Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Horse Opera Gone in Jackson?

Vanessa Pierce, Reporter for the Jackson Hole News and Guide just authored an article (June 14-20 edition) entitled: “Is It Curtains for the Playhouse?” The article details progress in an ongoing sale of The Playhouse. The “deal is under contract,” with the apparent winners a “music production” company. This all may be another indication that the days of “horse opera” in Jackson Hole are coming to an end.

An update shared that the operators of the Playhouse (Vicki and Cameron Garnick) are working to create a non-profit vehicle to salvage this piece of Jackson culture.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Circle

Dirty Jack's Blog is very happy to present a new, original recording from Timothy Patrick O'Reilly, the talented musician and singer I met 30 years ago in Jackson Hole.

The Circle is a touching, thoughtful ballad that, I think, pays a bit of homage to Tim's rich Irish heritage while still sounding fresh. Tim wrote, performed, and produced this song, and I hope there is a lot more to come. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Smartest Guy In The Room

John Eagle was the best actor in the cast of the show Paint Your Wagon at Dirty Jack’s Theater back in the summer of 1976. I’m not sure everybody knew John Eagle was the best actor, but I did, and I had special powers of perception since I was not another actor but a lowly musician who watched the actors ply their craft every night. John Eagle was the best.

Off stage John Eagle was a skinny, intense guy who hunched over a bit when he stood. His Adam’s apple bobbed when he spoke and he always seemed to be looking over your shoulder when he talked to you. But I knew this all meant he was a genius. Nobody else knew.

When John Eagle walked on stage his back straightened and his voice deepened. His eyes flashed with energy and sly amusement. Think of a young Jeff Goldblum; John Eagle really did have that kind of presence on the stage, that kind of strength.

And he was the most devoted of the actors, I think. He was the most actorish. One day he announced to all of us that he planned to host an Open Podium at the apartment he shared with a couple of the other stars of the show. It was a basement apartment known to the cast as The Dungeon or something like that. But it was palatial compared to the old broken-down motel the band and bit players called home.

I had never heard of an Open Podium or Open Mic. It was an invitation to perform in any manner you chose for the audience who gathered to watch. To me, that had always meant Jam Session, but this was something different. I imagined the actors might get up and start spouting Shakespeare or something like that.

I was watching John Eagle discuss this planned Open Podium with others and I noticed his mannerisms. He talked with his hands in a more forceful and animated way than any human being I had ever seen. He punched and sliced the air, and swept his hands from side to side as if giving the words just the right spin. His hands perfectly punctuated every sentence; every point. He had a way of always pivoting slightly from side to side while gesturing with his hands, as if to ensure that everybody could see the performance. And he did all this every time he spoke.

I knew immediately that I would present my imitation of John Eagle at the Open Podium. I would do John Eagle.

So, for a couple of days I rehearsed in front of a mirror in my room. And I had it down pretty well: The halting speech cadence; the gestures, all of it. It wasn’t perfect, but a good impression isn’t supposed to be perfect, right? I worked up a short routine about John Eagle directing the show and cracked myself up in the mirror. I was ready.

The next day John Eagle was with a bunch of the actors and I cheerily announced that I would be performing at his Open Podium. He asked what I would be performing, and I said, “I’ll be doing you.”

Long pause.

John Eagle said, “What?”

I said, “I’m going to do an imitation of you.”

Another pause. John Eagle’s expression at that moment was not a sneer, exactly, but it did convey considerable doubt and skepticism about my choice of material. I looked around at the other actors in the group and saw similar expressions. Hmmm….

Later that same day, right before curtain time, John Eagle reminded everybody of his upcoming Open Podium and added with a hint of sarcasm that Rick planned to present an imitation of him, John Eagle. Snickers all around, but I wanted to yell at them all, “Look at him! His hands are fluttering like birds escaping a cat! He is easy to imitate!”

So, of course, I chickened out. The Open Podium came and went and I did not attend. I’ve never had the opportunity to use the routine I prepared, gently spoofing John Eagle’s mannerisms, because I’ve never met anybody like him, and it would be funny only if the audience recognized him in the gags.

Kidding aside, John Eagle was a brilliant actor who I admired and tried to emulate back when I dared to think that I could be an actor too. I’d love to hear from him again. I am told he was from Rancho Cucamonga, California. If you have any contact information, please drop me a note. If you know him, please tell him I said “Hi.”

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

July 4th 1976 Parade in Jackson Hole

Here are some snapshots taken July 4th 1976. Dirty Jack's Theater joined with the other two theaters in town and shared a float in the parade. Click for bigger images.

Is that Sean?

Tom, Doc, Marco, Tim, Sean, Paul. Where the heck was I?

On the right I can see John Eagle and Melanie Morris

Bob Houghtaling and Bill Moore in full costume

[Images courtesy of Sean Richarz]

Dirty Jack's Theater 1976 Playbill

Click on the picture for a larger image.

[Image courtesy of Sean Richarz]

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Picture of the Band!

At last! A picture of the Dirty Jack's Theater Band from the summer of 1976.

L to R
Seated - Pat "Doc" Holt, Sean Richarz
Standing - Tom Dunham, me, Paul Coover, Tim O'Reilly, Marco Fleming

This picture is taken in the lobby of the theater, in front of the piano used in the sing-along before the show each night. On the left you can see the ladder Mikey climbed each night to the light booth.

