who were to connect with us at a predefined location on a major street somewhere (Yep, LK had no clue where we would meet them).

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Pailin and Not leaving Buengchawark Underwater Sea Paradise on 30nov2014. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Not Subanna, & Louis Kraft 2014)

This marine world was cool, and I wish we could have seen more than the crocodile show with the trainers in the water with their star attractions. Great show, and happily the trainers and their pets completed their demonstration without nary an incident. (I wonder if everyone could enjoy a show with Great White Sharks off the coast of SoCal with their trainers and no one got hurt; I hope so, for these fabulous creatures need to survive into the World’s future, and they are protected off California’s coast). The Great Whites are not predators of humankind, and only seldom attack swimmers and surfers who enter their domain. Yes, they are sharks, and can be deadly, but they are also one of the truly magnificent creatures whose domain is the oceans of our great earth.

After meeting up with Mana and Pen, Pailin and I rode with them and Not and Font followed us to a great restaurant (Chaitung) where the chef cooked the fish on a spike in the ground with a metal cylinder covering the fish while flames did the rest.

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At the Chaitung Restaurant from left: Pailin, Not, Font, Pen, and Mana. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

After snapping the above image I wandered the restaurant grounds. Of course I stood out with my wide-brimmed hat and employees (some on break) spoke with me. I returned to our table. Almost everyone was ready to go. I grabbed Pailin and told her I was taking her to meet the cook, whom I had already met. That’s right, I wanted her to translate for the cook and myself as I wanted to understand the cooking process. … I would get more than I asked for, and luckily I was able to photograph how the fish were cooked.

greatRestaurant_psk_howCookFish_30nov14_collage_wsIn Thailand my best moments were with the key people in Pailin’s life. But I was extremely lucky in that I was able to spend prime time with people that my lady didn’t know, such as the school children in the Sword Museum and the cook on the northern outskirts of Bangkok.

Bangkok (central Thailand)

Afterwards Mana and Pen introduced me and reintroduced Pailin to Bangkok traffic, and where little motorcycles are like buzzing flies (by that I mean that they are all over the place). If you think that Los Angeles, California, is large, over-populated, and has a horrendous traffic problem I’ve got news for you—Bangkok knocks LA out by 100 country miles (and that’s an understatement).

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When Mana stopped for a light there were no motorcycles in sight. That didn’t last long, for suddenly we were surrounded, including both sides and the rear of his SUV. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

We spent that night in a hotel where Pum worked. The next morning Pailin and I hugged Not and Font as we exchanged an emotional goodbye.

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Mana and Pen then spent the day showing us the sights in Bangkok, which is a marvelous city, and bustles with activity (including tourism).

Mana has a great Chevrolet SUV. The ladies sat in the back seat and chatted until we drove by an area where both Mana and Pen talked about what we saw. I luckily got to ride shotgun. (photo © Louis Kraft & Mana Subanna 2014)

As Mana maneuvered through downtown Bangkok (heck, all of the city felt like “downtown”), I mentioned the major homeless problem in Los Angeles and he informed me that the homeless problem in Bangkok was also huge. No more than five or seven minutes passed before Mana alerted me that we would soon pass a major homeless city in Bangkok.

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If my memory is decent this homeless city is a long block (and I’m not certain how wide it is). I’m not going to preach about Los Angeles, but this is a gigantic problem in the city that Pailin and I call home. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

We drove by the King’s Palace a number of times as we moved about the city. There is a great statue of pink elephants in an area where cars circle to move in different directions.

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We did stop to view the King’s Palace, and I wondered about the huge crowds that have gathered where we then stood over the decades.

Photo at left: Pen, Pailin, and LK standing in front of the King’s Palace in Bangkok on 1dec2014 (photo by Mana Subanna using LK’s camera, and © Pen Saelee, Mana Subanna, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, and Louis Kraft 2014)

We saw a lot—too much to document with words or pictures, but there was one last area that we visited that I want to mention—Chinatown.

Chinatown! A city within a city that thrives (unlike the Chinatown in Los Angeles, which in recent years struggles to survive; that said Pailin and some of her friends often go to Chinatown in LA to buy herbs, food, and other supplies).

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While the ladies shopped in Chinatown, Mana and I crossed the street and entered a mall to use the restroom. Afterwards we enjoyed coffee at a small shop on the street in front of the mall entry. Soon Pen and Pailin joined us. I took these photos in order and both are full frame. (photos © Mana Subanna, Pen Saelee, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, & Louis Kraft 2014)

It is in Chinatown where Pen works, and it is a bustling area full of life. Whew! It took my breath away.

While hoping not to be repetitive, I’ve never seen a city like Bangkok, and I need to return again to experience it. The city was alive and thriving, it featured the old and the new, rich and poor, and certainly portions of it reeked of money. Mana and Pen shared their home city with us and it reminded me of Los Angeles.

Our last night in Bangkok, special friends, and …

After our tour completed, Mana and Pen drove us to Noi and Wichan Tawon’s home in Bangkok, which is marvelous and has an interior that represents what living in Thailand is like. Unfortunately, Wichan, who is an engineer, wouldn’t join us for hours as he had a four-hour drive one way. (Yes, his commute makes those in Los Angeles little more than a stroll in the park.)

After making Pailin and me feel welcome, Noi prepared a great meal with the help of her houseboy. Pailin is close friends with Noi and Wichan, and she stayed with her friend while Pen, Mana, and I relaxed on the second floor balcony.

After eating the five of us chatted and laughed. Before night arrived Wichan, who knew English arrived, and the gathering morphed into a party atmosphere. We had a lot in common due to me writing for software companies for way too-many years, and hit it off.

1dec14_psk_noi_lk_bangkok_wsIt began to get late and everyone called it a night.

Just before preparing for bed on 1dec2014, this photo was taken of Pailin, Noi, and myself on the second-story balcony (left), which is a great place to entertain. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)


The next morning Pen, Pum, and Mana joined us for breakfast at Noi and Wichan’s.

Of course numerous photos were taken. I have a great one of Wichan and myself on my camera, but I wanted to use an image off of Pailin’s iPad as I wanted a photo of the four of us together.

2dec14_noi_lk_wichan_psk_pskPhone_wsAs stated above, this is a four-shot of us (right). These are two people that I have known for less than a day in person, but they have become my friends for all time. Noi is currently a friend with me on social media, but unfortunately it took our return to the USA before I realized how much Pailin loves Noi and Wichan. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Another photo was captured that morning off of Pailin’s phone, and I like it.

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Mana, Pailin, LK, and Pum are on Noi and Wichan’s second story balcony on 2dec2014. Suddenly our time is speeding toward an end (not something I wanted). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

After a long goodbye (and why not, for we had plenty of time … or so I thought) we packed Mana’s SUV with our belongings and set out for the airport.

As soon as we entered the main street the traffic came to a complete halt. Pedestrians and then more pedestrians walked past the cars that didn’t move. “Are we going to get to the airport,” I nervously asked Mana. “Don’t worry, for we’ll be off this road in half and hour or so,” he said (my understanding of his words). “We’ll then have clear sailing to the airport.” He was right.

Our time at the airport was bittersweet as the minutes rushed past in nanoseconds.

psk&lk_bangkokAirport_2dec14_wsAnother friend of Pailin’s, Daranee Thamtaranon, and her son March, came to the airport to see us off. March had a great digital camera and he took some images.

Pailin and LK shortly before we said goodbye to everyone and went through security. March took the image (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

We went through security and soon the never-ending flight home began.

For the record, Not’s marvelous treatments gave me four
weeks of walking pain free and sleeping at night.

Christmas 2014

Pailin and I chose to spend Christmas day with each other. We didn’t take many photos on this day, but several mean a lot to me.

psk_juice2_earlyAM_xmas2014_3313_wsThe image of Pailin (at left) was taken early in the AM of Christmas morning (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014).

I’m used to getting up early, including on this oh-so special holiday in my life—the birth of Jesus Christ. I’m up early to get the turkey prepped and into the oven, and Pailin wanted join me, help, and learn.

We have drunk homemade juice since the beginning of our relationship, and on this Christmas morning it was no different. For the record, Pailin loves being one of Santa Claus’s helpers.

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Like LK, Pailin knows how to have fun and enjoy the moment. (photos © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft (2014)

Our 2014 was about to end, but first we had an impromptu encounter (it follows); our last hours of 2014 are in the next section.

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LK massaging Pailin on 26dec2014. For the record, I’m not very good (although I try). Pailin depends upon Sabrina to massage her when she hurts and needs a massage (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The end of 2014 was private; a special time for us while Pailin worked for Kobie at the Lily Pad Thai Spa & Massage and for Nina and Pete at Nina’s Tong Thai Spa, and LK worked on The DiscoverySand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and a cover feature for Wild West magazine, “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude.” During this time we continued to redesign Tujunga House and make it both Pailin’s and my home.

Pailin was about to end a great year. She had her Green Card; had met some of my good friends and major Indian wars companions John Monnett, Tomas Jaehn, and Glen Williams; and had obtained her California driver’s license. But we still had to deal with our health and moving forward in an economy that was huge in comparison to a big portion of the United States. One quick example: According to the Los Angeles Times, the price of a gallon of gasoline is over $1.00 more than the average cost of gasoline for the rest of the USA. This isn’t a lone example, and it is something that we must deal with on a daily and monthly basis.

The end of 2014 and early 2015

December 2014 ended quickly after our quiet Christmas and before we knew it the 31st of the month had arrived. I would spend the evening with Pailin and Sabrina at Wat Thai of Los Angeles in North Hollywood. Good time for LK.

I believe the following introduces you to Sabrina Subanna in this blog (if you follow my blogs you know who she is), and I need a quick introduction of her. She is Pailin’s niece and only relative in the USA (you’ll learn about their relationship below).

psk_sabrina_lk_montage_31dec14_1jan2015_wsI don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve and haven’t for decades—too much drinking and firecrackers and guns … with very little police activity. This is not the LA Police Department or the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s fault, for they are underpaid and understaffed for a city and county the size of Los Angeles. I prefer peace, quiet, and safety, … and more law enforcement officers should be hired.

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Minutes after the arrival of 2015. The building at the right and center background is the temple at Wat Thai of Los Angeles. I snapped the image from the second floor of the room where we had prayed with the monks. The darkness at the lower portion of the image is where there is a staircase heading downstairs (below ground level) where there is a courtyard and a large room for meetings and meals. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

After the prayers ended Pailin, Sabrina, and I mingled with the crowd as we worked our way down the staircase.

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Left to right: Sabrina Subanna, LK, and Pailin Subanna-Kraft at Wat Thai of Los Angeles (North Hollywood, Calif.) during the early minutes of 2015. (photo © Sabrina Subanna, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, & Louis Kraft 2015).

Pailin, Sabrina, and I welcomed in the new year at Wat Thai of Los Angeles in North Hollywood. The evening began chilly but the room where everyone prayed with the monks was warm. Afterwards, when we reached the main level of the Thai center where booths were set up and people moved about as they welcomed in 2015 we realized how much the temperature had dropped while we had prayed.

 

 

Encino Chamber of Commerce visits Nina’s Tong Thai Spa

On 28jan2015 Pete Senoff* hosted a large event at his and his wife Nina’s shop, Nina’s Tong Thai Spa, in Encino. A large number of people attended; there were speeches and documents welcoming Nina’s Tong Thai Spa as a member of the Encino Chamber of Commerce.

* Pete had gone to high school with me and we got along, although we lost contact after graduation. He located me in 2012, and our friendship began anew.

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(Group photo © Pete Senoff 2015. … Pete & Nina Senoff photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

During the event, attendees were treated to Thai food that included Pailin’s soup and other selections of food catered by Siri Thai Cuisine of Burbank, California.

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(photos © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2015)

The Autry National Center Masters of Art Exhibit

The Autry National Center (now the Autry Museum of the American West; ouch, for I can’t keep up with the name changes over the years) hosts an art exhibit that begins in late January and ends in March. These art shows are first class in both the art exhibited and the presentation.

autryMastersArt_7mar2015_driveMontage_wsOver the years the Autry has drawn some of the best western artists to their competition,, and the reason why is evidentthe possibility of a huge payday.

psk_johnColeman_honeymoon_atCrowFair_3418_7mar15_wsPailin stands in front of John Coleman’s magnificent bronze (image at left), “Honeymoon at Crow Fair” (which I assume is in Montana, for that is the only Crow Fair that I know of). Apparently Coleman created five of the bronzes and one was for sale/auction—it sold for $175,000, and it was well worth every dollar. It was my favorite piece of art in the show. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

To realize how important the Autry’s Masters of the American West exhibit and sale was, we need to return to Howard Terpning, whose “The Patrol—1877” was displayed on the post card advertisement for the exhibit. Although Terpning doesn’t name participants, per a conversation I had elsewhere on social media re-enactors posed for his painting, and several of them represented real people. Terpning stated that he based his painting upon an incident that he had read about during the Sioux wars. BTW, Terpning is an Autry favorite and often his work has the key location in the exhibitions and wins major awards. “The Patrol—1877” was listed at $950,000 but sold at auction for $1.3 million. I first discovered Terpning in the 1970s in Scottsdale, Arizona, and then his mostly Apache wars paintings listed for $10,000 to $18,000. (Talk about missing an investment opportunity.)

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David Mann, “First of Five Thousand.” Unfortunately the Plains Indians are not identified, something that I would like. Also, here the painting’s story is about a raid that is returning home to Canada with horses stolen in Mexico. One problem for me: I don’t know of any Plains Indian raids the resulted in obtaining 5,000 horses, and worse that is one long journey with 5,000 stolen animals. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2015)

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While talking about bleeding art or photos across pages in books or magazines, this is something that the Wild West magazine’s art director needs to realize—bleeding an image across pages ruins the impact of the image.

There was a lot of wonderful artistic works to see. We took our time and enjoyed the show, returning to pieces that we especially liked on numerous occasions.

A special gift from my beautiful wife

Since the cataract surgeries earlier in 2015 my eyes have become very sensitive to the sun and bright lights.

psk_BDgift_toLK_15apr15_hueSat_borderLK leaning against the archway that leads into the kitchen at Tujunga House in spring 2015 (left). Pailin gave these sun glasses to me for my birthday (they are not the glasses that I wore to the Autry National Center in March; I know, it is now the Autry Museum of the American West, but it wasn’t back then). I wear the sun glasses often. Beyond protecting my eyes from harmful rays they provide me with the feeling of being “cool.” At my age being cool is a good thing, for it lets me feel as I if I still contribute writing that is valid, and, other than loving and cherishing Pailin and my daughter, have a reason for living. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2015)

Late spring into early fall 2015

A mix of gunfighters, hide & seek, and Wild Bill Hickok

Sometime in late spring Pailin and I began reverting back to younger days.

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At times when we play a fun game one of us has at times captured an image, such as this photo that Pailin took on 18jun2015. The photo of Pailin on the desk was taken the first time that I photographed her wearing a cowboy hat. At that time I began calling her a “Thai cowgirl.” (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2015)

It was along the line of hide and seek but with the gunfighters of the Wild West thrown in; that is, which one of us could come out of hiding and shoot quicker with our finger guns (as I did as a child).

This began one time when Pailin returned home to Tujunga House and entered the front door. I waited in hiding until she was well within the house. I then jumped from my hiding spot and shot her with my finger. She clutched her stomach as she slumped to the floor. It was minutes before she could get up as she laughed and laughed. Pailin loved it, and suddenly we had a game that mimicked our youth and at the same time was pure fun.

psk_lk_fingerColtMontage_4jun15_wsIt has been so much fun that when one of us returns home (or even when both of us are home) we at times engage in our game. When young I had cap guns and holsters and cowboy hats, and so did my friends. Where I lived in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles, Calif.) was rural with lots of open spaces for wanna-be gunslingers to hide and at the right moment have a showdown with a friend. I was often Tex Ritter and some of my pals were Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, or someone else.

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Pailin sneaking out of a hallway at Tujunga House, as our fun continued on 17jun2016. (photo © Palin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

At times it has gotten elaborate. By that I mean both of us have done whatever possible to gain the upper hand in a potential shootout. I’m by far the worst at this as I write at home, which gives me an incredible advantage. For example, one night I made certain that all the interior lights that were normally on were on. I then hid under the dinning room table. Pailin entered, placed her gear where she usually did, including an item or two in the dinning room. But at that point she wasn’t looking for me. Now she was and I could hear her carefully move through the house. She didn’t find me, and unsure what was happening, she returned to the kitchen and turned on the light. I pushed the chair from the table and finger-shot her. She slumped to the floor. I crossed to her as she stood. “You are a bad boy,” Pailin said as we hugged and kissed.

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Pailin and I took some publicity shots in early September 2015, but most were not two-shots. This one I liked, but unfortunately sunlight blasted us from behind and I couldn’t bring our images into focus. On 12sept2015 I used the faded and out-of-focus photo as the basis for a painting. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

The scout, lawman, and gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok is in this section for as soon as I read Johnny D. Boggs’ great novel about Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody’s theatrical troop on a tour of the East in the early 1870s (East of the Border, 2004), I knew that I wanted to play Hickok on the stage. I have given a copy of the book to my friend and director Tom Eubanks, who, if he likes it will buy in (He has directed all of my Ned Wynkoop one-man shows and Cheyenne Blood). Alas, Boggs has remained silent (even though his wife and my friend, Lisa Smith, thinks that it is a good idea to turn his novel into a play).

Pailin, as seen above with the Sand Creek and Kit Carson research, is someone who can not only support my interest in America’s frontier past, but is someone who enjoys spending time with my friends and stepping back into that time now long gone.

July 4, 2015

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Pailin with Nina and Sabrina in the Tujunga House dining room shortly after our 4jul15 get together began in the late afternoon. For the record Pailin is drinking cranberry juice and Sabrina is drinking honey, lemon, and water (which is a major drink in Pailin’s and LK’s lives). The soup is Thai Miso soup, with broth by Pailin and the ingredients by her and Nina. … Sabrina wanted to enjoy an “American” dinner and this is always something that I like to provide. The dinner would be simple: A salad with a special dressing that I make, sautéed vegetables, roasted potatoes, and salmon. Pailin requested an image of the salmon.

Pailin's Birthday Party Collage

Our friend Pete Senoff created this montage of Pailin’s birthday and July 4 celebration. Although small, you can see Pailin, Nina Senoff, Sabrina Subanna, Carlos Castillo, and LK. Unfortunately Pete isn’t in any of the images.

Vee, Saul, and a special evening w/good friends

A number of years back my great friend Veronica (Vee) von Bernarth Morra found me and we resumed our friendship that began during our college years in the dark ages.

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Vee, Pailin, and Saul, at the dinner table in Saul’s great town home in Los Angeles on 8jul2015. There were just the four of us and Vee and Saul sat across the table from Pailin and myself. I had asked them to come together on this side of the table so that I could photograph them. You can see the happiness and joy on Vee and Pailin’s faces, and the contentment on Saul’s face. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

This lady—Vee—is easily one of my best friends of all time, and I’m lucky to know her. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for her) she lives on the East Coast of our great country—the United States of America. Luckily for me, she is able to travel to the West Coast to see her good friend Saul Salodow (who studied theater with me in college; he went on to having a great career as a film editor in Los Angeles). When Vee visited Saul in summer in 2015, Saul invited us to his home. He’s a terrific cook, and better the four of us enjoyed another great late afternoon and evening. I do hope that our four-way relationship continues for Pailin and I love it. BTW, Vee has become one of Pailin’s best friends in America—no small statement.

A wasted trip to the Autry in July

The Autry National Center had announced what sounded like a great exhibit and Pailin and I looked forward to seeing it.

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The oversized poster at the entry to the exhibit promised something special. It wasn’t, and I place the blame on research and conception. We spent no more than 15 or 20 minutes looking at it. (photo © Palin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Once we were inside the main building of the Autry we realized that no cameras were allowed in the exhibit, and thought that it was because there were a lot of short video clips with voice overs. Perhaps. All I can say is that we didn’t stay long, and the reason was simple—the exhibit reeked of money but failed to deliver what it proclaimed. Worse, it added information to the exhibit that really didn’t belong in it other than certain celebrities had name value—such as George Armstrong Custer, who spent his entire Civil War career fighting for the North in the East. Although he wouldn’t travel to the western frontier until 1866 and not deal with American Indians until 1867, the Autry thought his demise at the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 was directly connected to the Civil War. I totally disagree. But hey, his name sells tickets.

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We had parked across the street from the Autry on 15jul2015, and after we crossed the street I asked Pailin to pose next to my favorite bush with the Autry National Center in the background. For the record I originally had two of these bushes that were rescued next to railroad tracks in Duarte, Calif., and now have six. (photo © Palin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

The exhibit had a great title, “Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West.” It opened on 25apr2015, and was a total disappointment. … I often wonder how much information that I read is inaccurate (read: error-riddled by lazy “so-called” historians who don’t do real research and repeat previously printed errors or create fiction—read “invented” history—to sell a point of view or conception). I know a fair amount about Kit Carson, the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, and George Custer, so if something is out of place or wrong it stands out like a red flag. For example, Kit had reddish-blond hair, but the Autry decided to use a painting of him on horseback at full gallop. Two problems here: The rider didn’t look like Kit and his hair was pitch black (none of which were mentioned). … I wonder how many people now think that Carson had black hair. The Sand Creek exhibit had numerous errors, obvious errors corrected decades ago, and so bad, that I didn’t bother to take any notes. Actually there is a recent Custer book that won a Pulitzer Prize (to date I’ve read two pages, and both featured major errors). There is also an Apache wars book that places a person who wasn’t with Geronimo at the last surrender in 1886, something that was proven without a doubt in From Cochise to Geronimo, 2010, which the author listed in his bibliography but then ignored the facts. … As too many “so-called” historians have said to me: “I don’t care about truth; I care about selling books.” I hate to say it, but a good portion of the American Indian wars and the Golden Age of Cinema history stuffed down the reading public’s throats is little more than lies, deceit, and bullshit.

Pailin and the a2zheath.net Massage Schools

In mid-August 2015 Pailin began attending a school that would dominate her time until mid-March 2016. It was something that she excelled at as she was already a superb massage therapist, but she had to spend a lot of time translating the assigned books into Thai so that she could comprehend what the words meant (and this was ongoing during the class).

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From left: Pailin, Sylvia, and Jessica in the room where they performed massages as they learned. I believe that this image was taken by their instructor. (8sept2015).

Pailin enjoyed the classes, both lecture and the hands-on training, with the instructors and the other students. During the hands-on training the students took turns being the client.

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This image is of Pailin, Mimi (Pailin’s friend, and the sister of Kobie, who owns the Lily Pad Thai Massage & Spa in Sherman Oaks, Calif.), and Dr. Ben Drillings, who is the owner of the a2zhealth.net Massage Schools (Reseda and Thousand Oaks, Calif.). They were at a 14may16 street expo hosted by the city of Simi Valley. Pailin and Mimi provided free massages to people who lined up to receive them.

After completing 550 hours of training and studies Pailin participated in a number of Expos that were either sponsored by a2zhealth.net Massage Schools or by other organizations, such as the city of Simi Valley, which is in Simi Valley and to the to west of the northern portion of the San Fernando Valley (Chatsworth). When I was young there was a narrow road that wound through the Santa Susana Pass (called the Old Santa Susana Pass Road now) and allowed access between the two valleys. Great for motorcycle rides, …  and many western films had location shoots in the general area of the Simi Hills and the Santa Susana Mountains (including Errol Flynn’s great 1941 film, They Died with Their Boots On). There is also infamy attached to the pass for in the late 1960s mass-murderer Charles Manson and his followers lived at the Spahn Ranch (a stop on the road, and I spent numerous hours there). Now access between the valleys is via California State Route 118, later named the Ronald Reagan Freeway (as Simi Valley is the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library).

LK is responsible for keeping his fans

The above heading is one of the most important statements that I have ever made. The LK website/blog was created to function as my publicity, for I have no publicity manager, and to help sell magazine article pitches, book pitches, books after they become reality, and hopefully to keep the fans of LK’s writing and presentations aware of his current and future projects. … I don’t sell on the website/blog as I’m not a salesman. That said, the goal has always been to keep those interested in my work aware of what I am doing at all times.

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This publicity photo of LK was taken in the front of Tujunga House on 17sept2015. Obviously the image is a piece of acting as I’m blowing imaginary smoke from an 1860 Army Colt revolver replica that has never been loaded or fired. That’s right, the revolver is a stage prop that I have used every time that I played Ned Wynkoop in one-man shows and when I played Wynkoop in Cheyenne Blood. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

I do this with prose, commentary, images, and art. And believe me keeping the website/blog alive is no easy task. If I told you how many hours I spend to keep those interested in what I am up to, you would be shocked. That said, the website/blog has easily become one of the most important work-related tasks that I perform.

Grover Cleveland High School 50-year reunion

A couple of my friends, Pete Senoff and Gloria Watts, played a large role (with others) for making the Grover Cleveland High School (GCHS) reunion a special event. Pailin met Pete and Nina early on in our relationship, and it was at Nina’s Tong Thai Spa that she first met Gloria.

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Pailin and LK on the Red Carpet that led to the check in for the event (17oct2015). Although I didn’t recognize him, the fellow with the mask is Milt Rouse. Soon after he had removed it and I remembered him immediately. I asked about the lady in the white dress. He said, “I don’t know who she is; she was standing in front of me in line.”

The GCHS reunion took place at the Sheraton Agoura Hills  Hotel (Agoura Hills, Calif.) on 17oct2015.

After leaving high school I really didn’t spend much time keeping up with school mates, and wasn’t sure what would happen. I’m certain that Pailin was a little on edge as she didn’t know anyone other than Nina, Pete, and Gloria.

