Gunmen of yore draw down again

Desperadoes and stuntmen are marking 50 shoot-'em-up years at Old Tucson
2013-03-10T00:00:00Z 2014-10-10T11:48:14Z Gunmen of yore draw down againKristen Cook Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Ed Adams has quite the souvenirs from his days working at Old Tucson: six knee surgeries, a herniated disc, a limp.

Still, "I wouldn't trade those days for anything," Adams, 56, said via email from Carlsbad, Calif., where he now lives and works for Diageo, an alcoholic-beverage company. His no-joke job title: Master of Whiskey.

Adams worked at Old Tucson from 1976 until 1988, serving as stunt coordinator for eight years before he left to work in TV and movies.

On Saturday he'll relive those glory days of getting shot, stomped on and pushed off roofs as part of a gunfighters reunion. It's the 50th anniversary of the theme park's street shows, and 50 former actors and stunt people will reunite for a new show written just for the event. Among those performing is 86-year-old Jack Young, who started the gunfights with former Old Tucson owner Robert Shelton back in 1963, said Dennis Leoni, an alum who helped organize the event.

"We just said, 'Hey, let's put on a show.' We'll hobble around and shoot each other like we did in the old days," Leoni said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. "This has to be the biggest live shoot-out."

Leoni - a former Tucsonan who works as a writer, producer and director in the entertainment biz - wrote the show that will be performed twice. It involves a gold robbery, exploding safes, a stagecoach, even a cannon.

The University of Arizona will have a film crew out for the reunion. So will the Cowboy Lifestyle Network, Leoni said.

"It's really going to be quite an event - to have so many people out on the street and so much history," said Leoni, 59, who worked at Old Tucson from 1975 to 1977.

Back in the park's heyday - when TV shows and movies were filmed there regularly - stunt workers often showed up on the big screen. Leoni remembers "eating a lot of dirt" when he filmed a horse race with actor James Caan for the 1977 movie "Another Man, Another Chance." Adams was cast in everything from "Gunsmoke" and movies to the late '80s TV series "Young Riders."

On Saturday, the former gunfighters will talk to visitors, even pose for pictures, just like in the good ol' days.

Adams said he remembered parents asking him to take a photo with their 8-year-old son.

"Then they showed me a picture that I had taken with him when he was just a year old," he said. "That was kind of cool."

On StarNet: See more photos at azstarnet.com/gallery

IF YOU GO

Old Tucson Gunfighters Reunion

• What: A special show featuring Old Tucson actors and stunt people from the past 50 years.

• When: 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. March 16.

• Where: Old Tucson, 201 S. Kinney Road, 883-0100, oldtucson.com

• Cost: $16.95 for adults (ages 12 and over); $10.95 for kids 4-11; those under 3 are free. Various discounts available, including for Arizona residents: $3 off adult admission and $2 off child admission for up to four people with one valid ID.

In two weeks

Some favorite faces from "The High Chaparral" will be returning to Old Tucson Studios later this month.

Since 2003, fans have gathered to celebrate the popular 1960s TV Western. This year's reunion will be March 22-24.

Highlights include:

• Wild West Days at Old Tucson, with a reunion at the "High Chaparral" ranch set.

• Screening of Bill Claxton's director's cut of the show's pilot episode, containing scenes that were never broadcast.

• Henry Darrow, who played Manolito Montoya, is expected to attend, along with Don Collier (Sam Butler), Rudy Ramos (Wind), Kent and Susan McCray (producer and casting), and Bob Shelton, who created Old Tucson Studios.

• Events at Old Tucson Studios are included in regular admission. The entire weekend of activities is $350, which includes Old Tucson admission and other locations.

• More information and registration at www.thehighchaparralreunion.com

Contact Kristen Cook at kcook@azstarnet.com or 573-4194.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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