[Image courtesy of Sean Richarz]

A Guest Post from Sean

My name is Sean Richarz. I came to Dirty Jack's in May of '76, driving my Dad's '66 Mustang, which we still own (I was with Dad when we bought it brand new). I had just finished my first year of college at the University of Idaho, and was nervous about my first real professional gig. I had gotten the job by auditioning on my trumpet by tape for Jon Stainbrook. I still have the letter telling me he hired me, with pay of $65 a week, a shared room and one meal a day. The first shock was that we never used the Broadway books with our parts in them, like a normal musical, but Doc Holt taught us parts by ear and rote. I never figured out if this was because he didn't read music or what, but since we did it that way everything was obviously memorized. It was a little wierd. Doc was an amazing musician, and he did all this funny show-off stuff like play blind folded and with a table cloth covering the piano keys, and he never missed a beat, playing something like "Malaguena". I enjoyed getting to know the other guys in the band, most of whom were older than me, except for Paul Coover the trombone player, whose was 18, same as me. Tim I knew a little bit in college, we hit it off quick, and with Rick too. Marco was a real character. It seems to me that we rehearsed for about 2 weeks before we opened, did some shows and then had a Grand Opening night.

There was a restaurant attached to the theater, and we played from 6-7:30 each night in there, usually playing jazz standards and whatever Doc came up with. We got to eat there, our one meal a day, and since it was a Chuckwagon style the main thing was either chicken or steak, but we could only have steak once a week, so we ate chicken 6 days a week. At $65 a week, most of us only ate the one meal a day. I still like chicken somehow. Anyway, at 7:30 we moved to the theater lobby and did a sing-along to warm up the audience before they went to their seats. It was fun. We also did a "Stump the Band" bit, and the deal was that if you did stump the band, you had to come up and play or sing the song, so naturally we hardly admitted to knowing the songs, even though between us, and especially Doc, we knew most of the challenges. It was pretty funny though, I remember the Orem, Utah High School football team getting up to do the Doobie Bros. "Black Water" which seemed to be something they had worked on during the long bus rides. Another one was the guy who yelled out "Sabre Dance backwards", which of course we really didn't know. "Sabre Dance" is a famous piece by the Russian composer Khatukurian, but backwards? So he came up and played it on piano, it sounded like ragtime, and I'll be damned if you could tell it was really the tune backwards. When we finished the sing-along we went to places in the theater for an 8 o'clock curtain. The show was fun, some of the actors would do some pretty funny improv, but my memory is that only Jon Stainbrook and a couple of other guys were really "authorized" to do that. The crowds seemed to really love the show, and we sold out or came close to it almost every night. I don't know exactly how long the show ran as I had to leave in late August to go back to school. I myself did 86 nights in a row of "Paint Your Wagon". I played it left handed some nights, just to have a little challenge, and besides it is good to know how to do that in case you break your right hand. When I went back to college, I left early in the morning, drove 11 hours and walked right into a marching band rehearsal. Good timing!

It was a real experience that summer, both musically and personally. Some funny stuff I remember: We had a live mule in one scene, and one night, on stage it really let go urinating. Seems like it went on about 2 minutes. It was on a wing of the stage that had sand on it, so it could have been worse, but the audience (and us) were howling. I think the mule belonged to a local kid, Mikey, and he walked it home every night. On the 4th of July Jon came to me with a request. This was the bicentennial remember, and people were going pretty crazy. There were lots of bikers in town, real ones, not the yuppie Harley guys we have now. So Jon knew I had a little pistol that I had brought to target shoot with in our down time, and he asked me to escort Mikey and the mule home that night after show, in case some crazed biker started to mess with the mule. I did it, Jon was the big boss after all, but the whole walk to Mikey's that night I just kept hoping no one would approach us. I kept asking myself, What am I supposed to do, shoot somebody over this mule. Luckily, nothing happened, but it was nerve racking.

Speaking of the bicentennial, they loaded the Dirty Jack's band onto a flatbed truck and put us in the parade down main street, July 4th, 1976. It was fun, I still have some photos.

Since that summer, I have remained in music. I toured with a couple of rock bands and I still play trumpet and conduct, and write and arrange music in the Seattle area. I teach at a private high school, where we have a very strong Performing Arts Program. I have played in or conducted all kinds of musicals, from "Cabaret" to "Pippin" to "Das Barbeque" and all the standards like "Hello Dolly". I wrote a musical called "Rising Star", and have recently received a grant to write a musical about a period of Napoleons life referred to as the "100 Days". That is a big project and a huge challenge, but it should be fun.

Well, that's all for now.

Here's to the summer of '76!


One Year Aniversary

This website first went up one year ago today. The notion struck me as I woke up on a Sunday morning, and I had it up and running a couple hours later.

One of the goals of this blog was to hook up with old friends from thirty years ago at Dirty Jack’s Wild West Theater in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. So far I’ve made contact with (in chronological order):

Kathy Stainbrook – actress
Rhonda Willford – tickets/actress
Mike Willford – stagehand/grip
Rocky Joe Quarles – actor
David Abrams - actor
Tom DeWester -- actor
Tom Dunham – band
Timothy Patrick O’Reilly – band
John Dorish – actor
Bob Adams – set carpenter/band
Sean Richarz – band

Sadly, I’ve been told of the deaths of other friends; Nancy Stainbrook, Doc Holt, Paul Fox, and Richard Tierce. I found that Jon Stainbrook has become incapacitated by his MS.

Another goal for the website was to create a presence on the Internet for Dirty Jack’s Theater. In the last year more than a thousand visitors have found this blog, mostly by Googling on “Dirty Jacks Theater.” Visitors have come from the US, Norway, Netherlands, Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Most visitors stayed and read several pages. Many returned again and again.

In the last year I have also put together a blues band and recorded an album not yet released. That has been an experience almost as rewarding as playing at Dirty Jack’s Theater thirty years ago.

And one more thing… I have stayed sober. For that I am very grateful.