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Pailin and LK on the red carpet entry to the GCHS event.

Nina and Pete are our friends, and they were two major pluses for Pailin on this night. And of course we sat with them.

Although I thought that Nina was the first Thai person that I knew, I was wrong. I had met Nam Maradei in the mid-2000s when a group of writers, historians, and fans was created to study and celebrate the life of Errol Flynn, the legendary film actor who wasn’t racially prejudiced (despite continued fictions that have been reprinted so many times that most now pass as truths).

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Pailin with Kirk Lamb and Christine Van Laar Burgoyne at the GCHS reunion on 17oct2015. I met Kirk in seventh grade and Christine in the fifth grade (photo by Louis Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Kirk Lamb, Christine Van Laar Burgoyne & Louis Kraft 2015)

The night before I had joined a gathering of people at the hotel, and was able to spend good time with Pete (Nina and Pailin weren’t available to join us) and Gloria, and some friends that I hadn’t seen since high school. One was a thrill for me to see, Christine Van Laar Burgoyne. Pete had created a terrific short video that highlighted eight people who had taken their lives in unique directions; Christine, Gloria, and I were among the highlighted.

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Pailin at the GCHS reunion on 17oct2015. She is with Judy Clover (left) and Sharon Lockwood. Judy and Sharon took acting classes with me, and both are still actively acting. … Judy and I reunited at a GCHS birthday party in 2012 and have become friends on social media. (photo by Louis Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Judy Clover, Sharon Lockwood & Louis Kraft 2015)

Pailin, although nervous at first, mixed in nicely with some of my friends from high school.

The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016

With the beginning of 2015 I had no more time, for major writing deadlines stared me in the face. That said, I always found time for those I love—special days at Tujunga House with my beautiful lady Pailin and the people dear to our lives (along with some special days not at home).

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 was a small affair, as usual. It is great to be able to hang out with our guests as we want to enjoy their company. As in the recent past, our Thanksgiving was a mix of Thai food and traditional American food (with Pailin cooking the Thai food and LK cooking the American food).

On this Thanksgiving it was Pailin, LK, and our family, Sabrina Subanna and Carlos Castillo. At that time a student from Belgium was living with them, and we invited her also.

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Our family from left: LK, Pailin, Carlos, and Sabrina. Standing between Carlos and Sabrina is Alexandra (Alex), an exchange student from Belgium who was then staying with them. Alex began her college career at home in 2016, with her major focusing upon becoming a film director. … We are in the Tujunga House dinning room just before we prayed and ate. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2015)

Nam & Greg Maradei’s Christmas Party

Nam and Greg hosted a Christmas dinner party on 17dec2015. Nam had decorated their apartment to give it a definite Christmas feeling, much as I remember when young. She also made a marvelous dinner for everyone. It was my kind of party; small and cozy (about nine people). I think that it was on this night that I met Jasmine Koomroongroj for the first time.

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Although a lot of pictures seemed to be taken that night, I only received two from the evening (this image, and another just like it). Think it was taken with Sabrina’s iPad. Front: Sabrina Subanna, Carlos Castillo. Back: LK, Pailin, and Cherry (Somchit Kaewpanyo). … Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera.

Christmas 2015

I cherish and love Jesus Christ and this is a major day in my life. I walk with Jesus and God every day and I talk to them every day. This is who I am. … You should know that I hate the commercialization of this sacred time that represents his birth.

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The early morning sunlight shoots through the dinning room into the kitchen as Pailin prepares beans for Christmas that will begin in late morning and will last into the night. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

As said above we love hosting small parties at Tujunga House, and these days are a large portion of our social life. For those of you that aren’t aware of it, SoCal has great winters (as a boy I was always able to play football with my friends on Christmas afternoons in 70-degree weather and under blue skies).

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The turkey is cooking and the ladies (left to right: Pailin, Nina Senoff, and Sabrina Subanna) are enjoying themselves. Soup has been served (and if I haven’t said it, Pailin’s soup is out of this world). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

By the morn of the 25th all our cleaning was done, and all we had to do was prepare for the day. … Again our guest list was small so we could spend time with everyone.

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Front: LK and Sabrina Subanna. Back: Carlos Castillo, Pete Senoff, and Nina Senoff. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2015)As the sun began to set in the west the temperatures dropped big time.

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The sun still blasts us from the west, but the temperatures have suddenly gotten a lot colder than a normal Christmas day. We added coats and I wrapped the scarf that Sabrina and Carlos had given me, to block the coming cold. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

The day dawned beautifully, but there was a breeze which was unusual at this time of year. Sabrina and Carlos arrived in late morning and helped setting up Christmas decorations in the backyard at Tujunga House.

Pete and Nina Senoff joined us in late afternoon (my daughter and her mother joined us after dark).

This was not something that we expected but it had become reality. Light clothing no longer kept anyone warm. Both Pailin and I increased our wardrobe accordingly, as did everyone else.

To this point in time, other than adding extra clothing, everyone had had a good time. As said above, Christmas day is special for me. At the same time I can accept people of other races and religions. Pailin is Buddhist, and I am good with this as shown above.

Spring 2016

A special birthday …

Sabrina Subanna told me that we are family in 2015. She was talking about Pailin and myself, she and Carlos, and hers and Pailin’s family in Thailand (and my daughter and her mother). You should know that although Pailin is “aunt” and Sabrina is “niece,” they are really like “sisters.”

sabrina_earlyBD_2may16_TH_2014_DiscoveryCollage_wsEvery time that Sabrina and Carlos visit is a special time, and Pailin and I are always good with socializing in the morning.

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Carlos Castillo brought the cake for Sabrina’s birthday at Tujunga House on 2may2016. Left to right: Pailin, Sabrina, and Carlos. (photo by Louis Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Sabrina Subanna, Carlos Castillo, & Louis Kraft 2016)

For the record, Carlos and I hit it off when we first met. He’s a bright fellow, and like me not racial. We can talk about anything. … This brings me back to Pailin, for she, like me, has no racial prejudices. She is good and open with all people regardless of their color, race, or religion. She is a godsend into my life, making me the luckiest guy in the world.

Sabrina’s birthday is actually on 4may2016, and on that night we celebrated her birthday at Khao Tom in Hollywood, California.

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Sabrina’s BD party at Khao Tom in Hollywood, Calif., on 4may2016. Left to right: Carlos Castillo, Jasmine Koomroongroj, Sabrina Subanna, and Pailin Subanna-Kraft. A fun night. (photo © Louis Kraft 2016)

I hate to say it but the lonely road that this writer wanders has a lot to do with my immediate family, for other than my daughter none of them still walk this earth. Sabrina confirmed what I felt in Thailand and instantly felt at the end of 2014 when Pailin and I returned home from Thailand, for at that time I had been in a country that I didn’t know but with people who in a flash of time became my brothers and sisters. I had never experienced this before.

Pailin, lemons, & peanuts at Tujunga House in mid-May

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(photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Pailin in the back yard of Tujunga House on 16may2016. This is one of my favorite images of her. She is pulling a lemon from one of our lemon trees. Lemons are major in our lives. We cook with them, drink water with them, Pailin uses them in the Salsa Verde that she creates, and most important they are a major part of the honey-lemon drink that we enjoy daily. … She had just cooked the peanuts and was outside to shuck the dark covering off them. The birds enjoy the nuts that also fly off the pan.

The Green Day Spa

Jasmine Koomroongroj, who already owned and operated the Green Day Spa, had an opening for a new partner as her then partner wanted to leave the company. Earlier this year she approached Pailin.

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I’m a little out of my linear progression here as Pailin became partners with Jasmine earlier in the year, but the pictures that I want to share here are more recent. … Almost immediately the Green Day Spa became a major piece in Pailin’s life. This was an absolutely great decision by Pailin for Jasmine is a wonderful person, and I can’t think of a better person for her to work with and call “partner.”

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I really like this image of Pailin and Jasmine, and even though it was taken at Khao Tom in Hollywood on Sabrina’s birthday I wanted to use it here. (photo © Louis Kraft, Jasmine Koomroongroj, and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2016)

Even better for Pailin, the Green Day Spa is about a 10 minute drive from Tujunga House, and when you consider working and driving in Los Angeles this is an amazing plus. When I wrote for software companies in Los Angeles, other than Yahoo! (about 2½ miles), my shortest drive was 26 miles one way.

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Jasmine and Pailin are in the lobby of the Green Day Spa on 14jun2016. (photo © Louis Kraft, Jasmine Koomroongroj, and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2016)

What is also great is that Sabrina works with Jasmine and Pailin, and from what I’ve seen these ladies really like each other, … they look after each other and take care of each other. As Pailin recently told me, and I’ve known this as I’ve seen it: “We share our meals, … and we give before we receive. It’s our culture.” (Another similarity with the Cheyenne Indians.)

Also good for Pailin is that she is still able to work for Kobie at Lily Pad Thai Massage & Spa, which is a great place to work for there is no bullshit or double standards.

Gifts & food for the monks at Wat Thai of Los Angeles

On Sunday, 22may2016 the people of Thai celebrated the death of Buddha. Sabrina and Carlos were going to pray and provide gifts and to feed the monks, as were our good friends Nam and Greg Maradei. Pailin and I joined them.

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Greg Maradei took this image with LK’s iPhone shortly after all six of us were together. Nam Maradei (left), Carlos Castillo, Pailin, Sabrina Subanna, and LK are standing at the bottom of the staircase that leads to the west entrance of the temple at Wat Thai of Los Angeles. (photo © Louis Kraft, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Nam Maradei, Sabrina Subanna, Carlos Castillo, & Greg Maradei 2016)

When we arrived we had the exterior to ourselves, as we didn’t know that Sabrina and Carlos were praying in the temple. We wandered about and chatted, and eventually Pailin chose the table location where she wanted to hand her gifts to the monks (including a great packet of Chinese coffee with ginseng that I love) with plenty of room for Nam and Sabrina. Sabrina and Carlos appeared and joined us. Before the monks began to move through the line Nam and Greg arrived and we were a sixsome.

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The little girl had been watching me from about 10 yards away. When she saw that I was alone she ran to me to say hello. We talked for about five minutes while her mother called for her to stop bothering me. She wasn’t, and I enjoyed her company. After she returned to her mother I stepped back to Pailin. She held up the coffee and I took the second image in the montage. (photos © Louis Kraft 2016)

After snapping the image of Pailin holding the coffee I didn’t rejoin our group. Instead I returned to the temple and stepped onto a ramp that also leads to the west entry into the temple.

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I relaxed while Nam, Sabrina, and Pailin, along with Greg and Carlos waited to share the ladies gifts as the monks approached. Pailin captured this image of me as I watched her on 22may2016. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2016)

Over the years I have spent a lot of time visiting Wat Thai of Los Angeles. Always to support Pailin, but there is much more to my presence. First I need to say that the monks have always made me feel welcome at Wat Thai of Los Angeles, and often they have been concerned about my welfare. Secondly, I have been able to spend prime time with people I care about—Pailin, Sabrina and Carlos, Nina and Pete, Nam and Greg. Although I am a Christian I have seen a lot about Buddhism that is good and real and more important I have seen how it not only affects people that I care about and love, but how it provides them with a positive attitude on living in our world. What I’m trying to say here is that I see a lot of peace and acceptance of the world that surrounds them. Moreover, they can open their arms to people, such as I, who are different from them and embrace them as human beings. I see no racial hatred or persecution, … just kindness, friendship, and with Pailin and Sabrina and Nam a love without end. This gives me strength to walk through our world of woe that is engulfed by religious and racial hatred, and terrorism without end.

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Pailin (right in wide-brimmed black hat) gives a gift to the first monk to reach her on 22may2016. To her right are Carlos, Sabrina, and Greg. Nam is hidden behind the monk’s assistant (in the foreground). (photo © Louis Kraft 2016)

Nam is my friend, who back in 2013 asked if she could bring a coworker—Pailin—to a dinner party for five that I hosted (two couples plus myself) on June 15. Although at first both Pailin and I said no, Nam was persistent and we gave into her request. Nam and Greg brought Pailin to the dinner party. Although we didn’t know it then, this day would change Pailin’s and my life (see the blog listed at the top of this blog for details about this meeting).

Bottom line: LK is the luckiest guy walking this earth for Pailin is my lady—today, tomorrow, and forever.

The monks reached Nam, Sabrina, and finally Pailin, and my best image from the staircase happened with the first monk.

After the gifts were passed out Pailin, Nam, Sabrina, and Greg stepped inside the temple to pray while Carlos and I found a shaded area to sit under and talk.

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From left: Nam Maradei, Pailin, and Sabrina Subanna. Greg Maradei shot this photo using Pailin’s iPhone while the four of them were inside Wat Thai of Los Angeles to pray.

When the noon hour neared the ladies prepared the food that they had cooked for the monks in a large room downstairs in one of the numerous buildings at the complex.

22may16_psk_BuddhaDeath1_wsWe accompanied our wives and observed and helped them out when possible.

I captured this image of Pailin as she prepared her food for the monks, who hadn’t appeared yet. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 0216)

After the feast was set up the monks slowly began to enter the room, and after blessings began to eat at the tables set up for them. As usual everyone else would eat after the monks had finished eating. This was taking a long time, and Sabrina, Carlos, Pailin, and I had work we needed to do and as we couldn’t wait we left an hour later.

A big-time birthday for the top monk in Los Angeles

I hate to say it but every day is a work day for me, and this Sunday of 12jun2016 was no different. Although I knew that going to Wat Thai of Los Angeles on this day would cost me hours of lost work time I joined Pailin, Carlos and Sabrina, and Nam and Greg Maradei at this wonderful temple in North Hollywood.

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This event was too big to have the gift giving surrounding Wat Thai and it was moved to the northern parking lot. From right: Pailin, Sabrina, and two unidentified women (think photo by Carlos on Pailin’s iPhone and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2016)

Many monks joined the celebration (I think 79), and as always the celebration had an aura of holiness and festivity. We had arrived near the start time and yet had to park blocks away from the temple. Once we entered the grounds we headed for the northern portion of the property where offerings were being made to the long line of monks. Pailin found Sabrina and Carlos and joined them in the line, while I rested under a covered table area near where the various food vendors set up for the events. A short while later Carlos found me and we chatted until we decided to join our ladies. Our timing wasn’t timely for the gift presentation had ended. We returned to the tabes and sat to talk. Without warning a procession of monks, followers, and musicians turned the corner of Wat Thai and began to pass us. Pailin and Sabrina raced to join the procession while Pailin called to me to take a photo, No camera today, and by the time the procession had passed I still hadn’t turned on my phone (I guess that I now have another nickname: “Klutz Kraft”).

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This image of Sabrina (left), Nam, Pailin, and Greg was captured on Pailin’s cell phone by Carlos in the room where the monks would enjoy their lunch. For the record, Nam and Greg Maradei have been wonderful friends over the years.

Unfortunately the marching participants didn’t make a second pass around Wat Thai, and I had missed a photo op I wish I had made (I should have turned into a paparazzi photographer and ran after the parade—alas, I hate playing a slimeball).

Time passed quickly, and soon it was time to move to the building that has an entry one floor below street level. While Sabrina and Pailin placed the food that they had prepared on plates for the monks to enjoy Nam and Greg arrived. Good seeing my friends, but suddenly I had exceeded my time limit and needed to return to Tujunga House and work.

Father’s Day (and the last day of spring)

In the morning Sabrina, with Pailin assisting, gave me a complete deep tissue massage at the Green Day Spa. My feet hurt for the rest of the day but then were good for about two weeks. As always we enjoyed ourselves with Sabrina and Carlos (who received a massage after me). And good for us as Nam and Greg Maradei popped in at the Green Day Spa on their way to the beach to pick up a copy of The Discovery.

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After my massage on 19jun16 and after Greg and Nam left (unfortunately they were only with us for a few minutes) Pailin captured this image of the four of us just before we left. Right to left: LK, Pailin, Sabrina Subanna, and Carlos Castillo. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2016)

Pailin dropped me off at home and then drove to Nina’s Tong Thai Spa, where she worked late into the night as she and Nina were busy.

A little after six my daughter and her mother visited to wish me a happy Father’s Day and we enjoyed an easy three-hour conversation about health. A good day for me, and perhaps my best Father’s Day in a long time, as I had stopped celebrating this day after my father had died on 14feb1999.

Summer 2016

Another 4th of July w/360 degrees of illegal explosions + Pailin’s BD

Moving forward there hasn’t been much to document. The 4th of July is not my favorite holiday for I often spend the night watching for fire in my yard. That’s right, even though fireworks are totally illegal in Los Angeles we had lived in a war zone for the past two plus weeks before the big show went live.

As Sabrina and Carlos wanted to celebrate Pailin’s birthday (which is on the fifth) we made it an affair with salmon, salad, corn, a hot Thai salad for Sabrina and Pailin, and birthday cake that Carlos and Sabrina brought on the hideous day/night of July 4. As always good times for us. We talked seriously and joked and enjoyed each other’s company. Although last year’s 4th of July celebration went into the night with everyone inside, on this night I warned Carlos and Sabrina that they’d be climbing an extension ladder to the roof top of the Tujunga House garage (which is not connected to the house) to experience a local fireworks show gone wild; that’s right, nothing would be shut down, there would be no police presence, and certainly no sirens. Basically a free-for-all display of illegal fireworks to the east, north, west, and south.

They arrived at four-thirty in the afternoon.

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Pailin and I had been working seven days per week, and other than some of the religious functions at Wat Thai of Los Angeles we really hadn’t done much in 2016. This day was special, as it was one day before Pailin’s birthday, both Sabrina and Carlos had the day off, and it would be prime time for the four of us. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2016)

Soon after their arrival we celebrated Pailin’s birthday, Sabrina and Carlos gave her gifts and a magnificent cake. I had a bite, as I don’t eat this type of food (and it was delicious). … The sun was still high in the west, but no matter for explosions began to surround Tujunga House. …

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Pailin holding a cool glass horse that Sabrina and Carlos gave her on her birthday. This is my favorite photo off my camera. It is sometime before five, and we still have great light coming in the dinning room from the east, southeast, and northeast windows. (photo © Louis Kraft, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Sabrina Subanna, and Carlos Castillo 2016)

After enjoying each-other’s company and celebrating my beautiful wife’s birthday I began cooking the salmon on the barbecue.

Earlier in the day I had set the extension ladder against the garage and had placed chairs on the roof top. My neighbors to the south were hosting a large party and already they had begun to ignite fireworks. They waved to me and I said hello and I told them of my plans.

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Pailin on the Tujunga House garage roof shortly before night on 4jul2016 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

When darkness neared Pailin was first on the garage roof as she was excited for the night to begin. I soon followed her, and both of us attempted to capture our southern neighbors’ fireworks party. No-no-no!!! For they didn’t like this, stopped igniting fireworks, and quickly left the backyard only to move their massive holiday extravaganza of explosions to the front yard. (I made it clear to everyone that we wouldn’t follow them as it might anger them). Believe it or not, back in the 1970s had I learned to live with people that carried knives and revolvers, and could explode at a moment’s notice.

Yes, the 4th of July is surround-sound explosions and brilliant colors streaking across the skies in all directions. These are not fireworks shot off at local parks, rather they are illegal; many of which I clean up in my yard on July 5th.

I knew that once night had fallen (and Pailin knew this too) that the sky would explode in light and color as bombs and guns exploded around us. We also knew from past experience that LA’s finest (headquartered about a mile and a half from Tujunga House) would not make an appearance on this night. There were would be no police cars, no sirens, no officers telling people to stop and desist, and there would be no arrests. For the record, the explosions would continue well after the midnight hour.

4jul16_weirdFireworks_color_collage_wsGood news: Our drought resistant vegetation (and Tujunga House) survived yet another invasion. The 4th of July is about American independence and yet for us it is about survival. Something’s wrong here.

pskBD_5jul16_collage_wsThe next morning I celebrated Pailin’s birthday. Although I couldn’t take her to a film—The Legend of Tarzan—on her special day I did the following day. Other than Errol Flynn’s The Roots of Heaven (1958), this was the first American film that I had taken Pailin to see. As with the Flynn film, which dealt with saving elephants from extinction in Africa, the new Tarzan film dealt with saving Africa from the rape of its resources (and more important it dealt with race relations). She liked the film.

A final few words

Who I am and what I do

I am a writer/historian who writes all sorts of documents. Simply put I try to write readable prose with accurate facts (something many writers don’t do).

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LK on Lasky Mesa, which is in the hills at the west end of the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles, Calif., and for the record the city of Agoura Hills is in the county of Los Angeles, roughly 10 miles outside the city limits of Los Angeles). I am standing in front of the area where Errol Flynn, who played George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On (1941), led the Seventh U.S. Cavalry toward their deaths at the battle of the Little Bighorn on 25jun1876. On 13jul16 great friend and fellow Flynn historian Robert Florczak showed me the various film locations that he had located for this and other films on Lasky Mesa; he took this photo using my camera. For the record, Robert Florczak and his beautiful wife Annette are my friends, and they have been wonderful to Pailin. (photo © Louis Kraft and Robert Florczak 2016)

The search for truth and words that people can read and understand is ongoing, and will be until my final breath.

Who Pailin is, and that part of her life which is now part of my life

I hope that what I have shared has given you an insight into my life with my lady, best friend, confidant, wife, and the person who I cherish above all others. I have talked about religion: Christianity and Buddhism, and I hope that I have made it clear that both can exist in the same household.

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I wanted to share these images of Pailin praying with more detailed photos of her sacred areas in Tujunga House as they show that our home is a mix of cultures (those are posters of Errol Flynn’s classic swashbuckling films on the wall in the living room). More important, our cultures and religions can coexist together in harmony and with love.

Pailin is my life, and as my writing world coexists with her life, I have created this blog as a document for U.S. Immigration and Homeland Security to confirm that the above is true. I hope and pray that it removes any doubt that Pailin and I married for love (and not for any other reason).

Upcoming Blogs

  • Sand Creek updates
    Sand Creek and the Tragical End of a Lifeway now dominates my writing life. I envision twelve-to-fourteen-hour days seven days a week except when I drop or socialize. (Wow! It almost sounds like I’m again writing for the software industry or film and TV.) As time permits I plan on posting numerous “short” (I know, Kraft doesn’t know what the word “short” means) posts with updates, questions, and whatever catches my fancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer a few teasers that won’t give away the story. There’ll probably be between two and three Sand Creek posts by the end of summer.
  • Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland book updates
    As you’ve seen in past blogs one or both of these screen legends appear whenever I have the time or the urge to write about them. As you now know, Errol & Olivia will be my next published book after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and as time moves forward I need to keep them before you. When they appear, and currently one isn’t planned, they will be short … similar to the blog that I posted on Olivia in July 2016: Olivia de Havilland 100 BD LK blog.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted. My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront. Actually, I’ll also include a subject that I didn’t know about until recently; the connection between the Thai people and the Cheyenne Indians (the Cheyennes didn’t come from Asia; they migrated to America from what became Europe). This blog will deal with two totally different people who are closer than I could have ever guessed. It will also deal with life (past and present) and an uncertain future.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact. It is time to address this creation of history that is error-riddled or fiction sold as truth.

— Louis Kraft

Olivia de Havilland celebrates her 100th birthday + an example of bunk

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


Olivia de Havilland is a gorgeous, sexy, funny, bright, and very intelligent human being.
I know that this is true for I saw what I just said in person.

eoImage_whiteAboveTrust me, the above by LK is a comin’.

When Olivia turned 100 a lot of people sent me links that they found on the internet (I hadn’t searched for any—no reason required by me other than to say I dreaded reading them). This wonderful person and good actress and great hostess’s long anticipated birthday linked me up with Olivia Duke, who works in the entertainment industry and lives locally. She had posted an amazing amount of OdeH information on one of her social media sites, and luckily had seen a talk that I had delivered at the Burbank Historical Society (Calif.) a number of years back (Louis Kraft talk on Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer), and contacted me.

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One year later, 1941, Olivia played Elizabeth Bacon Custer in They Died with Their Boots On. I’m not alone when I say that both she and Flynn were brilliant as Mr. and Mrs. George Armstrong Custer. Their performances in this film were by far the best in the eight films they made together.

Others sent me links, such as friend Stan Maxwell. … A good friend of mine from the software industry, Sherry Weng, added a link that she had found on my Facebook page. There have been comments, which are always good, but alas the article posted on the internet that I’m about to comment on was/is loaded with errors and comments that are based—I’m certain—on a minimal amount of research (perhaps reading one or two or three articles without doing any real research). In the future I plan on dealing with this type of writing in both the Indian wars and the Golden Age of the Cinema (and when that happens I will cite everything that I state). Actually the timing was good, as I needed a break from a very important blog (perhaps the most important that I ever write) that will be posted later this month.

You should read the link that Sherry shared with me (100 years of Olivia de Havilland handling sexism, her sister, and Scarlett O’Hara ) before continuing with this blog.

WARNING
If you like what you read in the posted article,
you won’t like what follows.

The link above is to an article that a fellow named Bob Mondello wrote. When I first read it I was appalled. I read it again and jotted notes. They follow.

First off I want to say that Mondello’s article is typical of what is often printed in magazines, newspapers, or online (and here I’m specifically focused on the Golden Age of Cinema, which includes Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn). Many of these articles are little more than mine fields of errors and inventive fiction. If you have any doubts with what follows, do your own research. If you do, you will see that what I say is true, and more important that I’m not attacking a fellow writer due to jealousy or for any reason other than pointing out falsifications due to a lack of research (as I don’t believe Mondello attempted to deceive the reading public). Regardless of what is touched upon below, Mondello’s article will continue to live on the internet and add to the continuous flow of misrepresentations of people and events.

