- Published November 01, 2011
Admittedly, my life has been a soap opera. I know because for the past nine years I've kept a daily diary. Now you can read about my sordid daily adventures and the awful things I say about my co-workers and friends behind their backs and be privy to all the money I've lost in this amazing adventure. It isn't pretty, but our lawyers sure seem interested in reading it......BBB
April 14, 1999
Bob McCubbin calls and says True West is for sale. I have the money. Need to run the numbers.
April 20, 1999
We are waiting for a number [price] for True West. Marcus [the editor] has found a warehouse in Guthrie for about $75,000 that he thinks we should move into.
April 22, 1999
Called Jim Larkin [publisher of the New Times newspaper chain] about the True West investment. He was coming in from Cleveland (he was either in a car or on a plane, I couldn't tell). Good advice: "Get a transactional lawyer, be careful on buying debt, lean on internet selling." It was good to talk to him. I actually have always liked him.
April 28, 1999
On radio show today we got a call from Mike Cox who was very persuasive about me not getting involved in buying True West. Mike pointed out that he has been involved in several "buildups" and "redesigns" and he said my strengths have nothing to do with sales and distribution, which is the name of the game (and I would be trading the same problems on the radio show for those of the magazine). Bob McCubbin is coming over this Friday and we'll talk about it.
May 1, 1999
Bob McCubbin and I ran some numbers and figure it will cost us around $304,000 to make the deal fly on True West. That's $170,000 for the purchase. These are just rough estimates and we'll hopefully get a better handle as time goes on.
May 10, 1999
One of my oldest friends, Charlie Waters, advises me to not buy True West. Told me it all comes down to ad sales and we would have to hire a staff and the expenses would be killer since they have to come to LA and New York to get the big accounts. Advised me not to "buy myself a job." Wondered aloud why I wouldn't just start my own magazine since I have 5,000 names in computer at Tri Star [my publisher]. Warned me it would be an all-consuming job, more than full-time. Ouch! Really took the wind out of my sails.
May 22, 1999
Took Kathy's car up to bank and on the way home, met her in the Zipper. She was flustered [because I took her car and she had an appointment] and said she "hates" her life. She roared off. Then I met Luis (our yard man) on the road and I paid him $50. He said, "Kathy is very mad." I acknowledged it. Then he said, "You know how to calm her down," which I took as an offer of advice. I said, "No, how do you calm her down?" And he replied, "You must know how, you have been married a long time." Ha.
May 23, 1999
The True West owners are sending new numbers for us to consider.
May 27, 1999
Can't make up my mind about True West. I really want to do it and would if I thought I could make money at it.
June 3, 1999
Jim [an accountant] at Tri Star [publishing] is recommending against buying True West. He is suggesting we make a counter offer to buy assets only.
June 17, 1999
At 2:30, [one of the owners of True West] called from Stillwater and shot us a new proposal, $50,000 down and the remaining $45,000 at the end of the year.
June 18, 1999
Talked to Bob McCubbin in Stillwater, OK about the True West sale. he is encouraging, but has backed off slightly on commitment to co-buy. Need more cash to make it fly.
June 22, 1999
Bob McCubbin called today and told me his former boss at El Paso Gas is interested in investing in True West. We could be back in biz. What a rollercoaster ride.
June 26, 1999
Had a financial talk with Kathy. She thinks we should take the estate [my late father's assets] and pay off the house and buy True West. Her
rationale: that's how our portfolio would look. That's our investment: this house and the magazine. Pretty exciting, really.
July 1, 1999
Marcus Huff asked me to write up the Earp trial for True West, which is weird because I'll be working for someone who may soon be working for me.
July 10, 1999
Flew to El Paso and Bob McCubbin picked me up to drive up to Rick Baish's ranch near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Rick agreed to put up money with us to buy True West.
July 12, 1999
At 9:35 am, on a conference call with Steve Gragert, myself and Bob McCubbin agreed to buy True West. We put up $2,500 earnest money. We are on our way to owning True West!
July 18, 1999
Went to the movies at Arizona Mills Mall. Really packed. Took ten minutes to find a parking space and we missed the 1:20 showing of "Eyes Wide Shut." As we were standing in line (actually about six lines, place was mobbed) I looked around and saw a short, stubby black guy talking to three other kids. He said, "Wanna see Wild, Wild West?" in a little boy lisp. I turned and reached out my hand and said, "Hello Mike Tyson." He said, "Hey, how ya doin?" That was it. Got tickets ($4 each). Movie was so-so.
August 10, 1999
Bob Early, editor at Arizona Highways, called yesterday and said, 'I like you Bob and I don't want to see you get hurt and you can get hurt real fast in this game...I wouldn't buy True West on a bet." He went on to describe all the pitfalls (we have no circulation director or Sales manager) and how TW is doomed. Sigh.
August 13, 1999
Rash on leg.
August 28, 1999
Called Carole Glenn and talked to Bud about her possibly being our business manager. She was out shopping. Carole called back and she said she would love to take the job. Very exciting and I think she'll be great.
September 16, 1999
Bob McCubbin calls and says True West numbers are dismal. Rick Baish says, "they have nothing to sell us." I called the publisher and told him our original offer is off the table. He called back and said we should come to Stillwater and intimated they will entertain any offer.
September 18, 1999
I fly to Tulsa and meet Bob McCubbin and we drive to Stillwater to meet the two Steves. The original deal is $68,000 plus $20,000=$98,000. Our counter Proposal is: Only pay for hard assets. We crunch numbers and start negotiations.
September 21, 1999
I drove over to Dan Harshberger's house to work on the new True West logo.
September 22, 1999
I broke out in hives last night. Woke up about midnight and I was scratching like crazy. Oodles of welts everywhere, especially in creases and under armpits. I'm not sure if it's nerves or bugs, or maybe I'm allergic to owning a magazine.
October 4, 1999
Looked at a house behind the Satisfied Frog. Lots of promise, but messy and kind of mildewy. Plenty of storage space however. Also looked at two other buildings.
