Sunday, October 30, 2005

Timothy Patrick O'Reilly

Tim went by his full name at Dirty Jack’s Theater… The full Irishness of it. He had dark hair and a close-cropped beard, and wore round wire-framed glasses. He played guitar and tenor banjo, singing Celtic songs and oozing Irishness.

But to the guys in the band he was Tim, a young, soft-spoken, rather shy fellow. In our nightly dinner show at the Chuck Wagon Restaurant next to the theater, Tim adopted a charming Irish brogue and sang ballads of love and honor. He was very good.

One night Tim seemed quite distracted, opening his set by announcing, “They’ve bombed Belfast again!” and charging ahead into some kind of Irish protest song. Word came down after the show that politics were strictly prohibited in the content of the entertainment at Dirty Jack’s. I am unaware if Belfast suffered more bombings that summer, but we heard no more about it from the stage.

It seems every band member had something he got teased for… Something we ragged on each other about that was embarrassing or goofy. Tim caught hell for his hilarious reaction to boobs.

Unexpected shit happens in live theater. People miss cues or wear the wrong costumes or enter from the wrong place or any number of screw ups. The band at Dirty Jack’s was in the center rear of the stage, and we could see everything. We had the best seat in the house to watch the show unfolding around us, and we could see backstage and in the wings as well. We saw it all.

For some reason I still don’t understand, a lovely young dancer had to make a costume change backstage rather than in the green room. Something went wrong, and she had no choice. The show must go on, right?

Well, Tim O’Reilly had a full and unobstructed view of this, in all its glory. She was a tall, slender, dark-haired beauty who zipped out of her merry widow and into a dress, standing for a moment only a few feet away from Tim in only her stockings. He was so overcome by this he was literally dumbstruck.

To say that Tim was speechless is a spectacular understatement. He couldn’t talk for hours. When he finally could form a coherent sentence, he said, “I almost blew a gasket!” That was a lot funnier than it sounds, because it was a signature line from the show. Jon Stainbrook, the star of the show, said it so often is was a bad cliché for us, yet that was the only phrase Tim could put together to describe his close encounter with a pair of well-formed breasts. It became our favorite phrase for ragging on Tim.

I’ve searched for Timothy Patrick O’Reilly on the Internet with little luck. I’m not even certain I’m spelling his last name correctly. I believe he was from Kellogg, Idaho. If you know him, please direct his attention to this website. I’d love to hear from him again.

Friday, October 28, 2005

They Don't Give A Damn About Any Trumpet Playin' Band

The band at Dirty Jack’s in 1976 had a horn section, the first I’d ever worked with. I had never been one of those rock ‘n roll bigots who sniffed at horn sections, but brass did not fit into my Led Zeppelin-to-Waylon Jennings musical worldview. I thought the bands Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire sounded cool, in a Playboy Club sort of way. Well, I had never been within a thousand miles of a Playboy Club, but I imagined their bands had horns.

Sean played trumpet. He was way before his time because he grew that little clump of whiskers right below his lower lip that is now popularly worn by most musicians and is known as a soul patch. I think he adopted it from Doc Severinson. Even I have one now. Sean was very dedicated to his craft, practicing a lot more than any of the other musicians in the band. I could often hear him working his scales in a room upstairs over the lobby of the theater.

Sean was a music student at the University of Idaho. He must have been a person of exceptional patience and rectitude because he had previously owned an Austin Mini, a temperamental beast that was fun until it blew up. He drove to Jackson Hole in an old Mustang that had worn syncros in second gear, producing a hearty crunch when shifted.

Tom Dunham was a school teacher in Jackson Hole who hired on for the summer to play trombone in Dirty Jack’s band. He had studied under the great jazz bandleader Stan Kenton at North Texas State University in Denton, TX. Tom Dunham could bring it, and he was funny. The other trombone player was a young guy named Coover. What I remember about him is his father.

Coover’s dad came to Jackson Hole to visit his son, and he brought his new bride. That is memorable because Coover’s dad looked like a pretty successful middle aged guy who had traded his old wife in for a sportier model. Coover’s step-mom, whom he seemed mildly embarrassed by, was a classic aging party girl, with the bleached blond hair and the spandex attire. Her lips were too red and her laugh was too loud, but ya know what? I liked her, and after conferring about this the band decided it was “cool.”

That summer I caught an addiction for Maynard Ferguson's music, who, incidentally, had been a protégé of Stan Kenton and Tom Dunham. The horn players and I sometimes jammed on riffs from his great, high-powered tune “Chameleon.” I loved the sound of that.

At the end of each show, when the band was really blasting on some of our Dixieland outro music, Doc Holt would sometimes pull another trombone from behind his piano, so we had three ass-kickin’ ‘bones, a screaming trumpet, me on blues harp, Tim on guitar, and bass and drums in back. We kicked out a high energy jazz sound that was loud and riveting. It was some of the most satisfying music I ever made.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Press Clippings

This is a scan of a review in the local Jackson Hole paper of one of the original productions done at Dirty Jack's theater, "The Ultimate Gunfighter." The show was written by Kathy Stainbrook, I'm sure aided ably by the ad lib brilliance of Tom DeWester, David Turner, Rhonda Willford, and the rest. This show was done after I left Dirty Jack's in 1979.

Click on the article for a bigger image. Then hover over the lower right corner of the image to enlarge even more.

[Image courtesy of Rhonda Willford Eberst]

Calamity Jane

Here's another great picture of Dirty Jack's theater. I think this was taken before I came on the scene in 1976.

Click on the picture for a bigger image .

[Image courtesy of Rhonda Willford Eberst]

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mike and Rhonda Willford

Mike Willford, the key grip, best-boy gaffer, whatever ya wanna call him... He was the hardest working guy in the whole theater, and he was about 15 years old.

This is a recent photo of him and his sister Rhonda, who worked in the box office when I was at Dirty Jack's Theater, and later she was on stage as a performer.

Good people...

Old Friends

I just had a very nice email conversation with Rhonda Eberst. Rhonda was a young high school girl who worked in the box office of Dirty Jack's Theater back when I was a performer there.

I remember her pretty well. As soon as she told me she was Mike Willford's sister the memory flashed back. She was a cutie back then. [Note: Still is. - Rick]

Rhonda tells me she has an old poster showing the cast of the 1976 show and lots of other DJ's pictures and stuff. I *begged* her to make copies or scans and send them to me, and she has kindly agreed. Soon I will have everything posted to the blog. I am so excited. Since I have the Y chromosome I didn't keep any photos or memorabilia from those days, and I'm sure that seeing all the faces again will bring back a flood of old memories.

One of the best things about this blog is hooking up with old friends from Jackson Hole and Dirty Jack's Theater. I've gotten emails from Kathy Stainbrook, Rocky Quarles, Tom DeWester, and others. In my email exhchange with Rhonda she mentioned names I have not thought of in nearly 30 years. It would be epic if they stumbled onto this site while idly Googling their past (as many of us do) and decided to leave a comment or write an email.

Thanks, Rhonda...