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From left: Hattie McDaniel, Olivia de Havilland, and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939). Olivia was nominated for her first Oscar: Hattie and Vivien won Oscars for their performances, and Olivia returned home that night empty-handed. (photo in Louis Kraft personal collection)

Mondello claims that Gone with the Wind is the most popular film of all time. I thought this was true at one time but no longer so. Recently my great friend Robert Florczak, who, like me, is writing what will be “must read” books about Errol Flynn (and in my case, also Olivia de Havilland), proved to me that this is still true during a recent excursion to Lasky Mesa at the far-west side of the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles, Calif.). We walked for miles up hills and down hills and over long stretches of flat land as he showed me some of the locations for Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer’s Little Bighorn film locations where he died gallantly in They Died with Their Boots On (1941). From what I saw, temperature wise, it was supposed to be in the mid-80s that day. Ouch! It hovered just below the century mark. Thank God for lots of water. We also looked at some of the locations for the 1936 Flynn/de Havilland film, The Charge of the Light Brigade. On this day Robert found two locations he had been looking for from Gone with the Wind (1939) and Flynn’s great Adventures of Don Juan (1948). Other than pick up shots at the studio later that day this scene at the end of Don Juan was of Flynn’s and Alan Hale’s last scene together—ever!

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LK on Lasky Mesa in the hills at the west end of the San Fernando Valley. I am standing in front of the area where Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer led the Seventh U.S. Cavalry to their deaths at the battle of the Little Bighorn in They Died with Their Boots On (1941). (photo by Robert Florczak and © Louis Kraft and Robert Florczak 2016)

Back to Gone with the Wind: We’re talking about ticket sales here and not box office gross receipts. Recently Pailin and I saw The Legend of Tarzan (2016) at a first showing at an AMC theater. Price: $6.49/ticket. if we had gone at any other time: $19.49/ticket. Money totals, regardless of attempting to guess what .25 cent or .50 cent tickets might equal in today’s inflated pricing, means nothing. If you want to know what the most popular film was, count the sold tickets. (And actually here this is a corrupted figure, for Gone with the Wind wasn’t selling seats in many of the countries that now fork out millions of dollars to see American films.) … For the record I don’t like Gone with the Wind, but ticket sales speak for themselves, and when you realize that this film was released at the end of 1939, this is one amazing accomplishment.

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LK enjoys Champagne with Olivia while we celebrated her birthday in her Paris garden on 3jul2009 and discussed her life and my writing projects. Although social, the entire day and evening was spent by me attempting to learn about this very special lady. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

The author states that OdeH (pardon me, but this is what I sometimes call her in my research and communication with other historians) was “apparently feeling that 49 films, two best actress Oscars, and a best-selling memoir were accomplishment enough for one career.” Mondello certainly doesn’t attribute this to de Havilland (and I know why, for this isn’t something that she would say). For example, Olivia has been working on an autobiography since before I came in contact with her (1996) and as far as I know she hasn’t completed the manuscript (I could say something here that is very relative but can’t for it will be in the introduction to Errol & Olivia, which will finally become my major book project after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is in production. That said, her autobiography is of major importance to her. (I know this for we have discussed it and she has queried me for information about her life more than once). BTW, I’m not privy to the reasons why Olivia has not completed her manuscript.

Back to Mondello: I believe that his quote (in the above paragraph) is similar to much that appears in printed biography. Reason: Biographers and would-be biographers all-too often throw out statements of “supposed” fact that in reality are little more than the author’s creation and opinion, and often this is in place to sell a premise that isn’t based upon fact.

Again quoting Mondelllo: “Friday in Paris, she celebrates her 100th birthday …” Without batting an eye I agree with this. In fact, she spent her birthday with family and close friends.

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One sheet from the video release of the film decades ago. Mondello, for some reason, ignores Captain Blood and jumps to The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). I don’t have a clue why except that so-called Flynn experts have labeled this film the pinnacle of Flynn’s film career. I totally disagree, and it doesn’t even make my top 10 list of Flynn films. Certainly Olivia and Flynn were better in Four’s a Crowd (1938), Dodge City (1939), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941) in their films together. (poster in Louis Kraft personal collection)

Mondello then states: “She got her start on-screen as a sweet Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, graduated to being a sweet ingénue in a slew of forgettable comedies, and then someone had that bright idea of casting her opposite Errol Flynn. He was a swashbuckler, and standing opposite him, de Havilland got feisty.” I guess this ragged piece of baloney goes hand-in-hand with the adage: “If it is in print, it must be true.”

Ladies and gents, if you believe this, I have some beachfront property in Arizona that I’ll sell you at a cheap price. Trust me, for someday an earthquake will send California into the deep blue to live in legend with Davy Jones’ locker and many of you living on east side of what used to be the Colorado River will enjoy the occasional thrill of seeing a surfer or swimmer attacked by a Great White Shark.

I need to reprint a portion of Mondello’s above quote: “… a slew of forgettable comedies” before she was cast with Flynn who “was a swashbuckler.” These two phrases totally discredit the entire article without reading it. Yes, they are that bad.

OdeH made two films after A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Alibi Ike (1935) with Joe E. Brown (which I have) and The Irish in Us (1935) with James Cagney and Pat O’Brien (which I’ve never seen). Two films, actually with big stars, and I certainly wouldn’t call them a “slew” of films. She was basically an unknown (or, if you will a starlet). Flynn, to date had two American films to his credit: 1) He played a corpse on film (with a total of less than a minute of screen time in The Case of the Curious Bride (1935), and 2) In Don’t Bet on Blondes (1935) he looked great in a little over five minutes of screen time in two scenes.

Was he a swashbuckler? Duh! I don’t think so.

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This is the January-February 1979 cover for a long-gone magazine that was decent. The art is nice, and I wouldn’t mind having the original. (magazine in Louis Kraft personal collection)

The Warner Bros. script for Captain Blood was based upon a portion of Rafael Sabatini’s great story of piracy about a doctor turned slave turned pirate, Captain Blood: The Odyssey (published 1922), hadn’t been cast yet, much less filmed. Heck Errol Flynn hadn’t held a sword yet. He was a swashbuckler? Give me a break.

Warner Bros. wanted the British star, Robert Donat, to play Blood, after his recent film hit, The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), and Donat’s only film shot in Hollywood. It wasn’t to be as Donat turned down the role and returned to England. This began a frenzy of casting as Warner Bros. frantically looked for their Peter Blood and Arabella Bishop. There were many screen tests and one by one major stars and smaller players were eliminated. Two, who looked great together in their tests remained in the running, but both had no marquee value for a major film. For the record Flynn made it clear that Jack Warner dared to gamble on him (and Warner confirmed this). Flynn and de Havilland landed the roles. When Captain Blood premiered in New York City in December 1935, over night Flynn became a superstar (BTW, the word/term didn’t exist then) and de Havilland became a star.

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A lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Mondello follows the above with stating that The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) made Olivia a star. Hello! As stated above the major hit, Captain Blood, made her a star, and the follow-up hit with Flynn, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) reconfirmed that she was a star. And what about the three historical films that she did without Flynn before The Adventures of Robin Hood. They didn’t count?

From here, Mondello’s fictions grow, just like Pinocchio’s nose. “Happily, a rival studio asked if it could borrow her as a foil for its ditz—Vivien Leigh, who had just been cast as vain, self-centered Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. …” Huh? This is one of the biggest pieces of BS posted in our modern era of print in regards to this great film based on Margaret Mitchell’s massive best-selling book of the same name, and fans continue to buy into the various fictitious versions of this hook, line, and sinker.

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Douglas Fairbanks Jr. sits with Vivien Leigh, and Olivia during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards ceremony in 1940. Although Olivia didn’t receive her first Oscar on that night she seemed to be enjoying herself (although she later admitted that losing to Hattie McDaniel hurt). (photo in Louis Kraft personal collection)

If you didn’t know it, while producer David O. Selznick searched for his Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler Warner Bros. offered the package of Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. This offer, which included both stars and not just one of them, was refused. For me to address Olivia’s fight to land the role of Melanie Hamilton would cost at least 5,000 words (I deal with this in Errol & Olivia), but the bottom line is that Jack Warner refused to allow de Havilland to try out for the part of Melanie. When she landed the role behind Jack Warner’s back, believe me that a lot a SSSS hit the fan. Warner eventually relented and allowed de Havilland to play the role, and he received James Stewart in return.

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Original art by Susan M. Goulet of Olivia de Havilland as Lady Penelope Gray in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in LK’s personal collection. When I presented Olivia a print of the art at her home in Paris she knew exactly who she portrayed in the image. BTW, a few years back I posted this art in a blog about Ms. de Havilland and offered a (two + hours) “swashbuckling” lesson. Two ladies correctly named who Olivia played in the image but both didn’t live near California and weren’t able to claim their awards. Here, swashbuckling is a term sometimes used for stage (and film) combat.

Next Mondello asserts that “Off-screen, though, de Havilland was now able to be more assertive.” Huh? In 1939 de Havilland would be relegated to a minor player in the Flynn/Bette Davis film, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, which was nominated for five Oscars. For the record, de Havilland, who had major tantrums on the set, was very good in her ten or 15 minutes in the film (a part that did exist in Maxwell Anderson’s major Broadway hit but was expanded for the film, Elizabeth the Queen, 1930). … And from my point of view she was the best thing in the film. Like her performance in Dodge City (1939), and also with Flynn, she used her anger to improve her performance.

As far as the suspensions go, OdeH had been placed on suspension often, but it wasn’t “on a six-month-suspension.” Her suspensions were for when she refused to play a specific role, and the suspension was for the time-period that the character she refused to play would have been on call to perform the part. Two months per film? Three months per film? No, for her roles usually required much less time to complete. Why? Using Flynn for an example: Most often he filmed on almost every day. Let’s say a three-month film schedule. Conversely, OdeH, in one of Flynn’s films, might only work 20 days (or less), which means that her suspension was related to the number of days that she missed when she could have, or should have, worked.

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LK presenting Olivia de Havilland to a former girlfriend on the night that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored her in June 2006. They hit it off, and she would travel to Paris with me three years later to again spend time with Livvie (as Errol Flynn and others affectionately called Olivia). (photo in Louis Kraft personal collection)

OdeH’s suspension time was a combination of all the roles in which she refused to perform, and is the time that Warner Bros. claimed that she still owned them to complete her seven-year contract. Olivia de Havilland disagreed and argued in court that her contract was based upon linear years. Warner Bros. stood firm—she owed them for all the time that she didn’t work. At this time Warner Bros. circulated a letter that demanded that de Havilland not work in film or on stage in the United States. Basically they blacklisted her. When the case finally went to court in the mid-1940s de Havilland won, and gained her freedom. Every actor that makes millions of dollars today owes her and her courage a hearty thank you.

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Photo of Olivia de Havilland when she arrived at the shindig that the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences hosted in her honor in June 2006. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Free from Warner Bros. de Havilland began to freelance, and yes she did hit the heights of her film career. At this time Mondello proclaims that “But by Hollywood standards, she was now an old lady of 33 [meaning in 1949]. Roles came less frequently back then to actresses as they approached their 40s …” The age of 33 is approaching 40 and is old? To Each His Own (1946), the title of the first of Olivia’s major films after she escaped being an indentured slave at Warner Bros., easily places this absurd statement in context—she was thirty at the time. Of course this film had nothing to do with her winning her freedom, but it definitely dealt with her still being a young woman playing an older woman.

Unfortunately the writer of the article ignored the personal changes in de Havilland in the mid-1940s and then the major changes in her life during the 1950s. Mainly, what had changed and was important in her life. Yes, she turned her back on Hollywood, but it was for a life that she then craved—a life with her (in this case) second family in France (which included her son from her first marriage). Film work did continue, but it was when she wanted it, and more often than not it was in Europe.

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A Spanish mini-poster of They Died with Their Boots On (1941), one of LK’s favorite films of all time. (poster in Louis Kraft personal collection)

I know that everything that Mondello said about OdeH and sister Joan (Fontaine) is pure hokum (read that this writer had no clue of what he was writing about when he wrote the article). I know some of what I’m talking about here first hand, and it ain’t for the internet. Let me just say that I keep promises. Without a doubt the anger that has been publicized between Olivia and Joan was real. Actually, other than one major incident in the early 1940s and then something else many years later, OdeH refused to discuss her sister with me. One time when I asked about Joan’s autobiography, A Bed of Roses, Olivia dismissed it as little more than lies. Every side has their point of view. I’ve heard Olivia’s but unfortunately not Joan’s other than in her autobiography. I’m certain the that truth lies somewhere between the two sisters who both enjoyed unbelievable success as actresses.

I think that the above covers what I have to say about Mondello’s less than sparkling article. … I hope that when Errol & Olivia is published that it will clear up once and for all time some of the blatant errors and misstatements in the above article, many other articles, and a handful of books that should have never been published.

Upcoming Blogs

  • Green Card 2016 … Two lives since September 2014
    If all goes according to plan Pailin and I will have our second and final Green Card interview in September. Like our first appointment we will prepare and we will ace the interview. At the end of the first interview the interviewer asked what we had to show that would back up mostly Pailin’s answers to questions. I handed him a huge book with 8×10″ images of our life together. He turned pages and asked more questions. We knew that Immigration wanted images of us, but he refused to take any prints. I then produced a printout of a blog that I had created of our life together to that point in time and gave it to him. He was thrilled with the images, wanted it, and told us we passed. There will be an immigration blog 2, and I began creating it in May. I intend to post it in July, and print a copy to include with our submission to Homeland Security.
  • Sand Creek updates
    Beginning now as soon the key blog Pailin’s and my case to Homeland Security is posted and our package to said organization is mailed, Sand Creek and the Tragical End of a Lifeway must dominate my writing life, and it will. I envision twelve-to-fourteen-hour days seven days a week except when I drop (Wow! It almost sounds like writing for the software industry, or working in film and TV but they paid big time for overtime.). As time permits I plan on posting numerous “short” (I know, Kraft doesn’t know what the word “short” means) posts with updates, questions, and whatever catches my fancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer a few teasers that won’t give away the story. There’ll probably be between three and five Sand Creek posts by the end of summer.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to a long blog that deals with Pailin’s and my time in Thailand for Homeland Security it will probably be shorter than originally planned. My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront. Actually, I’ll also include a subject that I didn’t know about until recently (and that is a connection between the Thai people and the Cheyenne Indians (even though the Cheyennes migrated to America from what became Europe. This blog will deal with people who have opened their hearts to me in my recent life and certainly in the long-gone past of two totally different people who are closer than I could have ever guessed. The blog will deal with life (past and present) and an uncertain future.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact. It is time to address this creation of history that is error-riddled and at times little more than fiction.

— Louis Kraft

Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


For starters I should state that film has played an important role my life.

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Errol Flynn as Don Juan in the final duel in Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In my opinion Flynn’s sword fight to the death with Robert Douglas as the Duke de Lorca is by far the best duel captured on film. I’ve heard the criticism, such as all the takes had to be short as Flynn was out of breath. You know what? That criticism isn’t valid, for all that counts is what we see in the film. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing some of his performances on film (and this will include a few comments that will surprise and perhaps shock).

Know that my views don’t jive with popular opinions that have
been oft-repeated by writers and the media that do little original thinking
and buy into what is over and over again stuffed down their throats.

My opinion of reviews and reviewers is not sparkling

Reviews are opinions; some are based on bias while others are based upon sales or what the media has proclaimed and stuffed down our throats. … Also know that many reviewers base their opinions on what they saw on film or read in a book or viewed on a canvas (these reviewers should be praised and not considered brethren to cretins that have an agenda).

Film acting is a lot different than acting on stage. AND it must be natural, and let me tell you that sometimes this is very difficult to do—especially when you’ve got 35, 40, 70 people staring at you and you are now into your tenth closeup take for a scene and the producer is on set bitching about being over budget and screaming at the director why the idiot actor—you—can’t play the scene right.

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A publicity shot of Tim Matheson and Catherine Hicks from the short-lived TV show, Tucker’s Witch. (LK personal collection)

I saw this happen while working on Tucker’s Witch (1982-1983), which I thought was a decent show if it had had a chance to succeed. Already it had been canceled in its first season but the contract stated 12 episodes and we were then shooting episode number 11 or 12. The actor was a TV star with some film hits, charming, natural, and competent but now a producer had pulled the rug out from under him. The actor struggled, and bless him for he kept his composure as much as possible in a situation that should have never happened as he fought to perform as demanded by someone who should have kept his mouth shut and who should have allowed the actor and director do their jobs.

What the hell! Money is privilege and it rules.

As are reviews, valid or not. Believe me, they can make one feel good and they can also make one feel like slime that should be flushed down the toilet.

Money can “win” elections, or should I say “buy” elections? Reviews do more—much more—to individuals as they can hurt and destroy or build up and create. For the record reviews are sometimes biased. By that I mean that they can fry a performer (let’s say Richard Gere) or praise a performer (let’s say Bruce Springsteen) over and over again. When this happens it is based upon the reviewer’s bias. Here I’m talking about a Los Angeles Times film critic that eventually became the Times music critic. He’s not with us anymore. Ain’t that a shame.

The early days & a Tex Ritter influence

Film and I joined hands back when I was somewhere around four or five years old, and this time dates all the way back to Yonkers, New York. I lived with my father, mother, and infant sister in a wooden house that my mother had grown up in (my father and mother had bought it from her parents). Yonkers—at least where we lived—was in the hills and not far from the Hudson River.

LK&TexRitter_1950&1961_collage_wsWe had a small TV in a large wooden cabinet and the screen was green. I was often glued to Tex Ritter one-hour B-westerns that played all the time (as well as Buck Jones, who I liked; Wild Bill Elliott; Johnny Mack Brown; Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; and many others). Tex was a singing cowboy (as was Jimmy Wakely, Autry, Rogers, and others including John Wayne who made no impact on me for I don’t have any memories of him). Tex rode a white horse (White Flash) and caught bad guys (Autry and Rogers also did this, but often cars were in their films and I found that phony). I guess that it also helped that I liked Tex’s singing (Rogers’ songs were nondescript and Autry’s singing did absolutely nothing for me).

Before long my family migrated to California in a 1950 Hudson Commodore that my father had bought new in ’50. It pulled a 35-foot trailer. My father and mother loved the road and took every opportunity to explore the USA. This trip was no different than earlier trips that they had taken across the United States. It was my second to California for in 1949 my father, mother, and I visited it in a red 1949 Chevrolet convertible. I guess that the Chevy under performed as my father sold it in 1950 to buy the Hudson. He never owned another General Motors vehicle.

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I have a great photo of the Hudson and trailer in the background with my mother, dinky sister, and small me during the exodus to California (but I can’t find it). … Thus this collage. The Hornet is on a rural road in Northridge, California, in 1974. This area is now wall-to-wall houses (a shame). The Camaro is at the beach in northern San Diego.

When I bought a new Camaro in 1998 my father told me that I’d regret it; I didn’t and the car averaged 24,000 miles per year until I sold it to buy a Vette in 2007. My father, who had been fragile since 1996 or 1997, refused to ride in the Camaro and didn’t live to see the first Vette (if I had been able to get him into the Vette I’m certain that he would have loved it for he liked cars that gripped the road and went fast). … I can’t remember the 1949 trip, but the 1954 trip took perhaps 60 days (there were no freeways, but we weren’t burnin’ rubber as we zig-zagged across the USA). In California we moved around hooking up the trailer in backyards with horses and goats and pigs and chickens and sometimes cattle in the very rural San Fernando Valley (most of which is in the city of Los Angeles and all of it is in the county of Los Angeles) before we settled in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

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Tex Ritter on White Flash. This image represents the first job description I ever had, that is I wanted to ride a white horse and shoot bad guys. (LK personal collection)

About this time my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her that I wanted to ride a white horse like Tex and shoot bad guys. She shook her head. “Tex is an actor. The bad men he shoots don’t die for they are actors too.” It was at that moment I decided that I wanted to be an actor.

During my early years I attended at least eight elementary schools, and perhaps more (the only two grades wherein I spent two years in the same school were the fifth and sixth grades). Sometime, probably in the fifth grade, I saw my first Errol Flynn film.

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I believe that this is the 1948 German one-sheet for Flynn’s 1940 film The Sea Hawk.

It was the 1940 Warner Bros. production of The Sea Hawk. I had already become a gunslinger (actually this had begun in Yonkers). There’s film of this, but my sister took it after our father died. After she died her husband dumped truckloads of stuff in my backyard but the old films from the New York years were not included. I guess that they hit the trashcan as he decided to start his life over and jettison his past. By now I was good with my cap guns. The pirate Flynn added swords to my repertoire (The Sea Hawk would add much more to my life, but that would be decades in the future).

Junior high school gave me three things: Better sports competition (although Dennis Kreiger, who would again meet up with me in high school and then our early college years was the perfect adversary in the fifth and sixth grades), acting classes with performances on stage, and best of all learning to duel with Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner had become the amateur world sabre champion in 1928 and competed as a member the U.S. Olympic fencing squad in 1932. Although he had come to Hollywood to become an actor (and he had silent film credits) his legacy was his long career in film as a stunt double and choreographer of film duels, which had directly led to him opening a fencing academy on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. I actually took a third place in a foil competition at his studio while in junior high school, and I competed against adults.

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This art is based upon a 1974 photo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

There were no swords in high school, but in college I took fencing in my first year. I became a favorite of Muriel Bower, the coach, and she asked if I wanted to join the fencing team. I said that I would but only if I fought sabre. She agreed and I trained. … But we didn’t see eye-to-eye. You see I was a theater major, and this made my normal school day 7:00 AM until 10:30 PM or later during the week and often this included performances on weekends (backstage and when lucky on stage). This problem would haunt me over my professional life in the entertainment industry when I needed a job to earn extra cash. …. If it had been real life instead of a major 1966 multi-university competition at UCLA in which in real life I could have killed Bobby Crawford (Johnny Crawford’s brother; Johnny was famous for his part as The Rifleman’s son on TV and as the singer of decent pop tunes at the time such as “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors”). I was still learning sabre and I only fought sabre in the competition. I held my own but I didn’t win. There is a running sabre move wherein the attacking duelist runs by his opponent and slashes at his shoulder or head as he passes. I hadn’t learned how to parry it yet (actually Bowers hadn’t even discussed this move with me). In an earlier duel that day an opponent scored a hit when I failed to parry (block) the attack. In my duel with Bobby Crawford, who at that time was one of the best sabre duelists in SoCal, when he began to charge with the cut that I didn’t know how to parry I dropped down to one knee as his sabre was raised to strike. As he launched his slashing attack I thrust with all my might and struck him in the chest. The impact was so great that it bent my sabre blade into an “S-shape.” The contact was forceful and he stumbled backwards four or five feet while his blade nicked me on my thrusting arm. Point Crawford as I hadn’t parried his attack. I was up in an instant and rushed to Crawford to ask if he was all right. He said that he was. He wasn’t, and this I knew for his chest would turn black and blue and he would feel the hit for some time. Hell, my sabre blade was in an “S” shape from the impact and totally unusable. If this had been a real-life sword fight Mr. Crawford would have died on that day.

College gave me actor Jeff Corey and actor-director Robert Ellenstein. They set in motion my quest to eventually earn money as an actor (see below).

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Errol Flynn’s great film, The Sea Hawk (1940), took its title from Rafael Sabatini’s magnificent novel of the same name, which Warner Bros. owned the film rights. But that’s all it took. You see, Sabatini’s novel dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery in Tunis who rises to become a famed Barbary pirate that preys upon English vessels. Sabatini’s story was loosely based upon an Englishman and seaman named John Ward, who was starving at the beginning of the 17th century, and who moved to Tunis and became a pirate lord (the famed Captain John Smith of Virginia fame was the last Englishman to spend time with Ward). … This image is of Flynn as Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, a pirate (BTW the term “privateer” didn’t come into existence until about 1640) who sailed with the blessing of Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I of England). The other image is my favorite romanticized painting of Sir Francis Drake (I have talked about the Drake connection to The Sea Hawk elsewhere).

Bob Ellenstein would play a major part in my world for five or six years after I graduated college. At times it seemed as if I lived at his house on the Westside of Los Angeles. I studied acting with him and he played perhaps the most important player in my life at that time. We did a lot together, including my introduction to an acting vogue at that time called psycho drama, which probed into an actor’s inner being. Coffee, breakfasts, and lunches at Bob’s home, plus talks, lots of talks, which, believe it not, included the pirate Francis Drake who to this day plays a major role in my research (often I leave him off my upcoming book lists but you should know that he is forever present with me).

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Three images of LK with a blade at different times. I’ve recently discovered other images with swords but they will take time to restore (if ever I decide to spend the time).

Years later I would study stage combat or “swashbuckling” from two people who approached this from different perspectives. This training would lead to me choreographing duels and dueling on stage.

Yes, Errol Flynn impacted my life (but much–much more than you can guess from the above).

Flynn was a natural actor when stage acting ruled film. Most of the so-called “great” actors over-acted and chewed up scenery. Many of these performances simply do not hold up. When viewing film from a time long gone one must consider the life and times of the film industry (just like one must consider the racial and social mores when studying the Indian wars). More important, one must consider and accept (and this is key) the technical world in which films from another era were created.

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Believe it or not, Flynn’s Escape Me Never (1947) is an outsider film that has the largest chance of making it into the LK top 10 Flynn film list. If this is true it means that the 1930s mega successes for Flynn (Captain Blood, 1935; The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936; and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938) won’t make the list. I know, pure heresy, but with my top 10 Flynn films I’m talking about Mr. Flynn’s performances (and not big bucks). I’ll spend a little more time with Flynn’s Escape Me Never below. Here Flynn is with Eleanor Parker and Gig Young. (LK personal collection)

All this said, good acting survives time (and bad acting doesn’t). In Errol Flynn’s case other life ingredients would play havoc with his life, and because of this his life was extraordinary and worthy of study. Unfortunately long after Flynn’s death writers have written words that cannot be validated because they are out and out lies and this has continued into the twenty-first century. Unscrupulous historians who are little more than mud-slingers that create quotes, print facts that never happened, and often use notes that can never be confirmed because the cited documentation cannot be found. On this last sometimes obscure documentation is used and then totally falsified in the belief that readers won’t have it and if not they won’t make any attempt to find it. … There’s always a “YIKES” to this type of history writing for every so often another historian has the cited and oh-so obscure documentation.