October 15, 1999
Flew to Stillwater. Got to Stillwater at two, four their time. Bob McCubbin was waiting and we took off and got there and met Carole at hotel [who had flown over earlier and was learning the ropes]. Then walked over to Mexican Joe's for dinner and had a large pitcher of margaritas and then the worst Mexican food I have ever had in my life. Really awful. We then went to the TW office and looked at Dan's new cover logo and laid it in. We finished the January issue (we just had four pages that were ours).
The next day we finalized negotiations, shook hands and had a photo taken. As we pulled away from the meeting in our rental car, Bob, who is driving, yells out, "Oh, my God! What have we done?"
October 20, 1999
Marcus is driving in [from OK] today with computers and the magazine files. Talked to the printer in Wisconsin and the new paper is going to double our printing bill from $8K to $16K or more. Ouch!!
October 29, 1999
Bob McCubbin pulls up and sees the True West building behind the Satisfied Frog in downtown Cave Creek, Arizona, for the first time and dubs it "Clantonville." Not long after, three Mayflower trucks pull up [with all the back issues, etc.] and demand a cashier's check for $12,920.40.
November 6, 1999
Had my first True West staff meeting.
November 25, 1999
Thanksgiving. The True West office is a joke. No heating and the kitchen stinks. Kathy brought in two space heaters which helped but blew out the fuses which in turn made us lose our computer power and files. Sigh.
December 12, 1999
True West monies are running out (less than $35,000 left). Somewhat scary, Although I still feel confident. We have a very good team of people and I think we will somehow make it.
-------- 2000 -------
January 1, 2000
I'm excited and amazed I made it this far. Cordelia Lewis [knew Wayne Brazil, the man who shot Pat Garrett; Cordelia had a crush on Brazil] has made it into three centuries! Going to interview her tomorrow in Bisbee.
January 8, 2000
Had a meeting with Carole about [an employee] blowing it in mail room. Really a mess. [Another employee] is in there trying to salvage it.
January 15, 2000
We are running on empty with TW money. [one of the partners] will not sign personal guarantee from Bank One, so we are back to square one with merchant account.
Got the March TW issue with Richard Farnsworth on cover. Looks mighty fine. Had our first full-blown design review on Thurs. Went very well and Daniel really cleaned up a ton of bogus design. Felt great!
January 20, 2000
Big shocker last night when Carole showed me how much we owe, $41K. Yikes! Really bowled me over. Could hardly concentrate. Woke up in the middle of the night. It's all quite overwhelming, the speed of our going backwards. Need to talk to [my partners] when they arrive.
January 22, 2000
Had a pow-wow with [my partners] at Satisfied Frog. Gave them a blunt assessment of magazine situation. Lack of capital, office space problems. Sales has sold a total of two ads. We need to each invest an extra $25K. Will it be enough?
[One of them] said, "Well, if I'm in for a dime, I'm in for a dollar." He also said, "It's important to me, you (pointing at me) have money in this." The other partner can't pony up because El Paso stock is down (they just bought another company). Then met with Carole about finances. We are flying blind with few or no numbers. Disturbing, and this has to be remedied.
January, 24, 2000
Gave Carole a check for $25,000. My investment now stands @ $125,000.
February 6, 2000
Worked all weekend on four different cover versions of Samuel Walker cover for the May issue. Had lost of fun, puddling paint and getting damage effects.
February 19, 2000
I'm off to LA this morning to tape an appearance on "Guns of the Gunfighters" for Greystone which will appear on the History Channel.
February 29, 2000
[one of our salespeople] quits. He became paranoid and thought Carole was tracking his phone calls, or trying to trick him (it was his guilty conscience). He raked us for about $4K a month for three or four months, sold maybe two or three ads.
April 1, 2000
We are slipping closer to the financial abyss at TW, yet I feel confident we will make it, somehow. The messy process is almost becoming routine. Bad news every day, screw ups at the printer, bad mailing lists, no merchant account horror stories, Old West printing bill keeps escalating ($26K, plus $2K for film).
March 7, 2000
I came up with the idea of Classic Gunfights and featuring a gunfight every issue. Will start with Wyatt Earp at Mescal Springs in next issue.
March 11, 2000
I threw out my back last Saturday at Marty's [Marty Manning] wedding, while doing the gator on Louie Louie. My sciatica has been killing me all week. Still hurts when I stand.
March 19, 2000
Spent four days at our first Festival of the West at Rawhide. made a total of $2,549.95. Sold 26 TW subs, 3 OWJ subs, 10 combos = $1,270.
April 2, 2000
Had a speech at the Mill Avenue Merchant's Fair in Tempe. Gave my speech inside a tent with the sides open, in the middle of the street (outside Changing Hands Bookstore). Had a historic first: as I gave my line about if you want to know what it's like to have lived like Wyatt Earp, I said, "Go into the nearest biker bar, get up on a pool table and yell out, 'Only homos ride Harleys!'' Got the usual laugh, but about five seconds later a guy comes walking by on the outside of the tent and yells out, "That's bullshit!" I stopped and looked at him. He kept walking and added, "That's total bullshit what you said about homos riding Harleys!" He glared and kept going. I looked at the crowd and said, "Well that proves my point. That was a Wyatt Earp moment." Sold about six books.
April 9, 2000
Carole left me an email last night saying we are basically broke. We'll be lucky to make it to May 1. Quite crushing, the magnitude of the negative cash flow.
Don Radina is flying in tomorrow to try and salvage our subscription mess and book keeping debacle.
April 14, 2000
Took the publisher of Arizona Highways out to lunch. Nina La France gave me good advice: "whole numbers make people nervous," do $29.95 for subs, rather than $30. She also advised against going to less issues. Says it is almost impossible to back up. [advice we didn't follow]
April 16, 2000
The annual Cave Creek parade was yesterday and we rode and played in Gerald Vontietz's truck. True West was out in force and we had our cover blowups carried by Heather, Michelle Frogge, Brian M. and Allen F. and Jennie Smith and her boyfriend and Doc Ingalls also joined us.
