Summer Issue 2010
55 Years of Gunsmoke
by Jim Johnson
The TV show “GUNSMOKE” stands as the longest running western of all time. The premier was introduced by John Wayne on September 10th, 1955 and the show finally closed in 1975. It made Dodge City, Kansas a household word across the United States and many other countries and that notoriety continues today some 35 years after the last episode aired. In fact, “Dodge City” is the second most recognized city name in the world – right behind Paris France!
In September of 2005, the Dodge City Trail of Fame hosted the official 50th Anniversary celebration of the show with a two day symposium, banquet and dedication of large sidewalk medallions celebrating some members of the shows cast. The event drew about 200 people – many from all over the United States.
Two years ago, the Dodge City Trail of Fame Board of Directors decided to host the 55th Anniversary celebration and has been working in that direction ever since. The big party will take place September 3rd and 4th, 2010 here in Dodge City and Trail of Fame members are once again bringing from Hollywood people who at one time or another were involved with the show.
Here for the event will be actor and award winning western watercolor artist Buck Taylor and his wife Goldie. Buck got his TV start on “GUNSMOKE” where he played gunsmith and later lawman “Newly O’Brien” starring in 119 episodes. Also coming is actor Bruce Boxleitner. Bruce co-starred as Tobe Hogue in the very last episode of “GUNSMOKE” and then went on to co-star with “Matt Dillon” actor James Arness in “The Macahans” and “How The West Was Won” where he portrayed Luke Macahan. He also starred as John Sheridan in “Babylon 5”, Lee Stetson in “The Scarecrow and Mrs. King”, and Captain Duvall in “Young Blades” as well as many other appearances of note.
Several luminaries who were in Dodge 5 years ago are returning including writer/producer Jim Byrnes whose credits include 35 episodes of “GUNSMOKE”, “The Macahans”, “How The West Was Won”, “Walker, Texas Ranger”, “The Sacketts”, and “The Gambler” series with Kenny Rogers. Hollywood author and “GUNSMOKE” historian Ben Costello is also returning to Dodge. Ben has written a major work on “GUNSMOKE” and has recently released another volume on Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau titled “Jack and Walter”.
New guests include author Beckey Burgoyne who is getting ready to publish a biography of actress and “GUNSMOKE” co-star Amanda Blake entitled “Perfectly Amanda” and Jeff Hildebrandt, award winning western humorist, cowboy poet and Encore Westerns Director of on air promotions. Finally, Julie Ann Ream will attend. Julie is a writer and western events producer related to actor Glenn Strange whom everyone remembers as Sam Noonan, the bartender at the Long Branch Saloon. Julie produces the Western Legends Awards, Rex Allen Days, and is primarily responsible for the National Day of the Cowboy.
While star James Arness no longer travels, he hopes to join the event in an open conference call much as he did in 2005 when he, Buck Taylor and Dennis Weaver had their conversation piped through to the audience.
Headquarters for the event is the Dodge House Hotel, 2408 West Wyatt Earp Blvd, Dodge City, KS 67801 (620-225-9900). Western theme vendor space is available for free both days. Symposia will take place both days with a chance to meet and chat with the stars as well as get autographs. There is a western dress banquet Friday evening and the Dodge City Trail of Fame will dedicate sidewalk medallions for GUNSMOKE stars Glenn Strange (Sam the bartender) and James Nusser (Louie Pheeters the town drunk) on Saturday. Pre-registration is requested and you can do so from the event website at: www.Gunsmoke55th.org/registration.html. Hotel rooms and event seating are filling rapidly! For more information call 620-561-1925 or email firstname.lastname@example.org