Bullshit is bullshit and lies are lies and fiction is fiction and none of them are valid when writing biography.

Damn, that’s a good lead-in to an Errol Flynn blog. Unfortunately my dear friends it ain’t the lead-in to this blog for the following words won’t be accusatory. Actually all I want to do is mention my list of 10 Errol Flynn films and three of them are in the scope of Errol & Olivia, as well to wander in and around a smidgen of Errol Flynn’s reality and touch base with a few of his films.

eoImage_whiteAboveJust so you know Errol & Olivia deals with their life and times and will include all eight films that they played in together as well as selected other films between 1935 and 1941. The book will be a dual-biography and the word count will be 135,000. It will be a biography like none other that I have written in the past and although I have two additional books planned on Flynn they will not be like Errol & Olivia.

For the record, and I think that those of you that have an interest in Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland, the following is of great importance. I have a novel that will be published in 2016 (The Discovery) and my work on it is almost complete. I do write about the American Indian wars (my interest is in people that risk their lives to step beyond racial prejudice and attempt to prevent or end war). Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway might be the most important book that I ever write. After the Sand Creek manuscript goes into production Errol & Olivia will become my major project until published.

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LK art of Ned Wynkoop as he sees the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line in September 1864. He and his small command faced death but he later that day, with words, convinced the Indians in council that they should secure peace. This rendering of Wynkoop first saw print in the August 2014 Wild West magazine. It may be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every person that I write about in biography form was unique and dared to challenge his (or in Ms. de Havilland’s case, her) world. Errol Flynn was unique and he challenged his world again and again. Just like the Indian wars people that I write about, Errol Flynn had ups and downs and because of this he found himself under attack time and again. Like Ned Wynkoop & Black Kettle and Charles Gatewood & Geronimo from the Indian wars, Errol Flynn fought to survive in his world. All of them, including Flynn, stood out, and people from their times and thereafter did whatever was necessary to bury them. There are connecting links, and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I connected Wynkoop to Flynn. And it wasn’t that big of a stretch, and I didn’t need to use the race card. Wynkoop changed from a man who thought that Indians were close to animals. Events in his life changed this view and he dared to fight the press, the military, and the U.S. government to secure a fair deal for the Cheyennes and Arapahos. …

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This photo of Flynn dates to 1940-1941, and it is my favorite of him. That said, he probably hated it, for his physical image again and again garnered him less than satisfactory reviews, reviews that either stated he was a “pretty” boy and nothing else or hinted at this. He cared about his work and these criticisms hurt him immensely. (LK personal collection)

Flynn didn’t do this. But just look at his life: He wasn’t in the military and didn’t have to deal with the brutal murders and sexual mutilation of human beings. Why? Simple, for Errol Flynn people were people. As his eldest daughter once said: “He didn’t care what race you were. If he liked you he liked you.” Errol Flynn was the most un-racial person I have known or studied.

Alas, this blog is going to move away from man’s inhumanity to man, away from heinous crime (and I’m talking about the Indian wars here), and simply talk about Errol Flynn the actor.

LK’s top ten Errol Flynn films

(top four/alphabetical and firm)

1.   Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

2.   Gentleman Jim (1942)

3.   The Sea Hawk (1940)

4.   They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

(bottom six/alphabetical and not firm)

5.   Dodge City (1939)

6.   Four’s a Crowd (1938)

7.   Objective Burma (1945)

8.   The Dawn Patrol (1938)

9.   Uncertain Glory (1944)

10. Virginia City (1940)

I won’t be discussing the films on the list or this blog would turn into a book. That said, I will mention a few of the above titles. I’ll also spend a little time with Captain Blood; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Escape Me Never; Crossed Swords; and Too Much, Too Soon; among others.

Not to worry for what I say here won’t give away Errol & Olivia for there is only enough space to deal with a few points—important points—but if they make it into Errol & Olivia they will be expanded upon in directions that you won’t be able to guess from what you read in this blog.

Alas, I won’t be discussing any of the films in detail here.
However, I will in the upcoming Flynn books.

Well-constructed words can always hide bias

As stated above I’m not big on reviews of anything, and even though I just presented you with a list I hate lists. They mean absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen lists that have been printed and much of the time I run to the bathroom to vomit (Robert Florczak I’m not talking about you, for your lists are well-thought-out and valid). Most of them are regurgitated baloney or worse. Often I see the same titles again and again. Did the person who created the list put any effort into creating their list? Or did they simply peruse lists that they had previously seen?

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The perfect example of a film that I cannot stomach is Gone with the Wind (1939), a film that Olivia de Havilland risked her film life at Warner Bros. to obtain the role of Melanie after she was told that the studio wouldn’t allow her to work in the film. In this image you see Hattie McDaniel as Mammy (left), who deserved her best female supporting Oscar; OdeH as Melanie Hamilton; and Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara; who Clark Gable as Rhett Butler should have shot in the first reel of the film (of course then there wouldn’t have been a film). My view on this film: I hated it and was bored to tears, and even though I own it on DVD (mainly because I wanted the one-hour OdeH interview), I have yet to see this film to the end other than the first time I saw it in a movie theater about 1969. (LK personal collection)

Of course you know that it’s risky to pick a film that was a huge bust at the box office, and most people who create lists steer clear of films that don’t make a lot of money. Although this isn’t always the case, often best film lists stick with films that were block-busters, Oscar winners, or were so artsy-fartsy that I’ve never been able to get through a complete viewing of them. Read 10 minutes, or if I have time to burn, 15 minutes and click. Goodbye! The reason: I’m bored. The plot hasn’t caught my interest and the actors’ performances have scored a zero with me. If the film in question had been a stage performance I would have been screaming “Get the hook!”*

*This is a not-too-kind expression from times past that means slipping a hook that is attached to a pole around a performer’s neck and then yanking them offstage.

I’ve got to care about story and performances. If I don’t, viewing a film is a waste of my time, … and I don’t give a bleep about how great a critic with his thumb stuck somewhere claims the film is or how a certain performance is one for the ages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Oscar-winning performances in the past and I’ve suffered through the film as I’ve wasted good money to see it in a theater. … While talking about the Academy Awards and other major acting awards I hope you realize that millions upon millions of dollars are spent every year to buy these awards. The awards season that begins late in the year and climaxes with the Oscars in February of the following year has been for years (nay decades) a three-ring circus with often the largest pocketbooks bringing home the bulk of the awards. My view of these TV extravaganzas? A joke. The last time I watched part of one was when I was recovering from a surgery a number of years ago. A friend was staying with me, and about two plus hours before the conclusion (and I have no idea what actors or films danced home with the gold statures that they had purchased) we turned off the television and enjoyed a good Mexican meal at a local restaurant.

It’s too bad that pro football players, pro basketball players, and
major league baseball players can’t spend millions of dollars each year
to buy Most Valuable Player awards. Heck, they earn enough in
salary and endorsements. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

The swashbuckler

In the 1930s Errol Flynn became connected with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., when writers began saying that he had donned the swashbuckling armor and boots and followed in the silent film legend’s footsteps. As it turned out Flynn would go on to make nine swashbuckling films. Four of those films would secure his legacy as the swashbuckler for all time. I hate to say this but since Flynn’s death in 1959 no actor has come close to challenging his mark on this genre of film. None.

(For a little more on Flynn and screen dueling see: Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion.)

I love this poster of The Adventures of Robin Hood (but I’ve got a poster I like even more framed and on a wall). This poster was created for a video release of the film and I couldn’t believe it when I was lucky enough to obtain a one-sheet of it locally. (LK personal collection)

There are valid reasons why Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood aren’t on my list of 10 Flynn films, but they are not for this blog. Both films are in the scope of Errol & Olivia and trust me I will spend a lot of time with both films, and a good portion of what I present will be positive. As with my Indian wars books I don’t whitewash the major person or people or their actions. Errol & Olivia will not only focus on Flynn and de Havilland and their life and times but also the eight films that they made together.

Four of Flynn’s swashbucklers are classics: Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940), and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In the last three Flynn excelled in the dueling scenes. In one other film, The Prince and the Pauper (1937) Flynn’s duel with an evil captain of the guard (Alan Hale) who intended to kill the prince who was poised to be named king of England as his father (Henry VIII) had died near the end of the film is superb. It clearly demonstrated what was to come.

Unfortunately Flynn’s four swashbucklers in the 1950s don’t compare to his earlier efforts. The most popular reason that I’ve often seen is that Flynn had aged. He had, but he hadn’t lost his grace and skill, … simply his stamina and physical strength. What really impacted his dueling in these films: Against All Flags (1952), The Master of Ballantrae (1953), Crossed Swords (1954), and The Warriors (1955) were the lackluster staging (that is: choreography), film angles, and editing of the duels.

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I think that Against All Flags is at the absolute bottom of the nine swashbuckling Flynn films. Don’t doubt that it was a Universal production and meant low budget. One of the half sheets for the film is absolutely gorgeous. This Spanish one sheet is well-done and I like it. (LK personal collection)

The sword masters that created these duels and rehearsed them with the actors and stunt men couldn’t compare to the great master Fred Cravens (and his crew) that Flynn worked with in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a caveat here. Early in The Master of Ballantrae Flynn duels with his brother (Anthony Steel). This duel is fast-paced and well-done by everyone involved in front and behind the camera (and this includes the editors). By the time that Flynn shot The Warriors his dueling days had passed him by and he said as much in his magnificent memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways (which is strange for he seemed capable enough in Crossed Swords). By the way, the British title for Flynn’s last swashbuckler, The Dark Avenger, was a much better title than The Warriors. I actually like this film much better than Against All Flags. Alas, Flynn’s duel in a tavern with a French captain (Christopher Lee) was mostly performed by a stunt double. Still the choreography was better than the slap-dash staged fights in Against All Flags, which had the look and feel of a B-film. The best thing about Against All Flags were the one-sheet and half-sheet advertising posters, which were quite good (as opposed to the American posters for The Warriors that did nothing to sell Flynn or the film).

Dancing between reality and a public image

In 1984 I worked on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times, shown on TV in 1985 (for a little background on it see an earlier blog: How race has affected my life & writing), with Errol’s Flynn’s first daughter, Deidre Flynn. At that time another miniseries was shooting called My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn, which was supposedly based upon Flynn’s memoir (which is one of the best books that I have ever read) with Duncan Regehr as Flynn. He sounded like Ronald Coleman, looked nothing like Flynn, and worst of all had absolutely no charisma (he could have been playing Daffy Duck with an accent).

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LK connecting with Pat Wymore Flynn on June 6, 2006, when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences honored Olivia de Havilland (Beverly Hills, California). Deidre Flynn is center in the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

The production company had asked Deidre to be an advisor for the Flynn miniseries. She had read the screenplay and gave them a resounding response of “No!” She had no clue that I knew a lot about her father (believe it or not my research of him began shortly before his death when I was in elementary school). That said, we talked slightly about her dad. She told me that the screenplay was a piece of crap and that she wanted nothing to do with the production. I saw the miniseries when it first aired (and once again a dozen or so years later), and it was a bleeping joke! And I am being kind here. Only two performances were decent—Barbara Hershey as Lili Damita and Hal Linden as Jack Warner (and I’ve never heard Warner’s voice). Everything and everyone else was terrible or worse. If Olivia de Havilland saw Lee Purcell attempt to play her I’m certain that Livvie would have made a couple of runs to the bathroom to vomit. I was embarrassed for her and at that time I never dreamed that sometime in the future I would spend prime time with her. … Enough of talking about a miniseries that should have never been produced.

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The cover of Higham’s piece of Errol Flynn fiction says it all on the book’s dust jacket.

A few years before the Flynn miniseries aired Charles Higham saw the publication of Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Doubleday & Company, 1980). I bought it, as I have every book on Flynn that I can get my hands on, and read it. With notations that were so vague they were immediately suspect, Higham would have us believe that Mr. Flynn was both a bisexual and a Nazi spy. The fictional rantings should have been ridiculed; instead they were accepted by the media (which always jumps onto anything that might defame a human being). Oh, and I should mention this: You cannot defame the dead in the United States (at least you couldn’t in the 1980s). Not so in Canada, where the book was also published. If I remember what Deidre told me correctly, she and her sister filed a complaint about Charles Higham in Canada. I don’t believe that he ever dared to reenter Canada again. … Mr. Higham has since moved on to wherever people who fictionalize and distort history go, and I do hope that the flames are sizzling. His travesty of a book single-handedly destroyed Flynn’s reputation and for so doing awarded him massive book sales. Olivia de Havilland called Higham “despicable.” Believe it or not there are other Flynn writers and more than a handful of Western historians that think that there is nothing wrong with what Higham did—rewrite history at the cost of truth and reality. These cretins cite primary source material that is often so obscure that they are certain that no one can find the cited works even if they looked. Guess what: I have research material in every room of my house except for a bathroom and the dining room. Some of these cretins (I should use stronger words here, but I’m trying to keep a civil tongue) cite real documentation (thinking that no one has it or will look for it) with quotations that don’t exist except in their books of lies. When they don’t do this, they misinterpret what the primary source material states (again, always obscure and hard to obtain material). Their thinking here is that they have cited authentic documentation and it is beyond challenging. … In a word: BULLSHIT!

I’m sorry about the repetition of the above, but this is important.
Facts must always be questioned and confirmed. Alas, this
is so important that I return to it below.

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Susan Goulet art of a famed EF publicity photo (© Susan Goulet 2004). I’m not sure if she has the color of his eyes correct. She had created a wonderful portrait of OdeH and I had given Olivia a print of it in 2004 (I kept the original art). She loved it. This image is a copy of the original art in the LK personal collection.

I do know one thing: Mr. Flynn worked hard at being an actor, took an interest during pre-production and production although at times after the farce of a rape trial in 1943 he decided to give the public what they expected of him. This turned out to be a two-headed dragon for not only did he present himself as the lecher that the Los Angeles criminal justice system attempted to paint him as (read: behind closed doors political shenanigans then in vogue) but also that it marked the beginning of a huge downward life spiral that he mistakenly thought he could reverse whenever he wanted.

He couldn’t.

I’m not going to talk about what I see as the real Errol Flynn in this blog (this I’ll save for Errol & Olivia and the two follow-up books on EF). All I’ll say here is that the general population’s view of him as a man, a human being, a father, and as an actor and writer is incorrect.

Over the years Errol Flynn saw his Warner Bros. salary and say in his films grow. By the mid-1940s he had worked into his contracts that he could choose some of his films (his Thompson Productions produced three films) and as his phallic image grew (to his disgust) so did his efforts to break his heroic image. In doing this he easily demonstrated his acting range, but it cost him popularity at the box office.

Finally, and this is related to the above paragraph, Jack Warner would have never invested the amount of money he did over the years in Errol Flynn if he wasn’t sold on Flynn’s creative talents.

Views of a few of Flynn’s films

I’m just going to meander here as I talk about a handful of Errol Flynn’s films that are for the most part not considered among his great films.

Escape Me Never (1947)

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Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn work at hustling for money as they travel across the southern Alps in Escape Me Never. Their off-screen friendship gave their on-screen relationship an extra dimension. Over the years Ida would be one of Flynn’s greatest supporters. He was lucky to count her as a friend. (LK personal collection)

Flynn and his three co-stars (Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young) played off each other nicely. … Flynn and Young are composers in Italy. Gig’s lady (Parker) is rich while Flynn’s (Lupino and her infant son) are not. Flynn is a budding genius with an ego to match (which is understandable); he also has a roving eye for the ladies. I hated this film when young and I still hated it when I had last seen it about 30 years ago. Reviewers have always pinged the film on its lack of authentic shots of the canals of Venice as well as the backgrounds of the Alps (and the problem of the phony canals and background images of the alps were obvious the first time I that saw the film when a teenager) but Flynn’s performance was a major discovery for me when I again viewed it this past summer. His acting ability had grown in leaps and bounds in the 1940s and is right on in this film; that is right on in everything except for lecherous glances at women. There are perhaps a handful, and honestly I believe that these were director decisions (like The Adventures of Robin Hood direction discussed below). Looking back it is too bad that Errol and Ida only acted together in this film.

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A publicity shot of Ida & Flynn at the beginning of Escape Me Never. (LK personal collection)

For all of you Peter Blood (Captain Blood), Geoffrey Vickers (The Charge of the Light Brigade), and Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) fans I’m going to shock you, so please sit down and hold on tightly. If a Flynn performance and film gets bumped from the bottom six of my favorite EF films most likely it will be by Mr. Flynn and his performance in Escape me Never. I know; heresy. Hey, I’m a former actor, a resurrected actor, and if lucky I’ll again be an actor. I’ve already stated what goes into making a film that grabs my interest. I need to state here that I’m talking about Errol Flynn the actor. I’m proud to say (other than the few director-pushed instances of over acting while eyeing a pretty woman) that EF’s internal system was functioning and his natural instincts were right on target. Perhaps working with people he liked helped, but for my money he was a hundred-fold better actor in the 1940s than he was in the 1930s.

That Forsyte Woman (1949)

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Errol Flynn and Greer Garson in a scene that is hard to watch in That Forsyte Woman. (LK personal collection)

This film was the first under another Flynn contract that allowed him to act in one film per year filmed at a studio other than Warner Bros. This stiff Victorian drama carried Flynn’s performances in Cry Wolf (1947) and the western Silver River (1948) to the next step of being as far away from the adventurous hero as he could possibly get. His performance was controlled and right in tune with the time period. Those who saw the film and expected to see Errol Flynn the hero must have been shocked by the time they exited the theater in 1949. That said, Flynn’s performance shows without a doubt that he really was a magnificent actor. If we can believe his words, and I do, this was one of his favorite performances (if memory serves me, Gentleman Jim Corbett, see the film list above, was another of his favorite roles). Greer Garson, Flynn’s co-star in the film, had heard a lot of trash talk about him prior to filming. After working with him she had nothing but praise for the actor and man.

Ladies and gentlemen, Errol Flynn had taken what he had learned during the 1930s, had crafted during the 1940s, and at the end of that decade put it all together. Regardless of what you think Flynn’s Soames Forsyte was the performance of his entire cinema career. I need to have a top 12 Flynn film list, and this is going to happen (I’ve just given you the two films that will make the list).

Here’s a quick thought for you
In 1940 Errol Flynn earned about eight times what
Olivia de Havilland earned. Why? They both became
stars when Captain Blood premiered in December 1935
but the level of stardom was evident by the end of the last
reel on that historic New York City night. … I can’t give
away Errol & Olivia but put the above sentences
together and you should be able to figure
out what happened as both of them
moved forward with their
professional careers.

Crossed Swords (1954)

This is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production. It had the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who had shot The Master of Ballantrae, which had been released the previous year, and who would be Flynn’s choice to shoot and direct his ill-fated William Tell). Flynn looked great (and much better than he did in Against All Flags, 1952, and The Master of Ballantrae) and his physical prowess hadn’t deteriorated (actually it looked better than in the two earlier swashbucklers) to what it would be in The Warriors (1955). Perhaps the Flynn-Barry Mahon teaming with an Italian production company was responsible for the result, which could have been much better. Worse, the production team couldn’t provide a decent script, a decent director, complete scenes (many could have used extra cuts and angles added to improve the final product), better action (some is quite poor) or decent actors (I’m not certain of what I think of Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida’s on-screen relationship other than it is definitely better than previously reported. … Alas, some of the acting other than Gina and EF is amateurish).

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The lines are on the DVD cover, which wasn’t too professionally produced.

My DVD was created using an Italian print of the film (Il Maestro Don Giovanni, which would translate to Master Don Juan, leading one to wonder who Flynn played in the Italian release of the film). The color is decent and not faded but not great. The entire film has had an English-language sound track added to an original Italian release print for the DVD. I’m certain that most, if not all, of the Italian actors were dubbed, but the sound (dialogue, sound effects, and film score) is not good. It is obvious that the editors attempted to get the words as close as possible to the actors’ mouth movements, but this meant that now Flynn’s words are slightly off, and it is definitely his voice. My guess is that the complete track was pulled from an English-language release.

For the most part Flynn (as Renzo), who was decent in the film, doesn’t seem to connect with the rest of the cast. My guess—and that’s all it is—was the language barrier while shooting the film, especially for the Italian-speaking actors connecting with Flynn. Cardiff and others behind the camera spoke English but I think that Flynn was the only actor saying his lines in English. Honestly, Flynn was a professional and I don’t think he had any problems with language during the filming.

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Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida are about to surrender to their fates (as is her father, who is in the scene but off camera in this still). This image shows Flynn’s typical involvement in a scene as well as his physical appearance. (LK personal collection)

Cesare Danova, who played Raniero, Flynn’s staunch friend in their misadventures with the fairer sex, immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1950s to play the title character in Don Giovanni (AKA Don Juan), which was released in 1955. He would go on to have a long career in American film and TV. My memory doesn’t shout out that he was dubbed in his American performances, but I could be wrong early in his U.S. films. Lollobrigida also began appearing in big American films in the 1950s. … The duel at the end of Crossed Swords was by far Flynn’s best climatic fight against the villain in all of his 1950s swashbucklers. And this is a massive understatement by LK. Flynn performed most of the final duel and his movements were fluid and well-done. His sword work was good and damn-near great (and there was very little stunt-doubling of Flynn in the final duel). Flynn’s swordplay far out-shined everything else he did in the 1950s. The only sword work that compares with his work in Crossed Swords was his short duel with Anthony Steel at the beginning of The Master of Ballantrae.

Again, this is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production.

BTW, swashbucklers co-produced in Europe with leading
English-speaking actors were often less than satisfactory well into the l960s.

Three more EF films and a return to Mr. Ellenstein

Errol Flynn made three films in which two were released in 1957 (The Big Boodle, The Sun Also Rises) and one in 1958 (Too Much, Too Soon). These films, all of which were American-produced after his long self-imposed exile in Europe. They contain, in my humble opinion, his best acting in the 1950s. This Errol Flynn was no longer the romantic hero who wins regardless if he lives or dies by the last reel of the film. Instead these performances were by a man who had lived life and had sunken to the depths of despair and yet had survived. These films presented a man who could no longer swing a blade or ride a horse and knows it as he nears the end of life. They are alive with sadness for an audience that knew what came before and yet they show a man who, if not quite a fighter to the end he does what he can to present as good an image as possible considering his situation.

Only Flynn’s Ned Sherwood in The Big Boodle is active and puts up a fight as he struggles to stay alive while clearing his name of a crime he didn’t commit.

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This image is based upon a b&w image in the LK Collection. Robert Ellenstein was one of the most important people in my life. See Bob’s comment about the acting and film world (below), as it gave my life focus at every step. I’m certain that he followed his simple rule as he lived his life and career. … I’ve known a lot of people who were not as they presented themselves. They had agendas that perhaps could be labeled as “heinous.” If yes, these people, if still alive, should be in prison. Bob Ellenstein was not one of these people. He was an extraordinary human being. And better he set my life on the course that it follows to this day. My father, my brother, and my mother influenced my life, and so did Robert Ellenstein. He was one of the most magnificent people that I have ever known during my entire life. Bob, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I want to say a bit (probably a lot more than a bit) about actor and director Robert Ellenstein (who died in 2010). In the 1960s I was a theater major at what became California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The on-staff acting professor and I didn’t connect and I learned little from her. Luckily the university decided to bring in professionals to tutor the students. Jeff Corey, who had been blacklisted for 12 years in Hollywood during the communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, used his lost years to good advantage and began teaching acting. He became my acting coach while Bob Ellenstein became my directing coach. Bob and I connected and after I graduated college he became my acting coach, confidant, and good friend (as did his wonderful wife Lois). I can’t tell you how many happy and learning hours I spent with Bob and to a lesser degree with Lois.

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Errol Flynn as John Barrymore. Often it has been said that Flynn played Flynn in Too Much, Too Soon. I don’t know enough about John Barrymore’s life to know if this is true, but I intend to find out. For the record Flynn talked about how he played “Jack” Barrymore. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Bob Ellenstein played a key supporting role in Flynn’s Too Much, Too Soon, and of course I asked him about what it was like to work with Flynn (to this point in time I hadn’t seen the film). Bob’s lawyer entered the picture after Flynn’s John Barrymore had died. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: “My scenes were shot on days that he didn’t work. I never met the man.”

As the years passed and as Bob and I became close we shared more and more about our lives and as we did he guided me. … Acting is a lifelong study for a person must come in total contact with his or her being. That sounds simplistic; it is not. It is hard work. At one point Bob said to me while talking about the acting and film world, “Whatever you do, make sure that you can live with it.” I took this to heart. For the record I have never done anything that I can’t live with, and let me tell you that I have been presented with many unsavory propositions that would make you sick. I have never given in for the cost was way too expensive for my living soul.

An image of Mr. Flynn & yet another attack

On the late afternoon and evening of October 17, 2015, I was lucky to spend prime time with people from my past—people that shouldn’t be in my past, but friends that are still part of my life. It was a reunion, and honestly, if it wasn’t for a good friend of mine named Pete Senoff I probably would have passed, Thanks Pete, for it turned into a special time.