April 27, 2000
Carole and I fly to San Diego where Allen Greer, our subscription consultant, picks us up and drives us up to Yorba Linda to visit NSFS subscription services. We meet Steve Schlay. Alllen then drives me up to End of Trail and drops me off. He and Carole return to San Diego and Carole flies home.
May 1, 2000
I buy an ibook computer for $1,499.26 to take with me on the radio road trip along Route 66. Kathy and I check into the Holliday Inn in Flag and go to dinner with Buffalo Rick, Gordon Smith and Heather at Black Bart's. [We broadcast live each morning thru the fifth along Route 66, ending up in Kingman where my old junior high coach and others come in as guests. On Saturday night I was the keynote speaker for the Route 66 Banquet at the Powerhouse. Someone broke into our new office building several months later and stole the ibook.]
May 13, 2000
Charlie Waters came in this weekend to help us trouble shoot the magazine. Met yesterday with Carole. Then went up to El Encanto for lunch with crew. Robert Ray, Marcus Huff, Allen Fossenkemper, Gus Walker and Brian Minson joined us.
Charlie advised me to do two things: be the publisher and chop printing bill down to six issues a year. Charlie inspired me and told me I will be a good leader: he gave me permission to be the publisher.
May 17, 2000
Today is the first day of my "sabbatical," from the radio show [Kathy had urged me to take time off and concentrate entirely on the magazine]. Got up at 4:10 and came to work. I've already made some big decisions. Fired [our printer] on Friday. Had a big pow-wow with [my partners]. They are each sending $6,000 to "get numbers." Called Don Radina and offered him $10K to come out and clean up the books once and for all. I told him he had until noon today to decide. He called back an hour later and said, "You haven't been drinking, have you?" He's coming Thursday.
Deena [my daughter] is selling ads. She almost quit today, but hung tough and made several sales calls. Gordon Smith brought out office dividers today.
Had lunch with Dave and Doreen Daiss. He is breaking ground on his land. Cool space. Would love to move in there with office and musuem.
May 22, 2000
Tommy got his tongue pierced in Costa Rica. I can't believe he did it. So stupid.
May 25, 2000
Don finally finished the P&L and we only lost $10K this month! Our losses in March and April were staggering: $50,000 each month!
Deena sold her first ad ($600 bluegrass festival in Oregon).
June 2, 2000
I worked one of the longest days of my life yesterday. Did three paintings and a scratchboard for Hickok Classic Gunfights piece, plus the usual publisher/radio madness. Finished at 10 last night.
June 23, 2000
Had an interesting phone call with the former publisher of Wild West. He claims he gave them their spike in the beginning by "controlled circ" in the all the dude ranches, i.e., he gave them mags for free. Ha. I may emulate this, i.e. steal the idea.
July 2, 2000
According to a book I'm reading, "How to Make It In The Magazine Biz" we need to do four direct mail pieces a year and we are on target. Also says we need to maximize ad sales.
More bad news: we are down to $10,000 at TW. Really sucks the money up. Need to deal with it all this week.
July 14, 2000
Kareem Abdul Jabbar became a subscriber yesterday. Cool.
July 20, 2000
Drove up at 7:15 and had staff photos taken on the Dave Daiss building site.
I had a dream last night where Kathy was divorcing me, I'm at my Dad's house (my Mom is dead) and I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do and I look over and see Tommy and think, "Oh my God, I've got to deal with him all by myself!" It was a nightmare [Tommy had emailed us from Costa Rica and admitted he had lied to his AFS family and went to a beach town drinking].
July 25, 2000
Deena, Kathy and I took off for Costa Rica to pick up Tommy and see the country [we are there 10 days].
August 6, 2000
Back from Costa Rica. Had a phone call from Robert Ray [my production manager]. He said he wanted to talk to me about "some people" at TW. I meet him and it turns out [two of my employees] want to leave us in the lurch and "buy" [one of the titles we own]. Robert was approached to join them. "Bob [that would be me] is taking True West down," [our errant employee said,] "and four people have approached me about buying [one of our titles]." It feels like a total betrayal.
August 7, 2000
Good talk with Bob McCubbin last night about [our errant employee]. Bob said he has known for some time we were coming to this juncture. I asked Bob what he thought I should do about it and he laughed and said, "I don't know, but I'm sure you'll handle it fine."
August 8, 2000
Had a long staff meeting about TW and how to get to $15K ad sales. There is some resistance to this but I feel it is very doable.
August 9, 2000
Don sent the latest financials and it is the same ol' same ol'. We lost about $23K. Quite discouraging.
August 13, 2000
Confronted [our errant employee] and he claims it was all "a joke." He also feels there is an "over 50" bias, where I give more weight to Dan H. or others over the age of 50, while [errant employee and other youngsters at the magazine] are ignored.
September 15, 2000
We find out because of [our printer] missing their deadline, we have missed a week on the newsstand.
October 3, 2000
[Our errant employee quits], screaming "Fucking bullshit!" several times before storming out of the office.
October 23, 2000
Went for a second walk and Kathy gave me a pep talk. Said I need to sell, put [sales] on commission only. Cut everyone else to the bone. Quit acting like the Razz. [a humor magazine Dan Harshberger and I produced in the seventies]
October 26, 2000
I drove to [printer] and signed a personal guarantee for $35K.
November 9, 2000
Worked on a new printing schedule: 8 TW and 4 OWJ a year. Steve Schlay recommended doing four Special Double issues for TW and we tried to deal with that [So, it was Steve's idea to do collector's editions. Thanks Steve!] Yellin' Ellen came in at 3 and we went over our production problems. The most obvious solution is to get a scanner in the office so others can scan.
November 20, 2000
Another marathon finish for TW. Worked all day and into the night to finish Feb-march, Wyatt Earp issue. Mare and Gus left around 10:30 pm, I left at 1:30 am, and Robert Ironman Ray left at 6 am!! he is getting up at 10 to finish the burning of the CDs so it can go in Fed Ex mail to [printer] today.
