The Unvarnished Truth
- Written by True West Editors
- Published November 01, 2011
December 19, 1946
Robert Allen Bell is born in Forest City, Iowa. He attends the first three grades in Swea City, Iowa where his father has a Phillips 66 gas station and his mother has a fit trying to manage her loud son.
Loud son mouths off to neighbor kid in a snow storm, angry neighbor kid goes into garage and throws a snow shovel, hitting loud son in the upper lip, requiring 30 stitches and a prognosis from the doctor that the severe wound will create a permanent hairlip and quiet the boy for some time. He's wrong twice.
Tired of the snow and Swedish farmers who won't pay their gas bills, Allen P. Bell moves his family to Kingman, Arizona where he immediately opens "Al Bell's Flying A" on Route 66. When he's not playing right field for the Odd Fellow Yankees (little league), Robert ices jugs for tips in his father's station.
While watching the TV show "Wyatt Earp," Bell's grandmother, Louise Guess Swafford, remarks that the real Wyatt Earp was the biggest jerk who ever walked the West. Struck by the credibility gap between the TV show and his ranching family grandmother (who actually lived on a ranch near Tombstone at the turn of the century), little Robert makes a vow to someday find out the "truth."
The high school baseball coach calls him "Bozo" for running backwards to first and second base in a game with Needles, California. Cruel team mates pick up on this, and shorten the moniker to Boze. It sticks.
Loses virginity near White Cliffs, Arizona. Recalling the important details of this emotional event, Boze remembers "it was in a '62 Rambler."
Bob Boze Bell graduates from Mohave County Union High School (nickname-Mucous), with the valedictorian of his class.
After five lackluster years, Bob Boze Bell drops out of the University of Arizona three units shy of a degree in commercial art. Nobody is surprised.
Decides what Arizona needs is a good humor magazine, and so with a childhood friend, Daniel Harshberger, starts publishing the Razz Revue. It lasts sixteen issues, four years and makes zero money.
Marries ol' what's her name?
Ol' What's Her Name moves out. On the rebound, Boze goes to work for the New Times in Phoenix. His starting salary is $110 a week. Ex-hippies and future millionaires, Jim Larkin and Mike Lacey begin to empathize with Ol' What's Her Name.
Burned by marriage, Boze makes a vow that he will stay single until"Hell freezes over." Days later, he meets Kathy Sue Radina at her boyfriend's wake.
July 28, 1979
Marries Kathy Sue Radina at Pioneer, Arizona. Life begins.
May 7, 1980
Becomes the father of a baby girl, Deena Carolina Bell, who fortunately looks like her mother.
Sells cartoon creation "Honkytonk Sue" to Columbia Pictures for $30,000. After spending a third of that money on the lawyers who drew up the contract, the I.R.S. audits Mr. Bell for three years. (You can't blame them-here's a guy making $16,000 a year, with a $10,000 attorney bill- does the term drug dealer mean anything to you?)
January 23, 1983
Thomas Charles Bell is born. By his own admission, he "farts way too much."
In a fluke of major proportions, Bell actually wins the Arizona Press Club's Cartoonist of the Year award, beating out Steve Benson. A major overhaul of the judging is ordered by officials and it never happens again.
Arizona Highways Editor Don Dedera gives Boze the assignment to execute 14 small, black and white wash drawings to help illustrate an upcoming issue on Prescott. Bob goes hogwild and drives to Prescott, sketching everything he sees. He ends up turning in 30 pieces, many in color, none of them small. Rather than rejecting the art, Dedera tells the eager beaver to do more. The resulting issue is jam-packed with Boze illustrations and is a benchmark in his illustration career.
KSLX radio in Scottsdale offers Boze a job to do to the news what Ferdinand Marcos did to the Philippines. "The Jones & Boze Show" is born.
After no legitimate publishers take the bait, Bell self-publishes his first Old West opus, "The Illustrated Life & Times of Billy the Kid." The printing bill is $17,000. Bell borrows $5,000 from his Dad (repaying his patient father $200 a month until the millennium).
Bell publishes his second book, "The Illustrated Life & Times of Wyatt Earp." The printing bill is $27,000. Bell borrows $3,000 from his mother-in-law (he repays this in a year-"priorities," he says.). It sells out in 10 months and a second edition has also sold out, and a third. It is now (Jan., 2002) in a revised, fourth edition.