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From left: LK, Dennis Kreiger, and Ken Small at our high school reunion at the Sheraton Agoura Hills Hotel on 17oct2015. A good time for LK. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft)

Dennis Kreiger and Ken Small went to the last two years of elementary school with me, the three years of high school, and Dennis spent at least a couple of years with me in college. Ken became a police officer in Los Angeles and eventually a chief of police in Florida and then in Huntington Beach, California. Dennis had a successful tennis business in Encino, California, for decades. They are two of the good guys out of my past and present. I don’t know if they knew who they would become, but I didn’t know my future. Early on I did well with writing and essays but it didn’t mean anything to me.

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Friend Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, shot this publicity photo in June 1969 at my parent’s house in Reseda, California, shortly after I completed my American Indian anthropology class, graduated from college, and began pursuing a career in acting. Oh yeah, broad-brimmed hats and I go way back. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

In my last semester in college I talked my way into an upper division anthropology class (with absolutely zero anthropology background). The professor gave in and I enjoyed myself in a class that dealt with American Indians that ranged from Alaska south into Central or South America. We had a term paper and I wrote about a young Apache’s journey into manhood. The professor set up a meeting between us. “Your paper is fiction,” she said. “It was supposed to be nonfiction.” “The instructions didn’t say that,” I replied. Her eyes looked up to the heavens. She shook her head, perhaps in the hope that I would go poof and disappear. I didn’t. Finally she chuckled and smiled. … I did quite well in that class. Still, I’m certain that if another hustler approached her without any anthropological background he would have fled for his life as she let loose with unbridled determination to never again deal with an outsider to the study of humankind.

Even when I wrote a screenplay about a shocking 1976 summer of acting in dinner theater (me), drugs (not me), racial prejudice, and bald-faced hatred wherein I was thrilled to escape the Lone Star state in one piece I still didn’t have a clue of what my future might hold. … Actually it had been preordained and was in place at least as early as 1970, and that experience was more horrifying, but as usual it didn’t register in my brain. Moreover, I still hadn’t realized what type of person Errol Flynn really was. This would still take me another decade or two to learn.

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I once wrote an article entitled “The Image of Errol Flynn” (Films of the Golden Age, Spring 2000), and even though I had made it clear the article dealt with Flynn in the 1940s letters to the editor attacked me for not including Flynn in the 1950s. Often editors will ask writers of articles to respond to letters to the editor. I should say that I hate letters to the editor for often they are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. In this case I simply said to the editor that there was no reason to reply as the ridiculous statement was out of scope of the article. … This hasn’t always been the case with some of my articles published in Wild West. These comments have often been flavored by racism or hatred toward me, but often I haven’t had to reply as I have viewed the comments an open invitation to attack. The editor, Greg Lalire, is first class and a good friend, but at times he walks a fine line between reality and insanity. More than once he has taken care of the problem offline (that is not in print or online). I love this! In 2014 an attack struck from a place that it shouldn’t have (and those reasons won’t be exposed until I go on an offensive that will initiate a war, a war a number of magnificent historians want me to start). Will I? Honestly, I don’t know. Guts Kraft, you need to trust your instincts and expose the lies and deception!

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LK enjoying champagne with Olivia de Havilland (“OdeH” as I often call her and “Livvie” as Errol Flynn often called her) at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. The lady is alive, funny, informative (when she wants to be but secretive when she thinks it is best), bright, charming, and oh-so-sexy. Livvie is alive and I hope that she outlives me. For the record, she has been burned by unscrupulous writer-historians and agrees with my views on Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

What I have just stated above has also been true with so-called historians that write about Errol Flynn. They view him as open season, and fabricate facts and quotes while often citing obscure documentation that is hard to obtain at this late date. Worse, their facts and quotes are at times fiction (or, if you will, lies). You do not want to hear my opinion of these people, and I am using the word “people” here very loosely for these hacks aren’t “people.” I’m not going to call them what I know they are in this blog. Most likely I’ll never call them what they are, but I have every intention of exposing their fraudulent writing that has been created to destroy a human being’s life and reputation long after the fact without valid proof. As far as I’m concerned this is a heinous crime.

Back to the swashbuckling image

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A classic magazine cover; alas, they don’t make them like this anymore. This isn’t quite true, for Wild West magazine is moving to art for their covers (and this is something that I like).

Beginning with the release of Captain Blood (based upon the first portion of Rafael Sabatini’s novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1922) in New York City in December 1935 Errol Flynn became an overnight sensation—a superstar* if you will—and his co-star Olivia de Havilland became a star (but not as bright as she would have liked). Warner Bros. realized that they had struck gold with the Flynn and de Havilland combination and began looking for another epic to cast them in; it would be The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), inspired perhaps by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem of vainglorious defeat. Again the film was adventurous as it mixed a little history with a lot of fiction. Unfortunately a love triangle bogged the story down. Nevertheless Warner Bros. confirmed what they already knew—the combination of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in an epic romance meant big bucks at the box office. But for some unknown reason Warners ignored what they knew and began casting Flynn in films that were little better than melodramas in scope and delivery. Except for The Prince and the Pauper, but here Flynn was little more than a supporting player with a magnificent duel at the end of the film. By the end of 1937 Warner Bros. had finally realized their error of splitting Flynn and de Havilland apart. After almost making a major casting flub (casting James Cagney as Robin Hood), someone woke up and suddenly Errol and Olivia were once again cast together in a major motion picture. Filming on The Adventures of Robin Hood began in fall 1937.

* The word “superstar” was first used in relation to a great cricket team in the 1830s. Almost a century passed before it was used to describe great hockey players between the years 1910 and 1920. More decades would pass until the word hit its stride as we now know it today, but that wasn’t until long after Errol Flynn’s time.

One thing stood out in the 1930s and it is still true today—Errol Flynn appeared very natural on film. It, for the most part, looked like he wasn’t acting, and in a time when many actors came from the stage and their performances looked like acting, Flynn didn’t overact. At times the critics would chew on him for his naturalness, and judging by comments that he made over the years this hurt and bothered him.

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This is an original lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood. (LK personal collection)

Oh, there were times when he did overact, such as in a scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood where his eyes go from left to right (or was it right to left?) in a closeup as he supposedly took in lay of the land (as to where Sir Guy of Gisbourne’s (Basil Rathbone) soldiers were waiting to jump him. I’d bet my life that this ridiculous closeup was insisted upon by the director. Actually one of two directors: William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, as I believe both had a hand in the major episode sequence in which the cut that I’m talking about is located in the film. I’ll have to go back to the script and match the closeup number with the call sheets to see when the shot was made.

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Published art based upon a studio still of the Rathbone and Flynn final duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I think that it is pretty good work by the artist that created it. (LK personal collection)

With the release of The Adventures of Robin Hood Flynn’s stature rose to new heights. I above discussed a shot that bothered me; there are others. That said, Flynn is magnificent as Robin Hood. His physicality and athletic ability is present at all times as is his capability with the sword. … My problem here is major, for no one can handle broadswords as presented in The Adventures of Robin Hood and I know this for I have swung a broadsword that was made of material that was considerably lighter than steel. It isn’t easy and there is absolutely no way that anyone can swing a broadsword as shown in Flynn’s 1938 film. That said, Flynn’s handling of the sword in that film was extraordinary (albeit they are rapier cuts and slices and thrusts). Basil Rathbone loudly proclaimed that he had studied the sword and “could have killed Mr. Flynn whenever I wanted.” (I hope that this quote is close; if not, it is a paraphrase). You want to know something? If in reality it was a duel to the death between Rathbone and Flynn, my money’s on Flynn. Reason: Rathbone was swinging the blade by the numbers. If what I just said is true, Rathbone was a student fighting with technique while Flynn fought to survive (and he had plenty of survival skills that dated back to his days in New Guinea … not to mention his dueling lessons that dated to Captain Blood). Again, and without batting an eye, my money’s on Flynn.

Alas, it will take three books to deal with Flynn’s swashbuckling and western and war and human experience films. If it becomes obvious that I won’t meet my goal of three full-fledged nonfiction books on his life I have every intention of writing a lightweight volume or two (similar to Tony Thomas’s superior film histories and genre-specific tomes w/photos books). This is easy for me. All the research is in place and I’ve got tons of images. This could be accomplished in half a year per volume (my average nonfiction book takes at least five to seven years to write when it is a major project). … If something happens and suddenly time becomes short I will move to plan B.

Mounting up with Mr. Flynn

In My Wicked, Wicked Ways Flynn called himself “the rich man’s Roy Rogers.” I didn’t check to see if I have the quote correct or if I have paraphrased it here. I’m not certain if he was talking about later in the cycle of his eight westerns or not.

A surprise named Dodge City

If memory serves me, and I didn’t dig for this blog (that said, I know Flynn), Mr. Flynn questioned being cast in a western film when he became aware that Warner Bros. was preparing a western to fit his screen persona (Dodge City, 1939).

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A relaxed and smiling Errol Flynn on the first or second day of Dodge City location filming. (photo in LK personal collection)

Of course he hadn’t done any research on the western expansion as the United Stated pushed to make the country extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t think that an Australian accent was present on the western frontier. Actually all accents were present on the western frontier and Mr. Flynn fit the mold of the adventurers that went a-westering to find fame and fortune. Trust me when I say the following, … Errol Flynn was more believable than the multitudes of “cowboy” actors that have been little more than clichés since the beginning of film. I’m certain that he would have enjoyed hearing this during his lifetime. He didn’t. If I meet him in the hereafter I’ll tell him this.

Like my knowledge of the sword I know the western experience. Actually a hundredfold more than the sword. I know race relations, I know the people that ventured West, I know the American Indians (certainly the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and Navajos), and I know the people that attempted to end racial war (I’m upfront and center with this topic).

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This art was created from a recent photo of Pailin Subanna-Kraft and LK. She’s my pistol-packing lady and I’m Mr. Hickok. BTW, the hair was mine as I needed useful photos with long hair. It was recently clipped for an event but don’t rule out the return of long tresses for now that it is gone I miss it. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write about the gunmen, I know a hell of a lot about James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok (who, if I get lucky, I’ll someday play on stage), John Wesley Hardin, and Doc Holliday. Errol Flynn would have fit in with all of these people, and if he lived in the 1860s or 1880s he would have been a survivor. His performances in western films, except for his next to last, Montana (1950), are all acceptable. Three are exceptional (Dodge City; Virginia City, 1940; and They Died with Their Boots On, 1941), two are acceptable (San Antonio, 1945, and Rocky Mountain, 1950), and one I cannot comment about (Silver River, 1948) as I haven’t seen it in decades. … While still on the subject of who I’d like to play on stage, add Errol Flynn to the list. In the case of Hickok and Flynn I need to convince my director and producer to buy into the project (which I’d write). The Flynn project would be original but the Hickok project would be based upon a great novel, East of the Border, by Johnny Boggs (and in this case I also need Boggs to buy into the project).

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.
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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (both images are in the LK personal collection)

Already this blog is fairly long and I don’t want to expend another four thousand or more words here. If you’ve read my Flynn articles you know what I think about They Died with Their Boots On (my best Boots article appeared in the June 2008 issue of American History). There had been a pitch to True West to write short articles on all eight of Flynn’s western films (which had been accepted at the time of the pitch in June 2012) but then, suddenly, as I prepared to deliver the first article the idea was dropped by the magazine. My view of the change without notice: Bullshit, which I made known. Because of this I’m on True West’s “S-list” and have no intention of again pitching them with another story idea. They can pitch me and if the story idea is acceptable to me I’ll write it for them (ditto, Wild West), but I have no intention of pitching True West until this less-than-savory event is resolved to my satisfaction. Wild West is another story, but it, too has something that we need to resolve. … Add that book writing is my major concern and honestly I don’t give a damn if I ever write another magazine article. Hell, I’m never going to write for Oracle or Yahoo! again (and they paid me a hell of a lot of money)—why should writing for True West or Wild West be any different (and they pay peanuts)?

Hey, that’s life. … At least that is my life at this date in time.

For the record Errol Flynn looks like he was born astride a horse. This was evident in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and in all of his westerns (except for Montana).

The goal has been to hopefully catch your interest in Errol Flynn, but not to write a book within a blog.

For those of you that doubt me and what’s a comin’ …

I have one thing to say. Don’t! I have always delivered in the past and I will deliver in the future.

Upcoming Blogs

  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life every day). This blog should be easy to write (and it has been) for songs often link me to a person or an event. In my last blog I announced that this blog would be next. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) this blog continues to grow and grow as there are musicians and composers and singers that are with me all the time. Their music impacts me almost every day, but some compositions and performances stand out as they have influenced my life in one way or another. … At this point in my life everything is important: Being a good husband, a good father, a good writer, and continuing to “walk” this earth. … Since my time has become short—very short time-wise—I’m trying to cut down the gaps between blogs with shorter ones that deal with the immediacy of my day-to-day life. Fortunately the length of time between blogs has shortened, but alas the length of the blogs hasn’t.
  • Ongoing Sand Creek and PSK updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. As time moves forward variations on this series of blogs will update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

— Louis Kraft

Writing, swords, Michael Parks, Errol Flynn, George Custer & gunfights with a pretty lady

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


Whoa baby, does time fly. Already we’re racing toward the end of June. By now I’m certain that some of you think that I am too harsh on writers, editors, art directors, and other people who play a part in my writing life. You may be right, but I must stand firm for my vision of my work. At times this means speaking up. And here all I’m talking about are my writing and art projects.

Unfortunately I live in a world that doesn’t take prisoners. … and I have friends—good friends—who also live in this world. Unfortunately there are people in our 2015 world that thrive by destroying writers and publications that don’t agree with their views while creating books and articles that aren’t even bad fiction.

Yes, I am harsh. The reason is simple: What I write I want to be as accurate and as good as possible. I’m slow, and this is one of the reasons why. Is this acceptable? I don’t know, but for me it is.

My life is busy. I have multiple projects, but as you have seen from the last blog I have eliminated time-consuming projects from my writing life.

A writing life

For what it’s worth my writing life has a schedule with deadlines. These deadlines all have long timeframes, and this is an absolute must for me for the reason stated above. Ladies and gents I have learned over many years the effort that is required for me to write hopefully a decent book. … That’s right, I’m only talking about myself here. I’m slow and my editors know this. They also know that I question everything. If I don’t agree with something that has been changed in my text I challenge it (and there’s always research first to confirm what I challenge).

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This Charles Gatewood painting is dated (art © Louis Kraft 2004). It has been printed four times, and it has earned needed dollars. Ladies and gents, we both know that I’m not a very good artist, But I keep trying. My best seller, believe it or not, is a portrait of Ned Wynkoop. It has been printed five times, and it has brought in a lot more money. I don’t give up for the simple reason that the efforts can earn additional money, and more important they can illustrate an event that is totally lost to the mists of time. For the record, I gave actress Olivia de Havilland an 8×10 print of this Gatewood painting and she liked it.

I do have a fuse, and at times it is a short one. I love my editors, every one of them except the clown assigned to Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000). His edit of the book put me into cardiac arrest. I wrote the manuscript and I do like simple language (short sentences when I get away with them, for the simple reason that they help making books page-turners. This edit of G&G angered me so much that I called the editor-in-chief, Durwood Ball, who had jumped upon the book query and stood behind the book every step of the way. Durwood listened to me, he would survive my demands, and we became good friends. For example, this copyeditor assigned to G&G took four or five of my paragraphs and merged them into one. Shorter sentences became long sentences. I wrote the manuscript, but now I couldn’t understand what I supposedly wrote. I had told Durwood that I was going to edit the copywriter’s edit. He accepted this, and I did. Some historians still believe that G&G is the best book that I have written. Maybe, but it’s not my choice. That said, I’m proud of the book for it placed Charles Gatewood on the map; that is it pulled him from the obscurity that General Nelson Miles damned him to for eternity. For the record (and I love the Cheyennes) if I could spend an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year with an American Indian that I have written about, … It is, and it will always be, Geronimo. He was a magnificent human being (and I don’t give a damn about other people’s opinion of him). I wish I could share the portrait I recently painted of him. I can’t, for the October 2015 Wild West magazine may print it. Honestly, my fingers are crossed that they do. Until I do, and if it is positive, the image is off-limits until the magazine is printed and distributed.


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This is the Pailin that I see every morning (and this morning happens to be 17jun2015). Happy, sexy, and ready for anything that I might toss at her. I’m convinced that she thinks that I’m crazy. That’s okay, for crazy is good if it doesn’t hurt anyone. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll give in and learn to swing a blade. Maybe. Hope never flickers out. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write for companies any longer, my life comprises a lot more than just research and writing—It also includes four-to-five hours of yard work per week; doing housework (I’m home; why not?); most of the grocery shopping; completing the process of turning the front yard into a desert (Ongoing for a long time); creating the new driveway to where Pailin now parks her car (Good progress); and finally working on my health (A multi-leveled process that I created over the years, along with recommendations from my physicians; currently this takes close to four hours average per day—I’ll discuss it in the Thailand blog).

For the record, I’m not complaining for Pailin does more than her share of chores. More important, she had negotiated two days off, Wednesday and Thursday (a few weeks back she worked 21 hours on her two days off, and yes I was cursing). Wednesday and Thursday turned into Tuesday and Wednesday. Last week she worked on Wednesday and as of now she only has Tuesday off. This Tuesday (June 23) she goes into work at noon! I use off-color words, and we both know it. I’m biting my tongue, but not hard for there’s no blood squirting. The only plus is that she has made it clear that she really doesn’t want to go into work until the afternoon, and this seems to be working. At least so far. This cuts into my writing time, but it also gives me additional time with my lady.

Yeah, my days are long. They are also very fulfilling and I enjoy each and every minute.

“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” nears publication

Wild West editor Greg Lalire and I have a draft of the article that we are both good with, and fingers are crossed that there is enough space for the words.

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My daughter Marissa Kraft at the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in Arizona on 25jul1996. At the time I was writing Gatewood & Geronimo and she joined me on a 16-day research trip in Arizona and New Mexico. Great times. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 1996)

In late May I completed three edits of the map that Wild West contract cartographer Joan Pennington created from the map that I submitted. I okayed the third draft the last week of May. I have nothing but kudos to say about Joan’s work. She accurately added what I considered key locations in Geronimo’s life that have never before seen the light of day in map form (see the map that I created for Joan to work from: Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript). It took hours and hours for me to pinpoint three of the locations: 1) The Valenzuela attack on Geronimo’s camp, 2) The Geronimo and Prefect of Arispe near shootout, and 3) The Gatewood confrontation with Lt. Abiel Smith while Geronimo watched.

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On 25jul1996 my daughter Marissa Kraft and I walked to the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in Arizona. If my memory is decent it was about a mile and a half walk each way. The previous night after she went to sleep the news announced that a mountain lion was seen in the area. That morning I wore a knife and when we started the walk I picked up two large branches from the ground. She asked me why and I told her that the branches could help us walk if needed. “What about the knife?” “I just felt like wearing it today.” It’s a great walk, but I remained alert the entire time but saw no evidence of the cat. We saw this memorial to Geronimo’s two-year old son as we neared the fort ruins. I never checked on the little boy, but if the dating is accurate he most likely took part in the final Chiricahua Apache outbreak from Turkey Creek in spring 1885. (photo © Louis Kraft 1996)

As everything is new with the World History Group and the Los Angeles design group that are calling the shots on the photos, art, and maps there are no guarantees of what will make it into “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” for the October issue of Wild West. I feel confident that Joan’s map of key Mexican locations in Geronimo’s life will make the issue. Fingers are crossed that my portrait of Mr. G will also be printed.

I have seen the August 2015 issue of Wild West (this is the first issue published by the World History Group) and I want to say up front that the August issue is one giant step forward. I love the look and feel of the magazine! More below on the new Wild West magazine.

I’m working on a bucket list in reverse order, as follows:

  • My last play, Cheyenne Blood, ran for five weeks in 2009. Although nothing has been officially pitched this is one place where I’ll never say “Never.” Here are two big reasons why:
    •  I have a great idea for a play on Errol Flynn.
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Johnny B. gave me this first edition of his story of Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro on the stage for one season when we got together in Santa Fe in 2005. It is a great character study. What I really like is when Hickok realizes that the flame from his revolver burns the dead actors on the stage. After that whenever possible he bends near a “dead” actor and fires his revolver so that the flame burns the deceased and brings them back to life on stage. Hickok finds his ad-libbing a hoot. It’s a funny bit and I’d like to do it too. I’m not sadistic; just fun-loving, especially with the knowledge that no actors (dead or alive) would be harmed.

•  Johnny D. Boggs wrote a terrific story about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody’s theatrical troupe in East of the Border (Five Star, 2004). Since I read Johnny’s novel I’ve wanted to play Hickok. Most of my writing ideas take forever to become reality. For this to happen will take a miracle of selling on my part. Johnny Boggs and director Tom Eubanks if you read this open your ears to me.

  • I have ceased giving talks. My last talk dealt with Lt. Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico in August 1886 and talking him into returning to the United States and surrendering for the last time (Order of the Indian Wars, Tucson, Az., September 2013). See Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo.
  • At the moment it appears that “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” may be my last article. No others are in progress and I have stopped pitching stories to magazines.

I’m good with the above, and trust me I never hold my breath for something that may never happen. There have been a lot of projects over the years that have gone belly up or never happened. Not because of me, but because of others. When I commit, I commit and deliver. In the acting and writing worlds much happens with great aspirations, but then far too often—Poof … Nada.

The new Wild West magazine, books & changes

First and foremost, the look and feel of the August 2015 Wild West magazine is terrific. This is the first issue of Wild West with the new design since the World History Group purchased the Weider History Group and its stable of history magazines earlier this year.

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The August 2015 issue.

I like the cover paper and interior paper, which have a different texture (the gloss is gone from the cover). Love the cover makeover! Simple design with a cool new Wild West banner, including “The American Frontier” subhead. I really like the cover art of the young outlaw Jesse James. Artist Robert Hunt created the portrait based upon a 10jul1864 image of the teenager.

The August issue contains five features, and they are well designed with photos and art. A portion of a Thomas Hart Benton mural the artist created for the Missouri state capitol building in 1936 covers the first two pages of “The State of Jesse James” by Jim Winnerman, and shows the James gang robbing a train and a bank. Another feature, “Allan Pinkerton: ‘They Must Die'” by Ron Soodalter also begins with an image (Pinkerton on horseback in 1862) covering the first two pages of the article. But in this article, which deals with Pinkerton’s efforts to end the James-Younger gang’s lawlessness Soodalter’s text begins on the first page in white ink over the dark shades of the image behind Pinkerton’s horse. I think these two pages are really pleasing to the eye. The magazine also prints images that cover a full page. For example: In the Pinkerton article there is three-shot of Frank James sitting between Jesse and Fletch Taylor, who posed for the image in a studio (perhaps in 1867).

I know a number of historian-writers that focus on the Indian wars, and on social media some of them have been critical of the change of hands of Wild West from the Weider History Group to the World History Group. What will happen to their articles? What will be the word count, and it has shrunk for features? Will their articles see print? Heck, what about the Weider History Group staff in Leesburg, Virginia? Will they survive? At the moment it looks as if they will, which is great news for all of us: Them, the freelance writers, and the readers of the magazine.

A few thoughts on change

Change is always nerve-wracking, and I know of what I say for I have lived through it in my writing career way too often. Sometimes I survived and sometimes I didn’t survive. The following are a few examples.

What should have been my first published nonfiction historical piece was accepted by a British history magazine, and it was a feature on George Armstrong Custer. This came about when the magazine did an article on Custer which included publicity photos from the Robert Shaw star turn in Custer of the West (1967) and I wrote the editor telling him that I didn’t write letters to the editor. I then banged the hell out of the article while pitching an article about “The Real Custer.” The editor jumped on the story, but the magazine went belly-up before publication and I had to track him down to get my photographs back. There’s a lesson here; if one publication was interested in a written piece most likely another publication will be interested in it—the writer just has to find another buyer. “The Real Custer” saw print in the December 1988 issue of Research Review. (At that time Research Review paid $100, which was a large reduction from what I would have made from Britain magazine, but the layout and design was much better than the British magazine was capable of doing.)

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LK with Jackie Johnson in Jackson, Wyoming, at the Western Writers of America convention in 1993 (Jackson Hole is the valley between the Snake River and the Teton Mountains). She liked the idea for The Final Showdown in Oregon in perhaps 1989. I was so dumb that when some three months later my agent asked if I had drafted three sample chapters. Oops! No. Jackie became friends with Marissa and I. We ate together at conventions, saw a play, And I spent good time with her at her office in Manhattan just before the first novel was published. (photo © Louis Kraft 1993)

My second novel was under contract but the publisher decided to drop their western line. I threatened to sue, but my then-agent talked me out of it as she was afraid that she’d be blacklisted and did what she could to convince me that I would be also. I consented but weeks later we parted company. This was a genre western that dipped into Navajo culture and history. I liked it (I still like it), but I never attempted to resell it. Reason: I felt that the story needed more than 65,000 words to tell it properly. It has since waited until I decide when that the time is right to expand it into a full novel. That time is getting close.

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LK with a coworker at Sun Microsystems. Actually I am sitting at the coworker’s desk but he wasn’t present. One or more of my coworkers, people I enjoyed knowing and respected, created this life-sized cutout of this fellow, who might have been on vacation on this day. I believe that the year was 2007, and one of three fellows took this image but I don’t remember who. BTW, I chuckled the entire day. Talk about being vague, … just one of my talents.

The software world is ever changing. Companies appear and succeed or fail, and often they sell out to larger companies (which usually makes the owners rich) or merge with larger companies or large companies purchase smaller companies (a reverse of the above). When this happens, often jobs disappear, and even more so in the 21st century when one job—let’s say a writing job—in the USA becomes two or three or four writing jobs in India or elsewhere. Or perhaps the USA job transfers to only one job in India, and the U.S. company pockets the rest of the salary (and perhaps makes a killing in benefits savings).