November 22, 2000
Talked to a disgruntled OWJ subscriber from Texas named Al who said he didn't like all the "crossdressers in the magazine." When questioned about it, he told me he was referring to all those "weekend cowboys who dress up" (re-enactors).
November 27, 2000
Running in front of the train. We're down to $22K with a payroll
($10K) coming up and our previous printing bill ($10K) and the new printer wanting half down ($9K). Tiring. I'm wore out and I've got a partner who hates the January issue and won't put up any more money.
December 4, 2000
One in and one out. [a salesperson under consideration] dropped out after I told her the draw would only be $2,000. Today in came ex-Lutheran sales boy Mike Melrose who just moved out from Minnesota (his new girlfriend saw our ad in Sonoran and told him, "These guys never advertise, you'd better jump on this one."). I had lunch with him at 1 at El Encanto ($15.40 trade, plus $3 cash tip). I like him. He seems honest and steady.
December 11, 2000
Sales of gift boxes so far: we've sold 21 number 1s, 30 number 2s, 6 number 3s, and 2 number 4s.
December 23, 2000
Got up and came out to studio. Built a fire in stove [I think I got pink eye from an ex-employee]. My studio is a wreck. We're out of money at TW and I've alienated my partners. My artwork doesn't sell, my radio show is a joke, I guess you'd say I'm down.
December 29, 2000
Very nice and productive week, with everyone working hard to meet the same goals in the office. Mike selling (he's at about $3.5K for April issue), Carole getting quotes, DeAnne working the phones, Gus finding excellent future photos, Robert and Mare plugging along on articles. Dan in back cleaning and keeping on top of everything.
December 31, 2000
New Year's Eve. Went to the Territorial Bar and Grill to see Jerry Riopelle. Nice buffet, Kathy and I had coffee to stay awake past 10. Didn't make it to midnite. Went to bed. Hope 2001 is better.
------------- 2001 ------------
January 4, 2001
I've been approved for a $100K line of credit at Bank One [put up house as collateral]. Makes Kathy nervous. Me too! I need to make this thing fly now.
January 15, 2002
Kathy came out to the studio and said, "Robert, we have our life savings in this magazine and I just wish you'd act like it." I quit the radio show for good the next day.
January 26, 2001
Paul Andrew Hutton sent the second box of materials for Custer issue. It is our first real collector's issue and I think it's going to be very strong.
January 30, 2001
Carole and I attend our first Business Plan class in Phoenix with Izzy Gonzalez. Kathy found the class for us. [it is a six week class and out of this came our first real business plan]
February 9, 2001
Woke up at 3:50 and sat up and mulled my situation for about an hour. I've been in a very tight spot for over a year.
Last night after supper, I went through Folio magazine and culled the best advice. Among the downers" "Establishing a new magazine remains a perilous enterprise. Half of new magazines don't celebrate their first birthday and 70% of those that die don't even make it to a second issue. After a decade, only about one in ten new titles is still publishing." Another stunner: "Even a modest magazine, very targeted and boot-strapped, takes $5 million to $10 million to break even...but once they work, consumer magazines with healthy circulation contributions are not only relatively stable, they also produce a very attractive cash flow stream and can be nicely profitable."
Kable informed us we owe them money for November issue [this is the issue our printer was late getting to newsstand. This trend will continue for several months, until we start getting positive payments on the Wyatt Earp issue]
February 11, 2001
The news from Don Radina is bleak. We lost $38K in January [Don gives us a 10% chance of survival]. I am either in denial, or I'm bullet-proof, because I feel like that is money lost last year, before the change. I hope I'm right.
February 12, 2001
Came home and met with Kathy and Doreen Daiss. Kathy was on the phone with [one of the partners]. He doesn't think there's a business here, no more money. Long talk with Doreen. They're getting antsy, pulling back on their deal. Everything looks bleak. Talked to Don Radinna about how to declare bankruptsy (don't even know if that's the correct spelling).
February 13, 2001
Kathy woke up at 3 am: "Why are we the only ones putting up the money? Everyone else is being cautious and we have the most to lose?" She's pissed. Good point.
Came home and called Charlie Waters at about nine. His advice: "Sell it, you can't compete with the big boys. Even if you survive the year, you'll be in the same situation next year." He also speculated our "number" was closer to $500K, in order to make it.
February 17, 2001
Met at Clantonville to begin the move to our new building on Cave Creek Road. Bill Glenn came, as did Gus and his wife Patty, Minnesota Mike, Steve Holland and Robert Ray came out to transfer computers. Mare even showed up and started boxing up the library. What a crew!
February 22, 2001
Got over to Clantonville. Place a total pit. Smells like cat urine. Hard to believe we worked in that hell hole for over a year!
February 27, 2001
Had our first customer in the new store (place is all boxes). His name is Gene Clark and I have a photo of him shaking DeAnne's hand with a mess behind them.
March 4, 2001
Carole emailed me this morning with the bad news that we will lose another $25K this month (Feb.). I've traded one loser position for another. Less printing bills, less income. She doesn't believe [my partners] will buy into the new business plan. I told her to hang tough that we need to play out this hand and I need to pursue other investors and buyers. I put a good face on it, but I am increasingly doubtful myself.
March 5, 2001
Started writing and blocked in major parts of the new business plan.
Hopped between meetings several times at office. Allen F. seemed down. After he left, I asked Carole, if he felt "put upon," and she said, "No, he's worried about you. He doesn't think you know how bad it really is." Went into a free-fall. Wanted to flee. Tried to keep myself busy, made numerous sales calls, straightening up my desk (imagine!), hanging pictures, anything to stay busy. Called Kathy and left the message, "I feel like a loser." Felt better. I feel like a woman with violent mood swings. Really spooky.
March 6, 2001
Mailed business plan to [my partners].