After eight years, KSLX radio fires Bell for lousy ratings and the suddenly unemployed humorist decides to do publishing full time.
Bell has a miserable vacation in San Diego because of his teenage daughter who is unfortunately acting just like a teenager.
Low on money ($500 in savings), Bell has the unappealing task of putting out "The Illustrated Life & Times of Doc Holliday" in four weeks. With the help of Theresa, Chris and Brad at Tri Star Printing, Boze does it, with several minutes to spare.
October 20, 1994
Boze has his third annual art show at Suzanne Brown's Art Gallery at 7160 E. Main in Scottsdale. The paintings sell well, but are priced so low, the framer makes more money than Bell.
Bell's article on Tombstone is bought by Arizona Highways, and Boze's painting of Wyatt Earp looming over Tombstone, appears on the October '95 cover of the venerated magazine (this will be his second cover-Billy, July '91 - being the first). Bell also has written several articles on growing up on Route 66.
Bell has a wonderful vacation in San Diego because his teenage daughter suddenly acts real mature (now he worries she's on drugs!). Telenova Productions in Hollywood calls and wants forty illustrations for a documentary they are producing for the Discovery Channel. Bell's art appears in the four-part series, "Outlaws & Lawmen," which airs on the Discovery Channel in April of 1996.
Boze has his fourth annual art show at Suzanne Brown's in Scottsdale. This time he goes $2,000 in the hole and the artist (and the gallery) wonders if the marketplace is trying to tell him something.
Northport Pictures out of New York contacts Bob Boze Bell to do 40 illustrations for another tv documentary on Billy the Kid. "The War In Lincoln County" has yet to have an air date and the producers have yet to pay Bell his final $500.
Boze is contacted by two magazines: Wild West and True West. Both want cover art. Bell appears on the August, '96 cover of Wild West with a painting of Wild Bill Hickok, and on the June, '96 cover of True West with a cover story on Billy the Kid.
April 8, 1996
Boze has spent almost a year-and-a-half rewriting and redrawing his soldout first edition of Billy the Kid. The second edition is 70 pages and 400 images larger. Bell believes the new edition contains the best work of his career. Billy II finally comes out in July of 1996.
David K. Jones and Jeanne Sedello plead with Boze to reform the Jones, Boze and Jeanne Show. Deeply in debt and on the verge of losing his house, Bell begrudgingly agrees and begins bombarding the media with cheap postcards designed to create interest in a radio show that has been off the air for four years.
Two stations, KSLX and a new station-KBUQ- actually take the bait and offer the discarded trio employment. Bell has the unappealing task of either going back to work for the man who fired him (Dave Pugh of KSLX) or the man who broke up the original team (Reid Reker of KBUQ). Against
the wishes of his conscience and his mortgage company, Boze and his compadres go to work for Reker. Bell begins to sing the praises of "the genius" Reid Reker.
February 4, 1997
Reid Reker is fired. The new general manager is Bob Case, who takes the morning show out for lunch and says, "Your show bums me out. It's not funny." Boze begins to save for a rainy day.
Coors beer Co. commissions Boze to illustrate four, collector beer cans (the cans are distributed in Denver and Bell finally sees them on April 10, 1998).
September 15, 1997
Bob Boze Bell is fired from Young Buck for saying "Besa me culo," on the air. Also fired are David K. Jones and Jeanne Sedello. Bell begins to suffer from the old gypsy curse: "May you be found among lawyers."
February 3, 1998
The New Jones & Boze show goes on the air live from the Mineshaft in Cave Creek, Arizona. This third version of the show is heard on KXAM, 1310 in Phoenix.
May 1, 1999
The Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg honors Bell with an art showing of his entire (past and present) outlaw and lawmen paintings. The show, "Bad Men: Outlaws and Gunfighters of the Wild West" premieres on May 1, 1999. A book of the same name will be published in October.
July 12, 1999
Boze and longtime friend Bob McCubbin make a down payment on True West magazine and plan to move the operation to Arizona in November.
September 10, 1999
The Mineshaft Restaurant is sold to Black Mountain Gas and The Jones& Boze Show has its 420th and final show.
September 13, 1999
Boze & Co. begins its first show, with Gordon Smith, Buffalo Rick and Heather the Weather Girl rounding out the team. This new radio show emanates from the Fashion Square offices of KXAM, 1310 AM from six to nine, Monday thru Friday.