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Sun Microsystems bought SeeBeyond Technology Corporation in 2005. If my memory is correct this badge was created that year. Every software company that I worked for had tight security—something that I’ve always appreciated.

When this type of change happens it creates a nervous time, and I don’t care if it is in the space industry or elsewhere. I’ve seen huge cheers when a satellite is shown blowing up on TV news footage and the staff realizes that it wasn’t a satellite that they worked on and that their jobs are safe. In case you don’t know, space failure (and sometimes other IT failure) means that heads will roll as millions upon millions of dollars suddenly vaporize.

Don’t forget that when a company begins to flame out and spiral toward oblivion such as Sun Microsystems, or when a powerhouse (no example, … to protect the innocent—yours truly) operates on lies (I have proof but have no desire to go to war, a war I could never win regardless of what the documentation proves), heads roll and these deaths are not based upon quality of performance.

Back to Wild West magazine and other publishers

My hopes and prayers are that the staff in Leesburg, Virginia, survive the magazine transition from the Weider History Group to the World History Group. At this point in time it looks good for all concerned.

Will any of the above affect me? Doubtful. Life is what it is, and it always moves forward. Do I lose? Probably. No more publicity wherein I receive money for my efforts. Will I regret my decision as I move forward? Probably. Hey guys, I like magazine articles and have always done whatever was necessary to make the articles as good as they could be.

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LK talking about “Cheyenne Indian Agent Edward Wynkoop’s 1867 Fight to Prevent War” at the Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, N. Mex.) on 15sept2004. The reason I have used this image here is because my views on race and Wynkoop have garnered me anger and hate over the years. At times when I’ve appeared—let’s say in Colorado—people will turn their backs to me. The Discovery isn’t about racial hatred, but there is a crime in the story that isn’t racial, and yet it is. Bob Goodman and I are happy with our manuscript. At the same time we are aware that the content may anger people. The story of my life. Hell, ladies & gents, if I can’t push you as far as I can, why bother? (photo Louis Kraft 2004)

Yes, but I have always angered staff members at publications. It wasn’t because I wanted to upset or threaten staff members but rather because I wanted to challenge them and myself to create the best story and design possible. Egos are involved, and often people don’t realize that I have a lot of experience in what they consider their expertise. They don’t like being challenged, for as far as they are concerned they know what is acceptable. They don’t want to push words or a design layout to the extreme; they just want to get their job done and go home.

I’m sorry, but for me this isn’t acceptable.

And the above isn’t limited to magazine articles, for it extends to talks (which I believe must turn on listeners and not put them to sleep) as well as books (which for me are my main focus). Book production teams think a lot less of me than magazines or those who have been brave enough to allow me to speak for their events.

The bottom line, and I’m talking about anyone and every speaking engagement, magazine, or book publisher that has hired me. All I care about is the best product possible. That’s it; I’ve never said or done anything to hurt you. Never. The final product, be it a talk, article, or book is and has always been all I care about.

For those of you who have hired me. Thank you, and I say this from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

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PS-K and LK returned from an extended research trip to the West on 16oct2014. The next day we drove to the Western History Association convention in Newport Beach, Calif. I knew that John Monnett would be there (John and his wonderful wife Linda welcomed us with open arms at their home in Colorado during the trip). I wanted to see him. I also wanted to see Chuck Rankin (editor-in-chief at OU Press), had hoped that Durwood Ball who is now editor of the New Mexico Historical Review and a good friend would be present (he was), and spent prime time with Clark Whitehorn (current editor-in-chief at U of NM Press). … Pailin saw the Wynkoop book, which Chuck and OU Press still push, and she snapped this image. … Good news to report from OU Press. Managing editor Steven Baker recently contacted me and Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek will be published in paper in mid-July. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

As for my book publishers present and in the future, you know me. But if you don’t, it’s on you for not doing your research and learning. I’m certain that you want the best book published, and I’m with you on this 100 percent. Know that when you contract with me that I intend to do everything possible to ensure that the book that you and I have partnered on will be the best publication possible. You need to know that I will take an active part in the entire publishing process. There are no shortcuts for me, and I do know the process (and have lived it for some twenty plus years, and I’m not just talking about my freelance publishing experience, which is thirty years). I have actively made the choice to eliminate pieces of my writing life as I consider books the major part of my artistic world. The future is out there and I have made my decision of what my future is.

Book publishing departments I’m not your enemy; I’m your friend for my goal is the same as yours. Don’t get upset and don’t attack, for I’m working with you to get the best possible product printed. This has nothing to do with ego and has nothing to do with me trying to show you up. I’m a part of your team, and everything I write, submit, or suggest is to improve the final product. That’s it, … that’s all.

TV, swords, Michael Parks, Errol Flynn, and George Armstrong Custer

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In the pilot for Then Came Bronson Michael Parks sang “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” which is my favorite song of all time, with Bonnie Bedelia singing backup. BTW, the pilot for the TV series was released in Europe as a feature film. The producers quickly realized that they had another element in the development of a loner coming to terms with life as he explored the western USA on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and that was adding a Parks’ song to each episode. It worked, for Parks sang country blues like no one before him (and to my knowledge no one since). Michael apparently prefers blues linked to jazz (moving away from the music that I love). This image of Parks, which was taken on 22may1970 (and is completely copyrighted, and trust me you don’t want to steal it for in court you will lose) was shot at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. I had paid good money for what I thought would be good seats. No! We were halfway back in the auditorium. I had a bright idea, and suggested to my guest that we kneel down in front of the first row and lean against the stage. We did this, weren’t asked to leave, talked with Michael, and obtained some great images from his concert. I would luckily work with Parks in the future, and got to know him.

I’ve been around for a long time, and over the years I haven’t been impressed with TV shows. There are only four TV shows that have caught my interest over the years. Michael Parks’ Then Came Bronson (1969-1970); The X-Files with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (1993-2002); The Mentalist with Simon Baker and Robin Tunney (2008-2015) may be my favorite of all time, but this is a toss up with Then Came Bronson; and The Musketeers (2014-2015) with Luke Pasqualino (as d’Artagnan) and Santiago Cabrera (as Aramis). Other than Then Came Bronson (which I tried to watch, but unfortunately couldn’t catch all of the episodes), I haven’t watched any of these programs when they aired. I saw a handful of episodes of The X-Files and maybe four or five episodes of The Mentalist. My viewing TV count of The Musketeers is zero. Great plots, actors, and series, but luckily none of them had (or have) counted upon my loyalty to survive.

Something needs to be said right here. I’m only writing about one actor, Errol Flynn (and in the first volume Olivia de Havilland is a major supporting player). If ever I were to write about another actor, it would be Michael Parks. He was a rebel who could act, and best yet he dared to stand firm for what he believed. His story should be told. I luckily got to work with Michael in 1978 on a TV film that hoped to lead to a series. It aired in 1980, but didn’t lead to a series, and that is too bad. Good times for LK, and there are stories to be told here, among which is the rap against Parks for what I saw it was pure bullshit. … Michael is still working and looks physically great. That said if ever I am to follow up on this book idea I need to get off my rear end and re-connect with him. Now.

I presume that by now you know that I love the sword and swashbuckling. At the beginning of this year I was in a Best Buy (which I think may disappear in the not-too-distant future; another victim of changing times) and saw the first season for The Musketeers on sale for ten bucks. It’s a BBC production and I hadn’t heard of it or any of the actors.

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DVD cover for the second season of The Musketeers. From left on top image: Santiago Cabrera, Howard Charles (as Porthos), Luke Pasqualino, and Tom Burke (as Athos). I’m looking forward to seeing the second season later this year.

But how can you go wrong with Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. The story is a classic. Although Errol Flynn did a recording of one of the ongoing plot lines he never played d’Artagnan on film. Too bad, for at the time of Flynn’s The Prince and the Pauper (Warner Bros., 1937), he would have been perfect casting for this role. Ten bucks. Hell, if it was the worst TV show that I ever saw it would certainly be worth the expense just to study the swordplay (good or bad). This comes from a cynic, for easily 90 percent of the swashbuckling productions that I’ve seen on film or on TV are little more than jokes. Poor scripts, bad or low budget production values, and worse—piss-poor acting and swordplay. Yeah, I’m a cynic for easily nine out of ten films or TV productions that I have seen are an embarrassment. They aren’t classic, they aren’t good, and I don’t give a damn how much money they earn, or don’t earn (for profits mean nothing when talking about quality). Apples and oranges, no more and no less.

And this carries over onto the stage. After Dr. Kildare (1960s TV series) Richard Chamberlain went off and studied acting. He became a good actor, and since he chose to be classically trained he would soon play leads on stage and in historic films, TV movies, and mini-series. A number of them would be swashbucklers and eventually he landed the role of Aramis in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. Two films shot at the same time but then split into two films. That’s right two films for the price of one. The actors didn’t agree, took the producer to court and won a second salary for their efforts. I agree with this judgment. Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, and Michael York, among others, excelled. The films are exciting, and I like them. However, if any of these actors attacked me and thrashed around with their swords as they did on film I would have simply stood there and watched them slash and swoosh with their rapiers and then would have simply extended my arm and pierced their hearts without raising a sweat. Adios amigos. Ve con Dios (Go with God).

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A publicity photo from Chamberlain’s less than spectacular performance as the world’s greatest duelist at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in 1973.

The bottom line: I saw Chamberlain play Cyrano de Bergerac on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (eighth row center) in October or November 1973 (I also saw Mr. C play Henry IV in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I in 1972 at the Ahmanson). Cyrano has a big nose; he is also the greatest duelist in France. This is a classic play, and every actor who swings a blade wants to play Cyrano. The key duel in the play begins and it is fought as if the actors hold foils (parry and thrust; no slashing) even though it looks as if they hold rapiers. It is boring (and I’m being kind here). Chamberlain’s blade brakes. Oops! I don’t know if we call performers who have zero lines or only as few extras on the stage or not. Anyway, an extra or an actor with a minimal role walked to Chamberlain and handed him his blade so that Richard could continue the duel. Hell, he should have flipped his blade to Chamberlain and Mr. C. should have caught it with a flourish before charging his opponent. No such luck. The dull duel continued and ended as expected and I wanted to go to sleep. I can name two Chamberlain performances that I think the world of; as mountain man Alexander McKeag in the miniseries Centennial (1979) and as Father Ralph de Bricassart in the miniseries The Thorn Birds (1983). Chamberlain is a good actor, and he has proved this time and again. Unfortunately I never worked with him.

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Wayne Maunder as George Armstrong Custer in Custer (or The Legend of Custer, 1967; 20th Century Fox pilot plus 17 episodes). The pilot was a joke. I don’t think I’ll waste any words talking about it and the TV series was worse. That said Maunder played the ideal Custer, as this newspaper clipping from the 1960s shows. Maunder is wearing a cool hat; methinks that perhaps I need Baron Hats in Burbank, Calif., to create it for me, … or should my next hat be Flynn’s hat used in the early scenes of Dodge City (Warner Bros., 1939)? Decisions, decisions. What’s a writer to do?

What do I mean? Simply, most productions have B-film scripts and most of the actors aren’t A-actors. Forget the production value, for often there isn’t/wasn’t any. Swinging a blade (like riding a horse on film) requires that the actors to learn how to do it. Unfortunately most don’t. A perfect example of this is Gary Cole playing George Armstrong Custer in the mini-series based upon Evan S. Connell’s The Son of Morning Star (Republic Pictures Television, 1984). Connell’s book was loaded with factual errors (Over 150 and counting in the first printing; I believe that most of them were fixed in subsequent printings), but he was a good writer and could tell a story. His book, published by an obscure publisher, became a national best seller and did wonders for Custer and the American Indian wars. What can I say about the mini-series? Many of the supporting actors were much better than Cole, who had no clue of who Custer was. Ditto Rosanna Arquette, who played Libbie Custer. She actually stated that she didn’t respect the historical figure she portrayed. Too bad, but hell I don’t respect her, and I spent perhaps four weeks working with her and Richard Thomas in a TV film remake of Johnny Belinda (1982). Good money for me, plus Thomas and I became friends, which would almost impact my screenwriting career—almost, but no cigar. And Thomas tried, for he liked several of my screenplays but didn’t have the clout to get enough money people interested to raise what was needed to move the scripts into production. …

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Errol Flynn’s They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) and Robert Shaw’s Custer of the West (Cinerama Releasing Corporation, 1967) played at the Beverly Cinema on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles on June 14 & 15, 2015 (and this was the theater’s ad).

They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) is one of Flynn’s best films and it constantly juggles with Adventures of Don Juan (Warner Bros., 1948), The Sea Hawk (Warner Bros., 1940), and Gentleman Jim (Warner Bros., 1942) for EF’s best performances on film. His role as George Armstrong Custer links with the boxer Gentleman Jim Corbett, the lover and swordsman Don Juan de Maraña, Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (read the pirate Francis Drake), and the aristocratic Soames Forsyte (in The Forsyte Woman, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1949) as roles that he wanted to perform.

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I had taken some photos of the Beverly Cinema in daylight as the box office opened at six o’clock (got one or two good daylight shots of Robert that’ll use in the future), but decided that I wanted a night image. More dramatic. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

They Died With Their Boots On (TDWTBO) is a great film that played a major role in my future. I’ve always liked Robert Shaw, and he made some good films, including Jaws (Zanuck/Brown Productions, Universal Pictures, 1975), and The Deep (Columbia Pictures, 1977). Unfortunately Custer of the West isn’t a good film. Let’s just flip that statement, Mr. Shaw played Custer in a bad film.

On Sunday, June 14, Robert Florczak picked me up and drove us to the Beverly Cinema to see TDWTBO. A good time as we got to hang out together, something that time and circumstances has prevented for too long. We saw Flynn’s Custer on the large screen for the first time in a long while (for me, at least two decades and maybe more). Afterwards we talked about Custer and Flynn, and as we got trapped in a major traffic jam after seeing Flynn’s Custer (we didn’t stick around for Shaw’s Custer) it gave us more time to chat. Actually Highland Avenue was a total mess and Robert detoured to the south before moving east to attempt getting out of LA via Laurel Canyon.

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The February 2008 issue of American History.

BTW, I hate this 1941 Warner Bros. one-sheet of TDWTBO. In February 2008 American History published a feature of mine (“Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth”) that compares Flynn’s Custer to the real GAC, and the findings are surprising (this was the best of three articles I wrote about the comparison: Errol & Olivia will deal with this in detail). The art director for American History clipped an oval of Flynn from this one-sheet (see image above) and used it in the article. I hated it and fought to have it removed. I lost. That said this is one of the best articles I have ever written.

Let’s pick on Johnny Depp and his Captain Jack character.

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Signed photo of Depp from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film (2003) in LK collection.

Johnny’s a good actor, and he takes chances. Period. Unfortunately he didn’t learn how to swing a blade for what will probably be the character we remember him for playing (and he’s made four Pirates of the Caribbean films, and there’s a fifth on its way to release). I like the first film a lot for it was inventive, had a few good (and non-cliché characters), and it grabbed my interest. Depp couldn’t sword fight, and neither could the insipid young actor who played the love interest (he’s not worth mentioning). It would get worse in the following three Pirates films (and it is painfully obvious that Depp isn’t doing any sword fighting). I’m picking on Depp, but he’s not alone. We can go back to a pretty big film star from the golden age of film (the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s) and look at Robert Taylor’s swashbuckling films. Guess what, Mr. Taylor wasn’t doing much with a blade either.

Hey, the bottom line on film is: If you can’t see the actor’s face on the screen,
the actor didn’t perform what you are watching. I don’t care if they are
naked or are riding a horse or are swinging a blade. To repeat, if you
can’t see their face they didn’t act in the scene (or at least not all of it)
that you are watching. Simple; a film double or a stunt double
played the scene (and I know what I’m talking about).

Ladies and gents, there are only a handful of actors (heroes and villains) who could wield a blade. This is a very short list. Of the actors from the golden age of film (Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Stewart Granger, Basil Rathbone … four fellows; and maybe the dancer Gene Kelly and heartthrob Tyrone Power; I’ll have to check Kelly but other than The Sun Also Rises, 20th Century Fox, 1957, I have none of Power’s films in-house). That’s it. From the 1960s to the time of Richard Lester’s series of swashbuckling films in the 1970s, zero. Lester’s actors, who were mostly English (Oliver Reed, a good actor at all times; Michael York, Frank Finley, and Christopher Lee) and the American Richard Chamberlain worked at preparing for the Lester films.

Basil Rathbone said in a recorded interview that, “I could kill Mr. Flynn anytime I wanted.” (I don’t know if this quote is accurate but it is close.) Really? I chuckle over this every time I hear or read the quote.

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Mr. Rathbone is stiff on film, and it is obvious that he is/was concentrating on what he learned in his fencing lessons (and according to him, he studied the sword for years away from the studios). Sword fighting—real sword fighting—is considerably more than learned technique. It is taking what you have learned and using it to not only stay alive but to disable or kill the person attacking you. In film, the actor must sell this to the audience, and Flynn could do this. Knowing Flynn’s life cycle intimately I’ll take him any day in a real duel to the death with Rathbone. … But Rathbone does hit the mark with his words of his capability to kill a fellow actor but we must wait until the 1970s and Lester’s swashbuckling films for here the movements by the swordsmen are so large and exaggerated that Mr. Rathbone could have easily eliminated Chamberlain and the other heroes without breaking a sweat.

Too bad, … I guess, as I like Lester’s two Musketeer films and have nothing but praise for his Crossed Swords (a much better retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper than Flynn’s 1937 version with Oliver Reed playing Miles Hendon). I like Reed’s acting, and in my humble opinion his Miles Hendon is the best role he played. Totally convincing.

Gunfights with a pretty lady …

I hope that my schedule as listed above doesn’t throw you off or give you the wrong impression. I’m thrilled with my life. I have Pailin, hopefully Marissa, and my writing. That’s a lot. I’m thrilled and very happy. What more could a man ask for?

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Oh yeah, this is LK’s pistol-packin’ lady at Tujunga House. This is not a Photoshop enhancement. I’ve been seeing a lot of people on social media blame this great program for doing things that it didn’t do. Just so you know, I’ve been using Photoshop since the mid-1990s and it is my favorite program. This image was created in the camera and is a total operator error by LK. That’s right, yours truly messed up big time. I had no intention of turning the 1860 Army Colt into a canon or of shrinking Pailin into a dwarf. That said, I had to share this image as PS-K and I laugh every time we look at it. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Pailin is game for almost everything. Almost everything, but not sword fighting. Never say “never.” Trust me, for I have no intention of giving up trying to get her to cross blades with me. Someday I’ll get my way. When that time arrives I’m certain that she’ll enjoy herself and ask what took me so long to get her to change her mind.

How many of you have a shootout deep in the night when your lady returns home? Sometimes she shoots me; sometimes I shoot her. … With our fingers, which become pistols when we see who has the quickest draw or who exhibited the best stealth on any given night.

“Bam, bam, bam!” Pailin yells. “I got you!” I grab my chest and fall against the wall before sliding to the wooden floor, or Pailin grabs her stomach and slumps onto Saltillo tiles. This gunfight could have happened on a boardwalk in early Denver or in a former hacienda outside of Santa Fe.

psk_lk_fingerColtMontage_4jun15_wsRecently, after working on balance and strength while studying The Mentalist, I sat in a leather chair beside the piano, which is to the left of the front door, while I iced my feet. The night was early; before ten-thirty. I heard a click. Or did I? All it took was a split second. Too late—too late … before the sound registered. I fired with my left hand, but Pailin had opened the door, saw where I sat, and shot before I did. She smiled as she added another notch to her revolver.

It is always different, always. Not long back I prepared for bed and I heard her car pull into its new parking place behind the house. I raced for the kitchen and waited in darkness. A minute, perhaps two or three passed before I heard Pailin enter. She entered the computer room and carefully leaned through the archway. What she saw confirmed that I wasn’t in one of two possible locations. She slowly stood upright from her crouched stance. I stepped from the darkness behind her and fired, “Bam-bam-bam.” She turned around, laughed, and dropped onto the tile.

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PS-K gunning for LK in Tujunga House on 17jun2015 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

My favorite happened not too long back. I had already gone to bed, but always leave a light on in the bedroom so that Pailin can see. I hadn’t gone to sleep when I heard the front door open. I didn’t have much time and quickly stuffed a bunch of pillows under the blankets to hopefully represent where I slept. I then tiptoed to the right of the door entry into the bedroom. Leaning against the wall I waited for when I would shoot my pretty wife. HA!!! … And for those of you who live in dangerous areas or who write fiction (or fact) take note for what follows. I heard Pailin move through the archway and slowly, carefully step toward the bedroom. Seconds ticked by, but there was no sound, and yet I knew that she had to be moving forward. No matter, for as soon as she stepped through the doorway I’d shoot. So much for best laid plains, for Pailin leaped into the bedroom as she whirled to her left and shot me. Afterwards I asked her how she knew where I was. She pointed at the mirror above a small table that faces the doorway. She had seen me lurking and waiting to ambush her as soon as she stepped into the hallway. … Talk about feeling like a tenderfoot. How would I have survived in Dodge City? Probably not. I would have been an easy mark for John Wesley Hardin.

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LK turning and fanning his revolver at PS-K in Tujunga House on 18jun2015 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

One more gunfight. At the time of this shootout I do believe that Pailin had more notches than I did. I’m the man. I’m Wild Bill Hickok, I’m Doc Holliday, … I’m supposed to win. And I wasn’t. I decided to plan our next engagement. When Pailin hadn’t arrived home by eleven and I was still awake, I decided what I’d do when she arrived. I pulled one of the chairs out from the dining room table and went back to bed. I dozed but couldn’t drift into a good sleep. Nearing the midnight hour the headlights of Pailin’s Honda caught my attention. I reacted slowly. Finally it registered that she had arrived. I stumbled out of bed and hustled to computer room, just as I heard a key in the front door. I ran to the dinning room and struggled to get under the table. I waited in the darkness. Minutes passed. Where was Pailin? I knew, while not knowing. She stalked me but everything came up blanks for her. Finally she walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. She then stepped into the dining room and placed one of her packages on the table before returning to the kitchen. I knew that she intended a careful search and didn’t want to wait. I pushed the chair with its back to the kitchen and opened fire. She turned, took the blanks and fell backwards against the archway to the laundry room before slowly dropping to the tiles. “You’re bad,” she whispered as she laughed. “You’re bad.”

After all our gunfights we laugh and hug and kiss. Great fun, and best of all it adds another level to our relationship.

Upcoming deadlines & comments

The Discovery still dominates my life (and will for some time yet), but some of my tasks on my plate have become inflated, and they shouldn’t be (see below). I had initially misjudged how long it would take me to write a character-driven medical malpractice novel (based on Dr. Robert Goodman’s story) using a thriller writing style. As the plot stretches from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, the novel is a period piece, and as such has required a lot of research on my part to keep the place and time accurate. For example, the California 101 freeway, that begins east of downtown Los Angeles, cuts through the Cahuenga Pass and into the San Fernando Valley (BTW, if you don’t know the “Valley” is a major piece of both the city and county of LA), before moving northward to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Bob had the lady who would give life to a major player in the plot riding on this freeway in 1952. One problem, the freeway hadn’t been completed yet.

The Discovery

Before talking about The Discovery, I want to say something about Bob Goodman. I’ve known him for almost 25 years and he has played a major role in my health. Over time we realized that we liked each other and our time together began to include subjects other than medicine. Beginning in 2010 I began doing writing consulting for Bob, and in November 2013 he asked me if I wanted to partner on The Discovery. Although I didn’t know where his manuscript was heading I was familiar with the first 100 pages. I liked the story idea and its potential and agreed (but there was an extra incentive—I needed money to pay for a surgery I didn’t know about). This decision has cost me a lot of time in the last year and a half but I’m thrilled that I accepted Bob’s offer for I think we have a unique story that will be a page-turner. … I had been considering a major return to fiction and The Discovery has become the perfect starting point. I couldn’t be happier with our collaboration, and what I now know is getting close to the final product.

Disclaimer: If The Discovery were a feature film it would carry an R rating.


I thought I had begun my polish of The Discovery on 21may2015 (I had hoped to start it in April but I had not yet collected the reviews I requested). That said, I figured I had an outside chance of finishing my polish early in June.

No!

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LK walking on the San Diego coast when the sea and beach are fogged in. This is one of my favorite things to do—having  the California coast almost to myself. The beach is empty as it usually is in early morning (and sometimes in the evening), and my companions are the roll and sound of the incoming sea. I’m at one with me, and this is where I want to be. I can smell and watch and think, and this is a glimpse into my writing and real world. A great friend of mine, George Carmichael, took this image. I lost George in spring 2014, and I still struggle with his moving on. We met at a fiction writing class at UCLA in 1997 and we were at loggerheads. Who could have guessed that for the rest of his life we’d become great friends. I need to talk about George. Soon. This image is full frame and is as George shot it in March 2001. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

On 23may2015 I began to slowly polish chapter 9, which is the introduction to Greg Weston, who is a key player in the story. The chapter heading states Motor Avenue, but on the first page Weston is walking toward the deli that he often visits with his dog. He is walking on Pico Boulevard, which is a major east-west street in Los Angeles.

Yikes! How did I miss this? Motor Avenue starts at (or dead-ends at Pico Boulevard, at the Fox Studio, which was formerly 20th Century Fox). Moving south Motor Avenue cuts through a golf course and then turns west before meandering west and south. When a street name that Bob had created and I discovered didn’t exist anywhere south of the golf course he told me that he knew the area and it was perfect for the story. We decided to go vague on the street name for Weston’s house. But the house and its location (as is key in later chapters) was two short blocks from a deli where Weston is a semi-celebrity (again, this is on LK, for I totally missed Weston walking on Pico Boulevard at this point in the story, and Pico was in Bob’s text that I used as an outline for the manuscript).