March 8, 2001
Worked until midnite on Custer issue with Robert Ray. Came home, a message on my machine from [one of my partners]. He was totally pissed. Said the BP is "fucking bullshit." Went for a walk with Kathy in the morning. [Called the partner, and he said] the ad sales stuff got him [too optimistic], plus my general "optimism" got him riled. Terry Garrett later told me businessmen "don't like optimism, just numbers."
March 11, 2001
Terry Garrett tells me payroll traditionally shouldn't be more than 40% of our gross sales. That means we still need to trim payroll back.
March 20, 2001
Carole gave me the good news that our subscription renewal rate is 62% Wow! Did that ever make my day. Allen Greer said 50% is good. Steve Schlay told me on the phone, "My other clients would love to have these numbers."
March 24, 2001
Mrs. Joe Small mailed me the eight part history of True West magazine that Joe wrote for the 30th anniversary. Quite inspiring and amazing. He scratched and clawed his way to solvency. Many years of hardship. he apparently was done in by the recession of 1973-74 (that's when he sold out to Crawley). Everyone is talking about the R word now. Ouch!
March 26, 2001
The office copies of Custer issue came around noon. It looks fabulous! Really a winner, the best yet. Congratulated everyone.
March 27, 2001
[Two of my partners] pulled the plug. They want out. Happened during a conference call at 7 pm. Kathy on one line, me on the other. Painful, shocking, not altogether a surprise. I will go it alone. Kathy is supportive, but very nervous. [one of them came back the next day and agreed to put up another $75K, adding "but then, that's it."].
March 29, 2001
Very good meeting with staff. Lots of support. Gus brought in "victory cookies" baked by Patty.
April 5, 2001
Wrote up ad goals for the next year. Want to reach $15K by Jan., 2002 and $25K by November. Is it realistic? [This is funny. We made it to $28K for Jan. 2002 and $63K by August]
April 9, 2001
Dan Rosenbaum came in and did a half day seminar on an action plan. Went over margins and who we are. Very instructive and helpful.
April 10, 2001
Don Radina reports monthly loss is still $25K.
April 14, 2001
Dan Rosenbaum is a real gem. He stayed up until midnite revising my Action Plan notes and man did he do a good job. He added a spread sheet at the end that would make [one of the partners who always wanted one] drool.
April 19, 2001
Landed the Little Big Horn museum for 500 magazines. Really a home run.
April 21, 2001
Had our Grand Opening of new building. Fred Nolan came all the way from England. Had the buffalo in office. Good time had by all.
April 24, 2001
The universe is trying to help me; a couple came in to the store. The guy turned out to be the former VP at Hearst Publishing. They saw an ad for Cave Creek Cowboy Co. and came by, saw our place and came in. I overheard the word "Hearst" and jumped out to meet Bob and Trish Brink. I invited them into my office and we talked about the biz. The upshot is he's taking our mags to NY this week to see what he can do about distribution. Amazing!
On the negative side, Carole came in at about 3 and said she paid the bills and we have $5K left in bank! Yikes! Really knocked me flat. I got up and walked up the mountain behind the building. Felt better. Later, I was talking to Charlie Waters on the phone and a deer walked across the road halfway up the hill. Yelled at staff to look out the window. Got to be a sign of something: nature abhors a vacuum?
May 2, 2001
Talked to Terry Garrett. He said, "If you love something this much you'll find a way to make it pay." He's so golden.
May 3, 2001
Had to transfer another $25k into TW from our equity account. that puts our investment at $237K. Going to go higher. Scary stuff. I sure hope this works.
No money from [our distribution company] yet, they're still back-charging us.
May 4, 2001
Interviewed former TW owner Chet Krause on phone (he sold it to OK guys, Robert Evans for $60K. Ouch! We paid too much!).
May 7, 2001
Deena's 21 birthday. Just amazing!
[One of our freelance writers] called and threatened to "kick my ass" over canceling an article he turned in. Said TW was a "rat's ass publication" and that we'd might as well "burn down the new building." etc.
May 8, 2001
Don's report for April will show a $36K loss. I still feel resilient.
May 11, 2001
Took seven phone cancellations of subscriptions today. Really worrisome. [direct mail campaign cancellations, they took the free issues, then cancelled when the bill came.]
May 21, 2001
Staff meeting went south today. [One of our employees] is about ready to quit. The pressure is getting to her. She fights everything. Sigh. I had high hopes for her.
May 23, 2001
Finally started to get some Kable newsstand monies today ($5679).
May 29, 2001
Working hard on 11 images for Wild Bill issue. I'm not as bad as I fear, but not as good as I hope for.
June 1, 2001
Mike Melrose is above $14K for Wild Bill! I was so impressed I took him to lunch at El Encanto. Great guy.
June 5, 2001
Bob Brink is back in town and I took him to lunch at Tonto Bar & Grill. His advice is: take the newsstand increases in bite sizes and test market first, and he also thinks we should appeal to the collectors more. He said he didn't want any money or to be a consultant.
June 7, 2001
Called Bob Brink and asked him point blank if he was interested in being involved with us and we agreed to meet Monday for lunch. Oh, I would love it if he would come in and be the publisher.
June 11, 2001
Met Bob Brink at Tonto and offered him a [a sweet offer]. He accepted and said he'll come in three days a week starting in the fall (after they return from Santa Fe).
June 21, 2001
Bob Brink came in yesterday and said his advice is not to do OWJ [Old West Journal. I was shocked. [this was priceless advice and right on the money. I kicked and squirmed but he held firm and...well, you'll see...]
June 22, 2001
Flew to Idaho Falls, ID for Western Writers Conference. R.G. Robertson and his wife Karen got me on two panels. Very nice people.
June 26, 2001
I did 26 illustrations for the Wild Bill issue [where did I find the time?]
June 28, 2001
Took another $3K out of house equity account to help pay bills. $42,660.92 left. So scary, but I've got to be brave.
Little Big Horn wants another 2,000 issues.
