National Day of the Cowboy brought out all the panting western fetishists who love their cowpokes dearly, as well as the more serious side of cowboying, embodied by the rodeo riders and horsemen and horsewomen of the good old days–the 1980s, that is. “Proud Cowboys Still Tall in the Saddle” is the headline. The photos say it all.
I have to go into more serious reportage soon or drown in pop-culture-flavored brew, but before I talk about something serious in the next post, like western water rights, or the dizzying dynamic of environmentalists and ranchers (or maybe just post another beefcake shot), here’s another fine list of favorite pop culture cowboys, compiled by tastemakers Entertainment Weekly on July 26, just for the Day of the Cowboy. Glad they can stretch themselves now and then and move from boob shots to holster shots.
The Lone Ranger (1949-57) Kemo Sabe copyright 2007 es
Thumbs up. Obvious, but he does personify the white-hat style of good. His type is for the clean-cut kind of man or woman. But they really should’ve included Tonto, who was an icon of patience with Caucasian folly.
CLINT EASTWOOD Thumbs up. Naturally. From TV star to movie figure to director: He’s West 24/7. Looks great in a holster and ages well, like a good Californian wine.
JOHN WAYNE Thumbs up, but only because of which movie the Duke liked. This is another ho-hum, of course, but best not to be too flip about this great pop culture cowboy–his own favorite movie he made was The Searchers, in which he played a lonely, embittered, vengeful asshole. Who turns out okay in the end. it showed that he does have acting chops. Unless he really was a lonely, embittered…naaah.
ROY ROGERS AND DALE EVANS Thumbs sort of up. A sweet inclusion. For those who like their cowboys and cowgirls with sugar frosting on top.
BUFFALO BOB SMITH
The Howdy Doody Show (1947-60) Thumbs down, way down. I’m sorry, but ventriloquists’ dummies are creepy, Howdy Doody or not. Well, especially Howdy Doody.
Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles (1974)
courtesy the Everett Collection
Thumbs up! “Somebody help that poor man!” This guy made a good part in a satire interesting, and it was the first movie that told me that cowboys need not be white. Another one who looks good in a holster. And those threads rock.
HEATH LEDGER AND JAKE GYLLENHAAL
Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain (2005) Thumbs up. They were hot and bothered much of the time, and self-tortured the rest, but for a short while, they were able to ride the range together.
Bud Davis in Urban Cowboy (1980). Thumbs I don’t know. Maybe you have to be a two-step fan to go for this one. Although seeing the move would help decide….
Curly Washburn in City Slickers (1991). Thumbs down, although he was good. But come on…this over his portrayal of the gunslinger in Shane????
Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy (1969). Regretfully, thumbs down, although he was a fantastic character. He personifies the next stage of pop culture icon–the wanna-be cowboy and so he just doesn’t fit. Ennis and Jack had it easy compared to Joe Buck and Ratso.
Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke (1955-1975). Thumbs up. There are a couple of reasons Gunsmoke was one of the longest-running shows on TV, and Arness is one of them.
YUL BRYNNER, HORST BUCHHOLZ, BRAD DEXTER, STEVE MCQUEEN, CHARLES BRONSON, JAMES COBURN, AND ROBERT VAUGHN
The Magnificent Seven (1960). All of them? Not all are magnificent. Thumbs up and down. McQueen and Coburn get the prize.
The Cowboy in the Village People.
courtesy Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis Thumbs way up, sweet Jesus, thumbs way up. My favorite memories of my stultifying high school years are of the big jocks of the school shaking their fannies to “YMCA.” If they only knew….or maybe they did?
Ben Cartwright in Bonanza (1959-1973). Thumbs forgetting what they are doing. He didn’t do it for me, but I guess he’s for a different generation. Maybe if he took off his shirt more?
KURT RUSSELL AND KEVIN COSTNER
Both as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone (1993); Wyatt Earp (1994). I have to say thumbs down, but Kurt Russell was quite respectable as the gun-happy Earp.
Calamity Jane in Deadwood (2004-2006).
Thumbs way up, cocksucker. This motherfucking broad finally was portrayed by an actor who could fucking shoot and shoot the shit as well as Calamity could.
Cordell ”Cord” Walker in Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-2001). Thumbs down, because he is an alien. No self-respecting cowboy would get plastic surgery, bucko.
The voice of Woody in Toy Story (1995). Aaaaw. Thumbs are sucked here. But a great story. Okay, okay, why not. Thumbs up. Sheesh.
Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun (1950). Thumbs down. The real Annie Oakley wasn’t a showboat like this one.
Looney Tunes. Thumbs down, but I know this little guy has shouted his way into many hearts. Just not mine.
ROBERT DUVALL and TOMMY LEE JONES
Augustus ”Gus” McCrae and Woodrow F. Call in Lonesome Dove (1989). Thumbs down to Duvall, but great actor. Thumbs up to Tommy Lee Jones, who personifies West Texas.
Doc Holliday in Tombstone (1993). Thumbs up. He emoted that crazy-dangerous “getting Western” feeling. Tourist stores in the town of Tombstone actually sell ceramic tiles of his likeness. That is totally getting Western.
All in all, not bad, I think! EW gets a thumbs up for bringing the pop culture cowboy list into the millennium. There are a few more I would add, but the virtual trail calls….