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A George Carmichael portrait of LK at Tujunga House in 1994. Two images from this session would be used in Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons Publishers , 1995). This image, along with others, has been exiled to obscurity for decades only to be recently found. It was taken in the Tujunga House computer room, and the desk still exists. If the photo was taken today, framed images would be seen on the wall. (photo Louis Kraft 1994)

On that same May 23rd it finally sank in that Weston walking on both Motor and Pico was wrong as it was just too long of a walk. This realization sent up a red flag and I started to study maps again. Maps showed no businesses and I moved to the Google maps that are aerial photos. The entire area is totally residential. No businesses, and I kept moving south and west, … and I passed the Beverly Hills Country Club.

Before saying what I saw, I had sometime in 2014 questioned people watching golfers while eating at the Beverly Hills Country Club and Bob confirmed that this was true and that they could. Beginning with chapter 8, the Beverly Hills Country Club plays a major set piece in the story, and it is often listed as the “Beverly Hills Country Club, Cheviot Hills, California” in the three-line subheadings to the chapters. The Beverly Hills Country Club is instrumental to the story, and it has been in place since I partnered with Bob. I can’t tell you how many reviews Bob Goodman has performed, but there are a lot—five, or maybe six.

When I discovered the Motor/Pico error I began looking for information. … The Google aerial photo of the Beverly Hills Country Club shows that this club offers tennis and swimming. Going to their website I learned that it opened in the mid-1920s and that Errol Flynn, among other film celebrities, often frequented the club. This makes sense as Flynn was a great tennis player and often paired with Bill Tilden and other tennis pros of the 1930s and 1940s or played against them in single competition. Also, Flynn loved to swim and did until his death.

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This is John McGirr, MD. He became my family doctor when my parents moved from New York to California and settled in Reseda about 1954. His office was originally in Encino but would eventually move to Tarzana, named after novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs most famous character, Tarzan of the apes. He was a physically fit man who loved golf, and was a good golfer. I believe that this image was taken at the Calabasas Country Club. I knew club intimately as Dr. McGirr would become my father-in-law (1971) and would remain so until his death in 1987. I don’t know who the other two people in this photo are. (photo © Joan McGirr 1970s)

You can’t watch golfers while eating at the Beverly Hills Country Club. Period!

More digging, and guess what—sometime in the past the Beverly Hills Country Club partnered with the Calabasas Country Club, which is in the hills south of Ventura Boulevard on the west side of the San Fernando Valley. I know this country club, as my father-in-law, John McGirr, M.D., was my family physician since the mid-1950s. Dr. McGirr remained my physician until shortly before he died in 1987.  He was a major physician in the San Fernando Valley until his retirement about a year before his death. He was a great golfer and a member of the Calabasas Country Club (which opened in 1968). The club had a minimum amount that a member had to spend in the restaurant each month. I don’t know what that minimum was, but probably six times a year my ex-wife and I would join McGirr and his wife for dinner at the club. Great food.

The above was not a small blip on what I thought would be a polish of the manuscript, for it now required a major rewrite by me, which also included Doris Goodman’s three comments: 1) Make one of the doctors 62 and not 52, 2) Reduce the amount of the Spanish dialogue, and 3) Allow the leading player to have two drinks at the end of the story. Doris’s comments are valid. The doctor aged by 10 years, but I had to be careful that this played forward smoothly. The Spanish I dealt with as I saw fit. My reason: I didn’t want to write cliché gang members (read: Evil people). Instead, I wanted the golf pro to deal with his situation and a foreign language, which in itself can be frightening when a person doesn’t know what is being said. As for the leading player drinking at the end of the story, it meant a major rewrite of his wife and unfortunately not a satisfactory answer to alcoholism. I came up with what I considered a decent fix here, and hopefully Bob and Doris will agree.

Two deadlines with dates

I have a contract with OU Press to deliver the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway  manuscript on 1oct2016 (and it included a nice advance). Luckily progress is being made with both research and writing.

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Art of the tower of the great building that became the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

That said, photocopy requests of the research I performed at what will soon be the former Braun Research Library at the Southwest Museum in June 2014 still hasn’t arrived. Although staff worked on my copy requests during my 12-day visit, the estimated date of delivery is now August 2015. That says it all, other than to add that my thoughts aren’t printable. This is not good for me, but that’s life and I must roll with the punches (and excuses). I have another delivery almost a month earlier—Pailin’s and my application for her permanent Green Card. This will require a lot of work by LK and PS-K, and there is no room for error. I know how much effort it took both of us to land Pailin’s initial two year (but temporary) Green Card in September 2014, and I know how much of our time will be devoted to the September 2016 meeting with U.S. Immigration. Failure is not an option. … Unfortunately, when Immigration set the second Green Card deadline, the Sand Creek deadline was already in place (honestly, I don’t think I’ll be sleeping the entire summer of 2016).

Back to The Discovery

I’m sorry, but I’m not the happiest person at the moment for during the rewrite, which was supposed to be a polish I made the Beverly Hills Country Club discovery (which unfortunately has been in place since before I came on board). This, along with a vodka discovery, which like the Beverly Hills Country Club I didn’t research as I had mistakenly thought that Bob had his facts correct here. … I checked a lot of the words and locations for historical and factual accuracy but I didn’t check the club or the vodka. That’s on me (hell it wouldn’t have been more than an hour or two of work, but I didn’t do it). I’m glad that I discovered the country club error and that Bob’s daughter-in-law, who wasn’t on the reviewing list (a surprise to me) pointed out that the vodka in the manuscript didn’t exist yet. If ever I meet her, she is going to get a big hug from me.

I still need to perform a polish, and that will begin on July 3 as I need time and space before reviewing the manuscript again. With luck I’ll get through 50 pages per day, which means that the polish will take approximately 10 days. … Fingers are crossed that there are no more surprises.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t quite call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

— Louis Kraft

The mists of reality dance in and out of my writing world

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


LK is pounding the keys on the Sand Creek manuscript, but as usual I juggle my major projects. The Discovery has demanded a lot of my time over the last year and a half, but now that the novel’s prose has reached the polishing stage it demands less (although I still have a lot to do before it sees publication).

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A publicity photo taken on 24mar2002 for the first Wynkoop one-man play. I had the hat designed from an 1867 woodcut of Wynkoop that appeared in the 11may1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

This means that Black Kettle, Bull Bear, Lean Bear, William Byers, John Evans, John Chivington, Charley, George and William Bent, John Smith, Silas Soule, and of course that ol’ blackguard Ned Wynkoop will dominate my mind for a long time to come. They will remain the number one consumer of my time until Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published. Of course not too far back “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” dominated my life. Heck, it only took five days for me to edit, rewrite, and cut 900+ words from the October 2015 Wild West article earlier this month (see Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript). WW editor Greg Lalire then edited my changes and added a little less than 100 words to the story. Unfortunately he got creative and added some errors, which my second review fixed. I think Greg is correct, a shortened word count can still produce a good story. I won’t be happy until the article is published for then, and only then, will I be able to read it and decide if it is decent or a piece of crap. This isn’t a negative view by me, for this is how I view all of my written work—I must read the published piece before I can judge it.

Moving into my writing world

Damn, but Kraft is dancing on air. No more articles; at least none are planned or pitched. No more talks (although I have an idea for one on Errol Flynn that would be perfect for New Mexico). No more anything but writing books (and blogs). I’m in hog heaven. Or should I say Harley-Davidson heaven? Now there’s a thought. …

krafts&PailinMotorcycleMontage_wsPailin has ridden motorcycles in her homeland as have I in my dark ages. … If ever we made Thailand our homeland (Pailin, please don’t growl if you read this) and we had a Vette (and they sell them in Bangkok) or a Harley (and I’m certain that they sell them in Bangkok) we would be noticed wherever we cruised in Thailand. … Oops! No–no Kraft! This is a taboo subject and not open to discussion (sorry; don’t ask).

Back to the point … my writing world

I have finally reached my present life. Believe it or not, it has taken me three years to reach this point in time. A lot of thinking and decisions led the way to this rainy May day late last week.

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LK art of Tujunga House on 14may2015 due to me trying to capture a photo on this early morn after rainfall (something that doesn’t happen often in SoCal). Unfortunately I tried to get artsy-fartsy and took the image from behind growth in the foreground, which threw the subject matter out of focus. I had to play around to make the image usable. What you are seeing is a long-term project to turn the jungle into cacti and other vegetation natural to the SoCal climate. This project (which isn’t complete) began over two years ago when I realized the future. … Moreover, and more important, it was my attempt to deal with the LA Department of Water and Power (I’d like to say some truths here but don’t dare). I’ll let the Los Angeles Times, which has been pounding all sorts of issues within the LA DWP for a long time, do it for me. Here are two features in the 20may2015 issue of the paper: “Bill For $51,649.32: Couple were charged for using 6.7 million gallons of water” by columnist Steve Lopez (This elderly couple were basically ignored when they inquired about the bill, but were eventually told that they had a leaky toilet.), and “DWP hints at raising rates” by Matt Stevens (Nothing new here, for the DWP, and again I don’t want to say anything that will garner me a $50 thousand bill, need an additional $270 million for the next five years to cover their costs. There is more to this story than in the article. I know what has been going on for years and so do many Angelenos, but silence is golden.)

Undoubtedly, or perhaps unfortunately, this blog will go live on a sunny May day. I need to do another rain dance outside. For the record, I love talking in front of an audience, I love acting on stage in plays that I write (and fingers are crossed that I can eventually play Flynn on stage), and I love writing magazine articles, but something had to give. Something had to be jettisoned to ensure that my ship doesn’t capsize.

Two major pieces to this puzzle are finances and time.

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Simon Baker is The Mentalist in this superb TV series that includes a cast that has a connection with each other, and there are backstories on all them. More to come on this show. This image is the cover for the third season.

If I want to place the blame on anything, my mentalist capabilities point directly at these two villains, finances and time. BTW, The Mentalist is a great TV show. Well-crafted scripts and good production values, and the five leading actors play well off each other. For me the show is an absolute delight to watch, especially Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a consultant to the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). As I’ve stated before, when I exercise I study film. Currently The Mentalist is my partner in crime. While it thrills me, grabs me, and has involved me, it allows me to work on my strength, my balance, and hopefully my capability to walk.

Back to the point … my current projects

  • Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
    Research and writing continues, and as mentioned above, this manuscript is now my prime project (no more detours!). When completed, this will be the most difficult book that I have ever written. Ladies and gents, I’m a biographer; I write about one or two people and their actions dictate the flow of the text. I write about people, and my friend and great editor-in-chief at OU Press Chuck Rankin bought into this. He has enough trust in me to deliver a manuscript, and I will, that shows the events through the eyes of the players in the story—leading and major supporting (and they will be determined by what I have, what I find, and by what writer-historian friends have kindly supplied me with that I wasn’t privy to).

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    My Sand Creek manuscript is again dominating my life (and has for days). Yes!!! (Alas, this is not the forthcoming announcement that I mentioned in the previous blog; the link is above). … In my people-dominated Sand Creek manuscript I’m currently dealing with William and Elizabeth Byers. Good stuff, especially for Elizabeth, as I want as much about the ladies as I can possibly get into the book. William was publisher and editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and he played a huge role in the Sand Creek story. I’m also moving forward with John Evans, the second governor of Colorado Territory. He was instrumental to the events that led up to the November 1864 attack on the Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek. There is a big smile on my face … and it is growing by the minute as the word count grows. I chose to show this image of Byers as it will never make it into the Sand Creek story. Reason: This image is long out of the scope of the book, but more important I have three images I want to use of him. As my image contract count has expanded (without checking I believe it has grown to 37 or 38 including maps), I’m seriously considering two images of Mr. Byers. BTW if you don’t know Byers, he was one tough hombre in a harsh land. He was opinionated and had no problems sharing his views. This made him a marked man, and yet he never backed down from what he thought was right. His connection to Wynkoop dates back to early 1859 when he and a partner were preparing a book on the Colorado gold fields. Byers and Wynkoop began their long-term relationship as friends, but it didn’t end that way.

    Moving the story forward through people’s actions sounds easy, but it isn’t. I’ve got facts and figures, and there is still more that I’m researching, but they—reports, letters, statements—don’t add up to a readable book that will keep readers turning pages as opposed to falling asleep after ten or fifteen minutes. My goal is to bring these players to life and allow them through their actions to breathe life into this story. The scope is huge for there are numerous leading and supporting players (and don’t forget minor players), and they all lived through a turbulent time where violence could strike without warning. One day you could be fine and enjoying life and the next day your family could be dead. Fear, hatred, a need to seek revenge are normal and in no way make people in this situation evil.1 They react. We all react.

    War has never changed, for it is basically kill or be killed.

    However, sometimes actions go beyond kill or be killed, and I’m not talking about a bloodlust. What I’m talking about is stepping beyond the limit of what a person knows is wrong and yet still does it. It is action, that is what a person does as it shows who he or she really is and it negates what they say they are. For example, during George W. Bush’s Iraq war U.S. soldiers in a war zone discovered a girl, and if my memory is good she was 13 or 14 years old. They desired her. One day after she returned to her home these soldiers entered it. They murdered her family, they raped her and then they killed her. To hide their crime they set the house on fire. This wasn’t bloodlust in the middle of a firefight, … this was rape and murder and it was plotted. This was a heinous crime, and I have nothing good to say about those U.S. soldiers.

    What about the major and supporting players in the Sand Creek story? I don’t believe any of them viewed themselves as an evil person. Not one of them. If I do my job properly, the reader will be able to make their own decisions.

    1 There is a heck of a lot more to the Sand Creek story, and it includes culture, land, politics, and the struggle to open a new land while at the same time to retain a lifeway and freedom. This, and more, is also a part of the Sand Creek story.

  • Errol & Olivia
    In 1995 or 1996 I decided to write the first of what I envisioned as three books on Errol Flynn. Like my first book on Lt. Charles Gatewood, it took me awhile to realize that this first book needed a supporting player. For Gatewood it was Geronimo; for Flynn it is Olivia de Havilland. This manuscript has had starts and stops, and I can blame them on too much overtime in the software world, other freelance project deliveries, but most important is that I still haven’t completed what I consider mandatory research (this research is massive when compared to my Indian wars research, which is huge). I absolutely refuse to create false quotes and notes that are inaccurate at best and totally fictitious at worst. … A writer-historian has facts told to him (or her) by someone living—let’s say Olivia de Havilland (OdeH)—but if that person (for example, OdeH) can’t, or won’t, confirm when the event happened this creates a major problem. Did the event happen in 1940? In June 1940? Or did it happen in 1942? September 1942? If when the event happened can’t be confirmed and the writer—read lk—writes inaccurate facts, guess what? That’s right, this error, which might be considered major, now places a dark-dark cloud over the rest of the book’s accuracy. … I have some great stories from OdeH, but when I questioned her on when they happened, she stated: “You figure it out.” Not the correct answer. Unfortunately this answer, along with a book of fiction posing as fact in which I had no input to in any way, severed my inside track with this beautiful person. I feed her information when requested but it is no longer a two-way street. …eoImage_whiteAboveBottom line: I must confirm actions and tie them in with dates and locations. Until I do this, and this deals with what I consider valid information that shows who Flynn and de Havilland were/are I can’t complete the manuscript. I absolutely refuse to create a nonfiction manuscript that includes fiction (a future blog will deal with books that do this, and the errors in those books weren’t mistakes and I can prove it). Not going to happen. For me it has been searching dark alleys in an attempt to confirm what I think is the truth. To date I have followed a lot of leads that have proved fruitless.


    When Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is totally back on track and humming toward completion, Errol & Olivia will again move forward as the search for truth and reality continues. … But if those dark alleys continue to lead to dead ends the 2nd Flynn book will become the 1st Flynn book. That doesn’t mean that Errol & Olivia won’t be finished, it will but it won’t happen until supposed facts are confirmed (or dropped). Simple, and that’s life. I live with it. OdeH needs to live with it.

  • The Discovery
    This is the first time that I have ever partnered on a freelance writing project. Let me put it this way, I could not have had a better experience.

    lk_BobGoodman_Flemings_26jan14

    lk with Bob Goodman, MD, at Flemings in Woodland Hills, Ca., on 26jun14. I’ve know Bob for almost 25 years, and over that time we have bonded on two levels that goes beyond medicine: Friendship and writing. That said his discovery and recommendations in 2002 set in motion many events that have affected my life to this day, … the most important being that I’m still walking the land. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft and Bob Goodman 2014)

    Bob Goodman and his beautiful wife Doris have done so much to help me bring this story to completion. For the record, and I want to say it right here, when published this story will be one of the best books I’ve ever written. I still have a lot of work to do (and some of it deals with design), but I’m proud to have partnered with Bob. This book is major in my life, for it will be the first book published after I have used the lk blogs to discover my writing world voice. But, as stated elsewhere in this blog, it marks my return to fiction. For what it is worth, this is a story of people (read a character study) and their lives but I have written the text as if it is a thriller. A thriller? Surprisingly, perhaps shockingly, but certainly joyfully (from my perspective) for this story is a thriller. It will be published in early 2016 in hard, paper, and as an eBook.

    ps_doris&bobGoodman_26jun13

    At Flemings on 26jun14, Doris and Bob Goodman didn’t allow Pailin’s vocabulary or shyness to hinder this first meeting (for the record, Pailin works on her English every day and it shows). Doris was absolutely marvelous and within half an hour she and Pailin had bonded big time. And Bob was right there with Doris in opening up to Pailin’s charm. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, Doris & Bob Goodman (2014)

    A book isn’t a book until it is published. The Discovery, which I’ve often shied away from saying anything about the plot as I didn’t want to give it away, is a good story. My partner, Dr. Robert Goodman, had a great idea, and we have worked hard to bring the story to life. It is not the time to say anything, … but soon. All I can say at this point is that the story is different. If you read fiction before bed and early in 2016 you obtain The Discovery there is a chance that you will be cursing Bob and I for keeping you awake. Years ago I had approached film legend Olivia de Havilland to help her complete her memoir (a manuscript that I hope and pray that she finishes, but don’t think she will). Livvie had asked me if ever I partnered with anyone on my books, and I had told her that I didn’t. She smiled and told me that was how she felt about it. … I never asked her again, but hopefully she has someone in mind if, God forbid, she can’t finish her story of her life. Bob Goodman has played a major role in my life, and if it wasn’t for him and other physicians I would have already been dancing with the angels for a long time. Years passed and Bob and I talked more and more about writing. Beginning in 2010 I acted as a consultant, edited some of his work, and provided detailed information on how to improve it. During this time our friendship grew, and in November 2013 Bob asked me if I’d like to partner on The Discovery. I was already intimate with this project and provided him with a proposal. In The Discovery things happen to real people in real ways, and best of all—and just like my Indian wars writing—there are no bad guys even though bad things happen. I don’t want to say that I’ve been there and I’ve done that, for I haven’t. … Hell, I’m not a physician and I’ve never been on trial. That said, things happen and the events affect lives. … I know that my life has traveled a rocky and very winding path. I don’t wallow in sorrow. At the same time I’m thrilled to be alive (the forever upcoming walkabout in Thailand blog will actually deal with this in some detail).

Back to the point … my future projects

Ladies and gents, fiction will play a large part in the rest of my life. No more 20+ year gaps between published novels. Actually, after The Final Showdown was published in 1992, I thought I would be a novelist while keeping my nonfiction focus on articles and talks throughout the western states that dealt with race relations during the Indian wars (and Errol Flynn, in believe it or not five states to date). My agent and I sold a follow-up book idea to the publisher of The Final Showdown. It focused on Kit Carson and Indian relations. But just before I delivered the completed manuscript to the publisher, they dropped their western line. When I confronted the agent about suing she told me that the publisher would blackball me and I’d never sell another book. Although I listened to her and agreed with her, I think her main concern was that she’d also be blackballed. Soon after we parted company. Over the years that agent and I have seen each other twice or maybe three times, and we have gotten along, but there will never be another agreement between us. Never.

This gets me to the next grouping of lk book manuscripts after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, Errol & Olivia, and The Discovery. Like the above subsection I think it is best to bullet the book ideas (and that’s all they are at this point in time).

  • Kit Carson nonfiction (one or perhaps two books)
    kitCarson_dating_to1845ART_LKCollection_ws

    Carson art in LK’s personal collection that pictures him in the mid-1840s.

    I have a lot of primary source information on Mr. Carson in-house, and I have located missing primary source information. I have all of the valid secondary books from the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as what I consider valid books dating to the 19th century. Yep, I have a lot on Carson, and he is someone that I’ve been tracking for decades. Why? And especially so since he has been pounded for the last 15-20 years. The reason is simple: Most of the people that pound him (including the cretins in Taos, N. Mex., today) don’t know what the bleep they are talking about. The reason why these people are wrong is simply because they listen to, and buy into, bullshit that has no basis in reality. You do not want to know my opinion of these people, but let me just say this—their fingers are stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

  • Kit Carson fiction
    This novel, if I do complete it, will be based upon a genre novel that I wrote in the early 1990s, but was killed when a publisher broke its contract with me. There is one major difference: It will no longer be genre fiction.

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    Marissa Kraft w/Navajo Fortress Rock in the background (Canyon del Muerto, which is part of Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona—the only national monument not on U.S. property) on August 7, 2012. Fortress Rock is one of the major set pieces of Navajo Blood, for it is here that fictional Navajo warrior Pedro Hueros must make a decision that will impact his and his granddaughter’s lives. … If you don’t know how I write about the Indian wars—fiction or nonfiction—I must walk the land. I must feel the sun, the wind, … I must experience how hard it is to walk. I must rub shoulders with those who came before me. The next day a Navajo guide took Marissa and I to Fortress Rock in her four-wheel drive and we studied it from all sides. It was just the three of us. Our guide requested that we not share her name or her image (and I have photos of her) on social media. Marissa and I don’t go back on our word; this lady’s name and image won’t be shared on social media. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 2012)

    When this rewrite/expansion is completed the manuscript will grow to 125,000 words. It will be both a character study of Carson and an historical thriller that also features a Navajo warrior and his granddaughter. It will deal with race and race relations and it will deal with the human element during Carson and the two Navajos lives during this short piece of time. Carson was not the racist that he is currently being portrayed as by people who base their views on sound bytes, repeated statements in the media, and secondary books by writers who are wanna-be historians that don’t do primary research but repeat what has been printed time and again by previous writers who don’t do primary research. DUH!!! Carson was illiterate, but he did learn how to sign his name. That doesn’t mean that he was stupid for he wasn’t. Carson could speak six or seven languages: English, Spanish, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute, and most likely Mescalero Apache and Navajo. Why? These people of all these languages were his friends and they played a major role in his life. … The fictional Navajo warrior Pedro Hueros and his granddaughter will interact with key Navajos who lived during this tragic time.

  • 2nd Errol Flynn book
    Unlike the first book, which has the added person of Olivia de Havilland, this manuscript will focus solely on Flynn. I can’t tell you anything about this book other than it will be the best book that I write.
  • lk Memoir
    I have certainly talked about this manuscript in blogs and in other social media. This is an important book for me, for I want to delve into my psyche as well tell a truthful story of my life. To do this I must obviously deal with facts and details as I don’t want to create a whitewash, which is something many memoirs do. I learned a great lesson a long time ago: If you want to tell the truth you had better be dead when the book is published for then those who don’t want the truth known can’t sue you. Those are hard words to say, but they hit the target dead center. I have boxes of notes and documents that will back up anything that I dare to say.

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    LK leans against the archway that separates the first courtyard from the second at the Martinez Hacienda in Taos, N. Mex. I’m at home in New Mexico and I could live here, but due to recent happenings the chances of me living in Taos have about as much chance as me living in Arizona (and that is close to zero). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

    Hopefully when I deliver this information to the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library in Santa Fe, N. Mex., they will add this important documentation to my archive. … I need to make something clear here—I’ve enjoyed my life, and would not change anything. I had a long first marriage that ended in divorce and then long-time relationships with two women. These three relationships failed, but I loved these three ladies and they me (at least for a while). From my point of view the good in these relationships far outweighs any of the bad. I do not hate these people. Far from it. My ex-wife is a friend, and I harbor no ill feelings toward the other two ladies. … I also need to say that in Pailin I have found my soulmate and my life partner. I also need to let you know that my daughter Marissa is forever a major piece in my life. This manuscript will be truthful, and although it will deal with the bad it will be very positive.