Went to see [a local doctor] about my panic attacks. He prescribed two drugs, Zolof and Klonapin. Nervous about taking drugs, but I can't drive on freeways and it's affecting my whole life. Got a trip coming next month.
June 30, 2001
Kathy and I flew to La Jolla for a Billy the Kid play: The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. They paid me to come talk about the Kid. Fun. Slept and read. Nice getaway.
July 2, 2001
Today is the first day for Abby Pearson.
July 7, 2001
Took a Klonapin and drove down to the Matador and then to the airport on the freeway! Kathy and I flew to Denver, for a speech in Fort Collins.
July 16, 2001
Kids have been in Spain, now they're at Fred's house in England.
July 17, 2001
Don shows us losing another $27K in June. Worried.
July 25, 2001
Flew to Des Moines and rented a car. Drove up through Fort Dodge and landed in Swea City for dinner. Many memories of being a kid. Drove on in to Mankato. [attended the NOLA gathering thru Sunday. Gave a speech defending True West. Got inspiration at the Madelia shootout re-enactment to do a movie. Drove back through Thompson, Forest City and Osage, visiting Aunt Doris. Then down to Des Moines where I visited with Mike [my cousin] and Ann Richards. and flew home].
August 8, 2001
Our TW financials are edging up. This is a good thing.
August 11, 2001
I transferred another $15K from equity account, then wrote a check for Carole. I have $2K left. Ay-yi-yi!!! Scary shit.
August 18, 2001
Bob Brink came in and just blew me away with his savvy and talent. He came in during our staff meeting and said a few things, then we went into my office and I told him all of our woes. He calmly said he would take care of it and get us in the black. I believe him.
August 23, 2001
Bob Brink is looking over our financials and he thinks we should kill the B&B mailings immediately (costs approx $3K an issue).
August 25, 2001
Mike Melrose asked me if I like apples last night and I said I did and he threw the tally sheet at me saying, "Well, what do you think of those apples?" the ad total so far for Nov-Dec. Doc Holliday issue is $21,000! This is the fantasy number I have been dreaming of for almost two years. Amazing.
September 7, 2001
Flew to Minnesota to attend the Northfield, MN Jesse James Days. Stayed with Jack Koblas and Diana Pierce. [got caught there on 9.11, didn't get home until Friday]
September 17, 2001
My money woes are so small compared to others. Someone told me American West needs $4 million a day to keep the doors open. Ouch!
[One of my partners] finally agreed to put up another $25K after I pitched him on me matching him.
September 28, 2001
Lots of tough decisions today. Bob Brink is advising me not to do the next issue of OWJ [Old West Journal], or print the NOLA book.
October 4, 2001
Decided to kill OWJ. Had a meeting yesterday with Mike about rolling OWJ into TW. He took it quite well.
October 5, 2001
Trish Brink came in yesterday and met with our sales staff. She had good advice and overview.
October 6, 2001
Well, I have a bit of breathing room and it is so very nice. We have approximately $18K in bank, and with my sales staff over the $28K mark. for Jan. issue it is a great feeling. It's mostly due to Bob Brink. Thanks!
October 7, 2001
We have begun the bombing of Kabul, etc. [not True West, but the U.S.].
October 9, 2001
Kathy bought a new Ford Escape last night (0% financing).
October 16, 2001
The bank refused my equity loan extension [because of losses in business].
October 17, 2001
Had a speech in Payson, was driving home early in morning and hit a deer. Totally creamed the left side of my truck.
Bob Brink yesterday made me cut 16 pages of editorial because of the ad ratio (he wants a 60-40% ratio, but will settle for a 50% for this issue). I would never have done this on my own.
October 25, 2001
[Our distributor] called and said Books A Million, a 130 store chain in the southeast, has been having between 56% and 80% sell-thru on TW and they want to know if we'd like to do a pocket program.
November 2, 2001
Books A Million ordered 1,600 issues of January issue (560 usual draw).
November 3, 2001
[A former insider] told me Cowboys & Indians ad take per issue is $350K to $450K.
November 20, 2001
Gordon called me and said he's quitting the radio show. When I asked why, he said with a laugh, "Basically the reasons you gave eight months ago."
November 29, 2001
Virtually everyone came into my office at different times and closed the door to talk. Much infighting. I've got these warring factions on my staff (and I've only got 11 employees!).
We got turned down again for a loan (once again, it's the heavy business losses).
November 30, 2001
Mike is above budget and we have $19K in the bank. This makes me feel so good I cannot describe it.
December 1, 2001
George Harrison died last Thursday and I haven't had time until today to really take it in (it's Sat.).
December 10, 2001
We made our first profit-at least on paper! Don's financials for November show a $5,228.27 profit. Wow! What a difference a year has made. And it really reflects the changes of the last six months.
December 16, 2001
I was listening to the Prairie Home Companion radio show and heard an offer from Garrison to go ice fishing with him. Called immediately to buy tickets.
December 31, 2001
Carole called and said Diamond Jim got his Mrs. Earp postcard and preordered 200 issues and wants 1,000 postcards. Yikes! Got very inspired to really bail into this issue. Could be our big breakout.
-------- 2002 --------
January 1, 2002
I vow to get more balance in my life this year.
January 5, 2002
Kathy and I drove down to Dan and Mare Rosenbaum's house for dinner. Right off the bat Dan tells me they are going to go to Brazil, and this includes Mare [our editor]. She, of course, wants to remain editor and do her editing from there via email, etc., but I don't really think that will be realistic. Dinner was excellent, with artichokes for appetizers, then chicken in plum sauce for main meal. Drank about four glasses of wine. Drank some decaf coffee. Didn't realize they are both artists, she paints very nice watercolors and he is a sculptor. Got home at 10:30. Went to bed. Slept hard.
January 11, 2002
Someone put a fax on my desk of a Canadian article ripping me for my "innacurate" reporting on the Schieffelin Hall shout-out piece in Feb. Wyatt Earp issue. I assume it's from the so-called magazine which one of the web minions is attempting. So stupid and yet it gets to me. The web host, wonders in the article how we would have covered the actual OK shootout, and my answer is: with good maps, actual photographs and objective reporting (from both sides!) with a dash of levity, just like we did this time.