October 26, 1999
On the anniversary of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Boze's fourth book, "Bad Men: Outlaws & Gunfighters of the Wild West" arrives at the publisher's in west Phoenix.
November 1, 1999
Three Mayflower trucks pull up to the new True West offices behind Frontier Town in Cave Creek and demand a cashier's check for $12,920.40 before they'll unload. Bob McCubbin dubs the premises "Clantonville" and a new era in the history of the West begins.
June 12, 2000
The Boze & Co. radio show moves out of the studio and to afternoons. Still heard on KXAM, 1310 AM, Crazy Ed's Satisfied Frog in Cave Creek is the new home of the show, heard 4:30 to 7 PM, Monday thru Friday.
True West moves into its new building at 6702 E. Cave Creek Road. Bob quits the radio show to concentrate on publishing full time.
True West expands its editorial layout and moves into its third year with record ad and newsstand sales.
January 11, 2003
Going into the fourth year, Bob is hopeful but fatigued. Being the unmoved mover of True West magazine has begun to take its toll. Bell longs for support and gets it with three new investors.
"Bob Boze Bell's work has also appeared in Playboy, National Lampoon, Arizona Highways. True West, Wild West and the Kingman Junior High Desert Rat. His artwork has been featured in the Disney documentary"AKA Billy the Kid," and the aforementioned Northport Picture's "The War In Lincoln County," and the Discovery Channel's "Outlaws & Lawmen" series. More of Boze's work has been featured on the "Gunfighter Series" produced by the Learning Channel, which aired nationally the week of May 15, 1999. Two more of these shows aired on September 30th of 1999.
High & Low Points of Growing Up In Kingman, Arizona
"In high school, my English teacher, Fay Logsdon, repeatedly told me I would regret not paying attention in her class (I was too busy being the Class Clown). And besides, I thought, what did I need English for anyway, I was going to be an artist! Today, I must confess, all through college at the University of Arizona, I would mumble to myself as I flunked and barely passed test after test, "If only I had paid attention in Mrs. Logsdon's class!" Later, in 1986, when I published my first
book of New Times' cartoons, "Low Blows," I sent her a copy with the inscription: "You always said I wouldn't amount to anything and I think this book proves your point beyond a shadow of a doubt." She's gone now, yet I often think about her influence on me.
"In 1963 I helped form a rock & roll band with my friends, Charlie Waters and Wendell Havatone. We got our name when Charlie and I were walking out of history class and in the hall, we saw the Exit sign and Charlie said, "Why don't we call ourselves the Exits, because when everybody hears us play, that's where they'll go." The Exits' first dance was at the American Legion Hall. We barely knew four songs:"Cheatin' Heart (both fast & slow version)," "What'd I say (instrumental)," "My Dog Shep," and "Sleepwalk." We played them over and over for four hours. That first night, each Exit made $5. We decided to hold our own dance and see how much we could make. We rented the American Legion Hall for $15. Our parents chaparroned and ran the door. We charged 50 cents to get in. This time each Exit made $22! We were hooked. Every several weeks we would rent the hall and almost every kid in town would come. We were the kings of Kingman. Or, so we thought. We soon learned how fragile our Kingman monopoly was, when several dances later we went up against Rusty Petry's birthday party. Only three people came to our dance (everyone else went to Rusty's parent's house). Humbled and defeated, we broke down our equipment, drove up to Rusty's house on Hilltop and played for free on his patio. Our name fit like a glove.
"One day, in the spring of 1963, Hubby Grounds gave me a ride home from school in his brand new fastback Corvette. I asked him how fast he had run it, and the next thing you know, we were driving out Hall Street, so Hubby could give me a first-hand view. In those days, there was a lonely stretch of blacktop, wayyyyy out Stockton Hill Road and miles from civilization, where all the kids went to race. Hubby downshifted that red, throbbing, hunk of American metal up to the line (there were black tire marks all across the road), revved the engine and let 'er go. Like a sling-shot we roared up the line, past the half-way hump and hurtled down that ribbon of lonely asphalt almost to Felspar. I remember Hubby was disappointed because we only hit 118 mph. What's funny to me is that the starting line of our isolated dragstrip is approximately where Kingman Hospital is today on Stockton Hill Road, and where we slowed down to turn around is the Stockton Bank!
Bob Boze Bell's True West journeys continue in Bob Boze Bell's Blog.