  • The pirate Francis Drake
    “El Draque,” the dragon, as the Spanish called Drake joined my life in the 5th grade and he never left. I don’t have as much primary source material on him as I’d like, but book-wise I have it all.
    lkDrakeGH_websiteHis shockingly passive attitude toward England’s deadly foe, Spain, allowed him to deal with captives in a humane way. In a time of extreme religious war Drake did not butcher. Instead he treated his captives as welcomed guests, which made him an extraordinary person during the 16th century, a time of hatred and mass killings. Back in the mid-1970s I had an acting manager, a very talented and good person whom I liked. Eventually we teamed on what would have been my first novel, but it was never completed. It dealt with Drake. I don’t know if I’ll return to this manuscript, which I have, but I will return to Drake. Certainly in fiction and hopefully in nonfiction. Yes, you are reading me correctly, for both Flynn nonfiction and Drake nonfiction could eventually impact my Indian wars nonfiction world in a major way.
  • A novel dealing with modern-day Anasazi in the Southwest
    This novel, which was plotted in the early 1980s, deals with modern times, people, and racism. The three leading players are a male, his daughter, and a lady. It is a thriller that will deal with mysticism, cannibalism, and love. Trust me, for it will be a be a page turner.
  • Wynkoop novel
    Originally my OU Press contract for Ned Wynkoop and the Tragic End of a Lifeway specified that I could not write about Wynkoop in the future. I refused to sign the contract with this clause and Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin removed it. Later Chuck explained to me that he was concerned about me writing a competitive nonfiction book about Wynkoop for another press. He also told me that what he originally wanted in the contract did not include Wynkoop in fiction. … After the Sand Creek nonfiction book I’m certain that I will walk away from Mr. Wynkoop. That said, and if I live long enough, I may attempt to deal with him in fiction but for this to happen I must double my life expectancy.
  • An Errol Flynn play
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    Richard Steel-Reed, who directed the play Lubbock and who would soon become my manager, brought in a photographer to shoot a rehearsal of Eat Your Heart Out. In this scene I leaped upon the chair and lunged to impress actress Robin LaValley, who played my soon-to-be girlfriend in the play. The chair always rocked and I always had to do a balancing act. … but it was fun, as was the first time I swung an imaginary blade in Teach Me How to Cry in high school. Miss Victoria Francis directed that play, and she told me that if I didn’t get the blade work right she’d cut the scene (it wasn’t cut). She is a special person that I know to this day.

    My favorite role that I ever played on stage was as Charley in Eat Your Heart Out. I played Charley in a dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, in 1976, and in the Inglewood, California, in 1977. I luckily landed a great part in a great play. Eat Your Heart Out is about an actor trying to land acting work while waiting tables. There are four other actors in the play: Two women and two men who play various roles. This will work for the Flynn play, but I intend to increase the actors to seven: Flynn with three women and three men who play various roles. I think that this will work on stage. Tom Eubanks, my good friend and great director, take heed, for this could be a great production for your theater company. Hey my friend, we need to partner one more time. Yeah, if I can sell another play idea this is the one.

  • A nonfiction book on Phraya Phichai
    Phraya Phichai was the Thai soldier with the broken sword. Actually this is not quite true, for he was a nobleman, a general, and close to his king. From what little I have learned of this man’s story, he was amazing (Bless you my brother Sophon and Pailin’s wonderful niece Lek for making this happen).

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    This attempt at art was based upon a statue of Phraya Phichai at Not and Font Subanna’s house in Uttaradit, Thailand, in November 2014.

    Alas, I need primary source material in the Thai language. Enter Pailin, for when I secure the primary source material, her command of the English language will be pristine and will allow me to learn the details of this exceptional man’s life. This will a book for both the USA and Thailand.

By now you know that Pailin is my lady, my best friend, and my wife. She has done Sand Creek research, Wynkoop research, and Kit Carson research. Is she my research assistant?

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Pailin in the front yard of Tujunga House, shortly after she moved in (17nov13). In 2013 I published a blog called Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand and other stories of Sand Creek, and I featured this image. As soon as I took this photo of her it became one of my all-time favorites, and it is on my desk. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

According to her, … “No!” But just the other day she asked when our next research trip to the West would happen. Unfortunately I had to tell her, “Not in 2015.” On the bright side, it will happen again, as she and I love the experience of discovery and the experience of people. Our future is still to be written. Some of it will be intimate and most likely never to be shared. But there is a lot of our time together that can be shared. Yes, the times they are a changin’ and lk is loving every minute of it.

Another nonfiction book floats in the mists of time until reality happens

Actually there hopefully is another major nonfiction book in my future. It has never been discussed or named, but it has been hinted at. It is a book that I am capable of writing and it is a book that I really want to write. My partner needs time, somewhere between two and three years (maybe longer). This is vague, but it is all that I can say. I had cryptically mentioned it in the previous blog, and as I said then, “Don’t ask, for I ain’t talkin’.” If this story becomes reality, it will not only be a page-turner, it will change history. With or without me this is going to be a great book. My fingers are crossed that it happens and that I’m a part of the project. Time will tell. At the moment it is a go for me. Will it be the same in three years? The future has the answer, and I’m good with whatever that answer will be.

The lk future is now

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An early publicity image for The X-Files with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

As The X-Files used to proclaim: “The truth is out there,” and I’m ready for it (BTW, beginning on January 24, 2016, there will be six new and special episodes of The X-Files on Fox). I wonder if David Duchovny (as Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (as Dana Scully) will grab me and not let go as they had in years past.

As I hope you can tell by what you’ve read, books (and my lady) are my future. There is one additional ingredient here, my daughterMarissa. But regardless of how I view my future with Pailin or Marissa, or of my remaining time in the U.S., and I must remain in the states to complete a major portion of the Errol Flynn research (preferably in LA). Ditto Kit Carson, but a lot of my primary research on him is already in-house. I think I could complete Carson research living outside the U.S., but Flynn research is questionable at best for the cost to return to LA would be astronomical. Regardless, the clock is ticking. How fast—how fast!!?? … Still, the USA is my homeland and I love it here (I actually love LA, even though I pick on it more than I should). My first, and as the minutes speed by, most likely my only real possible destination in my homeland is Santa Fe, N. Mex. Actually I’m at home in the entire state. I always feel welcome, and there is so much of me that is already at home there. The search to move to the Land of Enchantment is ongoing, and if I never move there, it will remain ongoing until the day I die. ‘Course I’ve got to convince Pailin this is the land for us (she was impressed in fall 2014). I think she also liked Colorado and Texas.

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This image is of Ellen & Glen William in October 2014. Good times for PS-K and LK for Pailin got to meet two of my great friends and we had a good time in Texas. I’ve had bad, read “very bad,” times in Texas and good times. During the summer of 1976, which I spent in Lubbock, tornado warnings were a daily occurrence but I never saw a tornado. Most of the time I’ve spent in Texas (six plus months) the weather has been good if you ignore the wind and the humidity. Ellen, luckily, was able to spend good time with her sister and mother at this time. I met her mother during this trip and she is a special lady (I’m glad that I met her). Ellen, like Pailin, is a little pixie, and like Pailin, she is full of life. (photo © Louis Kraft, Ellen & Glen Williams 2014)

My great friend Glen Williams, who with his gorgeous wife Ellen, opened their new home to us in Denton, Texas, in October 2014. They have been my friends since sometime in the early 1990s when Glen and I linked up while at Infonet Services Corporation (now British Telecom Infonet). Glen and Ellen had had enough of the California bullshit (read tax, tax, and more tax along with the escalating cost to pay for everything else). California is truly the land of the rich. Everyone else, grab your crotch for you are speeding straight toward poverty. The middle-class will soon be extinct in California. Believe me, in California you can earn over six figures and not save much, I did this, and I know it is true. At that time I worked two jobs: Writing for the software industry and freelance writing and easily put in 70 hours per week when I wasn’t getting killed with overtime by the software industry. For the record, Oracle paid time and a half for overtime (but I worked with a great crew of people, both engineers and management, and kept the overtime to a minimum). Some of the other companies (especially two that are long dead) were a joke. They paid great money, but you do not want to hear my opinion of them. … Someday after I spend a lot of time with a lawyer discussing details, maybe I’ll write an expose. It would be a page turner … writing about the past but still something I’m certain continues to this day. I won’t, for if I want to write an expose it will deal with my life, and in it the software companies I wrote for didn’t mean anything to my life, other than guaranteeing that I could do what I wanted on the freelance side without starving to death. They used me, and I used them. A manager I had at Sun Microsystems (a long-dead company but not lamented) asked me what I thought of my writing position. I told him, “If McDonald’s paid me more to cook hamburgers I’d work for them.”

He didn’t much care for my answer.

A short while later when Sun Microsystems resembled an airplane that had lost power and was spiraling toward a fiery impact with land this manager held a meeting to inform the writing staff (I think about 13 or 14) that a layoff was coming, a major layoff. Most didn’t believe him. I had inside information, for I spent a good amount of time with upper management and product and program managers and I had a clear picture of the future. This was supposedly illegal, but I had it. During the meeting the manager asked how the group would remember him. “As the executioner,” I proclaimed. People laughed, but several asked me if I were crazy. “No.” … On a fateful, and an oh-so publicized, day in January 2009, 69 percent of the staff in the Monrovia, Calif., office were laid off.

That afternoon a good portion of us gathered at a restaurant in Arcadia, Calif., to celebrate. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr. from his 28aug1963 speech, “I Have a Dream”: “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The nether world

Years back a clown I knew, a novelist, questioned why I wrote for major companies. I told him, “the money.” Moreover I didn’t want to write clichéd genre novels each month, of which most were published under pseudonyms and often in numbered series that had a stable of writers hacking out the required 65,000 words. If you read one of these volumes you would run to the toilet to vomit. Or perhaps you’d enjoy the fluff that had you turning pages. I read a lot of this stuff. Hell, I studied this stuff. My decision: No way in hell am I going to write bullshit prose that is an embarrassment to me. BTW, and for the record there are some great western novels being written. My personal favorite is Johnny D. Boggs. If you want to read good western fiction, buy one of his books.

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lk at a Joni Blair catalogue shoot in 1974. The car is a 1931 Model A Ford (owned and restored by Hank Sorni). (photo © Louis Kraft & Joan McGirr 1974)

… I survived for years in the entertainment world doing just that; that is crap jobs that meant nothing. Talking only commercials here, I played a dancing sock (product???), and a tennis athlete with Micky Dolenz of Monkees’ TV fame (it may have been Kmart but I don’t remember, and I didn’t keep modeling resumes) commercials that played forever in LA in the late 1970s. There were many, but my favorite was a string of Jantzen sportswear commercials for Japan (I had the “American” look, whatever the hell that was). We shot at Union Station in downtown LA and had at least two days of shooting on the University of Southern California (USC) campus. During the shooting of a shower scene in the men’s locker room, my bathing suit apparently showed and the director called my female Japanese interpreter in from outside the locker room. After he spoke with her she asked me if I would strip. I had no problem. She stepped outside and the shooting continued. My back was to the camera, but by this time I had learned that I could have my face in profile. I don’t want to call myself a method actor, but hell, I’ve got to rinse soap off my back. I turned around. The director suddenly started jumping up and down as he screamed and pulled his hair. One of the male crew members ran to me and wrapped a towel around me. In the meantime one of the other male crew members ran to get my interpreter. After she listened to the director scream at her for a full five minutes, she calmly told me that I couldn’t face the camera.

lk_8jun80_plazaDelOro_EncinoCA_3_wsOver those years I had a lot of commercial agents, and some of them handled print work … which I absolutely hated, although at times it meant receiving nice clothes for free not to mention the salary. One thing I always made clear up front: “No ramp work!!!!” “Why not?” “Because I will hit the closest person to me when I learn I have to do this and demean myself.” “It isn’t demeaning, and can pay good money.” “I don’t give a F—!” “That’s not a good attitude!” “Listen to me, for I will hit someone and they will land on the floor.” … I never had to hit anyone, but print work was pure hell.

This image was taken on 8jun1980 at Plaza del Oro in Encino, Calif. (photo © Louis Kraft & Joan McGirr 1980)

Back to my writing world

There’s a wealth of Flynn research at my fingertips, as is much more Indian wars material than you’d ever guess. I write and I talk to myself as I wander about my 1928 lath and plaster house as I work on my day’s writing schedule. Write, research, write, read, write, research, edit, write some more (and if need be talk to my plants before I bang my head against a wall that won’t give, which isn’t quite true—see A gunslinger in a bathroom for a humorous story of when I locked myself in the bathroom). My writing world is mine. It is personal, and I never buy into a subject that I can’t marry for years or decades. I don’t write about good or bad, but rather I strive for a reality based upon what a person or people did. Their actions define who they are. If I do my job I provide you with their actions, and it allows you to make your decision about them. This is not easy, and takes a lot more time then you’d guess. For the last several weeks I’ve been pounding the keys on the Sand Creek manuscript. Good stuff, but only the beginning for this portion of the story for I’ll eventually need to figure out how to translate the facts to action. … I need to make a confession here; during these same three weeks I’ve been doing the same thing with Kit Carson. “What?” “Yes.” “Meaning?” “Meaning I constantly study the facts as I attempt to figure out what happened and what Carson did.” “Are you working on Carson?” “No, no work on the nonfiction Carson until I have a contract. The fictional Carson already exists, and although I haven’t done any rewriting other than on the beginning of the story, research is ongoing.” … It is research that I’m looking at. I should add that I have begun to polish The Discovery (as the reviews are in-house).

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lk & Pailin at Glen and Ellen Williams’ home in Denton, Texas, in fall 2014. Good times for the four of us and Glen’s wonderful sister, Linda Williams. I love this photo, which Glen shot at the entry to their home, for it captures ps-k & lk’s life in one simple image. (photo © Louis Kraft, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, & Glen Williams 2014)

At the moment my world couldn’t be better. On 14may2015 Pailin told me how happy she was that I accepted her life. And I do, although I growl at times. She was bouncing, as she was so happy. She always is, and moreover so positive and thrilled with life. I told her that I was happy too, and as happy as she was for I was thrilled over how she has accepted my life.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

— Louis Kraft

Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog

As in the past, click on an image to expand it


I thought that I had completed my work on my “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” article for the October 2015 issue of Wild West magazine until I would proof the design layout. No! The article now requires more work. As must be expected the World History Group, which now owns the former Weider History Group’s stable of history magazines, is making major changes to the look and feel of the magazines. … This affects the entire publishing staff in Leesburg, Virginia, as well as the freelance writers that contribute to the magazines. This blog not only preempts my work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, it has also preempted my ongoing work on upcoming blogs.

Just for fun, a quick change of pace …

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Sudeshna Ghosh, my friend and former manager at SeeBeyond Technology Corporation and Sun Microsystems liked this image of lk. Russ Williams, a writer, screenwriter, novelist, and friend dating back to the early SeeBeyond days and beyond also liked this image, which was taken earlier this year. I actually don’t like what I look like, and this simply means that my appearance constantly changes. That said I do like this image, which has appeared on other social media. Both Sudeshna and Russ liked the long hair (and long hair is decades in my past). Still pirates and frontiersmen wore their hair long, as did the Cheyennes and Apaches. Perhaps it is time for lk to belly up to the people he writes about. Ned Wynkoop, Kit Carson, George Armstrong Custer, Black Kettle, Geronimo, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, if I want to walk with you perhaps it is time that my hair is as long as you wore your hair. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

I’m okay with birthdays except for mine, which I absolutely hate. Since mine is long past I feel safe mentioning it here. Most of you probably think that I’m a motor mouth. Not true. Actually there are many things that I keep very secretive. One happens to be my birthday. This is my least favorite day of the year. Mainly because it loudly proclaims: “Kraft, the clock is ticking and now you have XXX days left.” Not my favorite thought. … All this negativity finished, and since my BD is now far in my rearview mirror, I feel safe to post an image that was taken on that dreaded day at Tujunga House. I’m wearing the cool shades that Pailin had given me (the first non-prescription sunglasses that I’ve owned in 35 years). The new lk? Maybe. For how long? That is a great question for I don’t have a clue. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, or maybe next month. Flip a coin for any date beyond the end of May.

Life moves forward & as Ernest Hemingway proclaimed the sun also rises

All of my proposed blogs haven’t gone live. Why? There’s a reason, but I hate excuses for they are BS. Sorry, but ’tis the truth. Read to the end of this blog and you’ll have at least a hint of the upcoming blogs’ status.

Music plays a large part in my writing world (although I never used it while writing software documentation). … Alan Jackson, Michael Parks, Waylon Jennings, John Lennon, Rhiannon Giddens, Rihanna, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Tex Ritter, John Anderson, world music (especially Andean, Chinese, and Native American), but perhaps my all-time favorites are film soundtracks (classic music too, but to a much lesser extent).

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An lk rendering of the final duel in Flynn’s Adventures of Don Juan. Something needs to be explained here, and it is very important. To succeed film duels must have three pieces in place: Choreography, performance by the actors and stunt men, and a great editor. If not, the film audience yawns and mumbles “ho-hum” before they fall asleep. I hate to say it but this most often happens, and especially in modern times. Trust me on this view. I learned how to fence while as a teenager I studied under Olympic competitor and film stuntman and choreographer Ralph Faulkner, fought saber competition in college, and as a professional actor learned stage combat and choreographed and fought duels.

This week Hugo Friedhofer’s musical adaptation for the film version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (20th Century Fox, 1957, which has a great cast including Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, who I luckily interviewed before his death, Errol Flynn, Eddie Albert, and Juliet Greco) shares time with Blue, the obscure Manos Hadjidoakis score for the Terence Stamp Paramount Pictures western film (1968); Ernest Gold’s magnificent score for the 1960 Paul Newman film Exodus; Klaus Doldinger’s score for Das Boot (Columbia Pictures, 1981, which I saw on the day that it opened in San Francisco while playing Miles Hendon during a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper. … I accepted the role as it included me choreographing and fighting the duel, and better yet getting to say much of the dialogue that had been stolen from Flynn’s 1937 Warner’s film of the same name); and Max Steiner’s magnificently composed and conducted score of Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Don Juan (Warner Bros., 1948).

Progress on the Sand Creek manuscript

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In 1990 I moved to Thousand Oaks, California, and was soon after under contract to write The Final Showdown (Walker and Company, 1992). I had always excelled at art in school (no collage classes) and had even contracted artwork and attempted (“attempted” is the key word here) during the 1970s and 1980s to experiment. Nineteen-ninety was a key year for me as I decided to play around with pen and ink. This image of Ned Wynkoop (based upon an 1867 woodcut) was the result. It saw publication in Custer and the Cheyenne (Upton and Sons, 1995). (art © Louis Kraft 1990)

Ouch!!! I thought that perhaps I’d talk about progress writing about Colorado territorial governor John Evans, Rocky Mountain News publisher and editor William Byers and his wife Elizabeth, Episcopal Father John Kehler (the correct spelling of his last name) & Ned Wynkoop.

Nope. Not today.

Oh heck, … I don’t want to be a killjoy. At this point in time, Evans is standalone in the manuscript, but I know that he’ll have connections with Wynkoop and I’m certain with Byers. In one way or another, Byers, Elizabeth, Kehler, and Wynkoop are already connected or will be connected with each other. The question here is, what scenes of them together; especially between Byers and Wynkoop will make it into the draft and not be edited out of it by the time of the final delivery? Arrival timing in Denver for Byers, Elizabeth (different dates), and Kehler have proved problematical but I’m now good to go with them. Progress is good … and maybe even great (from my point of view).

For what it is worth, Byers, Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Little Raven, Colonel John Chivington, Evans, mixed-blood George Bent, and his father trader William Bent will most likely be the leading players in the manuscript. Hopefully others will also play leading or major supporting roles (my research is key here). At the moment Elizabeth Byers is by far my leading lady (unfortunately I just don’t have enough about her, the Cheyenne woman Mo-nahs-e-tah, or even Wynkoop’s wife Louise).

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LK & OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association (WWA) convention in Newport Beach, Ca., on 17oct2014. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft; © Louis Kraft, Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2014)

OU Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin and I both want to highlight the women as much as possible. To do this, I need to find the information (if it exists). A fellow writer-historian Linda Wommack has offered to help with Elizabeth. I told her that I wanted to get what I knew about Elizabeth in place first, so that I don’t waste any of her time. Am looking forward to our upcoming (alas, long distance) time together. I have located a great image of Elizabeth that I want to use in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, but have seen it dated to both the mid-1860s and mid-1870s. Fingers are crossed that it dates to the 1860s, for if it is from the the 1870s it is out of the scope of the book and I won’t use it. Although I had purchased a low-resolution copy of the image I do not have the permission to post it. Too bad, for it is a great image.

What you see here is an invitation to speak up if you can share information about other key players in the Sand Creek story, including, but not limited to, trader and Cheyenne interpreter John Smith; Major Scott Anthony; Captain Silas Soule; Chivington’s subordinate officers in the Third Colorado (especially George Shoup); as well as other Cheyennes and Arapahos, such has Tall Bull, Bull Bear, Stone Forehead, Lean Bear, and Left Hand (BTW, a bio on Left Hand at times uses notes that are either inaccurate or don’t support the text, which makes the research questionable); Wynkoop’s subordinate Lieutenant Joseph Cramer; and Cheyenne mixed bloods Edmund Guerrier, Charley Bent, and Jack Smith. Over the years I’ve mined Anthony and Soule heavily at History Colorado and at the Western History Department at the Denver Public Library, but I’m certain that there is more on them that I haven’t seen.

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This image of Black Kettle was also an early lk attempt at illustrative art. It also was published in Custer and the Cheyenne. I placed it here just to grab your attention, as I want to bring the chief into the Sand Creek book as soon as possible and I don’t have much on his early life.

The goal is to bring the people in the manuscript to life. It is easier to do with participants that were verbal and left a lot of documentation in letters and other writing or had their actions constantly reported in the press. Guerrier was literate but didn’t leave much behind while George Bent left a goldmine of letters (all of which I have in house, either in his hand or in typescript form).

I know that I have said the following before, but it is worth repeating. I don’t write about good guys and bad guys. My opinion will not be in the book, but if I do my job properly the actions of the people I write about will allow you to form your own view of them. The following is also worth repeating: It is what a person does and not what he or she says about themselves that defines who they are or were.

Kit Carson is in LK’s future

I don’t think that Kit Carson is a supporting player in the Sand Creek story (he is minor at best), but he will be a major player in my writing future (anything you can share about Kit is of great interest to me, and at all times). As far as Kit goes, be warned for I believe that I have all of the books published about him in the 20th and 21st centuries. I also have the bio (in hardbound) based upon what he told DeWitt C. Peters in 1859, as well as a few other 19th century volumes that were accounts of a piece of time spent with Kit and not bios or dime novels. I’m especially interested in his relationship with Indians (yes, the plan is to follow how I wrote about Custer, Gatewood, and Wynkoop).

The World History Group flexes its muscles and takes a bite out of my ass

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lk art of Geronimo based upon the cover art that I created for Geronimo & Gatewood (University of New Mexico Press, 2000). This is just lk playing around with color and line. It isn’t very good and it will never be published. I view art as a learning process, and that is experimenting and trying to create an image that is decent. This is an ongoing process.

No, no, … no … NO!!! I received the World History Group contract for “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” (October 2015 issue of Wild West, and soon to go into production) on 27apr2015.

Editor Greg Lalire and I had already gone through our copyediting (which usually gets tweaked while in production) and we were good to go with the 3800-word feature. Just like in the IT software world, the times they change and to survive a writer must dodge and duck and go with the punches while standing upright. It’s called survival. Greg and I began our working relationship 20+ years ago. Over this time we have become good friends, and we help each other out when needed. Greg is doing what he can to survive the change happening with the 11 or 12 great history magazines that the World History Group now owns (I’ve been there and have done that way-too-many times in the software industry). Greg is a great editor, and he’s also a damned good writer. He will survive.

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I created this map for the “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” October 2015 Wild West article. If it is used, the contractor for Wild West, Joan Pennington, will create the final artwork (and she does good work). Back in 1999 I submitted one of the final pieces of art that was published in Gatewood & Geronimo to Wild West, it was recreated and published in the magazine with no credit (or payment to lk). I complained this time around, and if the map is published I will receive a “based upon” credit. Good, for this is the first time I have ever seen the Valenzuela ambush location and the Gatewood/Geronimo confrontation with Smith & Wood added to a map, and both are major pieces to the Geronimo story. (map © Louis Kraft 2015)

I study my contracts, and anything that is questionable, is not in line with what I want, or what has suddenly become a concern I confront immediately. The contract stated 3800 words. The “3800” was marked out in ink and replaced with “3200.” What? Did I lose 600 words and didn’t see the edit? I called Greg. My timing was perfect. He was typing an email to me that explained what had happened—and it got worse. The “3200” words is now “3000” words, and this word count would now be the maximum for a feature.

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Gregory J. Lalire’s dust jacket image for his novel: Captured: From the Frontier Diary of Infant Danny Duly (Five Star, 2014)

World History Group wants to mimic the Cowboys & Indians magazine, that is they want to obtain better advertisers. I consider the feature content in Cowboys & Indians as little more than fluff (which I can’t stand; oops, I shouldn’t have said that—disregard what you just read). Cowboys & Indians is big on color and images, and even bigger on good advertising. … That, ladies & gents is the future of Wild WestAmerican History and MHQ (three key magazines in my life) while keeping the same historical content these magazines have always had in the past.

My opinion doesn’t count here, for the publisher has every right to do what they think they need to do to stay in business. I agree with this, and as it was with the IT software companies, they need to survive to employ me.

While work is in progress Greg and I always keep good phone or email contact with each other. “Believe me,” he wrote me yesterday, “I know all about the pain of cutting, but as I found out in August, a story can still be strong at a shorter length.” (He is talking about the August 2015 issue of Wild West.)

I have 800 words to cut from a 3800-word article (that is a little over 20 percent of the word count). I will do what is required, and we’ll find out if the article still retains its impact. Hope so.

A few words on long overdue blogs …

For those of you who are wondering about upcoming blogs here’s an update. A blog dealing with what could be a major change in my writing world is ready to post (I just need reality and the future to merge in the present). …. Don’t ask, for I ain’t talkin’. The Thai walkabout blog continues to be written (and it will be an eye-opener, for you and for me), and I have finally begun to draft the unscrupulous writer-historians blog (and it will not be vague). Trust me, for when the unscrupulous blog is published, if ever, I will forever sit with my back to a wall with two Colts crossed over my chest like Wild Bill Hickok. People will be gunning for me and ifGod forbidmy life ends in violence it will be because someone is angry over what I have posted. This is not how I view my future so I hope and pray that my fearful vision never happens.

A few people that know me believe one, and only one thing, about methat I’m good at dramatics. I don’t agree, but my fear of the future is out there, for knowing my past I am aware that unsavory events can and do happen.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

— Louis Kraft