January 12, 2002
Finally cleaned out the chicken house this morning. Very grungy, with chicken poop crusted on the floor and in the roosts. Felt good to get it out, hosed it down.
January 14, 2002
Don's numbers are in for December and we lost $14K. Sigh.
January 15, 2002
Had a bit of a stomach ache this morning. Feel like a failure.
I've hired [a new employee] and I shouldn't have. We can't afford her, even at minimum wage. Don't know quite what to do about it. Admit my mistake and let her go? I don't think Mike will make it to $48K. Maybe $40. No doubt about it, we are swimming upstream here as well. I threw all of my Dad's hard earned money at this, so I could have a pretend job, which I do marginally well, and it's all going down the drain even as I type this. I want to go hide somewhere and vegetate in the fetal position.
January 26, 2002
Called Harry Carey, Jr. and chatted about John Ford. Even though Ford broke two of Dobe's ribs (on purpose) Harry loved the ol' SOB. Amazing.
Carole and I went over the cash flow spread sheet. We're going to run out of money in the first week of February. Ouch! Really scary.
Didn't get any art sketches done. Not one. Desk is a mess.
January 27, 2002
Drove out to Wickenburg at 12:30 arriving at 1:30. Already people were lining up for my speech at Desert Caballeros Museum. Line snaked out into the gift shop. Mike Ettema (the director of the museum) said it's the largest crowd they've ever had. It didn't hurt that the Az. Republic ran a huge photo of me last week with the headline of my talk, "Was Wyatt Earp A Jerk?" Standing room only for the speech. Got big laughs.
January 28, 2002
Almost everyone on staff is sick. Carole is out with flu (aches and pains and fever). Robert Ray is sick. Abby out sick. Mike was sick last Friday. I had my own stomach ache and runs (Hey, magazines are fun!).
Found an old True West interview with John Wayne. It was enlightening because it was done late in life ('77) and the book I'm reading uses many of the quotes from it. But what they leave out is his penchant for not remembering anyone's name. He comes across as more of a buffoon and ego maniac. It says something about biography and books like mine. We have a tendency to clean up the untidy aspects, and in a subtle way, we alter history to make it more palatable for the masses. Ouch!
January 30, 2002
Had Sage work up ad page reports for us and our competitors. Shocking how little we are making. Cowboys & Indians appears to be making $350K an issue [in ad revenue]. American Cowboy is at $191K and Wild West appears to be at $70K. I think the threshold is $70K for us. We have to make that if we have any hope of making it. That's a steep number but we have to do it.
February 1, 2002
Well, we survived another month. Whew!
Worked on Classic Gunfights yesterday doing a list of all the fights I could find. Got two pages worth. These will last for several years. It will all make a very nice series of books.
February 4, 2002
Yesterday was a nice day at home. Kathy and I had cheese and bread and apple on the couch and watched "The Three Godfathers" then "Stagecoach" and finally "The Searchers." Really enjoyed it. "Stagecoach" held up the best. The narrative was tighter. "The Searchers" was powerful but uneven. Seemed too overwrought. At the end, I turned over to the Superbowl and it was the last minute. Patriots won with a field goal. Four seconds left, beat Rams 20-17.
Went to bed and read John Wayne American until almost 11. A cautionary tale: he was broke by 1959 (bad investments, etc.), he made six bombs in a row, then after the success of "Rio Bravo" (made as a reaction to "High Noon") he decides to make "The Alamo." Mortgages his house, boat, everything. The strain of directing and producing and starring almost kills him, and the movie never made a dime. Ouch!!! This is too close to home (which I also mortgaged!).
February 8, 2002
Kathy and I flew to Saint Paul, MN, to attend the Garrison Keillor radio show Prairie Home Companion and to go ice fishing. During the show, his zipper was down and when a stage hand comes out to tell him, he says he thought his tie was covering it, then says on live radio, "But thanks for the interest." Oh, to be that quick.
February 22, 2002
[A former printer] wants to get paid in full ($20K) by March 8 or they will turn us over to collections. The account rep is adamant. No wiggle room. My publishing consultant, Bob Brink gives me this advice: "Tell them to turn you over to collections, then they'll only get half their money. When you say that, shut-up and let him yell for several minutes and then ask for a number to pay it off in monthly installments. He'll yell some more. Whatever that number is, cut it in half and that's the number." The advice is golden. We will pay off account at $3K a month. Paid Deena's Rolling Stone subscription ($19.95). Delivered bank statements to my accountant Carol Caldwell (she said how much she enjoys the ads in True West).
February 27, 2002
Drove down to Tombstone for a photo shoot with the actress Jennifer Tilly. Got there at 2:30, walked over to the Birdcage Theatre and set up with the photographer John Beckett, then waited for Jennifer, who was in makeup at the Tombstone Boarding House. Didn't shoot until around seven. Went well, she was fun and quite uninhibited.
Had dinner at the Lampost (in the Tombstone Boarding House). Lots of fun, shot video. Jennifer was quite funny and charming. Afterwards we went back to the Birdcage for a séance or ghost conjuring, got audio off video camera. I left around midnite, came back to the B&B and went to bed. Heard the girls laughing as they came back. Long day. Hope it was worth it.
March 1, 2002
Stellar day. Mike and crew passed the $50K mark. Amazing. A year ago we were raving about being at $17K.
March 12, 2002
A French music video was being filmed outside in the parking lot all day. Some singer named Dania, who is allegedly the Madonna of France was out there with a gaggle of dancers and a young, black director. Everyone shouting in French and the playback going over and over.
March 17, 2002
Went to Festival of the West and shot photos of Buck Taylor, Peter Brown, Mike Moroff and Alex Cord. Went really well, photos looked good. We posed them as Texas Rangers for the July issue.
March 31, 2002
Watched a documentary on Kozmo, an internet company that crashed and burned. The lead guy was a naive charmer, much like me. As I watched him go south I kept reading my daytimer and it became painful to witness my many distractions. I hope I can salvage something out of this and make True West a viable entity.
April 8, 2002
We are supposed to get our $25K from the house refi today. It will go quick. I need to listen to Bob Brink. I need to trade up for better writers. I need to be very pro-active (Kathy's advice) and move forward on getting more salespeople. Quit cajoling and begging those who have already dropped out.
April 14, 2002
Went out and checked on chickens. Rooster is on final fade (legs don't work)., flat against the wall. I got him some water and a watermelon rhine. He gobbled up both. Doesn't seem like he'll make it long. Feel bad for him. Peaches [border collie], of course, digging and rooting at the door, trying to get at him. She can smell his weakness. [coyotes got him several nights later, dragging him out from underneath the door. Feathers all across the landscape]
April 15, 2002
Got an email from Don saying we actually made $20K in March! After 28 months of double-digit negative cash flow-Wow! Went over to the house to celebrate. Had a glass of wine. [the positive P&L was short lived, as we went right back into the red, although not nearly as extreme.]
April 22, 2002
I've read that every man is a fool for at least five minutes every day. I'm trying desperately not to exceed my limit. Worked hard on two Sam Bass images for Classic Gunfights. Got both characters painted in. Not bad.
Came home and cooked salmon for dinner. Then got the east coast feed [satellite dish] for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Val Kilmer and Jennifer Tilly were the guests. Val came on first to plug his new movie Salton Sea. Then Jennifer came on and did her first segment on being a guest host, how hard it is to do. When they came back after the break, Jay pulled out a True West and she was off to the races! She raved about the magazine, had photos of ghosts (I believe they were John Beckett's Polaroid's). Jay asked her about her movie but she only wanted to talk about True West. I think it lasted about 3 and a half minutes. What would that cost in ad dollars for national exposure? Wow! I kept looking over at Kathy and saying, "Can you believe this?!" It was truly amazing to see our little ol' magazine on the Tonight Show. After it was over I began calling everyone, Carole first, then DeAnne, then Bob McCubbin. The show airs here at 10:30 (we saw it at 8:30). I went thru my daytimer address book, calling everyone I could think of: Charlie Waters, Taplou, Shamy Maxwell, Russ and Wendy. Went for a walk in the moonlight. Beautiful out. Finally got calmed down enough to go to sleep after 11. Very thrilling to be alive.
April 23, 2002
Lots of calls from people who saw the Leno Show. Very exciting. The whole office is abuzz. Still wrestling with the cash flow spread sheet. It shows us losing $19K by the end of the year. Losses start in July. Something doesn't seem right. Troublesome.
April 26, 2002
There is a certain windy memory I have, where the wind blows outside and comes in the window, taking me back to Kingman where the wind always blew. There are times when I was a kid and in the early Spring and the wind blew a cool hope into our lives and everything seemed possible. I caught a whiff of that twice yesterday, first in the bedroom, as the wind came in through the west window and rattled the blinds, and then in the breezeway as the April air teased and titillated the edges of our adobe home. So wonderful and yet so meaningless, really.
Had a speech at the Daughters of The American Revolution convention out in Chandler. Did quite well, lots of laughs. Sold mucho books.
April 29, 2002
Read in the paper this morning about Arizona Highways running deficits of $603,000 this year! They've also lost a ton of subscribers (almost half from 670,000 in 1978 to 349,000 last year). Wow! Really tough biz. I feel for them. Misery loves company. The new publisher had his wife make a needlepoint sign for his office that says, "Don't screw it up." This seems like a dangerous position to me: being on the defensive, when you need to be proactive and aggressive. At least that's how it appears from my position.
May 6, 2002
Setback. The copy I wrote for the Jesse James photo story (Collecting the West and on cover) has evaporated. The photo didn't sell at auction. At this morning's staff meeting we talked about putting the Frontier House parody by Johnny Boggs in that spot.
May 9, 2002
Read a great quote from Harry Truman: "The only new thing in the world is the history you don't know." That says it all.
May 23, 2002
Drove out to Rainbow Valley Elementary School in Buckeye (60 miles) to give a talk to the student body on Western history. The kids were a tad antsy at end, but I answered questions and they were gracious. It was fun. Left a bunch of TW mags for the teachers.
May 25, 2002
Things have been very quiet and productive this past week. For that I'm thankful!
June 1, 2002
Everyone on production staff, Robert Ray, Gus, Abby and I went down to Territorial Bar & Grill for design review. Dan Harshberger, our art director drove us in his big Dodge boat (a classic '67?). I bought ($29 something). Good talk about cover design. Dan critiqued Texas Ranger issue. he mostly liked it.
June 7, 2002
Here's what I want to accomplish this weekend:
June 9, 2002
. swim laps
. clean off my art desks
. files stacks of paper
. put books away
. skim pool
. wash the '49 Ford
. buy groceries
. do a watercolor wash
. sketch something, anything!
. scoop up dog poop
. go up to office and help [production] calm down
I had a successful weekend. I skimmed the pool, washed the '49 and the pickup, swam laps (12 passes), went up and helped [production] calm down, picked up all the dog poop, bought groceries, cleaned off my art desk, filed a big stack of papers, put books away, did two washes (of clouds) and sketched in Frank & Jesse on the run. I feel great!
July 10, 2002
The ad team is over $53K for October issue and we still have a week to go. Robert had to redo the dummy at 114 pages. may go higher. Really going to be a monster.
July 23, 2002
The sales team came in at a record $63K! And our biggest issue, 120 pages goes to the printer. We have come so far in the past three years it's not even funny.
August 5, 2002
Kathy thinks I'm way too scattered (she wants me to have a brain scan to determine why I'm so ADD). She thinks this whole "business timeline" [what you are reading right now] is way off purpose and a waste of time. Is it?
....the saga continues in Bob Boze Bell's Daily Journal